American Love Songs
On this recording the Band and I present a selection of extraordinary love songs from the writing of Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Fats Waller, Andy Razaf and other giants of American popular song.
These song writers of the '20s and '30s were remarkable craftsmen, and their songs have a classical character that sounds good in any era. Many of these numbers were pop hits of their day, but still sound contemporary. I consider these compositions to be rare and timeless art.
We are joined here by a glittering cast of Riverwalk radio show guest artists including the remarkable balladeer and bluesman Joe Williams, the superb saxophonist, composer and arranger Benny Carter, the Obie award-winning singer and actor Vernel Bagneris, piano dynamo Dick Hyman—plus a brilliant new talent, Australian vocalist Nina Ferro, whose
stateside broadcast debut was the smash hit of Riverwalk's 1996 season. I love the honest, absolutely straight forward quality of Nina's voice. It's a beautiful sound.
All cuts are exciting live recordings excerpted from the Riverwalk Jazz radio series. Now in its 20th season, Riverwalk Jazz is broadcast on more than 160 public radio stations nationwide.
Benny Carter, Nina Ferro, Dick Hyman, Bob Wilber, Joe Williams, Carol Woods
JIM CULLUM JAZZ BAND:
Jim Cullum, cornet
Evan Christopher, clarinet (Brian Ogilive-Tracks 7 & 9, Alan Vache-Tracks 6 & 8)
Mike Pittsley, trombone
John Sheridan, piano
Howard Elkins, banjo & guitar
Don Mopsick, bass (jack Wyatt-Track 6)
Eddie Torres, drums
JIM CULLUM, JR., Bandleader, cornet
In the 1950s when everyone else his age was listening to Elvis Presley and Connie Francis, Jim Cullum locked onto the sounds of early jazz greats Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton. At first he thought he might want to play trombone, but one day while helping his dad in the grocery business, Jim caught sight of an antique cornet in a store window and fell in love.
While attending Trinity University in San Antonio, Jim formed a seven-piece traditional jazz group, the Happy Jazz Band, with his father the late Jim Cullum, Sr., who had played professionally with Jack Teagarden and others in the 1940s. In 1963, a group of San Antonio business leaders established The Landing, a jazz club on the San Antonio River Walk, as a showcase for the Happy Jazz Band. Under Jim, Jr.'s direction the band evolved into a nationally-acclaimed professional company known as The Jim Cullum Jazz Band. Jim Cullum’s lifelong passion has been researching, preserving and presenting jazz and popular song from the turn of the 20th century to the mid-1940s.
The Riverwalk Jazz Project
Documenting the Roots of America’s Music, 1900-1950
History of the Organization
Riverwalk Jazz was created in 1989 as a project of Texas Public Radio. A National Advisory Board was created to assist with Riverwalk Jazz fund-raising and promotion. Beginning with three broadcast specials on 60 stations, the series grew from 26 broadcasts per year in 1997 to 39 broadcasts per year in 1998, and expanded in 1999 to a 52-week hourly series.
On February 1, 2005, Riverwalk Jazz began operating as a stand-alone 501(c)(3) not-for-profit Texas Corporation. The mission of the project has remained the same, but in addition to the production and distribution of the radio series, the scope of the project has broadened to include the development of an education outreach curriculum for children.
Riverwalk Jazz is an educational resource. The radio series draws on the resources of universities and libraries around the country, and scholars and archivists worldwide contribute to the body of knowledge in the series. Each program focuses on the contribution of a particular composer, performer or an era in jazz history, bringing the music to life through live performance combined with historical recordings.
The program series captures the fast-disappearing generation of jazz greats in new music performances and interviews exploring the almost-forgotten era of music they helped define. Jazz icons showcased in live performance on the series include: Lionel Hampton, Benny Carter, Jay McShann, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Doc Cheatham, Milt Hinton and Joe Williams. The Jim Cullum Jazz Band and guests such as Dick Hyman, Shelly Berg and Duke Heitger demonstrate the evolution of jazz styles and entertain with anecdotes in interviews with co-host David Holt. The distinguished Broadway and Hollywood actor Vernel Bagneris offers portrayals of historical figures including Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, and Duke Ellington in original scripts based on oral histories. Entertainment writer John Berlau wrote in the May 21-27, 2006 American Profile’s “Jazzing the Airwaves:” “Cullum’s popular radio program, along with the work of top-selling jazz artists like trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and singer Diana Krall, is among the factors credited for a renewed interest in classic jazz throughout the country.”