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Friday, February 13, 2009
by Cleo Laine & Dudley Moore
RCA KKL1-0459 1982 STEREO
I first met Cleo Laine and her husband, John Dankworth, back in 1958 when I was a student, and playing jazz piano at a May Ball, at Oxford. I will always cherish dearly the encouragements they gave me at that time and the thrill I felt when John invited me to be the pianist in his band, which gave me the opportunity to accompany Cleo in a variety of situations.
One of my truly greatest joys as a musician is accompanying singers and there is no doubt in my mind that Cleo Laine is a unique breed. She has a voice that can be pure or seductive. She can soothe or attack - with a vocal range that less than a handful could ever hope to imitate, while the expressive warmth of her delivery gives her interpretations an incomparable glow. So it is with great pleasure that I appear with Cleo on this - our first album together - I hope not our last. It was a real treat.
Thank you, Cleo.
John and I met Dudley when he was on the verge of leaving Oxford with his Bachelor of Music degree in hand and itching to get to London to work, work, work. That was the first encounter. Later he was John's pianist when John had his big band, and my accompanist when I performed for the first time at the Savoy Hotel, London (and a few lowlier spots!).
Then came 'Beyond the Fringe,' the revue that set him on the path to superstardom and out of our musical lives--except occasionally as ships that pass in the night.
Admiration and love for Dudley and his music hasn't waned over the years. It's still full and glowing. That, we're sure, will never change, and I'm glad it's been put on record at last.
The togetherness on this album may have been pure inspiration - but like multi-talented Nobel Prize winners, inspiration sometimes tales a long time to come to fruition. This one has taken perhaps a decade. Cleo, John and Dudley has discussed recording together for about that long. But the problems of being in the same city or even country, with all the time and freedom to record had proven impossible until recently, when they all found themselves in the same place and able to hold a reunion to display their unique talents on this album.
The sessions went smoothly, with interludes of comedy relief. At one point Moore, entering the control booth, found Dankworth engrossed in writing some music.
Moore: "What are you doing?" Dankworth: "It's in the wrong key; I'm transposing it." Moore (with heavy North-of-England accent): "Making a transposition, eh? My aunt had one of those once. Took 'er to the hospital, they did. Transposed her from B-flat to E. Painful bloody business. You could hear her screams all over the neighborhood." Dankworth: "Very sad. I understood they removed her coda, too."
But the easy-going friendship and humor changed to total professionalism once the engineer announced it was time to record again. And moods change, as if by clairvoyance, from the wistful "I Don't Know Why," to a swingingly bouncy version of "When I Take My Sugar to Tea" and originals by Dankworth, "Play it Again, Sam," and bassist Ray Brown, "Soft Shoe," with moore on the vocal. Cleo and Dudley scatting on "Strictly for the Birds," and the warmth of "Smilin' Through" demonstrate the feeling of friendship and enjoyment they have wished to share musically for a long while. Isn't that why friends get together?
PRODUCED AND ARRANGED BY JOHN DANKWORTH FOR NEWQUAY PRODUCTIONS
Mastering Engineer: Joe Gastwirt, CBS Recording Studios Album Coordinator: David Whitehead Art Direction: Kathy Hohl Photography: David McCabe
MANUFACTURED AND DISTRIBUTED IN CANADA BY: FABRIQUE ET DISTRIBUE AU CANADA PAR: RC INC., 2245 MARKHAM ROAD, SCARBOROUGH, ONT. M1B 2W3
DUDLEY MOORE, Piano RAY BROWN, Bass NICK CEROLI, Drums *John Dankworth, Soprano Sax
I DON'T KNOW WHY (I JUST DO)/LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME 3:39 WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA 3:05 I'LL BE AROUND 3:51 STRICTLY FOR THE BIRDS 2:04 BEFORE LOVE WENT OUT OF STYLE 3:52 SOFT SHOE* 3:44
SMILIN' THROUGH 3:05 I CAN'T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE 3:12 IT'S EASY TO REMEMBER 4:01 PLAY IT AGAIN SAM 3:32 BE A CHILD 4:24
Editor's note: this is much more an oddity or an intrigue than an obscurity, though I'm sure most people don't know that Dudley Moore was a pianist. I remember hearing that he was but didn't realize that he also put out some albums. Well, he did. Cleo Laine did too. We did not. You might have but the rest of us didn't. We're just listeners. Now get to listening!
I came across this record on a few blogs and managed to track down some audio from WFMU's site. I would love to hear more from this honky-tonkin' caterwaulin' queen. Listen to the tracks below and I think you will too!