JazzBabies…I owe you one. Apparently this link was dropped from my latest post. I don’t want you to miss a minute of Herbie…or the sugar!
Herbie Hancock, “Watermelon Man”
JazzBabies…I owe you one. Apparently this link was dropped from my latest post. I don’t want you to miss a minute of Herbie…or the sugar!
Herbie Hancock, “Watermelon Man”
I recently read a great story about Gene Krupa in Pete Hamill’s introduction to his fine collection of essays titled Piece Work. Hamill reports that he read an interview about Krupa in which Krupa was asked how the drummer keeps time. Since the drummer was the metronome for the band, “What,” he was asked, “served as his metronome?”
Krupa’s answer was that he chanted to himself a simple phrase: “lyonnaise potatoes and some pork chops.” At times he’d drag the word some out so the beat didn’t become mechanical.
Hamill reports that he himself adopted Krupa’s phrase while writing and would sometime find himself keeping time as if he were using a pedal on a bass drum, humming under his breath, “lyyyyy-oh-naise p’taytas an’ some pork chops, yeah – lyyyyy-oh-naise p’taytas an’ some pork chops.” For many of us, writing is a musical thing and Hamill wanted that rhythm.
After a little research I bring you the original “Lyonnaise Potatoes and Some Pork Chops,” as recorded by Krupa and his orchestra in 1946. It’s the swingin’est dish you’re likely to find on any menu. Dig right in! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9NH8dNY7P8.
This past weekend I was out for an evening of jazz with San Diego guitarist Peter Sprague and vocalist Lisa Hightower. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a clip to use here of these two together, but they’re a great combination and have recorded a couple of nice CDs. You can find more about them at www.petersprague.com and www.hightowersings.com I hope to get Lisa on JazzCookie soon. One of the songs she nailed was the beautiful Hoagy Carmichael/Johnny Mercer “Skylark.” I have it here for you by the glorious Paul Desmond whose horn sings like an angel. This one was arranged by Don Sebesky with Desmond, Bob James on piano, Gene Bertoncini on guitar, Ron Carter on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. This skylark soars. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_ZPceluIsY
Another great find this week was a recording of Count Basie live in Stockholm in 1962. “Easin’ It” is from Basie’s album by the same name recorded in 1960 and 1962. The long list of personnel includes Freddy Green on guitar, Clark Terry on trumpet and Louis Bellson on drums among all those other fine players. I’ve watched this one several times because I can’t get enough of the interplay among the musicians. The Count and his court live on. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Fppp8YJ80I
On Friday, July 31, we’ll have a Blue Moon. The explanation for blue moons is more complicated than “two full moons in one month,” but this site is about jazz, not astronomy. We generally have a blue moon once every year or so, and the next one won’t happen until October 2016. Let’s just agree that the term “once in a blue moon” refers to the relative rarity of the event. And here’s another rarity to sing us a Rodgers and Hart song about it – that once-in-a-lifetime rarity we know as Lady Day with her not-so-blue version of “Blue Moon.”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LOB_I7sgoI
There’s no question that we’re smack in the middle of summer now, and the proof is that one of the great melon-growing places in the country – Hermiston, Oregon – has begun to sell their melons far and wee. An Oregon friend reports they are sweeter than ever, and I think it only appropriate to close out this session with a tribute to those beautiful, juicy and oh-so-tasty Hermiston watermelons. I rang up Herbie Hancock and asked him to do the honors and here he is with – what else? – “Watermelon Man.” Freddie Hubbard, Dexter Gordon, Butch Warren and Billy Higgins are part of this fine group on the Blue Note album, Takin’ Off... Sweet. Go ahead, JazzBabies, get yourself some sugar.
And that’s it for this summer day. Whether you’re by the pool or the sea, in the mountains, traveling abroad, hangin’ in the desert, on one more road trip or at home right in your own backyard keeping the country humming – enjoy the summer. It goes by fast and next time we meet, it will already be August!
Woke up at 6 a.m. Saturday to a ferocious thunder and lightning storm. Then a lot of rain. Woke up this morning to sunshine, then the clouds rolled in and now more rain. Warm, tropical rain drenching San Diego and everything around us. The only thing to do is retreat inside, turn on the fans and listen to good music. All of which I’m doing this afternoon.
I was scouting for some weather-related music that wasn’t just another version of “Stormy Weather,” which is a fine tune, but I wanted something I hadn’t heard before. And lo, the Google gods were kind and led me to an outstanding jazz composition by Benny Golson recorded by Art Blakey’s group in 1958. This is more than just a jazz tune; it’s a suite, “The Drum Thunder Suite,” and thunder it does. The album, Moanin’ was recorded for Blue Note and the composition has three themes: Drum Thunder, Cry a Blue Tear, and Harlem’s Disciples. Blakey is joined by Lee Morgan on trumpet, composer and tenor sax man, Benny Golson, Bobby Timmons on piano and Jymie Merritt on bass. Let the thunder roll! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rfFLC5AfcY
I read something recently about Billie Holiday’s recording of “Fine and Mellow,” so I dug around a little myself to see if I agreed with the writer about the carnal nature of the song as Holiday interpreted it. Let’s face it, a lot of Holiday’s interpretations were of a carnal nature which is why women sometimes got upset with boyfriends or husbands who payed too much attention to the glorious Lady Day. I don’t particularly agree that this interpretation is “carnal” but then it’s 2015 and a lot of things we would have banned even twenty years ago are now accepted, if not always fine and mellow. In any case, this is a great little clip of Holiday at work. I’m particularly struck by her demeanor when she’s not singing – some vocalists just cannot sit still and it’s distracting. But Holiday is, in every way, a pro. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKqxG09wlIA
Summer is in full swing, so we might as well have some musical fun with it. “Summertime” is a little like “Stormy Weather” – everybody’s played it and we’ve all heard it and it’s often played or sung in such a draggy tempo as to be lugubrious (I knew I’d find a place for that word sometime). But then along came Chet Baker and his Quartet who brought us instead this upbeat and swingy treatment of the tune. We loved it all over again, and I don’t think Mr. Gershwin would mind a bit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4yfJccwu2g
It has come to my attention that Old Blue Eyes has not made an appearance here on the JazzCookie stage for a while, and heaven knows, I want to remedy that oversight without delay. I know there are a lot of Sinatra fans out there and besides he’s turning one hundred this year and probably still eating Wheaties, so all tributes are due him. This is a clip of Frank sporting around with a few members of the Rat Pack in a live performance of “You Make Me Feel So Young” accompanied by the Count Basie Orchestra for a televised fundraiser in St. Louis in 1965. The film was discovered there in the 90s and here he is – with a couple of heckles from pals Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. It’s fun to watch Mr. Sinatra keep his poise, and we all like feeling young! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3O5xpR1hVkM
And now, rounding third and headed for home is this perfect summer song suggested by a JazzCookie reader. (Don’t be shy about sending suggestions – I’m happy to accommodate whenever I can, and I always learn something from your suggestions.) This one came from Jim Freeman, resident funny man and friend to all on Whidbey Island up near Seattle. Jim is a devoted baseball fan and he let me know about this 1957 album, Double Play! with Andre Previn, Russ Freeman (no relation as far as I know) and Shelly Manne. The album takes a run through the baseball genre with cuts titled, among others, “Who’s on First,” “In the Cellar Blues,” “Safe at Home,” Fungo” and this one – a new twist on the old classic, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Cheer for your home team, wherever you are! “There it goes! There it there it goes! It’s going, going, gone!” I can hear Dizzy Dean even as I write this, with fans roaring in the background. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWGef7HE6r8
That’s a wrap for this Sunday afternoon, JazzBabies. I hope the weather is just the way you want it in your corner of the planet. If not, just curl up with a good jazz tune and wait five minutes – it’ll change.
You may have received, in the last few minutes, a post about writing. If you’re shaking your heads and wondering, “What the…?” please accept my apologies on behalf of myself and WordPress.
The new posting process tripped us both up and somehow the post for my writing sketches (whatwouldsteinbeckdo.wordpress.com) landed on my Jazz Cookie page.
This won’t make up for the error entirely, but here’s a little musical token of our apology. Fats Waller playing and singing: “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.” Sweet and swingy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZZRAU3DeOo
Blue Banjo, Comic-Con, Gene Kelly, George Gershwin, Green Hill Instrumental, Hackensack, John Coltrane, Lorraine Feather, Mozart, Oscar Peterson, Paris, Peggy Lee, Stan Getz, The Charleston, The Lady and the Tramp, Thelonius Monk
San Diego has been under the spell of Comic-Con this past week. We saw hordes of people all over town dressed like their favorite characters, giving San Diego an even more quirky and festive air than usual. News has been breaking every day about the world of film and television with producers, directors, possible stars and aging legends in town.
I started thinking about comics and comedy vis a vis jazz. Not so much the funny anecdotes, but the music itself. And a little quick research gave me a few ideas for today’s post. The first comes in jazz “heiress” Lorraine Feather, daughter of noted jazz writer Leonard Feather and his wife Jane, a former big band singer (and ex-roommate of Peggy Lee). Feather’s godmother was Billie Holiday and if that heritage doesn’t give us somebody who knows of which she sings, I don’t know what does. Feather sang at the Oak Room in the Algonquin hotel and has composed music and and and…There’s much more to the Lorraine Feather story including a note that she now lives up in my old neck of the woods on an island off the Washington Coast. But for now, let’s just listen to her amusing take on technology with this tune titled, “We Appreciate Your Patience,” from her album, Language. The team behind her are pianist/co-writer Shelly Berg on piano, Michael Valerio on bass, Gregg Field on drums and Michael Shapiro on percussion with a little Spanish guitar in the mix provided by Grant Geissman. Some think the song is a metaphor for being caught in a relationship with a commitmentphobe. Dedicated to everyone who’s ever been on hold one way or another. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rkYiYPKKlQ
Now that I’ve mentioned Peggy Lee, what can I do but go on to give you one of her best-known tunes? This one’s even known by five-year-olds, and that’s saying something. I’ve got two short clips here – the first is Peggy Lee with Walt Disney as they add a new tune to Disney’s much-loved cartoon feature, Lady and the Tramp. Then a clip as the song appeared in the movie. The torchy canine singer was named “Peg” and you’ll know the reason why. “He’s a Tramp,” with Miss Peggy Lee. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cO3hrVaVzP0 And as it appeared in the movie…Woof! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wiNGW97JiE
Okay, now I’m thinking movies, and my wandering mind tells me to head to Paris. Why not? I ask. I’m as ready for Paris as the next one. But my Paris came a few years back and this is a jazz post so it’s just gotta be Gershwin. And as long as it’s Gershwin, why not Gene Kelly?…okay, now you’re ahead of me. But it’s a great scene and a great song and the kids are terrific, too. It’s summer, it’s Paris and there’s this dancer in town. (Wonder why so many women of a certain age still go a little crazy over loafers and white sox?) I got!… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvglHa_P9BA
One thing leads to another and all that dancing led me to “The Charleston.” After all the bad press in the last few weeks, I think Charleston could use a happier connection and this is about as happy and jazzy as it gets. The song was written by James P. Johns for the 1923 Broadway Show Running Wild. A favorite of flappers, of course, in speakeasies near and far…A favorite of mine, too, learned at my mother’s knee, and we don’t need to mention that night at the old Blue Banjo in Seattle where dancing on the table was not usually permitted… Here it is performed by Green Hill Instrumental. They didn’t call it the Jazz Age for nothin’! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5y0hSqO48U
I took piano lessons for a while from a wonderful teacher who had a great way of explaining Mozart to me. With broad gestures she demonstrated how he would take a listener here and then there and then way over here and “eventually you end up in Hackensack.” She was the best music teacher ever. I’ve never forgotten Hackensack – or Mozart, of course – but today I thought I’d close this kind of goofy look at jazz with a tune by that very name: “Hackensack.” When I found this one, I also found something I didn’t yet know about jazz. This tune is a “contrafact,” a tune that uses the chord progression of one tune but introduces a new melody over those chords. In this case, Thelonius Monk based “Hackensack” on Gershwin’s “Lady Be Good.” So, we’re back to Gershwin. Isn’t it great how the music and the ideas go ‘round and ‘round? Here’s “Hackensack” with the all-star team of Coltrane, Getz, Peterson, Chambers and Cobb, recorded in Germany in 1960. And now you has jazz… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=beCGdmrP8Xc
That’s a wrap for this Sunday, JazzBabies. Comic-Con has ended and we’re back to our usual blue-sky, palms-in-the-breeze quirkiness in San Diego. I’ll take it.
We are one day past Independence Day. The skyrockets and sparklers and patriotic songs and flags and clothing designed to look like flags are packed up for another year. Parades have ended and we’re back now to a stretch of what’s turning out to be a long, hot summer in so many places.
I’m spending a cool summer morning in the company of Bill Evans – more about him later – and reflecting on jazz, the music that feels the most vibrantly independent of all in the big world of music. I have a vintage post card with the sheet music for “Jazz in New Orleans” printed on one side, and on the back this message, “New Orleans jazz makes the old feel young and the young feel happy.”
Therein lies the tale of the attraction of jazz for so many. And the independence involved. Jazz is the music that nobody plays the same way once and we love good – and vibrant – surprises. They keep us happy at any age.
So, here’s to jazz on this day after Independence Day. Long may it wave and remind us of our youth and our independence and the vibrant musical world from which it comes.
Getting back to the weather for a moment, I bring you the sunniest of jazz recordings with Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt and Dizzy Gillespie (how’d the Diz get in there?) on – no surprise – “The Sunny Side of the Street,” from the album Sonny Side Up recorded in 1957. Get out the sunscreen, JazzBabies! Ray Bryant is on piano, Tommy Bryant on bass, Charlie Persip on drums and yep, that’s Dizzy on the vocal. Sunny and cool. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4H9k-d9fBk
In his fine collection of Jazz Anecdotes musician and writer Bill Crow notes that, “Jazz musicians are bound together by a rich and colorful history that lives in the music itself, remembered, recorded, created and re-created.” Crow also notes that jazz musicians enjoy a lot of humor including jokes about themselves and jokes played on others. Jazz jokes like,
“How late does the band play?”
“About half a beat behind the drummer.”
He includes hundreds of anecdotes and I particularly enjoyed one about Benny Goodman who, despite his great music, was known to be at times a harsh taskmaster, cheap, spiteful and just plain unpleasant. In a great story about Charlie Christian and Benny Goodman, Crow quotes John Hammond on Christian’s introduction to the Goodman band. Goodman, the story goes, was not amenable to Christian but other members of the band knew about his talent. They proceeded to get him on the bandstand one night while Goodman was on a break. When Goodman returned and saw this, he knew he had to at least let the man play one tune, so he decided to try to humiliate Christian and called “Rose Room,” which he thought Christian would not know. Christian did, however, know the song and had “ears like antennae” to boot. He played twenty-five choruses each “more inventive than the last,” and the crowd went wild. Christian’s “audition” lasted forty-five minutes and Goodman received a standing ovation. Christian was in, and that’s jazz. Here’s Charlie with Goodman, Hampton, Fletcher and crew on “Rose Room, recorded in 1939. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4H7M2YFK0s
Bill Evans recorded a haunting album in 1977, not quite prescient but close enough to be haunting anyway given his passing a few short years later. The album is I Will Say Goodbye and this tune, “A House Is not a Home,” is a beautifully sorrowful lament. The song was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for a 1964 movie, later recorded by Dionne Warwick and now played by the Bill Evans Trio. This was recorded at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley. Eddie Gomez on bass and Eliot Zigmund on drums. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghqUaXQyDm4
Charlie Parker brings us back to a happier note with the Jerome Kern tune, “All the Things You Are,” which he said had his favorite lyrics (by Oscar Hammerstein II). One line is “You are the angel glow” and Parker called the song YATAG, an acronym for those lyrics. You can find this one on several of Parker’s albums including In a Soulful Mood and Early Bird. Charlie, YATAG, you really are. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTORd2Y_X6U
Now I’m going to slip out of my JazzCookie ensemble (long, black and slinky) and into my “give-‘em-hell, independent, keep going no matter what” rough and ready togs. I was once asked in an interview to describe myself in one word. The word was “spirited.” And in the spirit of Independence Day and all that it means, I give you now Tammy Grimes and the original cast of Meredith Willson’s all-American musical, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, in a rousing red, white and blue call to action, “I Ain’t Down Yet.” I ain’t and I have the framed sheet music to prove it. Grab your flag and join the parade! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4aDCRfRDY0
And that’s it for this Sunday, July 5th, JazzBabies. Have a jazzy, spirited, independent week.
The Unsinkable JazzCookie