Hey, that’s a radio!
Well, JazzBabies, we made it through May Gray and are heading into a San Diego summer. Of course, we still have to deal with a little June Gloom, but there was nothing gloomy about this Sunday in June. If we follow writer Joan Didion’s thought, “All we have is every day,” we don’t need to bother about the rest of June coming up. The truth is, “every day” is about as much as most of can handle anyway.
Think about it. Most of us don’t wake up for the 4:00 a.m. time check worrying about tomorrow; we wake up worrying about things well beyond tomorrow that either will or won’t happen and will be either better or worse than we expected.
Every day is all we have works just fine for me. And thus ends the lesson for today, JazzBabies. I do have some fine music for you so let’s get on with it.
I was listening to the radio the other day – raise your hand if you remember radio and still listen to music on it. I don’t mean Pandora or MTV or your CD player or any other spiffy, smart device. I mean the radio. AM. FM. The little box on the kitchen counter or in the car. I was listening in the car. And I was tuned to San Diego’s jazz station, 88.5, when I heard this terrific girl singer knock it out of the park with the great old Irving Berlin tune, “Cheek to Cheek.” I’ll be honest. I love old musicals and I always connect this one up with Fred and Ginger. It was featured in their 1935 flick, Top Hat, which I saw again not too long ago. But this was not Fred or Ginger, it was Sarah Vaughan and the Count Basie Orchestra (without the Count) in 1958, and it was great. I drove straight home, so I could make a note and pass it along to you today. For the record, I’m not big on scat singing with a few exceptions. But I’m very big on girl singers who make the song their own without losing track of what it started out to be. Sarah Vaughan is brilliant. Don’t take my word for it. Reviewer Scott Yanow gave this album four and a half stars. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ur1jazNjqXs
The world of jazz picked up another great tune from a 1944 musical – kind of – with a cast that featured Randolph Scott, Dinah Shore and Gypsy Rose Lee. That’s about as unlikely a combination as you’re likely to find. Or hear. If you’re interested, you can look up the plot for Belle of the Yukon but I’ll just say it got Oscar nominations for the music. Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke were the masters in charge of the tunes, and this one became one of the best jazz standards around. Here’s my favorite guy, Bill Evans, with “Like Someone in Love” from the 50s Riverside recordings. If you should find yourself out gazing at stars or hearing guitars, you just might be someone in love… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFoapxPvZy4
Kenny Burrell is one of those durable musicians who continues to work and record and surprise us. He started young with the guitar and has played with many of the greats. In 1996, Burrell was named Director of Jazz Studies at UCLA, and as far as I know, he’s still got the chops and is still going strong. In his late 60s, he recorded this one on his album, Lucky So and So, a 2001 Concord release. Kenny Burrell with “I’m Glad There Is You.” The surprise comes when Kenny not only plays guitar but provides the vocals and they’re a delight. “Durable musician” doesn’t begin to cover this talented cat. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuECwIWimW8
Saxophonists Al Cohn and John Haley “Zoot” Sims are legendary in the jazz world and not just for their music. In his book, Jazz Anecdotes, Bill Crow devotes a chapter to these two musicians and their goofy side. I’ve spent enough time hanging out with jazz musicians to believe that nothing reported by Crow is an exaggeration. But then, I’ve spent time hanging out with mechanical engineers who were pretty funny, too, once they got rid of the plastic pocket protectors. I remember a night in the French Quarter when we were working on a project and…but, well never mind, there’s really not time for that here. Let’s just say almost everything that happens in New Orleans is memorable. For now, let’s give a listen to Al Cohn and Zoot Sims on “East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” from their album From A to Z: Complete Sessions. Hank Jones joins them. A bit of trivia: This tune was born at Princeton University, written by one Brooks Bowman for a 1934 production. I’m not making this up, and you can feel free to mention it at the next cocktail party. A real conversation starter. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKFdSl_UggQ
Stay with me now, JazzBabies, while we wrap up in slightly different territory where I am compelled to mention a group with the unlikely name, Johnny Diesel and the Injectors. Yes, I too, feel a little like Alice in Wonderland, but this next tune was recorded by Johnny and the gang in Australia and won a couple of awards for the effort. But I’m not playing their take on it. As you’ll hear on the clip, Mel Torme and George Shearing wanted to do something a little out of the ordinary at the 1989 Newport Jazz Festival and landed on this tune. It’s a blues ballad, composed by Buddy Johnson in 1945 and it happens to be a tune I’ve always liked. I was pleasantly surprised – (Oh, get real, JazzCookie) – I was blown away to find this version of “Since I Fell for You” by Mel and George. This is a slow-dancer’s dream, and I gotta say, these two jazz heroes still had it 1989. They recorded six albums together over the years, and had a nice mutual admiration society going. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6Smt3gM81s
Before I leave you, I have a short bonus track that’s not quite jazz, but is kind of fun. It was such a nice Sunday afternoon, I took a walk around my neighborhood which happens to be San Diego’s Old Town. Living where I do is like a party every day because there’s always something great happening, lots of happy people and live music. Today I happened on this group which I’m told plays live in Old Town most every Sunday. They are the San Diego Mariachi Fusion group (yes, I wrote that), Los Rios featuring a fantastic violinist/performer, Popeye Villegas. This clip doesn’t begin to do him justice. Lest you think this is too outrageous for JazzCookie’s post, I’ll mention that they also play at the Tijuana Jazz and Blues Festival and do some great Santana tributes. As we say in San Diego, “It’s all good.” (Donald Trump can’t change that.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCJeW0D5Lhg
And that’s it for this week, JazzBabies. Since every day is all we have, make each one as good as it can be for those around you and especially for yourselves.
Get out to hear some live music if you can, stay safe, and drive like somebody loves you. You won’t be wrong.