Over the past few weeks, life has been full of music, parties, giving and receiving, good memories and a few melancholy moments. Now, we’re here at the last holiday of the year. Last chance to add something wonderful to your diary for 2015.
When I was younger, New Year’s Eve was a big occasion. The party. The new dress. The sparkly high heels. The champagne. The hats and horns and confetti. And the dancing – oh, the dancing. Over the years, I’ve come to enjoy a quieter celebration and more often find New Year’s Eve a time for reflection, sometimes with company and sometimes alone. Out with the old and in with the new!
In the jazz world, however, the old never gets old, and we definitely do not want to toss anything out even as we make room for the new. The jazz world is so full of a number of great tunes and artists with more coming along all the time. I’m hard put each week to make the choices I need to make to keep these little posts down to a manageable size. So much jazz; so little time. I need that on a bumper sticker.
But instead of lamenting the limited space, let’s just get on with this last post of the year. Bye bye, 2015. Helllooooo, 2016.
To set the New Year mood, I’m calling on Ella Fitzgerald to give us her take on the quintessential song of the week. If you haven’t made your New Year’s plans yet, get busy! Time’s a wastin’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQfZTPKzRZ0
Marshall Rosenthal once wrote in Rolling Stone: “To celebrate without dancing is like eating Oreos without milk. The taste is sweet, but the wet exhilaration of a fundamental force washing the sweetness inward is missing.”
Let’s celebrate! Let’s dance! And here’s a little music for the occasion. If you don’t have a partner, it’s fine to dance alone. I do it often and I don’t care if anybody’s looking.
For openers, here’s a sweetly mellow version of a lovely old standard to get you on your feet. “More Than You Know” was penned by Vincent Youmans with lyrics by Billy Rose and Edward Eliscu, published in 1929. I have it here by Sonny Rollins with Thelonius Monk on piano, Tommy Potter on bass and Art Taylor on drums. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dd0a2bNlTOQ
Bill Evans is not particularly known for playing dance music, but when you’re with the right partner, you can dance to anything. In 1965, I slow danced to “Downtown” by Petula Clark, but I was young and in love and he was headed to Vietnam. That’s another story. Bill Evans recorded this one in the early 60s with Larry Bunker on drums and Chuck Israel on bass. It’s one of my personal favorites and I dance to it any chance I get. “My Foolish Heart” (and that’s another story, too). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2LFVWBmoiw
The Four Freshmen are part of my musical history, the close harmony jazz vocalists that came to my attention just about the time rock and roll hit the charts – different charts. The Freshmen were unique and appealed to a different sensibility (full disclosure – some of us liked the sounds of Bill Hailey as well.) These guys – Bob Flanigan, Ross Barbour, Don Barbour and Ken Errair – were prolific and have a long list of recordings. Over time, various members of the Four dropped out and were replaced, but a cycle of Four Freshmen iterations continued. They even have their own Four Freshmen society. But enough about that – we’re talking New Year’s Eve and slow dancing. Try this one on for size. “We’ll Be Together Again.” Nice and easy… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z62ciYVJqH0
I had a jazz pianist friend a few years back who closed each gig with a beautiful tune by Henry Mancini. I figure it’s just the thing to wrap up New Year’s Eve when the champagne is gone and the floor is covered with confetti and you’ve kicked off your shoes for the last dance and people are kind of leaning on each other as much as dancing. Quincy Jones and his team play it on the Mancini tribute album and here it is just for you. It’s time for “Dreamsville.” Shhh, I think somebody’s already sleeping. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h498cka7AwE
Happy New Year, JazzBabies…I wish you every good thing this year. Forget the resolutions – just enjoy each day and those you love. It’s all we have.
Thanks for being with me this year.