An Evening with John Kander & Fred Ebb

by: John Kander

When the Broadway songwriting team of John Kander (music) and Fred Ebb (lyrics) appeared as part of the Lyrics and Lyricists Series at the 92nd Street Y on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in April 1973, the two were just coming off a couple of major successes, the Academy Award-winning 1972 film adaptation of their 1966 stage musical Cabaret and the Emmy-winning TV special Liza with a "Z" -- both efforts associated with Liza Minnelli, for whom they had been writing since their first Broadway show, Flora, the Red Menace, in 1965. By 1978, when this album finally was released, they had enjoyed further success, including the 1975 stage musical Chicago (which is previewed here) and the 1977 movie musical New York, New York. So, they are caught in something like mid-career here, as Kander sits at the piano and harmonizes with his partner Ebb, who serves as the MC as well as singing most of the songs. Kander, who, it seems, likes the team's ballads best, gets to sing a couple of those, starting with the team's first hit, "My Coloring Book," which was written for Kaye Ballard's nightclub act, sung on Perry Como's TV show by Sandy Stewart, and recorded for two Top 20 hits by Stewart and by Kitty Kallen in 1962. It is the Cabaret songs that were the duo's best known in 1973, and they oblige with the title song, "Money, Money, Money," and the ballad "Maybe This Time," which actually was written for Minnelli's first nightclub act and later interpolated into the Cabaret film. They also recall their other, less successful, Broadway shows, Flora ("A Quiet Thing"), The Happy Time ("Tomorrow Morning/Please Stay"), Zorba ("Life Is"), and 70, Girls, 70 ("Yes"), as well as a couple of examples of "special material" written for the Minnelli TV special, "Liza with a ‘Z'" itself and "Ring Them Bells." The world premiere of "All That Jazz" from Chicago gives a suggestion of the strength of that show's score, while "Roxie" gives a sense of the plot. Kander and Ebb would go on to other strong compositions, including, of course, their title song from New York, New York, but this album provides highlights of their career up to 1973, with Ebb especially proving a vibrant performer of his own words. ~ William Ruhlmann

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