Hey, JazzBabies, it’s late Monday afternoon and the end of the long weekend. I’d planned to get this to you by now, but one thing and another changed my plans. Life, you know… I’m not too concerned since in my old-timey calendar, Memorial Day (aka Decoration Day) still comes on May 30.
I grew up with that and big bunches of lilacs and peonies and iris as my Gram led us all in decorating the many family graves in the local cemetery and then in the family cemetery a few miles out of town on her family’s old homestead. You might have guessed it – I’m a pioneer granddaughter and proud of it. Fourth generation Oregon girl.
Pioneer families have their own “aristocracy,” and one of the phrases I heard over the years went like this: “The cowards never started and the weak fell by the way.” Harsh. But I do know that nobody had an American Express or VISA card for the trip.
I’ve come to understand that phrase in different ways and one of them is the risktaking that artists, musicians and other creative folks are willing to engage in to make some kind of difference. Jazz is a perfect example.
I listen to a lot of music as I research tunes for each post. Sometimes I have a particular tune in mind and listen to the many ways different musicians have rendered it. It’s like poet Wallace Stevens’ wonderful poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” Same tune, same basic notes, and ten or twelve or thirteen different ways of playing them. The musical cowards stick to the basics. The pioneers strike out on their own.
While I was looking for things this past week, I took a little break for some classical music and hit a rich vein of jazz versions of said tunes. JazzBabies, it was pure delight, and I grabbed a couple of them for you. Let us begin with this one by the European Jazz Trio, Chopin’s “Fantasie Impromptu in C-sharp minor.” From their website info, I’d definitely consider the European Jazz Trio pioneers, although they’re not arriving in covered wagons. The Trio comprises Marc van Roon on piano, Frans van der Hoeven on bass and Roy Dackus on drums. The EJT is no stranger to experimentation. They practice on each album by trying out new jazz interpretations on anything that strikes their fancy. No cowards in this group! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QAhvx_EFz8&list=RDMCQ01pNaAVo&index=16
Jazz cats know that jazz versions of the masters is part of a long tradition known as “ragging the classics.” And here’s the terrific Classical Jazz Quartet made up of Kenny Barron on piano, Stefon Harris on vibes and marimba, Ron Carter on bass and Lewis Nash on drums with a swingin’ take on Rachmaninov, “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18.” This cut from the album is Movement 1, part 2. Roll over, Rocky…! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRCshntfyiA
Moving along, here are a couple of more familiar classics direct from the jazz masters themselves. The first is Charlie Parker’s own tune as performed and recorded by Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Curly Russell and Max Roach, back in November 1945. As one poet noted, it’s nice to remember a time when everyone you loved was still alive. This never-to-be-bested group qualifies for that sentiment in my book. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuVWNv2kEkE
And if that’s not enough, JazzBabies, hold onto your hearts with this beautiful take on one of the most romantic tunes I know. I’m putting it in the skillful hands of Oscar Peterson and Stephane Grappelli ably abetted by Joe Pass on guitar, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen on bass and Mickey Roker on drums. This one was recorded live at Tivoli Concert Hall in Copenhagen in July 1979. “That’s All.” Slow dancing is encouraged. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sa6-fK1PT0U
Since I’m still within the Memorial Day weekend deadline and the real Memorial Day is not until tomorrow, I’m closing out with a couple of tunes that got us through the hard time of World War II. I dedicate them to all the men and women who fought those battles and the ones before and after whether they came home again or not. I especially dedicate it to my dear Uncle Bud who was wounded twice in France, and to a couple of my aunts who worked as Rosies in defense plants building ships in Portland, Oregon.
First, the jazzy “Rosie the Riveter,” by the Four Vagabonds. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2E613J9m0I
And then the one families all over America listened to as they thought of their sons and uncles, husbands and dads in harm’s way on places all over the map. “Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZo7TsFIQdw
For this time, JazzBabies, I wish us all love, peace and courage. Let’s not study war no more.