Five songs

Looking at the number of draft posts I’ve written or started, and knowing that virtually none of them will ever be published, I found this number:

Yep, I’ve written over 23,092 posts since the site started in January of 2009, of which 21,553 have been published (this one is number 21,554). Of the 1,539 unpublished drafts, about six are upcoming Caturday Felid posts, which I largely prepare in advance, and there’s a skeleton draft of one Hili Dialogue, which I start the day before it’s published.

The rest will almost certainly never see the light of day, but I’m loath to trash them. One is our most famous unpublished post, Greg Mayer’s “What’s the matter with Wikipedia?” draft, which he started several years ago in an attempt to debunk that site. And despite my continual hectoring of him, he refuses to finish it: it’s the Casaubon’s “Key to All Mythologies” of this website.

Well, I don’t have the spoons to post much today, but I did find this draft, which simply puts up five songs that I listened to on my iPod nano when out for a long walk the day before last Christmas. They are favorites of mine, and also show tmy musical tastes, though many may dislike some of the songs.(If you hate them all, Ceiling Cat help you!)

Without further ado, here they are. Perhaps some of them will be new to you. And if you’re self-quarantined, what better things do you have to do?

Helen Humes, light of voice but entrancing, was one of Count Basie’s “canaries” who sang with the band. Her predecessor was Billie Holiday—big shoes to fill! This is my favorite of all of Humes’s sides with Basie. I like how she sings behind the beat, a technique also used by Holiday.

Lester Young, who played with Basie, has a terrific short solo beginning at 1:53.

Mel Tillis is gone now, but had a great career as a country singer. Though afflicted with a terrible stutter, that stutter disappeared when he sang. That’s a fairly common thing, but I don’t understand it at all. Here’s a little-known Tillis song from 1979,  but it’s my favorite of all he did.  It’s about adultery.

One of my very favorite jazz albums is John Coltrane and Johnny Hartmanwhich came out in 1963, well before I discovered jazz.

And it’s “soft” jazz, romantic and slow. But the combination of the underrated Hartman (a smoker) and the fabulous Coltrane makes for a very special album. It’s also a good album to give your paramour, as it’s ineffably romantic.

Besides Johnny Hartman on vocals and Coltrane on tenor sax, the album featured three other great players: McCoy Tyner on piano (he died just two weeks ago), Elvin Jones on drums, and Jimmy Garrison on bass. A bit about the album from Wikipedia (which Greg hasn’t yet destroyed).

Hartman was hesitant as he did not consider himself a jazz singer and did not think he and Coltrane would complement one another musically. However, Thiele encouraged Hartman to go see Coltrane perform at Birdland in New York City to see if something could be worked out. Hartman did so, and after the club closed he, Coltrane and Coltrane’s pianist, McCoy Tyner, went over some songs together. On March 7, 1963, Coltrane and Hartman had decided on 10 songs for the record album, but en route to the studio they heard Nat King Cole on the radio performing “Lush Life”, and Hartman immediately decided that song had to be included in their album.

The recording was made on March 7, 1963, at the Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Hartman once said that each song was done in only one take, except for “You Are Too Beautiful”, which required two takes because Elvin Jones dropped one of his drumsticks during the first take. In 2005, the raw tapes were reviewed by jazz archivist Barry Kernfeld, who documented there were actually complete alternate takes for all six songs that he considered “absolutely riveting.” Until clear ownership of these tapes is established between the Coltrane family and Universal Music, there are no plans for their release.

I’d love to hear those tapes, as I’ve listened to the album a gazillion times. Every one of its six songs is a masterpiece: a rare fusion of saxophone solos and mellow vocals. Both men died of cancer from substance abuse (lung cancer for Hartman, liver cancer for Trane, who was dead at forty), but they laid down this single fantastic album. This is my favorite song of all six.

This song, written by Leon Russell (who played both horn and piano on the 1970 released version), has been covered hundreds of times, but nobody did it better than the man himself. Here’s a live version of a song with truly beautiful lyrics.

Finally, the great Dionne Warwick, in a song that sounds as if it were written by Burt Bacharach but wasn’t. (It was, however, produced by Barry Manilow, which accounts for the Big Sound. You’ll recognize Manilow on the piano.) It’s the epitome of a great pop ballad, and I love the short drum bit before the crescendo in the original version. Nobody remembers Dionne Warwick except those “of a certain age”, but she was a terrific vocalist. She turns 80 on December 12.

 

37 Comments

  1. Posted March 20, 2020 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Being ‘of a certain age’ I remember Dionne well, and as you mention, she is among the greats.

  2. Joe Dickinson
    Posted March 20, 2020 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    My taste runs more toward Strauss’ “Four Last Songs”. We latched on to those after one was featured in the film “The Year of Living Dangerously”. Canteloube’s “Songs of the Auvergne” also are pretty nice.

    • Posted March 20, 2020 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I like those and think I’ve featured samples of both over the years, including Bailero by Te Kanawa and Beim Schlafengehen by Jessye Norman, the song I want playing as I depart this life.

    • merilee
      Posted March 20, 2020 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      Those Strauss songs are glorious. I have several versions on cd and even vinyl. Same with the Canteloube. One of my favorites is by Anna Moffo, with Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise “on the other side”🤓 Strange to remember how we had to have to flip the record in the middle of a symphony!

  3. Simon Hayward
    Posted March 20, 2020 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    There was still an iPod Nano in and working existence as recently as last Christmas! I’m amazed.

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted March 20, 2020 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      ….in existence and still working…

    • Posted March 20, 2020 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      I bought a reconditioned one from Wal-Mart. And I have a backup. I can’t believe they stopped making them.

      • Simon Hayward
        Posted March 20, 2020 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        I have one in a draw somewhere, but my phone has much more music and it’s always in my pocket, so the iPod became superfluous.

        • Posted March 20, 2020 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

          Phones are too cumbersome, esp. when exercising. If you still have yours, I’ll buy it!

  4. DrBrydon
    Posted March 20, 2020 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I am sure I am not alone among readers in being a fan of Louis Armstrong. I had a strange thing happen the other day. One of the Youtube channels I subscribe to published a recording of Louis’s from 1928 I had never heard. I checked, re-checked, and finally discovered that there are a number of songs on which he is the accompanist (with His Hot Four) that are not cataloged under his name (and have not traditionally been included in collections). There is a four ‘album’ digital set on Amazon called “Louis and the Blues Singers” covering 1924-29. After all these years, new music.

  5. C.
    Posted March 20, 2020 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Fine songs and musicians, every one, but in my current mood I’m tending towards angrier selections. I doubt PCC(e) listens to metal but Megadeth’s “Post-American World” seems fitting, and following the many tRump speeches where he contradicts his health experts, pulls “facts” out of his ass, lies about his accomplishments in containing this outbreak, and sends the stock market tumbling again, Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” strikes me as appropriate, as does his “Goodbye to Romance” to remind us of the importance of social distancing. And while not metal at all, the song “TV Show” by The Dude of Life is often stuck in my head these days, all together now…”Life is a TV show, should have been cancelled long ago”

  6. Eric Grobler
    Posted March 20, 2020 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Ah, My One and Only Love is wonderful 🙂

    My other favorite track on the record is Lush Life:

  7. Eric Grobler
    Posted March 20, 2020 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    “Helen Humes, light of voice but entrancing”

    I have not heard this before, a bit of sunshine on a cold virus infected winter’s day!

  8. Posted March 20, 2020 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    I recently came across a post from a few years back regarding a wedding road trip in 1972 with your friends Tim and Betsy and late best friend Kenny King. It included some hilarious old photographs, and a teaser about an epic hitch hiking trip back to Boston. If you’ve got something on that in your cache, I and (I bet) others would love to see it.

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 20, 2020 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    I like how she sings behind the beat, a technique also used by Holiday.

    Singing behind the beat was, I think, a byproduct of American vocalists learning to use the microphone as a separate musical instrument of sorts (as opposed to the old Rudy Vallée style of amplifying the voice with a megaphone). I believe Louis Armstrong was the first to do it. Bing Crosby picked it up from Pops and passed it on to a whole new generation of crooners and singers, including Lady Day.

    I’ve always gotten a special kick outta the way Sinatra uses it on “The Way You Look Tonight,”, where he lingers even a fraction of a second longer behind the beat. The sensation is like watching a guy chasing a train as it pulls out of the station, catching it by grabbing ahold of the handrail and swinging up onto the caboose at the last second, shooting his cuffs, and winking at the crowd watching from the platform. 🙂

    I recall listening to a special on Kurt Weill (on NPR, maybe?) that had an outtake of Louie Armstrong trying to teach the behind-the-beat technique — seemingly unsuccessfully — to Weill’s widow, Lotte Lenya (who’d been trained in the classic German singing style), so she could add some swing to her version of Weill’s composition “Mack the Knife,” a tune both Pops and Bobby Darin had swung the livin’ shit outta.

    • merilee
      Posted March 20, 2020 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      I swoooon at anything Ol’ Blue Eyes did with Nelson Riddle. I’ve always thought that Billie somehow had the same vibe, though I couldn’t describe it as well as you do. I’ve always somehow liked her better than Ella, although Ella had a gorgeous voice. Billie and Sarah Vaughan were da best🥰

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted March 20, 2020 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

        Billie was in a class by herself, the GOAT.

        But then Ella Fitzgerald was in a class by herself, too. Check out the way she gets in the pocket right behind the beat and swings the hell outta Cole Porter’s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RPerSEvP4Y"<"Let's Fall in Love" here.

        Tone like a crystal bell, exquisite timing, every note hit top dead center.

        • merilee
          Posted March 20, 2020 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

          Perfection🎶😻

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted March 20, 2020 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

        Since you’re a fan of Sinatra’s recordings with Nelson Riddle, Merilee, here’s a great piece of long-form journalism by James Kaplan in Vanity Fair about the recordings they did together, focusing especially on the Songs for Swingin’ Lovers! sessions they did in front of a live audience in a Los Angeles radio studio, the sessions that produced “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”

        • merilee
          Posted March 20, 2020 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

          Thanks, Ken! Will enjoy reading it. I’ve Got You Under My Skin and Witchcraft are two of my faves.

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted March 21, 2020 at 6:02 am | Permalink

            Sinatra Live in Paris has a great number and selection of tunes, great group, great sound. No Witchcraft though.

        • merilee
          Posted March 20, 2020 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

          On another 🎶, just taped this guy on PBS late this evening.

          Michael Kasehammer is worth listening to. I’ve heard him live twice in Toronto, once in a tiny club and once at the jazz festival.

          And has anyone seen the delightful film, Blinded by the Light, about a young Pakistani boy in Luton who gets turned on to The Boss?

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted March 21, 2020 at 8:15 am | Permalink

            Damn, cat can play.

          • rickflick
            Posted March 21, 2020 at 8:27 am | Permalink

            Fast hands.

    • John Donohue
      Posted March 21, 2020 at 5:50 am | Permalink

      In classical music, you call that singing behind the note “a tempo rubato” Lit. “in robbed time”.

      Sometimes you sing ahead of the beat, as well.

      The payoff by masters such as Ella and Frank is to come down solid right smack dab on the beat occasionally.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted March 21, 2020 at 8:08 am | Permalink

        Yeah, exactly, John. That’s the payoff of seeing the man chasing the train catching the caboose. 🙂

  10. rickflick
    Posted March 20, 2020 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Warwick had something very special. She could sing the Chicago phone book and make it sound terrific.

  11. Greg Geisler
    Posted March 20, 2020 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m amazed (and humbled) by how prolific you are with the posts. Very impressive and while I haven’t read all of them I greatly appreciate your voice in these crazy times.

    I saw Leon perform that song twice, once in 2010 shortly after he had his brain surgery and again in 2014. He was pretty hobbled in 2010 and had to be helped to his piano. His voice was shaky but his piano playing was as crisp as it has ever been. He looked much better in 2014.


    The Homewood Sessions is a fun look back to 50 years ago.

  12. Bernie Grossman
    Posted March 20, 2020 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Track 3 of the Coltrane/Hartman album is the greatest.

  13. GEORGE SEPSO
    Posted March 20, 2020 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    In times of crises, I always turn to Black Sabbath. Well, sometimes to Bach too.

  14. Posted March 20, 2020 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing that great music Jerry, particularly John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. I wasn’t aware of that album but will add it to my collection immediately.

    rz

  15. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 20, 2020 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  16. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 20, 2020 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Awww the sound Basie gets is almost mystical now – The thirties tunes, I think, have it. I’ve been meaning to get more. A famous example of the sound is Al Bowlly singing Midnight, The Stars, and You with Ray Noble – an easy trivia question is what makes that famous. I’ll try to find a YouTube link… : https://youtu.be/vJ9aT-Wa_tE
    … though that one is clearly less bright and smart… more … opiated?…

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted March 20, 2020 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

      Oh I can’t help it – one more famous example of the *harmonic concept* I’m referring to : https://youtu.be/0Sr0efOe8yk

      … anybody?… I love that one!

  17. Posted March 21, 2020 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    Don’t doubt yourself professor. For a few years I’ve read your site every single day and I look forward to it.
    -I enjoy your political rants and agree with you most of the time. Even the “get off my lawns”. 🙂
    – it was great the uni kept your duck access, btw. I love the “Ducks of our lives” column and the reader’s wildlife pics.
    – Go feed the ducks, take it easy, and keep posting.
    from Australian-American writer/atty NYC (which is currently deserted).

  18. A C Harper
    Posted March 21, 2020 at 5:10 am | Permalink

    I could provide you with a list of my top 5 songs…. but then I’d change my mind 5 minutes later.

    A year or two younger than PCCe, and born on a different continent, my era is Beatles/Stones/Who/Led Zepplin plus a number of quirky one-off songs. And then I remember Pink Floyd, Free, Monkeys (some), Creedence,
    James Taylor… and yes Frank Sinatra and Perry Como.

    Few modern songs seem to stick though, even though they are often acceptable. Perhaps overproduced.

  19. John Donohue
    Posted March 21, 2020 at 5:25 am | Permalink

    Two masterpieces of tragic, destroyed love:

    1) Mireille Mathieu “A quoi tu penses-dis” which does not translate directly. I think of it as. “Tell me the truth.”

    “I often cry when you are asleep; you think it is the wind.”

    2) Barbra Streisand “Happy Days Are Here Again.” There are later, polished versions, but this live performance has the most pathos. Just rip my heart out.

    … and two of love optimism.

    1) Jane Oliver, “Some Enchanted Evening”
    Again, a “poor” production value vid, but it captures the magic better than a polished studio production.

    2) Linda Ronstadt – “Blue Bayou”
    Every time I listen to this I hope with all my heart that she makes it back some sweet day.


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