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Fascinating Rhythm

Written: 1924

Music by: George Gershwin

Words by: Ira Gershwin

Written for: Lady, Be Good

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Stéphane Grappelli (violin)
with Marc Fosser (guitar) and
Jean-Philippe Viret (bass)


"Fascinating Rhythm"

at Warsaw Jazz Festival

Grappelli has performed and recorded "Fascinating Rhythm" on many occasions. Perhaps the most well known recording is on the album Improvisations, 1956

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Also, see below.

More Performances of "Fascinating Rhythm"
in the Cafe Songbook Record/Video Cabinet
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"Fascinating Rhythm"

Critics Corner || Lyrics Lounge

About the Show Lady, Be Good! / Origins of the Song

Other songs written for Lady, Be Good currently included in the Cafe Songbook Catalog of The Great American Songbook:

1. The Man I Love (written for but not used in show)

2. Oh, Lady Be Good


For a complete listing of songs used in the original production of this show, see IBDB song list.



book cover: George Gershwin: "An Intimate Portrait" by Walter Rimler
Walter Rimler
George Gershwin:
An Intimate Portrait

Urbana and Chicago:
University of Illinois Press, 2009



book cover: Edward Jablonskie, "Gershwin A Biography"
Edward Jablonski
A Biography,

New York: Doubleday, 1987
(paper bound edition shown)





Edward Jablonski and Lawrence D. Stewart, "The Gershwin Years: George and Ira"
Edward Jablonski
and Lawrence D. Stewart,
The Gershwin Years -
George and Ira

New York: Doubleday, 1958





Fred Astaire autobiography "Steps in Time"
Fred Astaire
Steps in Time:
An Autobiography

New York: Harper & Brothers
1959 (paperback Ed., 2008)







book Cover: Ira Gershwin, "Lyrics on Several Occasions"
Ira Gershwin, Lyrics on Several Occasions
New York: Limelight Editions,1997 (originally published by Knoph, 1959)







Tje Astaires Fred & Adele by Kathleen Riley
Kathleen Riley
The Astaires: Fred & Adele
New York: Oxford UP, 2012

As has been pointed out on the Cafe Songbook pages for "Somebody Loves Me" and "Oh, Lady, Be Good!," 1924 was a pivotal year both for the Gershwin brothers as well as for Broadway itself. It was the year George ceased writing songs for revues and ventured completely into the realm of the bookmusical, what later became known as the musical comedy, the form that dominated American musical theater for the remainder of the century. It was also the year that George and Ira took up writing as a team on a permanent basis. For George and Ira Gershwin, 1924 culminated in the writing of the score for the show Lady, Be Good!, which opened on Broadway at the Liberty Theater on December 1, 1924, a date by which the year had seen some forty other musicals open on the Great White (and by 21st century standards, unimaginably busy) Way. Furthermore, George Gershwin's fame had burst forth in 1924, even more from his performances of his Rhapsody in Blue -- both in concert halls and in private salons (where he played it by request -- seemingly endlessly). And, as Walter Rimler sums up Gershwin in 1924, "His worldwide fame had begun--only to be compounded when, [at the end of that magical year], he had a huge triumph on Broadway--the musical Lady, Be Good!, which made stars of Fred and Adele Astaire, and for which he and Ira wrote "Fascinating Rhythm," "Oh, Lady, Be Good!" and "The Man I Love," establishing themselves as a composer-lyricist team in the vanguard of those who were about to usher in the golden age of American popular song" (Rimler, p. 6).

The Gershwins' Lady, Be Good!, whose plot was slight, in the words of Wilfred Sheed, "simpleminded," and a long way from the plots of the integratedmusicals that would come later (Sheed, p. 61), was one of the few shows, and certainly the most successful, that could claim to be on some level a modern musical comedy. Gerald Mast describes the qualities that distinguished Lady, Be Good as modern: It was "bright and breezy . . . with topical themes (like bootlegging) and topical settings (from a Long Island mansion to the wild west), small casts, amiable jokes, flippant themes, Astaire dancing, and songs, songs, songs" (Mast, p. 76).

Kathleen Riley in her biography of the Astaires (Fred and Adele) elaborates on the show's contemporary qualities and provides Fred's own sense of the show's modernism.

Lady, Be Good was no less a milestone than the first performance of Rhapsody in Blue, for it changed the American musical, carrying with it a new sound, a new verve and sophistication, and a new spirit, boldly and authentically twentieth-century. As Fred maintained: "This was no hackneyed ordinary musical comedy. It was slick and tongue in cheek, a definite departure in concept and design" (Riley, p. 98-99).

We now know that elements of Lady, Be Good! were modern, but apparently many contemporary reviewers did not. Gershwin biographer Edward Jablonski captures the essence of what the critics missed about the show's songs:

Though several reviewers made note of the songs they made no mention of the innovative sound, the spare sinewy melodies, the definitely non-operetta rhythms, the wit of the lyrics. A score that scintillated and crackled with the unsentimental contemporaneity . . . of such songs as "Little Jazz Bird," "The Half of It, Dearie, Blues," and of course, "Oh, Lady Be Good" and "Fascinating Rhythm."

Origins of the Song "Fascinating Rhythm"

The origins of the the show Lady, Be Good! can be traced to London during the summer of 1924, where George was putting the final touches on the production of the British show Primrose, for which he had written the score. While in London, he met with American producer Alex Aarons, writer Guy Bolton and Fred Astaire about a show they were planning for Broadway later that year, a show that at that point bore the working title Black-Eyed Susan. (Later, back in New York, it was renamed Lady, Be Good!)

George, never satisfied to be working on only one thing at a time, doodled out, no doubt in his London hotel room or somewhere else where he had access to a piano, some new melodies, one of which was an eight bar fragment that eventually turned out to be the opening portion of "Fascinating Rhythm." Later, in 1930, Gershwin told his first biographer, Issac Goldberg, "It's rather strange that I should have written in a foreign city what I consider to be one of the most typically American rhythmic themes I've ever done. Nevertheless, that's how it was" (Deena Rosenberg, p. 79, paperback Ed.). When Aarons, who had a gift for instantly recognizing the value of a new piece of music, heard George, still n London, play the fragment, he told the composer to hang onto it for the new Broadway show. When George got back to New York and played the fragment, which he then called "Syncopated City (See below.)," for Ira, his brother's first reaction was, "For God's sake, George, what kind of lyric do you write to a rhythm like that?" (Jablonksi, p. 83). But finally, Ira, who continued to feel the tune's rhythms were "tricky," became attracted to the very polyrhythms that had earlier put him off, dubbing their overall effect a "fascinating rhythm," and thereby, inadvertantly, came up with the title. As George later recalled, after that "eureka moment," the remainder of the collaboration wasn't "all as easy as that, for the title covered part of the first bar only, and there was many a hot argument between us as to where the accents should fall in the rest of the words."

Ira remembers that after quite a few days of working on a rhyme scheme, his and George's argument came down to whether to use single or double rhymes between the fourth and eighth lines of the chorus.

I'm All a-quiver (line 4)

Just like a flivver (line 8)

Ira, who favored the single rhyme for these end-rhymes wrote in his book, Lyrics on Several Occasions, that he sang his way to George to demonstrate that "the last note in both lines had the same strength as the note in the preceding [and] the easiest way out was arbitrarily to put the accent on the last note (Lyrics, p.173, paperback Ed.). George continued to insist on the need for a double rhyme. Ira finally gave in to his little brother and accepted the need for the double rhyme "a-quiver" and "a flivver," "because, [as George insisted] whereas in singing, the notes might be considered even and require only a single rhyme, in conducting the music, the downbeat came on the penultimate note" and thus required a double rhyme. And so, that's what made the cut. (For an insightful elaboration on the brothers' collaboration, read Philip Furia in the The Critics Corner below.) According to Jablonski, Ira's meticulousness and George's inclination to go with an impulse was one of the few causes for friction in their working relationship. Jablonski observes, "A rhythmic-melodic idea that [George] tossed off in a few minutes at a party often engaged Ira Gershwin in days of work. His mercurial brother at times regarded this as simple procrastination" (Jablonski, p. 84, hardcover Ed.). Ira recalls yet another family difference, in a lighter vein, regarding "Fascinating Rhythm": "My father was not unmusical, but sometimes he couldn't recall the title of a song as clearly as he could the melody. To him this one frequently was 'Fashion on the River'" (Kimball, Complete Lyrics, pp. 48-49, hardcover Ed.). George's biographer Howard Pollack quotes Ira on the subject of the brothers' mutual manner of commenting on the work of the other that perhaps partially belies their oft portrayed amicable working relationship: "We are both pretty critical and outspoken, George about my lyrics and I about his music. Praise is very faint" (Pollack, p. 188).

The best evidence for just how anxiety producing Ira found the process of writing the lyric for "Fascinating Rhythm" is the lyric itself. Although the sense of the lyric has very little to do with the plot of the show Lady, Be Good!, being not much more than an explanation for why Fred and Adele are so fervently dancing -- This "fascinating rhythm" has "got [them] on the go" --, it has everything to do with the story of Ira's battle with George's rhythm. Listen to siblings Fred and Adele Astaire, accompanied by George Gershwin on piano, sing Ira's lyric, then read the lyric in the Lyrics Lounge, and it will be obvious that the entire lyric is the lyricist's account of how writing the words to "Fascinating Rhythm" almost drove him "insane," just as the rhythm almost drives the dancers crazy. A question appropriate to the Freudian age during which the lyric was written is, how consciously aware Ira was that he had written a lyric about the challenge he faced from his sibling's music -- as well as having written about the challenge that faced the dancers.

Adele and Fred Astaire singing "Fascinating Rhythm" accompanied by George Gershwin on piano., April, 1926. (This recording made by English Columbia during the London run of Lady, Be Good! and later collected by the Smithsonian in 1977 as a history of the early recording history of the show. Some of these recordings available from Amazon.)

George, renaissance man that he was, did not restrict himself with regard to collaboration on "Fascinating Rhythm" to arguing with his brother about the words. He even made suggestions to Fred Astaire regarding the dance routine he and his sister Adele would perform for the song. In his autobiography, Fred recalls George's contribution to his and Adele's routine:

Just before we were ready to leave for the opening in Philadelphia, Adele and I were stuck for an exit step. We had the routine set but needed a climax wow step to get us off. For days I couldn't find one. Neither could dance director Sammy Lee.

George happened to drop by and I asked him to look at the routine. He went to the piano. . . .

We went all though the thing, reaching the last step before the proposed exit and George said, "Now travel -- travel with that one."

I stopped to ask what he meant and he jumped up from the piano and demonstrated what he visualized. He wanted us to continue doing the last step, which started center stage, and sustain it as we traveled to the side, continuing until we were out of sight off stage.

The step was a complicated precision rhythm thing in which we kicked out simultaneously as we crossed back and forth in front of each other with arm pulls and heads back. There was a lot going on, and when George suggested traveling, we didn't think it was possible.

It was the perfect answer to our problem, however, this suggestion by hoofer Gershwin, and it turned out to be a knockout applause puller. . . . George threw me a couple for my solo routine, too. I liked to watch him dance. It made me laugh (Fred Astaire, Steps in Time, pp. 134-135, hardcover, Ed.).

The first vocal rendition of "Fascinating Rhythm" in "Lady, Be Good" was by Cliff Edwards (Ukulele Ike) just preceding Fred and Adele's show-stopping dance. The critic for the Harold Tribune wrote, "When at 9:15, they sang and danced 'Fascinating Rhythm,' the callous Broadwayites cheered them as if their favorite halfback had planted the ball behind the goal posts after an 80-yard run. Seldom has it been our pleasure to witness such a heartfelt, spontaneous and so deserved a tribute" (Fred Astaire, Steps in Time, pp. 129, hardcover, Ed.)

As was common in Broadway shows of The Twenties, the show-stopper (or some other principal song) would be reprised at the finale to bring the audience back to its feet; often, as was the case with "Fascinating Rhythm" in Lady, Be Good!, with an altered set of lyrics. Ira Gershwin explains in Lyrics on Several Occasions (p. 174, paperback Ed.) that as the finale to Lady, Be Good! approaches, about 11 P.M., four couples are at odds with one another, but the altered lyrics for "Fascinating Rhythm" (now incorporating the key phrase "Fascinating Wedding") holds sway and all the couples quickly resolve their conflicts and prepare to troop to the altar, singing a variation on the first couple's take: "Fascinating wedding, / That sure appeals to me. / Fascinating wedding / I hear you calling." This is really the only place where the song's lyric actually has something to do with the plot of the show.

The story of the 1941 MGM musical Lady Be Good starring Eleanor Powell, Robert Young, Ann Sothern, and others was also unconnected to the plot of the 1924 musical of the same title, with scoreby the Gershwins; however, it did include in its own score the two most famous songs from the earlier stage production: "Oh, Lady, Be Good!" and "Fascinating Rhythm." "Fascinating Rhythm" was danced by the Berry Brothers followed by Eleanor Powell all choreographed by Busby Berkeley. Given that there is no visual record of the show-stopping dance by Adele and Fred Astaire from 1924, it is worth it to view the spectacle of the MGM version. It is a tribute to the music and its associated rhythm that two boffo dance routines were created for the song. It is also worth noting that even though the movie version is essentially unrelated to the original, Berkeley alludes to the show when he includes in his choreography Powell being accompanied not only by a chorus of dancers and singers but by dual pianists, just as was the case in the Broadway pit for the 1924 production in which the well known ragtime piano team of Phil Ohman and Victor Arden anchored the orchestra. The Berkeley film version perhaps had, in a way, a greater degree of authenticity than the original in that Berkeley's pianists are black like the most highly regarded stride pianists of the era, whereas Ohman and Arden, though highly regarded in their own right, were white. (The Powell routine had its place in cinematic dance history augmented by being included in the subsequent documentary on MGM musicals, That's Entertainment.)

The Berry Brothers and Eleanor Powell dance to "Fascinating Rhythm" (vocal by Connie Russell) in the 1941 MGM musical, Lady Be Good (choreography by Busby Berkeley) -- colorized version.


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Critics Corner

Howard Pollack

George Gershwin: His Life and Work
Berkeley: Univ. of California Press

Howard Pollack called "Fascinating Rhythm" not only "paradigmatic of a certain side of Gershwin's work but of the Jazz Age itself. Both the low-down verse, with its insistent blue notes (a mirror image of 'The Man I Love'), and the explosive chorus, whit its dizzying polyrhythms, charted new territory." In support of this idea, Pollack quotes Aaron Copeland in 1927, describing "Fascinating Rhythm" as "rhythmically not only the most fascinating but the most original jazz song yet composed."

"Moreover," Pollack writes, "Fascinating Rhythm" helped establish the show's [Oh, Lady Be Good!'s] reputation as the work that finally severed musical comedy from operetta, [even though] the score maintained a delicacy that placed it still in the tradition of Kern."

book cover: Ira Gershwin The Art of the Lyricist by Philip Furia
Philip Furia
Ira Gershwin:
The Art of the Lyricist

New York, Oxford Univ. Press

Philip Furia notes that Ira liked contractions in his lyrics because they lend things a colloquial air, "a verbal equivalent," as Furia puts it, "for George's frequent syncopations. In the most common of American catch-phrases Ira discovered verbal shards that perfectly fit the rhythms of George's musical phrases: 'take a day off,' 'run along,' and 'make it snappy'."

Furia doesn't find it surprising that Ira thought of "Fascinating Rhythm" as "the hardest song I ever had to fit words to." In fact, to get started he used an earlier song of his, "Little Rhythm, Go 'Way." For this earlier song, with music by Joseph Meyer and William Daly, he had used "such simple words as

It's so persistent
the day isn't distant, I know,
When I'll go mad.

Inspired by George's intricate rhythm, Ira now recast those lines into the more vernacular--and percussively alliterative--

so darn persistent
the day isn't distant
When it'll drive me insane!

(Furia, p. 48, hardcover, Ed.)

Book cover: Alec Wilder, "America's Popular Song"
Alec Wilder, American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950, New York: Oxford University Press, 1972.

In commenting on Irving Berlin's song, "Pack Up Your Sins and Go to the Devil," Alec Wilder writes that this song written two years before "Fascinating Rhythm" is as "snappy and new sounding as "Fascinating Rhythm." Wilder, often regarded as the dean of critics of The Great American Songbook, did not hold "Fascinating Rhythm" in any kind of high esteem beyond what he said just above. Indeed he dismisses the song, writing, "it says little and says it poorly both musically and lyrically, the entire lyric [being] scarcely to be recommended as an illustration of Ira Gershwin's great talent."

Gerald Mast (See just below.), takes issue with Wilder, responding as follows: "Wilder cannot understand the affection for this song, because he studies the scores of songs as musical compositions, he never considers the interplay of words and music. 'Fascinating Rhythm' is only interesting in the way its musical-verbal games capture the idea of the song's title--which cannot be seen in the notes on a score" (Mast, p. 355, n. 2, hardcover Ed.).

book cover: Gerald Mast "Can't Help Singin'"
Gerald Mast. Can't Help Singin' The American Musical on Stage and Screen. Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1987.

Gerald Mast calls "Fascinating Rhythm" the Gershwins' first and best song about rhythm [the other being, of course, the later "I Got Rhythm"], and alludes to the terms Ira used while referring to it when he first heard an early version George brought back from London in 1924. The "tricky" and eventually "fascinating" rhythm of "Fascinating Rhythm" that was both so frustrating and appealing to Ira is analyzed by Mast who concludes, "The result of this playful trickery is a rhythmically complex song about rhythmic complexity, a song about rhythmic fascination that is fascinating because its rhythms can never be predicted or taken for granted." Mast goes into significant detail regarding how George Gershwin pulled off this fascinating trickery but sums up both its method and value when he writes,

Ira's alliterative "g" ("Got me on the go") emphasizes the regular downbeat immediately preceding the rhythmic surprise, when the single "Fascinating" sustains itself over the boundary between measures two and three. The downbeat falls in the third measure without any new word to announce it--a downbeat both felt and missed. This tiny trick provides the fascination of this fascinating rhythm, both for the singer, possessed by it ["it pit-a-pats in my brain,"] and the listener, who soon will be (Mast, p. 72, hardcover Ed.).

book cover: Michael Feinstein, "The Gershwins and Me A Personal History in Twelve Songs"
Michael Feinstein (with Ian Jackman), The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012.
Michael Feinstein discovered an early manuscript for the music of "Fascinating Rhythm" that bore the title "Syncopated City" in a warehouse in Secaucus, NJ, while he was working for Ira Gershwin in 1982. Feinstein explains in his book The Gershwins and Me that the musical style of "Fascinating Rhythm" was something entirely new for its time. Its "accent changes on the notes for rhythmic effect and the shift of accompaniment" contributed to a restless "restless energy" that is a trademark of the song. Feinstein recognizes that George was inspired by "the sounds of New York that he'd been soaking up his whole life . . . all the insistent, percussive machinery" of a modern, "Syncopated City" (p. 58, hardcover Ed.).

book cover: Deena Rosenberg, "Fascinating Rhythm: The Collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin"
Deena Rosenberg
Fascinating Rhythm: The Collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin,
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991, 1997
(soft cover Ed.)

Deena Rosenberg observes that "Fascinating Rhythm" was actually a test for the characters in Lady, Be Good!, Dick and Susie Trevor (Fred and Adele Astaire), who earlier in the show sing "Hang on to Me," a song that testifies to the importance of sticking together no matter the difficulties encountered. One of these difficulties, one that has nothing to do with the rest of the plot and is only a pretense for their dance routine, is dancing to the challenging and tricky rhythms of "Fascinating Rhythm."

The characters are in a battle with the rhythm. They want the rhythm to go away and leave them be:

Won't you take a day off
decide to run along
Somewhere far away off--
And make it snappy!

The final plea of the lyric is made to this "Fascinating Rhythm": "Won't you please, stop picking on me?" a rhetorical question the implied answer to which is a "decisive 'No'." Rosenberg's conclusion is that "the rhythm is so absorbing, so extraordinary, that it has become a challenge, even a high. And in truth, far from succumbing to this force, by the end the characters have harnessed it, and in so doing, asserted their autonomy" (Rosenberg, p. 96, paperback Ed.).

Rosenberg writes,

Such rhythmic complexity was rare in American theater song of the time; so was such a close blending of words and music. What Ira achieved in this lyric was "a truly phenomenal feat," in Arthur Schwartz's words, "when one considers that . . . [he] was required to be brilliant within the most confining rhythms and accents" (Rosenberg, p. 91, paperbound Ed.).

bood cover: Allen Forte, "Listening to Classic American Popular Songs"

Allen Forte
Listening to Classic
American Popular Songs
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001

Allen Forte in his book Listening to Classic American Popular Songs distinguishes between the rhythms found in George Gershwin's verseand in his refrain. Both rhythms, Forte maintains, have their "charm and interest"; indeed, the rhythm of the verse is "toe-tapping and jazzy," and "would have been understood as very 'rhythmic' in Gershwin's day and even now;" but "it is not, however, the fascinating rhythm" of the refrain." It is the rhythm of the refrain, that "obsessive" rhythm, "forever fascinating" in the way it "deflects our expectations of regularity" that "generates a wonderful feeling of energy." This energy, for Forte, "lies in the chords that Gershwin wrote to accompany the melody . . . chords that form a regular pattern that conform exactly to the meter and against which the errant melody pursues its wayward path." Forte concludes, that it is a "constant tension" thus created that has produced the "fascination that has lasted over many years" (Forte, pp. 30-37, hardcover Ed.).

book cover: "The Jazz Standards" by Ted Gioia
Ted Gioia
The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire
New York:
Oxford University Press, 2012

Ted Gioia pretty much agrees with Aaron Copeland's assessment of "Fascinating Rhythm," given above, that it was "rhythmically not only the most fascinating but the most original jazz song yet composed," even though the modernist composer had probably not listened much to King Oliver or Jelly Roll Morton. Nevertheless, Gioia writes,

no one moved more aggressively in mixing popular song with a jazz sensibility than George Gershwin [who] builds [Fascinating Rhythm's"] hook from a metric displacement--the fascinating rhythm of the title, I would suggest--that is very much out of the jazz playbook. In fact, I could easily imagine this melody having come from a New Orleans cornet player or a Chicago school clarinetist, so perfectly does it match the sound of hot jazz of the era. The song was, in turn, easily adapted to the needs of jazz bands. In many ways, its melody construction anticipates the riff-based charts that would usher in the Swing Era.

Gioia also credits Ira Gershwin's slangy lyrics (along with those of other popular song lyricists of the time) as actually having a more significant influence than the prose of Hemingway or Fitzgerald on the diction of the Jazz Age (Gioia, pp.113-114, hardcover Ed.).

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Lyrics Lounge

Click here to read the lyrics to "Fascinating Rhythm" as sung by Ella Fitzgerald originally released on the 1959 album, Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George And Ira Gershwin Song Book -- arrangements by Nelson Riddle. Listen to this version of "Fascinating Rhythm," on which Ella includes the verse:

Amazon iTunes

View (at Amazon) other albums that contain the same track as above.


For the published lyric, see

Robert Kimball, Ed. The Complete Lyrics Of Ira Gershwin, New York: Alfred A. Knoph, 1993; reprinted as paperback by Da Capo Press, 1998.


book cover: "Reading Lyrics" Ed. by Robert Gottlieb and Robert Kimball
Reading Lyrics,
Edited and with an Introduction by Robert Gottlieb and Robert Kimball,
New York: Pantheon Books,

Click here to read Cafe Songbook lyrics policy.

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The Cafe Songbook
Record/Video Cabinet:
Selected Recordings of

"Fascinating Rhythm"

(All Record/Video Cabinet entries below
include a music-video
of this page's featured song.
The year given is for when the studio
track was originally laid down
or when the live performance was given.)

Performer/Recording Index
(*indicates accompanying music-video)

Cliff Edwards (Ukulele Ike)
album: Fascinating Rhythm 1922-1935

Amazon iTunes

Notes: The recording on the video above is not Edwards' performance in the cast of Lady, Be Good!, but a separate recording made in Dec. 1924, the same month the show opened. The recording rose to number 6 on the charts by April, 1925.
(Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)

Fred and Adele Astaire
accompanied by George Gershwin on piano

Amazon iTunes

Notes: This track can be found on various albums. (Click the links above for a selection.) It was recorded during the London run of Lady, Be Good! in April, 1926. Fred and Adele are accompanied on piano by the composer, George Gershwin. Ted Gioia calls the recording "a far more exciting" version of "Fascinating Rhythm" than the two charted recordings by Cliff Edwards and Sam Lanin, which were contemporary with the original run of Lady, Be Good! on Broadway. He goes on to say, "Gershwin sounds a bit heavy-handed during the verse but once he is into the main theme his keyboard work reveals a real natural feeling for jazz, and his solo might fool listeners in a blindfold test into thinking they were hearing one of the better Harlem stride pianists of the day" (Gioia, p. 114)
Music-Video: (View another music-video of this recording in the center column, below.)
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Fred Astaire with the Jazz at the Philharmonic All Stars
album: Oscar Peterson & Fred Astaire: The Complete Norman Granz Sessions

Amazon iTunes

Notes: Originally this album was published under the title The Fred Astaire Story. It consists of 40 tracks of songs associated with Astaire, sung by him accompanied by the Jazz at the Philharmonic All Stars: Charlie Shavers, trumpet; Flip Phillips, tenor sax; Oscar Peterson piano and celeste,; Barney Kessel, guitar; Ray Brown, Bass; Alvin Stoller, drums. Astaire sang "Fascinating Rhythm" with his sister in the original 1924 Broadway production. (See above for their 1926 recording.) Here he is accompanied by a jazz sextet reflecting the notion, some three decades later, of those who believe George Gershwin had been trying to introduce jazz to Broadway in his 1924 show Lady Be Good.

Stan Kenton
album: Sketches on Standards

Amazon iTunes

Notes: "This 1953 LP includes his reinventions of 'Sophisticated Lady'; 'Begin the Beguine'; 'Pennies from Heaven'; 'Over the Rainbow'; 'Fascinatin' Rhythm'; 'Malaguena', and more. Features six bonus cuts and remastered sound! Bill Russo big band arrangement for Kenton" (from Amazon editorial review).
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Stéphane Grappelli
album: Improvisations

Amazon iTunes

Notes: Grappelli is heard here as a member of a quartet with pianist Maurice Vander, bassist Pierre Michelot, and drummer Baptiste Reilles. These recordings were made in Paris in three sessions: 1954, February, 1956 and April, 1956. For a 1991 live performance of "Fascinating Rhythm" by Grapelli, visit the Cafe Songbook Main Stage, this page.
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video before starting another.)

Mel Tormé
with the Marty Paich Dek-Tette

album: Lulu's Back in Town

Amazon iTunes

Notes: "This session deserves to be as popular as the Beach Boys. It represents the "cool" West Coast jazz sound at its creative best--complex yet light, tight, and perpetually fresh. Marty Paich's arrangements serve less as background accompaniment than as a luminous foil to the equally inventive elocutions of the singer. If there's a better solution to the challenge of balancing ensemble cohesiveness with individual expressiveness, I haven't heard it.
As for Mel, there's admittedly less "personality" than on his later sessions, but the gain is a concentrated focus on the song performances--twelve "art objects," each representing the very best that could be squeezed out of composer, arranger, instrumentalists, and vocalist at a given moment. Thinking of Rossetti's description of the sonnet as a "moment's monument," it may be no exaggeration to regard this recording as a monumental achievement. In any case, I'm tickled to have made its discovery, however late." from Amazon reviewer Samuel Chell.
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Sarah Vaughan
album: ¡Viva! Vaughan!

Amazon iTunes

Notes: a combination of jazz and pop with Latin percussion arrangements by ex-Basie sideman Frank Foster, recorded in the midst of the mid-'60s bossa nova craze. Vaughan is in great voice throughout the date and the material is generally first-rate. -- from CD Universe. The track on the music-video above from Vaughan's Gershwin Songbook, Vol. 2 album is the same as on the !Viva Vaughan! LP.
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Rosemary Clooney
album: Rosemary Clooney Sings the Lyrics of Ira Gershwin

Amazon iTunes

Album Notes: "Ira Gershwin himself approved of this record. Rosemary Clooney sings ten of his classic sets of lyrics, including eight songs written in collaboration with his brother George; the exceptions are "Long Ago and Far Away" (music by Jerome Kern) and "The Man That Got Away" (a later Harold Arlen song). Although not an improviser herself, Clooney excels in this swinging setting and includes occasional solos by cornetist Warren Vache, tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton, flutist Roger Glenn, pianist Nat Pierce, and guitarist Cal Collins. All of Clooney's Concord albums are well worth acquiring." ~ Scott Yanow -- Recorded San Francisco, October, 1979. CD Universe.
Video: same track as on album above

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Susannah McCorkle
album: No More Blues

same track as on No More Blues album

Amazon iTunes

Notes: "Susannah McCorkle first emerged in 1976 as one of the top interpreters of lyrics to mature since the 1950s. Since then she has continued to grow as an expressive singer who brings out hidden beauty in the songs she sings. For her Concord debut, McCorkle is joined by Ken Peplowski (on clarinet and tenor), either Emily Remler or Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar, pianist Dave Frishberg (in a purely instrumental role), bassist John Goldsby, and drummer Terry Clarke. Although many of her recordings have been songbooks focusing on one composer or lyricist, she chose superior standards by a wide variety of writers for this date. Highlights include "Fascinating Rhythm," a hot version of Louis Armstrong's "Swing That Music," "P.S. I Love You," "Sometimes I'm Happy," Gerry Mulligan's inspiring "The Ballad of Pearly Sue," and "No More Blues," but all ten numbers are quite rewarding. Highly recommended." ~ Scott Yanow CD Universe.
Music-Video: same track as on album above

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Dianne Reeves
album: The Calling
Celebrating Sarah Vaughan

same track as on album above

Amazon iTunes

Notes: "Billy Childs contributes an ingenious arrangement of 'Fascinating Rhythm' for Dianne Reeve's project The Calling, which makes Gershwin's's piece sound like a new millennium groove tune" (Ted Gioia, p. 114).
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Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio
with Jane Monheit

album: In Full Swing

Amazon iTunes

Notes: On "Fascinating Rhythm," Mark O'Connor, violin and arrangement; Frank Vignola, guitar; John Burr, Bass; Jane Monheit, vocal. Also on album, Wynton Marsalis, Trumpet. O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio inspired by Stéphane Grappelli / Django Reinhardt Quintette du Hot Club of the 1930s.
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Jamie Cullen
album: Catching Tales

iTunes (Europe)

Notes:"Fascinating Rhythm" appears only on the European/UK editions of this album.
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