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Chris Ingham Quartet

‘Celebrating Hoagy’

Venue: Culford Room at Cadogan Hall


Chris Ingham
Paul Higgs
Arnie Somogyi
George Double

A celebration of the great American songwriter Hoagy Carmichael.

Hoagy Carmichael is one of the most enduring and endearing songwriters from the Golden Age of the Great American Songbook. Wry, wise, sentimental and sophisticated, Hoagy’s songs are beloved for their warmth, humour and jazz-inspired melodic beauty. From the prescient wit of ‘Old Music Master’ and the exotic misadventures of an opium-eater in ‘Hong Kong Blues’ to the spirit-calming, timeless evocation of home in ‘Memphis In June’ and ‘Georgia On My Mind’, these characterful gems of 20th century songcraft continue to have unique power to move and delight.

Infused with the hot jazz spirit of legendary jazz cornettist and Hoagy’s dear friend Bix Beiderbecke, we unearthed some fascinating curiosities from Hoagy’s songbook and aimed to invest even the most familiar standards with a straight-ahead freshness. Like all successful songbooks, composers’ intentions tend to get obscured along the way. Listening to Hoagy’s own recordings as inspiration helped us get closer to the essence of the song. Tunes we’ve played a thousand times seemed to take on a new shine.

Among the Hoagy gems here are two songs not penned by Carmichael. Banjo player Clancy Hayes wrote the still outrageous Huggin’ And Chalkin’ (a hit for Hoagy in the 1940s) while contemporary songwriting sage Dave Frishberg, the most potent and erudite of Hoagy’s Children, wrote Dear Bix. Hoagy was famously grief-stricken when Bix died and Dear Bix sounds like a Hoagy love song channelled through Frishberg. It just seemed to belong.

The project originated as a one-off concert for a festival, but the rush of good feeling generated by the show in both audience and band couldn’t be ignored. A warm public response to Hoagy’s songs was expected, but the musicians’ inspired and joyful reaction to this rich and varied songbook was a revelation. We had no choice, here it is.

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