Le Jazz Hot

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.)

Spotify link

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:

Spotify link

“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.)

Spotify link

*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.

15 thoughts on “Le Jazz Hot

  1. I found that Dave Brubeck greatest hits on vinyl that is easily from the early 60’s that is in mint condition. I got it for $1. I haven’t played it yet, but this inspires me to give it a spin. Thanks.

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  2. Strangely, that Plum Street video is “not available in [my] country” and yet I can find one that looks identical and does play. And the Spotify link takes me to an album for which only one track plays and it’s not Plum Street. Why can’t music publishers recognise that the online world is a global village? These legal barriers are so annoying.

    Anyway, all good tunes here.

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    1. Boy, that’s maddening. The 100% reason I added Spotify links is to overcome the YouTube issue. Oh, well. Glad you found some version of that tune. These songs are all great, classic jazz. And it’s the first time I’ve ever featured any of these artists. Shame on me.

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  3. Nice jazz respite, especially your recognition of unusual time signatures (Brubeck, “Money,” “Whipping Post”). Even hardcore music fans (like me) overlook those elements unless they’re pointed out. Along that line – and relating to a band we earlier discussed – check out this single by Egg, called “Seven is a Jolly Good Time.” How many rock bands compose in time signatures like this, then write lyrics about it?!

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    1. Actually I didn’t yet get a chance to mention I listened to some of the Egg album you suggested and I dug it. I listen to stuff like that at home so I’ll check out this tune and that whole album in the next day or two. Thanks.

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  4. Listening to Nat as I type. Never anything less than great stuff (listen to Cobb on this one. Did he ever show up on one of the Rolling Stone best lists?). I might get off my ass and finally start the jazz takes I’ve been sitting on (thanks for the nudge). Like all 3 of these people. Ella with Oscar (My fellow Canadian) is always good. Just listened to a few hours of her singing the Ellington song book. Real good.
    Dave is not only a top notch jazz guy he is (was) a top notch human being. I can put Take Five on and hit repeat. Never gets old for me. Great piece of music (What about Joe Morello on drums?). A few years ago I (and Big Earl) watched Brubeck get honored at the white House. You should have seen his face when his boys were on stage playing his music. Old CB had a tear in his eye. Great piece Doc. Thanks

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    1. As to Cobb/Rolling Stone, forget about it. They never heard of him. You’ve gotta go to Modern Drummer for the lowdown on him. Right on about Morello and drag me out to the hall of shame for missing him. Also guitar great Jim Hall with Miss Ella

      That sax on “Take Five” is so cool-sounding. I can just picture Hefner in his robe, enticing the young ladies in his bachelor pad.

      I assume CB did not actually go to the White House but watched Brubeck on the tube. Question -why has CB never been honored by the White House? Answer – because he’s dragging his feet on those jazz takes.

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      1. I have been to a white house just not that one. So many bells going off from this post. Here’s a link to my neighbors favorite piece of music. He’s like us but he can narrow it down to one piece. It is good Doc. Your buddy Jim Hall and a few pretty good sidemen. Including Desmond. Him and Baker try to out “cool” each other. I’m listening right now.

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        1. Listening to it too. Fantastic. Sketches of Spain, if you will. Jim Hall was a name thrown at me long ago by a savvy guitar teacher. However, since his name was neither A) Eric nor B) Clapton, I listened but I didn’t try to learn. Great stuff. Thanks to your neighbor. But keep working on him with Jarrett, will ya?

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        2. Good pick up on ‘Sketches’. Always great talking music with you. The jazz thing could open up an never ending dialogue. Jarrett is a lost cause with him. He’s the guy that told me about Don Shirley (His favorite musician) and I let him know about the film Green Book. If you told me you were a distant relative of Shirley, he’s be on the next plane to Boston. I think I’ll listen to some jazz today. Oh, I already am. The opening of Take Five is playing in my head.

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        3. The good thing about talking music with me is that if I don’t know something I’ll just make shit up. As to your neighbor and Jarrett, his loss. I know a guy named Dave Shirley. Close enough? And if there’s too much swirling in that big head of yours, don’t take five – take aspirin.

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  5. Some great stuff here, Jim. Truth be told, I’ve never heard any of it. So I guess you could say it’s a Thursday morning treat for me.

    Nat particularly got me. I’ll need to go explore more of that… Brubeck has been on the list for, well, Lord knows how long.

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    1. Yeah, as mentioned in the piece, Adderly’s tune is straight out of the bop era. But it was recorded in 1990. As to Brubeck, I’d recently been wondering how to squeeze ‘Take Five’ into a post and I figured, well, I’ve got three.

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