We’re already halfway through February, JazzBabies, and March is just around the corner. Will it come in like a lamb or a lion? Given a lot of what’s happening in our world these days, I’m putting my money on the lion.
For years, I’ve collected quotations and sometimes published my own annual Compendiums of the ones that struck me as most powerful or funny or encouraging. I don’t put them on bumper stickers or t-shirts or in Hallmark cards…I just take a look at them when the urge strikes or when I need a boost in this old world.
Here are a few from the jazz world with a caveat. I found a couple of them on-line (others are from my own jazz books), and you know the risk of repeating anything you find online (including JazzCookie although I work hard to verify each thing I post)…:
Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself. –Miles Davis
I can’t stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession. If you can, then it ain’t music. It’s close order drill, or exercise or yodeling or something, not music. –Billie Holiday
Jazz is not background music. You must concentrate upon it in order to get the most of it…The harmonies within the music can relax, soothe, and uplift the mind when you concentrate upon and absorb it. –Horace Silver
Jazz is there and gone. It happens. You have to be present for it. That simple. –Keith Jarrett
I’ve had the Miles Davis quote around for a long time and find it particularly compelling. But then I like them all and what they say not only about jazz but about life. And art. And anything else worth doing.
But you didn’t tune in for a Sunday sermon, JazzBabies. You’re here for the music and music it will be!
Tommy Dorsey is best known for his big band sound and it was a great one. But Tommy was also known earlier on as a “hot musician,” a guy who liked a different kind of music – le jazz hot. He played around with it when he formed his own band but was advised (there are always advisors) to stick with the big band sound and swing. Like a lot of creative folks, he took the advice – kind of. He maintained for his own fun and some financial pleasure a little group of his big band musicians which he called The Clambake Seven to play and record hot jazz between 1935 and 1947. I ran across this hot number from one of the early Bluebird recordings and although I personally have no desire to go to Alabam’, I might consider doing so on the midnight choo-choo, train lover that I am. The personnel here are Johnny Mince and Joe Dixon on Clarinet; Bud Freeman on sax; Yank Lawson, Max Kaminsky and Pee Wee Erwin on trumpet; Edythe Wright on vocal and Tommy on trombone. All aboard! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2cqcLYN4KA
One of our faithful JazzBabies is a banker/writer in India with whom I’ve developed a lasting mutual admiration society. His writing is terrific and his banking likely is, too, but we don’t talk about money. We talk about music. Norah Jones came up the other day and he reminded me that Ms. Jones is the daughter of one of India’s noted musicians, Ravi Shankar. So I thought I’d bring her in to sing a tune today for JazzBabies everywhere. I found this recording of her live with Wynton Marsalis at a tribute for Ray Charles with whom Jones had a musical connection of her own. She walks the line between pop and jazz, but this one’s all jazz on the Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer song, “Come Rain or Come Shine.” That’s Mr. Marsalis on the trumpet. But you knew that. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCj96k1A95g&list=PL25EC2F2796FC9CF2
I don’t know why this next tune popped into my JazzCookie brain this week, but it did and I’m glad. When I was a kid, we had a neighbor who liked jazz and had a pretty decent voice. I remember him singing this while he tossed high fly balls for a tomboy (moi) in our front yard. It’s another Johnny Mercer tune from the early WW II days and was included in the 1942 movie The Fleet’s In. One of Mercer’s biographers noted that Latin America, which was not engulfed in the war became “a favorite topic for songs and films for Americans who wanted momentarily to forget about the conflagration.” Perhaps the Jim Hall Trio can do a similar trick for us now. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBbFLzvAAqg
I hope you haven’t been waiting, JazzBabies, for one version or another of “My Funny Valentine,” poised as we are on the brink of that lovers’ holiday. I know, I know, it’s like Christmas without Ella singing “Jingle Bells.” But this year, I’m skipping right over the traditional Valentine ballad and going straight to Bill Evans for an even more romantic take on the Jimmy VanHeusen/Johnny Burke tune from – wait for it – Belle of the Yukon, a 1944 flick with Dinah Shore. No, I never heard of it either, but we all know this lovely melody. It’s perfect for lovers or the one in your dreams. “Like Someone in Love.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFoapxPvZy4
February is, of course, also Presidents Month which we now celebrate as one squished up holiday instead of two separate days for Presidents Washington and Lincoln. Actually, four presidents were born in February – the other two are William Henry Harrison and Ronald Reagan. But now we cram them all together and have big blow-out sales. I checked, JazzBabies, and this year home appliances, mattresses and furniture will be good bets. For those of us who live in the jazz world and not the Wonderful World of Big Marketing, I have the one, the only president we all wish for this year and that’s The Pres himself, Mr. Lester Young, a man could lead us to the best possible places. If he was up at 3:00 a.m., he’d be playing sweet music, not firing off tweets. So here’s the Mr. President of our United States of Jazz with pianist Teddy Wilson to play for you one more romantic tune. Hold somebody close as you give a listen to this mellow 1956 recording of “Our Love Is Here to Stay.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFbfshtb4kM&list=PL4_B8G88TDFxfg6twibtfarDvYtDfrOSW–
That’s a wrap for this week, JazzBabies. Happy Valentine’s Day to all. If you’re with somebody you love, give that person a heartfelt hug and say “Thank you.” If you’re by yourself, here’s a hug from JazzCookie who loves you, and is grateful for you, every one!