Photograph by Bill Klewitz
My title comes from a wonderful, lesser-known song by Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin, from a minor Paramount Pictures comedy, TROPICAL HOLIDAY — with Ray Milland, Dorothy Lamour, Martha Raye (possibly playing a matador) and Bob Burns.
We know the song because it was recorded by Billie Holiday in 1938.
And it was performed anew by Petra van Nuis and Friends at the 2017 Cleveland Classic Jazz Party.
Petra had herself a time with some of the best players I know: Ricky Malichi, drums; Frank Tate, string bass; Andy Brown, guitar; Andy Schumm, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Scott Robinson, reeds; Noah Won, piano.
Petra, if you are new to her or her work, can also be seen having a wonderful swinging time at Cleveland here on Sunday morning with an entirely different cast of luminaries: John Di Martino, Nicki Parrott, and Hal Smith.
Rather like our swing ideal Rebecca Kilgore, Petra doesn’t choose to drown herself in melancholy on the bandstand: even when she sings EVENIN’, the brisk tempo reminds us that the grim lyrics are only half the story. Her outlook is optimistic, as you will see and hear in these four wonderful performances.
She began with an upbeat song, almost a century old, SAVE YOUR SORROW:
After that encouraging beginning, Petra moved to “an old Billie Holiday song,” but you’ll notice she doesn’t attempt to be the Lady — no meow, no rasp:
Another song identified with Billie and Basie (built on DIGA DIGA DOO, I now know by hearsay), SWING, BROTHER, SWING — also a policy statement from the van Nuis camp:
And finally, a real pleasure. Petra is tall and svelte, but here she extends an affectionate embrace to those who, like me, ruefully are neither. It’s Fats’ SQUEEZE ME, with the shade of Mildred Bailey in the wings, grinning:
It is so dreadfully unpopular these days to suggest that jazz of any kind is “happy music”; to some it conjures up nightmarish visions of striped jackets and straw boaters. But Petra and a first-class band create joy.
And here is her website, where you can see other videos, learn all about her and the Recession Seven, and find out where she’ll be appearing next.
May your happiness increase!