Remembering Steve Allen

Steve Allen

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It was one of those Beverly Hills "celebrity" concerts which we sometimes play. But in this case we were mostly concerned about the reaction of one person in the audience: Steve Allen. Our hosts, famous restauranteurs, had invited Jayne and Steve but weren't sure they would show up for this Gershwin concert. Steve, they told us, wasn't much of a party-goer. But they saved a couple of seats just in case.

And at the last minute, Steve and Jayne kind of snuck in, virtually unnoticed. We learned later that they had decided to come not really to hear us (actually they had not the faintest idea who we were!) but because they were great lovers of the songs of the Gershwins.

And so it went. We sang and played as best we could. And of course the Gershwin songs were, as they always have been, wonderful. After the end, amidst the chatter and the glitter, Jayne approached us. As anyone who has ever met her knows, she is a lady of great bearing and dignity...and she said a few gracious things.

And then, gulping, I asked her, "And Steve? Did Steve like the music?"

Her eyebrows seemed to arch ten inches and she said, "Oh, Steve? Didn't you notice? He began to cry after 'Embraceable You!'"

Then Lynne said, "But that was our very first tune."

Jayne snapped back, like a delighted school-mom, "Exactly!"

A few days later we received a call from the hostess. Apparently, she had heard a rumor that immediately after leaving her house, Steve had hurriedly returned home and composed a three page essay about the concert!

No, this is not a story about two performers. But it IS exactly the point about this remarkable, gentle man, a man whose heart and brain remained so open to music, a man who would go to any length to help an unknown performer, a man who, in every obituary, would be described as "the beloved Steve Allen."

Steve Allen: Comedian, jazz pianist, composer and lyricist, educator, philosopher, political activist, poet, historian, novelist. Steve Allen, who leaves all of us with an inextinguishable legacy of laughter and learning.

And love.

"The beloved Steve Allen. The beloved Steve Allen."

In that very phrase is his enduring legacy.

-Lynne Jackson & Mike Palter

"Let's suppose that some young songwriter, still open to formative influences, is willing to acknowledge that the songs of the Gershwin-Berlin-Porter school were obviously superior, in simple quality, to the pop songs of recent years. What could one recommend he do to improve his own abilities? He could make a practical start by getting every CD by Lynne Jackson . . .and Mike Palter!"

"Now you can hear the Gershwin concert which they performed at a private party in Los Angeles. During much of their performance my eyes were filled with tears, which is often my response to the simple perception of remarkable beauty. As my wife, Jayne, said on the night of the party, 'I've always realized that George Gershwin was a genius but until tonight I never fully appreciated the brilliance of Ira Gershwin.'"

"Both Lynne and Mike do something that many quite good singers have never in their entire lives been able to do . . . and that is to convey emotion, the heart-stopping, soul-lifting emotional message of the original work of art. I repeat, any even casual student of the art of songwriting should acquire every track they've ever recorded!"

Steve Allen - 1999

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