Happy New Year, JazzBabies! I know a lot of us are entering this particular New Year with more than a little trepidation given the political climate at the moment, but I’m confident that people who love jazz have more than the usual quota of mojo to keep on keepin’ on in the face of – well, whatever.
As usual, I auditioned a lot of tunes while putting this New Year post together, trying to get the right mix of old acquaintance that should not be forgot along with the traditional recap of the past year or years that always comes about now.
I didn’t want to get too sentimental or morose and I didn’t want to pretend that we have nothing to worry about either. So what I’ve got today is a mix of memories of the last eight years with a few other tunes I hope you’ll enjoy.
I was thinking that although jazz has been played in the White House in most recent administrations, I don’t think any president has enjoyed it more than Barack Obama who has all the makings of a true jazz cat. I might just write and tell him that one of these days.
I’m not sure what kind of music will fill the halls of the White House over the next four years, but I’m not at all sure it will be jazz, so here are a few of the jazzy occasions from the past eight that came to mind.
The Obamas started right off with a dance on inauguration evening to a jazz classic and one of my personal favorites, “At Last.” There was a nice play on the spirit of the occasion but what I really liked was hearing Beyoncé directly channeling jazz bird Etta James. Remember this one? Give a listen…
The Obamas welcomed a number of jazz artists for various occasions and I do love watching and listening to the multi-talented Esperanza Spalding and she plays and sings with a boatload of charm, “The Sunny Side of the Street.” Once again, a singer who begins with the bridge and does it with style.
The President himself got into the act with this next tune during a terrific tribute to the fabulous Ray Charles, a musician who had no trouble crossing all the lines among rhythm and blues, soul, jazz, gospel, pop, and rock with a dash of country for good measure. Guest artist Usher was on the bill for this one and he called on the President to cut loose with a jazzy little riff of his own. The warmth and joy on this one makes my heart sing. It’s one fine jazz jam!
I do know for sure, JazzBabies, because we have it from the man himself, that the late night Twitter blasts will continue. But I offer a word of caution when it comes to those blasts – don’t believe everything you hear. Or as the Gershwins put it, “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” Here’s a swingin’ version of that tune by Grant Green and Sonny Clark (guitar and piano) with Sam Jones on bass and Art Blakey on drums. This one’s from The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark, 1997.
Finally, JazzBabies, I remind you that whatever the future brings our way, when the going gets tough, the tough get jivin’! This last tune became popular at one of our darkest hours, and we haven’t stopped dancing yet! Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa and the rest of the Goodman gang are here with “Sing, Sing, Sing.” Guaranteed to put a smile on your face and some crazy rhythm in your toes.
So I say again, JazzBabies, Happy New Year! The music never lets us down.