Two nights ago the NY Festival of Song under the spirited direction of Steve Blier performed songs of Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, and Harry Warren. Some of the tunes (Arlen's "Evelina" and "Dancing Partner," Warren's "Shoes With Wings On") were new to many ears at the Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall. "Don't think of these songs as obscure," Blier counseled. "Think of them as friends you're about to make." I think Steve is right about what attracted Judy Garland to Arlen's dark, complicated, beautiful blend of blues and Hebrew melodies. "Putting a good face on the pain is what both of them were about."
Two of my favorite Hoagy Carmichael songs were sung: "Skylark" and "How Little We Know." You may have heard the latter sung by Lauren Bacall in the 1944 movie "To Have and Have Not." Like an object lesson in the delights of syncopation, the song has an eight-beat "Latin" rhythm, with a sublime Johnny Mercer lyric, full of doubts and maybes. "Maybe you're meant to be mine; / Maybe I'm only supposed to stay / In your arms awhile, / As others have done. / Is this what I've waited for? / Am I the one? / Oh, I hope in my heart that it's so / In spite of how little we know."