Sunday, January 25, 2009

Steve Allen - Electrified Favorites (1958)

Anyone familiar with Steve Allen's musical work knows what to expect. This is traditional jazz. Nothing space age about it. Still, an enjoyable album to listen to (especially if you like the sound of the Wurlitzer electric piano). Incidentally, the guy on the cover is NOT Steve Allen. He's a model who also appeared on a couple of Ray Conniff's album covers in the 1950's. Examples: S' Wonderful and S' Awful Nice Liner notes from the back cover.... "Steve Allen at the Wurlitzer Electronic Piano" With the music business crying eternally for "new sounds" it appears that Steve Allen has answered the call loud and clear this time out. Fans of the old Tonight Show and his Sunday evening opus are familiar with the small Wurlitzer electronic piano he's been using the past year or so. When they hear this collection of swinging tracks they'll wonder why the bespectacled one didn't record the instrument a long time ago. Not only does it provide a new sound but that sound seems particularly suited to the jazz idiom. The electronic 88 is not going to make Carnegie Hall throw away its old concert grands but it does give an off-beat, fresh feeling to the piano voice. In the low registers it sounds slightly organish, in the middle area of the keyboard it has a chunky guitar-like sound, and in the upper octaves a celestial tinkle bites crisply through. Allen employs all three registers to catchy advantage in this listenable, danceable clutch of standards and (as always when Stevo records) originals. Oddly enough it's the originals which bounce the most in this collection. "Steverino Swings" and "Electronic Boogie" are two sides that figure to get hefty plays in any rhythm-and-blues jukebox (they actually present Allen more in his capacity as jazz instrumentalist than composer since they're basically the blues and are given titles chiefly for clearance purposes). On "Steverino Swings", Allen plays some familiar blues figures and some new ones and the track proves again his earthly feeling for traditional jazz. "Electronic Boogie" is reminiscent of the old Freddie Slack specialties and with the solid drum support of Bobby Rosengarden and Frank Carroll's bass the 8-beat really romps. Two other Allen originals included in the session are "Playing the Field" and "Even Steven", a pair of well-constructed melodies familiar to old Tonight viewers. On "Memories of You" Steve plays a little like somebody working out an arrangement for the old Lunceford band. Taking only slight liberties with the melody of this theme from the Benny Goodman movie, Allen uses block chord figures to establish an easy, walking treatment that's never before been applied to this particular ballad. "Careless", one of the top songs of the late 30's, is treated in similar style. The same general medium-tempo groove predominates through the rest of the album, most notably on "Sweet Lorraine", (where Steve plays some one-note sections with good jazz feeling) and "Time on My Hands". On portions of his jazz choruses, by the way, Steve and the Wurlitzer combine to get a sort of Charlie Christian mood going. All in various sounds and rhythms add up to pleasant listening. If you're a behind-the-scenes type, you might be interested to know the making of this album represented one of the shortest recording sessions in album history. Steve showed up at the date without having decided what tunes he wanted to do, Bobby Rosengarden arrived an hour late, and from there on in Allen, working with his shirt and T-shirt off for most of the session, just called them off and played them, with no attempt to discuss arrangements or plans of action before hand. that's pretty much Steve's approach to television and life, too. He ad-libs it. Seems to work out just fine. SAMPLE: Download album: HERE - (A special thanks to Rod Sein of Sudbury, Ontario who digitally restored this album for me a few years ago)


WIL fan said...

Steve Allen doing Rose Room. On an electric keyboard. In 1958. I wouldn't have believed it unless I heard it. I wonder why he didn't do This Could Be The Start of Something Big.


totalrod2 said...

Who knows, maybe he did it on The Tonight Show! Wish they'd show some of those old episodes on Nick-at-Night. As for the keyboard, I have a Wurly. Not the most high tech instrument in the world. It employs the same hammer action as a regular piano, except on a smaller scale. And instead of strings, it strikes metal reeds which are then amplified by a pickup (similar to an electric guitar).

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Georgy said...

Congratulations on the excellent start! great music - an excellent choice - good quality!

Anonymous said...

This is such an exceptionally well done music blog. First rate!

So sorry to have missed hearing the Steve Allen album. But there's so much more to choose from.

Really great listening and a great read too.

totalrod2 said...

I reuploaded it!

Unknown said...

My mother had one of these *electronic* (not electric, there's a difference) pianos by Wurlitzer. It was touted as the first piano that would not go out of tune. Had it in the house many years. It's a delight to hear Steve Allen devoting an entire record to one!