Monthly Archives: August 2015

“BEAUTIFUL LOVE, YOU’RE ALL A MYSTERY”: REBECCA KILGORE / KEITH INGHAM (ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY, September 19, 2014)

BEAUTIFUL LOVE Bing

The haunting waltz BEAUTIFUL LOVE was composed in 1931, music credited to Wayne King, Victor Young, and Egbert Van Alstyne; lyrics to Haven Gillespie. That is an eminent group of artists.  I don’t know whether King insisted that his name be put on the music (thus, he would receive royalties) before he would perform the song.  On no evidence whatsoever, I think Victor Young might be most responsible for this melody.

I do know that I first became aware of BEAUTIFUL LOVE through one or another 1934 Art Tatum recording.  Here is his early Decca improvisation, characteristically with everything imaginable offered, including a vivid digression into RUSSIAN LULLABY:

There are, of course, many improvisations on it by Bill Evans, by Helen Merrill, Anita O’Day, Benny Carter, Joe Pass, Kenny Dorham, Lee Konitz, Shirley Horn, George Shearing, and a sweet, intent one by Bing Crosby.

What other song can you think of that has been recorded by both Donald Lambert and Chick Corea?

In this century, the song retains its popularity among improvisers, if YouTube videos are a measure of that.  Here is a sheet music cover from 1959 with the UK pop singer Edna Savage posing inexplicably:

BEAUTIFUL LOVE Edna Savage

But my new favorite performance of BEAUTIFUL LOVE is this, which took place at the Allegheny Jazz Party on September 19, 2014  —

That’s our Rebecca, Becky Kilgore, and Keith Ingham — in one of their duets in a Victor Young tribute set.  I so admire the varied textures and shadings Becky brings to individual words and to those words, made into tapestries of sound and feeling.  The most modest of stars, she is a great understated dramatic actress who seems never to act; she is possessed by the song and rides its great arching wings.

Love is of course the great mystery, whether it is gratified or if it remains elusive.  How the great artists touch us so deeply is perhaps mysterious.  But what we feel and perceive is not — whether we experience it in person or on a recording or a video performance.

To experience an unforgettable weekend of music by Becky and friends, one need only visit here to find out all one needs to know about the Allegheny Jazz Party, taking place in Cleveland, Ohio, September 10-13, 2015.

May your happiness increase!

SHE KNOWS HOW TO THROW A PARTY! EMILY ASHER’S GARDEN PARTY AT JOE’S PUB (PART TWO: JUNE 7, 2015): EMILY ASHER, MIKE DAVIS, EVAN ARNTZEN, DALTON RIDENHOUR, NICK RUSSO, ROB ADKINS, JAY LEPLEY

You can find the first part of this delicious evening here.

Mike Davis, Emily Asher, Jay Lepley. Photo by Lynn Redmile

Mike Davis, Emily Asher, Jay Lepley. Photo by Lynn Redmile

And some words:

I’m honored to count Emily Asher as a friend and musical colleague, and I was thrilled to be at her swinging concert at Joe’s Pub on June 7, 2015.  To the uninitiated, Emily’s band — Garden Party — might seem just another retro-swing outfit, offering variations on familiar music.  That would be a deep misconception, because as the videos below will show, Emily and her musical pals have musical integrity — that is, they play honest music from their hearts — and expansive visions — so that any gig she’s on is going to be wide-ranging, each selection both improvised on the spot and well-thought out.  This is not a band devoted to copying the predictable, but its innovations don’t jostle or hurt.

Here is the second part of that very gratifying night at Joe’s Pub. Emily is our trusted trombonist, singer, composer, arranger; with her are Mike Davis, trumpet, vocal; Evan Arntzen, clarinet, alto sax; Dalton Ridenhour, piano; Nick Russo, guitar, banjo; Rob Adkins, string bass; Jay Lepley, drums, vocal.

Hoagy goes to the Pacific Northwest in Emily’s brooding, lovely PACIFIC LULLABY:

Hoagy, himself — LAZY BONES:

Percy Venable, not for the lactose-intolerant — BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN:

Emily’s own evocation of country angst, MEET ME IN THE MORNING:

A gospel-on-wry sort-of-love-song, MY LIFE WOULD BE EASY:

And Emily’s loving tribute to her very adorable niece, SWEET PEA:

Now that you’ve heard and seen this band in their 2015 selves, please consider. This isn’t a repertory orchestra, tied to the old records; this isn’t a band with a stylistic set of restrictions (“We don’t play anything that the Golden Leaf Mendicants wouldn’t have played on American Music Records”).  What distinguishes this band is a delicious freedom for everyone to follow those evanescent yet memorable impulses . . . so there are tinges of gospel, country, “Dixieland,” Forties rhythm and blues, soul, “modern jazz,” and more — no one’s hemmed in and there is a wonderful energetic lyricism permeating every aspect of every performance.

Someone should take notice.  A residency for the Garden Party, anyone?

May your happiness increase!

THAT’S THE WAY YOU SPELL “NEW YORK” (July 25, 2015)

I think if Bill de Blasio knew about this video, he would make it the Official New York Song of Welcome.  It has everything, doesn’t it?  Joy, playfulness, knife and fork, bottle and a cork, waiters crossing to and fro . . . and glorious hot music.  All of this happened at Fraunces Tavern (54 Pearl Street) at their regular Saturday jazz brunch, on July 25. 2015.

Music provided by Rob Adkins, string bass; Craig Ventresco, guitar; Mike Davis, cornet; guest luminary Tamar Korn, cosmic-traveler.  The song is a late Jelly Roll Morton composition (1940?) GOOD OLD NEW YORK:

Even if you were feeling good before this, don’t you feel better?

May your happiness increase!

SHE KNOWS HOW TO THROW A PARTY! EMILY ASHER’S GARDEN PARTY AT JOE’S PUB (PART ONE: JUNE 7, 2015): EMILY ASHER, MIKE DAVIS, EVAN ARNTZEN, DALTON RIDENHOUR, NICK RUSSO, ROB ADKINS, JAY LEPLEY

Mike Davis, Emily Asher, Jay Lepley. Photo by Lynn Redmile

Mike Davis, Emily Asher, Jay Lepley. Photo by Lynn Redmile

Perhaps when you think of a party you envision fascinating forbidden foods — in small or large portions — and many cheerful people mingling.  That’s not a bad image at all.  When I went to Google Images to find something suitable for this blog, most of the photographs were of athletic-looking women in brightly-colored swimwear, arms extended on high.  Nice, but I don’t remember being invited to those parties, so I chose something more appropriate.

I’m honored to count Emily Asher as a friend and musical colleague, and I was thrilled to be at her swinging concert at Joe’s Pub on June 7, 2015.  To the uninitiated, Emily’s band — Garden Party — might seem just another retro-swing outfit, offering variations on familiar music.  That would be a deep misconception, because as the videos below will show, Emily and her musical pals have musical integrity — that is, they play honest music from their hearts — and expansive visions — so that any gig she’s on is going to be wide-ranging, each selection both improvised on the spot and well-thought out.  This is not a band devoted to copying the predictable, but its innovations don’t jostle or hurt.

Here are the first six selections from that very gratifying night at Joe’s Pub. Emily is our trusted trombonist, singer, composer, arranger; with her are Mike Davis, trumpet, vocal; Evan Arntzen, clarinet, alto sax; Dalton Ridenhour, piano; Nick Russo, guitar, banjo; Rob Adkins, string bass; Jay Lepley, drums, vocal.

WHEN YOU WORE A TULIP (a bright yellow tulip, no less) to start things rocking, with a delicious New Orleans parade beat from Jay:

I’VE GOT A FEELING I’M FALLING (a little romance from Tom and Andy — Waller and Razaf, that is — sung by Emily and Mike):

A rousing suggestion for increased personal happiness, WALK IT OFF, sung by Jay — and the band rocks in good middle-Forties style:

GARDEN PARTY PARTY, evoking Kid Ory’s SAVOY BLUES, but with no copying implicit or explicit:

A gorgeous evocation of Hoagy’s MEMPHIS IN JUNE thanks to Rob and Evan:

Music heals, we hope.  Listen to Emily’s joyously defiant AN OPEN INVITATION TO A RAINSTORM:

A swell party, indeed — full of musical energy, much more sustaining than bacon-wrapped shrimp and mojitos.  And there are more performances to come.

May your happiness increase!

“I GIVE UP, HONEY!” or WORDS TO THAT EFFECT (San Diego Jazz Fest, Nov. 30, 2014)

surrender lanin

Both Louis and  Bing recorded this wonderfully emotional song in 1931, as did the Boswell Sisters and Sam Wooding.  In the decade to come, Red Norvo, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Mundy, Artie Shaw, Roy Eldridge, Coleman Hawkins, Lionel Hampton, Bob Zurke and Joe Rushton, Harry James, Bobby Hackett, Wild Bill Davison, Frank Trumbauer, Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum.  And that’s only its first decade, and only those performances that were recorded.

surrender1

But we are also concerned with the more recent present — since I call this blog, with full intent, JAZZ LIVES.  On November 30, 2014, a stellar ad hoc small band under the leadership of pianist, vocalist, composer, and fantasist Ray Skjelbred took the stand at the San Diego Jazz Fest, and performed this song.

Before they begin (after the little whimsical 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert interlude)  — you can hear someone, perhaps  Marc, warping its title into I SEE RENDERED DEER, but this is America and freedom of speech is said to prevail.  The other nobilities on the stand are Hal Smith, drums; Beau Sample, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar; Marc Caparone, cornet; Jim Buchmann, clarinet and saxello:

The mood, for those who know their antecedents, is more Boyce Brown – Wild Bill Davison (“The Collector’s Item Cats”) than Bing.  But for those who haven’t had enough of this lovely song in its natural habitat, here is something rare and, even better, complete.  Bing starred in several Mack Sennett shorts early in his career, often appearing as himself and delighting in the slapstick and broad verbal comedy.  Here is I SURRENDER, DEAR:

May your happiness increase!

SWING FOR ROMANTICS (1931)

When the conversation turns to the great swinging bands before “the Swing Era,” the names that are mentioned are usually the Luis Russell Orchestra and Bennie Moten’s Kansas City aggregations, Henderson, Ellington, Goldkette, Calloway, and Kirk.  Each of these bands deserves recognition.  But who speaks of McKinney’s Cotton Pickers?  (Is it the name that so embarrasses us these days?)

mckinneyscottonpickers

The song and performance that so enthralls me is from their last record date in September 1931 — DO YOU BELIEVE IN LOVE AT SIGHT? — composed by Ted Fio Rito and Gus Kahn. I am assuming that it was originally meant as a love ballad, given its title and world-view, but the band takes it at a romping tempo. (Was it played on one of their “coast to coast radio presentations”?  I hope so.) Several other marvelous features of this recording have not worn thin: the gorgeous melody statement by Doc Cheatham; the incredible hot chorus by Rex Stewart; the charming vocal by Quentin Jackson; the tenor saxophone solo by Prince Robinson, the arrangement by Benny Carter, and the wondrous sound of the band as a whole — swinging without a letup.

The personnel is listed as Benny Carter, clarinet, alto saxophone, arranger / leader: Rex Stewart, cornet; Buddy Lee, Doc Cheatham, trumpet;  Ed Cuffee, trombone; Quentin Jackson, trombone, vocal; Joe Moxley, Hilton Jefferson, clarinet, alto saxophone; Prince Robinson, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Todd Rhodes, piano, celeste; Dave Wilborn, guitar; Billy Taylor, brass bass; Cuba Austin, drums. Camden, New Jersey, September 8, 1931.  (The personnel offered by Tom Lord differs, but I think this one is more accurate.)

Here, thanks to our friend Atticus Jazz — real name available on request! — who creates one gratifying multi-media gift after another on YouTube — is one of the two takes of DO YOU BELIEVE IN LOVE AT SIGHT?:

I love Doc Cheatham’s high, plaintive sound, somewhat in the style of his predecessor, Joe Smith — and how the first chorus builds architecturally: strong ensemble introduction, trumpet with rhythm only (let no one tell you that tuba / guitar doesn’t work as a pairing), then the Carter-led sax section — imagine a section with Carter, Hilton Jefferson, and Prince Robinson — merging with the brass.  By the end of the first chorus, you know this is A BAND. (I’m always amused by the ending of the chorus, which exactly mimics the end and tag of THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE.  Nothing new under the sun.) And whose idea — Carter’s? — was it to so neatly use orchestra bells throughout this chart?  Lemon zest to the ear.

But then there’s Rex Stewart’s expert and hilarious solo — he wants to let you know he is here, immediately.  I always think of him as one of those bold trumpeters who, as the tempo speeded up, he played even more notes to the bar, rather than taking it easy and playing whole and half notes.  In this chorus, he seems like the most insistent fast-talker, who has so much to say and only thirty-two bars in which to say it.  Something else: at :56 there is a small exultant sound. It can’t be Rex taking a breath and congratulating himself (as he does in WILD MAN BLUES on THE SOUND OF JAZZ) so I believe it was one of his colleagues in the band saying without the words, “Yeah, man!”

Then a gloriously “old-fashioned” vocal from Quentin Jackson, but one that no one should deride.  He told Stanley Dance that he learned to sing before there were microphones, so that you had to open your mouth and sing — which he does so splendidly here.  He’s no Bing or Columbo, wooing the microphone: this is tenor singing in the grand tradition, projecting every word and note to the back of the room.

The final chorus balances brass shouts and the roiling, tumbling Prince Robinson, who cuts his own way amidst Hawkins and Cecil Scott and two dozen others: an ebullient, forceful style.  And by this chorus, I always find myself rocking along with the recording — yes, so “antiquated,” with tuba prominent, but what a gratifying ensemble.  Yes, I believe!

Here is what was to me the less familiar take one:

It is structurally the same, with the only substantial difference that Rex continues to play a rather forceful obbligato to Quentin’s vocal — almost competing for space, and I suspect that the recording director at Camden might have suggested (or insisted on) another take where the vocalist was not being interfered with.  How marvelous that two takes exist, and that they were recorded in Victor’s studios in Camden — a converted church with fine open acoustics.

There is a third version of this song, recorded in 1996 by Doc Cheatham and Nicholas Payton — sixty-five years later, but for me it is a descent from the heights.  You can find it on YouTube on your own.

Whether or not you believe in love at sight (that’s a philosophical / emotional / practical discussion too large for JAZZ LIVES) I encourage you to believe in the singular blending of hot and sweet, of solo and ensemble, that is McKinney’s Cotton Pickers.  One has to believe in something.

May your happiness increase!

LO AND BEHOLD! — “THE FAT BABIES” at WHITLEY BAY (Nov. 9, 2014)

“Lo and behold!” is, by now, an archaic expression by which one refers to something surprising that has happened.  In this case, the surprises are all good ones.  (The record below belongs to William Berndt, who also took the photo.)

LO AND BEHOLD

 

When Andy Schumm (multi-instrumentalist, arranger, composer, bandleader) came to the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, he brought arrangements with him for a ten-piece band — which would have been a characteristic instrumentation in the late Twenties and early Thirties: three brass, three reeds, four rhythm.  At home, Andy and string bassist Beau Sample pilot a hot band called THE FAT BABIES (they’ve made two delightful CDs for the Delmark label and they have a regular gig in Chicago) . . . but the charts Andy brought held no terrors for the international luminaries at Whitley Bay.  In addition to Andy, there’s Menno Daams, cornet; Alistair Allan, trombone; Jean-Francois Bonnel, Lars Frank, Claus Jacobi, reeds; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Henri Lemaire, banjo; Malcolm Sked, bass and sousaphone; Josh Duffee, drums.  They performed — nobly — a lengthy set of hot music, dance music, an Oriental fox-trot . . . full of surprises, including a new Schumm composition in the best style and many new arrangements of venerable songs.  Herewith!

FIVE FOOT TWO, EYES OF BLUE:

BABY (in the Guy Lombardo arrangement, with heat):

SHE REMINDS ME OF YOU (a song associated with Bing):

I WANT YOU, JUST MYSELF (homage to King Oliver with new solos):

CHINA GIRL (the aforementioned “Oriental fox-trot” with a wonderful outchorus):

I WANT TO GO HOME (a Joe Sanders arrangement):

LO AND BEHOLD! (from 1932):

SMILE WHEN THE RAINDROPS FALL (for Stan and Ollie, with a group vocal):

WHEN SHE CAME TO ME (comp. Schumm; manner, Goldkette):

LIVIN’ IN THE SUNLIGHT, LOVIN’ IN THE MOONLIGHT:

And if you’d like to hear more music like this, the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party is taking place in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, November 5-8, 2015.

A postscript.  I take public transportation to get in and out of New York City, preferring that to the stress of finding parking for my car.  So on the bus and on the commuter railroad, everyone has earbuds firmly mounted.  Often I can hear what they are listening to through the earbuds, which means that audiologists will never want for work — but I digress.  Whether or not you can make it to Whitley Bay, I would like all my readers who commute to save some of these videos for their trek to and from work.  It would please me immensely to think of people on the bus or train happily grooving to BABY or LO AND BEHOLD!  Do what you can, please, to help make my hot jazz / hot dance fantasy a reality.

May your happiness increase!

HERE’S THE BEAUTIFUL PART: CELEBRATING KING LOUIS (2013, 2014, 2015)

KING LOUIS

Take your pick.  Would you like to celebrate Louis Armstrong’s birthday as if it had been July 4, 1900 (what he and perhaps his mother believed it to be), July 4, 1901 (where Ricky Riccardi and I think the evidence points), or August 4, 1901 (what’s written in the baptismal record)?  I don’t think the debate is as important as the music.

KING LOUIS 2

And to show that LOUIS LIVES, I offer three examples of musicians evoking him with great warmth and success in this century.  Louis isn’t a historical figure; he animates our hearts today, and tomorrow, and . . .

KING LOUIS 3

Folks down there live a life of ease.  WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH (San Diego Jazz Fest, November 29, 2014: Connie Jones, cornet; Tim Laughlin, clarinet; Doug Finke, trombone; Jim Buchmann, Dave Bennett, clarinet; Chris Dawson, piano; Katie Cavera, rhythm guitar; Marty Eggers, string bass; Hal Smith, drums):

Cold empty bed.  BLACK AND  BLUE (Fraunces Tavern, July 25, 2015: Mike Davis, cornet; Craig Ventresco, guitar; Rob Adkins, string bass):

Does he strut like a king?  HE’S A SON OF THE SOUTH (Jazz Bash by the Bay, March 2013: Marc Caparone, cornet and vocal; Clint Baker, clarinet; David Boeddinghaus, piano; John Reynolds, guitar; Katie Cavera, string bass; Ralf Reynolds, washboard):

KING LOUIS 4

Yes, Louis made the transition into spirit in 1971.  But his spirit is very much alive.

May your happiness increase!

MAKING THE NIGHT SWING: TERRY BLAINE and MARK SHANE in NEW PALTZ, NEW YORK (August 8, 2015)

BLAINE SHANE cover

I’m often reluctant to use JAZZ LIVES to announce one-time gigs . . . but any appearance by singer Terry Blaine and pianist Mark Shane is so special and so gratifying that I am bending my rules.  (The photograph above is from their wonderful and aptly-named SWINGTIME DUET CD.)

I found out that Terry and Mark will be making their debut at a perfect summer venue, the Upstairs on 9 Cafe at the New Paltz Golf Course — located at 215 Huguenot Street, New Paltz, New York: phone 845-255-1960.  This concert will take place on Saturday, August 8, from 7-10 PM.  Terry tells me there are spectacular views from the deck, great food and drinks, and that the place is warm and comfortable.  It might be a touch too warm for Mark to dress so nattily, but he will arrive suitably attired.  As will Terry.

Who are they and what do they sound like?  Hear, hear.

Exhibit A.  Exhibit B. Exhibit C.

To quote the lyric of SAY IT SIMPLE, “If that don’t get it, then forget it for now.”  I have more free time than most mortals, and I live closer to New Paltz than many of my readers, but I’m driving up there . . . I wouldn’t miss this.  You come too.

May your happiness increase!

“WITH A SWEET BOUQUET”: VARIATIONS ON A LOVE-THEME

A fairly well-known (now obscure?) pop song from 1951 is the text for my mellow sermon for today:

its-all-in-the-game-tommy-edwards

This ten-inch Decca recording — more than fifty years old now — which I guard tenderly — is the music of my childhood that has never disappointed me.

LOUIS and JENKINS

Another issue:

LOUIS and JENKINS one

And just because the photograph of Louis and Gordon turned up on eBay ( I know nothing about the  photograph below it) here it is once again:

LOUIS and JENKINS two

Since my dear friend Ricky Riccardi is in New Orleans for the 2015 Satchmo Summerfest, I asked his permission and checked with his legal staff and was allowed a one-time exception to create a Riccardi-style posting which, of course, is not up to his standards . . . but he’s about half my age.  More energy.

Let’s begin where it all began — Charles G. Dawes’ MELODY [or sometimes, MELODY IN A].  Dawes is the most unlikely composer I can think of, a Brigadier General who had taught himself piano and composition, a banker who became  Calvin Coolidge’s Vice President, and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925.  Dawes lived a long time — 1865-1951, and wrote this piece in 1911.  Here is a 1924 recording with Fritz Kreisler, violin; Carl Lamson, piano:

The opening phrase — a simple ascent and descent — is what we call a hook now, although that phrase wouldn’t have applied in 1911.  It’s in 6/8, and it seems as far as one could get from a danceable pop tune in 1924 and later.  But wait.

In 1940, Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra recorded LET ME DREAM, “adapted” from Dawes — I don’t think the melodic emendations are improvements, and I note that on the Decca label no lyricist is listed.  Bob Eberly sings it pleasantly enough, but the lyricist may have wanted to remain anonymous:

Two years later — perhaps as part of the famous Dorsey rivalry, perhaps in an attempt to find non-ASCAP material — brother Tommy recorded what I consider the first truly beautiful “modern” version, on a Red Seal Victor label which meant it was (loosely) a classical recording:

I don’t know who did the string arrangement, but it is dreamily beautiful even before Tommy enters.  And the trombonists in the audience (along with the rest of us) can marvel at Tommy’s tone and range.

I can’t find other recordings of this beautiful melody, but in 1951 Carl Sigman wrote lyrics for it and changed its name to IT’S ALL IN THE GAME.  Whether he modified the high notes or an arranger did — somewhere — I can’t say.  But this is the composition and performance I grew up with: Louis and Gordon Jenkins. Note: some listeners find the pairing of these two great artists unsatisfying; others make light of Jenkins’ sound, vocal and string arrangements.  I won’t have it.  If you want to write dismissively of this side, please refrain and come back tomorrow.

Incidentally, the personnel here is more than respectable in jazz players per inch, in addition to Louis and Gordon: Charles Giffard [misspelled as Gifford in all reference works: see below], George Thow, Bruce Hudson, trumpet; Eddie Miller, Dent Eckels, tenor saxophone; Charles LaVere, piano; Allan Reuss, guitar; Phil Stephens, string bass; Nick Fatool, drums . . . plus strings.

What you’ll hear is not just a 1951 pop tune orchestrated for jazz singer, small jazz band, and strings.  It has a compositional density — Jenkins thought orchestrally, his work a beautiful offering of contrasts and similarities — and the listener who is attentive will hear beautiful sounds.  I know: I’ve been listening to this record since perhaps 1959.  I’m never bored with this 3:22 concerto.

I don’t know if the “new” IT’S ALL IN THE GAME has a verse or an elaborate introduction, so I am assuming that this one is Gordon’s creation.  And what an oddly ominous one it is: the first fourteen seconds a variation on the ascending figure with accents from orchestra bells.  It sounds to me as if a funeral is approaching, or (perhaps) a variation on the verse to WHEN DAY IS DONE — both unusual ways to approach a song that is ultimately redemptive.  Sigman’s lyrics are not about death, but a beautiful escape from emotional death: the lovers have had a serious spat and all is / can be repaired — so that the end is a love-ecstasy.  And the singer — in this case Louis — is beautifully asked to play the part of a gentle wise elder, counseling the young lover who is tearfully despondent: “It’s going to be all right.  You just wait.  I know,” which is advice all of us have needed at some time.

The minor mood gets slightly brighter when the strings enter, the top end of the violin section quite high, with beautiful shifting harmonies underneath — the most glorious waltz one could imagine.

Then, about a minute and a quarter in, one hears the jazz ensemble start to underpin the whole beautiful enterprise — the shift to 4 / 4 made clear by the addition of the rhythm section — and the horns and reeds create a simple echoing descending figure to change the key.  But before we can take this in for long, Louis enters at 1:30.  (Notice, please, that the recording is nearly half over before its Star comes on — which suggests that Gordon knew that Louis deserved the most wondrous buildup.)

The vocal is just sublime.  All the people who dismissed Louis as a romantic singer, someone who made nonsense of words, “gravel in his throat,” might do well to listen to this.  The horns play simple figures behind him and the rhythm section of LaVere, Reuss, Stephens, and Fatool — the best imaginable on the West Coast at that date) rock softly and with conviction.  And Louis treats the simple words with the utmost respect.  And close listeners well-versed in the Gospel of Louis will of course notice that Gordon’s figures are evocative of Armstrong licks.  (A liner note writer for a CD issue of this material whose name I am choosing to ignore called this practice “blatant,” not understanding that it was both an in-joke and an expression of the deepest reverence: surrounding Louis with Louis, amen.)

The strings come in when the lyrics describe having “words with him” — interesting that the singer is speaking to an unhappy young woman.  Singers, please pay attention to the rubato within “And your future’s looking dim!” — the phrasing there is worth a whole Jazz Studies degree.  And, happily, after Louis sings “above,” the strings play — written — one of Louis’ most famous scat figures.  I can’t imagine that Louis wasn’t dee-lighted to hear that.

A looser, warmer vocal conclusion follows, ending in “And your heart will fly away,” ending in a scat passage that is like a caress, like someone’s dear hand making the grief go away.

When I hear this recording, I have tears in my eyes, but they are tears of joy. Recovery is possible.

I didn’t know where in this post to place the more famous (how could this be?) recording of the song — by Tommy Edwards in 1958.  It was an immense hit and sold three million copies.  I think it is a descent from the heights, singer and orchestra, but you are welcome to enjoy it.  Quietly, please.  Use your earbuds:

If you want to understand the majesty of Louis and the gracious warm world that Gordon Jenkins created, though, go back to the penultimate version.

I will close with a little anecdote.  In graduate school, one of my professors was Dr. Spencer — a tall woman who had been born in the UK and had retained a crisp manner of speaking.  We were discussing some nineteenth-century love poem, and she said, “There was a hit pop song some years back called IT’S ALL IN THE GAME, and it referred to “the wonderful game that we know as love.” Taking her glasses off and looking at one impish and weary, she said, “Of course, love is a game.  But you must be sure you know the rules of it, and always bring the right equipment.”  Then she said, “I will see you on Thursday.”  I’ve never forgotten that.

Postscript: one of the many wonderful things about having this blog is the people who write in — not to criticize, but to add information that is true and little-known.  I bless Michael Sigman, son of lyricist Carl Sigman, for sending me this beautiful information about the song:

The most interesting story-behind-a-song saga in Carl’s career began with a phone call from a publisher. For years Carl had thought about writing a lyric for a tune he remembered from his classical training. “The Dawes Melody,” or “Melody In A Major,” was a classical violin and orchestra piece composed in 1911 by none other than Charles G. Dawes, later Vice President of the United States under Calvin Coolidge.

Dawes composed the piece in a single piano sitting. “It’s just a tune that I got in my head, so I set it down,” he told an interviewer. He played it for a friend, the violinist Francis MacMillan, who liked it enough to show it to a publisher, and Dawes was officially a composer. The tune garnered some popularity when Jascha Heifetz used it for a time as a light concert encore.

Early in 1951, Carl decided to try and write a lyric to the theme, believing that it was in the public domain, as free of complications as an old Mozart melody. He knew the two-octave range would be a problem, but figured he could fool around with the melody, take out the high notes and make it more singable.

By sheer coincidence, Warner Brothers publishing exec Mac Goldman called one day to ask Carl to consider writing a lyric to “The Dawes Melody,” the copyright for which, it turned out, was owned by Warners.

Once Carl recovered from the news that the song was in fact already copyrighted, he rejiggered the tune and realized that a phrase from another song he was working on, a conversational phrase he’d plucked from the vernacular, was perfect for this tune. Once he plugged that title into its proper place, the lyrics to “It’s All In The Game,” to quote Carl, “wrote themselves.”

It’s All In The Game

Many a tear has to fall but it’s all in the game
All in the wonderful game that we know as love

You have words with him and your future’s looking dim
But these things your hearts can rise above

Once in a while he won’t call but it’s all in the game
Soon he’ll be there at your side with a sweet bouquet
And he’ll kiss your lips and caress your waiting fingertips
And your hearts will fly away

Carl also wrote this never-recorded intro, to be sung prior to “Many a tear…”

Where love’s concerned
At times you’ll think your world has overturned
But if he’s yours, and if you’re his
Remember this…

Unfortunately, the Vice President never got to hear the lyric. On the day Carl handed in the finished assignment, Dawes died of a heart attack, prompting Mac Goldman to quip, “Your lyric must have killed him.”

“It’s All In The Game” found its way to prominence in a prototypic version, in waltz time, by Tommy Edwards. That record made the top twenty in late 1951, and the song was quickly covered by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Dinah Shore and Sammy Kaye. Seven years later, Edwards, still recording for the MGM label, re-cut the song in the contemporary 4/4 tempo doo-wop mode, and it became one of the biggest hits of the fifties, staying in the top 10 for twelve weeks, six of them at #1.

During the summer of ’58, when “It’s All In The Game” was battling it out for the top spot with another classic, Domenico Modugno’s “Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu),” I was a nine-year old attending Kings Point Country Day Camp. As I changed into my baseball uniform in the locker room every day, I’d burst with pleasure when the radio played our song, and “boo” whenever “Volare” came on.

May your happiness increase!

WHY CAN’T WE DO THIS MORE OFTEN?

MelissaCDCoverWeb

When you encounter beauty, when you experience art, you know it. When my San Francisco jazz friend Barb Hauser visited New York for Christmas of 2004-5, she brought me the disc you see above.  She had been at some of the recording sessions and thought I would like the music.  Barb was only slightly incorrect in this: I loved the music.  I was then writing reviews for The Mississippi Rag and I believe I asked Leslie Johnson if I could review this.

Hearing Melissa Collard sing was a seriously life-enhancing experience. Melissa has an easy rock to her rhythm, where nothing is forced.  She doesn’t copy the records; her singing isn’t a series of learned gestures strung together, plastic beads on a string.  She doesn’t imitate anyone; her warm voice embraces the song and the listener.  She makes it sound easy, and we know that can’t be true.

Here’s a sample:

Hear what I mean?  Clear diction, an easy glide, and her second chorus is not a clone of her first: she respects the song but she improvises . . . offering light and shade while swinging.  The instrumentalists on this disc don’t do anyone any harm, either: Dan Barrett, Ray Skjelbred, Steven Strauss, Eddie Erickson, Richard Hadlock, Fiddle Ray Landsberg, Bobby Black, Bob Wilson, Bob Mielke, Bill Bardin (a collective personnel).

Let’s have another right away (with Eddie on banjo and the trombone choir of Barrett, Bardin, and Mielke, with a cornet-banjo duet in the middle for Dan and Eddie):

And one more (why not?) — with banter for Eddie and Melissa:

Now, the good news.  These three tracks are taken from Melissa’s debut CD, which contains eleven more delights.  The bad news is that the CD is seriously out of print — you’ll have to hunt for it — but it is one of the great delights of my listening experience.

A few years ago I came to Sacramento, where Melissa lives, and found her to be a truly endearing person — always reassuring when the art and the creator line up in the same pleasing ways.  She did not ask me to write this post, but I thought that everyone should hear one of my favorite singers.

And in 2010, Melissa created another CD — this one’s available — for the Audiophile label, called IN A MELLOW TONE.  Her accompanists there were Chris Dawson, Hal Smith, Richard Simon, and Bryan Shaw.

Here’s her gorgeously poignant reading of LOVE LOCKED OUT with Chris Dawson:

Here is Melissa’s Facebook page for those so inclined.  (I am.)

Now, I think — in my ideal world — I could walk over to my shelf of Melissa Collard CDs (issued and distributed by a major record label), I could turn on her weekly radio program, come to her concerts . . . and then I take a long drink of ice water and remind myself of the actual time and place I live in.  That we have two CDs by Melissa is marvelous, and that she is alive and well (and teaching guitar) equally so.  But I don’t think it’s unbalanced of me to think, WHY CAN’T WE DO THIS MORE OFTEN?

May your happiness increase!

HOMAGE TO ADRIAN: FRANS SJOSTROM’S NEW YORK GANG: DUKE HEITGER, LARS FRANK, KRISTOFFER KOMPEN, MORTEN GUNNAR LARSEN, JACOB ULLBERGER, NICK BALL (Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, November 7, 2014)

From the JAZZ LIVES Collection (currently on display in the JAZZ LIVES kitchen)

From the JAZZ LIVES Collection (currently on display in the JAZZ LIVES kitchen)

I’d love to have this Gang in my neighborhood: paying tribute to Adrian Rollini, they make beauty, not violence.  This session took place at the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, and the “New York Gang” evoked five classic recordings with connections to Rollini from 1928 to 1934.  They were Frans Sjostrom, bass sax / leader; Morten Gunnar Larsen, piano; Jacob Ullberger, guitar; Nick Ball, drums; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Lars Frank, tenor saxophone; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone.

IF I HAD YOU (if memory serves, the 1928 arrangement from a Sam Lanin record featuring one Bing Crosby, vocal):

DAVENPORT BLUES by our man from that town:

SOMEBODY LOVES ME:

SUGAR:

RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE:

Such sessions have been the hallmarks of every Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party since before my time — my first was in 2009.  Notice, please, the enchanting mix of expertise and casualness, while great recordings and great performers are evoked, more than imitated.  It’s a wonderful party — now renamed the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party — and this year’s version begins with a jam session by the Union Rhythm Kings, a glorious band, on November 5, and the party goes until November 8, or perhaps the early hours of November 9.

You’ll be more than satisfied.

May your happiness increase!