Song:Body and Soul
Album:Virtuoso of the Mouth Organ
The harmonica doesn't get a whole lot of respect unless it's played by either Toots Thielemans or Larry Adler. Adler was mainly known for playing classical music. But he also played jazz occasionally. Body and Soul is one of four songs Adler recorded with guitar legend Django Reinhardt in 1938. He was born Feb. 10 1914 in Baltimore. He taught himself the harmonica which he called the mouth organ and began his professional career as a teen. After winning a Baltimore Sun talent contest, Adler moved to New York City. He started out in vaudeville but eventually he worked with singer Ruth Etting, dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and with Fred and Adele Astaire in the 1931 Ziegfeld show Follies. After a dance band arrangement of Ravel's Bolero got him some attention, Adler moved to Hollywood and appeared in films. Though Adler was mainly a classical musician, he would occasionally work with jazz musicians. Adler always said that jazz musicians brought out the best in him. So in 1938, Adler went to France to record with guitarist Django Reinhardt and his Hot Club Quintet. You may not know that Reinhardt played with US jazz musicians and there is a box set that covers that. Reinhardt had already recorded Body and Soul. On this recording, he had violinist Stephane Grappelli play piano so Adler would get the spotlight. Other musicians were Joseph Reinhardt and Eugene Vees on guitar and Roger Grasset on bass. Other songs recorded on this May 31, 1938 session were Lover Come Back To Me, My Melancholy Baby and I Got Rhythm. You can get all four recordings on this CD from Avid Records which also includes recordings Adler made with The John Kirby Orchestra. In the 40s, Adler appeared frequently with Jack Benny. And then in the 50s he was blacklisted by the HUAC witchhunt. He moved to England and continued his career until his death on Aug. 6, 2001 at age 87. I have already written about George Martin's 1994 Larry Adler tribute CD. Here's a video of Body and Soul by Larry Adler featuring Django Reinhardt.