Tag Archives: romance

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!

SWEETNESS AND LIGHT AND FRIED CHICKEN, TOO: THE SUNNYLAND JAZZ BAND WINS OUR HEARTS (Part One: Oct. 18, 2012)

There aren’t many bands that would inspire me to make a 160-mile automobile round trip after a day’s work, but I did it for the Sunnyland Jazz Band and I still feel immensely gratified.

I met banjoist / guitarist / singer / composer Bob Barta at Jeff (Barnhart) and Joel (Schiavone)’s House Party the week before, and had been delighted by him as a musician and as a gentle, witty, thoughtful person.  An added bonus: I also got to meet and talk with the remarkable Sherrie Barta.

When Bob told me about the Sunnyland ensemble — a trio of trumpet, banjo, and tuba — appearing every Thursday at Bonnie Jean’s on Main Road in Southold, I packed the car with provisions, told the imaginary staff I would be home late, and headed east . . . through old haunts.

It was a delightful musical evening, as you will hear.  Bob’s cohorts are trumpeter / singer John Klumpp and tubaist John Lovett, and they work together so beautifully.  They are sweet without being sticky, light without being insubstantial.  All I can say is that I have their music firmly ensconced in my mind and heart, days after I first heard it.  A singular and touching experience!

I have to point out that Bonnie Jean’s serves real food — I didn’t hear the microwave binging anywhere.  My homemade fried chicken, sauteed spinach, fingerling potatoes, etc., were first-rate.  Good coffee, too, and all at decent prices.  The desserts looked lovely but I was full.  Even if it isn’t Thursday night, I would stop there for the food — and for the lighthearted solicitude of the amiable Jenny and Theresa.  You can read the menu and get all excited here.  Or here if you prefer Facebook.  Worth the trip!

Some of my friends and JAZZ LIVES readers might see the instrumentation here — trumpet, banjo, and tuba, and quail.  Or perhaps blanch.  I understand.  Two of the instruments in this grouping have bad reputations.  But no instrument is inherently naughty . . . it’s just the uses it gets put to by people who are more concerned with volume and effects than with making beautiful sounds.  John Lovett (hiding behind his coils of tubing) creates a resonant deep cushiony sound out of his tuba — it reminds me of a very deep French horn, mobile and sweet.  And Bob is a peerless banjo player who doesn’t see his instrument as a kind of drum that happens to have strings in front of it.  John Klumpp needs no explanation, no rationales: he sounds like a cross between three players: Jabbo, Wilder, and himself.  Two of the three men in this band are known, in addition, to break into song.  They are sweetly persuasive singers and their swinging earnestness goes right to the heart.  Trust me on this.  And you have the videos to prove it.

Bob — who has a puckish sense of humor — called A CUP OF COFFEE, A SANDWICH AND YOU as the first song.  (At the end, he told us that it was a toss-up between that and DINAH.  Think about it):

On the same theme, AUNTIE SKINNER’S CHICKEN DINNERS, although both Sherrie and I were wondering if the original lyrics contain the word “panties”:

Then, for a change of pace.  Think Al Bowlly, not Jack Nicholson, as you hear MIDNIGHT, THE STARS AND YOU:

MOONLIGHT is a Con Conrad tune that was new to me:

Even for someone who finds himself on a plane as often as I do, BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD resonates sweetly:

I think that HIAWATHA’S LULLABY had a brief moment of popularity in 1933, thanks to Adrian Rollini and others — but I never expected to hear it in 2012:

LAZY RIVER.  Oh, you dog river:

A truly rocking version of HERE COMES THE HOT TAMALE MAN even though Bonnie Jean’s is not your usual taqueria:

And the sweet question — dear and romantic — HOW COULD I BE BLUE?:

There will be two more sets from the SJB.  But you should go to Bonnie Jean’s and see for yourself.  I plan to . . .

May your happiness increase.

LOVE IN SWINGTIME: “THE DAY YOU CAME ALONG,” THREE WAYS

One idyllic version of early twentieth-century modernism is the intersection of great artists considering the same theme.  Here, the lost paradise of 1933 where Bing Crosby and Coleman Hawkins could each rhapsodize beautifully on the same song.  It was THE DAY YOU CAME ALONG — a sweet romantic rhapsody of love’s fulfillment by Sam Coslow and Arthur Johnston, a Crosby hit from the film TOO MUCH HARMONY.  Here’s Bing’s version, where sensuality and delight combine:

That same year, a small band of Coleman Hawkins, Henry “Red” Allen, J. C. Higginbotham, Hilton Jefferson, Horace Henderson, Bernard Addison, John Kirby, and Walter Johnson devoted themselves to the same theme:

Nearly ninety years later, the Harlem Jazz Camels pay tribute to the song, to love in swingtime:

This performance (recorded by the very gracious “jazze1947”) comes from Aneby, Sweden, on Feb. 7, 2012.  The Camels are Bent Persson, trumpet; Göran Eriksson, alto / clarinet; Stephan Lindsein, trombone; Claes Brodda, clarinet / baritone / tenor; Lasse Lindbäck. string bass; Ulf Lindberg, piano; Sigge Delert, drums; Göran Stachewsky. guitar / banjo.

“What’s the most important day in history?”

“The day you came along.”

“Of course!”

SENIOR BALL, JUNE 9, 1939

Just give me a June night, the moonlight, and you . . .

Here’s an object with untold stories surrounding it.  Three pictures tell us something, but the whole story remains hidden.

Until my friend David Weiner gave me this (he is the generous Prince of eBay and his subjects love him) I had never seen an actual dance card before.  Oh, I had said “My dance card is full,” often enough, but I was struck by this one, complete with working pencil.

Open the cover and listen to the jazz come out . . .

That’s the only time I’ve ever seen Hackett’s first name misspelled, although there are still people who confuse him with comedian Buddy.

Now we move from jazz to romance.  The owner of the dance card — for the evening and into the future — had some romantic connection to “Gene,” who got the first dance, the last dance, and two more in between.

Did they hold each other close to EMBRACEABLE YOU?  Who found Mother’s or Grandmother’s dance card and put it on eBay?

Now, when you hear, “My dance card is full,” I hope you think of the Senior Ball, June 9, 1939, and the sounds of Bobby Hackett and his Orchestra.

ROMANCE BY THE WATER, 1934

Romance is never out of season.  Nor is the music of Johnny Mercer.  Here’s a charming performance of a song I wish more people would sing (Daryl Sherman has done a fine job on it) . . . with contributions from Jack Teagarden, Stirling Bose, Fulton McGrath, Dick McDonough — recorded for Decca in 1934.

Find the Mercer song here — and if you’re not humming it later today, I’ll refund your money.

The performance comes to us through the good offices of a fellow blogger — “Still A Brooklyn Kid” is his cyber-sobriquet.  He has good taste in all things, and his blog is wide-ranging: urban life, baseball, boxing, early television, and of course all things swinging.  Thank you, Kid!

“EACH DAY IS VALENTINE’S DAY”: LARRY HAM, CHRIS HANEY, KLAUS SUONSAARI (Feb. 10, 2012)

Although I am seriously romantic, I am not terribly interested in the flurry of gas-station roses and GMO candy that marks February 14 as Valentine’s Day.  But I do love MY FUNNY VALENTINE, and I thought it very sweetly appropriate that pianist Larry Ham, bassist Chris Haney, and drummer Klaus Suonsaari played it at Sofia’s several nights before it would be the anthem du jour.  Here is their soulful rendition, with Larry’s fascinating harmonies reminding me of Jimmy Rowles; Chris spinning quietly eloquent lines; Klaus making those wire brushes whisper and cajole.  Great music for romantics any day in the year!

Song scholars will know this, but MY FUNNY VALENTINE was originally performed in the Rodgers and Hart musical BABES IN ARMS . . . sung to “Val,” or Valentine — by the young woman who cheerfully enumerates his flaws but wants him to keep them.  I didn’t know that “Valentine” was originally played by Ray Heatherton, famous in my time as someone appearing on children’s records and later as the MC of the Long Island, New York BREAKFAST CLUB.  If only I had known about his past lives when I encountered him in 1974, I could have asked him . . .

This one’s for the Beloved, who occupies the position of Valentine so securely that I cancelled any other auditions shortly after we met . . .

THE TWO SIDES OF JOHN SHERIDAN (JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA 2011)

Pianist John Sheridan — like most of us — is a multi-faceted personality on and off the bandstand.  Musically, he can play forceful, stomping piano that elevates a band or builds up an astonishing momentum in a solo; that Sheridan in person is a man of strong opinions with a kind of amused defiance.  But there’s the other Sheridan, who gets used to a new piano by playing a sweet minute of IN A MIST, who has a deep feeling for the most tender love ballads, a real romantic.

Both sides of this intriguing pianist and individual were on display in his too-brief solo recital at this year’s JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA. 

He began with the beautiful LOVE LIES, a favorite of Ralph Sutton and Jack Teagarden:

I haven’t heard MARIA MY OWN (MARIA LA O) — an obscure song by Ernesto Lecuona, who wrote THE BREEZE AND I — for years, and I’m so happy that John plays it:

I know that MY FOOLISH HEART has deep meaning for John — in the best ways — so that even though this version began with a cheerful interruption, it never loses sight of its deep romantic center:

Time for a different kind of musing — PETE KELLY’S BLUES, which reminds me of a time and place when hot jazz could still be part of popular culture (a film, a radio series, a television show):

And finally a rollicking INDIAN LOVE CALL, as far from the warbling sweethearts as one could get: John’s tribute to the hard-driving Artie Shaw band version (with a hot Louis-flavored vocal by Tony Pastor):

We’re all complex personalities, but who among us makes as much music as John?