By ROB LESTER****Where there’s a Will, there’s a way: By way of clarifying, I mean walking/talking encyclopedia of music Will Friedwald. He literally wrote the book —several— including one soon-hot-off-the-press item on great albums by vocalists.
This Wednesday, September 27, at 12 Noon at the 92nd Street Y, his fall season of afternoon film clips and enlightening commentary begins. The focus will be Fred Astaire performing the work of America’s prolific composer-lyricist Irving Berlin. These two giants of 20th century American entertainment overlapped in more ways than having birthdays a day apart each May. Astaire’s voice and dance steps graced many Berlin gems, introducing the world to many of them in motion pictures or refreshing older material. Easter Parade, for example, showcased numbers old and new and let him co-star with Judy Garland and Follow the Fleet and Top Hat were two of his famed pairings with Ginger Rogers where they romanced and danced up a storm.
Will hand-picks footage, much of it on the rarer side, for these Clip Joint gatherings and shares anecdotes, historical perspective, and reflections. I’ve attended several of these, and always find them illuminating, with infectious enthusiasm and informed sensibilities. He is unabashed in his admiration and respect, never professorially stuffy or assuming too little or too much info from his audience of music lovers in the classroom. What a great way for late-risers to start a day and for others to spend a lunch hour break. Cost is $25 for this recommended event at the Y on Lexington Avenue at East 92nd Street. Knowing the jazz-friendly Friedwald favoring of that genre of music’s approach to the standards, expect some thoughts for Astaire’s musical meet-ups with figures like Oscar Peterson. Click here for tickets and info www.92y.org/event/fred-astaire
On Saturday, October 14 the new book by Friedwald, The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums (published by Pantheon, officially released November 7) will be discussed with Friedwald joined by performers Barbara Fasano, Eric Comstock, Eric Yves Garcia, Kimberly Hawkey and others in the first monthly meeting of The American Popular Song Society for their new season. The gathering, open to members and non-members alike ($15 for the “non-“), is at the usual location: AFM Local 802, 322 West 48 Street in Manhattan. The doors open at 1 PM and the Friedwald fest will start at 2 PM, preceded by a brief 1:30 meeting and a pre-show act at 1:45. These presentations by the group formerly known as The Sheet Music Society are well attended by music-lovers. Will, whose pencil and prose and perspective have also provided paragraph upon paragraph for The Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair as well as his own books and seemingly every other vocalist’s new or reissued CD’s liner notes.