Sat, 31 December 2016
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 Official 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 Pulitzer 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 Nancy Wilson. Check back to previous year's New Year's Eve postings for other renditions.
A happy and healthy New Year to one and all. 2017 HAS to be a better year than 2016, right?
Mon, 26 December 2016
2016 has been the most devastating of years in recent memory, and not just because of the horrendous results of the October US elections. More great musicians have passed away this year than I have ever recalled, and their loss is felt daily in my life. Our annual Noted in Passing feature is far too long.
In a category beyond jazz - indeed beyond popular music itself – were the losses of Prince and David Bowie, Maurice White and Sir George Martin. I honor their memories still, and you can listen to tribute Podcasts where highlighted.
Also gone in 2016 were pianist Paul Bley; trumpeter Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros; organist Alan Haven; Tower of Power’s trumpeter and founder Mic Gillette; pianist Bryce Rohde; saxophonist Harald Devold; trumpeter John Chilton; bandleader Joe Cabot; arranger Claus Ogerman; percussionist Naná Vasconcelos; drummerJoe Ascione; trumpeter Sidney Mear; singer Roger Cicero; and symphonic jazz composer David Baker.
Also, producing legend Rudy Van Gelder; trumpeter Joe Shepley; singer Don Francks; saxophonist Getatchew Mekurya; saxophonist and educator Pete Yellin; guitarist Doug Raney; trombonist Buster Cooper; trumpeter Paul Smoker; drummer Randy Jones; pianist Willy Andresen; keyboardist Bernie Worrell; bandleader Mike Pedicin; saxophonist Charles Davis; guitarist Roland Prince; bassist Dominic Duval; and saxophonist Allan Barnes (BlackByrds).
Also bassist Bob Cranshaw (pictured); pianists Don Friedman, Derek Smith, and Connie Crothers; vibes master Bobby Hutcherson; guitarist Louis Stewart; harmonica legend TootsThielemans; pianist Karel Růžička; trumpeter Mike Daniels; pianist and singer Mose Allison; singer Shirley Bunnie Foy; saxophonist Gato Barbieri; singer Natalie Cole and drummer Joe Harris.
Outside of jazz, individuals whose lives had impacted mine in some way or another include boxer Muhammad Ali; hockey player Gordie Howe; newscaster Morley Safer; poet-composer-singer Leonard Cohen, soul men Billy Paul and Mack Rice; rockers Scotty Moore; Rob Wasserman; Greg Lake; Paul Kantner; Leon Russell; Keith Emerson; Dan Hicks; George Michael; and Glenn Frey; country singers Merle Haggard and Guy Clark; conductor Neville Marriner; NPR broadcast Craig Windham; sportscasters Jim Simpson, Craig Sager and Joe Garagiola; actors Gene Wilder; Alan Rickman, Patty Duke, Fyvish Finkel; Florence Henderson; and Kenny Baker (R2D2); singer Marnie Nixon, the dubbed-in voice of great movie musicals; basketball coach Pat Summitt and point guard Dwayne “Pearl” Washington; Golfer Arnold Palmer; writers Michael Herr; Harper Lee; Pat Conroy; Umberto Eco and Elie Wiesel; and playwright Edward Albee.
Perhaps most deeply felt was the loss of my father-in-law Alfred Dellapenna, who would regale me with stories of seeing the original big bands in western Massachusetts dance halls. He will be greatly missed by all who knew “Big Al”..
Category:general -- posted at: 1:51pm EDT
Sun, 25 December 2016
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 prevalent this time of year, and so the Official Straight No Chaser song of Christmas Day is "Peace" written by Horace Silver, and sung by Norah Jones. This year we have a new version recorded by Norah from her latest CD, Day Breaks, which marked her return to creating a jazz sound. Avideo of Norah playing "Peace" cab ne found here.
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 fifty-one 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.
Sat, 24 December 2016
The Eight Crazy Nights of Chanukah are upon us, and so I bring you some jazz for the occasion – Don Byron’s take on “Dreidl Song” from his 1993 album Don Byron Plays the Music of Mickey Katz.
Katz – who was born Meyer Myron Katz in 1909 - was a legendary musician and comedian specializing in the type of humor that would eventually characterize the “Borscht Belt” of the Catskills. A meeting with Spike Jones in 1947 led Katz to make a career decision that proved fruitful:
Katz soon decided to make an English-Yiddish comedy record. Having written the lyrics to Haim afen Range years ago, he had it approved by RCA. He quickly wrote another song for the flip side, Yiddish Square Dance, and had his friend Al Sack sketch out the melody for it and set Haim afen Range to music as well. The original run of 10,000 copies released in New York City sold in three days, and RCA received orders for 25,000 more. Katz then went on to parodize Tico, Tico with Tickle, Tickle, and backed this new record with Chloya, a parody of Chloe. He then hired a manager in Los Angeles, and in 1947 performed in Los Angeles' Boyle Heights, a largely Jewish- and Mexican-American neighborhood. In Katz's words, he was a "double-ethnic smash."
The death of Yiddish culture on a wide scale basis in the 1950’s forced Katz into broader humor, and he wrote parodies and performed until he passed away in 1985. His son is the award-winning actor Joel Grey, and his granddaughter is Jennifer Grey of Dirty Dancing fame.
The band is Byron in clarinet; Richie Schwarz on drums and percussion; Uri Caine on piano; Dave Douglas on trumpet; Steve Alcott on bass; Mark Feldman on violin; Josh Roseman on trombone; and J.D. Parran on flute.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00pm EDT
Sat, 24 December 2016
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....
Fri, 23 December 2016
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!”
Wed, 7 December 2016
Congratulations to the artists who have received Grammy Award nominations in categories that feature jazz musicians:
Best improvised jazz solo
“Countdown” — Joey Alexander, soloist
“In Movement” — Ravi Coltrane, soloist
“We See” — Fred Hersch, soloist
“I Concentrate On You” — Brad Mehldau, soloist
“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” — John Scofield, soloist
Best jazz vocal album
“Sound of Red” — René Marie
“Upward Spiral” — Branford Marsalis Quartet With Special Guest Kurt Elling
“Take Me to the Alley” — Gregory Porter
“Harlem On My Mind” — Catherine Russell
“The Sting Variations” — The Tierney Sutton Band
Best jazz instrumental album
“Book of Intuition” — Kenny Barron Trio
“Dr. Um” — Peter Erskine
“Sunday Night at the Vanguard” — The Fred Hersch Trio
“Nearness” — Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau
“Country For Old Men” — John Scofield
Best large jazz ensemble album
“Real Enemies” — Darcy James Argue's Secret Society
“Presents Monk'estra, Vol. 1” — John Beasley
“Kaleidoscope Eyes: Music of the Beatles” — John Daversa
“All L.A. Band” — Bob Mintzer
“Presidential Suite: Eight Variations On Freedom” — Ted Nash Big Band
Best Latin jazz album
“Entre Colegas” — Andy González
“Madera Latino: A Latin Jazz Perspective on the Music of Woody Shaw” — Brian Lynch & Various Artists
“Canto América” — Michael Spiro/Wayne Wallace La Orquesta Sinfonietta
“30” — Trio Da Paz
“Tribute to Irakere: Live In Marciac” — Chucho Valdés
Best Contemporary Instrumental Album:
“Human Nature” — Herb Alpert
“When You Wish Upon A Star” — Bill Frisell
“Way Back Home Live From Rochester, NY” — Steve Gadd Band
“Unspoken” — Chuck Loeb
“Culcha Vulcha” — Snarky Puppy
Nominees in other categories of interest include:
Best instrumental composition - “Spoken at Midnight" — Ted Nash, composer
Best compilation soundtrack for visual media “Miles Ahead" (Miles Davis & Various Artists)
Best arrangement, instrumental or a cappella
“Ask Me Now” — John Beasley, arranger
"Good Swing Wenceslas" — Sammy Nestico, arranger
"Linus & Lucy" — Christian Jacob, arranger
“Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds" — John Daversa, arranger
"We Three Kings” — Ted Nash, arranger
“You And I" — Jacob Collier, arranger
Best arrangement, instruments and vocals
“Do You Hear What I Hear?” — Gordon Goodwin, arranger (Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band Featuring Take 6)
“Do You Want To Know a Secret” — John Daversa, arranger (John Daversa Featuring Renee Olstead)
“Flintstones” — Jacob Collier, arranger (Jacob Collier)
“I'm a Fool to Want You” — Alan Broadbent, arranger (Kristin Chenoweth)
“Somewhere (Dirty Blvd)” (Extended Version) — Billy Childs & Larry Klein, arrangers (Lang Lang Featuring Lisa Fischer & Jeffrey Wright)
David Bowie’s Blackstar, which featured the members of the Donnie McCaslin Group and guitarist Ben Monder, received nominations for Best Rock Song and Best Alternative Album.
Mon, 10 October 2016
Columbus Day has become a deeply divisive event in the US. What once was the naive celebration of the "discovery of America" - take that Amerigo Vespucci and the Native Americans - is now marled with protests, given the start of the genocide his arrival in the New World began.
But let's go back to a simpler time, like May 1936, when Fats Waller and his Rhythm appeared on a popular radio show, The Magic Key Show, which originated from New York. That day, he performed two tunes - the well-known "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter", and the lesser known "Christopher Columbus". The lyrics?
Mr.Christopher Columbus/Sailed the sea without a compass/Well, when his men began a rumpus/Up spoke Christopher Columbus
He said: "There is land somewhere/So until we get there we will not go wrong/If we sing a swing song/Since the world is round, we'll be safe and sound/'Till our goal is found we'll just keep the rhythm bound
Soon the crew was makin' merry/Then came a yell, let's drink to Isabella/Bring on the rum/A music in that all the rumpus/That wise old Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus/Christopher Columbus
Maybe not a Shakespearean sonnet, but you get the idea. And as always, Fats knew how to swing.
Mon, 1 August 2016
Dead & Company have been playing stadium shows this summer, but clearly, something is missing from their presentation of the music of the Grateful Dead. Let's pause for a moment and remember that today would have been Jerry Garcia’s 74th birthday, and like so many other fans, I'll spend a few moments contemplating his music. Maybe a few "Scarlet Begonia/Fire on the Mountain" and "Dark Star" tracks are in the cards. How about a "Ripple" as well?
Named after composer Jerome Kern, Garcia was a student of American music, whether it was bluegrass, show tunes or the blues. Jerry had a love of jazz, and while the Dead themselves did not dip into the jazz canon all that often, Jerry’s side projects gave him a chance to show his jazz chops. Click here to listen to a recording of Milt Jackson’s “Bag’s Groove” from the 1998 release So What from Garcia and mandolin player David Grisman. Other members of the band were Joe Craven on percussion, Matt Eakle on flute and Jim Kerwin on bass.
The latest edition of the GarciaLive project was released last month, and featured Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders live at the Lion's Share on July 5, 1973. Filled with the typical wide variety of tunes (Motown, Country-Rock, Fifties R&B) it also features a fascinating version of "My Funny Valentine", showing that Garcia could reach into the Great AMerican Songbook as well. Check it out here,
Category:general -- posted at: 6:25am EDT
Mon, 4 July 2016
American Independence Day 2014. We celebrate with cookouts, fireworks and concerts, but often fail to recall the brave words that were written by our forefathers in Philadelphia in 1776:
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.
He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.
He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:
For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing taxes on us without our consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:
For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:
For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:
For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:
For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.
The official Straight No Chaser song of Independence Day is Ray Charles version of "America the Beautiful". It seems strangely appropriate that we in the 21st century are able to listen to a recording made in the 20th century, featuring a blind African-American man singing a song with lyrics by a white woman (Katherine Lee Bates), with melody based on a 19th century hymn written by a white man (Samuel Ward). Enjoy!
Category:general -- posted at: 2:14pm EDT