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Irving Berlin: Irving Berlin in Hollywood

The arc of Irving Berlin’s song-writing trajectory, from Tin Pan Alley and Broadway to Hollywood, constitutes one of the great epics of the American Popular Song. Bringing together some 25 Berlin tunes immortalized in cinema musicals, it’s a collection that jazz devotees, fans and musicians alike, should find fascinating. Hearing the original screen versions of “Blue Skies” (Al Jolson; The Jazz Singer; 1927), “Cheek to Cheek” (Fred Astaire; Top Hat; 1935), and “They Say It’s Wonderful” (Judy Garland, in an outtake from Annie Get Your Gun; 1949) is a revelation, especially for those who, like Lester Young, take stock in knowing the lyrics. The canon of 1920s-1950s tunesmiths is, arguably, the core of jazz’s improvisational raw material. With this glorious cross-section of Berlin cine-classics, it’s a pleasure to just “Face the Music and Dance”!

Originally Published