Down In The Deep Deep Blue
The Man Overboard Quintet's first album, All Hands On Deck [CHRCD062] was a huge success. "Violin playing worthy of Grappelli on a disc of pre-war swing tunes" The Strad "Just imagine, if Grappelli and Goodman had got together, what the end product would have sounded like!" bebopspokenhere This new collection steers away from more famous names in the American songbook and delves deeper under the surface including What a Little Moonlight Can Do by Charles M. Woods from 1937, J. C. Johnson's prohibition song Me and My Gin from 1928 Victoria Spivey's Dirty TB Blues from 1929, inspired by a tuberculosis epidemic. The title of the album 'Down in the deep deep blue' comes from Isham Jones' song I Hate Myself for Being So Mean to You, describing the place where the protagonist intends to 'drown' (or in some versions to 'hide') himself. The album also features Trav'lin All Alone; the popular If My Heart Could Only Talk, Carelessly; and the later, and prophetic Good Morning Heartache, recorded by Billie Holiday at the height of her fame in 1946.
The earliest song in the collection here is an exception - it came not from America, but from the UK. The music for Limehouse Blues was written by the English composer Philip Braham for a revue starring Gertrude Lawrence in 1922. The Man Overboard Quintet brings together five like-minded musicians who play and listen to all sorts of music, and who share a love of hot swing. Thomas Gould is a classical violinist described as 'staggeringly virtuosic' by The Guardian. He also is a dab hand at jazz, and his playing meets its match in the lyrical clarinet-playing of Ewan Bleach, who has been making his mark on the music scenes of London and New Orleans. Thomas and Ewan work the tunes beautifully together, sometimes harmonising, sometimes challenging each other. At other times, they simply provide the setting for Louisa Jones' distinctively husky but sweet voice. Underpinning the sound are Dave O'Brien, one of the brightest young musicians on the London swing scene, on the double bass and Jean-Marie Fagon, a good old- fashioned, no-nonsense rhythm guitarist from France.
- Sleeve Notes
'Away with the music of Broadway. Be off with your Irving Berlin.[..] Give no quarter to Kern or Cole Porter....' In making this new selection from the American Songbook for their second album, the members of The Man Overboard Quintet followed Ira Gershwin's instruction, quite literally, as contained in his lyrics for the song By Strauss.
Not only have they stayed away from Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and Cole Porter, the Gershwin brothers, and the elegant world of Broadway theatre in general ' they have also steered clear of other better-known song composers. That said, the quintet was never exactly going to run out of material, because the canon of the American Songbook is so vast. It has been estimated that some 300,000 popular songs were deposited for copyright in the US between 1900 and 1950, the period during which all but one of the sixteen songs here were written.
Shunning the well-known, this collection presents a fascinating exploration into the many different ways in which songs from the huge canon can ' and do ' stick around and become popular. Some just have a catchy hook, like the 'Ooh, ooh, ooh' of the upbeat swinger from 1937, What a Little Moonlight Can Do by Charles M. Woods. There are other numbers here which draw the listener back vividly and powerfully to a particular time or event in history: prohibition, in the case of J. C. Johnson's Me and My Gin from 1928, or a tuberculosis epidemic (Victoria Spivey's Dirty TB Blues from 1929).
There are also several songs that became popular and timeless because they fitted the character of a single performer whose communicative power always seems to leave an indelible mark on the listener. Frank Sinatra was able to do that. On this album, the singer who keeps coming back with her troubled temperament and her immediacy of expression is Billie Holiday. Trav'lin All Alone by J. C. Johnson is from 1929. If My Heart Could Only Talk and Carelessly are both from 1937. We also have the later, and prophetic Good Morning Heartache. This song, which Holiday recorded at the height of her fame in 1946 was prophetic: it was the year before new disasters struck, as Holiday was sent to prison for drug possession and lost her New York cabaret card, which severely restricted her work as a singer.
On the same theme of persuasive performers, but in much lighter vein, the 1934 song I Wish That I Were Twins was an ideal vehicle for the wickedly suggestive humour of Fats Waller. On this recording, incidentally, the song achieves something very rare indeed, which is to bring the quintet's guitarist Jean-Marie Fagon forward into the limelight for a solo.
There are also songs by lesser-known composers who had both the skill and the knack of successful song-writing. Walter Donaldson penned a total of 600 songs. In the words of Alec Wilder, 'some of them were run-of-the mill, some were fair, some were superior, but all of them were competent'. The song of his on this album is I Wonder Where My Baby is Tonight from 1925. He also wrote songs such as Making Whoopee and Love Me or Leave Me, and even the original version of My Baby Just Cares for Me, later to be transformed by Nina Simone. Perhaps all Donaldson needs as an epitaph is that he was a shrewd businessman: having founded his own publishing company, he was able to retire from song-writing at the age of 50.
Another composer of tunes that have really stuck was Charles M. Woods, the composer of What a Little Moonlight Can Do. Woods was a surprising character. As a man, he was more or less the polar opposite of the character of his songs. Whereas what he wrote was often cheery (When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along) or romantic (Try a Little Tenderness), Woods himself was an irascible war veteran, with a violent, alcohol-fuelled temper.
Joseph Anthony (Fud) Livingston was another song composer famous for having composed just a handful of songs. He had a parallel career as saxophonist, playing at different times in the orchestras of Paul Whiteman and Benny Goodman. Livingston's hit was I'm Through With Love from 1931, immortalized in films such as Some Like it Hot and Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You. The song in this collection is Imagination from 1927.
Isham Jones, who led his own band, and who wrote songs like It Had to Be you, the hit song from the 1989 film When Harry Met Sally and There Is No Greater Love, is represented here by I Hate Myself for Being So Mean to You.
The earliest song in the collection here is an exception in that it is the only one not to have originated in America at all. The music for Limehouse Blues from 1922 was written by the English composer Philip Braham for a revue starring Gertrude Lawrence. Something of the wide-eyed innocence of the Twenties also comes across in New Orleans Wiggle by A. J. Piron from 1923.
With Duke Ellington, we meet perhaps the most celebrated composer here, and he is represented with a real foot-tapper ' the instrumental Jubilee Stomp. This was originally recorded in early 1928, just a couple of months after Ellington's Cotton Club contract, and the weekly radio broadcast that went with it, had started.
The chronological outlier in this collection, the only song to fall outside the 1900-1950 period is Horace Silver's Sister Sadie from the 1959 album Blowin' the Blues Away. Silver was recently described in a Guardian obituary ' he died in 2014 ' as having written 'accessible and exuberant' music, a description that fits the call-and-response gospel- tinged melody of Sister Sadie like a glove.
And then there's the matter of where the title of the album, Down in the Deep Deep Blue comes from. It is a line tucked away in Isham Jones' song I Hate Myself for Being So Mean to You, describing the place where the protagonist intends to 'drown' (or in some versions to 'hide') himself.
Hiding away? That may now be impossible for the Man Overboard Quintet. As the band avoids the obvious and shuns the predictable, and makes sweetly ironic gestures ' such as starting off this album with Stept and Clare's Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone from 1930 ' the group is acquiring an increasing fan base. The Man Overboard Quintet won't be gone, and will certainly be talked about.
- Press Reviews
This stimulating set of 16 tracks provides further evidence of the ingenious and generous-hearted work of The Man Overboard Quintet..."
"...an enjoyable album, excellently recorded..."
- MusicWeb International
"Surely, it's all just a wonderful dream? Nope, it isn't. It's Down In The Deep, Deep Blue, album number two from the Man Overboard Quintet."
- All About Jazz
"[Thomas Gould's] interplay with guitarist Jean-Marie Fagon recalls the easy-stepping virtuosity of Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt. Throw in the cheerfully bubbling clarinet of Ewan Bleach and Dave O’Brien’s slap bass and you have a quartet that sashays its way easily through this collection of songs and instrumentals from the 1930s to the 1950s."
"What makes everything more than just an enjoyable workout is the voice of Louisa Jones. Her rhythmic sense is firm but relaxed and her engaging tendency to introduce a glottal stop into such words as ‘heartache’ and ‘dirty’ gives a touching innocence to her delivery. The fragile yet glassy vocal timbre recalls Billie Holiday, an acknowledged influence, but she is no mere copycat."
"Like the musicians who accompany her, [Jones] brings this music back to life with such easy panache that only a churl would complain that it’s rather backward-looking."
- Sinfini Music
"...this album - the group's second - is a lot of fun to listen to..."
"[Gould] swings infectiously, riding the beat like a zephyr while Fagon pushes him from his guitar."
- Art Music Lounge
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