George Gershwin wrote this song’s music, his brother Ira the words, for a 1932 opera. A flop on debut, it is now a landmark. Its most tender number – Summertime – is probably the best-loved 20th century song. Its sardonic song is less popular; I have heard only several hundred covers of It Ain’t Necessarily So!
Its first performer – to a paying audience, at least – learned It Ain’t Necessarily So through his feet! (as explained here, along with various other aspects of the song’s history, plus its lyric)
When a song has long been a “standard”, any new version is in serious trouble when it meets “old ears”.
Ears that know countless other covers – including the allegedly “definitive” interpretations – have likely acquired nigh-insurmountable immunity/ennui.
One night at Birdland in New York in May 1997 a singer-pianist delivered the most arresting version I know of It Ain’t…but I was not able to hear it until 2007.
Andy Bey was leading his trio with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington.
Ten years later this performance surfaced as titlepiece of Bey’s 2007 release.
Available still, it is still my favourite Andy Bey album.
In Sydney, Australia, early in 2015 Australasian pianist Mike Nock was enjoying a visit from a younger friend. Jamming at Mike’s house was such a mutual pleasure that they decided to make a record.
Saxophonist Roger Manins – a onetime student of Mike’s – is, in Mike’s opinion, one of the great living jazz saxophonists.
As very young men both had crossed the Tasman to Sydney; eventually, after also establishing himself in Australian jazz, Roger elected to return to NZ.
(Australia likes to claim Mike, and Sydney is the city in which he has lived more than any other. However, he also spent more than two decades in the USA…and when Mike speaks of “godzone”, he is talking about New Zealand/ Aotearoa)
Wherever you live, if you have been listening to Mike Nock for more than a few years (I have, for my entire adult life) you know that each of his records is a distinct “project”. They share key virtues- not least, imagination, clarity, lyricism, openness – but most do not much resemble each other.
(I have also experienced Mike, “live”, in highly varied contexts. Every time, He was 100% “there”, never on auto-pilot)
In 2015 – the Year of Mike’s 75th birthday – he issued two equally superb, very different duo albums.
The other is Beginning and End of Knowing – a set of largely spontaneous/”free” duets with young Australian drummer Laurence Pike.
Two-Out is Mike and Roger’s release – Mike’s first-ever “standards” album.
Mostly first takes, it is wonderfully relaxed, but alert – definitely a conversation, not a contest.
In every case, the song as such is addressed, clearly, lovingly, but also imaginatively, freshly; no song is just “trotted out”, nor is any reduced to a mere “springboard”.
Most “jazz standards” albums leave me underwhelmed, but this is one of my favourite 21st century discs.
Click this to hear It Ain’t Necessarily So