Adrian Cunningham & His Friends Play Lerner & Loewe boasts the best possible mixture of written charts and improvisation, demonstrating a variety of approaches to harmony, tempo and time signature. Cunningham started the process with research. He explained: "I watched all the movies, My Fair Lady, Camelot, Brigadoon and Paint Your Wagon. It was helpful to put the numbers in context, having the music come from a real story, more than just notes on paper. I loved trawling through the characters, asking 'What do they mean when they're singing this melody?' I knew the songs in the basic repertoire, but I wanted to go deeper, do some detective work, present songs that perhaps hadn't been widely known. I am happy to create something fresh with vintage material. So much great American music can continue to be reborn and reshaped into something new."
Cunningham embraced the idea of many of his versions would be significantly different from the originals, while preserving the essence of each selection. Thus, the meditative intention and connection to nature can still be heard in "I Talk to the Trees." In "They Call the Wind Maria," the chaotic nature of the wind is maintained through the fast tempo choices, the driving rhythm section ostinato, and the open, angular harmony. And "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" finds a context that is appropriately cheeky and playful, as Adrian creates a specific new groove for the melody section to play over.
On "The Heather on the Hill," Fred Hersch commented: "I've played it for years, it's just such a lovely sentiment. Loewe captured that little Scottish essence in that tune. You can visualize a place when you play it, the lyric is very descriptive, and it's got a very nice form to it." Cunningham, in turn, says, "I don't think anybody can convey a ballad like Fred; it's amazing the way he delivers harmony and supports you. That level of professionalism is just heavenly."
"Loewe's music brings something very special to the jazz world," continues Hersch, "because of its roots in classical operetta. The modulations were a little more daring, going to farther key centers, different forms."
Hersch chooses "Just You Wait" as a favorite - beloved from My Fair Lady but rarely heard in a jazz context. "It's such a great character song," he says, "and often what enters the repertoire are not specific character songs. But ones like this, with a sentiment that speaks to everybody, can work as standalone pieces."
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