Elena Bennett, Fred Barton
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A WRINKLE IN SWINGTIME – Elena Bennett's monumental début CD, dedicated to gems of the American songbook from 1918 to 1962, recorded with Fred Barton's 27-piece orchestra in the historic Edison Studio, on the site where the Basie and Ellington bands once held forth.

The album includes thirteen powerful Bennett performances in all-new Barton arrangements, in a triple-panel CD folio, plus a ten-page booklet with extensive historical notes on the songs and performances, plus numerous photos and original artwork by Richard Risko (of Vanity Fair Magazine).
is available at, i-Tunes, and 30 digital download services.


"After years of being a fixture on the Village piano-bar scene, brassy-voiced Elena Bennett has made her first recording, A Wrinkle In Swingtime, (Polychrome). This gal possesses all the potent vocal ingredients that made the likes of Doris Day, Ruth Etting, Ella Fitzgerald, and, yes, Judy Garland a star. She's that good. Gifted music director Fred Barton's lush arrangements are in a league with Harry James and Nelson Riddle. He's that good. Together they are lethal on a magical toe-tapping big-band album that soars.

"Bennett's range, which encompasses everything from a textured alto to the highest and purest notes of Johnny Mercer's "And The Angels Sing," would alone provide for a musically superior album. But her musical sensibilities and zealous love of this genre of material is unsurpassed on today's market, making every cut retro perfection. This album stands to elevate her to the loftiest peaks of stardom. She rivets with a profound rendition of Rodgers and Hart's "I'll Tell The Man In The Street" (possibly the album's best cut), and then slays you with a totally beguiling reading of a real find, "The Lady From 29 Palms," by Allie Wrubel. Other highlights include dynamite renditions of "Shake Down The Stars," "Not I," and a frolicking "You're Following Me," that will make you feel you're in the middle of an MGM musical...
"Rarely have I heard such a perfect collaboration of artist and musical director. Barton's superior arrangements are non pareil. He leads the 27-piece orchestra in true big-band style...
"A Wrinkle In Swingtime marks what may well be one of the best debut albums since Barbra Streisand's first (and I don't say that lightly). With absolutely brilliant orchestrations by the gifted Barton, this album is, hands down, a winner."
John Hoglund, Back Stage

A Scotch-and-soda was all that the down-and-out pianist expected when he wandered into the last of the old-style New York piano/singer bars at 2 AM, that dark and stormy night. Just as he lifted the glass to drown a decade's profound disillusionment in Broadway and Hollywood, his eyes rolled in dread as the house singer got up to sing for the stragglers, at an hour when the average singing waitress should be counting her tips and hailing a cab.
If you love old Hollywood as much as I do, you know what happened at that instant – a wrinkle in swingtime.
The singer started a pure rendition of a forgotten Rodgers & Hart tune, "I'll Tell The Man In The Street." The pianist's glass froze in mid-air, his eyes swiftly unrolled to their original position, then enlarged to a degree largely unknown in cynical times. One Scotch-and-soda turned into "the usual," the unknown singer sang into the night, and the nights stretched on into a year; the mysterious guest never moved from his usual barstool, astounded to find disillusionment evaporating into the realization that the angels still sing under a crazy moon.
A year later, he was still sitting there, Scotch-and-soda in hand, listening to Elena Bennett and "The Man In the Street," when that great Producer-In-The-Sky said to his Rosalind-Russell-esque secretary, "Oh, what the hell." Elena's pianist suddenly took another engagement, and before you can say "swingtime," management had saddled Elena with none other than her mystery fan at the piano.
And so it was that Elena Bennett, with a long line of pianists behind her, and I, with a distinguished line of divas in my past, joined forces with the inevitable results: I knew 5000 songs, of which she knew 4995 (she learned five songs the first night). She knew 9000 songs, and which I knew 3000 (she supplied me with tapes of the remaining 6000). If I knew the chorus, she knew three extras verses; if I knew an undeservedly forgotten songwriter, she knew his four other big numbers, and could deliver impeccable impressions of the three different undeservedly-forgotten singers who recorded them.
At first we had a line of patter: if our audiences liked a song, we'd say "That has to go on 'the album.'" Elena and I have never cared for rehearsals, auditions, run-throughs, or talk-throughs; Elena loves to sing, with an uncannily complete knowledge of all who have come before her; and I have always loved to simulate on the piano the full-orchestra arranging styles that formed the bedrock of popular singing for all of its late greatest. Somewhere between then and now, another leap of swingtime took place and the "album" lost its quotation marks and became that which you now possess – the album.
I won't tell you that classic swing rules (although of course it does), or that the least-known inhabitants of Tin Pan Alley had the goods on the greatest philosophers of our century (although they frequently did), or that hearing Elena sing these songs, ranging from eccentric to classic swing, makes both present and past better than they are and were; only a Wrinkle in Swingtime could account for such phenomena.
But I will state with utter confidence that I'm glad I dropped in that night.
Fred Barton

THE LADY FROM 29 PALMS (Allie Wrubel)
EB: The first time I heard this song was Doris Day's version from a "Your Hit Parade" collection. I was no more than 17 years old but I knew that the lady in question was everything that I longed to be – glamorous beyond belief with countless men pining for me and showering me with gifts. Fast forward to Spring of 1998....I handed Fred Miss Day's recording along with that of the Andrews Sisters, to see if we couldn't find a way to reinvent this forgotten classic. We began to perform it at the club and mold it to our liking. Fred: "How would you like to end it?" Me: "How about a whole bunch of key changes and we wrap the ending around 'til we get there?" And here it is, from the lone bass trombone intro to the glorious Technicolor finale. Whether you are this Lady or merely know her, you'll never forget the address.
FB: This quintessential "bad girl" song was written in 1947 by Allie Wrubel, the undersung songmeister who wrote "The Lady in Red," "Why Don't We Do This More Often," and his biggest hit, "Zippity-Doo-Dah." "29 Palms" was introduced by the Freddy Martin band, known for being slightly to the left of the Lombardo sound. We've given the Lady in question more of a Glenn Miller fantasy treatment.
OH! YOU CRAZY MOON (Johnny Burke – Jimmy Van Heusen)
EB: I learned this number from the lovely band singer, Bea Wain, and always thought it the ideal song about a lost love – devastatingly matter-of-fact, ironically accusatory, and deceptively light-hearted in melody and feel. The collaboration of Burke on the lyric and Van Heusen on the tune provides one of the era's brilliant numbers, if not one of its better-known, despite its presence on Frank's "Moonlight Sinatra" album. Van Heusen, a.k.a. Curtis Babcock, was Frank's favorite composer (and one of mine) and close friend (I wish).
FB: For two years in Los Angeles, I listened religiously to Bea Wain's radio show, dedicated to the best of the Big Band years (one of the only such programs in the country). How I wish I could have peered into the future and seen Elena Bennett's and my "Crazy Moon." This one's for you, Bea.
NOT I (Dick Manning – Sammy Gallop)
EB: Heartbreak and June Christy go together in the most sophisticated way. Broken promises and undying love; who could resist? Certainly not I; and, happily, not Fred, once I'd played June's version for him. We began to perform it and, before you could say "torch song", we'd worked up this dramatic new arrangement.
FB: Pete Rugolo and June Christy go together in the most sophisticated way, too. His ground-breaking arrangements for Christy brought the big band sound into the Sixties, and I've given him a humble tribute in Elena's version of this sensational, little-performed song.
SHAKE DOWN THE STARS (Eddie DeLange – Jimmy Van Heusen)
EB: As mentioned, Sinatra loved singing Van Heusen's songs. That goes double for me, especially when combined with Eddie DeLange's brilliant lyric. As a bobby-soxer trapped in the Eighties, I had all of the Frankie/Tommy Dorsey session records; I always thought this an exceptional cut, its rapid swing driving home the urgency of its request – a big band version of the W. H. Auden poem....
FB: Those boys wrote a million songs in those days; just scratch a few and a classic will jump out at you. This song couldn't be more my type of thing, and we gave it the full treatment, with a tip of the hat to Mr. Dorsey.
YOU'RE FOLLOWING ME (Bob Hilliard – Burt Bacharach)
FB: This one's mine. EB: No, I'll tell. FB: I found the song, I'll tell. EB: Hit it. FB: I heard this mysterious obscurity played over and over on a now-defunct New Rochelle radio station that played songs without ever announcing them. I managed to throw a tape on and record 3/4 of the song, and for eight years I played it for every musician in town, trying to discover the identity of the song and its singer. This marks the sole occasion on which I stumped even the Mighty Elena.... the consolation prize is that Elena immediately loved and learned the song, filled in the missing lyrics, and it instantly became one of our signatures. My great thanks go to singer Maggie Wirth, a dear friend who rummaged around in the library and put an end to my eight-year quest: "You're Following Me" was written by lyricist Bob Hilliard and a swinging Burt Bacharach, astoundingly enough, and was introduced on the Jack Paar Show in 1962 by Catarina Valente.
EB: He got it right. I'll only add that both of us knew Bacharach mainly for his Dionne Warwick hits and for being Marlene Dietrich's arranger and conductor during her glorious cabaret years. We really had no idea that he had written something so cool and vampily swinging. Note to Burt: "Come back, Baby! We'll treat you right this time!"
I HAD THE CRAZIEST DREAM (Mack Gordon – Harry Warren)
EB: Gordon & Warren don't get enough recognition, despite having created some of the most enduring standards (two of which we include herein). Another favorite of mine since my high school days, Helen Forrest's beautiful hit is usually performed at a slower tempo. We decided to give it a hot swing treatment, keeping the verse in its traditional central location. Proving that it's never too late to tinker, the night before this recording session, I called Fred and asked, "How about a little delusional trumpet solo after '"...the oddest things appear?" You can hear for yourself Fred's response, as performed by Larry Lunetta.
FB: I am actually brought to you in part by Harry Warren, who left an annual scholarship for promising film composer/arrangers at U.S.C. I won with a full-orchestra old-style showtune of mine, so I feel the presence of the grand master even more than I already did. Here's back atcha, Harry.
HOLD ME, HOLD ME, HOLD ME (Betty Comden & Adolph Green – Jule Styne)
EB: One of the first songs Fred and I realized we both knew was "There Never Was A Baby," which I had learned from Ella Fitzgerald's recording, but which Fred also knew from the Comden-Green-Styne revue Two on the Aisle, starring the spectacular Dolores Gray and the ever-lovable and seldom cowardly Bert Lahr. Fred made me a tape of his treasured, out-of-print LP and I fell immediately in love with this jewel of a song. A more sophisticated plea for what really counts, I have seldom, if ever, heard.
FB: Anyone who has wandered in to hear us knows that my favorite songwriter is Jule Styne, who had at least four songwriting careers: as a big-band writer for Harry James during World War II, as a writer of "B" musicals on Broadway in the Fifties, as one of Sinatra's principal composers, and as a powerhouse composer of top-drawer Broadway shows beginning with "Gypsy" in 1959 (with a Harry James trumpet solo in every overture). "Hold Me" was written in 1951 and orchestrated by the legendary Philip J. Lang, to whom I've left a little tribute deep in the middle of our big band version.
THE SONG IS YOU (Oscar Hammerstein II – Jerome Kern)
EB: Once you meet someone new, how do you explain the music they have brought back to your life, just when you had abandoned all hope of ever hearing it again? Even Oscar and Jerry didn't know the answer, but they sure knew how to phrase the question! One night, Fred and I got to the lyric "Why can't I let you know the song my heart would sing?" and found ourselves repeating it until we had thoroughly shaken the song, each other, and our audience by the shoulders in hopes of finding the answer.
FB: Particularly during an ASCAP strike, some of the most unlikely material became grist for the swing mill, including piano concertos and Mexican Hat Dances. One of the happiest translations from operetta to big band was this exquisite ballad from the most harmonically advanced popular composer of the day, Jerome Kern, and his kid sidekick Oscar Hammerstein (who thirty-five years later wrote about the sound of music in another context).
FOOLS RUSH IN (Where Angels Fear To Tread) (Johnny Mercer – Rube Bloom)
EB: This wrenching ballad has brought tears to my eyes since I was a teen who thought she understood the perils love holds for a heart that dares to leap at the chance for happiness. I have long admired the Dorsey-Sinatra version of this completely perfect union of lyrical and musical expression, and am thrilled at the current re-appreciation of the poetic genius of Johnny Mercer.
FB: To put it very casually, Rube Bloom wrote one of this century's great popular songs, which is seeing a well-deserved resurgence long after the original fox-trot recording of the Forties. We have restored the verse, which until Rosemary Clooney's recent version was rarely recorded.
AND THE ANGELS SING (Johnny Mercer – Ziggy Elman)
EB: Another Mercer beauty (once the Angels get over their fear of treading, they start some glorious singing – no doubt they've learned a few numbers from Johnny over the years). Benny Goodman's trumpet player, Ziggy Elman, said he adapted the tune from a folk song he learned playing at Jewish weddings, as his Eastern-inflected solo indicates in the original recording. Add to the tune some Mercer magic, and Martha Tilton (one of Goodman's seemingly endless supply of spectacular girl singers) and you'll know why I've always treasured this jubilant gem.
FB: We wanted to start where the original arrangement left off, so trumpeter Bob Millikan tees off with the last four bars of the original, and we're off. That's also Bob recreating Ziggy's closing solo in the middle section of our version.
I'LL TELL THE MAN IN THE STREET (Lorenz Hart – Richard Rodgers)
EB: As a young girl, I saw the Nelson Eddy–Jeanette MacDonald movie musical I Married An Angel (I like angels) and heard this song. Nelson sings it to the people in the streets of Paris after he weds Jeanette (complete with her fluffy white wings). The early jaunty fox-trot versions are the only recordings known to me, but I always thought it would make a perfect ballad. Fred insists it's the first song he heard me sing (FB: Well, it was). EB: It became a great favorite of ours and we never doubted that it would be on "the album". I've traded Eddy for Freddy and wings for strings.
AT LAST (Mack Gordon – Harry Warren)
EB: I loved this song first from the lush Glenn Miller arrangement, but in '91 my musical director and dear friend, the late Scott Traudt, asked if I had heard the Etta James recording. I'm ashamed to admit that I had not, so he proceeded to educate me by showing me a video of Miss James belting it out as a guest on a Diana Ross television special. You can bet that I promptly changed the way I sang it to pay tribute to the great lady, and performed it frequently up until Scott's passing, when I retired it for several years. When I again took it up as a request from a longtime fan, I felt I needed to find a new style for the song, and merging and adding to the two versions mentioned, Fred and I came up with this. We agreed that it seemed best suited to a smaller group and, as you can hear, Fred works his magic with a half-dozen musicians just as easily as with two or three dozen.
FB: Another for you, Harry.
THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT/MY FOOLISH HEART (Dorothy Fields – Jerome Kern/Ned Washington – Victor Young)
EB: The grand Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie Swingtime provided me with my first hearing of "The Way You Look Tonight;" I immediately stopped the video and rewound so I could write down all the lyrics. Of course there's also Frank's big, fast swing version with Nelson Riddle, which is great fun; but I always preferred the song's original ballad format. Some years later I saw the Susan Hayward–Dana Andrews melodrama My Foolish Heart, throughout which the title song is used to such unbearably perfect effect that I found myself completely obsessed. During my preoccupation, I realized that the Fields lyric "...and that laugh that wrinkles your nose touches my foolish heart" ran magically into the Washington–Young song. Over numerous years, with as many pianists, I sought to work up an arrangement, to no avail, until I described the idea to Fred Barton. Within the hour we were performing it and perfecting it. And "this time, it isn't fascination,"... I know we have.
Music Coordinator -- Mel Rodnon
Trumpets -- Bob Millikan, David Gale, Larry Lunetta
Trombones -- Jim Pugh, Jack Gale, Chris Olness, David Taylor
Reeds -- Harvey Estrin, Ralph Olson, Andrew Sterman, Dennis Anderson
Piano -- Ben Aronov, Bass -- John Beal, Guitar -- Jay Berliner, Drums -- Tony Tedesco
Violins -- Regis Iandiorio, Ronald Oakland, Myra Segal, Richard Henrickson,
Sean Carney, Sylvia D'Avanzo
Violas -- Mitsue Takayama, Henry Kao, Cellos -- Eliana Mendoza, Sarah Seiver
Harp -- Grace Paradise

Recorded August 17-18, 1998, at National Recording Studio, New York City.
Engineered and Mixed by Gary Chester, Mastered by Paul Gold (Digirom)
Art Direction and Design by Leslie Foglesong
Photographs by Matt Glidden