Tag Archives: love songs

ANCIENT SONGS OF LOVE: BOB SCHULZ and his FRISCO JAZZ BAND at “SOUNDS OF MARDI GRAS,” Fresno, California: BOB SCHULZ, RAY TEMPLIN, KIM CUSACK, RAY SKJELBRED, DOUG FINKE, SCOTT ANTHONY, JIM MAIHACK (February 9, 2019)

 

 

I don’t think we automatically perceive hot jazz as the music of romance.  After all, would you woo your Dearest One with ST. JAMES INFIRMARY, YOU RASCAL YOU, PANAMA, or GET OFF KATIE’S HEAD?  But the hot jazz expressions of the late Twenties onwards were based on the music of love as expressed in pop songs with lyrics.  These songs were accessible to the crowd, they could be danced to, and they could be swung.  Think of the recordings of Billie Holiday, Mildred Bailey, Louis Prima, Eddie Condon, and a thousand others up to the present day.  (And I like the coincidence that the first song recorded by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five was MY HEART, by pianist Lil Hardin Armstrong.)

It seems that for every “You trampled on my soul, you heartless cad” song, there are two dozen celebrating the joys of fulfilling love: TEA FOR TWO, I’VE GOT A FEELING I’M FALLING, EXACTLY LIKE YOU, SWEET LORRAINE, AS LONG AS I LIVE, HONEY, WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA, I WISH I WERE TWINS, AIN’T SHE SWEET, ALWAYS, SWEET AND SLOW, I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU, YOU DO SOMETHING TO ME, I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU, I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY, I WANT TO BE HAPPY, and so on.

In that spirit, I present four swinging love songs (vocals by Bob Schulz and Scott Anthony) performed and recorded at the “Sounds of Mardi Gras,” in Fresno, California, on February 9, 2019.  The creators here are Bob Schulz, cornet, vocal; Doug Finke, trombone; Kim Cusack, clarinet; Ray Skjelbred, piano; Scott Anthony, banjo, vocal; Jim Maihack, tuba, Ray Templin, drums, vocal.

Meaning no disrespect to the rest of the Frisco Jazz Band, please pay serious attention to what Mr. Skjelbred is doing, in ensemble as well as solo: I’d characterize it as his setting off small melodious fireworks in every performance.  As he does!

Here’s the most ancient chanson d’amour, Tony Jackson’s PRETTY BABY:

and the song Louis used as his entry to a huge popular following (while always remaining himself), I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE:

JUNE NIGHT, with a startling Skjelbred solo:

I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME at a nice easy tempo:

This congenial, amiable ensemble will return to Fresno in February 2020.

May your happiness increase!

ROMANTICALLY YOURS, THOMAS “FATS” WALLER

The legend that’s continued after Fats Waller’s untimely death is that he was marvelously creative but also an outlandish clown, especially when given poor material to record, undermining it with mocking asides and jokes.  But I treasure those times when he respected the song and showed us what a tender singer he was.  The performances below aren’t comic or anarchic; there are no uptempo stride extravaganzas.  But gentle feeling shines through every note.

FAIR AND SQUARE is a song I came to love through performances by Lueder Ohlwein of the Sunset Music Company, a whole rhythm section and glorious singer on his own.  The composer credits are usually given to Andy Razaf and Leo Robin, although one HMV record label assigns the song to Harry Woods, I think in error:

I first heard this very sweet song because of Melissa Collard’s 2004 memorable recording.  But Fats did it first:

This performance sounds as if Fats is going to launch into hilarious mockery, but he doesn’t.  The songwriters Charlie Tobias and Sammy Fain knew how to transform cliches.  Wait for the lovely piano coda:

Here, also, Fats trembles on the edge of amusement, but chooses to focus on the song’s essential sadness:

Lovely music and lovely sentiments from Thomas Waller.

May your happiness increase!

IN THE NAME OF BEAUTY: MORE FROM HILARY GARDNER / EHUD ASHERIE at MEZZROW (May 18, 2015)

It was great good fortune and the generous impulse of Spike Wilner, the owner-patron saint of Mezzrow (163 West 10th Street, New York City) that brought singer Hilary Gardner and pianist Ehud Asherie together for an offering of beauty on May 18, 2015.  Here are some remarkable performances from that evening of song:

For Fred and Ginger and lovers everywhere, Mister Berlin’s divine CHEEK TO CHEEK:

EVERYTHING I’VE GOT speaks to a more dangerous romantic entanglement, with physical force, courtesy of Rodgers and Hart, and rollicking piano by Ehud:

Think globally, sing locally — as in A BROOKLYN LOVE SONG.  Hey!:

AFTER YOU’VE GONE, a fitting farewell, loose-jointed and completely playful (including explosively joyous piano from Ehud):

and, if you missed the earlier postings, here are two sublime performances of songs not heard enough in this century:

AZALEA:

I USED TO BE COLOR-BLIND:

which wins the JAZZ LIVES award for Gorgeousness.

May your happiness increase!

“SUCH LOVELY COLORS”: HILARY GARDNER and EHUD ASHERIE at MEZZROW (May 18, 2015)

I would say that what follows is a once-in-a-lifetime performance, but every time I’ve heard Hilary Gardner sing or Ehud Asherie play, such things have happened with wondrous regularity. This epiphany took place on May 18, 2015, at that shrine for music, Mezzrow.

As readers of JAZZ LIVES know, I am not one to hyperbolize, but I remember clearly the delighted anticipation I felt when this performance began: “Oh, my! They’re going to do that song?  And at that gorgeous tempo?”  For I USED TO BE COLOR-BLIND, certainly not a well-known song, had been “swung” by Fred Astaire and Mildred Bailey in its original incarnation in 1938.  We don’t acknowledge Irving Berlin sufficiently as a writer of the most gorgeous love songs, but this is one.  I couldn’t hold my breath for three minutes, but it felt as if I was doing just that, so delicious the immersion in rare feeling.

Hilary and Ehud understand the song’s emotional center: the lover’s astonished delight at finding experiences and perceptions changed utterly.  One’s familiar world now made brilliant.  And that transformation is something to savor, second by second, note by note:

I marvel at this.  Such healing tenderness, such rare art.  It’s a rainbow.

May your happiness increase! 

LOVE SONGS AND SOME RHYTHM: CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS SWING BAND at the WEDNESDAY NIGHT HOP (August 14, 2013)

This music makes me feel very nostalgic for summer in California with the Beloved and among friends, and happy to know I will be out there again in 2014. One of our staunch musical friends is the eminent Clint Baker.

These performances take me back to an evening in Mountain View, at “the Wednesday Night Hop,” where Clint and his New Orleans Swing Band gave us all, not just the dancers, reason to be very happy.  The NOSB was Clint, of course, trumpet and vocal; Benny Archey, trombone; Bill Carter, clarinet; Jason Vanderford, banjo / guitar; Sam Rocha, string bass; Steve Apple, drums.

I DON’T WANT TO SET THE WORLD ON FIRE:

YEARNING:

JOE LOUIS STOMP:

Trombonist Benny Archey was new to me.  He could be drummer / pianist Jeff Hamilton’s brother, so strong in the resemblance, but Mr. Archey is a retired Wyoming orchid grower, visiting California intermittently, who plays serious trombone.  I was very glad to meet and hear him.  And the rest of the band!  The distinctive voices of the front line players, weaving and bobbing expertly, and that rhythm section!  Dance music of the highest order. Thanks, as always, to these brilliant navigators of melody, and to Audrey Kanemoto and the people who create and sustain the Wednesday Night Hop.

May your happiness increase!

THEY’RE THROUGH WITH LOVE: CECILE McLORIN SALVANT, SPATS LANGHAM, DUKE HEITGER, ALISTAIR ALLAN, NORMAN FIELD, EMMA FISK, MARTIN LITTON, HENRI LEMAIRE, RICHARD PITE at the WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (November 26, 2012)

Music for the lovelorn, the hopeful, the despairing, the wistful . . .all in swingtime, performed at the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party by singers Cecile McLorin Salvant and Spats Langham (who has a guitar or banjo in his hands most of the time), with instrumental backing from trumpeter Duke Heitger, trombonist Alistair Allan, reed hero Norman Field, violinist Emma Fisk, pianist Martin Litton, bassist Henri Lemaire, and drummer Richard Pite.

There’s a long tradition in jazz of taking the most mournful popular songs (and I think there have always been more downcast songs than elated ones, although I haven’t counted) at swinging tempos. Even the saddest Crosby and Columbo laments had some rhythm in them, and if you consider Billie’s I’M GONNA LOCK MY HEART for one example, you’ll see the possibilities of the juxtaposition.

But until Cecile’s romp on the final song, much of this set was sadness or yearning in a lightly mobile 4 / 4.

Spats began with Fud Livingston’s sadly serious I’M THROUGH WITH LOVE:

YOU’VE GOT ME CRYIN’ AGAIN was recorded in 1933 by both Bing Crosby and a young Lee Wiley:

Cecile tells the imaginary lover I GET ALONG WITHOUT YOU VERY WELL:

Spats goes back to Bing and Eddie Lang — at the same time — for a song I love dearly, PLEASE:

Evoking the jazz tradition of fifteen years later (I thought of Sarah Vaughan), Cecile swings out with LOVER, COME BACK TO ME:

I don’t know what this music would do for the genuinely lovelorn (in the audience or on the stand) but I appreciate every turn.

May your happiness increase.

MEET ME AT THE CORNER OF SWING AND LOVE: DUKE HEITGER and DAN BLOCK PLAY RHYTHM BALLADS (Jazz at Chautauqua, Sept. 23, 2012)

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.