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Tag: jazz

Coffee cold, chess hot

Saturday, 13 February, 2016 0 Comments

Fact-crammed sentence coming up: In 1968, the Oscar for Best Original Song was awarded to the French composer Michel Legrand for The Windmills of Your Mind, which featured in The Thomas Crown Affair, starring the late Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, who was 75 last month.

The film also included a jazz tune, Coffee Cold, by Galt MacDermot, the Canadian composer who had just written the music for Hair, his greatest commercial success. The 88-year-old MacDermot enjoyed a moment a decade ago when his music became popular in the hip-hop scene: Busta Rhymes sampled Space from MacDermot’s 1969 album Woman Is Sweeter for the chart-topping Woo hah!!, rapper MF Doom sampled the MacDermot song Cathedral for his Pennyroyal, and Oh No released an entire album of MacDermot samples titled Exodus into Unheard Rhythms.

MacDermot’s music here is a perfect complement for two great actors in their prime.


1965 was a very good year for Frank Sinatra

Saturday, 12 December, 2015 0 Comments

Observing the 50th birthday of Frank Sinatra in 1965, Billboard magazine suggested that he might have reached the “peak of his eminence”. To confound those early obituarists, Sinatra proceeded to record the retrospective September of My Years, which went on to win the Grammy Award for Best Album of the Year, and he topped the charts with Strangers in the Night and My Way. The same year, he appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival with Quincy Jones and they began a long, productive musical partnership.

Frank Sinatra was not short of flaws and he could be very harsh, even cruel, but in the 1940s, when it was neither popular nor profitable, he began to insist that the orchestras that backed him should be integrated. He gave work to musicians, regardless of race, and he helped open the door for many black entertainers. In an interview with Ebony Magazine in 1958, he said: “A friend to me has no race, no class and belongs to no minority. My friendships are formed out of affection, mutual respect and a feeling of having something in common. These are eternal values that cannot be classified.”

In June 1965, at the “peak of his eminence”, Frank Sinatra, along with Sammy Davis, Jr. and Dean Martin, played in St. Louis to benefit Dismas House, a prisoner rehabilitation centre that helped African Americans in particular. It was a very good year for Frank Sinatra, and for lots of others who experienced his greatness and generosity.


Fitzgerald sings Fitzgerald

Thursday, 16 April, 2015 0 Comments

“We’re celebrating 90 years of The Great Gatsby by indulging in some roaring classics from Fitzgerald’s jazzy times.” So writes Scribner Magazine as it presents its Great Gatsby 90th Anniversary Playlist. Topping that list is the Beale Street Blues, composed in 1916 by W.C. Handy. The title refers to Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, and from the 1958 film St. Louis Blues, starring Nat King Cole, here’s Ella Fitzgerald delivering a fine rendition of a song sprinkled with the liquor that fueled the Gatsby era.

If Beale Street could talk, if Beale Street could talk,
Married men would have to take their beds and walk
Except one or two, who never drink booze
And the blind man on the corner who sings the Beale Street Blues.

Goin’ to the river, maybe, bye and bye
Goin’ to the river, and there’s a reason why
Because the river’s wet and Beale Street’s done gone dry.


Jakob Bro: Music from the cool north

Saturday, 7 March, 2015 0 Comments

“He balances on a knife-edge between precision and arrangement, and an openness that gives the musicians exceptional freedom to move intuitively in the music and express themselves in the moment.” So said the organizers of the Nordic Council Music Prize last year when announcing their award to the Danish guitarist, Jakob Bro, who’s got a new album out, Gefion. In Norse mythology, Gefjon or Gefjun or Gefion is a goddess associated with the island of Zealand, the Swedish king Gylfi, the Danish king Skjöldr, ploughing, prophecy, premonition and virginity.


Bob Brozman RIP

Saturday, 4 May, 2013 1 Comment

“Constantly touring, he was a master of styles, playing everything from blues and jazz to calypso and gypsy swing, even experimenting in later life with modern hip hop and ska rhythms, on which his finger work was so rapid that many observers mistakenly assumed he was using electronic effects. Always acoustic, he was equally adept on mandolin and ukulele, but was best known for playing slide on the National steel resonator guitar — an instrument on which he became a leading authority as well as being one of its greatest proponents.” The Telegraph.

“Guitarist and ethnomusicologist Bob Brozman, who progressed from an early fascination with the delta blues of the South to a consuming passion for the traditional music of Hawaii and became a leading authority on the National steel guitar, has died. He was 59.” The Los Angeles Times.