On Shelter Island
This past week, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a most satisfying jazz evening in San Diego. Rebecca Kilgore was in town from Portland with bassist Tom Wakeling, and someone who knew what she was doing put them together with our own Peter Sprague and his magic guitar for a couple of relaxed and delightful hours at our Handlery Hotel.
As Rebecca mentioned a few of the Portland jazz heroes, I felt a twinge of homesickness for my old hometown – not the town, but for the musicians with whom I spent many a happy hour listening and chatting: John Stowell, Dan Balmer, Randy Porter and so many others.
For many of us “listening to jazz” is active, not passive. We are the ones who give you looks if you talk during the music and who sometimes want to sit by ourselves while we listen. We are the ones who love watching the interplay among the musicians and who never ask “Do you know…?”
Years ago, I wrote these lines in my jazz novel: “There are two kinds of people. The ones who listen to the music and the ones who can talk right through “Body and Soul.”
And I meant those words.
I’m finding San Diego to be a good jazz city with folks who pay attention, respect the music and the musicians, and don’t think “listening to jazz” is a time to socialize or get loud. For that I say, thank you, San Diego.
During the evening Rebecca sang a beautiful number that was new to me. The song is “Someone to Light Up My Life,” and comes from the oeuvre of Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, with lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes. The song was written for a play in 1956 that became the basis for the film Black Orpheus. English lyrics are by Gene Lees. I have it here with Shirley Horn, a wonderful vocalist who often accompanies herself on piano. For this CD, however, she leaves the keyboards – and orchestrations – to George Mesterhazy with Alex Acuna on percussion. The CD, Loving You, was released in 1997. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toOPck0Eaxk
Like all cities worth the title, San Diego has a fine FM jazz station and I listen most days as I drive around in the sunshine. A couple of days ago, this one caught my ear and I did that thing where you sit in your car in the parking lot waiting to find out what it is. Well, what it is is Mr. Art Blakey with his Jazz Messengers on their 1960 A Night in Tunisia album with a hip take on Wayne Shorter’s “So Tired.” Personnel include, in addition to Blakey and Shorter, Lee Morgan and Bobby Timmins with Jymie Merritt on bass. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEFaBKok1jg
I’ve been in the mood for a little Lady Day and maybe you are, too. Here she is on one of my favorites, “I Thought About You.” Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Mercer teamed up for this one back in 1939 (time flies when you’re having fun!) Billie’s backed here by Willie Smith on alto sax, Red Callender on bass, Chico Hamilton on drums, Barney Kessell on guitar, Bobby Tucker on piano and her old pal, Harry “Sweets” Edison on trumpet. This cast deserves a standing ovation, but feel free to stay where you are as we listen. Billie recorded this for Verve on September 3, 1954. Mercer said the lyrics were inspired by a trip he made to Chicago. “I got to thinking about it on the train. I was awake, I couldn’t sleep. The tune was running through my mind and that’s when I wrote the song. On the train, really, going to Chicago.” And now you know.
The professional music world is as small as any other professional world. Rebecca knows my friend and mentor guitarist John Stowell who knows guitarist Peter Sprague who knows …and the beat goes on. I thought it would be nice to include a tune tonight by John Stowell who was not in San Diego this week, but with whom I stay in touch regularly. We all send greetings, John. Here’s a recording of him on Steve Swallow’s “Falling Grace,” played on a 1959 ES-335 and recorded at MusicStoreLive. The folks at MusicStoreLive had great things to say about it, and I hope you will, too.
In closing, I have a tune that comes from another era. “Where or When” is a Rodgers and Hart classic from the 1937 musical Babes in Arms. For those of you who are a little younger, this song was recorded by Dion and the Belmonts back in 1960 which just goes to show that good music never goes out of style. (Of course, these guys also recorded “Teen Angel,” “A Teenager in Love,” and “Runaround Sue,” so ….) But this is a jazz show, so we’ll step on over to Stage One and catch this one by the Stan Getz Quartet with Getz, Lou Levy on piano, Leroy Vinnegar on bass and Stan Levey on drums. This was recorded in 1957 and is from Getz’s Award Winner album for Verve.
In case you haven’t been looking at your calendars, JazzBabies, I remind you that Monday is Leap Day, February 29. Traditionally, this is the day the fair sex can do the proposing when it comes to love and marriage. (And as a sidebar, Amy Adams’ movie Leap Day is a real treat.) So, guys, if you’re gonna run and hide, this is a good time. Ladies, if you’ve a mind to propose, make your plans and start your engines, please.
Happy Leap Day to all, JazzBabies.