We’re heading into the home stretch of the big holidays of the year – Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve. In the holiday rush, let us not forget the Winter Solstice coming up, my personal New Year’s celebration when the light begins to return.
I’m a little ahead of the game this year with all the presents piled on the dining room table ready to be wrapped and mailed. Everything has to be mailed. I’m temporarily marooned without family or friends in the Utah desert, but don’t cry for me and I mean it. I’m doing just fine with Christmas CDs, hot buttered rum and a view of snow-covered mountains. The snow happened last night, and I’m sure we’ll see more before the winter is over.
But I digress.
We’re here for holiday jazz, so without further you-know-what…bring it on!
It’s been a week with a few choice discoveries – old names, new names, old tunes, new tunes, all great. I’ll kick off with old Dipper Mouth himself, Mr. Louis Armstrong, and the Commanders with a swingy take on a serious question: “ ‘Zat You, Santa Claus?” recorded for Decca in1953. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3TXwWANFbM
Putney Dandridge is a name completely new to me, but not to others in the jazz world. Dandridge was a pianist and vocalist who worked in the 20s and 30s before his early death at age 44 in 1946. Dandridge had some great credentials including a time as accompanist for Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and a string of residences at the Hickory House on 52nd St. He worked with major talents including Roy Eldridge, Teddy Wilson and Cozy Cole. Dandridge goes solo on this bouncy Christmas tune…it’s the nature of the season. “Santa Claus Came in the Spring.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avpXTM0cO0g
Fasten your seatbelt for this next triple play. It’s not quite a holiday song, but when a new year rolls around we all look toward the future, and this future includes three of the greats – Sinatra, Basie and Quincy Jones – who together let us know that “The Best Is Yet to Come.” I say it can’t come soon enough! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2BBJJhx7PM
From a triple play to Bob James and Fourplay as we return to the holiday fold with these swingin’ jazz cats entertaining us and any hip shepherds out there watching the flocks by night with “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bHehGyucYc
As Perry Como once sang, “Letters, we get letters…” In the new millennium, however, we get email and comments on our websketches instead. I love hearing from other jazz lovers, so don’t be shy. I particularly like getting acquainted with new groups and players I haven’t yet met. Jazz is a little like computers. You can know a lot about it, but you never know it all. That’s why we stay in touch, spread the word about what’s playing in our corner and who we’ve heard or met or read about. Which is my way of introducing the World’s Greatest Jazz Band which was suggested by follower Jerry Kline who knew it would be fitting to hear these guys at Christmas because they bring such joy to the world. I looked them up and you can, too. It’s a great story. The World’s Greatest Jazz Band co-led by Yank Lawson and Bob Haggart here with “Royal Garden Blues.” If this doesn’t make you feel the joy, check to see that you’re still breathing. And thank you, Jerry. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7HaWzhwwwY
Since we’ve slipped over to the bluesy side of the street, I want to bring in a couple of folks who are known far and wide for their music – Jimmie and Jeannie Cheatham with their Sweet Baby Blues Band. Jimmie is gone now, but Jeannie is alive and oh so well, still swingin’ down in southern California. She was named Queen of the Kansas City Blues by the U.S. Congress in 2012 and she published a great memoir of her life in music, Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On. Their Sweet Baby Blues album won a French Grand Prix du Disque and their album Luv in the Afternoon was voted blues album of the year in a 1991 critics poll in Down Beat magazine. Here they are with “How Long Blues.” Hey, Jeannie, I’m coming to see you soon! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdQE7_U2e3A
One of the tunes Jimmie and Jeannie wrote and performed was “Blues Like Jay McShann,” which is a heaven-sent segue back to the Christmas music with – who else? – Jay McShann himself and Jim Galloway on “Christmas Night in Harlem,” another recommendation from a JazzCookie correspondent, Joe Lang. Joe sent a copy of a holiday CD he compiled, tunes from his own collection. It’s a super collection and I’ll be adding a few more here from Joe’s CD next week. For now, let us swing with Jay and Jim. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsvFvZ_3F4I
In the interest of covering all the holiday bases, I bring you a great new addition to my own collection, Jon Simon, on solo piano with a lively tune from his album Hannukah and All That Jazz. Jon Simon is something of a wonder with an MBA from Harvard, an undergrad degree in Industrial Engineering, studies in music composition with William Bolcom, a musical based on Aristophenes’ “The Birds,” and performances at Kennedy Center, Merkin Recital Hall in New York, for the Ambassador at the Israeli Embassy… the list goes on. “Renaissance man” is the phrase that comes to mind. At any rate he’s here now with “I Have a Little Dreydel” from the “Hannukah…” album. Meet Jon Simon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9rHvi-3uSs
I know some of you out there will be particularly delighted with this medley…The artist is one of our favorites, Marlene VerPlanck, and the songs are “Christmas Back Home,” “Sleigh Ride,” and “The Christmas Song.” It’s a beauty. VerPlanck has a voice as clear and bright as a winter sky in Maine and so lyrical I could listen to her all day or all night. She’s accompanied here by Loonis McGlohon with Phil Thompson on reeds, Greg Hyslop on guitar, Terry Peoples on bass, Dardanelle on vibes and Bill Stowe on drums. Grab a fresh cup of something warm before it begins. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHG3hIT3q0s
It’s been a long evening, but I hope it was worth it…I’ll close with this tune, not an official Christmas song, but Bill Evans was a man for all seasons. And this tune is just right. Bill Evans and his “Peace, Piece.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONMdHbtgcNM
I wish you peace, joy, great jazz and love, JazzBabies.