Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sing, Sing, Sing - Benny Goodman

"Sing, Sing, Sing (with a Swing)" is a 1936 song written by Louis Prima, strongly identified with the big band and swing eras. Although written by Prima, it is often most associated with Benny Goodman, who recorded it in 1937. In this video, Harry James plays a trumpet solo, Gene Krupa provides the stunning drum work, and clarinetist Benny Goodman leaves us on a high note (literally).

Another version with far superior sound quality (but no video) and three times the length:

Monday, June 29, 2009

I Must Have Left My Heart - Molly Johnson

From the 2002 album titled ANOTHER DAY

Molly Johnson is a Canadian jazz singer and songwriter. The child of a white mother and a black father, Johnson's career started in the mid-1960s when she performed in musicals. She later made history at the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival, becoming the first Canadian female vocalist in the festival's 17-year-history to sell out a show on the main stage. She has even regaled royalty during a private command performance aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia before the Prince and late Princess of Wales, as well as having performed for Nelson Mandela and Quincy Jones.

In late 2008, Johnson released her fourth full-length album, a record of standards titled “Lucky.” In March 2009 “Lucky” took home the Juno Award for "Vocal Jazz Album of the Year".

In 2007, Miss Johnson was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Marc Jordan / Steve MacKinnon (Canadian songwriting team)

Molly Johnson, vocals
Mike Downes, bass
Colleen Allen, alto sax
Andrew Craig, piano
Mark McLean, drums

Tonight was black and blue
This overcoat won't do
It's falling all apart
When I left you I must have left my heart

The walls are tumbling
My feet are stumbling
I'm all alone in the dark
When I left you I must have left my heart

Must I always be lonely?
With my dreams at your doorway
Just one more empty dog day

Shall I run to your door?
And stay forever more
I don't know where to start
When I left you I must have left my heart

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Vibes man Cal Tjader

Shoshana - Vibraphonist Cal Tjader

Cal Tjader (1925 -1982) crafted a sleek and distinctive sound in the genre of Latin jazz. His cool jazz vibes atop Afro-Cuban rhythms made for a sonic signature that helped introduce the genre into a mainstream audience.

After high school in the San Francisco area and a stint in the Navy, Cal ended up at San Francisco State College, where he met up with Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond. Tjader graduated in 1950 with a minor in music. With Brubeck, Tjader hit the big time, and he liked it. The years between 1949 and 1951 were spent with Brubeck.

Then, after a short time as leader of his own group, Cal joined George Shearing's Quintet as featured vibraphonist and percussionist. While with Shearing Cal made frequent trips to New York and began listening to the Latin New York bands of Tito Puente and Machito. When Tjader left Shearing, he formed his own group again and began a prolific recording career for Fantasy records.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Kenny Rankin Tribute: When Sunny Gets Blue

Jazz stylist, composer, singer and acoustic guitarist Kenny Rankin lost his life to lung cancer in Los Angeles on June 7, 2009. He was 69 years old. Mr. Rankin was particularly partial to the Beatles. He recorded a number of their songs, including “Blackbird,” “With a Little Help From My Friends” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” When John Lennon and Paul McCartney were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987, Mr. McCartney asked Mr. Rankin to represent them at the induction ceremony. Johnny Carson presented Rankin on “The Tonight Show” more than 20 times.

“Above all, I’m a jazz singer who likes to mess with the melody,” he told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1997. “I sing songs that touch my heart, the songs I would like to sing to someone in front of a roaring fire on a comfy couch draped in flowers.”

His soft, wispy, laid-back tenor voice never seemed to show signs of aging. He had a distinctive habit of rushing the melody and straying from the printed music as composed.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Blame It on My Youth

Keith Jarrett Trio
In this sensitive performance by pianist Keith Jarrett, the influence of Bill Evans is obvious.

This song, composed by Oscar Levant in 1934, has a remarkable lyric by Edward Heyman:

If I expected love when first we kissed, blame it on my youth.
If only just for you, I did exist, blame it on my youth.
I believed in everything, like a child of three.
You meant more than anything, all the world to me.

If you were on my mind all night and day, blame it on my youth.
If I forgot to eat, and sleep and pray, blame it on my youth.
If I cried a little bit, when first I learned the truth,
Don't blame it on my heart, blame it on my youth.

Jazz stylist, composer, singer and acoustic guitarist
Kenny Rankin lost his life to lung cancer in Los Angeles on June 7, 2009. He was 69 years old.

In the following audio clip, Kenny Rankin injects the trademarks of his laid-back vocal style: portamento and condensing the timing of a phrase (rushing notes ahead of their rhythmic placement as originally composed). Like a true jazz singer, he abandons the printed melody more often than not, adding his distinctive mark to the entire track.