Tag Archives: popular song

THE GLORIES OF WALTER DONALDSON: JONATHAN DOYLE – JACOB ZIMMERMAN SEXTET at the REDWOOD COAST MUSIC FESTIVAL: KRIS TOKARSKI, KATIE CAVERA, CHARLIE HALLORAN, HAL SMITH, BRANDON AU (May 12, 2019)

Few people would recognize the portrait on its own.

But Walter Donaldson (1893-1947) wrote songs that everyone knows (or perhaps, in our collective amnesia, once knew): MY BLUE HEAVEN; LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME; AT SUNDOWN; YES SIR, THAT’S MY BABY; HOW YA GONNA KEEP THEM DOWN ON THE FARM?; MAKIN’ WHOOPEE; CAROLINA IN THE MORNING; LITTLE WHITE LIES; MY BABY JUST CARES FOR ME; WHAT CAN I SAY AFTER I SAY I’M SORRY; YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY, and many more — six hundred songs and counting.  Ironically, the man who created so much of the American vernacular in song is little-chronicled, and if Wikipedia is to be believed, he is buried in an unmarked grave in Brooklyn.  So much for Gloria Mundi.

On May 12, 2019,  Jonathan Doyle (here playing bass saxophone) and Jacob Zimmerman (clarinet and alto saxophone) created a  wonderful exploration of Donaldson’s less-known and often completely unknown compositions for the Redwood Coast Music Festival.  Joining them were Kris Tokarski (piano); Katie Cavera (guitar); Charlie Halloran (trombone); Hal Smith (drums).  Charlie had to rush off to another set, so Brandon Au takes his place for the final number, JUST THE SAME.  There are some small interferences in these videos: lighting that keeps changing, dancers mysteriously magnetized by my camera, yet oblivious to it (a neat trick) but the music comes through bigger-than-life.

Ordinarily, I parcel out long sets in two segments, but I was having such fun reviewing these performances that I thought it would be cruel to make you all wait for Part Two.  So here are ten, count them, Donaldson beauties — and please listen closely to the sweetness and propulsion this ad hoc ensemble gets, as well as the distinctive tonalities of each of the players — subtle alchemists all.  At points, I thought of a Twenties tea-dance ensemble, sweetly wooing the listeners and dancers; at other times, a stellar hot group circa 1929, recording for OKeh.  The unusual instrumentation is a delight, and the combination of Donaldson’s unerring ear for melodies and what these soloists do with “new” “old” material is, for me, a rare joy.  In an ideal world, this group, playing rare music, would be “Live from Lincoln Center” or at least issuing a two-CD set.  We can hope.

LITTLE WHITE LIES, still a classic mixing swing and romantic betrayal:

DID I REMEMBER? — possibly best-remembered for Billie’s 1936 recording:

SWEET JENNIE LEE! which, for me, summons up a Hit of the Week paper disc and a Frank Chace home jam session:

MAYBE IT’S THE MOON — so pretty and surprisingly unrecorded:

YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO TELL ME (I KNEW IT ALL THE TIME) — in my mind’s ear, I hear Jackson T. singing this:

SOMEBODY LIKE YOU, again, surprisingly unacknowledged:

CLOUDS, recorded by the Quintette of the Hot Club of France:

TIRED OF ME, a very touching waltz:

REACHING FOR SOMEONE (AND NOT FINDING ANYONE THERE), which enjoyed some fame because of Bix, Tram, and Bing:

JUST THE SAME, which I went away humming:

Thoroughly satisfying and intriguing as well.

I dream of the musical surprises that will happen at the 2020 Redwood Coast Music Festival (May 7-10, 2020).  With over a hundred sets of music spread out over four days and on eight stages, I feel comfortable saying there will be delightful surprises.  Their Facebook page is here, too.

May your happiness increase!

FLIGHTS OF FANCY: ALBERT BALL’S FLYING ACES

When I hear young jazz musicians playing, I always hope that they will record — so that their music can be heard beyond the small circle of people who will attend their live performances.

In London, there’s a small group (ever expanding) of lively young musicians — in this case, devoted to the hybrid of ragtime, popular song, and improvisations that were in the air in the first decades of the last century.

ALBERT BALL'S FLYING ACES

Their debut CD, ALBERT BALL’S FLYING ACES, asks the audience to imagine what might have happened if Ball, an actual pilot and musician who died in the Great War, had survived and formed a band when he came home. The music — played by young people with iPhones — echoes that lost generation who perished in World War One, and reflects lovingly on James Reese Europe, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, and pretty melodies — both the ones of their time and ones newly composed to reflect that spirit.  The music is at once nostalgic, reflective, and energetic.

FLYING ACES

The musicians may not be familiar names to you — yet — but their work is impressive: Nicholas D. Ball, drums, percussion, vocal; Simon Marsh, reeds; Eleanor Smith, trombone, violin; Matt Redman, banjo, vocal; Richard “Dickie” Evans, sousaphone; Jonathan Butterfield, piano — with guest appearances by Patricia Hammond, vocal; Geoffrey Bartholomew, trumpet.

The songs are ON SILVERY WINGS OF SONG (2012) / THE AEROPLANE RAG (1912) / WHEN HAPPINESS REIGNS (c. 1920) / WAIT ‘TILL YOU GET THEM UP IN THE AIR, BOYS (1919) / PATCHES — A RAG-TIME DUET (c. 1916) / POOR BUTTERFLY (1916) / AFGHANISTAN — A ROMANCE OF ASIA (1919) / COMMON STROLL (2012) / THE FLYING CORPS RAG (2012) / WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY LOVING SOMEBODY ELSE? (1916) / SERENADE LYRIQUE — PICTURESQUE WALTZ (1899) / YOU’RE HERE AND I’M HERE (1914) / KEEP THE HOME FIRES BURNING (1914) / ROSES OF PICARDY (1916).  You’ll note some new titles — composed by Members of the Ensemble, heartwarming favorites of the Great War, and compositions by Kern, Novello, Elgar, and von Tilzer.

It’s much easier to ascend with the help of this band than it is to find a biplane in proper working order, so I commend them to you.

And with fully modern means of communication! Here is their official site (a charming witty period piece).  Mister Ball has also been granted a Facebook page for his band, and he has his own YouTube channel as well. As the crowning touch, the band’s CD can be obtained here.  The Great War began a hundred years ago, but these Aces are still flying high.

May your happiness increase! 

RESTORING THE REPERTOIRE

In the old days — define them as you will — it seemed as if everyone knew, and played, a thousand songs.  Some of that knowlesge had to do with the demands of the marketplace: members of Goodman’s or Ellington’s or Basie’s bands had to learn and play new pop hits (CALL OF THE CANYON, I KEEP REMEMBERING, POP-CORN MAN) — some ephemeral, some of them lasting.

Today it seems as if jazz musicians and singers still have a common language, but their shared vocabulary continues to shrink.  Often I hear a musician suggest a song that would have been well-known a few decades back — STAIRWAY TO THE STARS — and what would have been a delicious performance never happens because the other members of the group, ad-hoc or otherwise, don’t know the song.

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Enough already with SOME OF THESE DAYS and ST. LOUIS BLUES; give SATIN DOLL and EVERYDAY I HAVE THE BLUES a rest; could we move beyond EXACTLY LIKE YOU and WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO? WHEN YOU’RE SMILING and PENNIES FROM HEAVEN are wonderful, memorable pieces of music . . . but they aren’t the only ones.

I am very fond of songs — all kinds of them, but particularly the pop songs of the period between the two World Wars — and their passing into obscurity makes me glum.

I am not proposing that we celebrate every pop hit or every forgettable song made memorable by a brilliant performance: my list below lacks I MISS MY SWISS and TAKE ME BACK TO MY BOOTS AND SADDLE.

But there are many many songs that never get performed — and they have lovely melodies and fitting, often deep lyrics — and are in danger of being entirely forgotten.

So what follows is purely an exercise in hopeful self-indulgence: a list of songs I think might make both listeners and musicians happy if they were to be learned and performed.  JAZZ LIVES readers are free to suggest additions to this list, and encouraged to do so.  I have put these song titles in alphabetical order to avoid any suggestion of ranking by merit.

And I mean no offense to some of my friends who perform a few of the songs on this list — I am not suggesting that their performances are obscure or forgettable.  Quite the reverse: I dream of a world where everyone knows the lyrics and melody and chord changes to these beautiful songs.  If my list seems heavily based in 1929-35 romanticism, it doesn’t bother me.

ABOUT A QUARTER TO NINE

ACCENT ON YOUTH

AFTER AWHILE

A HANDFUL OF STARS

ALL MY LIFE

APRIL IN MY HEART

BE CAREFUL, IT’S MY HEART

BEAUTIFUL LOVE

BLACK BUTTERFLY

BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH

BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS

BYE BYE BABY

BY THE FIRESIDE

CHARMAINE

CHASING SHADOWS

CHLOE

CONCENTRATIN’ (On You)

A COTTAGE FOR SALE

DEEP NIGHT

DEEP PURPLE

DIANE

DID YOU MEAN IT?

DON’T BE THAT WAY

DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM

EVENIN’

EV’RY NOW AND THEN

EV’RY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE

FIT AS A FIDDLE

FORTY-SECOND STREET

FOR ALL WE KNOW

GIVE MY REGARDS TO BROADWAY

GOT A DATE WITH AN ANGEL

GUILTY

HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN SO SOON?

HE’S THE LAST WORD

HERE IN MY ARMS

HOME

HOT TIME IN THE OLD TOWN TONIGHT

HOW ABOUT ME?

HOW ABOUT YOU

HUSTLIN’ AND BUSTLIN’ FOR BABY

I APOLOGIZE

I CAN DREAM, CAN’T I?

I CAN’T GET STARTED

I’D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN

I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TIME IT WAS

IF I HAD A MILLION DOLLARS

IF I HAD MY WAY

IF IT AIN’T LOVE

I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO CHANGE MY PLAN

I JUST COULDN’T TAKE IT, BABY

I’LL CLOSE MY EYES

I’LL FOLLOW YOU

I’LL NEVER SMILE AGAIN

I’LL STRING ALONG WITH YOU

I’M A DREAMER (Aren’t We All?)

I MARRIED AN ANGEL

I’M FALLING IN LOVE WITH SOMEONE

IMAGINATION

I’M IN THE MARKET FOR YOU

I’M LIVIN’ IN A GREAT BIG WAY

I’M NOBODY’S BABY

I’M OLD-FASHIONED

I’M THROUGH WITH LOVE

INDIAN LOVE CALL

I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU

I SEE YOUR FACE BEFORE ME

IT MUST BE TRUE

IT NEVER ENTERED MY MIND

JEANNINE (I Dream of Lilac Time)

JUST FRIENDS

JUST ONE MORE CHANCE

LET’S PUT OUT THE LIGHTS (And Go To Sleep)

LITTLE MAN, YOU’VE HAD A BUSY DAY

LOUISE

LOVE DROPPED IN FOR TEA

LOVE IN BLOOM

LOVE LETTERS

LOVE LETTERS IN THE SAND

LOVE LOCKED OUT

LOVE ME TONIGHT

LOVE NEST

LULLABY OF BROADWAY

LULLABY OF THE LEAVES

MAKE BELIEVE

MAYBE YOU’LL BE THERE

ME AND THE MOON

MISS ANNABELLE LEE

MOMENTS LIKE THIS

MOONBURN

MOON SONG

MY BUDDY

MY OLD FLAME

NEVERTHELESS

NIGHT OWL

ONCE IN A WHILE (the ballad)

PARDON ME, PRETTY BABY

PENTHOUSE SERENADE

PEOPLE WILL SAY WE’RE IN LOVE

PLEASE

PLEASE BE KIND

POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS

PRINCE OF WAILS

PRISONER OF LOVE

P.S., I LOVE YOU

RAMONA

READY FOR THE RIVER

REMEMBER

REMEMBER ME?

RESTLESS

‘ROUND MY OLD DESERTED FARM

ROSALIE

SAY IT ISN’T SO

SAY IT WITH A KISS

SERENADE IN BLUE

SHOE SHINE BOY

SLEEPY HEAD

SLEEPY TIME GAL

SMILES

SOFT LIGHTS AND SWEET MUSIC

SOLITUDE

SWEET AS A SONG

SWEETHEARTS ON PARADE

THANKS FOR THE MEMORY

THAT OLD FEELING

THE BATHTUB RAN OVER AGAIN

THE DAY YOU CAME ALONG

THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION

THE YOU AND ME THAT USED TO BE

THEN I’LL BE TIRED OF YOU

THERE’S A CABIN IN THE PINES

THIS HEART OF MINE

TIME ON MY HANDS (with verse)

TRUE CONFESSION

UNDER A BLANKET OF BLUE

WAIT TILL YOU SEE HER

WALKIN’ MY BABY BACK HOME

WAS I TO BLAME (For Falling in Love With You)?

WAS THAT THE HUMAN THING TO DO?

WE JUST COULDN’T SAY GOODBYE

WHEN DAY IS DONE

WHEN DID YOU LEAVE HEAVEN?

WHEN YOU AND I WERE YOUNG, MAGGIE

WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR

WHERE ARE YOU?

WHERE OR WHEN

WHERE THE BLUE OF THE NIGHT MEETS THE GOLD OF THE DAY

WILLOW TREE

WISHING WILL MAKE IT SO

WITH A SMILE AND A SONG

WITH EVERY BREATH I TAKE

WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE A WALK?

YOU OUGHTA BE IN PICTURES

YOUNG AND HEALTHY

YOU’RE BLASE

YOU’RE GETTING TO BE A HABIT WITH ME

YOU’RE LAUGHING AT ME

YOU’RE THE CREAM IN MY COFFEE

YOU ARE MY LUCKY STAR

YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME

YOU STARTED SOMETHING

YOU WENT TO MY HEAD

ZING! WENT THE STRINGS OF MY HEART

Consider and remember the riches that are just waiting to be sung, played, hummed . . . .  And I know as soon as I press “Publish,” I will think of twenty more songs that I should have included . . . in fact, I COULD WRITE A BOOK.

May your happiness increase!