Program : 
Puttin' on the Ritz: Music from the Movies

The Crest Theatre

The Crest Theatre. Photo courtesy The Crest.

This edition of Riverwalk Jazz was recorded live at the Crest Theatre, a landmark in downtown Sacramento, dating back to 1913 when it was a 2,000-seat vaudeville house. The Crest, now a venue for classic films, comedy and music, is one of many concert halls active for the world's largest traditional jazz festival, the annual Sacramento Jazz Festival held every Memorial Day weekend since 1974.


This radio show focuses on jazz standards which first came to life as soundtrack music in motion pictures, and then eventually found a way into the playlists of hot jazz bands where their popularity has endured through the decades. Special guest artists are Portland-based jazz singer Rebecca Kilgore and New York trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso.


Rebecca Kilgore

Rebecca Kilgore. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Rebecca Kilgore is a Festival regular, appearing with her own group BED with guitarist Eddie Erickson and trombonist Dan Barrett. She's a devotee of classic American popular song and has recorded CDs for the Arbors, Audiophile and Jump labels, including some with pianist and composer Dave Frishberg and others with Bucky and John Pizzarelli. Becky Kilgore makes frequent guest appearances performing on the NPR series Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Detroit native Jon-Erik Kellso is a popular, ‘old school’ classic jazz trumpeter performing in New York, where he often appears with Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks at Sofia's restaurant near Times Square. Jon co-leads his own highly acclaimed band the EarRegulars with Matt Munisteri on guitar at the Ear Inn, an historic bar and restaurant in lower Manhattan. Kellso also appears on numerous CDs, including television and movie soundtracks.


Radio Show Playlist


Jon Erik Kellso

Jon-Erik Kellso. Photo courtesy of the artist.

"Jeepers Creepers" features Rebecca Kilgore and Jon-Erik Kellso with The Jim Cullum Jazz Band. Written by Harry Warren and lyricist Johnny Mercer, this tune is an important recurring theme in the 1938 movie Going Places. Louis Armstrong plays a horse trainer named Gabriel and sings this song to a jittery, wild horse to calm him down. "Jeepers Creepers" is, of course, the name of the horse. The tune is a popular jazz standard, now frequently and perhaps unfortunately, associated with the 2001 horror film “Jeepers Creepers” where the musical theme is heard at scary moments throughout the movie.


"Two Sleepy People," a love song composed by Hoagy Carmichael with lyricist Frank Loesser, was introduced in the 1939 film Thanks for the Memory and performed by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross. On our radio show, it's an intimate duet with Becky Kilgore on vocals and Jim Cullum Jazz Band pianist John Sheridan.


BEcky and John

Rebecca Kilgore and John Sheridan. Photo courtesy Riverwalk Jazz

Actor and dancer Fred Astaire was the first to introduce many jazz standards in film. Astaire put songs over with a simple, yet affecting vocal style. On this radio show, Rebecca Kilgore, backed by the full Cullum band, sings Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek" from the 1935 film Top Hat. Decked out in top hat and tails, Astaire sings the song to his co-star Ginger Rogers, swathed in a diaphanous gown, as the couple performs a romantic duet on the dance floor in the movie production number. “Cheek to Cheek” spent five weeks in the #1 spot on Your Hit Parade and was nominated for the Best Song Academy Award for 1936.  Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and Red Norvo are among the classic jazz artists to record it.


Puttin on the Ritz

"Puttin' on the Ritz" sheet music. Image courtesy songbook1

"Puttin' on the Ritz," an Irving Berlin number from 1929, was introduced by Harry Richman in the musical film of the same name— Puttin' on the Ritz. However, the most familiar film version is a song-and-dance routine by Fred Astaire in the 1946 movie Blue Skies, a movie that also starred Bing Crosby. This routine was parodied in the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy Young Frankenstein, in which the inarticulate monster—played by Peter Boyle—famously mangles the lyric.


The 1956 MGM film High Society was remarkable for its musical content. Cole Porter scored the film and Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars appeared throughout. The movie had a stellar cast with Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Celeste Holm. In addition to the title track, two Porter songs from the film, "Little One" and "I Love You Samantha” (heard here), are long time favorites of The Jim Cullum Jazz Band.


The King of Burlesque from 1936 featured a young James Cagney and was notable for the trio of hit songs composed for the score by the team Jimmy McHugh and Ted Koehler: "Shooting High," "Spreading Rhythm Around" and “I've Got My Fingers Crossed," which is performed here by Rebecca Kilgore. The peppy “I’ve Got My Fingers Crossed” was titled "Too Good to Be True" in the film score but soon made its way into the jazz canon under its adopted name through recordings by Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong among others.


It Happened in Brooklyn

It Happened in Brooklyn film poster. Image courtesy Wikimedia.

The very popular "Time After Time," a jazz standard written by Sammy Kahn and Jule Styne first appeared in the 1947 movie It Happened in Brooklyn. Sung by Frank Sinatra in the film, it went on to be a major hit for Sarah Vaughan.


The team of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart created "Thou Swell" for the 1927 stage musical A Connecticut Yankee. Only months after its premier on Broadway, jazz age cornetist Bix Beiderbecke made his famous recording, immortalizing the tune for the jazz world. In this radio show, Rebecca Kilgore gives her spin on the lyric with its mix of ‘olde’ and contemporary English, along with Jon-Erik's trumpet accompaniment. 


Pete Kellys Blues

Pete Kelly's Blues film poster. Image courtesy Wikimedia.

In 1955 actor Jack Webb's star was rising in Hollywood. His popular radio series Dragnet had been picked up as a TV series, and he had several movie roles under his belt. A life-long fan of Bix Beiderbecke and classic jazz, Webb created Pete Kelly's Blues in 1951 as a radio series about a jazz age cornetist and bandleader embroiled in the gangsters and speakeasies of the Prohibition days. A film version followed in 1955, and then a TV series in 1959, all of which failed to really catch on. Nonetheless, the 1955 Pete Kelly movie remains a classic for jazz fans. Appearing on the soundtrack are singers Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald, and a hot band led by clarinetist and arranger Matty Matlock.


"Hard-Hearted Hannah (The Vamp of Savannah)" is a 1924 creation from Tin Pan Alley songwriters Milton Ager, Jack Yellen, Bob Bigelow and Charles Bates. Ella Fitzgerald sings it in Pete Kelly's Blues, and Rebecca Kilgore pays tribute with her version, joining The Jim Cullum Jazz Band and assisted by Jon-Erik Kellso.


Photo credit for Home page: "Puttin' on the Ritz" sheet music. Image courtesy songbook1