Monday, March 22, 2010

Desert Island 2

Well here it is finally! another instalment in the series of "Desert Island Music" that i have recently undertaken....this instalment is about Jazz and the way it influences the way I listen to music.
  1. Vince Guaraldi's Grammy-winning song "Cast your fate to the wind"(1963) is the song that started it all for the composer better known for his work with most of the "Peanuts" television and movie soundtracks.  This song has a lilting quality that shows how underrated and under-appreciated that Vince Gauraldi was in terms of his contribution to the musical mix. I encourage all who are not familiar with the song to give it a listen.
  2. What desert island list would not be complete without mention of Django Reinhardt? especially my favourite "Minor Swing"  This song showcases Django's brilliant mastery of the guitar...this is a man who had to re-learn how to play the guitar when he suffered a nearly disfiguring injury rescuing family members from a fire! Yet he is able to make it sound like a beautiful rhythm with little or no effort.  Many contemporary artists mention him as a major influence. 
  3. Louis Armstrong is another favourite on the list...it was hard to decide on a particular song, but I think " St. James Infirmary" is on that encompasses the the feel of his roots within the New Orleans Jazz scene. It has the feel of a New Orleans street funeral march, but it gives Mr. Armstrong ample room to "stretch out" smooth and slow.  BTW a recent cover of this song by the White Stripes is very noteworthy.
  4. Big Band Swing Jazz is so important to my music appreciation and Chick Webb is one of the greats...known in the day as the victor of many "cutting contests" and a fixture of the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem....his signature song is "stompin' at the Savoy" authorship is attributed to Edgar Simpson (Webb's saxophonist) , but it is Benny Goodman that had the most commercial success with the song.  Goodman was known to frequent the Savoy after hours to take in the scene, and frequently competed with Webb's band.
  5. Another Big Band Swing contributor is Count Basie, and my favourite of his songs is "one o' clock jump"  Basie shows his skills as both a band leader and as a smokin' keyboard player (the video on youtube has Basie in a six piece that really moves the music like a big band)  Another noteworthy version of this song would be by the Glenn Miller Orchestra.
  6. Charlie Parker is known as one of the founders of "Bop" Jazz, beyond his years in the interpretations of "tapestries" of notes...the best example of this is probably "Ko-Ko" (1947), which was originally recorded with Dizzy Gillispie (see "Salt Peanuts" also 1947), another founding father of "Bop" Jazz.  Ko-Ko is a free-flow of notes that are strung together like beads that move all around the room.  Truly a joy to listen to these master craftsmen blending with each other. Unfortunately the demons of several addictions claimed Charlie Parker's life just as his sound was coming into its own.
  7. John Coltrane was another of the most influential tenor sax players of his generation and several following his...where Charlie Parker is energetic and almost manic sounding, Coltrane manages to establish a fluidity, and the best example of this is probably "Blue Trane" (1957).  Runners-up are most likely "Love Supreme" and his opulent cover of the Rogers and Hamerstein "Favourite Things" (1961).
  8. Duke Ellington rounds out the list with his own brand of Big Band Swing, and a good example of this would be "Take The A Train", especially when Ella Fitzgerald is on vocals.  Ellington's arrangements have influenced artists such as Dave Brubeck and Wynton Marsailis.  Runners up would be "Caravan" or possibly "Mood Indigo"  Just go to YouTube and watch "Sir Duke" go to work!  You will be amazed.
Okay...now that you have some of my favourites...let me know what yours are and why....for example does a particular song stand in mind because a friend or relative listened to it and thereby created a favourite for you? Happy Listening