Mad About the Boy - The Music of Noel Coward

Over a 50+ year career, Dick Hyman has delighted listeners in his varied roles as a pianist, organist, arranger, music director, and composer. His impact on the jazz world has been huge. Here is an early recording of Hyman taking on the music of Neol Coward, approaching each song with his characteristic subtlety and style. An exciting look at a jazz legend's early days. Very few jazz performers have recorded a full-length set of Noel Coward compositions, and for good reason. Coward wrote his songs for the British theater. None of his tunes became major jazz standards. His best known songs include "Mad About The Boy," "Poor Little Rich Girl" and "Dance Little Lady" but none of those were adapted by many swing bands. However pianist Dick Hyman, being a brilliant player, picked out 15 of the most suitable numbers for his solo recital in 1952, and shows that Coward could have been a jazz composer too, if he had the time. Noel Coward (1899-1973) was perhaps most significant as a playwright but he was also an actor, singer, director and composer. He was one of the symbols of British show business and high society for decades. As a teenager he started writing plays and more than 50 were staged in his lifetime including "Private Lives" and "Design For Living." He wrote over 500 songs, additional special works for musical theater, the novel "Pomp and Circumstance," poetry, short stories and an autobiography that was three, Volumes.

Coward appeared in amateur contests when he was just seven, and was always interested in performing. He appeared in many children's plays, sold short stories to magazines, and began to seriously work as a playwright in 1918, sometimes starring in his own works. 1923's "The Young Idea" and "The Vortex" were his first successes. He became so productive that by 1925 he had four plays running simultaneously, all of which did well. From that point on, he was a legend in England. The Depression did not slow him down and, if anything, his productivity accelerated. In addition to his other activity, he made a series of recordings of his own songs including "I'll See You Again" and "Mad Dogs And Englishmen." In later years he had a cabaret act that played in both London and Las Vegas, and he also appeared in a few movies..Noel Coward never lost his popularity and was active until a few years before his 1973 death.

On his solo CD "Mad About The Boy," the brilliant pianist Dick Hyman shows that many of Noel Coward's songs could have a life independent from the theater. "Any Little Fish," "World Weary," "Ladies Of The Town" and "Twentieth Century Blues" are among the 15 songs that he revives, adding swing, occasional stride, soul and his own virtuosity to the music. The results, which feature fresh and unexpected material, are memorable. -Scott Yanow


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Dance, Little Lady A Room With A View I'll Follow My Secret Heart Any Little Fish Play, Orchestra, Play Nevermore Mad About the Boy Poor Little Rich Girl Zigeuner Polka World Weary We Were Dancing You Were There Ladies of the Town Twentiety Century Blues

Additional Info

Additional Info

Format: Jazz Record
Soloist/Artist Dick Hyman
Instruments Music and Musicians
Composer Sir Neol Coward
Accompanist/ Conductor No


Customer Reviews (2)

Love This MadlyReview by Big Toots
Dick Hyman is one of those unique creative musical minds that seems to discover – and enhance - hidden treasures in places obvious and not. With Mad about the Boy, (the third in a series of solo piano salutes to Coward, Vernon Duke and Kurt Weill) Hyman’s explorations of the music of playwright and composer Noel Coward, that is certainly the case. This recording is a discovery! You get the sense here that elegance and style are magnetic and these two great minds are artistically melding. Perhaps the title itself is a giveaway. Hyman sure sounds as he’s having a ball playing Coward.
The majority of Noel Coward’s musical works emanated from the theatrical stage and, sadly, most of the selections here are not performed as frequently as they certainly might deserve. That notwithstanding, Hyman hits an inside-the-park Grand Slam with this glorious effort. It screams and resonates class – and, of course talent all around.
It would be a descriptive stretch to describe this recording as “jazz,” although there are shadings here and there. Hyman, with his broad range of dynamic and emotional intensity is perfection elaborating on Coward’s themes. Impressionistic at times, rollicking at others, the effort across the date is primarily effusive and elegant. Joyous with a dash of melancholy is a recipe that comes to mind (“I’ll Follow My Secret Heart,” “My Little Fish”) – although those aware of Coward’s gay “hidden life” might think these and the main title as references to same. Irrespective of that, the Romantic expression in “Ziguner” is nearly tactile. “Polka” trots along fancy free and “World Weary” is a carefree, cane-twirling stroll down the pike. “Twentieth Century Blues” is a “Rhapsody in Blue” shade and Hyman’s fierce expressiveness prevails.
Mad About the Boys is probably a better, more accurate and more apropos title for this stellar effort.
(Posted on 4/22/2015)
Mad About the BoyReview by Simon Sez
One of three albums that Dick Hyman recorded for the Proscenium label in 1952 at the beginning of his career, this is probably the most intriguing one. Not too many of Noel Coward’s songs ever caught on beyond the shows that he wrote (he was best known as a British playwright) and extremely few have ever been played in a jazz setting.

While “Poor Little Rich Girl” and maybe “Mad About The Boy” are still remembered by a few, not too many people ever heard “Dance, Little Lady,” “Any Little Fish” or the 11 other songs that Hyman performs as solo piano pieces. This is a very good album for listeners who want to discover “new” material. Dick Hyman as always sounds great throughout.

Simon Sez: Dick Hyman on Plays The Music Of Noel Coward (Proscenium 03) unearths all types of obscure but interesting songs by Coward.
(Posted on 5/6/2014)

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