Bill Evans, Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Earl Zindars, Eddie Jefferson, Gerry Mulligan, Horace Silver, Jay Clayton, Joe Lang, John Scofield, Johnny Mercer, New York, North Beach, Real Little Ultimate Jazz Fake Book, Richie Cole, San Francisco, Wingy Manone
When I started putting this post together, I was reminded of the Johnny Mercer tune, “How Little We Know,” a tune that’s become a standard for jazz vocalists. The tune came to mind because I was browsing my copy of The Real Little Ultimate Jazz Fake Book, published by the Hal Leonard Corporation. My edition was published in 1992, and I bought it in 1999 when I was studying jazz vocal with the illustrious vocalist Jay Clayton who was living and teaching in Seattle at the time.
I tell you this by way of background. Here’s the message: This book has over 625 songs. As I was browsing it the last couple of days, I realized that I know many, many, many of those songs. Well, at least 575 of them. I might not know every word of the lyrics, but I do know most of the words thanks to parents who brought me up on the music from the time I was a little curly-haired blonde singing and dancing jazz every chance I got.
What surprised me with the book, though, was the number of tunes I didn’t recognize. This is not to say they’d be unfamiliar to every jazz aficionado out there reading this post. But they were new to me. So I did some research on Youtube and thought I’d send along a sample of JazzCookie’s new favorites, tunes I’ll remember in the future and play often.
How little I knew, but how much I discovered!
Gerry Mulligan was one of my favorites when I began to get serious about jazz, back in the days before most of you were born. I am a child of the cool, man – bebop, all black outfits, and dimly lit cafes. This tune written by Mulligan and played here by his Quartet featuring Art Farmer is titled “Festive Minor.” It’s just the kind of thing we’d have heard in San Francisco’s North Beach when it was a jazz center, long before it became something entirely other. Released in 1959 on Mulligan’s album, “What Is There to Say?” I say cooool. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSfQuIN7GWo
Another tune from the same period, “Elsa,” was written by Earl Zindars and recorded by the Bill Evans trio in 1961…that terrific trio with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian. Zindars composed both jazz and classical pieces and worked closely with Evans over the years. He also wrote Evans’ great “How My Heart Sings” which was used as the title of the biography about Evans by Peter Pettinger. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUWEFzepEDE
For a change of pace, I bring you Mr. Wingy Manone, on his own composition “Tailgate Ramble” with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Manone got his nickname in 1944 after he lost an arm in a streetcar accident. He played with a prosthesis and it didn’t slow him down one bit. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUWEFzepEDE
Charlie Parker wrote a lot of tunes, and here’s one of the best, “Steeplechase,” recorded by the John Scofield Quartet with Scofield on guitar, Bill Stewart on drums, Ben Street on the bass and Michael Eckroth on piano. This one was recorded live in Paris in April 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jGru0eE3Rs
I thought I knew all the songs about New York and if I didn’t, my friend Joe Lang of the New Jersey Jazz Langs certainly does. Joe sent me a CD not long ago of a great compilation of New York songs. I play it a lot. But this tune was not included. Joe, tell me what you know about “New York Afternoon.” The tune was written by Richie Cole and performed here by Cole with Eddie Jefferson. The whole thing makes me feel like I’m back in Central Park on a sunny day. Let’s meet for coffee by the lake. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iy99BzElYtk
I’m happy I discovered this next lovely tune, a Horace Silver composition from 1964 and included on his well-received album “Song for My Father.” The tune is “Lonely Woman” and personnel on this recording include Silver at the piano, Blue Mitchell on trumpet, Junior Cook on tenor sax, Eugene Taylor on bass and Roy Brooks on drums. There are those among us who believe this tune “works directly on the endocrine system to slow our heartbeats down to a Zen-like crawl.” I would not be one to disagree with that…turn down the lights and let yourself get caught in the peaceful Silver spirit. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkbwGv3QKQc
When I count to five, you’ll wake up with a swingy little number that will bring you out of that Zen trance and get the blood circulating again. This is Dexter Gordon’s “Fried Bananas,” recorded in 1969 with Gordon on tenor sax, Barry Harris on piano, Buster Williams on bass and Albert Heath on drums. Gordon was an expat who lived in Europe for many years and was nominated for an Academy Award in 1986 for his role as Dale Turner in “ ‘Round Midnight,” a role that echoed his own life. This tune is from the album “Sophisticated Giant,” recorded in 1977 a year after his return to the United States. Sophisticated is the word, my friends. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ84jlWvelw
And that, JazzBabies, is a wrap. I’ll be listening to some live jazz in Utah next week and will report on that soon. I hear this trio is good and plays straight-ahead West Coast jazz. Utah is not any place near the coast, but I hope the sound has migrated here. Stay tuned…