They go back 65 years, all the way back to Boyd Raeburn's band, and last night David Allyn [pictured] and Johnny Mandel were reunited for the first time in years at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola in New York. David, 90, is a singer's singer and still among the most sensitive big band vocalists in the business. David was in town to see Johnny, 84, lead the DIVA Jazz Orchestra through 10 songs he arranged. In most cases, the songs were Johnny's own blockbuster compositions. The song lineup included The Shadow of Your Smile, Emily, I Want to Live theme, Cinnamon and Clove and Not Really the Blues. [Photos by Marc Myers]
David and Johnny [pictured] joined Raeburn's band in 1945 in San Francisco, with Johnny on trombone and David as the orchestra's male vocalist. Johnny's charts for Raeburn at the time included Eagle Flies and How Deep Is the Ocean. David's hits with Raeburn included Forgetful (which Chet Baker later adapted), Out of This World, There Is No You and If I Loved You, which Johnny arranged.
But perhaps Johnny and David's greatest work together would come in 1957, when Johnny arranged David's A Sure Thing: David Allyn Sings Jerome Kern, which today remains one of the most remarkable vocalist-with-strings albums ever recorded (see my in-depth interview with David here and Johnny here). It's also extremely rare on LP or CD.
Certainly the funniest moment occurred just after the first set, when someone came up to David, shook his hand and asked if he wanted to meet Johnny Mandel. David looked at me puzzled, shook his head and said, "Kids."
JazzWax clip: I can't get Johnny Mandel's addictive M*A*S*H melody (Suicide Is Painless) out of my head, which the DIVA Jazz Orchestra peformed last night. Now it's going to be in your head for the day here (lyrics by director Robert Altman's son Mike)...