Apr 30, 2015

Queen Anita, Mouse Jazz, Jane's Creamy Dream, Plus Time With Phil And An Old Meets New Secret Song!

Yes, more Anita. I can't help myself! I hope you don't mind (you don't, do you?). Oh, and I so want that playing card above of her as The Queen of Diamonds (it really exists). Gimmie-gimmie-gimmie. And I'm sure she'd approve of it being diamonds, too - instead of hearts, for example - since she changed her last name from "Colton" to "O'Day." Why? Because "O'Day" is Pig Latin for "dough," that's why. Yes, she's just that kind of gal.

In 1985, she showed the East Coast jazz contingent how the West Coast could swing when she wowed them at Carnegie Hall. There's quite a few highlights in this set, but the one that'll really lay you flat is her combination of "'S'Wonderful/You Can't Take that Away With Me," in which she freestyles with her band, including her long-time co-hort (and sometime lover), drummer John Poole. With both of them riffing with their rhythms and the melody line, it's a jazz match made in Heaven.

She was sixty-five years old at the time, celebrating her 50th year as a performer - or, as she says in an article preceding the show, her 51st (because they couldn't book Carnegie the year before). In a Christian Science Monitor report about the concert, she's asked why she still keeps touring so much. "I get down to $58 in my account, then I gotta travel. It's good - keeps you on your toes." This is one of her best live albums.

Another terrific Anita live LP is 1975's rare "Live in Tokyo" - a Go, Anita, Go Cheerful Exclusive! - which again features her collaborating with John Poole, as well as pianist Merrill Hoover, pictured below. 

Anita was notorious for giving pianists a difficult time; many of them just couldn't keep up. Merrill was the only one she trusted implicitly. A subtle and responsive San Francisco-based player, he began working with Anita in the 1950s and she loved his ability to improv at a whim - which she was prone to do, sometimes changing octaves or rhythms in a blink. In other words, he knew how to listen, or think together with whomever he was accompanying, especially Anita. It didn't hurt, also, that he wasn't intimidated or put off, as many male musicians were, with Anita being in charge and calling the shots. The recording isn't the best quality, but I think it ranks right up there with the Carnegie LP in terms of highlighting Anita in a no-holds barred live setting. 

Cats, as you know, have a special appreciation for jazz (you do know this, right?). And apparently...

...so do mice. And so does Gil Goldstein, the jazz pianist who's part of a trio on this 2001 collection of Disney songs gone jazz, baby, jazz. Wait - I can just see some of you rolling your eyes. If listening to a jazz version of "Some Day My Prince Will Come," for example, sounds a bit too sticky for words, I understand (really, I do), but give this a shot, because it's anything but sappy. Joined by the likes of Herbie Mann, David Sanborn, trumpeter Randy Brecker and guitarist Pat Martino, this is a nifty assortment of tunes, perfect for dinner guests and such, or just chillaxin' (as the kids say). Plus, hearing Herbie Mann give his all to "Dance Of The Sugar Plum Faeries" is worth the ride (in a good way).

Behold Miss Jane Monheit, a twice Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist who's played The Birdland Club and Lincoln Center in NYC, Ronnie Scott's in London, The Coliseum in Barcelona; basically anywhere where people like their jazz singers dreamy and plush-sounding.

For those of you who might fear Diana Krall...huh? Wha? Sorry, just saying her name puts me to sleep. AnywayKrallissoboring, Jane is the real deal, a jazz performer with a luscious, but expressive, voice, which she puts to good use in a string of sparkling jazz standards. Do not be put off by the opening track - "Over the Rainbow" again? really? - because just after, from "Hit The Road To Dreamland" onward, her stirring, clear-as-a-bell voice will win you over. I promise. And, yes, this is a Just Jane Cheerful Exclusive! (but you knew that). I especially enjoy her version of "Waters Of March," which starts in a standard fashion, then takes off like a bird twirling in happy loop-di-loops. You can't help but smile.

"Time," as the Steve Miller Band says, "keeps on slippin' (slippin', slippin') into  the future." And then there's Einstein's thoughts on the matter, which boil down to, "The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." Think about that. Get back to me after your head explodes.

My head certainly did a "Scooby-wha?" when I saw Errol Morris' 1991 documentary "A Brief History Of Time" based on the Stephen Hawking book, and not just because Stevie is a such a card - and, like, sooooo smart - but also because of Philip Glass' music, which seemed of a piece with his eerily robotic voice. Strangely, a soundtrack was never released until now. Why did it take so long for an original Glass work to get released? I've no idea, but it's well worth a listen even if you haven't seen the movie - which is truly worthwhile, by the way. I saw it years ago on home video and watched stupefied. Who knew the universe was so and strange and time so infinite?

The Secret Song File is, as you know, utterly timeless - young in body, wise in mind - or as Einstein says, "Everything at once." Believe it or not, this really does have something to do with the spanking new CD she's been listening to, a perfect accompaniment to an afternoon of (caution: hints ahead) creating emojis or antiquing.

Confused? Alright, take a moment and imagine that you're in a speakeasy in the 1920s and a small jazz band starts performing "Gangsta's Paradise" or "Bad Romance." Intrigued? I thought you might be. And see? Everything really can happen at once. Just like Einstein says.

Of course, drugs can do that for you, too. 

Waste a li'l time in the comments, if you like! 

Apr 12, 2015

Apr 11, 2015

It's The First Annual Crazy Compilations Post, Plus A Really Deep Secret Song!

Madness is upon us! Music is exploding (everywhere)! You've come on a good day, dear reader. because it's (drumroll, please) the first annual Crazy Compilations Post! Hooray! Oodles of fun, oodles of tunes. How can you resist? And, yes, there's plenty of "Way-Out Wes Anderson," as pictured above - and in fact, there's so many artists, I can hardly breathe. Must. Find. A. Paper. Bag. To. BreatheintorighnowbeforeIfaint. There. All better (anybody got a Xanax?). Now that we're all calm, let's plow ahead, shall we?

Recently, I came into possession of a certain jazz label's "Club Collection," a box set with over a hundred CDs (I'm not kidding), all of them bursting with jazz and vocal goodness. Or some of them are. A few are "meh," several are tragic, a handful are snooze-ville (how many CDs need the same damn Dinah Washington song on them?) (does this have anything to do with my general indifference to Miss Dinah?) (why, yes, yes it does) (come at me, I ain't 'fraid of nothin'). But a select few are just downright incredible whether they bring together a group of artists under the umbrella of a theme or highlight a specific artist throughout. In other words, here's the best of the best.

I have a fondness for jazz drummers, so two collections - "Charly Antolini" just above; "Power Drummers" a bit further down the page - feature some of my favorite bucket bangers, like Roy Haynes, an ultra-drummer if ever there was one (his career lasted over 60 years) (for reals); Gene Krupa, of course; and Louie Bellson, a crack drummer who was married to Pearl Bailey, dont'cha know. There's scads more, of course, and they're all insanely good. 

Some people can't get into French jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, pictured above, because they think his recordings sound too old-timey. If you know any people like this, de-friend them immediately (virtually and otherwise) (likewise, if you know anyone who enjoys Kevin Costner movies, with the exception of "The Untouchables," de-friend them, too) (but that's another story). Django, as you might know, was a 1930s and 40s-era gypsy-influenced swing guitarist who all but created his own genre. Oh, and did I mention that two of his playing fingers were paralyzed? They were. Or that artists as varied as Beck and Jerry Garcia cite him as a major influence? They did. Further down, our friend Way-Out Wes has his own CD, too, and, yes, he's also cited Django as an influence. 

Meanwhile, let's talk about the lovely Miss Shirley Scott.

Shirley was known as the "Queen Of the Jazz Organ" (because someone has to be Queen of such things) (and if anyone deserves that title, it's her). There aren't many female soul-jazz organists out there (that I know of), and she's one of many singular artists featured in "Coffee Time Jazz," just below, one of the few multi-artist compilations in this box set that I really enjoyed. The other is "Swinging Jazz Piano," further down, a compilation of sensational pianists, like Francy Boland, the renown Belgian jazz prodigy; Earl Hines, the quintessential Prohibition-era pianist; and Red Garland, the jazz artist's jazz artist whose influence is still being felt today. Really, you can't go wrong with either one of these collections. 

Then there's that other Shirley. Miss Shirley Horn, who's plopped down on - what? Eiderdown? Somebody's ratty duvet cover? We'll never know for sure (and that pains me).

That aside, surely you know Shirley (ha!) (...I'll show myself out), the unparalleled jazz vocalist and pianist who collaborated with everyone from Miles Davis to Wynton Marsalis. They all wanted to work with Shirley, whose smokey-cool voice makes me think of The Blue Note in NYC just before closing, or the ultimate hangover cure on a Sunday afternoon, Shirley herself. And dont'cha know? She was first encouraged to pursue her dreams by her grandmother, who was (wait for it) a skilled organist. I know, my head's spinning, too.

Meanwhile, in late 1920s and early 30s, the Germans were just mad about Teddy Stauffer. Look at the couple below gettin' jiggy to his music (and the guy's pose; feel free to insert your own Sprockets jokes here).

Teddy was the man, the Swiss-born "swing king" who did it all, from music to acting to anything else he put his mind to. America caught on to him through celebrities of the day, who, in turn, first learned of him in Acapulco - the celeb spot du jour of its time - where he not only played his music, but managed several hotels. He even founded his own disco called "Tequila a Go-Go" (yet another reason to find a time machine). And let's all sigh with relief that he made it out of Germany just in time. Though the Nazis labeled his music "Jew Jazz," he freely (and sometimes coarsely) taunted them during his stage performances before having the good sense to get the hell out of Dodge. Somehow, Teddy also married five times, the most famous of his wives being Hedy Lamarr (the heart-stopping screen beauty who looks fine here, and very free-and-easy here). His jazz-swing compilation is a must. Even the titles are fun, like "Stop! It's Wonderful!" and "Dilemma: Foxtrot."

Beauty's where you find it, happiness is a warm puppy and magic is sometimes really-really deep. Say what? I know. So confusing. But you've just been given a major hint for this week's offering from The Secret Song File, who, along with yours truly, experienced a special kind of magic years ago upon attending one of the few Broadway performances of "Carrie: The Musical."

Who knew that seeing this train wreck would today be considered the equivalent of having a dog with two tails or a nose with three nostrils; there's no use for either, but they each exert their own fascination (I guess). Suffice to say that the tourist couple one row ahead of me was flossing their teeth during the overture. Doesn't that say it all? That and the grim, super-serious final bow that the actress playing "Carrie" gave at curtain call, as if she'd just played all the roles in a double bill of "Macbeth" and "Starlight Express" (if she could have committed harakiri - live! on stage! - she would have). Which, by the way, has absolutely nothing to do with this fantastic, brand-new, deep-house chillout compilation, except to say that you just know Barbara Cook wishes she hadn't backed out of the role of Carrie's mother after being nearly clobbered to death by a piece of falling scenery.

See? Some things really are magic. 

Cast your spell in the comments, if you're so moved!