What Judy Roberts has to say about So Lucky To be Loving You
Can a singer who has wowed Cubs fans for years with his classic rendition of the National Anthem be equally at home in an intimate jazz piano/vocal duo? As both fan and accompanist, I can tell you that the answer is yes! I discovered this one evening several years ago when Wayne dropped by a Chicago club where I was working, and I invited him to sit in. I was treated to a shockingly beautiful rendition of "You Are Too Beautiful," delivered as though Wayne was channeling the ghost of Johnny Hartman. I had an immediate reaction of musical "oneness" with him---the kind of camaraderie between singer and pianist that is a rare and special thing. After many more guest spots over the next few years, along with a blossoming friendship, it became obvious that we needed to take our special relationship into the studio. This recording introduces multiple musical personalities of Wayne that very few people have ever heard--- soft, sexy, jazzy, tender, playful. Ballads sung with passion and heart, swing tunes and bossa novas that feature scatting and be-bop-esque improv. And another surprise: jazz whistling! Throughout the session, Wayne and I enjoyed the kind of uninhibited musical interaction that inspires freedom and creativity. Wayne's incredible sound and vocal chops, his thoughtful choice of tunes, and his delightful sense of humor have made my piano and me very happy!
The Story Behind the Music...
The emotional significance of making this album may be summed up in the story of a pair of shoes. In 1994, Wayne Messmer was shot in the throat in a random act of violence in his hometown of Chicago, an incident that nearly took his life as well as his voice. A powerful story that is told in his book, The Voice of Victory. During the long recovery, he drew strength from the dream was born during the darkest hours of doubt, that he would one day, walk into the studio and record a set of very personally chosen love songs… to life. This recording session is the culmination of what may have seemed to many to be an improbable, if not impossible dream. The emotion of the performance of these amazing songs speaks to the joyful realization of that moment in time when Wayne first set his sights on the album So Lucky To Be Loving You that you now hold in your hands.
As for the story of the shoes… On the fateful night when he was shot, the shoes he was wearing were put away on the shelf. In the true sense of completion, the very same pair of shoes were dusted off and shined so that they could be worn at this studio session with Judy Roberts. The irony was not lost on that special day at Studio Media in Evanston, Illinois when Wayne walked in wearing “those shoes.” He brought a spiritual and very personal moment full circle being able to share the gift of his voice that had once before been stolen and miraculously restored so that this album could be made and this dream could be realized.
The musical collaboration of Wayne Messmer and Judy Roberts in a recording studio was long overdue. After all these years, the moment in time was finally realized when the opportunity to be in the same place at the same time came about and the So Lucky to Be Loving You album is the result of what proved to be an unforgettable meeting of a couple of Chicago veteran musicians and dear friends who truly love what they do.
So Lucky To Be Loving You is an album of so much more than just a couple of musicians in a studio making music… although, it is certainly that. These recordings blend the gentle and tender side of the voice of Wayne Messmer, coupled with the brilliant talent of Judy Roberts as an accompanist, capturing a delicate and romantic mood with a collection of songs whose lush melodies and sensitive lyrics are intended to set the mood for lovers.
This studio session carries with it, a deep personal meaning. It is an expression of the pure joy of life, as set to words and music… capturing the rarity of being in the moment when what you have been gifted to do and what you truly love to do, become one in the same.
Paying tribute to the great Johnny Hartman with The More I See You and You Are Too Beautiful, this album also salutes the influences of Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Dick Haymes, Buddy Clark, and Bing Crosby that served to inspire Wayne Messmer’s vocal stylization of these wonderful songs whose poetic lyrics blend with the luscious melodies to create a musical experience to be enjoyed with someone you love. Pour a glass of wine, light the candles, relax and enjoy So Lucky To Be Loving You.
Two songs were especially chosen for inclusion on this album; In the Wee Small hours of the Morning and Time After Time were both sung to perfection by the incomparable Melodeers Chorus, (in which Kathleen Messmer is a proud member) at Gold Medal winning performances at the Sweet Adelines International competitions. This is Wayne’s personal tribute to this talented and dedicated group of women.
This album is dedicated with deepest thanks for friendship and musical encouragement along the road of life to Dr David Nott and Tony Kissane.
About the Music...
The More I See You (5:05)
Mack Gordon and Harry Warren
A great love song speaks not only to the feeling that one has for their love, but also for the growing passion that continues to swell within as time evolves. This romantic ballad, composed in 1945 was first introduced to the public by the great crooner dick haymes in the film Diamond Horseshoe. While many singers have covered this song throughout the years, including chris montez who scored a huge pop hit in 1966, it is the Johnny Hartman version that serves as the interpretative inspiration for Wayne and Judy’s passionate Vocal and piano performance respectfully.
I’ll Just Take It As It Comes (4:54)
Danny Long and P.J. Erickson
The songwriting team of former Chicagoan Danny Long and P.J . Erickson combined this cool, sentimental lyric with a free and easy melody after hearing a comment from a female patron sitting at the bar one night in the Scottsdale, AZ lounge where danny and Judy Roberts sing and play the piano. Noticing that her man had fallen asleep, she shrugged her shoulders and admitted that, as for love? “I’ll just take it as it comes.” With those words in mind, Danny and P.J. said the song almost wrote itself. Wayne and Judy tip their Cubs’ caps to Danny and P.J. for sharing this wonderful tune. The bluesy piano in this song is a “classic Judy Roberts” solo.
Where Or When (4:30)
Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
This fabulous song is perhaps one of the best known of the prolific book of 550 titles that Rodgers and Hart wrote over their years of working together. From their show, Babes In Arms comes this strange and haunting anomaly known as déjà vu. Treated with a soft, tasty rhythm that features Judy Roberts’ rich piano accompaniment. The lyrics become as mystical as a gentle, swaying tropical breeze as, “…things that happen for the first time, seem to be happening again.”
Fly Me To the Moon (4:20)
Recording artists in every “gin joint around the world” have given their turn to this classic song. Originally known as “In Other Words” when it was written in 1954. The tune found restored life among a new generation when it was used in the opening credits of the film Wall Street in 1987. The unique spin to this recording is Wayne’s whistling solo that melds his easy vocalization with Judy’s playful piano. Notice the token wink at the latin jazz classic, “The Peanut Vendor” in the final lick of the whistling tag.
In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning (4:51)
David Mann and Bob Hilliard
Frank Sinatra introduced this delicious love song in 1955. It speaks deeply from within the heart of a lonely lover who waits patiently for the phone to ring, “if only she would call.” As is the case with many sentimental classics, this song found its musical life during a post-midnight session at lyricist Bob Hilliard’s home after David Mann introduced him to the lush melody. Judy Roberts’ delicate accompaniment pays homage to French composer Erik Satie and his haunting Gymnopédie No.1 with a mesmerizing repetitive phrase. She transitions this into a lush piano solo, only to revert effortlessly and supportively to float back under the dreamy words and melody.
You Are Too Beautiful (5:04)
Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
Once again, the undeniable influence of the great recording of Johnny Hartman with John Coltrane lives in this respectful interpretation of one of Rodgers and Hart’s lesser-known ballads that somehow never found it’s way into a musical. This song is the epitome of the intimacy of a lover’s declaration. The passionately tender lyrics of Larry Hart easily could stand alone as a poem that speaks of the overpowering love of a man for a beautiful woman. He describes her as “too beautiful to be true,” then openly confesses that he is “a fool for beauty.” Wayne and Judy unveil the depth of the sensitivity of their musical collaboration in this quite intimate performance.
Scotch and Soda (4:17)
An original member of The Kingston Trio, Dave Guard is credited with writing this song although he openly acknowledged that the actual songwriter’s name would probably forever go unknown. The story goes that baseball hall of famer Tom Seaver’s parents recalled first hearing the song in a piano lounge in Phoenix while on their honeymoon in 1932. They loved the tune and had the pianist write it down for them. Eventually, it became “their song.” Years later, Guard heard the song while visiting the Seaver home and went on to record it with the Trio. And the rest, as they say, is history. The Seaver tie-in makes this a natural selection for Wayne and Judy, a couple of Chicagoans and baseball aficionados. They take the listener on a nice and easy Chicago-style bluesy stroll as they put their mark on this tune to make it their very own.
Walking My Baby Back Home (3:02)
Roy Turk and Fred E. Ahlert
This evergreen still sounds as fresh today as when it first swung onto the charts in 1930. The names may have changed, but the story line has not. It is still the familiar and wonderful; boy meets girl and they happily fall in love scenario. Nat King Cole’s 1951 recording serves as the clay from which this version is molded with great respect for Nat. The easy going vocal and whistling invokes the image of sharing a few moments of a romantic stroll with a couple who are so much in love. The interplay of Wayne and Judy with the vocal, piano and whistling is the happy sound of a great old tune brought to life by a couple of musical characters just having fun.
Charlie Chaplin, John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons
When the brilliant silent film star Charlie Chaplin wrote this gorgeous melody as an instrumental track for his 1936 film, Modern Times, it became an instant classic. In 1954 John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added the lyrics that carry the powerful message of hope that there is always tomorrow, and “life is still worthwhile, if you just, smile.” Wayne is once again inspired by the silky voice of Nat King Cole’s 1954 version of this beautiful love song. The lyrics are delicately sung as a celebration to life itself as they are caressed by Judy Roberts’ amazingly sensitive treatment at the piano.
Time After Time (5:15)
Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne
This standard has become a mainstay in the Great American Songbook since Frank Sinatra introduced it in the film, It Happened In Brooklyn in 1947. The sentiment expressed in the lyrics, epitomizes the warmth of genuine romance and the depth of true love that two people share. Judy’s unique touch at the piano is most apparent with her brilliant interlude. The last words of the lyrics of this gentle song serve as the title for the album, “so lucky to be loving you,” and underscore the feeling throughout the compilation of all of its songs. Anyone who has ever been in love recognizes exactly what is meant by the phrase, “so lucky to be loving you.”