Today’s post is what we’d call in the theatre the entr’acte. It’s a bit of entertainment between the main events, and I’m borrowing the term for this musical entertainment between the main events of Hanukkah/Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
I’ll admit it. I was ready for Christmas to be over about three days before it actually was, so I got busy and put together a non-Christmas, non-New Year’s Eve, non-commercial, non-football collection of tunes that take us back to the roots of this site – jazz. And mostly upbeat jazz at that. In the chill of winter, we need that kind of heat. Even here in the desert with the sun shining brightly, it’s only in the high 30s today.
So let’s open the party with Nat King Cole on a recording he made with Stan Kenton’s orchestra in August 1950. This tune was written by Milton DeLugg and Willie Stein and peaked at number 11 on Billboard’s Best Seller chart. I loved this song when I was a kid. Yeah, that’s how old I am, but jazz not only never lets us down, it keeps us young! Ladies and gentlemen, his royal highness, Mr. Nat King Cole with “Orange Colored Sky.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-6QknAOsVo
If you’ve got the fireplace stoked up with a cozy fire – or you can imagine that fireplace in the mind’s eye – relax and enjoy this warm and mellow rendition of an old favorite, “My Old Flame,” recorded by sax man Zoot Sims in 1965 on the album “Americans Swinging in Paris.” He’s joined by Jon Eardley (trumpet), Benoît Quersin (bass), Henri Renaud (piano), Charles Saudrais (drums). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uePnw4NOPCM
Are you starting to feel warmer now? Nothing like good jazz to do the trick. Let the cold winds blow…we’ve got Bobby Hebb to make things “Sunny” again. There’s a story with this tune – isn’t that the way with them all? Bobby wrote it a couple of days after the double tragedy for him in 1963 of the Kennedy assassination and the death of his beloved older brother in a stabbing. Hebb said, “All my intentions were to think of happier times & pay tribute to my brother – basically looking for a brighter day – because times were at a low.” Word is the lyrics are about his brother and not a love song. Either way “Sunny” became one of the most covered and recorded ever. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubvYQxTXO3U
Want to think about summer coming on? Well then, give an ear to Eddie Heywood and his lovely “Soft Summer Breeze,” composed and recorded in the 1950s when Eddie was recovering from an illness that left his hands partially paralyzed for about three years. He sounds in perfect condition on this one and you’ll be transported. Pass the gin and tonic! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHaAemqYwpM
Jazz musicians can be very funny cats and most of them love jokes about each other, the music, the groupies who sometimes hang around…and in this case, a joke about grammar. Well, did you ever? As any English teacher will tell you, it does make a difference where you put the punctuation. This next tune is known to more than a few jazz cats as “What Is This Thing Called, Love?” Here’s Bill Evans with Scott LaFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums from their great album, “Portrait in Jazz,” a must for every collector as far as I’m concerned. And I don’t care where the punctuation goes.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Cig92gWnVc&index=8&list=RDrMa2VaV3Voo
Finally a tune that never fails to make me think of white sandy beaches, blue water and nonstop sunshine. Let Sonny Rollins take you on a little winter vacation to “St. Thomas.” Old Man Winter had better be ready to dance. You and Sonny will be joined by Tommy Flanagan on piano, Doug Watkins on bass and Max Roach with some fantastic drumming. You could do worse. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UA2XIWZxMKM
Keep those sunny smiles goin’, JazzBabies…the world needs all the happiness it can get.