Before the tempos in jazz became so severely divided into Very Fast and Less Fast, there was a beautiful land known as Medium Tempo — a Canaan of Swing. In this land, there were infinite shadings and subtleties, and one of the most rewarding emotional expressions was something called — by those who knew — the Rhythm Ballad. It wasn’t BODY AND SOUL played at the speed of maple syrup and then double-timed; it was a slow medium with a real pulse, the best way to play love songs that the dancers could still move to. Rhythm ballads are often neglected these days, but here are two very touching examples taken from the last session of the 2012 Jazz at Chautauqua. The rhythm section is Pete Siers, drums; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Marty Grosz, guitar; Rossano Sportiello, piano . . . which for me would be enough delight. But then we have two poets — Duke Heitger creating beautiful visions out of WHEN DAY IS DONE (a song of sweet longing for one who is missed), followed by Dan Block, building the most ethereal castles-in-the-air for PENTHOUSE SERENADE, which is subtitled WHEN WE’RE ALONE, and celebrates sweet intimacy — something that can’t be rushed, either.
I imagine — or I hope — that some readers of JAZZ LIVES will turn away from the computer and say, “Honey? Come over here right now. Put down that screwdriver / iPhone / spatula and let’s dance.”
This one’s for Louis and Johnny Hodges, for my Beloved, and for yours, too.
May your happiness increase.