Tue, 22 September 2015
Since the launch of Playboy magazine in 1953, two elements have been remarkably consistent: the first is the celebration of the world’s most beautiful & desirable women and the second is its involvement with music. If we are to believe Hugh Hefner, the Playboy experience was never to have been just about sex—it was about lifestyle. And music—particularly the finest jazz, a personal passion of founder Hefner’s—has always been an essential component of that lifestyle.
While many books have been written about the Playboy organization and the ultimate playboy himself, no book—until this one—has focused specifically on Playboy and the music scene, its impact on popular entertainment (and vice versa), and the fabulous cadre of performers who took to the stages of the mythic Playboy Clubs and Jazz Festivals. For that, we can now turn to Patty Farmer’s Playboy Swings. The highly readable book features candid, in-depth interviews with a multitude of musicians and singers, as well as those involved behind the scenes, as the book moves from the inception of the Playboy Empire through the 1959 jazz festival, to the opening of club after club.
From the first issue of the magazine, music enjoyed pride of place, and by 1957, Playboy had launched its “All Star Poll,” in which readers were invited to vote for their favorite musicians and acts. This led to what was, at the time, a rather bold step for the young company: Playboy began to produce records. Now, Playboy was doing more than discussing or reviewing music; it was actually presenting it. Playboy began to sponsor a series of historic jazz festivals, starting with the groundbreaking 1959 Playboy Jazz Festival in Chicago celebrating the magazine’s 5th Anniversary.
It was the success of that inaugural jazz festival that gave birth to the idea of the Playboy Club which opened its first doors in Chicago on February 29, 1960. And once the clubs took hold, it was only natural that they would offer live performances featuring the sort of music the magazine endorsed. As much as anything—including the clubs’ iconic Bunnies—the music presented at the clubs set the tone of the organization and kept patrons coming back for more.
Ms. Farmer, who is something of a “nightclub historian”, and I chatted about this chapter in history that is just now getting exposure. Podcast 495 is our conversation, featuring musical selections that would not have been out of place in Hef’s penthouse, like Frank Sinatra’s “I Get a Kick Out of You”; Al Jarreau’s “Teach Me Tonight”; and Ellis Marsalis’ "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?".
Tue, 22 September 2015
"Just call Nathan; it's locked." – Lionel Richie
He could only be talking about Nathan East, the man who is credited on more than 2,000 albums and several Grammy-winning songs including "Get Lucky," "Footloose" and "Change the World." Perhaps the most in-demand sideman in jazz and pop today, his career has gone from being a 16-year-old touring with Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra to Grammy Award-winning session player for Daft Punk, Beyoncé, Barbra Streisand, EricClapton and so many more.
Nathan’s latest project is a duet member with a fellow founding member of the contemporary jazz group Fourplay, Bob James. The New Cool (on Yamaha Entertainment Group of America is the first true duet project for both, as they follow in footsteps of the legendary bass and piano combos like Eddie Gomez and Bill Evans.
The album has a gentle sound, a combination of epic melodies (on new and old songs) and soulful tunes. James, the distinguished pianist, and East, an unparalleled bass player, are both known for the meticulousness and originality in their music. Both have made careers alternating between electric and acoustic sounds, so while the listener’s initial reaction might be one of surprise, eventually they win you over, assisted by James’ strong arrangements.
James recorded his first solo album 52 years ago and has since composed more than 30 solo albums in the genres of jazz and classical. East released his first solo album in 2014. That self-titled project, also on the Yamaha Entertainment Group label, climbed the charts, setting a record with 26 weeks at No. 1 on the SmoothJazz.com Top 50 chart and earning a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album. East was recently featured in a documentary film entitled For the Record, which is currently streaming on Hulu.
Podcast 496 is my conversation with Nathan as we talk gear, how he creates a bassline, and who might be on his very short list of musicians with whom he has not yet played. Musical selections from The New Cool include the classic “How Deep is the Ocean”; Willie Nelson’s “Crazy”, featuring a vocal by Vince Gill; and the original “All Will Be Revealed.” Two of Nathan’s past successes – Fourplay’s “Sebastian” and Eric Clapton’s “Before You Accuse Me (Take a Look at Yourself)” round out the podcast.