Peter Catesby Peter Cates

The Odd Couple

starring Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau etc. Released 1968, transferred to DVD.

The zany Pigeon Sisters, Gwendolyn and Cecily.

I have known about The Odd Couple since its release 50 years ago; that it’s very funny because Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau were exceptionally gifted actors in comedy roles, two personal favorites being Lemmon’s Good Neighbor Sam and Matthau’s Cactus Flower and both, unfortunately, rarely seen nowadays, if at all; and because many movie watchers have found it very funny.

But I did not realize how very funny until I watched the complete film for the very first time this past week. Jack Lemmon’s performance as Felix, the neat sociopathic control freak and Walter Matthau’s as Oscar, the scorched earth slob were the peak ones of their lifetimes. Their supporting cast as the four card-playing cronies and the two Pigeon Sisters, Cecily and Gwendolyn, contributed memorably to its constant second-by-second humor. And Neil Simon’s original was the cornerstone of all this.

Three scenes stick out – the card game antics before and after Felix shows up at Oscar’s apartment, Felix’s and Oscar’s dinner party hosting of Gwendolyn and Cecily and the ballistic confrontation between the two men when their accumulated grievances escalate to the point of no return.

Two quotes: Oscar: “Murray, lend me $20 or I’ll call your wife and tell her you’re in Central Park, wearing a dress.”

Felix: “Everybody thinks I’m a hypochondriac. It makes me sick.”

The Odd Couple: Jack Lemmon as Felix Unger, left, and Walter Mathau as Oscar Madison.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Christmas Albums

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

The Joy of Christmas

Leonard Bernstein, New York Philharmonic and Mormon Tabernacle; Columbia MS 6499, stereo LP, recorded 1963.

A Golden Treasury of Christmas Music

Sir Alexander Gibson, chorus and orchestra; Columbia Record Club P2S 5170, two LPs, recorded 1967.

Leonard Bernstein

This week’s Xmas LPs, both released in the 1960s, are very good examples of seasonal music performed with taste, intelligence and vibrant beauty. Joy of Christmas features the late Bernstein, at that time music director of the New York Philharmonic, conducting the orchestra and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in their one time collaboration.

The 16 songs include the familiar staples and a few not so well known. High points are the Animal Carol, a lovely one that is not often heard nowadays as during my childhood many decades ago; the strictly orchestral showpiece Carol of the Bells; and an a capella Away in a Manger combining two different musical settings.

Sir Alexander Gibson

Golden Treasury is a two-record set offered in its U.S. release only to members of the now-defunct Columbia Record Club out of Terre Haute, Indiana, most likely as long as they were “members in good standing.” This collection of 36 songs has the late Sir Alexander Gibson, whom I have written about in an earlier issue of The Town Line, conducting an unnamed chorus and orchestra in both carols and popular songs, utilizing traditional and unpredictable arrangements.

Examples include:

  • White Christmas, in a choir/orchestral popsy arrangement with trombones added and similar to one that might combine Nelson Riddle and Norman Luboff.
  • The Holy City, gently subdued with woodwinds, trumpet, snare drum, and double bass.
  • O Holy Night, saxophone, harpsichord and orchestra.
  • Hallelujah Chorus, orchestra only.
  • Joy to the World, a much more traditional chorus and orchestra but riveting rather than routine.
    And so forth.

The two albums have 10 selections in common. Even though their availability is spotty, they can be bought on internet sites for prices ranging from cheap to grossly overpriced.

Satirical verses from a Tom Lehrer Yuletide song – “On Christmas Day you can’t get sore/Your fellow man you must adore/There’s time to rob him all the more/The other three hundred and sixty four!”

Merry Christmas!

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Composer: Berlioz; Xmas quote from Borge; Band: Abba

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Berlioz: L’Enfance du Christ

Andre Cluytens conducts Paris Conservatory Orchestra with chorus and soloists. EMI, Recorded 1964, 2 CDs.

Hector Berlioz

André Cluytens

Composer Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) left a Christmas oratorio, the above-listed Birth of Christ and quite exceptional in its own sublime beauty. The work focuses on three episodes of the Christmas story- Herod’s dream and massacre of the innocents; the flight of Joseph, Mary and their infant into Egypt; and the hospitality provided by an Ishmaelite family in the Egyptian town of Sais.

Its vocal solos and choruses abound in melodic richness. The baritone aria, depicting the evil Herod’s dream and sung by Ernest Blanc, is an eloquent one with Berlioz’s matchless orchestral scoring. The harp and flute duet and a capella chorus; Roger Soyer’s Joseph; Victoria de los Angeles’s Mary; and Nicolai Gedda’s Narrator add up to a work that, for me, has sustained numerous rehearings throughout the years.

Andre Cluytens’s 1964 set has been nicely remastered and reissued a number of times. It is available through Amazon and its vendors at inexpensive prices .

Xmas quote from Victor Borge

Victor Borge

“Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year. “

Abba: Arrival

Polydor 2344058, LP, recorded 1976.

The quality of Abba’s songs is wide ranging, from good to sublime, as it was 40 years ago when I first heard them. Arrival is one of eight albums released before they disbanded in 1982. The marriages of the two couples comprising the group, Benny and Anni and Bjorn and Agnetha, ended becau

se of the pressures from their phenomenal worldwide popularity.

This album’s 10 songs included Dancing Queen, Money Money Money, Why Did It Have to be Me, and the title song, while the arrangements, range of musical instruments and sheer sound contributed to a major ‘70s pop classic.


REVIEW POTPOURRI: Christmas at the Brooklyn Tabernacle

The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Christmas at the Brooklyn Tabernacle

The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and Singers, with the London Studio Orchestra; Warner Alliance 9460042, CD, recorded 1995.

Brooklyn, New York’s Tabernacle church has this very good choir as part of its weekly services and worldwide ministry. This cd is one that should please those who enjoy the group’s singing.

The following list of five CDs feature the alto saxophone of the jazz musician Lee Konitz, with comments at the end. 1. Subconscious – Lee, Prestige 0JCCD1862./ 2. Konitz Meets Mulligan, Pacific Jazz. CDP7468472./ 3. Jazz at Storyville, Black Lion BLCD760901./ 4. The Real Lee Konitz, Collectables COLCD6370./ 5. Another Shade of Blue, Blue Note 7234982222.

Still living and, as far as I know, active musically, Lee Konitz had a strong influence on the alto saxophonists Paul Desmond and Art Pepper, although Konitz was younger than both of them. He and Charlie Parker were good friends but he was his own man, whereas other altoists fell under Parker’s Sway. I really like his combination of intelligence, vibrant musicianship and beauty.

The five titles, in addition to more than 200 other ones, attest to his productivity for over 70 years. For reasons of space here, those curious check further on my five very recommended choices.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Christmas Eve with Burl Ives & G.K Chesterton

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Christmas Eve with Burl Ives

Decca, DL 8391, mono LP, released 1957.

Burl Ives

One very endearing album of the many Burl Ives (1909-1995) left in his discography was this astutely balanced program of 11 Xmas titles, familiar and not so familiar. The six familiars – Silent Night, There Were Three Ships, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, What Child is This?, It Came Upon the Midnight Clear and – what else!- The Twelve Days of Christmas – are the Yuletide cornerstones.

The other five rarely heard songs – Friendly Beasts, Jesous Ahatonia, Seven Joys of Mary, Down in Yon Forest and King Herod – have special qualities of their own, regardless of any rarely heard status.

In addition to himself on this mid-’50s session, Ives brought along colleagues that included guitarist Tony Mottola, singer/arranger Jimmy Carroll, and the other well-known, but never as famous Ray Charles with His Singers. And, the main reason for its desirability, the arrangements are vibrantly alive, not the cliched, boring once over lightlys that still often infest the seasonal music experiences.

An unattributed quote on the back of the cover summed up the man who was Burl Ives: “He’s a big guy and has a punch like a mule kicking. His smile fills a room and his laugh shakes the chandeliers. But he’s quiet, too, and he can listen. He listened to his mother and his father, who were both singers. He listened to people singing all over the country. And his song-bag is full. He can sing all night and never sing the same song twice. And every song is better than the last one.”

G.K Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton

One of the best qualities of G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) was his gift at writing a few sentences and leaving readers, such as myself, wanting more. A quote from his 1922 essay, What I Saw in America: “Americans make fun of their own institutions; and their own journalism is full of such fanciful conjectures. The tall building is itself artistically akin to the tall story. The very word sky-scraper is an admirable example of an American lie.”

P.S.: Two unintended, but, for me, very intriguing coincidences between Chesterton and the above Burl Ives that I discovered while writing this column today, November 21, 2018.

Chesterton and Ives shared a very similar height and girth.

Ives was born on June 14, 1909; Chesterton died on June 14, 1936. Of course, neither here nor there!

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Composer: Tchaikovsky; Band: Depeche Mode

Peter Catesby Peter Cates


5th Symphony
Anton Nanut conducting the Ljublana Symphony Orchestra- Point Classics, 265023, CD, released 1994.

The catalog of recordings of this Symphony is teeming with very fine ones. This entry can be added to the honor roll. I have written previously in this column and elsewhere about the merits of Anton Nanut, who passed away after a long illness at the age of 84 on January 13, 2017.

Nanut’s approach is one of architectural balance; intelligence in pacing, phrasing and shaping; understated beauty; and brooding drama. I have listened to this three or four times in the last two weeks and found it wears very well with repeated hearings.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky

When I was 12 during the spring of 1964, a woman residing then down the street from my house gave me four very good 78 rpm sets of classical music. One was the justly famous 1944 RCA Victor album of Koussevitsky and the Boston Symphony of the 5th. She also called it the most beautiful Symphony she had ever heard in her life.

For those who might be curious about the other three sets, as I would be under similar circumstances, I will not stint their very appropriate interest:

The Victor early ‘40s Stokowski/NBC Symphony Stravinsky Firebird Suite and nicely orchestrated Tchaikovsky Humoreske as filler on side 6.

Another Victor, Bach’s Brandenburgs 2 and 5 from the mid to late ‘40s with Koussevitsky conducting BSO members.

The Columbia 1940s two records of Lily Pons singing four arias from Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment.

Depeche Mode

Speak and Spell
Mute records, C stumm-5, cassette, released October, 1981.

Depeche Mode is an English electronic band, with a variety of influences in their own music; they have been performing and recording for almost 40 years. Using synthesizers with expressive results, their music is quite listenable and captivating.

Their 1981 cassette, Speak and Spell,was, and still is a beautiful example of their work, with two hit singles, New Life and Just Can’t Get Enough.

Depeche Mode

Critical reactions to the album were mixed. Melody labeled it “a great album…one they had to make to conquer fresh audiences and to please the fans who just can’t get enough.” But Rolling Stone magazine considered it “PG-rated fluff.”

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Novelist: Jim Thompson

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Jim Thompson

Pop. 1280, 1964 crime novel, roughly 217 pages.

Jim Thompson

Vastly underrated during his lifetime, Jim Thompson (1906-1977) wrote over 30 novels mainly set in the “golden triangle” of Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma during the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s. Most of his characters were clueless misfits, self-serving blowhards and nihilistic villains.

Pop. 1280 features a sheriff of one small town in the 1950’s Deep South, being used as the first person narrator of the entire novel. He conveys his questionable integrity best himself via the story’s opening paragraph. “Well, sir, I should have been sitting pretty, just about as pretty as a man could sit. Here I was, the high sheriff of Potts County, and I was drawing almost two thousand dollars a year – not to mention what I could pick up on the side. On top of that, I had free living quarters on the second floor of the courthouse, just as nice a place as a man could ask for; and it even had a bathroom so that I didn’t have to bathe in a washtub or tramp outside to a privy, like most folks in town did. I guess you could say that Kingdom Come was really here as far as I was concerned. I had it made, and it looked like I could go on having it made – being high sheriff of Potts County – as long as I minded my own business and didn’t arrest no one unless I just couldn’t get out of it and they didn’t amount to nothin’.”

This excerpt is one example of how Thompson’s characters were extremely funny yet quite creepy.

An admirer, Stephen King wrote the following accolade:

“The guy was over the top. The guy was absolutely over the top. Big Jim didn’t know the meaning of the word stop. There are three brave lets inherent in the foregoing – he let himself see everything, he let himself write it down, then he let himself publish it.”

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Musician: Louis Armstrong; Composer: Berlioz

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Louis Armstrong

Early Satch
Philips 429739BE, 45 ep, extended play, Holland release. Originally 78s from 1927-1928.

Louis Armstrong

Four sides from the group known as the Louis Armstrong Hot Five are contained in this mid-’50s Dutch Philips reissue. All were recorded in Chicago; two done in May,1927 with the others in December, 1928. Several highest quality instrumentalists joined Satchmo and his second wife, pianist and singer Lil Armstrong (they duet back and forth in the classic That’s When I’ll Come Back to You).

Fatha Hines does piano turns in Chicago Breakdown and Basin Street Blues. Kid Ory’s trombone, Johnnie St. Cyr’s banjo, Don Redman’s alto sax and Baby Dodds’s and Zutty Singleton’s drums blend their unique sounds, adding to the cornet and trumpet notes that leader Armstrong mastered so thoroughly and beautifully. And the 4th track, Tight like This, is in a class of its own.


Harold in Italy
Violist Guenther Breitenbach with Rudolf Moralt conducting the Vienna Symphony Orchestra; Vox Pantheon 6700, mono LP, recorded 1950.

Hector Berlioz

Composer Hector Berlioz wrote this Symphony with viola obbligato for his friend, violin virtuoso and composer Niccolo Paganini. The violinist then rejected the music because it wasn’t flashy enough for him and his constant need to show off his technique. However the work has become a huge favorite since its 1834 premiere.

This oldish, antique performance and recording is very good for its time and one eloquent listening experience in its individual musicality. I bought it in 2002 for $2 at the now gone annex of the NYC Tower records at Fourth and Broadway and played it several times since then. The late Harold C. Schon­berg’s annotations are astute and engaging.


Tom Selleck

I have watched the first three episodes of this show’s 8th season on Netflix, where I enjoyed the previous seven seasons immensely. Tom Selleck, as the New York City police commissioner Frank Reagan, heads a superb cast of regulars who keep the story lines moving along.




REVIEW POTPOURRI – Composer: Bartok; Musician: Sidney Bechet; Comedians: Jonathan Winters & Dean Martin

Peter Catesby Peter Cates


Divertimento; 5 Chants for Children’s Chorus and Orchestra; 12 Miniatures for Orchestra
Vassil Kazandjiev conducting the Sofia Chamber Orchestra, with the Bodra Smyana Children’s Chorus directed by Liliana Bocheva singing the five chants – Balkanton/Harmonia Mundi HMB 103, stereo LP, released early 1980s.

Vassil Kazandjiev

Also a noted Bulgarian composer and now 84, Vassil Kazandjiev conducts these very fine performances and recording of three Bela Bartok compositions, the haunting, eloquent 1939 Divertimento for strings; the earlier Five Songs for Children’s Chorus and Orchestra and the Twelve Miniatures for Orchestra. All of these add up to a solid program of three works of the great Hungarian composer (1881-1945).

I have CDs of Kazandjiev conducting the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique and Beatrice and Benedict Overture and the Brahms 1st Piano Concerto with Ivan Drenikov, soloist, all three very well-conducted.

The Best of Sidney Bechet

18 sides for Alfred Lion’s Blue Note label, 1939-1953.

Sidney Bechet

The brilliant clarinet and soprano saxophone player Sidney Bechet, 1897-1959, recorded such classic standards as Summer­time, St. Louis Blues, Muskrat Ramble, All of Me, etc., included on this Blue Note CD transfer reissue with guitarist Teddy Bunn, pianists Meade Lux Lewis and Art Hodes, drummer Sid Catlett and trumpeter Jonah Jones among the sidemen working with Bechet.

Jonathan Winters and Dean Martin

At the Bar: 12-minute comedy YouTube from the 1970s Dean Martin Show.

Dean Martin

Jonathan Winters

The late comedians, Dean Martin as the bartender of his own nightclub, and Jonathan Winters as four characters with different personalities and voices, one of them an 86-year-old lady. Dino works with a script while Winters is totally unpredictable, with nobody ever knowing what he is going to say and do. As the old lady, she comments on her figure as an “uprooted rubber plant.” In the sketch of the grieving relative driving 2,500 miles that day to attend the burial service of a step-cousin dropped in an open grave wearing only poker dot trunks, he laments the inconsiderate behavior of his only heir, a 15-pound tomcat receiving $4,000, as not even bothering to attend the funeral.

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Novelist: John MacDonald; Music: Mozart

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

John D. MacDonald

A Deadly Shade of Gold.
Fawcett paperback, 1965, 287 pages.

John D, MacDonald

Novelist John MacDonald (1916-1986) produced over 70 pulsating examples of the suspense genre. They included the classic thriller Cape Fear which was transformed into the 1962 film starring Robert Mitchum as the villain Max Cady and the 1991 remake with Robert DeNiro portraying the same psychotic fiend. Both actors outdid themselves in one of the most persuasive depictions of evil on the big screen, maybe at the same level as Lee Marvin, Clu Gulager and Ronald Reagan in 1961’s The Killers.

Deadly Shade is one of the 22 novels in MacDonald’s Travis McGee series; McGee is the riveting combination of beachcomber/salvage expert whose particular salvaging involves too many up close and personal encounters with the most dangerous people. Its plot centers on an old friend of McGee’s dropping in one day with a problem and very quickly later found cold-bloodedly murdered. The story is off and running in MacDonald’s unique manner, the only consistent annoyance being his insipid handling of love scenes. A very recommended reading experience!


Duo for solo violin and viola, K423; Sinfonia Concertante K364- David Oistrakh, violist and son Igor, violinist, with Kyril Kondrashin conducting the Moscow Philharmonic in K364, London stereo LP, CS 6377, recorded during the 1960s.

David Oistrakh

Igor Oistrakh

Two of Mozart’s beautiful compositions involving viola and violin are performed by father and son Oistrakh in a very fine collaboration with Kyril Kondrashin and the Moscow Philharm­onic with interesting liner notes by the late record producer Erik Smith. Also available on a CD.