This Is A Fine Romance
I’ve much enjoyed playing with bassist Robert Campbell over the last few years, notably this past year at Varalli’s on Broad Street and, for a few years prior at The Four Seasons. The collaboration is a welcome change, both musically and collegially, from the solitary business of solo playing. All the more so because we clicked from the beginning. We realized early on that we had a common taste, a shared reaction against the insularity of our own Real Book* generation. We wanted to put some swing and fun back into the standard repertoire and treat these tunes on their own terms without all the tiresome jazzerly self-indulgence. Ponder this rare element of character: Robert plays beautifully but doesn’t want to play long bass solos any more than you probably want to listen to them.
Anyway, during the summer, when things are slow (and Varalli’s has no live music) we’ve been trying to get together off and on to record some tunes. We’ve been doing this in my cramped office studio, which is considerably more cramped with the addition of Robert and a double bass. This week’s Weekly Tune, This Is A Fine Romance, by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, is one of our attempts.
This Is a Fine Romance was originally performed by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, oddly enough without dancing, in the 1936 movie Swing Time. (Swing Time also included Pick Yourself Up and the Academy Award-winning chestnut The Way You Look Tonight.) Since this is a male/female duet, I picked and chose amongst the lyrics. Upon inspection, I got some of the lyrics wrong, notably switching the first and second line. Maybe I’ll get it right on take two. The lyrics, as Fields wrote them appear below. Click on the title in red to hear our rendering.
A fine romance! With no kisses!
A fine romance, my friend, this is!
We should be like a couple of hot tomatoes,
But you’re as cold as yesterday’s mashed potatoes.
A fine romance! You won’t nestle.
A fine romance! You won’t wrestle!
I might as well play bridge with my old maid aunts!
I haven’t got a chance.
This is a fine romance.
A fine romance! My good fellow!
You take romance, I’ll take jello!
You’re calmer than the seals in the Arctic Ocean,
At least they flap their fins to express emotion.
A fine romance! With no quarrels,
With no insults, and all morals!
I’ve never mussed the crease in your blue serge pants.
I never get the chance.
This is a fine romance.
* The Real Book was a jazz fake book emanating from the Berklee School of Music in Boston in the 1970’s that quickly became the young jazz player’s bible. Its benefit was to have chord changes as real jazz players played them and not the more basic harmonies of standard sheet music. The Real Book was universally embraced but I am of a mind that it only accelerated jazz’s lack of popularity by limiting young players’ repertoires to the fairly meager sampling of included standards and by establishing an orthodoxy of performance that became arcane, predictable and all too often boring.