Antonio Carlos Jobim, April, Art Blakey, Benny Golson, Blossom Dearie, Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, George Shearing, Jazz Messengers, Jim Hall, Lerner and Loewe, mel torme, Old Town, Paul Desmond, Rodgers and Hammerstein II, Spring, Vinicius de Moraes
It’s Spring, JazzBabies, and it’s Easter weekend and Spring Break for the young at heart whether you celebrate Easter or not.
The air seems charged as if the ions are zinging around and bouncing off each other and everybody’s falling in love with everybody else no matter how old you are or what kind of shape you’re in. We’ll get to summer soon enough, but for now, it’s Spring – mudluscious and puddlewonderful! (Thank you, EE.)
If there was ever a singer born to sing jazz in the Spring, it was Blossom Dearie, whose name is even perfect for the season. This first song is one Dearie recorded several times, first on her 1958 album, Once Upon a Summertime. It’s from Oklahoma by Rodgers and Hammerstein II and it’s “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top.” I listen and I know it’s about Oklahoma, but when Blossom Dearie sings it in her inimitable New York style, all I can see in my mind’s eye is hansom cabs with horses in Central Park. Either way, it’s a good one. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tr3Qnw79e7o
The jazz world is grateful to a number of composers for terrific jazz tunes and also to a number of composers, like Rodgers and Hammerstein, who wrote for the musical stage instead of cozy little jazz clubs. Among those composers are Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe who penned a couple of, shall we say successful?, stage musicals and a lot of great tunes, including this one from My Fair Lady, included on the On Broadway album recorded by the Coleman Hawkins Quartet in 1962: Hawkins, Tommy Flanagan, Major Holley and Eddie Locke with “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” It would indeed. Loverly.
As long as I’m in a New York state of mind, let’s give a listen to a flat-out New York tune, “Lullaby of Birdland.” Charlie Parker named place and the jazz world claimed it with countless recordings of this one composed by Mr. George Shearing back in 1963. (Rumor has it that Bill Haley and the Comets recorded it, too, but this has not been verified. If anybody knows, please share the word.) Multi-talented Mel Torme handles the vocal here, recorded sometime in the 50s or 60s – he recorded this more than once. You may know Torme by his nickname, “The Velvet Fog,” but you may not know that he hated the name and referred to himself instead as “The Velvet Frog.” In addition to singing, Torme was a composer, drummer, actor and author. He got his start professionally at the age of four singing “You, You’re Driving Me Crazy” at the Blackhawk in Chicago. With a beginning like that, anything can happen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8slS23jTVH4
(Sidebar: A lot of people let me know this week that Willie Nelson’s Gershwin album hit #1 on the Jazz chart recently. Nothing against Willie, folks, but in my book just singing songs by a great composer with a jazzy combo to back you doesn’t make it jazz. Mel Torme makes it jazz.)
I’ve been drawn lately to Art Blakey’s fine 1958 album, Moanin’ , which is, to put it simply, rich with terrific tunes. When you consider the line-up, this is really no surprise, but not every album with a good line-up turns out this way. Bennie Golson gets a lot of the credit – not only a fine tenor sax man, but a crazy good composer. Golson’s tune “Along Came Betty,” inspired by a woman he was dating at the time (oh, those musicians!), first appeared on Blakey’s 1954 album, Jazz Profile. Here it is from the Moanin’ album with the fine Jazz Messengers, headed by Blakey on drums with Golson on saxophone and Lee Morgan on trumpet, Bobby Timmons on piano and Jymie Merritt on bass. Betty, where are you now? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTzRHq_cH5E
I took a walk through my neighborhood today which is San Diego’s Old Town filled with the flavors and colors and music of Old Mexico. Old Town is a favorite for tourists, and it’s like a party every day, but especially on Saturdays when we have live Latin music in several venues. I like watching shoppers who stop to listen and move to the music, occasionally even busting a move when they just can’t help themselves. Latin music does that to us. And in case, you’re feelin’ the spirit and want to bust a Latin move or two yourself this evening, I have just the thing for you: Paul Desmond and Jim Hall from Desmond’s 1963 Take 10 album – the theme from the movie Black Orpheus. The amazing score for this award-winning film came from composer Antonio Carlos Jobim and Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes and rode in on the early bossa nova wave that took us by storm. On your feet now…sway just a little …take a step or two…now, there you’ve got it…Look, ma! You’re dancin’! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkRrs4hglyE
And that’s it for this time, JazzBabies. March is leaving us this week and if March is going, can April be far behind? I believe it will be loverly…