Welcome to the jazz metanode! Well, actually it's a meta-meta node. Anyway, you can go from here to: P.S. If you have heard just the nickname of the musician, and don't know who it refers to, see Jazz nicknames.

Also, pingouin has chosen to node the Ken Burns' Jazz Metanode. You can see some jazz-related stuff there.

comments & suggestions welcome. /msg me

It's a loaded word. It means something, but the meaning has gotten twisted over the decades, for the profit of some, and to the irritation of others. You might see a "jazz musician" in a television commercial, maybe a twentysomething black man, well-groomed, in nice clothes, invariably playing a saxophone; whatever the product is, this is some attempt to imbue it with "sophistication", or some sort of "mature", no-green-hair hipness. You might see, in some other commercial, an older jazzman, black, of course, in nice clothes that invoke an earlier era of hip. A fedora or pork-pie hat speaks a thousand Madison Avenue words.

So that's jazz. Jazz is hip and sophisticated. You need read no further.

Actually, that's just a lie used to sell you stuff (including CDs). Jazz is neither hip nor sophisticated; it's just music. There are traits that vary from era to era, but there is a commonality to those traits that transcends the epochs.

There's improvisation at the center of it all. First and foremost, improvisation refers to the spontaneous creation of melody, and of its rhythm. Traditionally, that creation was buttressed by a framework - a song, with its preset melody and chords. An improvisor soloes, i.e. creates a new melody based on those chords; singers became part of the mix, thanks a great deal to Louis Armstrong, who evolved a vocal translation of his trumpet style, influencing singers like Billie Holiday and Bing Crosby, and just about any other jazz singer since.

But even the background was improvised. The remaining musicians often had only the melody and chords to fall back on, just the basics one would find on a minimally-scored piece of sheet music, so there was no indication of, say, how exactly the drummer should keep the 4/4 time, or what exact notes the pianist should play to voice the E Major chord. In early jazz, you also had horns improvising melodies in support of the lead (or soloist) horn, a concept of collective improvisation brought back over the decades in various forms, like the contrapuntal duets of Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker, and, in its most enduring form, the all-out each-in-one's-own-musical-plane simultaneity of free jazz, often far removed from the song form and blues roots of earlier forms, but still containing the ineffable essence of jazz.

But if it's just about improvisation, that means Merle Haggard (from the tradition of "country jazz", i.e. the Western Swing of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys) and Eric Clapton (improvisational roots in the blues, without which there would be no jazz) are jazz musicians too, right? Maybe so. That's part of the problem: if there is no "jazz police", patrolling the streets with eternal vigilance, then everything can ultimately call itself jazz.

Jazz harmony, for most of the 20th Century, has been based on seventh chords: a root note, with three other notes, successively a third higher than the previous one. The "seventh" comes from the fact that that last note is a seventh away from the root. The flavor of the chord comes mainly from the quality of the underlying triad - major, minor, diminished, or augmented. So Steely Dan is a jazz band, and so are The Beatles, since such chords occur in many of their songs. And both bands featured a little improvisation as well.

But none of these aforementioned examples (from Merle to Lennon & McCartney) are jazz. Something is missing, and it's not melanin. But what is it? Jazz might be best described as the set of jealously-guarded canons that have endured over the decades, even musics that divided one set of jazz police from another, once upon a time. Big band jazz, the orchestras of the likes of Fletcher Henderson, Paul Whiteman, Duke Ellington, and many others, introduced detailed, written-out arrangements of instrumental parts, but it still included improvisation, and was, musically, thoroughly in the then-young jazz tradition. The big rift came in the 1940's, with the advent of bebop, a loose, small-group form of the music, not really all that far-removed, in retrospect, from swing-era jazz. But the added harmonic and melodic complexity, plus the change from making-music-to-dance-to to an art for art's sake aesthetic, alienated much of the jazz audience of the day.

Bop would become the mainstream, i.e. the center of gravity of the collection of canons, and would evolve over the decades into its own little subgenres, like cool jazz, hard bop, and such. The mainstream of today would include swing-era stuff, and bebop in all its forms - the NPR version of "what jazz is". The more adventurous would include the 80s/90s mainstream: music derived from Miles Davis' pre-fusion groups, music championed by the likes of the latter-day alumni of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, such as Wynton Marsalis. And, yes, they all wear nice clothes, something especially important for the marketing of "Young Lions" like Joshua Redman.

But since the 1950's, jazz musicians have been extending the tradition in ways that alienated critics and audiences, akin to the days of the boppers; pianist Lennie Tristano had even tried free improvisation as early as the 1940's. Cecil Taylor began to find a way to fuse his love of Ellington and Thelonious Monk with the Prokofiev and Stravinsky and Henry Cowell of his conservatory training, and to improvise from structures completely removed from the preset chords and melodies of jazz tunes. This came to be known as free jazz, which, in turn, developed its own amorphous, overlapping set of subgenres over the decades, like free improvisation, "energy music", or freebop, for instance. Via the aforementioned Miles influence, some of this music has made its way, in somewhat manicured (and often subtle) form, into the mainstream, while the wilder or more non-conformist aspects remain as underground as they were in 1961. Those who sit in hope of the canonization of the avant-to-the-max Frank Wright or Sunny Murray will wait in vain, but many musicians, over the years, have become elder statesmen of the avant-garde, like the members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Taylor, Peter Kowald, and Peter Brotzmann, among many others. Some have received subsidies, such as MacArthur Foundation Grants, or have found careers in the academic world. But you will probably never hear them on NPR, nor see their latest CD hyped by retailers and portals.

The most commercially popular form of jazz over the years is Not Jazz, that is, watered-down jazz-like musics that are user-friendly enough to be hyped by the retailers and portals of the day. Often the music is made by real jazz musicians, which gives it even more of a veneer of validity, from the saccharine balladry of Harry James, to soul jazz, to the trendy R&B instrumentals of Ramsey Lewis, to the smooth jazz and the it's-jazz-by-virtue-of-sampling-old-jazz records of today. While indie labels have pretty much always been the media midwife of real jazz, large labels, aggressively marketing a combination of Not Jazz and conservative jazz vocalists, have usually been able to define, by sheer brute force, "what jazz is", much as Intel and Microsoft define all that is "computing" for a large number of people. Not Jazz is a varied tradition in its own right, and is often the centerpiece of "jazz" festivals worldwide.

Which is why the word tends to be a bit off-putting. If someone intones the word "jazz" (especially if it's preceded by an adjective like "cool"), I get the same sort of queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach that I would if a telemarketer were calling. Someone is trying to sell me something that I, a casual/hardcore jazz fan since childhood, wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole, or it's a product, musical or not, being sold by invoking the idea of "jazz". Miles Davis, once the embodiment of the hip, well-dressed jazzman, abandoned the word sometime around 1965, for various reasons, including not wanting to be lumped in with the swirling commercial ghetto of musics called, rightly or wrongly, "jazz", especially in the face of the commercial ascendence of Beatles-era rock.

Other terms have sprung up since then. The musics Miles made after abandoning the word came to be known as fusion, and "smooth jazz" has its roots both in soul jazz and the more dumbed-down aspects of fusion; someone coined the word "fuzak" back in the 70's, in the wake of major labels like Warner (now part of AOL Time Warner) and CBS Records (now owned by Sony) flooding the market with slickly-recorded Not Jazz (also known, very briefly, as "Triple Z" jazz). Those two record labels, either for fear of alienating jazz fans, or fear of scaring away pop buyers, even had ads that extolled the new products of their jazz divisions, but deliberately failed to mention the word "jazz".

Others, irreparably divorced from the marketers' definition of jazz, would come up with new names: "creative music", "creative improvised music", "music in the (jazz) tradition", or the AACM's notion of "Great Black Music", part of the Art Ensemble of Chicago's motto, tying together the Dogon, the field holler, Charlie Parker, and James Brown, et al. These terms were mainly meant to invoke the connection between free jazz and the jazz musics that came before; fancier than the term "free jazz" - a relevant quote from saxophonist Chico Freeman: "Free jazz" means I don't get paid, a quip with multiple truths to it, from an era when loft jazz musicians were not yet welcome in large numbers. (The same applies to the "free music" of Germany's FMP). Dr. Billy Taylor, a mainstream pianist and educator whose career goes back to the late swing era, promoted jazz as "America's Classical Music", a uniquely home-grown musical artform that had grown as high-falutin' as anything in Carnegie Hall, and, now, the advent of such latter-day institutions as Jazz at Lincoln Center is a testament to the high-falutin' mindshare that the mainstream has won over the past quarter-century.

But, at the end of the day, it's just music. And "jazz" is still a loaded word, always ripe for more loading.

Good jazz is when the leader jumps on the piano, waves his arms, and yells. Fine jazz is when a tenorman lifts his foot in the air. Great jazz is when he heaves a piercing note for 32 bars and collapses on his hands and knees. A pure genius of jazz is manifested when he and the rest of the orchestra run around the room while the rhythm section grimaces and dances around their instruments.

-Charles Mingus

Jazz to Mingus wasn't music. The music of great jazz players was a byproduct of their genius, their knowledge of the rhythm, their feel of the beat. Jazz was a feeling expressed through spontaneous composition. You couldn't capture real jazz on paper, there was no emotion in ink. The heart of jazz was with the musician, giving the music meaning and ad-libbing himself to you during solos. It wasn't the music...it was what you did with it.

...anything Milhaud has done in classical music, McPherson and Bird, alone, do with ease as well as human warmth and beauty.

-Let My Children Hear Music

Like they say, It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing...

Transforms from race car to robot and back!


"Do it with style or don't bother doing it."

JAZZ loves Earth culture. Always looking to learn more. His knowledge of Earth makes him the indispensable right-hand man to Optimus Prime. Takes most dangerous missions. Very cool, very stylish, very competent. Equipped with photon rifle, flamethrower, full-spectrum beacon, 180db stereo speakers. Creates dazzling, disorienting sound and light shows. Versatile, clever, daring, but prone to be distracted.

  • Strength: 5
  • Intelligence: 9
  • Speed: 7
  • Endurance: 7
  • Rank: 8
  • Courage: 9
  • Firepower: 5
  • Skill: 10
Transformers Tech Specs

Not only were all of the 1984/85 Autobot cars based on real vehicles, some of them were based on very specific cars. Jazz, for instance, was modelled after the Martini Porsche 935 racing car. According to http://www.geocities.com/kidk0rrupt/porsche/porsche.htm, four of these cars were built, one each year between 1978 and 1981; the 1981 car was appropriately numbered "4" and became Takara's model for the toy that eventually became Jazz. Wheeljack and Smokescreen were also modelled after real-life racecars.

The cartoon played up on the "180db stereo speakers" described in Jazz's tech specs and made them so they could pop out of the rear of the car, pointing forward and playing loud enough to scramble Decepticon sensors whenever they were within range. The character himself talked in a sort of jive slang and got a whole lot of airtime (he often acted like Optimus Prime's second-in-command) in return for being cool.

The elusive etymology of Jazz

"Jazz" is one of those words that seems just right to express what it means or what it means to you. But like the difficulty there is in finding a single comprehensive way to define just what jazz is, the question of the derivation of the word is, at best, speculative, in all probability: unknown.

It's not that there isn't a grab-bag of theories as to just what the etymology is, though.

The earliest recorded use of the word in reference to the musical style comes from 1916 (though Jelly Roll Morton claimed to have coined it, himself, in 1902 to "differentiate the style from ragtime"). An earlier usage, meaning "full of vigor and energy" dates from 1913. By 1918, it was "known" to be slang for sexual intercourse—though "jass," an alternate form of the word was already known to carry that meaning (and like the contemporary favorite similar four-letter word, it had a variety of meanings and usage within the context of profanity). Also, it was said in 1924 that the word "jazz" had had that meaning in and around dance halls for at least thirty years.

Of course, that doesn't mean it was coined with that meaning but that the meaning was certainly attached to it. And it was a part of the quasi-culture of dancing, parties, and such—generally speaking, a word of "low origin" that was used by those of "low origin" (meaning primarily blacks and the poor) who frequented such places. It's no wonder, with the stigma of low-class profanity attached, that those of more 'refined God-fearing' sensibilities would react negatively to it and the music with which it was associated. H.L. Mencken wrote:

According to Raven I. McDavid Sr. of Greenville, S.C., the 1919 announcement of the first "Jazz band" to play in Columbia, where he was then serving in the state legislature, inspired feelings of terror among the local Baptists such as might have been aroused by a personal appearance of Yahweh. Until that time "Jazz" had never been heard in the Palmetto State except as a verb meaning to copulate.
The idea of rhythmic music that gets kids and/or the "rabble" dancing and gyrating and carrying on—which of course necessarily leads to sexual activity— is a standard theme going way back and continues today. And regardless of any supposed cause-effect claims, the association between sex and music (as with most forms of expression, artistic or otherwise) is undeniable.

Other similar musical terms reportedly had origins in sexual slang (or association with it). "Boogie-woogie" was once slang for syphilis. "Gig," though more directly related to a dance or party, was (along with "gigi" or "giggy") used as slang for vulva. "Jelly roll" was another slang term for vulva (though like that other word, had a variety of related meanings up to and including the sex act. It may derive from the use of "jelly" as slang for semen. "Juke" came from "juke house," another term for brothel (later more generally, a dance hall—though with similarly negative connotations). It is thought to come from a Gullah word meaning "disorderly" or "wicked." One of the places the music was often played (early on) was in brothels which offered dancing and partying in addition to their primary purpose. An earlier, now archaic form of swing—swinge—was used to mean intercourse. An interesting quote from a 1622 poem contains both of last two: "Give her cold jelly to take up her belly, And once a day swinge her again" (John Fletcher, "The Beggar's Rush"). But all that aside, the origin may lie elsewhere.

Some theories think the origin comes from another language. One suggestion is that it is from jasi, a Mandingo word meaning "to act out of character." Another is the word yas, from the Temne language meaning "to be energetic." Lending some credence to those is that many of the former slaves and their descendants from whom the music derived came from West African nations. Similar terms drawn from those sources filtered through Creole were used to mean "hurry up" (which nicely describes the rhythms of jazz, particularly in a context of a time when rock and roll did not exist). Another suggestion is that of a French, by way of New Orleans, word—jaser or jazer—meaning "to chatter" (interestingly, yet another slang term for copulation).

Then there are the "historical" theories. One posits that it came from the abbreviations of early musicians' names (like "Chas." for Charles or "Jas." for James). Supposedly (as the theory goes) there was either a "dancing slave" named Jasper from New Orleans (around 1825) or a drummer from Vicksburg, Mississippi named Charles "Chas" Washington or a musician from Chicago who went by the name Jasbo Brown. Take your pick, I find them all equally implausible.

Another story is of a time (1916 or 1915) when a New Orleans band was playing that music in Chicago. An inebriated patron of the club (supposedly a retired vaudeville entertainer) became overly aroused by the exciting music and leapt atop a table, shouting "Jass it up, boys." The manager of the club then used it for its commercial potential, having the man repeat his catchphrase on other occasions and the next day the band was billed as "Stein's Dixie Jass Band." Recall that this was, technically, an obscene word. Only because of the many contexts and ways in which it could be used was this gotten away with...if it happened at all (the band existed and the name existed, though).

Perusing several sites on the band, it is unclear of the actual origin of their name. One claim is that it was an insult from a heckler in a crowd (still Chicago). Another is that was used by union musicians in reference to the band. There seems some disagreement among members as to at what point the band took the title, as well.

Then there is a story from a certain Gavin Bushell, a worker with circus bands around 1900 or so. According to him:

They said that the French had brought the perfume industry with them to New Orleans, and the oil of jasmine was a popular ingredient locally. To add it to the perfume was called "jassing it up." The strong scent was popular in the red light district, where a working girl might approach a prospective customer and say, "Is jass on your mind tonight, young fellow?" The term had become synonymous with erotic activity, and came to be applied to the music as well.
(Can't seem to escape the sexual association, can we?) Personally, it "smells like urban legend." But you never know.

Unfortunately, no one may ever learn the exact source for the word jazz and how it became associated with the music so beloved today.

(Sources: www.apassion4jazz.net/eoj.html, http://users.netstarcomm.net/etjs/jazz_tidbits_and_other_things_by.htm, www.uselessknowledge.com/word/jazz.html, www.wordwizard.com)

The thing i love about jazz, or good music in general is the ability to play with notes and tone. We can listen, hell, we can even play an instrument, sound horrible at first, producing only pops and squeaks (sax) or strum a tangled mix of notes to produce a mangled chord. But as we get better (hopefully) we learn how to blow notes correctly, we learn correct chords. Then we play for years and years maybe.

In the understanding of jazz, something else happens: expression and emotion are now able to be created via your instrument. After a while, you become able to articulate through sounds and notes your emotions, it's an amazing process, but because Jazz is an expressive medium, like writing, jazz the entity experiences change over time, this is like mentioning all the different styles of jazz: big band, bossa nova, cool, bop, hard bop, fusion, free jazz, on and on to infinity. The changing face of style isn't as easy as say a critical theory, because reading is a much easier thing to learn compared with learning how to play an instrument, and even more learning how to manipulate emotive tones through your instrument.

Unlike critical theory, in jazz you have to know your field better. Consider the begining of bop -- the fifties with Dizzy Gilespie and Charlie Parker -- a new sound constructed of incredibly difficult, fast pased, emotive fingers and lips pressing and blowing, chaning the path of music forever. Listening to a bop song such as Salt Peanuts opposed to listening to something by Benny Goodman is enough to make your head spin if you don't hold on too tightly.

To be brief, i'll cut to my point, focusing on the further evolution into today's jazz (even though to many jazz is dead, though i tend to lump together jazz and experimental music, becuase, to me, experimental takes over where fusion and jazz left off) where one hears a string of notes that sound more like a child picking up his instrument for the first time, sneaking in pops and squeaks along side completely formed notes, not because the player is just learning, but because that's the style he's going for -- raw.

In a way, music has gone far from the starting point, but because of the pretty standard number of notes capable on an instrument, music -- in it's contemporary -- thinks of new ways to use notes. It forces us to rethink what we think we know and try again, look for new patterns, look for new tones, half-keys, different ways to blow, different ways to manipulate the sounds, the way we hear them, the way they penetrate our hearts and minds. This is the new jazz, real music.

Jazz 101: An Opinionated View With Recommended Listening

(Originally the text of a handout given to attendees of a lecture given by the author)

There’s no right or wrong about Jazz. Jazz is what you hear. Just like food, or wine, or books – Jazz is what you like.


Leader and trombonist Steve Davis, David Hazeltine, pianist, and Nat Reeves on bass all reside near or in West Hartford:

"Darn That Dream" (Eddie DeLange - Jimmy Van Heusen)

Steve Davis, trombone; Steve Nelson, vibes; David Hazeltine, piano; Nat Reeves, bass; Joe Farnsworth, drums. From Steve Davis: A Portrait In Sound Stretch Records SCD-9027-2

Jazz can be easy to listen to; with sounds that we find familiar.

“Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid” (Lester Young)

George Shearing, piano; Warren Chiasson, vibraphone; Dick Garcia, guitar; Wyatt Ruther, bass; Lawrence Marable, drums. Recorded April 28, 1960 in San Francisco. Originally recorded on a Capitol LP, now available on The Definitive George Shearing Verve 314 589 857-2


Jazz – an American art form and an international phenomenon.

"Jazz is not the result of choosing a tune, but an ideal that is created first in the mind, inspired by one’s passion and willed next in playing music."

Jazz music is less than what is transcribed note-by-note onto sheet music or suggested by sheet music or chord changes. It is in the act of creating the form itself that we truly find Jazz.

An academic definition of Jazz would be: A genre of American music that originated in New Orleans ca. 1900, characterized by strong, prominent meter, improvisation, distinctive tone colors and performance techniques, and dotted or syncopated rhythmic patterns.

“When The Saints Go Marching In” (Traditional)

Heartbeat Jazz (Scott Black, cornet; Sherman Kahn, clarinet and tenor sax; Al Brogdon, trombone and tenorhorn; Bill Logozzo, drummer and leader; Bob Price, banjo; Ed Cercone, piano; Mike Belba, bass) from their album That’s It ToneSoup Productions www.tonesoup.com

Art in general hosts an invitation for the viewer or listener to invest a personal attentiveness. Unlike other mediums, the nature of music leans toward the emotional rather than intellectual. It is this personal connection with music and all art that enables the patron to actually experience what is being communicated, rather than merely understanding the information. While all forms of music share this dynamic, Jazz, with its unique characteristic of collective improvisation, exemplifies it.

Most genres of music involve the listener into the realm of the completed work as it was scored. Jazz draws the onlooker to a deeper league, that of a partnership so to speak, of being along when each new phrase is created, when each inspired motive is often the interactive result of audience involvement. Jazz music’s dynamic is its “newness” which can be attributed to the defining component – improvisation.

While Classical music may strive to conform the musical tones to orchestral sonorities, Jazz music thrives on instrumental diversities; the player’s individual “sound” becoming the desired proficiency. This is where the passion is, a kind found nowhere else.

Man, if ya gotta ask, you’ll never know.

Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong

Like the self-motivating, energetic solos that distinguish the genre, Jazz continues to evolve and seek new levels of artistic expression. In slightly over one hundred years, evolution has given birth to approximately two dozen distinct Jazz styles. Jazz music draws from life experience and human emotion as the inspiration of the creative force, and through this discourse is chronicled the story of its people. Jazz musicians and those who follow the genre closely can indeed be thought of as an artistic community complete with its leaders, spokesmen, innovators, aficionados, members and fans.


Stan Kenton, in a 1950s radio broadcast said, "Jazz is a distinct music that depends and thrives on individuality and yet the individual is not oblivious to others nor is he immune to their feelings. Jazz is free. Through spontaneous improvisation, a musician expresses his personality consciously and subconsciously. His music, with its variation of melodic lines and rhythmic patterns, can establish a changing flow of attitudes just as those revealed by a facial expression or a gesture even without words."

"A session in jazz," said Kenton, "is comparable to an open forum where theories and opinions are discussed openly and freely. Without inhibition or the fear of being reprimanded, a soloist rises and speaks without the aid of notes or previous preparation. Speeches with words of various inflections and insinuations are replaced with a flow of melodic, rhythmic music. One soloist will speak for himself on a chosen topic and then retire to hear the feelings of another on the same subject. On occasions, they will speak of happy things, then those of a more serious nature, sometimes somber and even tragic. All phases of life's emotions are felt and experienced in jazz."

“Somewhere” (Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim – From the play “West Side Story”)

Aretha Franklin, lead vocal, piano; Phil Woods, alto sax solo – Cornell Dupree, guitar; Ray Brown, bass; Bernard Purdie, drums. The Quincy Jones Orchestra, conducted by Quincy Jones. Produced by Quincy Jones and Aretha Franklin. Arranged by Quincy Jones and Luther Henderson. From the album Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky) Atlantic #7265

Quincy Jones has worked with nearly every major jazz and popular artist of note during his nearly sixty year career. But it was Aretha Franklin’s rendering of Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere,” from West Side Story, that provided what he describes as one of the most emotionally affecting experiences of his entire career.

“This is a recording,” he says, “that, when I leave this planet, is what I want them to play. It’s one of the most moving vocal performances I’ve ever experienced or witnessed in my life. And Aretha played piano too. God just came in and took over the whole space; you can really feel it.”

Bernstein had a similar reaction. “When I played it for him,” continues Quincy, “he just cried like a baby.”


The previous two song selections are from popular sources; the first, a traditional, representing the very roots of jazz in the African-American diaspora. The second, a portion of what is arguably the finest work of contemporary Classical American music, with all due respect to Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue” and the works of Samuel Barber. Much jazz finds its melody in popular music and what we call “Standards,” songs which have stood the test of time – and also melodies that are so finely crafted they’re embraced by myriad artists in myriad styles.

Songs that come to mind include “My Funny Valentine,” “Mack The Knife,” “Over The Rainbow,” “But Not For Me,” “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” “Summertime,” and more. Let’s now take a “walk around” composer Harold Arlen’s “Come Rain or Come Shine,” in all vocal renditions, with fabulous lyrics by Johnny Mercer:

“Come Rain Or Come Shine” (Harold ArlenJohnny Mercer)

Billie Holiday, vocal; Harry “Sweets” Edison, trumpet; Benny Carter, alto saxophone; Jimmy Rowles, piano; Barney Kessel, guitar; John simmons, bass; Larry Bunker, drums. Recorded August 25, 1955 in Los Angeles. From Billie’s Best Verve CD 314 513 943-2

Judy Garland, vocal; Orchestra under the direction of Mort Lindsey. Recorded Live at Carnegie Hall Sunday April 23rd, 1961. Judy Garland Live at Carnegie Hall Capitol 40th Anniversary Edition 24-Bit Digital Remaster 2-CD Set 72435-27876-2-3

Frank Sinatra, vocal; Orchestra under the direction of Don Costa. From Reprise Sinatra and Strings, recorded in Los Angeles, November 21, 1961; Also on Frank Sinatra: the Reprise Collection Reprise 9 26340-2 (4 CD Set)

From Holiday’s charming, ultra-restrained, innocent-sounding but very hip rendition of the tune; basically a standard reading with few “bells and whistles;” simply Ms. Holiday’s fine instrument shining through, we then move forward just a few years to the early sixties, when jazz was becoming more and more frenetic (influenced in part by the onslaught of the new “rock ‘n roll” sensation and the need for popular singers to compete; and not stay separate. Garland’s entire 1961 tour, culminating in what some find to be cabaret kitsch but others insist is one of entertainment’s finest hours – her famous arrival at Carnegie Hall to play to a star-studded audience, who awarded her standing-ovation after standing-ovation. Now, finally, if you have any doubt about what “swings” and what doesn’t. Sinatra’s famous Don Costa arrangement of “Come Rain or Come Shine” swings so hard it’s nearly a caricature of swing – but not quite. If the strong chords and almost over-the-top counter-melodic voices were added to any other song, or the arrangement sung by, let’s say, a female singer, it would sound like a cheap stripper’s song. However, Costa pulled it off, and Sinatra’s added dose of “cool” turned what could’ve been a tawdry disaster into a haunting image-setting piece that swings and tantalizes and is artistic enough to leave an image etched almost visually in one’s mind’s eye.

“Pennies From Heaven” (Johnnie BurkeArthur Johnston)

Frank Sinatra, vocals; Count Basie and His Orchestra. Arranged by Neal Hefti. Frank Sinatra: the Reprise Collection Reprise 9 26340-2 (4 CD Set)

Performed by over seventy-five major stars ranging from pop singers like Andy Williams and Peggy Lee to Jazz Masters the likes of Dave Brubeck, the simple song “Pennies from Heaven” was given new life when handed to brilliant arranger Neal Hefti for performance by swinger Frank Sinatra and debatably the “swinginest” big band there ever was, “Count” Basie’s Orchestra.

Ella Fitzgerald, who, in jazz terms “owned” the song “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing,” said on the record many times over the years that nobody could swing like Basie. We’ll visit more Standards later. First, we’ll investigate what happens when one jazz master decides to pay tribute to another.

“Captain Bill” (Monty AlexanderRay BrownHerb Ellis)

Gene Harris, piano; Bob Cooper (tenor saxophone solo), Jon Faddis (trumpet solo) and the Gene Harris All Star Big Band. Original issue: Tribute To Count Basie Concord CCD-4366, also available on Gene Harris, The Best of The Concord Years (2 CD Set) CCD2-4930-2.


Without arrangers, the guys who write the music for the orchestra, which is played note-by-note, behind the “cats” who are improvising, there wouldn’t be such dramatic, spectacular music as that which you’ve been hearing. Arrangers don’t just spend their time arranging, they’re out there, typically on the West Coast, so they compose, too. Here’s a little bagatelle that Neal Hefti, the arranger of the “Pennies From Heaven” track, and an arranger who worked closely with Basie for many years, composed for a television program you may or may not remember.

“Batman Theme” (Neil Hefti)

Nelson Riddle and His Orchestra (Available on Rhino Records' TV Themes CD - Try to get Hefti's version if you can find Hefti's Batman album on vinyl.

Now an interesting question, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Hugo Montenegro’s “Theme From ‘I Dream Of Jeannie’” has been utilized in commercials, on “Jeopardy” in questions, in “samples” in Rap songs – but now it’s gone full-circle and has been used as a counter-melody in a rendition of a cabaret favorite.

C’Est Si Bon (J. Seelen – A. Hornez – A. Betti) incorporating "Theme From 'I Dream of Jeannie'" (Hugo Montenegro)

Quinn Lemley, vocals, Bob McDowell, piano; Jim Donica, bass; Lee Jeffryes, drums; Raphael Reyes, percussion; Ed Zadd, guitar; Mark McDonald, alto sax; John Isley, tenor sax; Brad Detrick, trumpet. Arranged and Conducted by Bob McDowell. From www.quinnlemley.com.

Something as simple as a well-known childrens’ song can provide a melody which the correct jazz artist manipulates with thrilling results. Famed vocalist and pianist Shirley Horn aced a tune originally penned by Joe Raposo for the venerable youngsters’ program “Sesame Street.” (Beside Shirley, Sinatra also did this tune justice, as well as a few other pop and jazz singers.)

"(Being) Green" (Joe Raposo)

Shirley Horn, solo piano, vocal. Recorded April 30, May 1-3, 1993 in New York City. Available on Light Out Of Darkness (A Tribute To Ray Charles) Verve CD 314 519 703-2


Perhaps a million composers have tried to subtly convey one person’s interest in expressing love (whether emotional or otherwise) to another in a way that stands out from all the others.

But how few have become classics? Let’s hear what the master of romantic phrasing has to say about it all, first, using the words and bossa nova rhythm of the inimitable Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, a master of subtlety, and then something totally different, the politically-incorrect words of prolific composer Irving Berlin:

There's no use,
For a moonlight glow,
For the peaks where winter snow,
What's the use of the waves as they crash in the cool of the evening,
What is the evening? Without you, it's nothing.

"If You Never Come To Me" (Antonio Carlos Jobim)

Frank Sinatra, vocals; Antonio Carlos Jobim, guitar. Arranged and Conducted by Claus Ogerman. Studio Orchestra not credited on re-release: Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim Reprise CD 9-46948-2.

Why don't you sit this one out and while you're alone,
I'll tell the waiter to tell him he's wanted on the telephone.

You've been locked, in his arms, ever since Heaven knows when,
Won't you change partners and then, you won't ever have to change partners again.

"Change Partners" (Irving Berlin)

Frank Sinatra, vocals; Antonio Carlos Jobim, guitar. Arranged and Conducted by Claus Ogerman. Studio Orchestra not credited on re-release: “Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim” Reprise CD 9-46948-2.

And years ago (1943 to be exact), Burton Lane and Frank Loesser came up with a song that (Heaven Forbid!) suggested that a man and a woman were going to have intimate relations out of wedlock… “I’d be just one of your affairs, but at moments like this, who cares?” croons our singer, hell-bent on hedonism. As an aside, the album, “The Art of Excellence,” is one of Bennett’s finest albums, and certainly one of the most finely engineered of his albums ever. One rarely finds such a combination of restraint and breezy nonchalance, without carelessness, in any genre of musical recording.

"Moments Like This" (Burton Lane – Frank Loesser)

Tony Bennett, vocals, Ralph Sharon, piano; Joe Labarbera, drums; Paul Langosch, bass; The U.K. Orchestra, Ltd. Arranged and Conducted by Jorge Calandrelli. From the Columbia CD The Art of Excellence CK 40344 (1986)


When the affair finally is over, jazz has a way of conveying a feeling like no other music genre. Unlike Country & Western, Jazz doesn’t need words. Unlike Classical, it’s without a smidge of pretense. What you hear is what you get. Unlike pop, there’s no veneer; perhaps that’s why some people are actually afraid of jazz. The emotions get too raw sometime.
Occasionally, all of this emotional baggage gets the best of the already very sensitive souls who play and sing jazz; resulting in problems like drug addiction and mental illness. Charlie “Bird” Parker was asked once, why, after earning fame and cutting many successful recordings, he lived in a humble hotel room on the West Side of Manhattan. Parker showed the needle tracks on his left arm and told his inquisitor, “this is my house,” then showing the tracks on his right arm, finished with, “and this is my Cadillac.”

"The Making of 'End of a Love Affair'"

(out-take) an out-of-it-Billie Holiday (singing without background and speaking during the taping of “End of a Love Affair”{Edward Redding}) for the Columbia Album Lady in Satin with Ray Ellis and his Orchestra and Vocalists (February, 1958) Columbia digitally re-mastered CD CK 65144

At the end of the day prior to the disaster contained on the track listed above, which protracted the recording of this fabulous album (Ms. Holiday’s personal favorite), a sound engineer found himself extremely thirsty after coiling cables and generally getting the studio in order. A water pitcher and glass were in Ms. Holiday’s booth, so rather than leave the studio and perhaps have to take the elevator to a lobby water fountain, he lifted the pitcher to his mouth and took a large gulp. To his surprise and disgust, the contents of the pitcher wasn't water; it was ice and cheap gin.

The record was completed (in ’58, two separate recording rigs were used, one a conventional monaural studio with ¼” tape, and the other, equipped with the brand-new Ampex 1” stereophonic tape recorders). However, not a lot of dubbing was done, and edits were done with razor blades and tape. Sound-on-sound, at that time, heavily diminished the quality of the underlying signal, and would have to be done by recording the orchestra very loudly, then solos, and finally, the vocalist. Not a lot of room to work with. Regardless the obstacles all persons involved had to work with (including Ms. Holiday and her demons, who would only have nineteen months to live following the recording of this album) the final product was a fine one, and sold well.

"For All We Know" (J.F. Coots – S. Lewis)

Billie Holiday, vocals; The Ray Ellis Orchestra, Ray Ellis, arranger and conductor. Lady In Satin Columbia digitally re-mastered CD CK 65144


How could one do a dissertation on jazz without discussing the trend of late for singers of rock or soul music to attempt to tackle jazz, or at the very least the Great American Songbook. Linda Ronstadt started this phenomenon in the ‘80s when she cut three albums of standards arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle. The albums were superb. However, a singing dog could accompany a 40-piece orchestra with Nelson Riddle arrangements and still sound fantastic. Her latest release, also featuring standards, accompanied by a combo, is of a different quality altogether, and has little merit. Nat "King" Cole's daughter Natalie Cole has addressed her fathers repertoire on her late '90s album Unforgettable, With Love. With regard to “rockin’” Rod Stewart’s three nods to the Great American Songbook, It's a pity that he couldn't find a better arranger nor a better vocal director. Otherwise, he might just have something there. What a shame.

Which brings us to the young lady heretofore named “Queen Latifah.” A long-time “rapper,” she's lately been showing off her singing (some music lovers dismiss rap and hip hop music as being nothing more than hoodlums jumping up and down pounding drums and chanting about committing crimes). However, recently on a road tour of the Broadway Hit “Chicago” Ms. Latifah (her given name is Dana Owens) showed her chops. She’s come out with a delightful album of popular music, both standards and pop, jazzed up and ready to go. The selection picked here is not only chosen to demonstrate what great young talent can do with a very, very difficult song (this one’s hands-down among the top five most difficult to sing in the jazz repertoire) – but this selection also amazes on another level. Written by Billy Strayhorn, a protégé of Duke Ellington, the tune has long been known to bring up deep emotions in listeners and evoke a sense of “sophisticated longing.” When thinking of the composer, those unfamiliar with Strayhorn imagine a mature man, perhaps a Julliard graduate, who comes from old money. Nope. Strayhorn was a poor black musician merely eighteen years of age when he wrote “Lush Life.”

"Lush Life" (Billy Strayhorn)

Queen Latifah, vocals; arranged by Mervyn Warren; Will Kennedy, drums; Mervyn Warren, piano; Reggie Hamilton, bass; with orchestra. From The Dana Owens Album A&M CD b0003435-02


  • http://www.sjcav.org/page.asp?n=Eventdetails&i=2131&z=4
  • http://www.apassion4jazz.net/jazz.html
  • http://www.cleveland.oh.us/wmv_news/jazz9.htm
  • The writer's experience with the topic.

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