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Penthouse Serenade

     Rich Santucci, a fine drummer who plays with Robert Campbell and me every so often at The Four Seasons, wanted to make a demo recording of three piano/bass trios that he plays with.   So a few weeks ago we met at a hip recording studio in an odd corner of Philadelphia and ran off half a dozen tunes or so.  (One of session's trios featured Jim de Salvo, a proper jazz pianist in the Bill Evans tradition, another was headed by Bill Schilling, who played pop tunes with a jazzy twist.)  I represented the swing traditionalist, playing standards in an older idiom.  Robert Campbell, who is remarkably versatile, accompanied all three pianists.

     Recording sessions can be tense and anxious exercises, maybe especially in improvised idioms where you’re never quite certain of how things might turn out.  The meter’s running, so to speak, and the pressure to be at your best is at odds with one’s desire to be relaxed.  Then too, as in film-making, there seems to be just a lot of waiting around while mics are set up and levels tested.

     After we got going this time though, the recording proved be remarkably easy-going and we had fun doing it.  One of the tracks was Penthouse Serenade, a tune that Robert especially likes, and one that always seems to work. I always associated the tune with Erroll Garner.  I don’t have his recording of it, but I must have heard it somewhere because somehow it’s in my head with a Garner stamp.  Consequently I’ve always done it in Garner sort of way.

     The tune was written by the now obscure Val Burton and Will Jason and was recorded in 1937 by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross.  I didn’t know the lyrics to the song until I heard it sung to great effect by a patron around the piano bar at Raffles (now called the Tavern on Camac), and I was surprised to learn that it was also recorded by Nat Cole and Frank Sinatra.  I am bothered by the ungrammatical “you and I” in the lyrics ("a sweet slice of heave TO SHARE, you and I" would have fixed it, oh well...), but I like the forced rhyme of “mad pattern” and “Manhattan”.   No vocal on this one though; you’ll have to sing it yourself, but it may be a nice change to hear a real bassist and drummer instead of my usual synthetics.  Click on the title in red to hear it.  The lyrics are below.

 Penthouse Serenade

Just picture a penthouse way up in the sky

With hinges on chimneys for stars to go by

A sweet slice of heaven for just you and I

When we’re alone.

From all of society we’ll stay aloof

And live in propriety there on the roof

Two heavenly hermits we will be in truth

When we’re alone.


We’ll see life’s mad pattern

As we view old Manhattan

Then we can thank our lucky stars

That we’re living as we are.

In our little penthouse we’ll always contrive

To keep love and romance forever alive

In view of the Hudson, just over the drive

When we’re alone.

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