LEO REISMAN – drawings photos music contemporary comments

©Jane Reisman Jampolis & Karl Reisman
see Miguel Covarrubias

The New York Public Library

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center 40 Lincoln Center Plaza New York, N.Y. 10023-7498 Phone: (212) 870-1630

[Under construction].

“Those were brave days”. from TIME Magazine, Feb. 24, 1941
1928. . . “when wisecracking, dandified, vote-getting Mayor Walker was giving New York City the kind of musical-comedy administration it could then afford. They danced to Leo Reisman’s orchestra at the Central Park Casino, munched hot dogs to the smack of Babe Ruth’s home runs at Yankee Stadium, first-nighted the boom-time musicals. . . . Those were brave days.”

and from the New Yorker of the time:
“Thence we dashed forth to the Central Park Casino, which is a lovely spot in summer, . . . But the real reason for going there is still the fact that Leo Reisman’s orchestra is what it is. I want the piano player for Christmas. I want Leo Reisman for my next birthday. Daddy, buy me one of those.”

A search of the digital New Yorker did not find this piece, Nevertheless the page I have is clearly from the New Yorker including the filler quotation from the Boston Herald (“The Education of a Police Commissioner”) at the bottom of the middle column.]

.A series of Reisman recordings have been restored by MusicProf78 and are available to listen to in sequence at       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55PofrLPoik&list=PLTFzQlK7fWk_ARI1_rEQO2NTyrVuPyW6M

SEE also the “Roaring 20’s” Leo Reisman playlist at   https://www.youtube.co/playlist?list=PLAEEFEA98D6C97ECC

1930’s Reisman recordings can be found at the YouTube searchlist at   https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Pleading+++Leo+Reisman 

ALSO SEE the long list (5 psges) of Leo Reisman links found by searching at http://www.jazz-on-line.com/pageinterrogation.php


The Internet Collectors:
#1 Leonard Schwartz
#2.Radio Dismuke 1920’s and 1030’s music
the oroginal master at rescuing the 1920’s and 1930’s musical tradition. I personally want to thank him for introducing me to the wonderful 1927 recording “Pleading” by Leo Reisman.  (available on the page as a Real Script).                                                                                                                     Also an MP3 is available at  https://www.dropbox.com/sh/nthbrbcx8b3gyaa/AAAFlt8C3GGLGPqZTBQVBV3va?dl=0
I also want to recognize the interest and work of
Elijah Wald (see http://www.elijahwald.com/)
and his book How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music. “A history of American pop music from the dawn of recording through the 1960s that turns up new stories and provides a fresh outlook on old ones by looking at what people were listening to and dancing to over the years, rather than focusing on the usual histories of jazz and rock. (Available from Oxford University Press in spring, 2009)”
[“I couldn’t put it down. It nailed me to the wall, not bad for a grand sweeping in-depth exploration of American music with not one mention of myself. Wald’s book is suave, soulful, ebullient and will blow out your speakers.” –Tom Waits ]
Wald is also author of – among others –
Narcocorrido: Mexican drug ballads (página en español) Narcocorrido: un viaje dentro de la música de drogas, armas, y guerrilleros, http://www.elijahwald.com/corrido.html+
Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Blues
Riding With Strangers: A Hitchhiker’s Journey
– and homemade CDs of blues, African acoustic guitar, and the Bahamian Blind Blake.
He suggested to me the website
If you search there for Leo Reisman you will get a list of a hundred or so recordings you can listen to or download.

Recently a number of people have put beautifully processed and illustrated recordings up on YouTube, including in alphabetical order:     240252   Bigband78   disco79   edmundusrex   HMV163


In honor of our new President I offer for listening:

Happy Days Are Here Again Leo Reisman orchestra

[[If you have dial-up and would rather have the file on disk you can down load the mp3 file from KeepandShare]]

This song was used by Roosevelt, here in Leo’s recording from that time, a recording also used at the opening and climactic scenes of Haskell Wexler’s film Medium Cool .about the 1968 Democratic Convention and the Police Riots.

Leo’s Theme song (after 1930) was Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love” played here with a superb trumpet solo by Bubber Miley. Listen
-[download or listen with your own music program
from this website]]

“Bubber didn’t play the blues on his horn, he sang them. ~ Sonny Greer
” When he put that horn in his mouth and played the blues, nobody, I mean nobody could touch him.” ~ Luis Russell


“When Sonny Greer and Luis Russell spoke of Bubber Miley playing the blues, they did not mean the blues, as thought of, today. Rather, they were speaking of Bubber’s peculiar manner of playing the trumpet, which
combined the use of “blue notes” with the “jungle effect” of using a plunger mute, while growling into the horn. For many who first heard it, Bubber’s sound was just “too weird.” But for Duke Ellington and members of his band, Bubber’s playing style was a revelation. In fact, without Bubber Miley’s trumpet and the compositions he wrote*, it is arguable whether the jazz world would have ever regarded Duke Ellington’s name with any significance, at all. As expressed by John Edward Hasse, “before Miley’s arrival, the Washingtonians [Ellington’s early band] had been something of a polite dance band. Miley took them irrevocably into the realm of jazz.” [Hasse, Beyond Category]
Even Ellington himself seemed to recognize his debt to Bubber, when he stated that, after hearing the trumpeter, ‘we decided to forget all
about the sweet music.’ [Shapiro & Hentoff, Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya]
– – – * Bubber Miley’s compositions included some of the earliest classics associated with Ellington’s band. On some, he is credited as co-
composer; on others, he is not credited, at all. By almost all scholarly accounts, however, Bubber Miley was the principal composer of such works as “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo,” “Creole Love Call” and “Black And Tan Fantasy.” – – –
And yet, despite his pivotal influence on perhaps the most important band in jazz history, Bubber Miley was one of the very few musicians that Ellington ever fired. . . . Soon after his last session with the band, on January 16, 1929 . . . Bubber found work with Noble Sissle’s band, which traveled to Paris, for a brief engagement in February or March 1929. When he returned, Bubber was hired by bandleader, Leo Reisman, to perform in a Vitaphone short. Filmed in March 1929, the short was entitled ‘Leo Reisman and His Hotel Brunswick Orchestra in “Rhythms”‘ (Vitaphone 770) . . . Beginning in January 1930, Bubber made several recordings with Leo Reisman’s band. ”

(from liner notes by Jeff Hopkins September 2005, at “Collateral Works”)

The trumpeter Max Kaminsky also made a number of
recordings with Leo – and in his autobigography, Jazz Band: My Life in Jazz gives a very insightful glimpse into Leo;s character. As I remember it he was in a mens room washing up when Leo came out of a stall. Leo startled to see him said, “Max, What are you doing here?”
Kaminsky’s comment was that Leo was actually a very shy man in a very public profession.



In what follows I have given links that let you listen to some musical examples in approximate chronological order – so the visitor can get some sense of what this music was all about.
[It is our belief that this music is in the public domain and if someone still holds rights in it it is nevertheless being pirated all over the place and CD’s are being sold. So here goes.]

Draft notes for additions to a bio

BOSTON – the 1920’s

In 1910 a small boy in velvet pants appeared with his violin on the stage of a theatre near Copley Square, Boston, then called the “Bijou Dream” (In the 1950’s this was an art movie house called the “Exeter Theatre”). From that time on he was always able to earn money with his fiddle, and from the age of 13 was essentially self-supporting. He formed small groups with other young musicians and played society parties and other functions – and still found time to finish high school at his beloved English High, and to take courses at the New England Conservatory of Music for some years and in those democratic days to attend some courses at Harvard.
(I should also mention Miss Wood, his teacher in the seventh and eighth grades, who gave him ideas about the values and virtues in life that he clung to forever and who seems to have taken the time to set him an example of American English culture which never fully left him.. When he was 13 she presented him with a gold watch and a complete Shakespeare in many volumes, which he preserved on a special shelf in the living room his whole life,)

After a stint with the Baltimore Symphony, Leo established himself in the Egyptian Room of the Hotel Brunswick, where he became something of a Boston institution, a darling of Boston society, university students, and some musical professors, including notably Archibald T, Davison, the “legendary” conductor of the Harvard Glee Club and the Harvard University Choir (“legendary” comes from the official history of the Harvard University Choir. He was certainly legendary to me when I met him in 1949.). Visiting composers were often taken to the Egyptian Room to be given a taste of “Jazz” with proper Boston finish. Notable among these were Ravel (who was introduced to the Sousaphone – which he later used – and with whom Leo had some discussion he later referred to in his article on Jazz in the program of his Symphony Hall concert of 1928 ) and Milhaud who makes mention of him in his autobiography Notes without Music.


Leo’s Hotel Brunswick orchestra 1919

From that original Egyptian Room orchestra at the Brunswick on Copley Square here is “Bright Eyes” (1921), remembered by Lillian and Leo as his first recording: Listen Here
Also you may want to hear the somewhat livelier Bygones
of 1922 (download or listen with your own music program here),
and My Electric Girl of 1923 (download or listen with your own music program here)

Note on Milhaud from “program notes” for a concert by The Symphonic Winds (Williams Collelge): “Milhaud became intrigued with the latent potential of jazz when he heard the Billy Arnold Jazz Band playing in a Hammersmith dance hall in London in 1920; he became obsessed after a trip to New York City in 1922. He spent many evenings listening to the Leo Reisman Band [in Boston] and the Paul Whiteman orchestra, trying to analyze and assimilate this music. He took many trips to Harlem to hear the black musicians play in clubs which were still wholly unfrequented by white musicians, and he took home to France a collection of Black Swan “race” records which he played again and again.

In 1921 Jerome Kern asked Leo to come to New York and appear in his Broadway show Good Morning Dearie – on stage as part of the show (listed in the program as: “Leo Reisman’s Band – Specialty”).

The Literary Digest of January 14, 1921, took the invitation as a sign of “Jazz Played Out” and a victory of what it called “sane dance music”. Of Jazz it began:
“Dead, we are assured, it is, though some words in commendation were reported to have been spoken recently by no less a musical genius than Dr. Richard Strauss. The New York Herald reports that ‘the decline and fall of jazz has been going on apace during the present theatrical season, as attested by the success of the non-jazz musical offerings in the New York theater, and the comparatively short runs of the attractions featuring jazz music.’ The impetus to the new vogue for sane music, particularly sane dance music, is said to have been given in Boston.
Musicians generally, and particularly leaders of dance orchestras, are of the opinion that the march back to normality as regards dance music started in Boston, and with the Leo F. Reisman dance orchestra, which has been engaged to come to New York for the first time in Good Morning Dearie
“Two years ago in Boston, Reisman, the leader of the orchestra, was called upon to put together a dance organization for the Brunswick Hotel. Jazz then was at its height, and aside from clarinets and trombones, the alleged musical instruments of a dance orchestra included such melody makers as cowbells, whistles, sleigh bells, coconut shells, and even tin pans and wooden rattles.
“Reisman eliminated both clarinets and saxophones [an examination of the photo of the Brunswick orchestra above will quickly demonstrate the error of this claim and perhaps others in this piece] and he informed his trap drummer that he was to play only the drums, while to the orchestra in general he issued the instruction that it was to play only the notes indicated by the score, and no interpolated effects would be permitted. Then he set a tempo and a rhythm. The new tempo was somewhat more deliberate than that usually set by a dance orchestra, and the rhythm was rather suggestive of a glide than a hop.
Soon the hotel began to have a most desirable dance following, and Reisman found himself invited to play for the big social affairs of the big Eastern colleges.”
“We do not depend on our rhythm to create interest,” says its leader, “We merely use this rhythm for its psychological effect. We attempt to make our music melodic, so that the formost suggestion to the dancer is a suggestion of gliding and never of jerky, ungraceful movement. We seek always to give the melody its true importance.”

So Leo Reisman of 1921.

[Actually if you listen to the 1931 recording of “What Is This Thing Called Love” you will hear that the whole issue is much more complicated. Leo seems to have been consciously working the melodic line against a number of rhythmic and other musical effects – in this case the trumpet of Bubber Miley, certainly not restrained, and towards the end the rhythm of a brass march. This was very much his intention.
At no time was he trying to create the effect of a “string quartet” or an orchestra for thé dansant unless he thought the piece specifically called for it. In the early recordings he in fact gave the impression of the melody line as almost a single instrument against a thin but sharply articulated rhythm. It may have been this quality that made Kern think of a “string quartet”. In fact hotel room audiences often had members who complained that the music was too “loud” – by which they meant that the sudden rhythms forced them to ‘wake up’ or distracted them from their conversations. KR]


In the later 1920’s Leo and the Brunswick’s manager created America’s first sidewalk cafe, something he took pride in.
Leo also had satelite orchestras at the Hotel Lenox and elsewhere where he would make brief personal appearances, and played numerous society parties.
Bostonians I met in later years would have fond memories of that time.
A number of people who performed with the orchestra at one time or another became famous later – in the movies (Walter Pidgeon, Sonny Tufts, Ray Bolger), as conductors (Werner Janssen), and as jazz musicians. – – – – (incomplete)

The History of WBZ says: “1926 was the year of the first network, NBC, and WBZ would become one of its first affiliates. Leo Reisman and the Hotel Brunswick orchestra played the popular songs of the day.”
He had earlier, so the family remembers, been the first dance orchestra on radio at Pittsburgh’s KQV or KDKA

In the mid 1920’s Leo Reisman’s orchestra was hired to play the intermissions at the Boston Bruins Hockey Games. Finding that the rhythm section could not be heard in the unmiked accoustics of the Boston Garden, he put the rhythm into the brass sections – and claimed to have invented “Swing” by doing so.


In 1927 Leo and Lillian took their first trip to Europe. So far I have few facts about that trip. They were well entertained and remembered flying from Italy to the south of France with a famous aviator – for them at that time a very adventurous experience.


By 1927 Leo’s orchestra had begun to change its style and orchestrations, although there is still a distinctly ‘early’ quality. The result was a number of wonderful recordings; “Pleading”, “Red Lips Kiss My Blues Away”, “Just Call on Me”. Here are
(download or listen with your own music program here
and “Red Lips Kiss My Blues Away


On Feb 19, 1928 Leo presented a concert at Symphony Hall, Boston, featuring a trumpet (cornet?) solo by Johnny Dunn on W. C. Handy’s “Aunt Hagar’s Blues, two pieces by Ferdie Grofé, and the “jazz” composition “Clowns” by the composer Charles Martin Loeffler (dedicated to Leo, score deposited at the Library of Congress).. (see the list of musicians in the documents section of these pages [to come])
The idea of a Symphony Hall concert was probably influenced by the Paul Whiteman concert in New York in which Gershwin played his Rhapsody in Blue.
[“A concert entitled An Experiment in Modern Music, which was held on February 12, 1924, in Aeolian Hall, New York, by Paul Whiteman and his band with Gershwin playing the piano. . . . After the success of an experimental classical-jazz concert held with French-Canadian singer Eva Gauthier at Aeolian Hall on 1 November 1923, band leader Paul Whiteman decided to attempt something more ambitious.[1] He asked Gershwin to contribute a concerto-like piece for an all-jazz concert he would give in Aeolian Hall in February 1924. . . . Late on the evening of January 3, at the Ambassador Billiard Parlor at Broadway and 52nd Street in Manhattan, while George Gershwin and Buddy De Sylva were playing billiards, his brother Ira Gershwin was reading the 4 January edition of the New York Tribune.[2][3] An article entitled “What Is American Music?” about the Whiteman concert caught his attention, in which the final paragraph claimed that “George Gershwin is at work on a jazz concerto, Irving Berlin is writing a syncopated tone poem, and Victor Herbert is working on an American suite.”]

Here is a slightly clipped at the edges photograph of the Symphony Hall orchestra and a photograph of Loeffler.


Charles Martin Loeffler

(Also see Leo Reisman’s essay on Jazz from the program of the concert – again in the documents section.
It demonstrates his view of Jazz as needing to be “refined”, and shows his deep appreciation of the attention of composers like Ravel (whom he quotes) and Milhaud, and Loeffler. It also shows his acceptance in 1928 of the melting pot theory of American culture. Nevertheless it did not mean he wanted to make jazz bloodless. He often complained of performances of Gershwin and other composers by “classical” musicians that missed the spirit of the music and the life of the rhythm in it.)


Here are 2 photographs of Leo and the orchestra playing in the streets of Boston while being given the Key to the City by Boston’s mayor James Michael Curley:




Also in 1928 he was selected by Noel Coward as the orchestra for his first American recording – a disk with photographs of both imprinted on it, one on each side:
LEO REISMAN & his Orch. (Picture disc): Selections from Bitter Sweet, This Year of Grace & Charlot’s Revue, 4 with vocals by Noel Coward VI 39002 E (Victor)



Leo Reisman and George Gershwin in Paris. Probably 1927.



Late 1920’s and Early 1930’s NEW YORK

Leo moved to New York in 1928 to open Mayor Jimmy Walker’s Casino in Central Park – (afterwards it became a playground – at 72nd St. and Fifth Avenue).
With him he took a young piano player introduced by his wife’s sister Frieda (later Elsa) who was dating him. His name was Eddy Duchin. In New York at the Casino there were two rooms. Reisman was in one and in the other Emil Coleman was making a hit with his piano playing. So Leo started featuring Eddy Duchin in his arrangements.

When later in the 30’s Duchin came to take over the Casino band he kept many of the songs and arrangements, at least at first.

(One note of protest – the figure of Leo Reisman
that appears in The Eddy Duchin Story in
NO way resembles either the looks or personality or even the age of any real Leo Reisman. At the time Leo was in his 30’s.)


In the early 1930’s Leo set the record (which he still holds) for the longest run at the Paramount theatre – featuring an appearance by Bubber Miley –
“On November 6, 1930, Bubber debuted with Leo Reisman, at New York’s Paramount Theater. To help circumvent objections to “race mixing,” Reisman set up Bubber as an usher. In fact, Bubber did help seat the audience, prior to the show. Sometime during the performance, however, Bubber would begin playing his trumpet. Starting at the rear of the theater, apparently caught up in a moment of musical spontaneity, Bubber would work his way to the bandstand, while playing ‘St. Louis Blues’ ”
(Jeff Hopkins, from liner notes).


In the late thirties (1939) he played the Strand Theatre, introducing Dinah Shore as vocalist.


On radio he was the star of the Pond’s Cold Cream hour, the Schaefer Beer program, and The Phillip Morris show. In 1940 he was the orchestra on the Lucky Strike Hit Parade.
Here is the remains of a picture of the orchestra of the Scheafer Beer Program:

And here are a couple of photographs of Leo with me (aged 4) at a rehearsal of the Phillip Morris show.




In these early thirties Reisman made significant recordings with three special people doing the vocals – Harold Arlen and Fred Astaire. and Lee Wiley.

Leo Reisman introduced the very young Lee Wiley, her first recordings. Here is Leo Reisman with Lee Wiley’s recording of Time on My Hands (Vincent Youmans)(also download or listen with your own music programhere).
Also a wonderful recording of Lee Wiley singing “Take It From Me with Bubber Miley doing a trumpet ‘in her face’.

Harold Arlen, one of America’s great composers, had a remarkable sense of rhythm and style which went into his vocal performances. It is not clear how the idea of Arlen doing the vocals on these records came about, there are different stories.
(The relationship had to have been close. When Leo died in 1962, long a figure from the past, Arlen flew in from California for the very unpretentious and unpublicized funeral, sitting at the back without announcing himself. The only well known person from his past to be present, except for the violinist John Corigliano.)

Of the songs by Harold Arlen with the composer doing the vocal, the first was “Stepping Into Love”, a “CollinsStone Foxtrot”, (“January 1932) – “a number not associated with any show,”
The second was the original version of “Stormy Weather”.
In this recording the violin is played by Leo and then Arlen does the vocal — Stormy Weather.(download or listen with your own music programhere)

Reisman and Arlen also joined forces for a dialogue on a recording of “Happy as the Day is Long”: LISTEN
(or download or listen with your own music program here)
“Arlen and Koehler penned this song for the 22nd Cotton Club Parade in 1933. Other Arlen-Koehler tunes from this show include “Get Yourself A New Broom (And Sweep The Blues Away),” “Raisin’ The Rent,” and the immortal “Stormy Weather.””‘ (The Virtual Victrola – on “Happy as the Day is Long”)

From Edward Jablonski Harold Arlen page 52 on the “Stormy Weather” recording:
“For the twenty-first edition of the Cotton Club series in 1932, the first of the Cotton Club Parades, Arlen and Koehler made a splash with their new songs I’ve Got the World On A String and Minnie the Moocher’s Wedding Day, which was a specialty number for Cab Calloway as a follow-up to his hit song Minnie The Moocher. Since Calloway was not signed to appear in the twenty-second edition of the Parade, Ethel Waters was slated to sing Stormy Weather instead. An RCA Victor recording of Stormy Weather performed by the Leo Reisman Orchestra with Arlen doing the vocal stirred such interest in the song that by opening night of the 1933 Cotton Club Parade, crowds of New York elite’s gathered just to hear Ethel Waters sing it.”

* Ill Wind and “As Long as I Live,”
“Arlen and Koehler took a year off during the twenty-third edition of the Cotton Club to spend a few weeks in Hollywood on their first film assignment entitled Let’s Fall in Love (which was also the name of the hit song from the movie).
They returned in 1934 to write their final big Cotton Club numbers, Ill Wind and As Long As I Live.” ( as well as “You’re A Builder Upper” also recorded by Reisman and Arlen)
One remarkale song, with a slight touch of Cuban influence was Arlen’s Shoein’ the Mare – which he and Leo recorded together.

(http://www.haroldarlen.com/bio-4.html) (info@haroldarlen.com samusic@haroldarlen.com)
(This website provides a “complete” list of Arlen’s songs – although no futher information – at :

From Hooray for What 1937
Recorded by Harold Arlen with Leo Reisman and His Orchestra, February 28, 1933
Musical Numbers
* God’s Country
[* Down With Love] ??
* In the Shade of the New Apple Tree
* Hooray for Love
Hooray for What! was an anti-war musical,
with music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by E. Y. Harburg and a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse.

It introduced the song “Down With Love”. [? “Hooray for Love ? ] ]
Productions: The original Broadway production opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on December 1, 1937, and ran for 200 performances. Directors were Vincente Minnelli and Howard Lindsay, and choreographers were Robert Alton and Agnes de Mille (her first Broadway choreography).
It featured in the cast Ed Wynn, Jack Whiting, Paul Haakon, June Clyde, Vivian Vance, Hugh Martin, Ralph Blane and Meg Mundy.”

* Smoke Rings 1932 (Ned Washington and H. Eugene, “Gene”, Gifford) This is one song Arlen sang with Leo that he did not write. Bur it seems to have come out of the same 1932 Cotton Club show as some Arlen songs. Later it became the Theme of the Casa Loma orchestra.
Smoke Rings LISTEN

* I’ve Gone Romantic on You ?? R
* Moanin’ in the Mornin’
* Down With Love

= = = = = = = =

Reisman also made a number of recordings in the early thirties with Fred Astaire – including the original recording of “Night and Day” (1932Listen.“,
(or download or listen with your own music programhere)

These recordings began with an early attempt at a long playing record of the Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz hit show The Bandwagon starring Fred and Adele Astaire.
Separate recordings of “We’re in the Money” (with Fred playing the accordeon), “White Heat” and other numbers today have better sound.

Here is the single of Fred and Adele singing “We’re in the Money” (or download or listen with your own music programhere)

And here are the two sides of long recording by Adele and Fred from the Bandwagon with Leo Reisman’s Orchestra and Arthur Schwartz, the composer playing White Heat on the piano.

Bandwagon Part one
Bandwagon Part two

Several other recordings were made with
Fred as “featured vocalist”:

I particularly like the recording of the number from
‘Top Hat’ where Fred tapdances on sand so as not
to disturb Ginger Rogers in the room below
“No Strings and No Connection” – which you can download or or listen with your own music program

“By 1935, Fred Astaire had become a film star, and he had also demonstrated appeal to record buyers by serving as the featured vocalist for Leo Reisman’s Orchestra. That year, he signed as a solo recording artist to Brunswick Records.”
William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide

Some of these were:
I’ve Got You On My Mind
Maybe I Love You Too Much
My Temptation
A Heart Of Stone Leo
1935 (from Top Hat)
Cheek To Cheek
No Strings

You’re Nearer

ASTAIRE, ADELE Adele Austerlitz Dancer, Actress (1897-1981)
Adele Astaire and her brother Fred appeared on the vaudeville circuit as children in 1905 and went on to become a famous song and dance team before Adele left to marry in 1932. She was an extrovert and her on-stage personality sparkled over that of her more reticent younger brother. The team made their Broadway debut in 1916’s Over the Top, and in George and Ira Gershwin’s Lady Be Good (1924) they became the darlings of Broadway performing the title song, “Hang onto Me,” “Fascinating Rhythm” (along with Cliff Edwards), and “Swiss Miss.”
In the Gershwins’ Funny Face (1927) they introduced the show’s title song, plus “Let’s Kiss and Make Up” and the comedic “The Babbitt and the Bromide.” In the same show Adele and Allen Kearns introduced “S’Wonderful” and “He Loves and She Loves.”
The Astaires’ last show together was a revue, The Bandwagon (1931), with music and lyrics by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz, who wrote the show-stopping closing number for the whole cast, “That’s Entertainment.”
— Sandra Burlingame (Courtesy of JazzStandards.com)

Also see/hear the performance by Fred and Adele of Fascinating Rhythm, with George Gershwin playing the piano.


In the thirties Leo also did a number of recordings in which he attempted the vocals himself. Some of these are very popular, particularly The Continental (from the Astaire and Rogers movie The Gay Divorcee(download or listen with your own music program here).
Other recordings with Leo doing the vocal included:
Without that Gal (download or listen with your own music program here)
It’s The Girl! (download or listen with your own music program here)

Leo also made several records with Clifton Webb
One that is not metnioned much, and that I can’t find
a recording of, was from the 1932 Musical
“Flying Colors” and was called “It was a Rainy Day”.
It included the memorable lines

I took her home but not to her home
She felt at once as if she were home
You see it happened we were sharing a taxi
And it was a rainy day

Before he went into the movies Clifton Webb had a
long and successful theatre career – appeaning in many shows including:

1931 Cuba from TIME Magazine
Cuban Invasion Monday, Feb. 23, 1931
“Don Azpiazu’s Havana Orchestra brought the song north last year, played it with other Cuban tunes at RKO’s Palace Theatre in Manhattan, afterwards at the smart Central Park Casino. Then Don Azpiazu went back to Cuba to entertain U.S. tourists. He left his tunes behind. Manhattan’s Leo Reisman learned to lead them. Reisman’s drummer mastered the four complicated beats which Cuban orchestras emphasize with the bongo (a double-headed drum held between the knees and played by the fingers of both hands), the claves (two sticks of a rare Cuban wood, which make a clicking sound when struck to gether) and the maracas (gourds filled with seeds which make a swishing sound) Vincent Lopez took up Cuban things and so did other jazzmen.
Last week while music publishers were haggling over Cuban copyrights, Leader Reisman returned from Havana with an other sheaf of Cuban scores. In Havana he had a rest from The Peanut Vendor, which is seldom played there. But he heard many times Ay Mama Inez, Te Odio (I Hate You), Me Odias (You Hate Me).
He went into Cuba’s interior and studied the . . . rumba dance, a series of writhings and twistings too lewd for fastidious eyes. A modified version of the rumba, the danzon, is the craze in Havana, a potential craze in the U. S. It has easy, lazy steps and, in its authentic form, an interim of a minute or so when the tempo changes and dancers stop for conversation or for the lady to sway her fan.”
(If we can excuse the highly ethnocentric perspective of this piece, it is still interesting that although he played plenty of rumbas he did not record many. Neverthless he had a treasured set of clave sticks that he used on the stand.)

Few rumbas but some of the more concert arranged ‘Latin’ numbers such as
Tango Jalousie by the the Danish composer Jakob Gade.
(download or listen with your own music program here)
And La Cumparsa (Cumparsas were “societies” mostly with Congo and Cuban roots in Montevideo, Uruguay.)
(download or listen with your own music program here)

In 1934 Leo and George Gershwin planned a national concert tour together celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Rhapsoody in Blue. Leo unfortunately fell on the ice in front of his house and broke his hip. The tour continued with Charlie Previn (André’s uncle) conducting. Here is a photo of Leo and George “planning” the tour program:


In 1937 Leo Reisman was invited to France, to play the U.S. pavillion at the 1937 Paris World’s Fair, and by Lady Mendl (Elsie DeWolfe) to play a number of parties, and by the Sporting Club of Monte Carlo to play the season there.

Sporting Club


Below is a photo of Lillian (next to Sir Charles Mendl at the back) and Leo (with Lady Mendl just in front of him) and their friends in the south of France in 1937


At the World’s Fair Pavilion Leo made an appearance on the steps and played St. Louis Blues. The crowd was so enthusiastic they would not let him play anything else for the whole day. He just had to keep playing St. Louis Blues over and over again.
(coming) (There seem to be different versions. A recent CD called Puttin’ On the Ritz uses a version that is more polite and also a little fussy. The great one, the arrangement used in Paris, began with a long clarinet wail. At the moment it is very diffictult to find this version, although I heard it all my youth.)

Leo Reisman at Cap Martin 1937

Leo and Lillian South of France 1937





In the later 1930’s and 1940’s he was the regular orchestra at the Waldorf Astoria – in the Sert Room and later the Wedgewood Room, and the Starlight Roof.


The Sert Room era was commemorated in a hard to find album called A Night At the Waldorf which featured, among others, Eve Symington (wife of later first Secretary of the Air Force and then Senator from Missouri Stuart Symington) singing “Blackman’s Lullaby”.

(Stuart Symington was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, and grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated from Yale University in 1923. Eve Symington was herself the daughter of James Wadsworth (minority whip of the Senate in the Wilson administration and later a long term member of the House of Representatives).

It was a period in which a number of “society” young women tried careers singing in clubs. Eve was exceptional in that she really drew audiences and was a legitimate headliner. In the attitudes of these society singers, according to one commentator, “notably absent were statements resembling those of the debutante Ellin Mackey (later Mrs. Irving Berlin) which praised nightclubs for their mingling of classes and sensibilities.”

In the late 1940’s and 1950’s he played in the Persian Room of the Plaza Hotel. Appearing in shows there and earlier in the Wedgewood Room of the Waldorf were among others: Gracie Fields, Lucienne Boyer, Victor Borge, and Frank Sinatra, – among many others.


Album – 1937? Reisman Rhythms
reisman-rhythms-album-image LEO REISMAN RHYTHMS


From Leo REISMAN RHYTHMS here are:
Love Walked In
Poor Butterfly



At the Waldorf Wedgewood Room in 1943-44
Victor Borge and Leo Reisman performed Gershwin’s
Rhapsody in Blue for some 2 to 3 months to critical
acclaim – but no recordings were ever made.


In 1940 Leo Reisman was the orchestra of the Lucky Strike Hit Parade. No recordings are known by me.
Some hit songs of the year included “Jeepers Creepers”
and “Oh, Johnny”.


Sometime in the early 1940’s the State Department sent Leo to Guatemala to play a Presidential inaugural. I remember he brought back 2 blankets, one of which I had throughout my early life.
Also in the early 1940’s he and Liilian were guests of Miguel and Rosa Covarrubias at their home in Coyoacan, right across the street from Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, where they visited.
Here is the drawing of Rosa Miguel and the Cat
with a dedication that Miguel put in a presentation copy of his Island of Bali.


In the late 40’s Leo became the orchestra at the Persian Room of the Plaza Hoterl, a more intimate setting (where, since we had a discount, I would take dates who acted duly impressed, but who really thought I was a bit spoiled crazy)..


from TIME Magazine
In 1930 and 1931 TIME reviewed a number of Reisman recordings under the heading:
“Some phonograph records are musical events. Each month TIME notes the noteworthy.”

January Records
Monday, Jan. 13, 1930
WHY WAS I BORN? and HERE AM I (Victor)—Jazz that is also music, written by Jerome Kern for Sweet Adeline. Leo Reisman’s version has smooth saxophones, smooth violins.

Monday, Feb. 10, 1930
Leo Reisman’s version is the best of these two hits. There is a good piano, soft saxophones and Reisman’s own violin.
I’LL SEE You AGAIN and IF LOVE WERE ALL (Victor)—Well-mannered tunes from the musicomedy Bitter Sweet. British Noel Coward, actor-playwright, composed them.
YOU DO SOMETHING TO ME and YOU’VE GOT THAT THING (Victor)—Composer Cole Porter’s jazz in Fifty Million Frenchmen is disappointing but Leo Reisman atones with smart interpretations.

June Records

Monday, Jun. 09, 1930
I Like to Do Things for You and Happy Feet (Victor)—Leo Reisman present’s smooth, teasing versions of the best tunes from King of Jazz.

July Records
Monday, Jul. 07, 1930
Rollin’ down the River and Mia Cara (Victor)—Chosen by Victor’s judges as best jazz record of the month. Leo Reisman plays it.

August Records
Monday, Aug. 11, 1930
Around the Corner and Bye-Bye Blues (Victor). Leo Reisman blaring a masculine march on one side, saying a sugared farewell on the other.

Monday, Nov. 10, 1930
Body and Soul and Something to Remember You By (Victor)—Leo Reisman does the best orchestral version of Libby Holman’s songs, Paul Whiteman next (Columbia).

May Records
Monday, May. 18, 1931
“Heavenly Night” and “It Looks Like Love” (Victor’)—Leo Reisman alternately suave and chirpy.

June Records
Monday, Jun. 08, 1931
“Out of Nowhere” and “Yours is My Heart Alone” (Victor). For these two sleekly done Leo Reisman won Victor’s Popular Record-of-the-Month award.

George Gerhwin: In the mid 1930’s he and Leo Reisman planned a tour together but Reisman slipped on the ice and broke his hip. The tour went forward with the orchestra conducted by Charles Previn, uncle of the conductor André Previn.
They also performed Gershwin’s “Variations on ‘I Got Rhythm'” (1934), a set of interesting variations on his famous song, for piano and orchestra.
Premiered at the Boston Symphony Hall by the Leo Reisman Orchestra,
conducted by Charles Previn.
( Includes a waltz, an atonal fugue, and experimentation with Asian and jazz influences)

Key Words: Leo Reisman, music, band, orchestra, Harold Arlen, Fred Astaire, Boston, violin, 1920’s, 1930’s, Hit Parade, Pond’s, Milhaud, Stormy Weather, Night and Day, Hotel Brunswick, Paramount Theatre, Miley, Kaminsky, Duchin, Jimmy Walker, The Band Wagon,
bio, Waldorf Astoria, Plaza Persian Room,

unedited further notes

KQV Pittsburgh ???
Monster Benefit For The American Red Cross. February 11, 1937. 4 network pool feed, independent stations. Sponsored by: Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum (commercials suspended). The program originates from The Radio City Music Hall. It’s a benefit for the relief of victims of the floods in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. The program is very disorganized with long pauses between several performers. Graham McNamee sounds as if he had been grabbed just at the last minute and pushed on stage. He introduces Dudley Diggs (who’s nowhere in sight), then Olga Baclanova, but he has no idea of what she’s going to sing. Hardly anyone even mentions the flood or the Red Cross. Although the audio is listed as “very good to excellent condition” below, the final 30 minutes of this recording is only “fair.” Fiorello La Guardia (first speaker heard), Noel Coward (m. c.), Deems Taylor, Walter Damrosch, Igor Stravinsky (conducts excerpts from his composition, “The Firebird”), Lucretia Bori, George Jessel (second m. c., don’t miss his story about a Roumanian dinner), Ethel Merman (in great voice, singing a medley of her hits), The Rockettes (appearing on the air for the first time, which is understandable, as their performance is purely visual. They are billed as, “Roxy and The Rockettes”), Tamara (singing the song she made famous from “Roberta,” “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”), Erno Rappe’s Orchestra, Leo Reisman (conductor), Gertrude Lawrence (singing “Limehouse Blues”), Reginald Gardiner (imitates wallpaper, a locomotive and the Hindenberg), Helen Hayes, Ruth Gordon, Evelyn Laye, Milton Berle (trades wisecrackes with Hope, and is topped by him), Bob Hope (sings, “Invitation To A Dance,” and chokes up while doing it), Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians (Glee-Club), Kitty Carlisle (sings a delightful, “Gianina Mia”), Borrah Minevitch (and his harmonica group do a visual act that keeps the audience in stitches, they then play a mind-boggling suite from, “Scherezade”), James Barton (m. c., and obviously unprepared), The Slap Dancers (from “The White Horse Inn”), Bert Lahr (sings “Woodman, Spare That Tree”), Luise Rainer (plays the “Telephone Scene” from “The Great Zeigfeld”), Jack Pearl, Cliff Hall, Graham McNamee (introduced as, “The greatest announcer since the inception of radio”), Roland Young, Ernest Truex (in a skit called, “The Mother Tongue”), Olga Baclanova (soprano), Burgess Meredith (sings!), Estelle Taylor, Henry Hull, Imogene Coca (introduced as going to do a striptease, but only music is heard). 2:28:59. Audio condition: Very good to excellent. Incomplete.

It was November 2, 1920. That evening in and around Pittsburgh, an estimated one thousand people were listening on “wireless” receivers and loudspeakers to the national presidential election results. Transmitted over a hundred-watt station that would become KDKA, this was something new: radio broadcasting. It would revolutionize communication just as the printing press had done in the fifteenth century, and as television would do, later in the twentieth century.

Experiments with the transmission of speech and music from one point to another by wireless-or radio-had begun shortly before the turn of the twentieth century. Early pioneers were Italian physicist Guglielmo Marconi, American inventor Lee de Forest, and in Pennsylvania, Rev. Joseph Murgas who demonstrated overland sound transmission from Wilkes-Barre’s Sacred Heart Church in 1905.

After World War I Frank Conrad, an engineer with the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company began operating amateur station 8XK at his garage in Wilkinsburg, a Pittsburgh suburb. By late 1919, Conrad was supplementing his voice with phonograph records, and the response from amazed listeners was immediate.

Soon Conrad was broadcasting for two hours on Wednesday and Saturday evenings, using records supplied by a local music store. The impact of Conrad’s broadcasts was not lost on his employer, Westinghouse, and its vice president, Harry P. Davis, and soon that company was making plans for its own radio station. A formal license for KDKA was issued on October 27, and it first went on the air, at about 8 P.M. on Tuesday, November 2, 1920.

21 responses to “LEO REISMAN – drawings photos music contemporary comments

  1. hi
    a very intresting article..


  2. Hi

    I serendipitously stumbled across your website today while searching for information about Leo Reisman. I’m researching a piece by Stravinsky called Preludium for Jazz Ensemble that was apparently commissioned (but not performed) by Reisman. Do you happen to know anything about this?


  3. Becki Snellenberg

    Hi. I just ran across your webpage looking for more information on Leo for family reasons. My grandmother was Rebecca Reisman and, according to my father who died many years ago, was Leo’s older sister. Since we never had contact with part of the family I’m trying to determine if this is the case. Do you have any information that could help me with this research?

    • Cousin Michael Pearlman


      Hello there. I am your aunt Anita’s son Michael. Recall that you came to visit us on Prospect Street in Newton when you were at Brandeis. I am still working at the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard. We live in Waltham. We have two children: Marc in Seattle and Elizabeth, married with a daughter in New York.

      Where are you? Send me an email. Lets talk and maybe get together.


  4. Jenny near London

    Hi This is a very interesting website. I am trying to find out who was the vocalist on the Reisman 1930 (or any subsequent) recording of What is this thing called love/ She’s such a comfort to me. It was a record that haunted my childhood!

    • Dear Jenny – thanks for your comment and question.
      Unfortunately I no longer can get my hands on the physical record.
      Still I assume that the vocalist on What is this Thing Called Love
      was Lew Conrad. But for She’s such a Comfort to Me, while there are
      several songs that have the same high pitched vocalist – I can’t find
      any information at the moment.

      Are there other songs you care about.
      Karl Reisman

    • quickbrownfox

      From a Radio Yesteryear cassette titled “Theme Songs ‘R Us”, the vocalist on Leo Reisman and His Orchestra’s 1930 recording of “What is This Thing Called Love?” is listed as Lew Conrad. Other performers in the ensemble included Eddie Duchin and Adrian Rollini.

  5. A thoroughly interesting article above. It must have been a remarkable childhood you had. Did you also follow the music gift. In my family it skipped alternate generations.

    If you do not have a copy of the record sides “Querida” and “Chalita” I have fair quality recoveries as .wav files from a worn out disk. “Chalita” has been uploaded to youtube.

    You should be able to find it there under member DARANGULAFILM clip list. If you can’t please let me know and I will attach the .wav files to an email.

    Regards from Western Australia.

    Bob Hart.

  6. Pingback: Leo Reisman with Bubber Miley « The Lateral Cut

  7. Cousin Rob Pearlman

    I am your aunt Anita’s son Robert. Michael’s younger brother. I remember you and your sister from when I was very young. One time my parents took us to visit your family somewhere down on the South Shore of Massachusetts. May have been Cohassett (??). We went to the beach and Jane worked on teaching me to swim. I couldn’t have been older than five or six.
    I also sort of remember something my mother told me when I was at Newton High School in the early 60’s. Did either you or your sister live near Newton High?
    My wife Lynn and I live in New Hampshire, with children and grand children in Florida, New Hampshire, Arkansas and Wyoming.
    I believe I read on the internet that there was a CD release recently of Uncle Leo’s music. Is that correct?
    Best regards,
    Your Cousin Rob

    • Dear Robert,
      Yes – I lived on a little street whose name I have forgotten off the road going from
      Commonwealth to Newtonville. Good to hear from you. I am in Florida now.
      You can message me more privately on Facebook. Ksrl

  8. Thank you for informing us about it..

  9. Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your website and in accession capital to assert that I get actually enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way I will be subscribing to your feeds and even I achievement you access consistently rapidly. Joye Garrish

  10. Definitely, what a fantastic site and educative posts, I will bookmark your blog.All the Best!

  11. I have sheet music for Dream Kisses which has a photograph on the front of Leo Reisman. “Featured by Leo Reisman and his orchestra at the New Egyptian Room, Brunswick Hotel, Boston, Mass.” Is anyone a collector of such things? I would send it to anyone who would want it.

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  15. Hi Karl – I am a Reisman and my mother always told me that Leo was a relative but I would need to know more about his family lineage to see if it fits. I am currently visting my cousin Emily Pearl Kingsley in New York and we have been comparing notes to figure out the Reisman lineage. We are descended from Elias and Hannah (aka Annie) Reisman who had 11 children including my grandfather and Emily’s grandmother. If you could tell me a bit more about Leo’s family maybe we can fit the pieces of the puzzle together if there is a connection.

    • I don’t know if my sister’s letter about the Castlemans was helpful. I know nothing beyond my grandfather Reisman. But the Reismans and the Castlemans were somehow related.
      Not very helpful. Sorry.
      Who was your grandfather? and if you know it great grandfather? There are people from Brooklyn named Reisman
      who are not related, but nobody in that family ever said
      they were.

  16. Thank you for this page! I was searching for information on the band/arrangement/score of ‘Night and Day’ with Fred Astaire 🙂

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