This is actually one of my three-song sets but I figured if I said it in pidgin French you wouldn’t notice it. (Pictured – Ella Fitzgerald.)
Wikipedia: “Nat Adderley (November 25, 1931 – January 2, 2000) was an American jazz trumpeter. He was the younger brother of saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, whom he remained very close to in his career but under whose shadow he lived for most of his life.”
Nat and Julian first made their way to New York City in the Fifties, the prime era for jazz in this country (prior to fusion.) Julian made his way over to Miles Davis and was fortunate enough to have played alto saxophone to Coltrane’s tenor on the landmark Kind of Blue album.
After Cannonball’s death in the ’70’s, Nat went on with his own quintet, touring and playing. He released the album Talkin’ About You in 1990 and I swear when I first heard it on the radio I thought it had been recorded in the ’50’s. But no, recorded in 1990 here’s my kind of jazz, straight up, “Plum Street.” (Drummer Jimmy Cobb is on this tune and was also a player on Kind of Blue. At the ripe young age of 89, he may be the last of that generation.)
There’s a live album from 1960 called Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife. Now what’s interesting about this is that somewhere during the song, Ms. Fitzgerald completely forgets the lyrics and just starts making shit up. And she won a Grammy for Best Vocal Performance (Female) at the 3rd (!) Annual Grammy Awards.
Now, one wonders if the (I assume) largely German-speaking audience even understood the English words to begin with. So maybe she dodged a bullet, don’t know. The irony, of course, is that “Mack The Knife” is originally from the 1928 German play The Threepenny Opera (Brecht, Weill with vocals by Lotte Lenya.). The song is about a thief and murderer and Bobby Darin arguably had the biggest hit with it in 1958 (engineered by the inestimable Tom Dowd.)
Anyway, here’s Ella telling the audience, “You really haven’t heard a girl sing it.” No, but it ain’t half bad:
“Take Five” is such a famous tune it’s practically the “Stairway to Heaven” of the jazz world. Here’s some of the behind-the-scenes as per NPR:
“In 1961, Dave Brubeck told Ralph Gleason* on the TV program Jazz Casual that jazz had lost some of its adventurous qualities. He said it wasn’t challenging the public rhythmically the way it had in its early days. “It’s time that the jazz musicians take up their original role of leading the public into a more adventurous rhythm,” he said.
Brubeck had been playing in odd time signatures back in the late 1940s, but it wasn’t until he returned from a trip to Turkey in 1958 that he thought about doing an entire album in different time signatures, like six-four, three-four, nine-eight and, in “Take Five,” five-four.” (For the musically disinclined, much music – especially rock – is in 4/4. Four beats to the measure, a quarter note gets one beat. Odd time signatures aren’t unknown in rock. Pink Floyd’s “Money” starts in 7/8, “Whipping Post” starts in 11/8 – ME.)
Alto saxman Paul Desmond is credited with composing “Take Five,” but Brubeck says the tune was a group project with Desmond providing two main ideas. The tune was released as a single in 1959 but on re-release in 1961 became a hit.
On his death, Desmond left royalties to the American Red Cross who still get about $100,000/year off of it. Brubeck died a few years back but he could no more refrain from playing this tune than Skynryd could “Free Bird.” (Produced by Teo Macero who worked with Miles.)
*Ralph Gleason was a music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as a founding editor of Rolling Stone and co-founder of the Monterey Jazz Festival.