Almost any feeling I have about almost anything, I can identify in an Irving Berlin song. We all can - this was Mr. Berlin's great gift: he was able to offer his listeners their own sentiments reflected in his songs. He rag-ged exuberant joy, waltzed grief and longing, and exalted romantic love over and over again in a voice that resonated deeply through its simplicity.
A Russian immigrant, Irving Berlin developed much of his skill while growing up in the ethnic and cultural melting pot of the Lower East Side of Manhattan after the turn of the century. His first songs echoed the many different voices of the Melting Pot ("Yiddisha Nightingale"). The unifying factor was that they were all written in English; a second language for most at that time, including Berlin. But it was, as Alexander Woolcott described it while discussing the song "when I Lost You": "The only language that meant anything to (Berlin)".
Around the time of the popularity of "Alexander's Ragtime Band", Irving Berlin wrote lots of other ragtime tunes, and many of them referenced a "ragtime violin". In fact, I own a piece of original sheet music whose beautiful cover art features a devil peeking through a doorway weilding a violin.
I like to think that the devil stepped right off the page and into my recording sessions in the form of Dr. Jim Sitterly. He packed up his sins, fiddled like the devil and brought exuberant joy to this project. He also added a beautiful strain of melody on viola as did Kenton Youngstrom on guitar. Throughout every track, Lanny Meyers was my dance partner o'er the keys, my friend and musical director. To steal a phrase from the past. Lanny is "beyond compare".
I've delved into the tip of the iceberg of the near fifteen hundred songs in the Berlin catalogue, and have recorded some of my favorites on this CD. Irving Berlin wrote these and all his songs, for us. The collective "us": You, me, them, generations now past and those to come. How else could I, at the age of nine, have worshipped Madonna and also have replayed and wept over my scratchy LP recording of "Remember"?
Because his melodies do, indeed, linger on.
I hope you enjoy.
Thank you, Mister Berlin.