Coast to Coast: An American Musical Road Trip

(Various Composers)
Catalog numbers: 

SMC S982FS/ HL 294829

Duration (minutes): 
Detailed Instrumentation: 
Concert band
Travel across the country from New York to San Francisco and points in between, as this medley drives you through some of the best-known songs about U.S. cities and states in just a few minutes! Just be sure to hold onto your seat. Though the ride begins with a smooth cruise, there are a few tricky curves in the road ahead, and maybe even an “Easter egg” or two. Featuring: The Sidewalks of New York • My Kind of Town (Chicago Is) • Kansas City, Here I Come •
The Yellow Rose of Texas • Viva Las Vegas • I Left My Heart in San Francisco.
Program Notes
One of the first challenges a writer faces in a medley is, of course, how to blend songs that can differ from one another greatly in terms of style, tempo and mood into a cohesive whole that makes sense, and hopefully shows as little of the "seams" when it is stitched together for a live performance. I quickly settled on the idea to try to put the tunes in order roughly by geography, with the image of an imaginary road trip starting in New York in the east and ending in San Francisco on the west coast as the organizing force in the arrangement. As luck would have it, the musical transitions just seemed to kind of fall into place once that decision was made. I hope folks enjoy playing and hearing it.
The Sidewalks of New York is a popular song composed in 1894 by vaudeville actor and singer Charles B. Lawlor with lyric by James W. Blake. It was an immediate and long-lasting hit and is often considered a theme for New York City. Many artists, including Mel Torme, Duke Ellington, Larry Groce, Richard Barone, and The Grateful Dead have performed it. The song is written in the waltz style that was popular in its day. This arrangement actually begins loosely based on Nat King Cole's recorded version, but abruptly takes a turn in the second verse to a more intense interpretation in the relative minor key, reminiscent of the film scores of Lalo Schifrin, and with a little nod to another well-known New York tune.
My Kind of Town (Chicago Is) was composed by Jimmy Van Heusen, with lyric by Sammy Cahn. The song was originally part of the musical score for Robin and the 7 Hoods, a 1964 musical film starring several members of the Rat Pack. Of course, it goes without saying that the major influence for this arrangement is the timeless interpretation by none other than the great Frank Sinatra.
Kansas City (Here I Come) is a rhythm and blues song written by the hit songwriting duo of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1952. It became one of Leiber and Stoller's most recorded tunes, with more than 300 versions. While in writing this section, I was mostly listening to the version by Fats Domino, but I'd say the style is more an amalgam of many "covers" that is simply designed to be fun to listen to. Incidentally, the slow trumpet introduction from W.C. Handy's St. Louis Blues just seemed to work well as a transition, both musically and geographically.
The Yellow Rose of Texas is a traditional American folk song dating back to at least the 1850's that many people, even outside of Texas, are well-familiar with. It is widely considered one of the most popular Western songs of all time, with several versions of the song having been recorded by the likes of Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, and Mitch Miller. I had a bit of fun with this tune, first drawing it out into a lyrical "mini-chorale" and then taking it through a couple faster iterations, with some brief salutes to other songs about the Lone Star State that the careful listener will recognize.
Viva Las Vegas is a 1963 song recorded by Elvis Presley, written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman for his Viva Las Vegas film vehicle. People may be surprised to find out that Presley never actually sang the song live outside of the movie performance, yet despite that it has become one of "The King's" most iconic numbers, widely known and often performed by others. The low brass gets its moment of glory channeling Elvis' inimitable baritone in the verse following the intro.
I Left My Heart in San Francisco requires little introduction, even to this day. Written in the fall of 1953, with music by George Cory and lyric by Douglass Cross, it became best-known as the signature song of Tony Bennett, as well as one of the official anthems for the city of San Francisco. In deciding to take a "detour" from Bennett's easy-listening style, as well as Alfred Reed's lyrical and popular stand-alone concert band arrangement, I decided what the tune needed as the ending of this medley was a little uptempo pizzazz. With the imagination fired by the spirit of Count Basie's sassy big-band arrangement, it all comes together in a dramatic and rousing finale.
This arrangement was made possible by the support of two influential people who I wish to acknowlege. The first is composer James Barnes, who needs no introduction in the band world. I have admired his work since performing his well-known Alvamar Overture on one of my earliest middle school concerts. In working for Keiser Southern Music, I have had the distinct honor over the past several years to get to know Jim on a personal and professional level, and the thrill of him hearing this piece as it was being recorded this past spring can best be described as like cutting a record together with your favorite childhood rock star. I also want to give special thanks to Lauren Keiser, not only my most important mentor in the business of publishing, but also as an insightful advocate of musical talent, whose ability to inspire and develop one's artistry is second to none. With thanks to both of these of these inspirational figures, and the unwavering support of my family and friends, this little romp was born.
Joe Derhake