JazzBabies, we’ve reached the mid-winter doldrums. The doldrums are famous at sea for taking the wind out of the sails. For the rest of us, things slow down or sometimes come to a complete stop; there’s more light, but the days still don’t feel quite right, and we start singing the blues.
Even in sunny San Diego, the doldrums can hit a girl. With the holidays behind us and spring still weeks away, January and February just seem to stretch out like a line of cars of the L.A. freeway any weekend in the summer.
The doldrums, combined with the continuing news about the Oregon yahoo militia and Donald Trump’s latest claims to fame, made me hungry for a clear change of pace this week – something upbeat, something to lift our spirits and get us off our sofas and maybe even get us to take a turn around the living room with the nearest dance partner.
Kenny Barron’s going to take the lead here and this man can do that just fine. Barron is a lyrical pianist – among many other things – who’s not only performed with and made all kinds of recordings with the crème de la jazz crème but has become known as one of the best instructors in the business, currently at Juillard. One of his students was a young friend of mine from Seattle, pianist Aaron Parks, who has gone on to a great jazz career out of New York. For my Portland friends, Kenny Barron will be at your jazz festival coming up in February. Here he is with his Kenny Barron trio in Japan in 1995 with the Rodgers and Hart tune, “Have You Met Miss Jones?” JazzBabies, meet Kenny Barron with Bob Cranshaw on bass and Grady Tate on drums. This one just moves! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaFzq_-j6rA
I have not yet lured my drummer grandson, Sterling Laws, into the Great Garden of Jazz, but I continue to work on it. He’s doing well in L.A. with his own musical adventures as both a drummer and musical director. But in case he’s listening today, I’m sending out Benny Golson’s lively “Blues March,” from Al Blakey’s 1958 Moanin’ album. This one will surely chase away any mid-winter blues, JazzBabies, so get ready to march around the breakfast table – or your favorite bar, whichever works for you. Art Blakey on drums, Lee Morgan on trumpet, Benny Golson on tenor saxophone, Bobby Timmons on piano and Jymie Merritt on bass. Bring on the flagswingers! Sterling, are you there? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOES7AZ-d60
Next up is a recording that makes me smile just to watch it, much less listen to the music. Two of the swingin’est cats who ever graced a stage, cats who know exactly what they’re doing and who loved doing it together – Ol’ Blue Eyes and the Count. A match made in heaven. Sinatra is about as charming as I’ve seen him in performance, and the Count has a twinkle that never did quit. I found this clip online and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to track just where and when the performance happened. So far, no luck. If anybody out there can let me know, please do. In the meantime, put on your dancin’ boots…this is an evening for some terpsichore. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_11BAZlrNUs
Happy yet? As an old stage director, I know that a “balanced” production has its highs and lows. Any other time, I’d include a few quiet, mellow tunes to go along with the upbeat numbers. But we’re on a mission here, JazzBabies. Our friends up north have had nonstop rain, our friends in the east are digging out from a mighty blizzard, and most of the rest of our friends are just plain cold. This is no time for quiet, mellow tunes. And so I look south – oh, further south than San Diego – south and east…to “Brazil.” Now, wouldn’t a nice little visit to Rio chase those blues away?…With Tom Jobim?…And a bit of samba?… Sure it would… Sometimes I think bossa nova could save the world… Everybody up and shake your, uhm, ruffles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8goep7fVXk
A few years back, okay, a lot of years back, there was a great cartoon in the New Yorker magazine showing a fellow reading the Emergency Instructions on the wall of an office. They read, and I quote: “1. Get your coat. 2. Grab your hat. 3. Leave your worries on the door step. 4. Just direct your feet to the sunny side of the street.” Good enough for the JazzCookie. And if there was ever an emergency, the January blues is one for which these instructions surely apply. And in case you can’t remember them (some of us do have senior moments), here’s Satchmo himself to sing you through it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQz3ixEQWz8
That’s it for this time, JazzBabies…I hope we’ve lifted a little of the January gloom that might have been getting you down. Just remember, no matter how cold or icy or snowy or wet or dark the weather, spring always comes. Always.