Fynsworth Alley: Musiography – Jason Graae

Musiography - Jason GraaeWe receive dozens of customer e-mails each week asking about the origins of songs on our albums, so we thought it would be fun to occasionally devote a column to analyzing the selections on our albums. This week, we’re kicking off the series with Jason Graae’s Evening of Self-Indulgence

But Alive / I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You
Since most everyone knows each of these songs (the former from Strouse and Adams’ Applause, the latter from Lloyd Webber and Rice’s Evita), we decided to ask Jason how he decided to combine the two into an unlikely medley. “Well, I already knew the words to ‘But Alive’, but it was too short, so I figured I ought to add something else,” says Graae, “But actually, it was [director] Heather Lee’s idea to put in ‘I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You’. That was her only contribution to my act.”

My Simple Christmas Wish is a cabaret song by David Friedman, a prolific writer also known for his long association with the late Nancy LaMott. This song was first popularized by Alix Korey (No Way To Treat A Lady), who recorded the tune on her album Songs You Might Have Missed (on the Audible Difference label), although Jason has adapted the lyrics a bit to make the song his own. This song can also be heard (with a full orchestra) on Emily Skinner’s solo album.

She Touched Me was the standout hit song from the flop musical Drat! The Cat! Barbra Streisand popularized the song, which she recorded to support a show that both featured her then husband Elliott Gould in a starring role, as well as featuring her own name among the list of investors. Jason first recorded the song on the world premiere studio cast recording of the show’s score.

You’ve Got That Thing is from an early Cole Porter effort, Fifty Million Frenchmen, the show that produced the more famous songs “Let’s Step Out” and “You Do Something To Me.” The show’s story concerned a young playboy in Paris who poses as a tour guide to win the heart of the woman he loves without flaunting his money. The song was originally performed by Jack Thompson, although Jason first recorded it for the world premiere cast recording of the score, on New World Records.

The Moment Has Passed is from one of the truly odd musicals to emerge from the 1960s, Promenade. Promenade was written by the Reverend Al Carmines, a hippie preacher who found a second career writing music, and Maria Irene Fornes, an avante garde playwright who’s also known for the non-musical plays Tango Palace and Fefu and Her Friends. The show opened at a theatre that took its name from the show in 1969, and featuring George S. Irving, Alice Playten, and Madeline Kahn among the cast. This song was originally sung by Carrie Wilson. Jason appeared in an off-Broadway revival of the show in the mid-1980s.

The Oboe Interlude is actually Telemann’s oboe concerto. Jason was in fact an oboe major at CCM before switching to musical theatre. When asked why he picked this particular oboe piece, Jason says, “It’s hyperactive… just like me!” Graae first performed the piece in a 9th grade oboe contest.

Something That I Wanted You To Know was composed by Gerry Sternbach, Jason’s musical director who is heard playing piano on this recording. The lyrics are by Lindy Robbins, who has had a great deal of success not only as a cabaret/theatre lyricist, but also as a pop song writer and as a member of the singing group The Tonics. You can hear more of Gerry and Lindy’s songs on the cast album of The Gay 90s Musical.

The Wrong Note Rag was never envisioned to be taken quite so literally. The song, from Bernstein, Comden & Green’s Wonderful Town, doesn’t really fit into the show at all. It’s sung as part of a show-within-the-show put on by sisters Ruth and Eileen, originally played by Rosalind Russell and Edie Adams, although it’s never really made clear why writer Ruth is performing.

It Would Have Been Wonderful comes from Annie Warbucks, the ill-fated sequel to Strouse and Charnin’s Annie. Something that you can’t see from the album, but now you’ll know, is that the woman who originated this song, Marguerite MacIntyre [No Way To Treat A Lady], was sitting not three feet away from Jason as he recorded this rendition. An even more obscure coincidence: Sandy Faison, who played the same role (Grace) in the original Broadway Annie, was also present for the recording. Now doesn’t the hidden track seem all the funnier? Jason first recorded this song on his first solo album, You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile. Close listeners will notice slight lyric changes from the show version of the song.

Applause has become something of a signature song for Jason, ever since he first recorded it for his You’re Never Fully Dressed album. The song, which was introduced by a chorus of gypsies led by Bonnie Franklin in the 1970 musical Applause (by Strouse and Adams, with a book by Comden and Green), originally featured a montage of the gypsies parodying famous Broadway musicals. Since Jason could not perform these very visual parodies, he added his own stamp with a section of impressions. Jason, of course, honed his impression ability throughout his long association with Forbidden Broadway (and Forbidden Hollywood).

What More Can I Say? is from Falsettoland, the 1990 conclusion to William Finn’s Marvin trilogy. Stephen Bogardus, playing the role of Whizzer, premiered this song both in its original off-Broadway staging as well as in the eventual Broadway pairing of Falsettoland with its predecessor March of the Falsettos (as Falsettos). Jason took over the role of Mendel (ironically, the only straight adult male in the show) on Broadway, and had wanted to sing this song ever since.

Just Where They Should Be is a touching ballad by Craig Carnelia (Working, Is There Life After High School?). When Jason went searching for a suitable bonus track for the special edition of his album, Michael Kerker of ASCAP suggested this song.

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