Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy!
Last week we presented the first part of a collection of old classics that were redone. This week it’s Part 2. Let’s go!
During a PBS special many, many years ago, Milwaukee’s own famous bandleader Woody Herman noted the only true American art form was jazz. Others have probably said it as well, but it’s his quote I remember.
Duke Ellington, composer, pianist, and big band leader is credited with writing more than 1,000 compositions.
Bob Blumenthal of The Boston Globe wrote, “In the century since his birth, there has been no greater composer, American or otherwise, than Edward Kennedy Ellington.”
These lyrics are from 1941:
You must take the ‘A’ train
To go to Sugar hill way up in Harlem
If you miss the ‘A’ train
You’ll find you missed the quickest way to Harlem
Hurry, get on now, it’s coming
Listen to those rails a-humming
All aboard, get on the ‘A’ train
Soon you will be on Sugar hill in Harlem
“Take the ‘A’ Train” was Duke’s signature theme. But it almost never was.
Billy Strayhorn wrote it along with other Ellington songs, but would toss it in the trash, claiming it sounded too old.
Ellington’s son, Mercer Ellington retrieved it, salvaging a major contribution to music history.
Acclaimed Jazz Saxophonist Dave Koz released a new project last month with his friends titled “Summer Horns II From A To Z”. The album is the follow up to his 2013 Grammy nominated release “Summer Horns” and features 11 more timeless tunes reimagined by Koz (soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxes), joined by alto saxophonist Gerald Albright and tenor saxophonist Richard Elliot—both returnees from the earlier session—with new additions Rick Braun (trumpet) and Aubrey Logan (trombone and vocals).
This is a hip, swingin’ remake.
We’re in the midst of summer, glorious summer. One of the biggest popular recordings of all-time was about summer. A beautiful instrumental, it surged to # 1 in early 1960 and stayed there for nine straight weeks. The record sold more than any other in 1960 and won a Grammy Award.
The bandleader released another version in 1969 featuring a female chorus. And still another rendition was released in the mid 70’s.
You know what was happening in pop music at that time. Like it or not, disco was hot, and everybody, everybody was getting involved, even Percy Faith. So what happens when you take a lush, lovely movie theme, one of the most well-known melodies ever and give it a disco theme?
Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve always enjoyed that bouncy, up-tempo transformation of a classic. Lending to disco’s success was a formula that took famous old songs and injected a modern sound that was danceable. Suddenly kids were out on the floor dancing to all new versions of tunes from eras decades ago that their parents and grandparents first enjoyed.
Some might consider Summer Place ’76 butchery, a travesty. But Percy Faith may have thought differently, viewing it as a chance to expose his gigantic smash to a whole new audience, or an effort to keep up with the times. Summer Place ’76 was released just a few months before Faith died in February of 1976.
“Cantaloupe Island” is a jazz standard composed by Herbie Hancock and recorded for his 1964 album “Empyrean Isles” during his early years as one of the members of Miles Davis’ 1960s quintet. The musicians for the original 1964 recording were: Hancock (piano), Freddie Hubbard (cornet), Ron Carter (bass) and Tony Williams (drums).
In 2000 “Cantaloupe Island” was placed at #19 in the Jazz24.org “Jazz 100: One Hundred Quintessential Jazz Songs”.
You may have heard it.
The jazz-rap group “US3” did a popular remake in 1993, “Cantaloop.”
And the Manhattan Transfer is back!
The vocal group is making music again and earlier this year they released their first new album in nearly a decade. This also marks their first release following the 2014 death of the band’s founder, Tim Hauser. Bass vocalist Trist Curless joined the group when Hauser fell ill in 2013.
“We weren’t looking to replace Tim’s unique personality, but found in Trist someone who could add a new element to the group, and take care of the bottom of the quartet with his true bass,” said original member Alan Paul.
L-R, Trist Curless, Janis Siegel, Cheryl Bentyne, and Alan Paul
That’s it for this week.
Have a great weekend.
We close with Bobby Hebb. He had a smash hit in 1966. Remember “Sunny?”
It went to #2 and was covered by Frank Sinatra with Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Frankie Valli, Nancy Wilson, the Four Tops, Wilson Pickett, Dusty Springfield, and hundreds of others. The song reached out beyond Top 40, climbing the country and R&B charts as well. At the height of the record’s popularity Hebb was touring with the Beatles.
At the time the assumption was “Sunny” was a simple love song.
But there was a much deeper meaning.
CBS News legend Walter Cronkite stunned the entire nation on November 22, 1963.
The very next day Hal Hebb, Bobby’s mentor and older brother was murdered outside a nightclub in Nashville.
Bobby Hebb stated in interviews that he wrote “Sunny” to lift his spirits after both killings.
“‘Sunny’ is your disposition. You either have a sunny disposition or you have a lousy disposition.”
Hebb said in an interview he was working at Brandy’s, a bar and restaurant in New York City.
“I was under the influence of Tennessee Sipping Whiskey, highly under the influence,” said Hebb. “As a matter of fact I was so under the influence that I was afraid to go to sleep. And I looked up and I saw a purple sky. I had my guitar in my hand, and without touching a pencil, I started writing it. And that’s how the song was born.”
This stepped-up cover is by a Cuban group.