Songs by stage composer Jerome Moross, some not heard in 40 years, will take flight May 1 when the ps classics record label releases "Windflowers: The Song of Jerome Moross," a studio version of a cabaret concert presented at The Public Theater's Joe's Pub in early 2000.
The same cast of five that sang numbers from Moross' The Golden Apple and other shows in February and March 2000 sings on the new disc, produced by Tommy Krasker (who helmed Nonesuch's Gershwin reconstructions in the 1990s). Listen for Alice Ripley, Richard Muenz, Jessica Molaskey, Philip Chaffin, and Jenny Giering. Eric Stern is at the piano, as he was at the Pub, and for this recording, he's joined by six other musicians, with charts by Larry Hochman, Larry Moore, and Stern himself. The 19-track "Windflowers" recording goes on sale on the label's website, www.psclassics.com, and on Amazon.com, May 1, and at specialty stores two weeks later.
This is the first CD devoted solely to the songs of Jerome Moross (1913-1983), according to Krasker. "Most of the songs haven't been heard in nearly forty years," Krasker told Playbill On-Line. "They include seven songs from his unproduced 1962 musical, Underworld, based on the life of Chicago mobster Deanie O'Bannion, and two from his 1963 Civil War musical, Gentlemen, Be Seated!, which had a brief run originally at the New York City Opera. There are also songs written for Ballet Ballads (in 1948) and Golden Apple —- as well as forgotten tunes that he wrote for two films in the early '60s."
Krasker, who is still a Nonesuch producer with discs by Audra McDonald, Mandy Patinkin and Dawn Upshaw to his credit, put the Moross disc together (on his own label, ps classics) with the participation of Susanna Moross Tarjan, the composer's daughter. They first met in 1992. "Neither of us can remember how we came to meet, but I was in the midst of pre-production on Dawn Upshaw's 'I Wish It So,' and we spoke mostly about The Golden Apple," Krasker said. "Over the next few years, she began to send me forgotten songs that he'd written for his other shows. I loved them, and we spoke about pursuing a recording or a concert. The opportunity for both presented itself in 1999, when Wiley Hausam, supervisor of the Songbook Series at Joe's Pub, asked me if there were any neglected composers worth celebrating, particularly those who straddled the popular and classical fields. I immediately responded, 'Jerome Moross.' We produced the concert in 2000, and then with Susanna's help, decided to expand it for the recording studio."
The disc includes the following numbers: "Beer and Flowers" (from Underworld): Richard Muena.
"Lazy Afternoon" (from The Golden Apple): Jessica Molaskey.
"Come Live With Me" (from Ballet Ballads): Philip Chaffin.
"Oh Baby, Gee Baby" (from Ballet Ballads): Richard Muenz & Jessica Molaskey.
"Windflowers" (from The Golden Apple): Alice Ripley.
"I've Got Me" (from Ballet Ballads): Philip Chaffin.
"Prologue" to Underworld: Richard Muenz.
"That Extra Bit" (from Underworld): Jessica Molaskey.
"I've Even Been in Love" (from Underworld): Alice Ripley.
"Baby's Gonna Shake It" (from Underworld): Eric Stern.
"It's Almost Time Now" (from Underworld): Richard Muenz.
"Love Me" (from Underworld): Jessica Molaskey.
"Fare You Well" (from Gentlemen, Be Seated!): Alice Ripley & Philip Chaffin, Jenny Giering & Richard Muenz.
"I Can't Remember" (from Gentlemen, Be Seated!): Jenny Giering.
"It's the Going Home Together" (from The Golden Apple): Richard Muenz & Jenny Giering.
"Some Day" (from Forget Me Not): Alice Ripley.
"My Yellow Flower" (from Ballet Ballads): Jenny Giering.
"Ridin' on the Breeze" (from Ballet Ballads): Philip Chaffin.
"Stay With Me" (from The Cardinal): The Company.
The first disc on Krasker's ps classics was the fall 2000 release, "Philip Chaffin: Where Do I Go From You?," which draws on film-musical tunes from some of the great composers and lyricists of Broadway and Hollywood. It's available on the ps classics site or in specialty stores.
"Philip and I had spoken for years about wanting to do a recording," Krasker explained. "When we finally decided to go forward I asked him what he wanted to do, and Philip said, 'I'd just like to be the fella who sings with the band.'"
From that idea, Chaffin, Krasker and Stern decided to address the new album as a Big Band homage, offering the kind of sound you would have heard in nightclubs and on radio programs in the heyday of the bands, in the 1930s and 1940s.
The disc includes some original arrangements and orchestrations — some of the charts were lifted right from the soundtracks — and some arrangements "in the style of" the era. "We wanted to capture the era of the big bands and the dance bands — before everything got overblown in the style associated with the '50s and '60s. We wanted to embrace all those different styles. It does evoke the era, borrows elements from the era and presents Philip's style in a very good light."
Chaffin was born in Baton Rouge, LA, and raised in Baton Rouge and Mississippi, and moved to Los Angeles after college. He was cast in the West Coast premiere of George and Ira Gershwin's Strike Up the Band, in which he introduced the wartime ballad "Homeward Bound." Soon after, he toured the world as a vocalist with Ray Conniff and his Orchestra. He returned to L.A. in 1993 and sang on a series of recordings, including the Nonesuch restorations of Pardon My English and Oh, Kay!, and played the lead, Kenneth, in the Library of Congress archival recording of the Gershwins' little-known 1925 musical Tell Me More. Since moving to New York in 1997, he's performed in concerts, including the Encores! production of Sweet Adeline at City Center.
Songs on the Chaffin disc include "Where Do I Go From You?" by Arthur Schwartz & Dorothy Fields, "At Last" by Harry Warren & Mack Gordon, "No Strings" by Irving Berlin, "Love of My Life" by Artie Shaw & Johnny Mercer, "Can't Teach My Old Heart New Tricks" by Richard Whiting & Johnny Mercer, "I Hear Music" by Burton Lane & Frank Loesser, "Some Like It Hot" by Gene Krupa, Remo Biondi & Frank Loesser, "The Way You Look Tonight" by Jerome Kern & Dorothy Fields, "Love Is Here to Stay" by George & Ira Gershwin, "I Wake Up in the Morning Feeling Fine" by Frank Loesser, "Too Marvelous for Words" by Richard Whiting & Johnny Mercer, "There's a Lull in My Life" by Harry Revel & Mack Gordon, "Two Blind Loves" by Harold Arlen & E.Y. Harburg, "Serenade in Blue" by Harry Warren & Mack Gordon, "I Wish I Didn't Love You So" by Frank Loesser, "Easy to Love" by Cole Porter.
The ps classics mission is simple: Put out a combination of discs that showcase vintage shows, neglected composers and singers who deserve to be heard, Krasker said. With "Windflowers" put to bed, ps classics is now turning its attention toward its first vintage musical restoration, in the style of the Gershwin discs Krasker produced in the early '90s.
— By Kenneth Jones