We all know what a ballad is — a rhapsodic experience, possibly melancholy, played or sung slowly. But a “rhythm ballad” is something created in the Thirties: a sweet ballad played at a danceable tempo, so that you and your honey could swoon while doing those steps you had practiced at home. Even when the lyrics described heartbreak, those performances had a distinct pulse, or as Marty Grosz says below, “I gotta wake up.” Here are some moving examples of the form, performed during the closing ballad medley at Jazz at Chautauqua in September 2012. First, Marty evokes 1931 Bing Crosby, then Rossano Sportiello honors Hoagy Carmichael, and Dan Barrett tenderly expresses a wish for gentle romantic possession:
Howard Alden’s melodic exposition of an early-Fifties pop hit:
Finally, Dan Block — incapable of playing dull notes — woos us in a Johnny Hodges reverie over imagined real estate:
It’s appropriate that this post begins with THANKS — words cannot convey my gratitude to these artists who continue to enrich our lives. And I am particularly grateful to those who allowed me to aim a camera at them . . . so that we can all enjoy the results.
May your happiness increase!