One of the most durable songs in the jazz and pop repertoire, from its introduction in 1924, OH, LADY BE GOOD has always been performed at a rather brisk tempo. Here’s an early dance band version:
and many jazz musicians took their cue from the 1936 Jones-Smith, Inc. version. But Basie and others knew that too fast is never good, that the sprinters can wear themselves out. So I take special pleasure in this groovy performance from the 2017 Cleveland Classic Jazz Party (alas, now a memory) by Ehud Asherie, piano; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone; Hal Smith, drums; Randy Reinhart, cornet; Joel Forbes, string bass.
Whether the Lady behaved herself in response to this entreaty, I cannot say. But making the request at this tempo was a real pleasure.
May your happiness increase!
Posted in "Thanks A Million", Bliss!, Generosities, Hotter Than That, Ideal Places, Irreplaceable, It's All True, Jazz Titans, Mmmmmmmmmmmmm!, Pay Attention!, Swing You Cats!, That Was Fun!, The Heroes Among Us, The Real Thing, The Things We Love, Wow!
Tagged Cleveland Classic Jazz Party, Count Basie, Ehud Asherie, Hal Smith, Jazz Lives, Joel Forbes, Jones-Smith Inc., LADY BE GOOD, Michael Steinman, Randy Reinhart, Scott Robinson, tempo
“His main theme was that you didn’t have to play loud but that you needed intensity to get the listener’s attention. This turned out to be the greatest of all lessons in how and what to play.”
These words come from a fascinating book, now apparently out of print but worth searching out: SIDEMAN: THE LONG GIG OF W.O. SMITH. William Oscar Smith is the bassist on Hawkins’s 1939 Bluebird session, the one that produced “Body and Soul.” That should be enough renown for anyone, but Smith went on to be a generous and respected educator.
Those of you who follow this blog will not be surprised that the quotation is something Smith remembered Sidney Catlett telling young musicians in the early Forties. I’ve included it here not as another tribute to Sid, although who would deny me that? But it’s applicable — in its own way — to current jazz performance practice.
At the gigs I attend, musicians rarely feel the need to outshout one another. Most of the clubs are intimate (read: “cramped”) so that raising the volume of your solo for the sake of loudness isn’t something people do.
But I am always amazed and dismayed by how many musicians unconsciously accelerate tempos, carried away by the intensity of the solos they hear. Musician A plays more intensely, digging into his notes, so B (feeling the spirit alongside him) gets faster and faster. These aren’t amateurs, by the way. Now, I know how hard it is to improvise, and I am sitting at a table, silently censorious as the piece that began as a medium-tempo rock is now a sprint. I also know that some of the greatest live performances rush or drag, and that very famous musicians tended to do this. I will not call the roll in this blog, for, after all, jazz isn’t a metronomic art. It isn’t mechanical, nor should it be.
But the only rushing I approve of wholeheartedly is Jiimmy Rushing.