Thu, 31 December 2015
To all who are traveling on an evening that often becomes "amateur night" take extra care and pick that designated driver!
A perennial favorite song for New Year's Eve, and the Offical SNC Song of the evening is Frank Loesser's classic, "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" It was written in 1947, when Loesser was already an accomplished songwriter, having co-written hits like "Two Sleepy People" and "Spring Will Be a Little Late this Year".
However, his greatest work was just before him - in 1948 he was asked to score "Where's Charley?" for Broadway, which ran for more than two years. Buoyed by this success, Loesser turned out hits like "Guys and Dolls", "The Most Happy Fella" and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying". He won two Tony Awards and a Pulizter Prize for Drama for these works. In between, he won an Academy Award for the holiday standard, "Baby It's Cold Outside" from the film "Neptune's Daughter" (1949). Regrettably, Loesser died from cancer at the age of 59 in 1969.
This year's singer is Diana Krall from her Christmas Songs CD, an album I tabbed as one of the ten best Christmas jazz albums of all-time a few years back.
A happy and healthy New Year to one and all.
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT
Mon, 28 December 2015
The Celestial Band and Choir got a great horn section this year. 2015 was the year we lost some of the great innovators in jazz music. An incomplete list of those who passed away during this calendar year who left a mark on the jazz world include:
Ornette Coleman, 85, free jazz saxophonist; Clark Terry, 94, jazz trumpeter and flugelhornist; Phil Woods, 83, jazz and session saxophonist and clarinetist; Bob Belden, 58, jazz saxophonist, composer, arranger, producer; Guillermo Rubalcaba, 88, Cuban pianist, bandleader and composer; Ray Warleigh, 76, Australian-born saxophonist and flautist; Wilton Felder, 75, saxophonist of The Crusaders and session bass player (pictured) who created immortal bass lines for Steely Dan and the Jackson Five; Harold Ousley, 86, jazz saxophonist; Hugo Rasmussen, 74, Danish jazz musician; Bob Whitlock, 84, jazz bassist (Gerry Mulligan Quartet); Howard Rumsey, 97, jazz bassist and bandleader; and Van Alexander, 100, songwriter (“A-Tisket, A-Tasket”) , film and TV score composer, arranger.
Allen Toussaint, 77, New Orleans legend as piano player, arranger, producer and songwriter; B.B. King, 89, blues legend; Monica Lewis, 93, jazz singer and actress; Buddy Boudreaux, 97, jazz saxophonist and band leader; Harold Battiste, 83, jazz and R&B composer, arranger and musician; Jerome Cooper, 68, free jazz drummer and percussionist. Ortheia Barnes, 70, American R&B and jazz singer; Bruce Lundvall, 79, former head of Blue Note, Elektra and Manhattan labels; Louis Johnson, 60, legendary bassis; Marcus Belgrave, 78, jazz trumpeter and the King of the Detroit Sound; Margo Reed, 73, jazz musician; Eric Allen Doney, 62, musician, musical director (Bob Hope), jazz label founder; and Marty Napoleon, 93, jazz pianist.
Orrin Keepnews, 91, jazz producer and writer, co-founder of Riverside Records; Lew Soloff, 71, jazz trumpeter (and with Blood, Sweat & Tears 1968-73); Ted Reinhardt, 62, jazz and prog-rock drummer for Spyro Gyra in their formative years; Paul Jeffrey, 81, jazz saxophonist; John Renbourn, 70, guitarist of British folk-jazz band Pentangle; William Thomas McKinley, 76, jazz composer; Hulon Crayton, 58, smooth jazz saxophonist; Jeff Golub, 59, jazz and pop guitarist; Cynthia Layne, 51, jazz singer,; and Ward Swingle, 87, musician with The Swingle Singers, and Les Double Six.
Dave Pike, 77, vibraphone and marimba player; Kjell Öhman, 72, Swedish jazz musician; Al Aarons, 83, jazz trumpet and flugelhorn player with the Count Basie Band; Judith Hendricks, 78, jazz singer with Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan; Bengt-Arne Wallin, 89, Swedish jazz trumpeter; Willie Akins, 76, jazz saxophonist and academic; Coleridge Goode, 100, Jamaican-born jazz bassist; Ray Appleton, 74, jazz drummer; Larry Rosen, 75, jazz engineer, producer, record executive; digital downloading pioneer with GRP; Mark Murphy, 83, jazz singer; Nat Peck, 90, jazz trombonist with James Moody;and Lee Shaw, 89, jazz pianist.
Category:general -- posted at: 7:58am EDT
Fri, 25 December 2015
Merry Christmas to you all. I am a practicing Jew who does not celebrate Christmas as the birth of the messiah. However, I can appreciate the universal themes of peace, love and understanding that are prevelant this time of year, and so the Offical Straight No Chaser song of Christmas Day is "Peace", written by Horace Silver, and sung by Norah Jones.
Considered one of the finest ballads of the hard bop era, "Peace" has a timeless message for us all, as the last few lines of the song show:
When you find peace of mind, leave your worries behind
Silver first recorded this classic more than fifty years ago, on his Blowin' the Blues Away album, one of the last to feature his classic quintet lineup of trumpeter Blue Mitchell, tenor saxophonist Junior Cook, bassist Gene Taylor, and drummer Louis Hayes.
A Merry Christmas to one and all.
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EDT
Thu, 24 December 2015
It's December 24, which means that once again it's time to break out the Official Straight No Chaser Song of Christmas Eve. It's not really a song, actually, but Louis Armstrong reciting "Twas the Night Before Christmas", in his inimitable raspy voice.
Recorded on February 26, 1971 at his home in Queens, New York, this ended up being the final recording Armstrong made, before succumbing to a fatal heart attack on July 6th.
The poem, written by Clement Moore, is technically titled "An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas", was first published in the Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1823. A wonderful article by Peter Christoph tells that St. Nicholas was likely little known outside of the Dutch community when he published the work, setting into motion a cultural tradition still alive today. Further, I was surprised to learn it was Moore who first named the reindeer!
Here's hoping you'll be nestled all snug in your beds soon....
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EDT
Wed, 23 December 2015
My friend Frank found this for me, and I wanted to be sure to share it with you. Originally published in Mad Magazine #52 Jan 1960.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the pad,
Not a hipster was swinging, not even old Dad;
The chimney was hung in the stocking routine,
In hopes that “The Fat Man” would soon make the scene;
The moon and the snow were, like, faking together,
Which made the scene rock in the Day People weather,
When, what to these peepers should come on real queer,
But a real crazy sleigh, and eight swinging reindeer,
As sidemen in combos pick up as they stomp,
When they swing with the beat of a Dixieland romp,
So up to the top of my bandstand they flew,
With the sleigh full of loot, and St. Nicholas, too.
His lids-Man, they sizzled! His dimples were smiles!
His cheeks were like “Dizzy’s,” his break was like “Miles!”
His puckered-up mouth was, like, blowing flat E,
And his chin hid behind a real crazy goatee!
He blew not a sound, but skipped right to his gig,
And stashed all the stockings, then came on real big,
And flashing a sign, like that old “Schnozzle” bit,
And playing it hip, up the chimney he split;
And then, in a quick riff, I dug on the roof,
The jumpin’ and jivin’ of each swinging hoof.
As I pulled in my noggin, and turned around fast,
Down the chimney came Nick like a hot trumpet blast.
The tip of a butt he had snagged in his choppers,
And he took a few drags just like all cool be-boppers;
He had a weird face, and a solid reet middle
That bounced when he cracked, like a gutbucket fiddle!
He was wrapped up to kill, Man, a real kookie dresser!
And his rags were, like, way out! Pops! He was a gasser!
A sack full of goodies hung down to his tail,
And he looked like a postman with “Basie’s” fan mail.
He was shaking with meat, meaning he was no square,
And I flipped, ‘cause I’d always thought he was “longhair!”
But the glint in his eye and the beat in his touch
Soon gave me the message this cat was “too much!”
He flew to his skids, to his group blew a lick,
And they cut out real cool, on a wild frenzied kick.
But I heard him sound off, with a razz-a-ma-tazz:
“A cool Christmas to all, and, like all of that jazz!”
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT
Mon, 21 December 2015
The newspapers and internet are swarming with critics “Best of 2015” lists right about now, but here at Straight No Chaser we once again take a slightly different approach. I am grateful to get the chance to listen to a great number of jazz-related releases during the course of the year, and rather than attempt to say what is “best” using some sort of rating system (A Christgau grade, perhaps?), I prefer to lay out a list of recordings that I found particularly moving or interesting, or those that I found myself returning to over and over again. The list changes over the course of the year, and follows a strict calendar year receipt basis.
To do this in a fair way, I create five different categories, ranging from “Great New Things from Old Friends” to “Reunions and Collaborations of Note”. I do this on the theory that it is simply wrong to compare an expanded re-release of John Coltrane’s groundbreaking album A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters with genre bending CDs like those from newcomer Kamasi Washington or constantly growing players like Donny McCaslin. Is a sophomore album on a major label from Cécile McLorin Salvant comparable to a project by Chris Potter that reflects years of growth? I choose to think the answer is no.
So, here are releases that are a few of my favorite things from 2015:
Great New Things from Old Friends
Maria Schneider – The Thompson Fields
Chris Potter Underground Orchestra – Imaginary Cities
Antonio Sanchez – Three Times Three
Jack DeJohnette– Made in Chicago
Charles McPherson – The Journey
New Artists and Those Hitting Their Stride
Donny McCaslin - Fast Future
Cécile McLorin Salvant – For One to Love
Kamasi Washington – The Epic
Chris Lightcap - Bigmouth Epicenter
Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou - Duchess
Memorable Reissues, Compilations, and Posthumous or Archival Albums
Miles Davis – Miles Davis at Newport: 1955-1975 - The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4
Weather Report – The Legendary Live Tapes 1978-1981
John Coltrane - A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters
Brad Mehldau – 10 Years Solo Live
Erroll Garner – The Complete Concert by the Sea
Tribute Albums of Note
Cassandra Wilson – Coming Forth By Day
Terence Stafford – Brother-Lee
Rudresh Mahanthappa – Bird Calls
The Gary McFarland Legacy Ensemble - Circulation: The Music of Gary McFarlane
Jose James - Yesterday I Had The Blues - The Music Of Billie Holiday
Reunions and Collaborations of Note
The Bad Plus and Joshua Redman – The Bad Plus Joshua Redman
The Heads of State (Gary Bartz, Buster Williams, Larry Willis, Al Foster) – Search for Peace
Bob James & Nathan East – The New Cool
John Scofield , Bill Stewart, Joe Lovano, Larry Grenadier – Past Present
Danilo Perez, John Patitucci, Brian Blade – Children of Light
A few years ago I began naming a “Player of the Year”, honoring those who appear as sidemen on multiple top CDs, as well as leaders of their own groups. For 2012, it was drummer Joey Baron, for 2013, vibes player Warren Wolf., and last year, saxophonist Mark Turner. For this year, the winner is last year’s runner-up, avant-garde sax player Ivo Perelman who released a staggering six CDs in 2015 (some double CD sets), after releasing ten CDs over the previous two years.
Other items of Special Note in the world of Jazz in 2015 were:
- The continuation of Blue Note Records’ 75th Anniversary Vinyl Initiative, giving another generation a chance to experience jazz on the turntable, with readable liner notes;
- The release of a documentary on Jaco Pastorius, and significant progress being made on the Miles Davis biography feature Miles Ahead, with Don Cheadle as the great trumpeter. The completion of documentaries on Weather Report and John Coltrane are promised in 2016,
- The increased availability of jazz on streaming services, including Spotify and the new Apple Radio. Here’s hoping royalty payments to artists will catch up to the popularity of the technology..And will Apple Radio wise up and give some of the great jazz tastemakers or musicians their own shows on their service?
Mon, 21 December 2015
Five years ago I posted Podcast 200 in honor of Frank Zappa's 70th birthday. As today would have been his 75th birthday, I'm bringing it back for your enjoyment:
Was Frank Zappa as much of a jazz musician as he was a rock or classical artist? Let’s let Ed Palermo, the noted trombonist, answer the question. Here’s a quote from his essay on FZ’s music:
Frank Zappa wasn't what you would call a "jazz musician." In fact, he made fun of jazz and jazz musicians throughout his whole career. But that was Zappa. He derided EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY. You can tell, however, by listening to so much of his music that he really loved jazz. Since I never met him, everything I write about him is conjecture, but listening to a modal masterpiece like "King Kong" proves, at least to my ears, that he had listened to and digested a lot of Miles and Trane.
One thing is certain – Zappa hired the best and most versatile musicians to assist him in executing his demanding compositions, and many of them WERE in fact jazz greats. So, without further ado, let’s get to Podcast 200, a review of some Zappa recordings featuring jazz musicians as sidemen, including:
George Duke on “Big Swifty” from Waka-Jawaka. One of Zappa’s most frequent collaborators, I count more than fifteen releases that included the keyboard player. Here he joins Zappa and Tony Duran on guitars, Sal Marquez on trumpet and chimes, Erroneous (?) on bass and Aynsley Dunbar on drums on a 1972 track.
Ernie Watts on “Cleetus Awreetus-Awrightus” from The Grand Wazoo. The sax player who starred as a member of Charlie Haden’s Quartet West played woodwinds with Mike Altschul in sessions recorded in 1972. Marquez is joined by Ken Shrover on brass, and the rhythm section remains the same. That’s George Duke on electric piano and vocals.
Jean-Luc Ponty on “It Must Be a Camel” from Hot Rats. The jazz violinist may be best known for his work in the Mahavishnu Orchestra with John McLaughlin, but he was a key member of the group that recorded Hot Rats in 1969, making it one of the first jazz-rock albums ever made. The rest of the band was Ian Underwood on keyboards, Zappa on guitar, bass and percussion, John Guerin (who played with Tom Scott in the LA Express) on drums, and Max Bennett on bass. Zappa would work with Ponty further that year, contributing songs, production and backup for the highly regarded King King: Jean-Luc Ponty Plays the Music of Frank Zappa.
Vinnie Colaiuta on “Watermelon in Easter Hay” from Joe’s Garage. The drummer of choice for fusion musicians like Jeff Beck these days, Colaiuta anchored the rhythm section on Zappa’s three album opus. The rest of the band was Zappa, Denny Walley and Warren Cucurullo on guitars, Ike Willis on lead vocals, Peter Wolf on keyboards, Arthur Barro on bass and Ed Mann on percussion.
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:30am EDT
Fri, 18 December 2015
Here's an hour plus of uninterrupted jazz, our present to you, intended to get you through that last minute shopping, tree trimming, gift wrapping, and egg nog guzzling. I've mixed in a few of this year's newest Christmas Jazz releases to give you something different, plus a number of old favorites.
Hopefully you have been able to enjoy the Holiday season. Here's hoping Santy is good to you, and that you are good to one another. We need a little Christmas now!
Podcast 512 includes:
Dave Koz - "Welcoming the Season (Prelude)"
Chris Botti (featuring Eric Benet) - "I Really Don't Want Much for Christmas"
Russell Malone - "O Christmas Tree"
The Singers Unlimited - "Caroling, Caroling"
David Benoit - "What Child is This?"
Anita O'Day - "One More Christmas"
Eric Reed - "I Wonder as I Wander"
Chris McDonald Orchestra - "Blue Christmas"
Carmen McRae - "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire"
Jane Monheit - "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"
Matt Wilson's Christmas Tree-O - "Mele Kalikimaki"
John Zorn - "Christmas Time is Here"
Seth McFarlane & Norah Jones - "Little Jack Frost Get Lost"
Al Jarreau - "White Christmas"
Will Downing - "The First Noel"
Urbie Green - "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"
India.Aire & Joe Sample with Dave Koz and Trombone Shorty - "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm"
John Pizzarelli - "Let's Share Christmas"
David Koz - "Welcoming the New Year (Coda)"
Direct download: Podcast_512_-_Our_Annual_Nuthin_But_Christmas_Podcast.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT
Tue, 15 December 2015
Jazz re-issues and compilations of Christmas tunes are a wonderful way to get nostalgic. So for this Holiday themed Podcast, why not turn back the clock to the 1940's and 1950's - maybe even further - and enjoy some vintage cheer I assembled from a variety of wonderful sources. Is it just me, or do you find that the brass is brassier, the crooning sweeter, and yes, the cheese factor considerable on these older tunes? But it just might bring back a memory or two. If not - go ask your father. Or Grandfather. Or Great-Grandfather.....
Podcast 511 includes:
Kay Starr - “The Man With the Bag”
Ella Fitzgerald – “Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney”
The Mills Brothers – “You Don’t Have to Be a Santa Claus”
Johnny Mercer – “Winter Wonderland”
Peggy Lee – “The Christmas Spell”
Nat King Cole – “The Happiest Christmas Tree”
Les Baxter Orchestra – “Santa Claus Party”
Dean Martin – “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow”
Rosemary Clooney – “Suzy Snowflake”
The Andrews Sisters & Bing Crosby – “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”
Frank Sinatra – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Eartha Kitt – “Santa Baby”
Les Paul – “Jingle Bells”
Dean Martin – "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer"
Julie London - "Warm December"
Benny Goodman & His Orchestra - "Winter Weather"
Louis Prima - "Shake Hands with Santa Claus"
Charlie Parker - "White Christmas"
Bullmoose Jackson – “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”
Sat, 12 December 2015
In Podcast 491 we took on the question "What Makes Frank Sinatra Great?". Go to my conversation with Anna Harwell Celenza, as we discuss the various aspects of Sinatra’s career to determine just why he has remained a major cultural figure today,
December 12th is the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Francis Albert Sinatra, the pride of Hoboken, New Jersey. Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby may have been more important in the development of jazz singing and recording; Billie Holiday may have been more innovative and moving; and Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan more technically adroit, no one could touch Ol’ Blue Eyes for sheer star power, charisma and yes, vocal prowess.
Wisely associating himself with great supporting artists, Sinatra conquered every type of song he attempted. There was backing musicians led by Harry James in 1939 or Tommy Dorsey’s Big Band in the early 1940’s. Later, there was Count Basie’s Band in Las Vegas and two exquisite sessions with Antonio Carlos Jobim in the 1960’s. Arrangements by Nelson Riddle (1953-1959), Billy May (1959 through the mid-60’s) and Gordon Jenkins (the 1970’s) helped make his “sound” and turned his recordings into classics.
And oh that voice! At least three of his albums capture the incredible range of drama and emotion his tone could bring perfectly – 1955’s In the Wee Small Hours, 1956’s Songs for Swingin’ Lovers and my favorite, 1958’s Sings for Only the Lonely. No record collection is complete without these discs.
Sinatra was also an innovator behind the scenes. He produced the first concept albums in the Fifties, with his travelogue Come Fly With Me in 1959 and the “suicide songs” of 1958’s Sings for Only the Lonely. He took control of his album releases by establishing Reprise Records after he failed to buy Verve Records. Earning the nickname “The Chairman of the Board”, he released his own albums on the imprint along with those by Crosby, Jo Stafford, Rosemary Clooney, daughter Nancy Sinatra, and comedians Soupy Sales and Red Foxx.
So for Podcast 51_, here is a highly subjective overview of his career - twenty-one tunes from Frank Sinatra in close to chronological order, over four decades – from “I Get a Kick Out of You” in 1954 to the appropriately titled “A Hundred Years From Today” in 1984:
“I Get a Kick Out of You”
“I Get Along Without You Very Well”
“Just One of Those Things”
“Night and Day”
“I’ve Got You Under My Skin”
“I Cover the Waterfront”
“South of the Border”
“One for My Baby (And One for the Road)”
“On the Sunny Side of the Street”
“I Love Paris”
“Nancy (With the Laughing Face)”
“The House I Live In”
“Baubles, Bangles and Beads”
“Don’t Sleep in the Subway”
“Manha de Carnaval (A Day in the Life of a Fool)”
“A Hundred Years From Today”
Thanks Dad, for all the times you made me listen to Sinatra instead of some trendy pop record I was enamored of. You made me a lifelong fan.