Doesn’t Get Much Better…

…than Johnny Hodges and Strayhorn’s beautiful composition “Isfahan.”

I have recently been watching a lot of concert videos while transplanting seedlings in my office. Last night was a lot of Duke Ellington. Not a bad way to spend a couple of hours: playing in the dirt while watching Duke out of the corner of my eye.

Speaking of which, just for giggles, here’s Duke on “What’s My Line?”

Mimi Rabson Quartet: Violins Against Climate Change, April 22, 2011

Mimi Rabson appeared with her group, including Nick Grondin on guitar, Dave Clark on bass, and Ricardo Monzon on drums. They played an absolutely terrific set. Listen and enjoy:

“The Next Vehicle” (The beginning of this piece was cut off — sorry!)

“Billie’s Bounce” (Nick Grondin arrangement)

“Heal I-Self”

“Marking Time”

“Because I Can”

“Ska Circus”

“Archnophobia” — Composition: Dave Clark

“Why’d Ya Do It?”

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This music was performed to benefit 350.org. Please consider donating some money to them if you have enjoyed listening. Just click on the photo.

More Jazz Photoblogging: Sam Rivers Trio, Boston, 1976

I digitized a lot of photos over the past year, but I haven’t gotten around to putting them online. Here are some pictures from a wonderful performance by Sam Rivers’ Trio at the Jazz Workshop. Most of these were woefully underexposed; some parts of the images were restored digitally.

While I don’t feel these are my best work they nonetheless capture some of the ambience of the gig that night. Not bad for a high-school student.

Sam Rivers is a truly amazing musician who is still going strong. Here is his website.


Sam Rivers


Dave Holland


Barry Altschul


Sam Rivers

Louis Armstrong’s Sunlit Art

A few weeks ago I finished reading “Pops,” Terry Teachout’s beautiful biography of Louis Armstrong. The book was sitting on a chair in my living room, and I went to put it away. It opened at my touch to the page describing Louis’ recording of “Star Dust.” I read these words:

“Armstrong’s vocal is a paraphrase of Carmichael’s tune and Parish’s lyric, whose words he reshapes with a desentimentalizing freedom that delighted the composer: SometimesIwonderwhyIspendsuchlonelynight (oh, baby, lonely nightnnnmmmmm) / Dreaming of a song (melody, memory) / And I am once again with you. Even for him it was a daringly imaginative transformation, much more so than the instrumental portion of the record, in which he mostly stays within earshot of the tune. The fact that he takes the song at a danceable lope suggests that he was regularly tossing off similar musical miracles on the bandstand in the winter of 1931.”

So I thought, “Well. That sounds like it’s worth a listen or two.”

It is:

78 rpm Records of Indian Music: The Peerless Orchestra

Here are four sides on the Zonophone label from the Peerless Orchestra — a name that has apparently had a significant franchise over the years. As in the case of the Manhattan Jazz Band, these recordings were probably made in England and released in India for the benefit of the British expats.

It ain’t Indian music…but it’s certainly evocative of a certain sort of nostalgia, and I will eventually get my entire library of 78s uploaded, so you should get used to some of this stuff now. There’s lots more where that came from.

Enjoy.

Oh, You Beautiful Doll

Hoopoe Kack (WTF? SRSLY?)

Miami (A Southern Idyll)

The Horse Trot

78 rpm Records of Indian Music: The Manhattan Jazz Band

Here’s a change of pace: a disc from the “Manhattan Jazz Band,” released on the Calcutta-based Zonophone label. My best guess is this was from some point in the 1920s or 30s; the music is what was called jazz at the time — by people who didn’t know what jazz was.

In the late 1990s I picked up a great many 78s at a small store in Bombay’s Chor Bazaar. Among them were a few of these recordings of “English Music.” Apparently these were mostly recorded in England and released in India, for the enjoyment of the Brits. I had a brief fantasy that these were Indian musicians hired to play this repertoire, which would have been ethnomusicologically fascinating. Turns out that’s not what happened. Ah, well.

The amount of crud on the surface of the disc is beyond imagination.

Enjoy “Everybody’s Jazzing Now”:

And here’s “That Big Jazz Band”:

Hoagy Carmichael

The composer of countless wonderful songs was also a charmingly relaxed performer of his own music. In the second half of his career he was often given cameo roles in movies, performing one or another of his contributions to the Great American Songbook.

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Lazy Bones

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Hoagland Howard “Hoagy” Carmichael (November 22, 1899 – December 27, 1981) was an American composer, pianist, singer, actor, and bandleader. He is best known for writing “Stardust”, “Georgia On My Mind”, “The Nearness of You”, and “Heart and Soul”, four of the most-recorded American songs of all time.[1]

Alec Wilder, in his study of the American popular song, concluded that Hoagy Carmichael was the “most talented, inventive, sophisticated and jazz-oriented” of the hundreds of writers composing pop songs in the first half of the 20th century.
WIKI

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Am I Blue

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He was born Hoagland Howard Carmichael in Bloomington, Indiana on November 22, 1899. His father was an electrician and his mother played the piano for dances and silent films. Although his ambition was to become a lawyer, Carmichael showed an early interest in music. When his family moved to Indianapolis in 1916, he took lessons from an African-American pianist Reginald DuValle. He attended Indiana University, and, while there, he organized his own jazz band. When the great jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, then at the very beginning of his brief career, paid a visit to Indiana University in the spring of 1924, he and Carmichael quickly became friends, and it was for Beiderbecke that Carmichael wrote his first piece. Not long afterward, Beiderbecke and the Wolverines recorded it under the title “Riverboat Shuffle”.

Carmichael went on to the Indiana University Law School, and continued to perform and write music while there. He graduated in 1926, and began to practice law in West Palm Beach, Florida. However, the discovery that another of his early tunes “Washboard Blues” had been recorded prompted him to abandon law for music. He briefly returned to Indiana, and then in 1929 he arrived in New York. He resumed his contact with Beiderbecke and was introduced with some of the most talented young musicians of the day, including Louis Armstrong, the Dorsey Brothers, Benny Goodman, and Jack Teagarden. Another important lifelong friendship during this time was also established with lyricist Johnny Mercer. Link

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Playing “Stardust” — next up is Hoagy’s vocal version from 1942:

Hoagy’s whistling is great.

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Here’s a discography of some of Hoagy’s own recordings.

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Lazy River, from 1930.

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Old Buttermilk Sky. In last year’s “Singing For The Planet” concert, Dominique Eade performed a beautiful version of this song.

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“Old Rockin’ Chair,” a song originally written for Mildred Bailey. Recorded in 1956 with the Pacific Jazz All Stars.

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Carmichael was a Republican supporter and FDR hater, voting for Wendell Wilkie for president in 1940, and was often aghast at the left-leaning political views of his friends in Hollywood.
WIKI

Nobody’s perfect.

Jack Jones

Jack Jones. Oddly enough, it’s his real name, or pretty close. I haven’t really paid too much attention to his singing until fairly recently; it’s been a delightful discovery. Enjoy.

“Call Me Irresponsible”

A two-time Grammy winner in the early ’60s, Jack Jones has made a fine living since, blending vocal standards from traditional pop with swinging renditions of contemporary pop and rock hits. Born in Los Angeles in 1938, Jones was the son of the romantic lead actor and recording artist Allan Jones (who had a hit with “The Donkey Serenade”) and actress Irene Hervey. He began studying the vocal arts in high school, and after graduation joined his father’s successful act on the nightclub circuit. Jack left less than a year later, determined to make it on his own, and began playing small clubs around the country.

Link

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

(Between 1961 and 1967), Jones recorded almost twenty albums…(snip). Young, handsome, and well-groomed, Jack Jones was an anomaly in the sixties, eschewing rock and roll trends and opting for the big band sound, lush romantic ballads and the Great American Songbook, although sometimes he recorded something more pop, country or bossa nova oriented. One of his biggest hits, for example, was “The Race Is On”, by country music legend George Jones (who is not related to Jack). Besides the good choice of material, Jones worked with top arrangers like Billy May, Nelson Riddle, Marty Paich, Shorty Rogers, Jack Elliott, Ralph Carmichael, Bob Florence, Don Costa and Pete King.

Link

With Judy Garland. They’re doing a medley of every damn song they could think of, followed by the “Donkey Serenade.”

“Gypsies, Jugglers and Clowns,” from 1968.

As is often the case with singers in this genre, he moves back and forth between trite nonsense and genuinely terrific material from the great American songbook.

A review from 2010, by the Wall Street Journal’s Will Friedwald (another example of why the WSJ should stick to cultural reporting and leave the financial sector news to Rolling Stone):

About halfway through his show, while performing David Gates’s “If,”Jack Jones sings: “If a man could be two places at one time, I’d be with you.” And indeed, Mr. Jones is doing two apparently contradictory things at once: He’s got to be the most conversational jazz-pop singer in the pantheon, delivering every word of every line in a direct, one-on-one dialogue with everybody in the Oak Room. At the same time, he’s the most thoroughly musical and constantly creative, having learned the lessons of Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra? that playing with the tune can be a way of personalizing it, making the lyrics resonate all the more meaningfully. Beyond that, Mr. Jones is the most well-endowed vocally and theatrically; nearly every ending is a big one, allowing him to show off his Olympian chops. Somehow, he achieves the near-impossible feat of being breathlessly intimate even while belting at the top of his lungs.
To miss Mr. Jones would be to miss one of the great veteran interpreters of the standard songbook (in a class with Tony Bennett and Freddy Cole). Miraculously, he keeps his balance through the entire show, managing to be up close and personal yet at the same time hitting stratospheric high notes that only dogs can hear and holding them until the cows come home. The dichotomy was represented by his two opening theme songs, the warm, intimate “Isn’t That What Friends Are For?” and the bombastic, anthemic “I Am a Singer.” It’s not like he’s one thing and then the other; he’s constantly both at the same time, particularly on emblematic 1960s hits like “People” and “God Only Knows,” which he brings to life more vividly than anyone I’ve ever heard.

Link

His phrasing draws from Sinatra, but there is nobody in this genre of whom that cannot be said. His technique is extraordinary; while I’m not always sympathetic to his intonation he usually manages to convince me that he’s doing it deliberately.

Stephen Holden, in The New York Times; 2008:

In 1962, when he had his first hit, “Lollipops and Roses,” Mr. Jones was the handsome, fresh-faced new kid on the block in an already established tradition of honey-dripping lounge lizards who swing. Today he is the same animal, but his weathered voice is filled with seams and crevices. It is the voice of a gentleman rancher astride a horse, surveying his property in a television western. It is said that as we age, we become more and more ourselves. And the mature Jack Jones has refined a style that could never be called cookie-cutter. His world-weary cragginess coincides with an impulse to take ballads at extremely slow tempos and to execute them with the hesitations, drawn-out notes and sudden leaps that are a trademark of the jazz singer Mark Murphy. Because the lower end of Mr. Jones’s voice has deepened, his sudden flights into a quasi-falsetto are more dramatic than ever. At times they suggest the spontaneous eruptions of a polished stylist impatiently throwing caution to the wind.

Link

Shadow of Your Smile / What Now, My Love?

Someone To Watch Over Me / Just One Of Those Things
While the MC is annoying, his performances are delightful; great variations on the Cole Porter.

With Aretha Franklin and B.B. King, doing “Sweet Sixteen.” Damn.

This gig recording is very recent. He is using more rasp, and doing so quite creatively. I don’t always agree with his intonation in the first few verses, but by the time he gets going, he’s beautifully focused. And what a lovely lower register.

“Our Love Is Here To Stay.” He is joined onstage at the end by his ex-wife and their daughter.