Released in physical and digital formats and on all major streaming platforms on Fri, March 31, 2023.
Now streaming on all major platforms!
Black & Blue is the debut solo album of British-American tenor Joshua Blue. Recorded at Big Orange Sheep in November 2022, and produced by Steven Blier and Jonathan Estabrooks, Black & Blue explores themes of racial equality and human resilience, in songs spanning over five decades. The disc includes two songs receiving their first-ever recordings: Freedom Train and Negrita. Blue performs together with NYFOS Artistic Director Steven Blier at the piano, showcasing their long-standing artistic relationship.
“In the past few years, Josh Blue and I have established an incandescent musical partnership,” Steven Blier said. “This is due as much to Josh’s soaring vocalism as to our repertoire, which includes a few mainstream pieces like Black & Blue and Day Dream, but also a number of extraordinary songs that haven’t been heard in many decades, including Freedom Train, Red Beans and Rice, The Yellow Dog Blues, and Negrita. Most of the composers and lyricists on our CD are Black, and several of the songs will be receiving their first-ever recording. All of them are unforgettable, and speak to the issues of our time with surprising power.”
The title track, Black & Blue, was written in 1929 by Broadway lyricist, Andy Razaf, and his writing partner, “Fats” Waller. Razaf was coerced at gunpoint by NYC mobster “Dutch” Schultz into writing a “comic song about how hard it was to be Black”; the song, a passionate lament, received an ovation upon its premiere and a grudging, affirming nod from Schultz. Similarly Freedom Train, written by Langston Hughes in 1947 and set to music by Thomas Hayward, explores themes of racial tension during the post WWII era. Receiving its first recording by Blue and Blier, the song was inspired by a cross-country Freedom Train tour that was meant to unite Americans in the post-war era, but also exposed racial inequality in several Southern cities that insisted on segregated viewing. The resulting controversy inspired Hughes to write his famous poem.
Performed alongside well-known works including Paul Simon’s American Tune and Lewis Allen’s Strange Fruit, Negrita is a sizzling rumba that was published by W.C. Handy in 1935. Blier and Blue have collaborated on many of Handy’s songs for NYFOS concerts, who is best known for his career as the “Father of Blues” with songs like St. Louis Blues and Memphis Blues.
“This album to me is about two things,” Joshua Blue said. “An opportunity to share the magic that happens when Steve and I perform together with the world, and a celebration of the music that shaped me as an artist before opera was even a blip on my radar. From Big Brother to Black and Blue to Ride on King Jesus, these songs and musical styles helped make me, well, me.”
This recording was funded, in part, by a generous grant from Martin Fridson and Elaine Sisman. Our deepest gratitude to them, and to all our founding NYFOS Records supporters.
Our Newest EP
Released in physical and digital formats and on all major streaming platforms on Fri, Nov 18.
Pre-orders will be available for early pick up at Merkin Hall during the November 16 performance of Kabarett.
A Picnic Cantata is the result of a one-time collaboration between the piano-duo team of Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale, the composer Paul Bowles, and the poet James Schuyler. Originally premiered at New York’s Town Hall in 1953, A Picnic Cantata was well-received, but never published.
The seven-movement work balances sensuality with innocence and lightness with hints of foreboding. In its hyper-realistic world, a picnic basket seems to hold the entire contents of Zabar’s and a car materializes on cue, as four friends—two sopranos and two altos—magically gather together. Bowles’ music dips into the exotic sounds of Morocco and Ceylon, Poulenc-style post-impressionism, and pure American tunefulness to paint the journey, and Schuyler’s libretto melds the directness of Gertrude Stein with the fantasy of Maurice Sendak, allowing simple things to become paradoxical and mysterious.
Having wanted to make a studio recording of the work for over three decades, Mr. Blier said, “Paul Bowles’ A Picnic Cantata has been something of a NYFOS signature since the early 1990s. Alternatively spiky and lyrical, utterly unpredictable, and oddly graceful, Bowles’ music won me over. Coming home to Paul Bowles’ music and James Schuyler’s words has been a pleasure and something of a revelation. In the 25 years since we first encountered A Picnic Cantata, we’ve learned more about both the composer and the poet. Its colors seem more vibrant than ever.”
The Latest Singles
by Brad Mehldau
Performed by Sasha Cooke and Steven Blier
Released on NYFOS Records on July 22, 2022
“Black & Blue”
by Fats Waller and Andy Razaf
Performed by Joshua Blue and Steven Blier
Released on NYFOS Records on June 10, 2022
Fats Waller and Andy Razaf premiered “Black & Blue” 93 years ago and it still detonates as powerfully as the day it was written. Rising tenor Joshua Blue belts it out like nobody’s business, backed up by Steve Blier’s juicy arrangement. And it will be the title track of an album they are planning for next season! Get a taste wherever you stream music.
Our First Album
Featuring Stephanie Blythe, William Burden and Steven Blier, this gem of a performance finds new life on the first full album from the NYFOS Records. After over 20 years in the archives, this vital record will be available on January 28th, 2022 in physical and digital format.
Featured singles from the album:
by Thelonious Monk / Bernie Hanighen,
arr. Ricky Ian Gordon performed by Blythe and Blier
Take the Moment
by Richard Rodgers / Stephen Sondheim; performed by Burden and Blier
The album is taken from a live concert recording at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College in New York on March 23, 2000: From Rags to Riches, a compendium of American songs celebrating the last century as the new century began.
Steven Blier describes Stephanie Blythe’s voice as “a natural wonder, an uncanny mix of power and flexibility.” Of William Burden and his collaboration with Blythe, Blier recounts, “His sweet sound and patrician phrasing were the perfect foil for Stephanie’s volcanic energy, and the two of them were able to navigate all the stylistic zigzags of twentieth century American song.”
From Rags to Riches: 100 Years of American Song embraces a wide spectrum of music – art songs by Barber (“Nocturne”) and Griffes (“Evening Song”), musical theater pieces by Rodgers (“Take the Moment”) and Sondheim (“The Ballad of Booth”), jazz tunes by Eubie Blake (“Hit the Road”) and Thelonious Monk (“‘Round Midnight”), and an opera aria by William Bolcom (“New York Lights”). As the program proceeds chronologically through the century, America grows up, sometimes confronting its problems head-on, sometimes working it all out on the dance floor.
Blier explains that he is always on the lookout for songs that deal with important social issues: Cook’s “My Lady Frog” is a subtle parable about race and inclusion; Larson’s “Hosing the Furniture”, a hilarious feminist tract; and Blitzstein’s “Nickel Under the Foot”, an eloquent indictment of class struggle. The newest song, Bolcom’s “New York Lights”, is about the immigrant’s dream of America, and the oldest one, Lowry’s “How Can I Keep from Singing”, is a testament to the nation’s resilience in the face of injustice – as well as a hymn to the power of song itself.
Our First Single!
“One Life To Live”
from Lady In the Dark
music by Kurt Weill
lyrics by Ira Gershwin
Recorded live at Greenwich House in 1993 by the beloved mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and pianist Steven Blier.
Released on NYFOS Records on October 8, 2021
Over NYFOS’s 33-year history, audio recordings have always been a vital part of our work. In fact, our Grammy Award-winning recording of Leonard Bernstein’s Arias and Barcarolles helped establish NYFOS as New York City’s premiere home for song during our earliest years. Today we build on that legacy by launching a record label of our own, dedicated to sharing extraordinary live performances from our extensive archives, as well as new studio recordings with some of today’s most exciting voices. Our projected releases for the first year include a full-length live concert from our archives; a studio recording of a rarely-heard mid-century American masterpiece; and up to a dozen singles featuring artists like Julia Bullock, Kate Lindsey, Joshua Blue, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Bernarda Fink, and many others. Stay tuned for more info — and music! — throughout the season.
Thank you to NYFOS Records’ Founding Supporters!
Benjamin Brudney & Patrick Crosetto
Susan Chin & Charles McKinney
Martin Fridson & Elaine Sisman
Philip and Alexandra Howard
David Kamp & Michael Rubin
Alan Kornberg & Harold Koda
Robert and Carol Krinsky
Jeffrey Craig Miller
Claire Molloy & Seth Lloyd
Robert and Rhoda Roper
Richard Rosen & Joyce Silberstang
W. Bradley Rubenstein
Ellen and Dan Schumm
Dorothy Potter Snyder
Jack and Linda Viertel
Kate and Seymour Weingarten
Robert Youngs & Susan Cohen
Support NYFOS Records Today!
NYFOS Records is part of New York Festival of Song, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. All donations are deductible to the full extent of the law.
Add your name to the list with a contribution today! We are also looking for underwriters for specific recordings. Please contact us if you are interested in sponsoring a single or full-length album. With your support, we can ensure that audiences anywhere can enjoy the best of NYFOS, and that the magic we experience together in the concert hall lives on for future listeners around the world.
Special thanks to
The Marcia Brady Tucker Foundation
Richard Rosen and Joyce Silberstang
for their extraordinary support.