The song of the day for Saturday, January 2, 2020, is “That Old Black Magic.”
The Year of Tony Bennett is honoring bassist Eugene Wright, who died on December 30, 2020 at the age of 97. He was the last surving member of the Dave Brubeck Quartet. When Brubeck asked Wright to join the quartet in 1958, he was warned that his quartet would not be allowed to play in certain venues, especially in the south, as Wright was black. At a Southern college performance, Brubeck was told they could play, but Gene Wright would not be allowed on the stage. Brubeck replied that if Wright couldn’t play, Brubeck wouldn’t play either. Brubeck played that night, with Wright on bass. The Dave Brubeck Quartet was one of the early pioneers in the fight against segregation in the late 1950s and 1960s.
About This Song
One of the great songs by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, “That Old Black Magic” was written in 1942 and first recorded by Glenn Miller. It was also used in the 1942 movie Star Spangled Rhythm. It’s been recorded many times and used in several films, including the 1956 film Bus Stop, where it was sung by Marilyn Monroe.
About This Version
On August 28, 1962, Tony Bennett, with his trio, and the Dave Brubeck Quartet were invited by President Kennedy to perform at a thank-you concert for that year’s White House college interns. Originally, the concert was to be held in the Rose Garden, but there was so much buzz about the event it was moved to the Sylvan Theatre on Mall, in the shadow of the Washington Monument.
The concert opened with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, featuring Brubeck on piano, Paul Desmond on saxophone, Eugene Wright on bass, and Joe Morello on drums. Then, Tony Bennett sang, with Ralph Sharon on piano, Hal Gaylord on bass, and Billy Exiner on drums.
The musicians then decided to do an impromptu improv session, with Tony Bennett, Dave Brubeck, Eugene Wright, and Joe Morello. Our song of the day, “That Old Black Magic,” comes from that session.
The concert was recorded by Frank Laico, but the tapes soon disappeared and were thought lost. Soon after Brubeck’s death in 2012, however, the tapes were found in the Classical archives at Sony/Columbia Records. The resulting album, Bennett/Brubeck: The White House Sessions Live 1962, was released in May 2013.
“That Old Black Magic,” as well as Bennett/Brubeck: The White House Sessions Live 1962, is available from Apple Music.
Here are Dave Brubeck, Joe Morello, and Eugene Wright in a clip in which Wright has a terrific solo.