Friday, January 18, 2013

Bent Fabric and His Piano--Alley Cat (1962)

     Our family has always loved music, and can never remember a time where I was not surrounded by it. Mom had a lovely alto voice and loved church music. By the 1960's, Dad's voice had been roughened by alcohol and cigarettes, but as he strummed on his guitar you could still hear the clear influence of Jimmie Rogers and Hank Williams Sr. I was never much influenced by country, but hearing both of them singing so much, it allowed me to feel free about expressing myself musically. My Dad's brother Ray was also an excellent guitarist as well, and when the families would get together inevitably the instruments wold be broken out, everyone would relax around the two men and singing would break out until the late hours of the night.
     For me however, the focus of those gatherings was my Aunt Mae. Mae was Ray's wife and a fantastic piano player. I was not a big kid, but even as a teenager, she seemed small and almost frail as she would get behind the upright piano in the basement of their house and play along for a set or two of songs. Watching her play was a joy as she alternatively went from power on pop songs of her day, to graceful and sensitive on slower, more expressive pieces. Her encouragement and support is the sole reason that I continue to perform and write music today. The happyness and joy that she showed when she played has been passed down to another generation every time I get behind the keys.
     For some reason, of all of the songs she used to play, the one I remember the most was a song called, "Alley Cat". In my limited experience as a kid, I figured it was was "an oldie", of course, any song that was conceived before being born at the time was thought of as "old". But something about this song always piqued my interest, and for a time could even play it myself. Come to find out as my interest in music grew, that the song was actually fairly new...
     "Alley Cat" was the creation of a Dutch pianist named, Bent Fabricius-Bjerre. After World War two, he formed a jazz combo which would record on their own label (Metronome Records) and play throughout Dennmark during the 1950's. In 1961 he recorded a song called, "Omkring et Flygel", which means, "Around a Piano". The next year, Atco Records picked it up and it soon became a worldwide hit. He still lives in Denmark at the age of 88. His last recording was in 2005.


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