“Steppin’ Out: Astaire Sings” From 1945 to 1957 Norman Granz produced a series of concerts called Jazz At The Philharmonic (JATP). Fred was their featured artist on one of the 1952 tours and the recordings were taken from those performances. Granz was Oscar Peterson’s manager for most of his professional career but in 1952 they were just at the beginning of their working relationship. Internet music experts agree that the Peterson/Granz collaboration gave Fred an opportunity to really stretch as a vocalist. There are no songs from this album on YouTube that I could find, but here’s a song medley from Fred’s 1958 TV special “An Evening With Fred Astaire.” Almost all the songs in this medley are on the album. I think you can still hear the influence of the JATP experience in Fred’s phrasing here. Oh and there’s an extra bonus number on this clip too!
WARNING: In this section I shall be divulging a shocking and repulsive secret that I have kept hidden for three decades. Look away now if you have weakness in your stomach or heart.
I think Fred Astaire was one of the greatest dancers who ever lived. No, that’s not the shameful part. For several years in my early adolescence though, if you had asked me, I’d have said I preferred Gene Kelly. No shame in that either. Gene was also an amazing talent. My cousin and I had an ongoing Kelly/Astaire debate and I had what I felt was the definitive “Kelly is better” argument:
1. Gene is cuter.
2. He made more color movies than Fred. (I have no idea if that’s true but it seemed right to me.)
3. “Singing In The Rain” was like, totally tubular! (It was the 80’s. We were required by law to talk like that.)
Okay, perhaps it wasn’t the most cogent argument but I did win the debate. More importantly, I won it without having to reveal the horrifying, nauseating truth behind my early 80’s Gene Kelly preference. “Xanadu” yes, the 1980 Olivia Newton John stinkburger “Xanadu.” I tuned in our one and only cable channel one day and recorded it on the Betamax. I played the tape over and over until I wore it out. I loved that movie so much that it caused me to declare that Gene Kelly was the greatest dancer of all time simply because he was in it. If you must judge me gentle reader, pray judge with mercy. After all, hath not a “Xanadu” fan eyes? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you give us satin shorts and skates do we not roller disco?