Saturday, August 29, 2015

Of All The Hotel Rooms In All The World, She Walked Into Mine

You must remember this: Victor and Ilsa are visiting the cafe because he has an appointment to pay Ugarte a very large sum of money in exchange for documents which will provide safe, unencumbered passage out of Casablanca and into the free world. As they enter the club, Ilsa passes a familiar figure seated at the piano, and shortly thereafter, addressing Captain Renault, she speaks a line which causes me to cringe each time I hear it: She says, "The boy [emphasis added] who is playing the piano ... somewhere I've seen him".  In 1942, when this movie was made, it was perfectly acceptable for an adult Negro male to be called a "boy".

After Ilsa persuades Sam to sing "As Time Goes By", a visibly agitated Rick suddenly appears, and seems on the verge of striking the poor musician because we are hearing a melody Sam has been forbidden ever to play.  During the strained chat between Ilsa and Rick, their last meeting is recalled.  Rick says: "I remember every detail.  The Germans wore gray, you wore blue", to which she replies: "Yes. I put that dress away. When the Germans march out, I'll wear it again". Correction:  In that flashback scene at La Belle Aurore, she is wearing a very conservative little mousy kind of suit, not a dress.  But then, as far as I'm concerned, not one of Bergman's outfits really make any sort of memorable fashion statement.  I think the movie's much revered costume designer Orry-Kelly lost his sketch pad and much of his creativity somewhere along the heavily traversed Santa Monica Boulevard.

Fast-forward forty years to my Ingrid Bergman story ...

On August 29, 1982, I was in a Tokyo studio, recording what was to become an album titled "As Time Goes By", the song featured on the cd.

It's available today at Amazon and other online venues. The musicians are a marvelous three: Tim Horner, one of my favorite drummers, the gifted Japanese bass player Yukinori Narishige, and the marvelous, highly respected American jazz pianist Don Abney who was living in Japan at the time. Abney's reputation as accompanist to some of the leading jazz singers of the day was impressive, and so I looked forward to collaborating with him.

Feeling rested and relaxed after an afternoon nap, a shower and comfortable satisfaction about the song list, I began work on my make-up. While standing in front of the bathroom vanity, I felt a sudden jolt of heat fill the small space. I really thought the infra-red heating fixture in the ceiling had somehow surged itself into the "on" position since I certainly hadn't engaged the switch myself.

As the warmth lingered, the strong presence of Ingrid Bergman was startling, comforting and undeniable. My first reaction was astonished delight, followed by the more sensible assumption that since I was to record "As Time Goes By" in a few hours' time, my vivid imagination had stimulated an image of the beautiful woman who portrayed Ilsa Lund.

The few moments of intensity began to dissipate, then gently vanished altogether. I felt elation, gratitude and humility, in that order. Finally, it was time to meet my colleagues in the lobby of the hotel to make the journey to the studio.

Hours later, after a jolly drinks/supper party, the TV news announced that Ingrid Bergman had passed away on that date in London.  I discovered later that this information was incorrect.  At the end of her long ordeal with the cancer which would claim her at a relatively young sixty-seven, she asked her third husband to take her to their Swedish island home which became the site of her death.   I believe beyond question that Ms. Bergman entered my space to bestow a sort of imprimatur, a fleeting little form of encouragement I think of whenever I sing "As Time Goes By".

Her daughter Isabella Rossellini will present an Ingrid Bergman Tribute at London's Royal Albert Hall on September 6th this year.


Unrelated Notes:  

I will appear at The Providence Marriott for an early afternoon concert with my old pal Mike Renzi on Sunday, September 27th.  Tickets are available here or you can call 1-800-838-3006.  Just ask for the Carol Sloane Event.  Might even sing "ATGB".  

For Boston-area singers, I plan to conduct a six-week vocal workshop in Stoneham, MA starting September 12 to October 17th.  Please contact me at for details.


ssj said...

A nice story. I just remembered "As Time Goes By" is one of your most favorite tunes, or THE tune.
Please come back to Tokyo, Carol!


Sloane said...

Dear Yasuo.. Thanks for writing. I think maybe I return to Japan next year.

Best regards,

Henry Holloway said...

Carol Sloane is the BEST!!!!
Read about her in my autobiography, "Swing, Sing and All That Jazz", from
Henry Holloway
Music broadcaster for more than 40 years

Joan Merrill said...

Of all the hotel rooms in all the world, she walked into yours...

Connie Ciampanelli - RI said...

"As Time Goes By" is the very first purchase of nearly thirty Carol Sloane albums in my collection. Among its gems is one of my all-time favorite songs, "My Foolish Heart." It tears me to shreds each time I hear it.

I hope we get to see and hear you again in Providence.

art2cycle said...

Lovely story. Lovely album. And now we need to hear you in the Big Apple! Too much time has gone by.