We have to thank the cultural phenomenon of the jukebox in the Thirties for — directly and indirectly — making so much memorable music possible. Not only did it make it easy for larger audiences to hear new songs, but it created a market for recordings of contemporary pop tunes . . . often played and sung by people who wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance. The records by Fats Waller and his Rhythm, by Billie Holiday and Teddy Wilson (leading their own orchestras and in tandem) are well-known, but I cherish the lesser-known offerings of Cleo Brown, Bob Howard, Putney Dandridge, Wingy Manone, Louis Prima, and of course Henry “Red” Allen. . . . not only for his playing and singing, but for creating classics from songs that I think would otherwise be forgotten. One of these is Will Hudson’s 1936 TORMENTED.
and here, for those who would like to try this out on their piano or sing along, is the little cardboard card which (I believe) served to identify a song for copyright purposes by offering the barest sketch of melody and lyrics, portably:
It’s another song of unrelieved yearning, but the version created by Ray Skjelbred, piano, and Marc Caparone, cornet, at the 2016 San Diego Jazz Fest, is soulful, quietly impassioned, but not anything like the title:
The great paradox: art that chronicles pain makes us feel better, and it’s not the sharp-edged notion of Schadenfreude, but rather emotions and beauty, sent directly to us in one package. Blessings on Ray, Marc, Red, and everyone else living this and other mysteries.
May your happiness increase!