Eden Casteel Music Studio

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A Lazy Afternoon

Forget Afternoon Delight. Keep your Under the Boardwalk. Ditch that Summer in The City.  Lazy Afternoon is my favorite summer song.

It's from the musical The Golden Apple by Jerome Moross and John LaTouche -- the show updated the Helen of Troy legend to 1950s Washington State. It's okay that you've probably never heard of it; some colleges perform it, but it has never had a major revival -- it doesn't deserve one, except for this song! I love how the chords progress back and forth from minor to major, and I also love the Faulkner-esque (Capote-esque?) lyrics ("and I know a place that's quiet/ with daisies runnin' riot/ with no one passin' by it to see"). It sounds like it could be Caddy's nine o'clock number from the musical version of The Sound And The Fury.

Kay Ballard, portraying Helen, sang Lazy Afternoon on the original cast soundtrack. I think she is a little too lazy with the pitches, swooping and moaning. I do like the vibraphone, for it dates the rendition appropriately.

The first version I ever heard was by Barbra Streisand back in the 1980s, when she came out of retirement the first time and did a TV special. Being Barbra, she hits every note dead on, and Marvin Hamlisch has some nice little electronic keyboard moments drip-dropping against a reedy double bass. But do I believe Streisand could relax enough to really live this song? Nah.

There are countless other versions, all with good moments. Tony Bennett, Eartha Kitt, June Christy, et al. But my all-time favorite version is by Joan Morris, a mezzo-soprano voice professor at the University of Michigan. She has spent decades performing the Great American Songbook in concert with her husband, the Pultizer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom. About fifteen years ago, I stumbled upon Let's Do It, a CD they recorded of a live concert from 1987. Every track is a gem, from Wait 'Til The Sun Shines Nellie to Let's Put Out The Lights (And Go To Bed) to the hilarious version of the Cole Porter title track. But the standout, for me, is this song. Just listen to Morris sing Lazy Afternoon. She is all quiet, intoxicating invitation, while Bolcom provides spare but completely effective piano. I have assigned this song to a few of my private students over the years, just so I can play the Bolcom accompaniment again by ear. When Morris sings, I can see Helen on the porch with her tea and "cake that was never richer," and Paris prostrate before her. Perfection! Who needs A/C?

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Eden Casteel Music Studio, 81 Post Road, Wakefield RI 02879. Phone: 401-932-5589.