Friends, Romans, Countrymen…oops, wrong channel.
JazzBabies! Here we are midway through 2016 and celebrating the Good Old U.S. of A. this weekend. Heaven knows there are a lot of ways to do that, most of them good, so I imagine you’ll be celebrating one good way or another over the next couple of days.
I’m staying close to home, watching movies, working on the art, listening to jazz, and otherwise doing not much at all. But I remember the days when I was out there for Fourth of July with all the other young things in my shorts and halter tops at one lake or river or another. Now I wouldn’t be caught in shorts and halter tops anywhere outside my front door. Dogs howl and little children cry.
Things change. Indeed, they do.
Since I don’t know, and couldn’t find any really good Fourth of July songs with a jazz beat, I’ve collected others this time to reflect the kinds of things JazzBabies might do for fun on the Fourth. If you’re staying home watching TV in your Barcalounger, sorry, I don’t have a tune for that.
What I do have is a Vintage cut by Bob Crosby and the Bobcats to kick things off and get us in the mood for parades and parties. This comes from a little 7” Coral EP (extended play) recording, Sousa Goes Dixieland, made back in 1950. JazzBabies, some of you are perhaps too young to remember these little 45 rpm “albums” but they were cool in their day. Bob was, of course, Bing’s brother, both of them born in Spokane, Washington. Their musical careers went different directions, but wow, what a talented family. Get ready to march around the Breakfast Table, JazzBabies, to the “Washington Post March.” We love a parade!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XODsGSHherI
Okay, that’s out of our systems, and we can settle into some quieter Fourth of July fun. I vote for a picnic. I’ll bring the fried chicken if you take care of the potato salad. Here’s the “Theme from Picnic” (the movie), with Jonah Jones, first recorded on his 1961 Capitol album, Great Instrumental Hits Styled by Jonah Jones. Jones was a trumpeter with a lot of musical cred, but was often seen in the shadow of Louis Armstrong. He was known in some quarters as “King Louis II.” However, his jazzy take on the Broadway hit, “On the Street Where You Live,” boosted him out of the crowd and the rest is history. Here he is with John Brown on bass, George Foster on drums, Teddy Brannon on piano. Perfect for a picnic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bdd8jb6w8Nc
Gene Ammons is here, too, with his tenor sax to make sure the weather’s fine with Eddie Heywood’s “Soft Summer Breeze.” This one’s from Ammons’ 1961 Boss Soul! album on Prestige. Ammons had a great career that might have been greater, but he got sidetracked with drugs and then died young – at 49 – from cancer. Nevertheless, he recorded nearly fifty albums and that’s saying something good. He’s joined by Patti Brown on piano, George Duvivier on drums, and Ray Barreto on congas. Settle back and enjoy the breeze. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRSXuBDpUKQ
I’m sure a lot of you JazzBabies will be headed for one body of water or another where you can swim, splash or just sit and watch the waves – big waves, small waves, any kind will do. While you have fun in the sun, we’ve got the Chairman of the Board to sing the lovely lyrics of Tom Jobim’s bossa nova classic, titled simply “Wave.” Sinatra recorded this on his 1970 Sinatra and Company album. When I was listening and heard that deep e-flat, I thought, dear God that must be the lowest note Sinatra ever sang. And sure enough, it was. Listen for it while you look at the pretty pictures. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dohMsVG3toU
Who are we kidding about the fine weather and the picnics and sitting by the beach. When it comes to summertime, JazzBabies, anything can happen. Sarah Vaughan reminds us with her fine take on “Garden in the Rain.” This song has a history with a lesson. It was written by Carroll Gibbons and James Dyrenforth in 1928 and became a hit at the time. Then it fell by the way and was more or less forgotten until about 1952 when the Four Aces recorded it for Decca. “Garden in the Rain” is not quite a jazz standard, but its story is a great reminder that Yogi Berra was right…”it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Sarah Vaughan included it on several albums. This one’s for you, and it has a happy ending.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eaqa-NobZPQ
I’ll close with a tune for those of you who might spend your Fourth of July hiking in some lovely place – the Grand Canyon, the Cascade mountains, a New England forest or some other locale that suits your fancy. Okay, this is not exactly about hiking, but you could cover some ground if you stick with the beat, JazzBabies. And if you’d rather just sit and watch the waves, that’s okay too because this is from Cal Tjader’s wonderful Concert by the Sea album. I’ve still got my original vinyl copy. It’s blue. Have I already mentioned that? This tune was written by Lonnie Hewitt and he’s on piano here with Willie Bobo on drums and timbales, Mongo Santamaria on bongos and Paul Horn on that sweet sweet flute. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tP1fi7VmAEo
And so we come to the end of the holiday weekend, JazzBabies. I’ll leave it to you to add the fireworks. And if you want to sing a chorus of “America, the Beautiful,” don’t be shy. We may not be perfect, but all things considered, we’re still darned good. Three cheers for the red, white and blue!