‘Come Rain Or Come Shine’ with Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith and Thelma Carpenter

May 17, 2014 at 7:11 pm (jazz, Jim D, music, Sheer joy, song, TV, whisky)

I was up late last night (well, this morning, to be precise), drinking single malt and surfing the net. I came upon this Youtube clip, featuring the great Harlem stride pianist Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith and a singer I’d been only very vaguely aware of, Thelma Carpenter. It’s from a 1964 TV salute to bandleader/promoter/man-about-jazz Eddie Condon, and is not typical of the hot music (sometimes called “Dixieland”, though Eddie hated the term) that predominates in the rest of the show: it’s the sophisticated Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen ballad ‘Come Rain or Come Shine’, a song whose difficult chord sequence and structure momentarily wrong-foots even the usually impeccable trombonist Cutty Cutshall.

In truth, Thelma Carpenter isn’t a singer in the same league as, say, Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald (or, indeed, Eddie’s favourite, Lee Wiley), but she does a good enough job here, and seems to have been an engaging personality. The Lion’s opening banter with her reminds us that he was – believe it or not – Jewish, and on his business cards described himself as “The Hebrew Cantor.”

Al Hall is on bass and the great George Wettling is at the drums. Melting-pot music…


  1. ‘Come Rain Or Come Shine’ with Willie ‘The Lion’ and Thelma Carpenter | OzHouse said,

    […] May 17 2014 by admin […]

  2. Rosie said,

    Never mind that jazz stuff, what kind of single malt?

  3. Jim Denham said,

    Laphroaig, though in memory of Eddie Condon it really should have been Chivas Regal blended.

  4. Rosie said,

    Laphroiag. A man of taste.

  5. Mike Killingworth said,

    Presumably, when Jim D quarrels with his comrades here, the splinter blog will be “Laphroaig Leninist”.

    Great man, Willie The Lion Smith. And His Cubs. For some reason I think of my album of his as wakey-wakey music – such mostly being folk music such as Ry Cooder or Bellowhead. I’ll probably get banned from here for mentioning them… right deviationism…

  6. Andrew J. Sammut said,

    It might be a hackneyed point, but for me this clip reinforces the idea of “material” in a jazz setting. Smith, who witnessed the decline of ragtime and rise of stride, is comfortable (if not dominating) on a standard written in the mid forties. It’s just fascinating to think of these players learning and confronting new music while still tossing out “Finger Buster” and other “good old good ones.”

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