Jazz Album of the Week: Songs by Lerner and Loewe from Adrian Cunningham and His Famous Friends

Jan 28, 2020

January 27, 2019. Lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe worked together to create hit musicals for stage and film for decades. Many of the compositions went on to become part of the Great American Songbook, which, through the years, were subject to different levels of interpretation.

Sydney-born, New York-based multi-instrumentalist Adrian Cunningham makes it a point to highlight some “not-so-standard” standards in a new light on his release Adrian Cunningham and his Friends Play Lerner and Loewe.

Cunningham chose some of his better-known jazz friends to take part in this project, and they each added their own input on what these tunes mean to them, and why they should be played a certain way. He is joined by pianist Fred Hersch, bassist John Hebert, drummer Eric McPherson, and special guests, saxophonist Randy Brecker and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, who were all excited to revisit these songs.

On “I Could Have Danced All Night,” from My Fair Lady, Gordon wanted to play off of the word “dance,” and make sure that the melody had some bounce and movement. From the same musical, “Just You Wait” had the band switch gears to exhibit the playful anger of Eliza Doolittle, with Cunningham switching from sax to flute, and Hersch contributing some sharp accompaniment, which adds a film noir type of urgency.

The group works their magic with other numbers from Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon, Gigi, and Camelot, focusing on the familiar, like “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” to the obscure (unless you’re a stage buff) “I Talk To the Trees.” They manage to touch on different styles of jazz throughout, causing each selection to be a pleasant surprise, especially if you’re listening straight through.

A versatile Aussie, a killer band, and the works of Lerner and Loewe equate to a flavorful recipe for jazz success.