Category Archives: Louis Armstrong

J is for Jazz

The problem with jazz is that it means everything from Kenny G to Madeleine Peyroux to New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band. No definition of the American music seems adequate. One I saw recently described it as “cerebral music with rhythm”. This one is about as OK as I can find. Even the word itself, the American Dialect Society’s Word of the Twentieth Century, has been hard to nail down.

Jazz is about discovery. This article expresses the wonder of discover that jazz can bring.

Ultimately, though, jazz can’t be adequately described. It must be experienced. These are all songs I own.
Tutu (live)- Miles Davis
Tutu was one of the last albums I got as an LP; i.e., on vinyl.

Cassandra Wilson – Harvest Moon
A Neil Young cover.

Benny Goodman & His Orchestra – Sing Sing Sing
As the title suggests, this song DOES have lyrics, but I think it’s better as an instrumental.

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – STOMPING AT THE SAVOY
Also recommended: any of the Ella Song Books. Or all of them.

Oh, there’s so much, I can’t do the topic justice.

Here’s a peculiar thing about Jazz that perhaps folks not in the United States or Americans who don’t follow basketball might not know. There is a basketball team called the Utah Jazz. Utah is not generally known for jazz, and in disposition seems to be the antithesis of that music. The Jazz was formed in New Orleans in 1974, a most likely place for a team with such a nickname, but the team moved to the Rocky Mountains in 1979. (New Orleans got the Hornets, a team formerly in Charlotte, NC in 2002.)

ROG

My Musical Obsessions

For a time, I was pretty obsessed with the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside”; I blame the French. Actually, I blame my friend Deborah who lives in France. She turned me onto the Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams version of the song that appeared in the 1949 film Neptune’s Daughter. Subsequently, I learned that Red Skelton and Betty Garrett reprise the song in the same film.

The Montleban-Williams version was recorded, but it was not the first one released. That honor went to Dinah Shore and Buddy Clark, one day before Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer, and BOTH of those recordings charted on the same day.

One of the best versions was done by Louis Armstrong with Velma Middleton. The story of the Satchmo version can be seen here.

What reminded me of all this was a version of the song on Coverville by Zooey Deschanel & Leon Redbone from the Elf soundtrack.

Also on the Coverville Annual Holiday Cover Show was Mele Kalikimaka/Waters Of Babylon by The Priestess & The Fool. The first song, of course, is the classic Hawaiian-sounding song by Bing Crosby with the Andrews Sisters. The second, though, is a song by Don McLean, the “American Pie” guy, originally called Babylon.

LINK.

Initially, I thought: “what a bizarre segue!” Babylon is based on Psalm 137, scripture most pastors I’ve known dreaded preaching about, as it’s depressing as hell. BTW, Psalm 137 is also the source of Rivers of Babylon by the Melodians from The Harder They Come soundtrack.

But the I began rethinking my objection to Babylon. Though it’s not very “Christmasy”, one of the earliest events after the birth of Jesus in Matthew 1 and 2 was the slaughter of the innocents, ordered by King Herod in Matthew 2:16-18, not unlike the events around Moses’ birth. Maybe the musical segue is not so strange after all.

The great thing about blogs is that it lets me obsess, then ideally, release it.

ROG