In the 1950s I had two separate and very different musical preferences. First of all, even though I wasn’t quite as hooked on early rock and roll as some members of my generation, I was beginning to find some of it pretty interesting — and especially captivating when playing on a jukebox surrounded by cute girls. At about the same time I discovered big band music and began finding ways to enjoy it whenever possible. That usually meant listening to it at my friend Louie’s house, while trying to save money for my own records and a hi-fi to play them on. (Louie was a talented musician in the school band and also a little jazz band, and he had a homebrew hi-fi system that sounded pretty darn good.)
The two types of music seemed to co-exist pretty well in my life, although I had to be a little careful in how I approached my musical enjoyment. At that time, the kids considered to be cool were the ones listening to the new stuff on the jukebox, and if I happened to be one of those crowding around it, I knew better than to mention Benny Goodman. On the other hand, Louie and a couple of other capable instrumentalists I knew, who were probably even cooler than the cool kids if you took the long view, wouldn’t have been too receptive to hearing about the latest Elvis tune.
These dual preferences of mine continued for a few years, and as I got to college age I expanded my older jazz tastes to include some modern stuff, but eventually a third musical favorite entered my world. It wasn’t really jazz – and it certainly wasn’t rock and roll – but I liked it. I don’t remember exactly when or how I first heard Ferrante & Teicher play, but it might have been on the radio, where they were beginning to get a lot of airtime. I’m sure it wasn’t at Louie’s house because he thought they were too square — which interestingly enough, was an opinion shared by the kids listening to rock and roll.
Arthur Ferrante and Louis Teicher were a pair of virtuoso pianists – prodigies in fact – who met as students at Julliard and began working together. After graduation they joined the faculty, but they had other plans. They proceeded to build a career through club dates, concerts, and records and for almost forty years they were a huge success.
Their initial success was built on light classical music, show tunes, movie music, and standards, but along the way they were always growing and experimenting, not only how they presented themselves (note their progression in the pictures) but also with different sounds. In some cases their experimental pieces, which utilized all kinds of added elements such as electronics, wood, paper, and odd percussion instruments, didn’t quite catch on with the record-buying public. However, they cut a wide swath through other genres with good record sales and successful concerts.
Their biggest hits were movie themes such as “Exodus”, “The Apartment” and “Tonight” (from West Side Story), but some of my favorites have always been their tunes with a Latin beat. Here’s a couple that show that side of their music and how it could vary within that genre. The first, “Adios”, is soft and melodic, while the second “Tico Tico” shows some of their experimental sounds.
If I had been braver when circling the jukebox in those days then I guess I would have admitted to my fondness for their music, but I’m finally now confessing to my guilty secret.