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GERSHWIN'S LEGACY SINGS IN HIS MUSIC

It was 100 years ago tomorrow that Jacob Gershvin was born in Brooklyn. Somewhere along the line, he turned into George Gershwin, and in the brief 38 years allotted for his life, became the ultimate American writer of music.

In varied ways, Gershwin brewed popular music, the blues, jazz and classical modes into his own special rhythmic concoctions. Those listeners who prefer extended pieces with a variety of numerous instruments to signal great music can hear "Rhapsody in Blue" or "American in Paris." But then there is also the lone saxophone player joining jazz colleagues from the ages in working over the sophisticated chords of "I Got Rhythm" one more time.

Part of Gershwin is the splendid African-American folk opera "Porgy and Bess," performed in so many ways in so many places. No matter where or how, it's lush and haunting. But Gershwin's music is also the torch singer, soloing in the spotlight, making melodic her way through "The Man I Love." Or there is Ella Fitzgerald joyously bopping "Oh Lady Be Good" in her very personal manner.

By many measures, Gershwin was the innovative master of the popular song.

So his music comes in a lavish variety of forms. Mostly, though, that music fairly begs performing artists to do it their way -- there being no single ideal way. Each generation can reinvent Gershwin to suit itself.

Now that's a legacy.

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