Personnel: Lincoln Mayorga, Marni Nixon (piano); Lincoln Mayorga, Marni Nixon.
Liner Note Author: Michael Feinstein.
Recording information: Civic Auditorium, Oxnard, CA (05/15/1985).
Arranger: Lincoln Mayorga.
Soprano Marni Nixon is accompanied solely by pianist Lincoln Mayorga on this audiophile direct-to-disc recital of songs composed by George Gershwin and introduced originally between 1918 and 1936. Like Gershwin, Nixon, who was in her mid-fifties when she made this recording, has spent her career straddling the worlds of popular and classical music. She gained notice for her ghost-singing in place of various Hollywood stars in such films as The King and I, West Side Story, and My Fair Lady. But she has also sung opera. Thus, she is an ideal interpreter for Gershwin's sometimes demanding show tunes. She and Mayorga choose a varied set that includes well-known songs such as "I've Got a Crush on You," "Summertime," and "The Man I Love" as well as rarely recorded songs like "The Real American Folk Song," "Blah, Blah, Blah," and "The Babbitt and the Bromide." Nixon's voice is a marvelous instrument, a sometimes coy, sometimes soaring soprano that allows her to add vocal effects with ease. Her high note in the final "o" of "over" in "Someone to Watch Over Me" is a good example, as is the coloratura preface to another rarity, "By Strauss," a song she and Mayorga have plenty of fun performing. And that isn't the only musical joke. The singer and her accompanist find a way to make "Embraceable You" new by adopting Steven Blier's idea of combining the melody with Bach's "Two-Part Invention #1," and Mayorga demonstrates that he is familiar with the piano rolls of Gershwin himself in his interpolations to "I Got Rhythm." The result is a singularly effective Gershwin album in which two master musicians display their talents while also confirming the composer's. ~ William Ruhlmann