Billie Holiday, Blackhawk, cal tjader, Chet Baker, Claudette Colbert, Jeannie Cheatham, Karrin Allyson, Max Miller, Ocean Beach, Oscar Peterson, Paul Desmond, Roberto Menescal, Sweet Baby Blues Band, Tom Jobim
Spring break at the beach! JazzBabies, I left a place in the desert that was about as dour as it gets and am now in the middle of a freakingly happy circus in the sun…People here speak my language – Jazz – on a daily basis. And nobody I’ve met here thinks Jazz is the name of a basketball team.
Hooray and hallelujah!
The second night here, my daughter and I had dinner with Jeannie Cheatham, a remarkable jazz and blues force to be reckoned with, now in her mid-80s and going as strong as ever. Jeannie and her late husband Jimmie Cheatham were the heart and soul of the Sweet Baby Blues Band, and Jeannie penned their award-winning autobiography, Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On. Dinner and conversation – with a lot of laughs – were a great welcome to this beautiful city by the sea. Much has been written about the Cheathams and their music. Here’s one recent article you might enjoy. http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/feb/19/jeannie-cheatham-returns/
And here’s a ripping performance from about 1993: the Sweet Baby Blues Band with Jimmy on trombone and Jeannie on keyboard and vocal, “Roll ‘Em, Pete.” Hang onto your seat, JazzBabies. This live performance will have you jumpin’! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfZMEOdVPWs
Now onward to the concert by the sea I promised last time. Actually, it’s more like a tribute to the big blue ocean a mile or so from my front door.
The world of jazz tells of many things and one of them is deep water. I ran onto this great collaboration between Paul Desmond and Chet Baker from the 1970s with Kenny Barron on piano and Tony Williams on drums. Chet not only gives us his trumpet but also does a nice vocal turn in his quiet, unobtrusive voice on Irving Berlin’s fine, “How Deep is the Ocean.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNb-2XISoGY
Mr. Max Miller, a writer for the San Diego Sun back in the mid-1920s wrote a book of snippets and short essays – observations – about life on the water here. The book later became a movie with Claudette Colbert and a song was born by the same title as book and movie. You’ll know this one. I once wrote that Billie put a spin on this song that makes you want to head for the nearest dock, even in a place where there’s damned little water, let alone a waterfront to cover. I’d write the same thing today. Give it up for the Lady herself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rdy_IUnKTQ
I may be a little biased about the blue Pacific, but I’m willing to give time to other oceans and lovely beaches. Tom Jobim wrote this lovely song about the beaches of Rio on the also usually blue Atlantic (when it’s not gray and frigid). Oscar Peterson recorded Jobim’s tune live in Italy in 1985 and here we have it, “Wave,” with Joe Pass on guitar and Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen on bass. I’m guessing Niels-Henning may have spent more time on Danish beaches, but one never knows and a beach is a beach is a beach. You are the JazzBabies and will know how to enjoy this terrific music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUuB4UYe8nM
Callen Radcliffe Tjader was a man who loved the warm sounds associated with a warm sea and Latin music and recorded many a great tune on or near the California coast. For years, he and his group were a fixture at The Blackhawk in San Francisco. If you’ve spent any time in that city by the bay, you’ll relate to this lovely tune recorded for his “Tjader Plugs In” album in 1969. Cal Tjader on vibes here with what coastal Californians recognize as “Morning Mist.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxziXVYtDcs&list=PL-nY25lcDjUaONXd4s5d5J8WZ_KvyvqDu
Finally, JazzBabies, I bring you one of the bounciest bossa nova tunes I know. I have a great recording by Portland jazz vocalist, Nancy Curtin, but it’s not up on youtube yet, so we’ll go with Karrin Allyson (don’t say Karen!) from her 1999 album, “From Paris to Rio.” Karrin brings us this lively tune by Brazilian composer Roberto Menescal. I found my way to the beach here today and thought of this song as I watched the happy people and the little boats on the blue water. “O Barquinho” (My Little Boat). This one is what I’m talkin’ about… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRoRiCLve_c
That’s it for today, JazzBabies… grab your towels and sunscreen and head for the water. If you live in the chilly north, close your eyes and dream. Life’s good!