There’s something about Friday nights that always gets me thinking about “where to go” and “what to do” and “hey, what’s happenin’.”
It’s that TGIF kind of feeling – the work week has ended and it’s time to cut loose a little. Or maybe it goes back to the Friday night sock hops when we were in high school with no homework due for two whole days.
By Saturday night I’ve cut loose about as much as I can after a full day of non-work things that have to be done – errands, shopping, cleaning, fixing whatever needs to be fixed.
Saturday nights are still good for going out, of course, but it’s a different and usually more organized kind of thing. Schedules are checked. Plans are made. Tickets are purchased. A person has to rest up for Saturday night. But Friday nights – oh, baby, just footloose and fancy free.
Friday nights are made for hopping from one place to another when you’re young and for remembering those nights fondly when you’re no longer quite so young.
This week’s selections are a tribute to Friday nights – an eclectic joint-hoppin’ group of tunes to help you mellow out at the end of the work week. (Although I no longer work at the kind of 9-5 job I once had, Friday night is still somehow “the end of the work week.”)
Our first stop is the Hickory House where we’ll find Marian McPartland at the piano. McPartland is widely known for her “Piano Jazz” shows on public radio, but long before that, she was already known for her fine piano work, her Halcyon Record company, her compositions including the symphonic A Portrait of Rachel Carson and, of course, her marriage to jazz trumpeter Jimmy McPartland. McPartland hailed from across the pond, but she became an American jazz artist who was honored as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, received a Grammy for lifetime achievement and, in 2007, was inducted as a member of the National Radio Hall of Fame. Oh, and in 2010 she was named a member of the Order of the British Empire. Here she is from her 1955 album Marian McPartland at the Hickory House on that lovely old tune by Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer, “Skylark,” with Joe Morello on drums and Bill Crow on bass. Settle back and relax…There now, isn’t that nice? Thoughts of work just disappear… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vx0avLnj4Os
At this next stop, we’ll be treated to something a little different from bassist Ray Brown. Brown played bass on a number of excellent jazz recordings and was much in demand for his work. In 1960, though, he recorded his third album for Verve and focused his attention instead on the cello. The album title says it all: Ray Brown Jazz Cello. The cello is not the first instrument most people think of when they think of jazz, but step inside and take a listen to Brown and his cello on “Tangerine” and tell me it’s not jazz. The band behind Brown includes Joe Mondragon on bass, Paul Horn on reeds, Jimmy Rowles on piano and a clutch of others conducted by arranger Russ Garcia. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxUXfuSJIqM
Time for a change of pace and I hear lively music coming from around the corner. If Satchmo were here, he’d definitely call it “Le Jazz Hot!” As a matter of fact it’s the Hot Club of France Quintet with – you already know who – Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli on “Sweet Georgia Brown.” This one goes back to 1938. Perhaps one or two of you do, too. A new survey says listening to jazz adds to longevity. Okay, I made that up, but I wouldn’t be surprised. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpO5xIltlyU
Time now for a quiet break after all that dancing…you were dancing, weren’t you? What better to take us on that break than the rich and mellow tones of the Coleman Hawkins Quartet from their 1962 album Today and Now. This one was recorded for Impulse! label with Hawkins on saxophone, Tommy Flanagan on piano, Eddie Locke on drums and Major Holley on bass. “Don’t Love Me” is not a tune you hear every day, but this is your lucky day and here it is. Just for you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QaR_ns0alI&list=PLy4HPXwqTGCa1KDHFQHbFiCDGnFV9KZ3w
Light’s breaking over the river now and the city is waking up. Friday night has morphed into Saturday morning, but the mood remains mellow, tender, possibly filled now with new tomorrows you didn’t expect. Hawkins said, “Don’t love me,” but songbird Patricia Barber answers, “You’d Be So Easy to Love,” from her 2008 album, The Cole Porter Mix. I was not familiar with Barber, but that’s my fault, not hers. She’s been around and has been a regular at the Green Mill in Chicago for a good while. Unfortunately, the only things I really know about Chicago are O’Hare Airport and how to get from I-90 to I-80 in the freeway maze on my cross-country drives. I should have known about Patricia Barber and now I do. I’m falling for her smoky voice, reminiscent of the singers of the 50s and my idea of quintessential jazz vocals. She’s here on piano and vocal with Chris Potter on tenor sax, Neal Alger on acoustic and electric guitar, Michael Arnopol on bass, and Eric Montzka and Nate Smith on drums/percussion. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ke6cDxM4Zdc
And that’s it for this time, JazzBabies. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to kick off my shoes and watch the sun come up, catch a few winks. Next Friday night can’t come soon enough for me, but I’m taking the weekend off. No homework due until Monday!