Summertime ... And the Livin' is Easy

A jazz music staple, George Gershwin's Summertime from the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess is one of the most remade songs in music history. There are over 2600 known covers with new renditions being recorded each year. It's believed that Gershwin tried to base Summertime on a Ukrainian lullaby, Oi Khodyt Son Kolo Vikon (A Dream Passes By The Windows). In 1933, He composed to include his own spiritual sound in the style of African American folk music of that period.

Here's a perfect example of how a new sound can totally change a song. This version is done by Kenny Sara and the Sounds of New Orleans. In this song, the saxophone is the highlighted instrument, which gives the tune a smooth sound. This version is definitely my favorite, but that's mainly because I am so in love with the sound of the saxophone. Enjoy! :D

March is Women in JAZZ history appreciation month!

Ok, I know I'm way late on the subject, but I figured I had to give these ladies some love. March is the month for women's appreciation, and what better way to appreciate the females than through their beautiful music. As you all know, jazz music has had an array of amazing female innovators, voices, songs, stories, and legacies. Here are just some of those fabulous voices:

Billie Holiday (1915-1959)

Billie Holiday began singing for tips in various Harlem night clubs during the early 1930s. A penniless Holiday moved an audience to tears when she sang "Body and Soul" in a local club. In 1933, she was discovered by John Hammond, who arranged for her debut recording with Benny Goodman that same year. Two years later, Holiday once again recorded with Goodman along with a group led by pianist Teddy Wilson in which they recorded "What A Little Moonlight Can Do" and "Miss Brown To You." These tunes helped launch Billie Holiday as a major female vocalist, and she began recording under her own name in 1936. One her most famous songs, "Strange Fruit", a song based on a poem about lynching, was highly controversial for its time. Unfortunately, Holiday felt that the song's message had been misconstrued; saying that people would always ask her to sing that sexy song about people swinging. "Strange Fruit" still remains one of her most notable tunes. Other Holiday songs: "Your Mother Son In Law," "Riffin' the Scotch," "What A Night, What A Moon, What A Girl," "Fine and Mellow," "God Bless This Child," and "Lady Sings the Blues"

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Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996)

Ella Fitzgerald was one of those stellar finds. She loved the works of Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, and The Boswell Sisters. Her career began after winning a contest at the Apollo and joining Chick Webb's band. Fitzgerald had several hits with Webb's Orchestra including "Love and Kisses" and "If You Can Sing It, You'll Have To Swing It." But in 1938, she became widely known across the music scene after the recording of "A-Tisket, A-Tasket." From there, Fitzgerald started performing solo and then became big during the big band and swing eras. But probably the one thing most notable thing about Ella Fitzgerald was her invention of scat singing. She developed this style of singing while working with Dizzy Gillespie's band, and she had said that she tried to do with her voice what she heard the horns in the band doing. Little did she know, this improvised way of singing would make her one of the most influential singers in jazz music history. Some of her works would include "Flying Home," "How High the Moon," "That Old Black Magic."

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Sarah Vaughan (1924-1990)

Sarah Vaughan, also known as "The Divine One," began her career very similar to Ella Fitzgerald. She won a talent contest at the Apollo just like Fitzgerald did. Shortly after her Apollo performance, band leader and pianist Earl Hines and singer Billy Eckstine had been credited for discovering Vaughan. In April of 1943, Vaughan became Hines' leading female singer. During her time with the Earl Hines band, Vaughan worked with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Bennie Green. After some time with Hines, Vaughan started her solo career in 1945. Like Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan could move swiftly from pop songs to jazz show tunes. Some of her work includes "Black Coffee," "All Or Nothing At All," and "My Funny Valentine."

Obviously, these are only some incredible women that touched that jazz scene. I'll try to put some others up to continue the celebration of women in jazz. Until then, enjoy the fabulous women!

Takin' Five...

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Brubeck vs. Jones??? Drums vs. Sax???

One of my all time favorite songs is Take Five. Which version? Heck, I've got the ear that wanders its way to the saxophone...but the original by Dave Brubeck puts up a mean fight.

Written by Paul Desmond and played by The Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1959 on their Time Out album, Take Five is famous for its catchy saxophone melody and use of the quintuple (5/4) time (or more correctly 3+2/4), which was an irregular meter. This meter is what helped the group decide on the track's name. It's been said by some jazz experts that Take Five was originally written for a drums solo. Below is a video of The Dave Brubeck Quartet, and you can really see/hear the mastery of Joe Morello on the drums.

As mentioned, Take Five has been made over countless times. Everyone from Chet Atkins to George Benson to Grover Washington Jr. and even The Specials remade this classic tune. For me, my favorite cover has got to be Quincy Jone's 1983 rendition. Jones heavily emphasized the sound of the saxophone (such a beautiful thing) and gave Take Five such a smooth sound.

These are just two examples of how different a song can sound. You take a melody, add a twist, emphasize something different, and you get magic all over again! I personally enjoy both versions. I think the originality of Desmond's and Brubeck's version is timeless and unique, while Jones' version is sleek and suave. You be the judge and decide which one catches your attention. This last video is really cool. It's a mix or "mash up" of Radiohead's 15 Steps to the background music of Take Five. Enjoy!!!!! :D

Takin' Five...

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