Chet Baker: “My Funny Valentine”

From now until Valentine’s Day, we’re sharing some of our picks to get you in the mood.  Last time, we told you about “Our Love Is Easy” by Melody Gardot. Now, we’re giving you a jazz standard.

 

Chet Baker

“My Funny Valentine”

 

My funny Valentine, sweet comic Valentine

You make me smile with my heart

Your looks are laughable

Unphotographable

Yet you’re my favorite work of art

 

Of course, this made the list.  C’mon, you can’t have Valentine’s Day without it!  The funny thing about it is that “My Funny Valentine” started as a show tune written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart back in 1937, and it was introduced by child star, Mitzi Green.  It’s since become a popular jazz standard and has been performed by more than 600 artists. Baker was able to turn the tune into a jazz classic when he recorded an instrumental version with the Gerry Mulligan Quartet in 1952, and then a haunting vocal version in 1956.  He then would go on to revisit the song a number of times throughout his career.

Chesney Henry Baker Jr., or Chet Baker, was known for the melancholic, fragile tone of his trumpet playing and singing.  He began playing the trumpet at 10 and later went on to play in Army bands while he was a soldier.  During the 50s, he played with Charlie Parker and joined Gerry Mulligan’s quartet in 1952.

In 1954, Baker beat out Miles Davis and many others to win the Downbeat Jazz Poll. Over the next few years, Baker was a frontman for his own combo He played trumpet and sang.  Baker’s good looks, vibratoless, soft tenor voice and cool vibe pretty much put him on the fast track.  But his personal struggles would end up taking a toll on his career.

Despite the troubles, it’s been said that the period between 1977 and 1988 were Baker’s most prolific musical years.  He’s pretty much an icon for the “cool school” style of jazz.

What’s your favorite song for Valentine’s Day?  Let us know in the comments.

Melody Gardot “Our Love is Easy”

We’re sharing our Valentine’s Day song picks to help fill out your playlist for your date night or your self-care time.  Last time, we shared “I Only Have Eyes For You” by Carmen McRae. This time, we’re sharing a song from a contemporary artist.

Melody Gardot

“Our Love is Easy”

Deep within your heart,

You know it’s plain to see

Like Adam was to Eve,

You were made for me

They say the poisoned vine

Breeds a finer wine

Our love is easy

“Our Love is Easy” is from Gardot’s second studio album, My One and Only Thrill.  Her sound has been described as soft-edge, late-night jazz.  “Our Love is Easy” is the type of song you can listen to when you want to think about just how good and effortless your relationship is.  Even though this song was released in 2009, it has a classic and very memorable sound thanks to the composition and Gardot’s sultry voice.

It’s amazing how Gardot has flourished despite a major setback.  At 19, she was hit by an SUV while she was riding her bike. The accident pretty much shattered her body. She was unable to sit for more than 10 minutes, she experienced short-term memory loss and she developed an acute sensitivity to light and sound.

Fast forward to now.  Gardot has released eight albums, been nominated for a Grammy and has toured all over the world.  Music was pretty much her saving grace. And her love for it has helped her beat the odds. Gardot has been influenced by legends like Judy Garland, Janis Joplin, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Stan Getz and George Gershwin as well as Latin music artist, Caetano Veloso.

What’s your favorite song for Valentine’s Day? Let us know in the comments.

Willie Jones III Quintet @ Blues Alley

Willie Jones III Quintet @ Blues Alley

On February 27 the Willie Jones III Quintet will be performing at the world-renowned Blues Alley.  Few venues have the history and vibe as this DC club.   Founded in 1965, Blues Alley is the oldest continuing jazz supper club in the nation, and it has all the grit and clout to prove it.  Walking down the alley to the club sets the tone for the experience that Blues Alley has become.

Located in Georgetown,  Blues Alley resides in an 18th-century red brick carriage house that only adds to the appeal for concert goers.  The air inside the club changes your perspective of time and space.  Blues Alley makes you feel like you are in the 1920s and 30s listening to great jazz musicians. It has featured such amazing artists as Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson, Grover Washington Jr., Ramsey Lewis, Charlie Byrd, Maynard Ferguson, and Eva Cassidy.  Blues Alley is open seven days a week and is also known for its extraordinary menu, specializing in authentic Creole cuisine, steak, and seafood dishes creating a food pallet that compliments the music perfectly.

Willie Jones III Quintet with Ralph Moore, a well-respected saxophonist, Eddie Henderson, a popular trumpet player, Alex Claffy, a young and extremely talented bassist, Victor Gould, a prominent pianist, will be performing at Blues Alley on February 27th.  Willie Jones III is known for his musical brilliance and style on the drums.  He has made a name for himself through his exceptional control, speed and texture he brings to the drums.  He has performed, toured, and recorded with Horace Silver, Roy Hargrove, Hank Jones, Cedar Walton, and Herbie Hancock to name a few.  Jones also played on Arturo Sandoval’s Grammy-winning album Hot House (1998).  Willie Jones III fits perfectly with other greats who have played the famous Blues Alley.

This concert is a fantastic opportunity to see a tremendous group of musicians at a world-renowned club.   The Willie Jones III Quintet on the 27th will be another example of the extraordinary talent that performs at the great Blues Alley. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.bluesalley.com/events.cfm.

Blog post written by Michael Brigger, published by Jeffrey Swan

Carmen McRae, “I Only Have Eyes for You”

Last time, we shared one song to consider for your Valentine’s Day jazz playlist. That song was “I Just Want to Make Love to You” by Etta James. Now, we’re sharing another song to put you and your boo in the mood.

Carmen McRae

“I Only Have Eyes for You”

 

Are the stars out tonight?

I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright

Cause I only have eyes for you, dear

The moon may be high

But I can’t see a thing in the sky

Cause I only have eyes for you

 

Covered by McRae in 1972 on her album, The Great American Songbook, “I Only Have Eyes for You” was written back in 1934 by composer Harry Warren and lyricist Al Dubin. The song is a jazz standard and has been tackled by a wide variety of musicians. McRae’s live version with Joe Pass is great if you’re looking for a swinging version of a classic love song.

Carmen McRae has been called one of the most influential jazz vocalists of the 20th century. She’s well known for her behind-the-beat phrasing and ironic interpretation of lyrics.

During her career, McRae worked with bandleaders like Benny Carter, Count Basie and Mercer Ellington. She also recorded with jazz greats like Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Joe Pass, and George Shearing. McRae spent several years as an intermission pianist and singer at Minton’s Playhouse in New York City, and from the mid-50s and on, she toured extensively around the world. She frequently performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival, the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands, and the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. She recorded over sixty albums during her career.

What’s your favorite song for Valentine’s Day? Let us know in the comments.

Etta James: “I Just Want to Make Love to You”

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. You know what that means. Flowers, candy, dinner, unmentionables, all red everything — or maybe yours won’t mean any of those things. Regardless of how you do Valentine’s Day, the right jazz music is key to setting the mood. So, for the next few weeks, we’re going to share some songs that you might want to consider adding to your playlist for that special night or weekend. Some are standards and others are songs that you might not be familiar with.

 

Etta James

“I Just Want to Make Love to You”

 

I don’t want you to be no slave

I don’t want you to work all day

But I want you to be true

And I just wanna make love to you

Love to you, ooohooo

Love to you

 

James put her own sassy spin on this tune that was originally a blues song written by Willie Dixon back in 1954. It was first recorded as “Just Make Love to Me” by Muddy Waters. James recorded it in 1961 as a b-side for her début album, At Last! How could you not like these flirty and very direct lyrics?!? And James’ voice is enough to make any coy lover come right out of their shell.

Born in Los Angeles, California, on January 25, 1938, James was a gospel prodigy by the age of 5. By the age of 12, she started a trio and was soon working with the bandleader Johnny Otis. She eventually went solo in 1955. The 60s brought on popular hits like “At Last”, “Sunday Kind of Love”, “Something’s Got a Hold On Me” and “I Just Want to Make Love to You”.

James was well known for her suggestive stage antics and sassy attitude. Her career lasted right up until a few years before her death. That career included 29 studio albums, six Grammys and her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

What’s your favorite song for Valentine’s Day? Let us know in the comments.

Gibson Guitar: An American Legend

Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently? If not, you are missing out on one of the best exhibits to date; the museums Gibson Guitar collection “Play It Loud“.

Why does the Met have a huge display dedicated to Gibson instruments? Well, few guitars have more notoriety and fame than Gibson guitars.  Turn on the radio and odds are you are listening to a Gibson guitar. For over a hundred years Gibson has been on the forefront of guitar design, innovation, and manufacturing.  Jazz, Blues and Rock artist all use Gibson Guitars.  A legend by any measure, Gibson has helped to create the American sound. The Gibson Les Paul, a solid body electric guitar that was first introduced in 1952, is arguably the best guitar ever made and is a huge collector’s item.  A noted 1959 Les Paul model sold for $2 million in 2014. The Gibson brand has transcended all styles of music and continues to be a dominate force in the music industry today.

Gibson started a long time ago.  Originally founded in 1902, Orville Gibson started the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Orville Gibson is credited with the invention of the archtop guitar by constructing the same type of carved, arched tops previously only used on classical violins. This design modification created a sound and tone that changed the feel of the music. Gibson also patented a single-piece mandolin design in the early 1900’s that was more durable than other mandolins and could be manufactured in volume. The F-5 model became the most popular and most imitated American mandolin. By the 1930s, the company was also making flattop acoustic guitars, as well as one of the first commercially available hollow-body electric guitars.  Gibson became one of the top guitar manufactures in the world because of these innovations.

Gibson guitars have influenced the music industry for generations. Its classic jazz tone can be heard in the music of jazz greats like Johnny Smith, Tal Farlow, Wes Montgomery, and Pat Metheny. Many country music artists use the Gibson for the soulful feel and “real” sound the guitar creates.  Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker and Sugarland all use Gibson guitars.  The body shape of Gibson guitars is recognized around the world as an icon for rock and roll music. Bob Marley, Jimmy Page, Elvis Presley, and B.B King were also known for playing Gibson guitars. The sound of a Gibson is what makes it so special.

From jazz to rock the Gibson sound is everywhere. The Gibson brand has been a mainstay in the music industry for over 100 years and they are not slowing down. Now located Nashville, Tennessee, Gibson still builds and manufactures their guitars in the United States. The use of high-quality woods and expert craftsmanship is what sets Gibson apart. They recently unveiled their new 2019 guitar and bass lineup. Featuring a number of new models and variations, it reflects a back to basics approach to the company’s catalog of instruments.

2007 Chevy Express: The Symbol of a Touring Musician.

A musicians’ life is one of a road warrior. The time it takes to get from show to show
can be a lot more than some musicians bargain for. Traveling from gig to gig
entertaining fans is amazing, but it comes at a price. The price is the travel. Finding the
headspace in all that travel to create and write new music can be daunting. Nashville
musician Ben Danaher seems to have found a formula for success. Behind the wheel
of his 2007 Chevy Express, with over 250,000 miles on it, Ben travels the states
playing his music and using the time on the road to create the songs he sings.

Originally from Huffman, Texas, Ben comes from a musical family and grew up knowing
the road. The open road creates the calm and focus that can bring a great song to life.
For Ben, the 2007 Chevy Express is the best of all worlds. The van is a way to get form
gig to gig, a place to work on music, and can double as a make-shift hotel room when
travel does not allow the luxury. Danaher’s says that the van has taken on a life and
persona of its own. The van has been feature in Danaher’s press, music videos and
social media posts. Having successfully toured in the Chevy for so long, fans recognize
it at shows and pay homage to the van that moves the man.

Drawing on the influences of legendary songwriter/musicians like Guy Clark, Rodney
Crowell, and Townes Van Zandt, Danaher came to the music scene as a songwriter in
his home state of Texas before pulling stakes and moving north to Nashville,
Tennessee. Danaher released his debut album “Still Feel Lucky” in September 2018 to
critical acclaim. “Still Feel Lucky” is being described as a soulful, heartfelt and
memorable country rock album. This is Danaher’s roots and it comes out clearly in the
well constructed songs. Danaher has been featured in Rolling Stone and continues to
sell out shows around the nation.

The unsung heroes of the music world are the thousands of musicians and vans that
are packed up, beat down, and brave the open road to pursue the dream. Ben Danaher
shows no signs of wear or tear but admittedly the van does have a few blemishes. Visit
www.bendanaher.com to see tour dates and locations and Ben’s newest videos.