Stan Getz and the Many Shades of Jazz

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Jazz bounces, JazzBabies, and it swings.  It don’t mean a thing and all that.  Jazz can wail and burn down the house when a good jam gets going.  But jazz can also reach right into your chest and pull out your heart in the hands of musicians like Stan Getz, and this is one of the tunes that will do that.

Rodgers and Hart wrote more than their share of the great tunes from the American songbook, tunes that started on a Broadway stage and ended up in the cozy little jazz clubs on one street or another in one city or small town or another.  “It Never Entered My Mind” debuted in a 1940 Rodgers and Hart musical, Higher and Higher and has become a standard. 

Here it is live with a primo 1957 line-up of talent: Getz, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Herb Ellis, Connie Kay & J.J. Johnson from the album Body and Soul.  The melancholy mournfulness of this sweetly sad tune of lost love won’t chase your blues away but it might remind you that you’re in good company.

We’ve all been there and once in a while, in the face of such a heartfelt loss, permission’s granted to feel sorry for yourself (as long as you don’t make it a habit).

Ciao,
JazzCookie

 

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Laissez les bon temps rouler!

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And here we are, JazzBabies, at the Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday is the wrap-up day for Mardi Gras week, followed by the quieter and more pensive Ash Wednesday.  After all that carousing on Tuesday night – all night – quiet and pensive is a happy way to nurse whatever’s hanging on or hanging over from the big celebration.

And here with just the right quiet sound is a New Orleans musician – born and bred, educated and loved, in the city of his birth.  Nicholas Payton is a trumpeter, composer, traveler, writer, distinguished lecturer – you name it, this man’s done it.  From his second album, Gumbo Nouveau, recorded in his early 20s, is “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” but not like you’ve heard it before.

Settle back, JazzBabies, with a cup of chicory coffee and a beignet for this one.  Watch out for the powdered sugar!

 

Bob James Takes You to the Mardi Gras

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Well, here we are, JazzBabies, just days away from Mardi Gras with its nearly nonstop celebration of jazz, the Big Easy, parades, costumes, and a lot of other things we don’t need to write about here.

All you need are your Mardi Gras beads and your dancing shoes to celebrate in style.  So if you haven’t made your travel plans yet, now’s the time.  Somebody out there is just beggin’ for you to “Take Me to the Mardi Gras”! Please, please, please, please, please.

This is a Paul Simon tune, written and released in 1973, but the Bob James recording hit most of the jazz outlets when he included it on his 1975 Two album along with some other great tunes.

It’s a little funky, JazzBabies, and not straight ahead by any stretch, but it’s a good one, and I’ve always liked this particular album.  If it’s not what you usually enjoy remember what Mama used to say:  “Just go ahead and try it – one bite won’t kill you.”

Ciao,

JazzCookie

 

A Birthday, A Dance Party, and a Heavenly Hope

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February 4th is my Mom’s birthday, JazzBabies.  She would be 98 today and most likely not be dancing. Sadly, she was plagued with illness and didn’t make it to 50, but oh, she did love to dance when she was a young thing. And she taught me to dance when I was a young thing, too.

Part of my history of jazz is watching my parents do the jitterbug when I was a kid, and yes, they could do most of the steps you’ll see here including that upside-down-over-the-shoulder-who-cares-if-my-panties-show bit.  Lordy, it’s great to be young and in such great shape!

In honor of her birthday, I bring you this jazz medley/collage of jitterbug, swing, boogie woogie, with kids of all ages dancing for the fun of it.  If your ear is good, you’ll recognize many of the tunes, and as you’ll see by the different dress styles, swing dancing didn’t stop in the 1940s or even the 1950s.

I hope it’s not all harps in heaven – let there be swing…  And let my Mom and Dad be cutting the celestial rug!

Happy birthday, Mom

That Super Blue Old Devil Moon

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JazzBabies, we’re celebrating a super blue moon this week, and you may have been expecting that I’d post one jazz artist or another singing or playing “Blue Moon” for the occasion – and it is an occasion – but after some thought, I decided to make my way to a different little jazz avenue.

One of my favorite musicals is Finian’s Rainbow because of the great tunes, the comedy, the love story, and the Irish twist that lines right up with my own Irish heritage.  More than that, though, Finian’s Rainbow which hit the Broadway stage in 1947, is both a light and joyous Irish jig complete with a leprechaun and a musical with a social commentary that would not be out of place in today’s America.

I like this musical, too, because of Finian’s terrific line that speaks to so much of life:  “Things are indeed hopeless, hopeless – but they’re not serious.”  I keep that little passage posted where I can see it every day.

So, in honor of the blue moon and romance and my Irish gypsy grandfather, and in the hope of better times ahead, here’s one of those great Harburg and Lane tunes from Finian’s Rainbow – “Old Devil Moon” – given an appropriately jazzy take by the equallygreat combo of Anita O’Day and the Oscar Peterson Quartet.

Ciao, JazzBabies…don’t miss that moon!

JazzCookie

 

Brubeck In His Own Sweet Way

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I’m headin’ back to my cool jazz roots today, JazzBabies, and who better to take me there than Dave Brubeck who was about as cool as they come.  Brubeck composed this tune back in 1952 for his wife, and it was first released on Brubeck’s 1956 album Brubeck Plays Brubeck. 

“In Your Own Sweet Way” has become a jazz classic recorded by many artists including other jazz pianists like Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett. I first heard it in a little café in a little town in Oregon played by a man who’d had something of a jazz career but who might have, probably should have, had a wider audience than he ultimately did.  He went by the name Dick Blake back then and later changed it to Richard Applegate in an attempt to rid himself of his demons.  Dick was a force to be reckoned with and not always a pleasant force, but he could play the piano like a god.

The song title was used as the title to the 2010 Clint Eastwood documentary film about Brubeck. And here he is, JazzBabies, Dave Brubeck in his own and very cool sweet way.

Raindrops are Fallin’ on Ella’s Head and It’s Great

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Raindrops were falling most of the afternoon in San Diego, JazzBabies.  This is a good thing, although it’s always a surprise to look out the window and see wet pavement.  I’m like Little Ducky Duddles when it rains here, running through the puddles.

Then my jazz mind started running through songs about rain:  Bill Evans and “Remembering the Rain,” “Here’s that Rainy Day,” even “Rainy Night in Georgia” which is a damned fine tune but not what I was looking for.

When I happened on this one, I did a metaphorical double take until I remembered that Ella Fitzgerald could make jazz out of anything with a melody and some lyrics.  Even a tune by Burt Bacharach.

Before you think I’ve wandered too far into the pop music world, JazzBabies, you should know that Bacharach grew up in New York and used fake I.D. as a kid to get himself into the old jazz clubs on 52nd St. where he listened to the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie.  He also studied jazz harmony and used it often in his compositions.  Several of those compositions were adapted and recorded by jazz artists like Stan Getz, Cal Tjader, Grant Green and Wes Montgomery.

So it’s not such a stretch to think of Ella singing and recording Bacharach’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” the award-winning song from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.   Ella, of course, gives it her own treatment and turns the originally bouncy tune into something more akin to a ballad.  Leave it to our Ella.

The album was recorded live in Budapest in 1970, Ella with the Tommy Flanagan Trio, but was not released until 1999 by Pablo Records.  The album, by the way, includes three Bacharach tunes.

And here it is – me and Ella and Little Ducky Duddles splashin’ in the rain.

Join us, JazzBabies…

Ciao

 

 

Reviving the Spirit with Bill Evans

After the madness of yet another week of President Who, I was much in the mood for some comfort music today.  Comfort music and comfort food go hand in hand for me and this morning I have both.

My favorite cup of tea and Bill Evans.  I’m a happy lady clearing away all debris from the latest DC blasts, the lies, the knuckling under and the lack of integrity on display.

I’m taking a walk with Bill, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones down “Green Dolphin Street” where the air is clear and the spirit can be revived.

Join me, JazzBabies?

 

January Stars in Your Eyes

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Ear worm time, JazzBabies.

This tune has been hangin’ around and hangin’ around my little brain for the past few weeks.  I have no idea why, so please don’t ask.  But an ear worm is an ear worm.  I once read something by a psychologist who suggested that what we now call ear worms, tunes that just won’t let you go, have some significance in our lives…some message from the subconscious.

Possible, I know, but I can’t explain this one.  Maybe it’s okay to just like the tune.  In this case, it’s “Star Eyes,” a 1943 tune introduced in a Red Skelton goofy-as-they-come musical comedy movie by Helen O’Connell and Bob Eberly.

I took a quick listen to they lyrics and they seem – well, not to put too fine a point on it – hokey.  Song lyrics are an art in themselves and the best lyricists are flat-out poets.  The less talented, not so much – forced rhymes, convoluted lines, you know what I mean.  Like this one, Star eyes, that to me is what your eyes are… 

But I do like the melody, so I opted for an instrumental take here. The instrument is the guitar and the man at the wheel is Larry Coryell in a live performance at Portland, Oregon’s Cathedral Park Jazz Festival 2001 with Scott Steed on bass and Carlton Jackson on drums.

Side bar – true story:  Larry Coryell and I took jazz guitar lessons from the same man, oh a long time ago in eastern Washington.  The man was a much beloved musician, teacher and jazz cat, John LaChappelle.  John could play anything with strings and on Friday nights kept the customers satisfied with his banjo pickin’ until the wee hours at a local pizza joint.  My lessons, unfortunately, were at 10:00 a.m. Saturday morning when John was not in top form, so we did more talking than playing.  And so it came to pass that Larry Coryell became a jazz god, and I become an aficionado who writes about jazz.

No regrets.

Make America Groove Again.

 

2018 – Make America Groove Again!

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Happy New Year, JazzBabies…

I have only one resolution this year and that’s to Make America Groove Again!  My mission statement is “Laissez les bon temps roulez!” and I don’t have to be in New Orleans for Mardi Gras to live that one.

2017 became about the dreariest year I can remember, and at my age that’s a lot of remembering.  Too many friends and acquaintances and strangers I met in grocery store lines reported more depression and sadness and plain old frustration than I can ever recall.  Too many worries that led right back to feeling out of control of our lives.

So in 2018, I propose, and have taken up the call, to remind us all of what we can control and one of those things is what we listen to.

About two weeks before Christmas I tuned out of everything but the jazz station.  Didn’t even want to hear the news on NPR.  I’m not talking heads in the sand, JazzBabies.  I’m talking hearts in the spirit.  And this first day of the new year, that spirit is, for me, way down yonder in New Orleans.

I’ve been to New Orleans twice and both times found happiness and haven in the music and general sense of respite from a world that was too much with me.  Neither of those times was during Mardi Gras, but rather just ordinary days and nights in a city like no other in America.

It’s not perfect – no place is.  But with music that can heal what ails us, it’s pretty damn close.  The post-Katrina series Treme covered all this beautifully, and I recommend it.  Before I came to love cool jazz, I loved Dixieland.  And I’ve never stopped, especially when it’s as good as Kermit Ruffins makes it.

Here he is in a studio take on an old Dixie favorite, “The Sunny Side of the Street.”  Or as Ruffins has it, “the side of the street that’s sunny.”  I’m taken with the way he dances as he plays…it’s a great little pas de deux between the man and his music…But there’s so much more to Ruffins and his horn…Time for you to give a listen, JazzBabies…as we Make America Groove Again!