I was nonplussed watching much of the 86th Annual Academy Awards celebration on CBS earlier this month. Perhaps I went in with too high of expectations, as I do love Ellen Degeneres, and I believed she would have made a great Oscars host. Though some of her patter was fun, there were too many silly "impromptu" antics. In fact, I literally squirmed watching the legendary Liza Minnelli become the butt of a really tasteless drag queen joke. Liza was there with her siblings (Lorna and Joey) to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of The Wizard of Oz.
Though that segment featuring a subdued Pink, replete in a ruby red gown, was both tasteful and understated the awards as a whole were still lackluster. In fact, I was mostly bored when forced to listen to performances of "the music" from this year's nominated films. With the exception of Disney's ball-breaker of an anthem "Let It Go" from the blockbuster hit Frozen. Which was nailed musically in the way that only the great Idina Menzel can carry off.
Outside of this category an additional stand-out moment was, Bette Midler's soulful "Wind Beneath My Wings" in tribute to those actors who passed in the last year. However, listening to the other nominees in the Best Song category I really just cringed and winced. Not a single performance touched me, or moved me in anyway shape or form. The evening left me wanting (aside from better comedic writers for Ellen Degeneres) a taste for that time when music was music, and as luck would have it I found it in a new recording, Broadway to Hollywood, all at the hands of someone I hold in deep admiration, the incomparable, Master of Music Richard Glazier.
Maybe my admiration is because we have share a few things in common, including being two old souls at a young age. "I loved old things, I loved old books, and I loved old records." Glazier said himself in a recent interview. Like Richard, I also was never a kid of my generation. Certainly not where movies were concerned and not where music was concerned either. In fact, looking back when I was a kid everyone else was listening to: Madonna, Green Day and Marky Mark. I, on the other hand, was listening to: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and, of course, Judy Garland. As a singer myself, I find that I am naturally drawn to the lyrics. However, as much as I loved the amazing vocalists of those bygone days, I am also drawn to the incredible scores and memorable themes written for so many of our classic Hollywood movies.
How does one recreate those sounds, melodies and themes from so many of those treasured films with just a piano? Impossible? Maybe. Unless that someone is Richard Glazier. In this remarkable new album, Richard proves what one might think impossible, the need for those huge forty or fifty piece orchestras that were used to create the incredible sounds, melodies and themes from so many of those treasured films. For Broadway to Hollywood features one man who truly is his own one man orchestra, Richard Glazier.
I really first became familiar and an admirer of Richard Glazier's work several years ago when I came upon his recording of the Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin tune, "It's A New World" (from his album Harold Arlen: Hooray For Love). Delighted was I that someone was breathing life into this all too over looked and beautiful ballad from Judy Garland's 1957 comeback film, A Star Is Born. As such, I have sought out more of his work and got access to a preview copy of his new masterwork Broadway to Hollywood.
From the first track I was instantly drawn in to this latest CD. It would have been impossible not to be as he soars into the magical theme "Drifting" from Warner Brothers 1958 hit film Auntie Mame. Who can forget the opening strains to that madcap misadventure starring Rosalind Russell? It continues with a splendid medley from the score of Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady, closing my eyes he helped me conjure up the all images we have all come to know and love along Eliza's journey from flower girl to fine lady. Glazier, not one to be musically pigeonholed in this Herculean effort without any warning, surprises the listener by shifting gears and provides a bone chilling take on the haunting theme from Vertigo and its companion piece Scene D'Amour.
Each and every track is a musical gem which doesn't get much better than the lush and melodic beauty of George and Ira Gershwin's "Embraceable You." Glazier's passion is most evident when he lovingly wraps his fingers around a Gershwin tune. And, why not? It was upon seeing the 1943 film Girl Crazy and Judy Garland's breathtaking rendition of this song that his love for the Great American songbook began. It started with a letter he wrote as a nine-year-old boy to Ira Gershwin, to which he not only received a response but after three years of correspondence, he received an invitation into the Gershwin home by Ira himself!
The doors to the home on Roxbury Drive were only opened to a chosen few by Ira, who at this point in his life was rather reclusive. However, once Ira met Richard, he was so impressed with the eloquence and talent of this prodigious young man that he gave him the opportunity to play on the very same piano where Ira and George composed their greatest and beloved musical compositions. There Richard sat playing "Embraceable You" as Ira Gershwin sang along. Who could ask for anything more?!
Like the truest of recording vocal artists, and there are few these days, that can project through a studio recording that their performance is personally being performed for you. Glazier does just that, sans vocals. Just turn on Glazier's CD, turn off the lights, light a few candles and it will feel as if the gentleman himself is in your living room delivering a concert just for you. I have to agree with Hugh Martin, who told Richard himself that he didn't need a singer to accompany him "because you sing the lyrics through your fingers".
When asked in a recent interview how or why he fell in love with movie musicals at such a young age, Glazier responded: "I've tried to analyze, why did that touch me so deeply, even as a kid, and I can't put my finger on it, I can't find the answer. It's just kind of one of those mysteries of life that just started and frankly, I try not to analyze it so much."
Plain and simple this is good music and good entertainment. However, it is in fact much more than that, it is Glazier's ability to be the conveyor of his passion, love and respect for the music, which in turn touches his listener's emotions from tremendous excitement to sheer delight, and of course, like any good artist his work will also bring a tear to your eye. I, personally, needed several Kleenex after Glaziers soulful rendition of the title track to An Affair To Remember from the 1957 film.
Another standout moment on this cd for me was that old standby "One For My Baby." Glazier's version of the Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer tune is what Dave Brubeck is to "Take Five." It takes the listener on a journey and it paints a picture. Close your eyes and Mr. Glazier has conjured up just a hint of that old smoke filled nightclub and sends the listener back to that time when people gave cocktail parties, men wore pinstripe suits with a neatly folded handkerchief and women in taffeta swing gowns with plunging necklines accompanied each other to the powder room to apply a fresh coat of ruby red lipstick and swap the latest gossip. Glazier's superb interpretation tell us the story.
I must confess a personal bias, one of my very favorite musical moments being Richard's rendering -- and all too brief I might add -- of the Hugh Martin/Ralph Blane ballad "The Boy Next Door" from the 1944 classic Meet Me in St. Louis. I wanted more, but then that is the hallmark of true artistry isn't it? He leaves you wanting more.
Dear Mr. Glazier, please, do not stop tickling the ivories, and producing exceptional work that we the listener are the lucky beneficiaries. This splendid new CD collection (available from Centaur Records) proves that they don't write 'em like that anymore, not by a long shot, and that so few pianists can create the magic and artistry behind the keys that Mr. Glazier does.
Without his presence in our lives we would be musically unaware of what is potentially becoming a lost art form. Fortunately for us, Broadway to Hollywood is one hundred percent proof positive, without a shadow of doubt, that Richard Glazier is one of the most steadfast, leading protectors and ambassadors of the great, American song book!