I heard a song recently, JazzBabies, that gave me pause. It had all the markings of a rock song, and yet – and yet – there was a distinctly jazzy quality to it. Musical genres are musical genres, no question about that. But the lines or walls that separate one from another are blurry.
The song is a Steve Winwood number from a much earlier recording, so I checked in on Winwood to see if I could find anything about jazz in his musical roots, and lo, I did. Winwood was the son of an English tradesman who was also a semi-professional horn player.
Young Steve played a number of instruments and was interested in swing and Dixieland jazz. At the age of eight, he began performing with his dad and brother in a local band. Whew…He was underage, of course, so the piano was turned so it would hide him from the audience. There are stories everywhere, JazzBabies, everywhere.
While still a young student, Winwood became part of the Birmingham (England) rhythm and blues scene on a Hammond C-3 organ and guitar. He backed blues singers like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker, B.B. King and Sonny Boy Williamson II, among others and once said he modeled his own singing on Ray Charles.
All this to say that his interest in jazz and blues lingered and eventually made its way into the music of Winwood’s Brit (mostly) rock band, Traffic.
I was intrigued by this one, so have it here for you tonight. Steve Winwood and Traffic on “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys.” That’s Winwood on piano and vocals. For a little change of pace.
A little change now and then is good for the soul…we may like it, we may not, but we can’t ignore it. Listen for the jazz…