Well, we’ve come to the unofficial end of summer, JazzBabies – Labor Day weekend – and the beaches are filled with everybody who wants one last party before it’s over. Highways are jammed with folks who just didn’t want to head home until the last minute because home means back to work and you can’t wear your baggy shorts or your bikini to the office. Well, okay in southern California you might.
At any rate, we’re already in the second week of September, and the jazz beat goes on, la di da di di, la di da di da. (Spell check does not like that line one bit.)
It does seem appropriate to open with a tune for the season and, while this one spans a couple of seasons and mentions weather most of us are not having, we probably all have at least one memory of an end-of-summer farewell. Frank Sinatra and Nelson Riddle are here to give you a swingin’ musical salute to that memory. Lyricists are poets, of course, some better than others. Al Dubin, who teamed up here with Harry Warren, was one of the best. The lines scan, the internal rhymes work and it all makes for beautiful music. See if you agree. “September in the Rain.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bayzyYr4BtE
For the Labor Day weekend, I’ve gathered a few tunes at least loosely related to the subject of work. I didn’t find any that spoke to the labor of love musicians know so well, but here’s one that – well – works, JazzBabies. It’s the fine Mr. Nat Adderley on cornet, Wes Montgomery on guitar, Bobby Timmons on piano, Sam Jones on bass with Keter Betts, Percy Heath and Louis Hayes to round things out on – what else – “Work Song.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWNZo8iJ5EQ
My man, Charlie Byrd is up next with one of the first tunes I heard Charlie play way back when. Without fireworks or gimmicks, Charlie Byrd was simply a dedicated, no-nonsense master of the jazz guitar who studied with Segovia and gave no quarter to people who came to listen and talked through the music. I was witness to this one night at a club in Washington DC when he just stopped playing until noisy talkers got the message and shut up. God knows I wish this happened more often. But that’s for another conversation. Here’s Charlie with Keter Betts on bass and Buddy Deppenschmidt on drums with a Gershwin favorite, “Nice Work if You Can Get It.”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKOw3fUfHKw
Before we leave the World of Work, I’m including a light-hearted tribute to workers who are not in an air-conditioned office or wearing designer suits. These workers trudge off to hard labor day in and day out but they’ve learned to accept their lot by whistling a happy tune. Yeah, you guessed – it’s the Seven Dwarfs, and the Kai Winding Septet brings us a bouncy jazz version of their tune. Personnel here includes Winding, Carl Fontana, Dick Lieb and Wayne Andre on trombones with Jack Franklin on drums, Kenny O’Brien on bass and Roy Frazee on piano. “Whistle While You Work,” and quick now, name the Seven Dwarfs while you listen! (Hint: Chucky, Snooky, and Waldo were not among them.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmW-xp5lr6k
This next tune has nothing to do with anything related to work (unless you’ve made a lot of money doing it), but it’s a mellow tune from 1931 when folks were living through a depression but dreaming of those luxury apartments on Park Avenue that featured in so many movies. Honestly, a little girl from Idaho could have moved right in. And she would have wanted the penthouse, of course. Here’s Erroll Garner with the wishful and lovely “Penthouse Serenade.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42CxF1RboaQ&list=PLFNXF9a5upesB59xpD4Nnifoagwj9r9Bp
Speaking of the old favorites, the Jazz Standards website lists their top ten jazz standards here http://www.jazzstandards.com/compositions-5/penthouseserenade.htm.
I can’t say I know how they arrived at the rankings, but I can’t find anything here to argue with. Take a look and see what you think.
And finally, on this last summer weekend, I want to let you know how I feel about all you JazzBabies. I’ve invited Ernestine Anderson to help me tell you. I heard her do this one live in Seattle and she knows just what to say. She means it and I mean it, too. The personnel list on this recording was a little difficult to track down, but I think it goes this way: Dave McKenna on piano, Ed Bickert on guitar, Steve Wallace on bass, Jimmie Smith on drums. If anybody has better information, let me know. The lyrics for this song, by the way, were written by Peggy Lee. Here is Miss Ernestine herself…She loves being here with you and so do I. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLg-1i2XQds
Enjoy the rest of your Labor Day holiday, JazzBabies. I’ll be back next week with tunes from near and far.