Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wee Small Hours: what a concept

My father, Toddy Ryan, gave me many gifts. One of them is music. In our “west-end” Chester, Pennsylvania row house dining room was the Hi-Fi, housed in a cabinet that Dad made from a sheet of mahogany plywood in 1958. Beneath the compartment where the Zenith sat was where the albums resided behind the shellacked deep cherry stained double doors. One of those albums was “in the Wee Small Hours”, Frank Sinatra’s Capitol records release of 1955, arranged by Nelson Riddle. Some look to this as the first “concept” album. I called Toddy today to discuss the album and Nathan Granner’s upcoming shows featuring that music, newly arranged by Jeffrey Rukaman.

Sixteen elegant songs serve as the centerpiece of this show; songs with great melodies and intelligent poignant lyrics. Rukaman has taken these songs and infused them with contemporary beats, electrified instrumentation, and energy that would have gotten Sinatra evicted from his wee small hours bar at 3am. These ballads, quietly atmospheric on the 1955 LP, during his post-breakup sadness with Ava Gardner, now have a theatrical quality with more light and drama thanks to Granner and Rukaman.

Contemporary art forms that take sacred classics, imbuing them with youth and fresh eyes, through lenses and mediums of the present tense are beyond tribute in a way. Tribute bands may imitate, but like Andy Warhol and others, artists have the opportunity to reshape and display what once was and make it something exciting; what is. We can touch the generational fingertips of our friends and family with art like this. We can experience memories with music and even create new ones.

My Mom and Dad danced to these songs at places like the 500 Club and Steel Pier in Atlantic City. So, while we sit and listen to Nathan, keep in mind that some of these songs encouraged luscious slow-dancing; sensual sounds that literally moved people. The music moves Dad still and he talks about those dances, the record hops in the firehouses in Philly, and Mom. She could dance.

I’m curious to hear this live updated rendering, wishing that my Dad (88) could sit beside me and absorb this. Dad’s not up to the trip, but I may make a cassette for him (he’s not online or iPod’d). I’ll listen intently, Daddy O, but I’ll want to dance.

You can listen to a recorded session preview of this new Wee Small Hours creation on ustream http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/5366869 . I can’t wait to see this live, thanks to Nate, the Ruk & Spoonblender.

By the way, Dad still has a copy of the concept album of my generation, Tommy, a few inches away from Wee Small Hours in the Hi-Fi cabinet in his attic in Avalon, New Jersey…

Catch Wee Small Hours:

August 15th at the recordBar…8pm

August 27th and 29th at Jardine’s…8pm

Cover is ten bucks, Mack…

Sinatra’s original 1955 track listing for these great songs…be advised that the show will place this list in shuffle mode…

Side one

"In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" (Bob Hilliard, David Mann) – 3:00

"Mood Indigo" (Barney Bigard, Duke Ellington, Irving Mills) – 3:30

"Glad to Be Unhappy" (Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart) – 2:35

"I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes)" (Hoagy Carmichael, Jane Brown Thompson) – 3:42

"Deep in a Dream" (Eddie DeLange, Jimmy Van Heusen) – 2:49

"I See Your Face Before Me" (Howard Dietz, Arthur Schwartz) – 3:24

"Can't We Be Friends?" (Paul James, Kay Swift) – 2:48

"When Your Lover Has Gone" (Einar Aaron Swan) – 3:10

Side two

"What Is This Thing Called Love?" (Cole Porter) – 2:35

"Last Night When We Were Young" (Harold Arlen, Yip Harburg) – 3:17

"I'll Be Around" (Alec Wilder) – 2:59

"Ill Wind" (Arlen, Ted Koehler) – 3:46

"It Never Entered My Mind" (Rodgers, Hart) – 2:42

"Dancing on the Ceiling" (Rodgers, Hart) – 2:57

"I'll Never Be the Same" (Gus Kahn, Matty Malneck, Frank Signorelli) – 3:05

"This Love of Mine" (Sol Parker, Henry W. Sanicola, Jr., Frank Sinatra) – 3:33

For you audiophiles and vinyl lovers: In November of 2009, Capitol Records, LLC, re-issued this album in its original 16-song LP format. The LP was officially recalled by Capitol in December, 2009, due to an unusual production error: At the end of side one, the song "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan" errantly replaced "When Your Lover Has Gone".[5] Also the 2009 reissue LP uses the "wet" 1960s mix that has added echo/reverb on Frank Sinatra's voice. The original LP pressings from the mid to late 1950s and the early 1980s 10 track budget reissue LP contain the "dry" mix.


  1. Love my Frank and I totally agree about the inherent elegance of these songs. Nice to read about this.

  2. I tried to subscribe and write a thanks for reading the article but could think of no other way so....thanks and I see you are a writer! I go around the country speaking to foster kids on rising abover adversity, my book: surviving foster care & making it work for you will be out by the end of sept I am hoping. I hope to come speak to the kids at your agency one day or to sell my book, which is a guide book for teens to survive care and come out on top!! thanks again