Before I call out my bonny lad on a couple of his more recent musical choices that have been bugging the hell out of me, I think it’s only fair to share the best clips available of John’s own 24-year-old orchestra—cunningly named the John Wilson Orchestra—which, out of over 200(!) on YouTube in nine years, come down to about three, maybe four clips spread out through 2009-2017.
So here’s the first. This is from their 2012 show “Broadway Sounds” at the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall in London, which seats 5200, with standing room for 1300 on the ground floor (tickets for which go for only 6L and for which people camp out overnight at the box office like it was goddamn Winterland). This is pertinent, because it seems like the JWO only does its best work when it can blast the roof off a barn.
I had the old Ben Bagley recording and the 1983 Broadway revival recording (conducted by John Mauceri) of the Rodgers & Hart show On Your Toes—which of course includes the climactic ballet “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue”—but both producer Bagley as well as musical theater preservationist Mauceri put on disc the 1936 Robert Russell Bennett orchestration rather than the 1954 one by Don Walker. Our John, being John (I’m starting to get into his “ear”), chose the Walker score to play in Albert Hall, and for once he was entirely right.
I’m a pot of joy for a hungry boy,
Baby, I’m cookin’ with gas.
Oh, I’m a gumdrop,
A sweet lollipop,
A brook trout right out of the brook,
And what’s more, baby, I can cook!
The queen of Broadway Bernadette Peters entices conductor John Mauceri with her many, many assets, courtesy of Leonard Bernstein and the great lyric team of Adolph Green and Betty Comden. “I Can Cook, Too” from On the Town. Fun starts at (click here) 4:45.
John Wilson shimmying like a brazen hussy at 4:00. This is the point where I fell in love with him.
The indication “burlesque strip style” was actually written on the music right around this point. Both Ramin and Ginzler cut their teeth writing swing arrangements; lead trumpet in the original Gypsy pit was Dick Perry, late of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Solo trumpet Mike Lovatt here gets it down perfectly. Some people obviously know something about burlycue. Composer Jule Styne was pleased with this orchestration. Once again, the BBC Proms 2012.
Remember what it was like to go to a closing night cast party? When it gets really late and the booze is almost gone and the coke is certainly gone but no one’s tired and no one’s ready to go home? And then around three a.m. what’s left of the chorus crowds around the piano and sings songs like “I Enjoy Being a Girl” and “A Boy Like That” with cheesy accents—not to mention they’re all guys? Well, imagine my surprise to find Lin-Manuel Miranda and Raul Esparza re-enact what I thought was just a bourbon-induced hallucination of my early womanhood.