Women’s History Month – Fierce Female Musicians to Listen to this March

From Beyoncé to Doja Cat, HAIM to Billie Eilish, there are plenty of fierce women streaming the radio waves today, but what about the famous female musicians of the last century? What about the women who paved the way for our current generation? 

In honor of Women’s History Month, we are celebrating some of the most powerful women in music history. This playlist will make you proud to be a woman, or proud of all the women in your life. 

Bessie Smith – Ain’t Nobody’s Business If Do

As a female singer in the 1920s, blues legend Bessie Smith couldn’t achieve fame simply through her voice, she had to make a reputation through her live performances—dazzling the audience with jokes, sketches and elaborate costumes. Despite these efforts, Smith was still often shunned by the black middle class, who had a negative perception of the blues. 

This song feels like Smith’s response to all that pressure and criticism. “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If Do” is a 1920s blues standard with a vaudeville jazz-style arrangement and lyrics that emphasize freedom of choice: There ain’t nothing I can do or nothing I can say / That folks don’t criticize me / But I’m goin’ to do just as I want to anyway.  

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm – Jump Children

Founded in 1937, The International Sweethearts of Rhythm was the first integrated all-women’s band in the U.S. They toured throughout Europe and made a name for themselves as the most prominent all-female group during the Big Band era of the 1940s.

“Jump Children” was one of their most famous songs, and the playful lyrics are surprisingly empowering: When you’re feel’n low and you don’t know what to do, / Just stay in the groove; / Let nothing bother you… I may be small, but baby have no fear, / I can climb a hill without shifting gears. 

Ella Fitzgerald – I Got Rhythm

This playlist would be incomplete without including a track from the First Lady of Song, the Queen of Jazz, the legendary Lady Ella. We all know and love Ella Fitzgerald and for good reason—her timeless, flexible and impeccable voice won her 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums. But despite her success, Fitzgerald, like most black women in jazz, dealt with her fair share of prejudice. This song—Fitzgerald’s version of the 1930 jazz standard “I Got Rhythm” showcases her strong spirit that persevered through turmoil.  

Janis Siegel & John Di Martino – Break it to Me Gently

Speaking to the tender pain of losing a lover, this song was originally released in 1961 Brenda Lee. In this new rendition, Grammy-award-winning vocalist Janis Siegel brings a softer, jazzier touch to the rockabilly pop hit. This song can be found in Night is Alive’s latest album, “Cryin’ In My Whiskey,” which combines the best of country and jazz. 

“Cryin’ In My Whiskey” is available right now in our store and if you would like to book one of our lovely musicians for an upcoming party or event, contact us today.

What is the Role of Women in Jazz Music History?

As in many fields, women have unfortunately been overlooked in the history of jazz. In particular, composers, bandleaders and instrumental performers have received much less recognition than their male counterparts. We are here to change that. Women have made massive contributions to the many eras of jazz history and absolutely deserve to be celebrated! And what better time to honor their achievements than during Women’s History Month?

The Jazz Age of the 1920s

We are all familiar with the Jazz Age, the roaring 20s, The Great Gatsby, the Prohibition and the speakeasies, but did you know that this was also a very pivotal time for women in America? At the end of World War I, women took on a greater role in the workforce, which gave them more independence and led to the emergence of the liberated flapper persona. And the Nineteenth Amendment was also ratified in 1920, which was a landmark achievement for women’s suffrage. The concepts of equality and freedom were gaining popularity, opening up opportunities to women, especially in entertainment.

Bessie Smith came out with her first hit single in 1923, “Downhearted Blues,” which was actually written by two women, pianist Lovie Austin and blues singer Alberta Hunter. The lyrics at the end of the song, I got the world in a jugI’m gonna hold it until you men come under my command, present an image of a strong, defiant women who refuses to be downtrodden upon any longer. Smith, nicknamed the “Empress of the Blues,” performed songs that spoke to the difficulties of the black experience in America—poverty, racism, sexism and the ups and downs of love—which insisted that the lives of black women mattered and deserved to be the subject of art. Smith was the first African American superstar and inspired countless other famous female singers from the 20th century, such as Billie Holiday, Mahalia Jackson, Big Mama Thornton and Janis Joplin. 

Swing & Big Bands of the 1930s

In an age when women were expected to perform music and to look attractive onstage, instead of making music, female instrumental performers and composers were not common. But those who did achieve jazz careers had a lasting impact, especially on the swing music of the 1930s. 

Blues pianist Cora “Lovie” Austin grew up in Chattanooga and was actually childhood friends with Bessie Smith. She played piano and performed in vaudeville before using her talents in composition and arrangement to create four songs that Bessie Smith would record in 1923. Then, she led her very own band, the Blues Serenaders, who developed their own unique sound. 

Lovie Austin was the greatest influence of pianist Mary Lou Williams, a musical prodigy from Pittsburg who taught herself to play the piano at age three. At only age 12, Williams performed on the Orpheum Circuit, and at 13, she played with Duke Ellington. Later, Williams became known as the Lady Who Swings the Band because she wrote and arranged many songs for Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong and others. And as the arranger and pianist for the Twelve Clouds of Joy, Williams made massive strides in developing the Kansas City swing sound of the 1930s.

World War II

Many male jazz musicians were drafted during the Second World War, so all-female bands took their place, like The International Sweethearts of Rhythm. Founded in 1937, this 17-member ensemble included Latina, Asian, White, Black, Indian and Puerto Rican women, making it the very first all-female integrated band in the U.S. The International Sweethearts played swing and jazz music all around the nation and helped to shape the Big Band era.  

How Night is Alive is Promoting Female Musicians

In Night is Alive newest release, “Cryin’ In My Whiskey,” Grammy-award-winning jazz vocalist Janis Siegel delivers a stunning rendition of Patsy Cline’s number-one country hit, “I Fall to Pieces.”  Cline was one of the first women to break into the male-dominated country and western music scene and she is considered one of the most influential vocalists of the 20th century. Siegel said that she wanted their rendition to reflect more of the devastating emotion, the poignant helplessness of the lyrics. “I think we’ve all been to this dark hidden place,” Siegel said. “When the one you love doesn’t love you.” 

“Cryin’ In My Whiskey” is available in our shop right now and on all major online music platforms.

Friday Feature Janis Siegel #2

What are your plans this weekend? Hopefully it includes getting to know the remarkably talented Janis Siegel! 

You would probably recognize Siegel’s silky voice from the swinging hits of The Manhattan Transfer, like “Boy From New York City” and “Operator,” but did you know that she also has a widely successful solo career and a reputation as a vocal arranger?

Siegel wrote five of the charts for The Manhattan Transfer’s acclaimed masterwork, “Vocalese” and seven charts for the group’s Grammy-winning album “Brasil.” And in 1980, Siegel won a Grammy for her arrangement of “Birdland”! All of this creative work led to Siegel receiving an honorary doctorate from the Berklee School of Music in 1993 and induction into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999. 

But Siegel didn’t stop there! She also branched out on her own to release multiple solo albums, including “An Experiment in White” and “At Home,” which earned her a Grammy nomination in 1987 for the Best Female Jazz Vocal. And over the years, Siegel has been adventurous in her collaborations with a diverse array of musicians, such as jazz pianist Fred Hersch, Turkish modern classical composer Ilhan Mimaroglu and Indonesian guitarist Dewa Budjana. 

Now, Night is Alive is proud to release Janis Siegel’s latest genre-bending collaboration with pianist John di Martino, bassist Lonnie Plaxico and saxophonist Harry Allen. “Cryin’ In My Whiskey” is an album that fuses country western and jazz music to create a delightful twist on many classics, like “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” Whether you turn on this album during a backyard barbeque, dinner party with friends or a relaxed evening alone on the front porch, these tunes will imbue your life with a soothing, yet energetic sweetness. 

“Cryin’ In My Whiskey” is available at https://nightisalive.com/portfolio/cryin-in-my-whiskey/

and all major online music platforms. 

#JanisSiegel #CryinInMyWhiskey #jazz #feature #musician #vocalist #singer #NightisAlive #countrywestern #album #TheManhattanTransfer #crossgenre

We were lucky enough to sit down with this accomplished musician and ask her a few questions about her career. If you’re an aspiring musician, artist or performer, you’ll definitely want to read what Siegel has to say. 

  • Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for young musicians?
    • LISTEN. Learn the business aspect of music, work every day on something related to your craft and be persistent. 
  • What are you most looking forward to in the coming months?
    • Getting back to travel and a vibrant work schedule.
  • What is your favorite tune from “Cryin’ In My Whiskey”?
    • This week, it is “Where Do I Put His Memory.”

And what about you? What are you looking forward to doing most in the coming months? Comment below!

Friday Feature Janis Siegel #1

Happy Friday! 🥳  Kick back and relax this weekend by reading our Friday Feature about the lovely Grammy-award-winning vocalist Janis Siegel. 

Siegel’s smooth and unmistakable voice can be heard on Night is Alive’s brand new album “Cryin’ In My Whiskey,” which is a unique cross-genre collaboration that brings together the very best of country western and jazz music. Featuring modern renditions of classics like Willie Nelson’s “Always On My Mind” and “I Fall to Pieces,” this album is a perfect way to welcome the sunny weather and enjoy the many social gatherings to come! You won’t want to miss it! 

“Cryin’ In My Whiskey” is available at https://nightisalive.com/portfolio/cryin-in-my-whiskey/ and all major online music platforms. 

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Siegel was exposed to the music business at a young age, singing with an all-girl pop trio and releasing two singles by the time she was 12! Siegel lived and breathed pop, country and folk music, that is until 1975 when she joined the Manhattan Transfer and was introduced to swing, which opened her eyes to more musical possibilities. The Manhattan Transfer went on to explore many different genres during their 35-year-long career, including a cappella, vocalese, standards, Brazilian jazz, R&B and pop. And in 1981, The Manhattan Transfer was also the first group ever to win Grammy Awards in both Pop and Jazz categories in the same year! 

Night Is Alive was lucky enough to sit down with this world-famous, genre-blending star and ask her a few questions about her taste in music:

  • Besides jazz, what genres of music do you like to listen to?
    • I listen to everything: classical, modern classical, opera, world music, country, bluegrass, alternative, blues, Yiddish music, funk, pop, R&B and gospel. What did I miss… ? I guess disco and rap… I do like some rap, too! 
  • Who are some other musicians that inspire you?
    • John Coltrane, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Ella Fitzgerald
  • What is your favorite tune from “Cryin’ In My Whiskey”?
    • This week it is “Where Do I Put His Memory.” (Originally released by Gladys Knight & the Pips in 1975)

Wow, Siegel has quite an eclectic taste in music! How about you?

What are your favorite genres and musicians? Comment below! 

What do Poetry and Jazz Have in Common?

In honor of World Poetry Day this Sunday, March 21st, we decided to explore the connections between these two art forms. 

When you think about poetry, you probably think about nature and love, rhyme scheme and metaphor, rhythm and imagery. William Wordsworth, Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. You probably think about the beautiful but perplexing language that takes a few reads to really sink in. Or maybe you think about those poems and stanzas that have changed your life—those words that are seared into your memory forever and those afternoons spent sprawling on a blanket in a park, taking turns reciting love poems with your sweetheart. 

When you think about jazz music, you probably think of smooth saxophones, energetic pianos and moody lyrics. Sultry vocals, energetic horns and forceful rhythms. Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald. Maybe you think about dancing and swinging at a jazz club (before the pandemic, of course), or relaxing after a stressful day, reclining in your favorite chair or soaking in a bubble bath and listening to some heartfelt tunes. 

There are actually not many concrete differences between the two forms of artistic expression. While reading poetry is often a solitary activity and not something commonly done at a party, it still can be performed in public, at cafes and bars, like jazz. Although some poetry can be free verse, with no rhyme scheme or rhythm, about two-thirds involve a strong rhythm, like jazz. And both poetry and jazz enrich our understandings of the world by reaffirming our shared humanity through beauty, feelings and questions. Let’s take a more in-depth look at these similarities.  

They both have origins in oral traditions

The earliest poetry is believed to have been sung, as a method of remembering important oral histories, genealogies and laws. The rhythmic and repetitious nature of poetry made it much easier to remember and retell long stories before writing became available. The earliest poetry actually existed in the form of chants and hymns and was considered a verbal art, not a literary art like it is today. 

A signature component of jazz music is the call and response, which originates from Sub-Saharan African cultures. At public meetings, religious rituals and musical gatherings, the call and response served as a pattern of democratic participation and thus made its way, through enslaved Africans, to the 1920s African American jazz scene. 

They both usually have strong rhythms

Poetry can be broken down into three main verses: formal, blank and free. Formal and blank both involve a strict meter, which is a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables that determines the rhythm of the poem. Think of the iambic pentameter in the Shakespearean sonnets, such as “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” The first word is unstressed, the second is stressed and so forth. 

Jazz involves rhythms ranging from simple to complex that always include a basic underlying beat to which we tap our feet. Syncopation is the main rhythmic feature of jazz, which displaces beats or accents so that the stronger beats become weaker and vice versa. Sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it…?

How poetry and jazz have come together

The similarities between poetry and jazz became apparent to poets like Langston Hughes during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s. Poets began writing poems that responded to and wrote about jazz music. They coined the term “jazz poetry,” which encompasses a range of forms, rhythms, sounds and improvisations. To give you a better idea of jazz poetry, here are a few lines from Hughes’s poem “The Weary Blues:” Droning a drowsy syncopated tune, / Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon. The popularity of jazz poetry continued throughout the Beat movement and the Black Arts Movement and is still alive today. 

How Night is Alive is bringing poetry and jazz together

Many of the songs featured on the albums produced by Night is Alive include lyrics and rhythms that are quite poetic. On the newly released album, “Cryin’ In My Whiskey,” Janis Siegel and John Di Martino create a lovely rendition of Willie Nelson’s classic hit, “Always on My Mind.” The evocative lyrics rhyme beautifully: Girl I’m sorry I was blind / You were always on my mind. 

“Cryin’ In My Whiskey” is available right now in our store. Check it out!  

4 Tunes to Make You Smile on the International Day of Happiness

The weather may be swinging between rain and sunshine, but that doesn’t mean our moods have to be up and down. The May flowers are right around the corner, and with widespread vaccinations, the world should (hopefully, fingers crossed!) being opening up very soon. So, basically, there’s no reason not to smile this Sunday on The International Day of Happiness! 

The International Day of Happiness is celebrated around the world on March 20th and was originally founded by the United Nations in 2012. It’s the perfect excuse to treat yourself—whether that be with a slice of cake, a glass of wine, a bubble bath or a get together with friends—and unwind with these lovely tunes. 

  1. Barbara Streisand and Judy Garland – Happy Days Are Here Again / Get Happy

With the lyrics, so long sad times… you are now a thing of the past… let’s sing a song of cheer again and forget your troubles, c’mon get happy, this amazing duet, which aired on The Judy Garland Show in 1963, is a beautiful tune to usher in the post-pandemic era of parties, hugs and kisses. 

Another fun fact is that the standard “Happy Days Are Here Again,” originally written in 1929, was popular during the Repeal of Prohibition in 1933, which makes it even more fitting for the historical moment we’re currently going through. During the Repeal, there were signs saying, “Happy days are beer again!” 

  1. WJ3 All-Stars – Jitterbug Waltz

What better way to get excited about going back out in public and dancing than with this revival of the iconic tune, “The Jitterbug Waltz.” Originally composed and recorded by Fats Waller in 1942, and recently released by Willie Jones III and his All-Stars in 2020, this heartwarming melody will bring you back to life after months of being cooped up inside.  

  1. Brook Benton – Hotel Happiness

Just like the singer Brook Benton, I’m pretty sure that we’ll all about ready to check out of Hotel Loneliness, leave our teardrops in that old lonely room and make our new addresses at Hotel Happiness! This fun song, first performed in 1963 and featuring The Merry Melody Singers, feels like it was made to celebrate The International Day of Happiness.

  1. Lorca Hart Trio – Duke and Billy

Add a spark of rich and royal purple to your life with this new and original track from the Lorca Hart Trio’s 2020 album “Colors of Jazz,” also featuring Ralph Moore. This song represents a pleasant conversation between Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, two American jazz stars that collaborated for nearly thirty years on many widely influential compositions, such as “Take the A Train” and “Lotus Blossom.”

If you enjoyed “The Jitterbug Waltz” and “Duke and Billy,” then you might want to check out the albums, Lovers and Love Songs and Colors of Jazz, both recently released by Night is Alive. These albums are available right now in our store. And if you’d like to book one of our lovely musicians for an upcoming party or event, contact us today.

Spring is Here! – Country Jazz Tunes to Celebrate Daylight Saving Time

With spring creeping up on us, you may be wondering, when exactly is daylight savings time? When do the clocks change? Well, this year, your clocks will move forward one hour on Sunday, March 14th at 2am. So, what are you going to do with that extra hour of sunlight? How about kicking back with some country jazz tunes while you watch the sunset! You can nod your head to the music while you watch the darkness of winter dissipate and the brightness of the warmer months approach.

Jimmie Rodgers & Louis Armstrong – Yodel No. 9

You may not be very familiar with country jazz music, but actually the two genres have a long history of intermingling that dates back to 1929 with this collaboration between Louis Armstrong and Jimmie Rodgers (aka the “Father of Country Music”). The narrative lyrics about a man standing on the corner of Beale and Main in Memphis combined with yodeling and Armstrong’s signature trumpeting creates a song that will get you looking forward to taking long walks outside in the sun.

Janis Siegal, John di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico –  Are You Alright?

After listening to that 1929 throwback, it’s time for something a bit more modern. This brand new 2021 rendition of “Are You Alright?” features the Grammy-award-winning vocalist Janis Siegel, the NYC jazz pianist John Di Martino and the double bassist Lonnie Plaxico. First written in 2007 by Lucinda Williams, “Are You Alright?” is a song that really speaks to our current collective moment. As Siegel points out, “This tune seems like an anthem for the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s the question we are all asking each other over and over again.”

Ray Charles – You Don’t Know Me

When you think of Ray Charles, you probably think of rhythm and blues, soul and jazz, but Charles was also a country star inspired by the music of the small southern town in which he grew up. In his widely successful 1962 album Modern Sounds in Country Music, Charles did jazzy renditions of the most famous country songs in history. “You Don’t Know Me,” one of the songs on the album, reached the #2 slot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. With its evocative, honest and heart wrenching lyrics, originally written by Cindy Walker in 1955, “You Don’t Know Me” is perfect for a moment of relaxation and contemplation on your back patio or front porch during that luminous late afternoon golden hour. 

Janis Siegal, John di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico – Don’t it Make My Brown Eyes Blue

This is another song from the new 2021 album, Cryin’ in My Whiskey. This rendition retells and spices up Crystal Gayle’s 1977 version while still preserving the essence of the original. Ending with the lively clarinet of Aaron Heick, this tune will make you want to swing, party and jump for joy that spring is finally here!

If you’re ready to welcome the spring with some head-nodding country jazz, we can help. Night is Alive is proud to release the album Cryin’ in My Whiskey, which includes nine tracks of familiar country favorites such as Willie Nelson’s “Always On My Mind” and “I Fall to Pieces,” each with a jazz twist. The album is available right now in our store. And if you’d like to book one of our lovely musicians for an upcoming party or event, contact us today.

6 Tunes to Celebrate International Jazz Day

What better way to come together as a global community during a pandemic than to celebrate International Jazz Day on April 30th? Founded in 2011 by the United Nations, this day aims “to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe.” And this year, with many of the events being streamed online, you can enjoy all the fun and learning that this special day has to offer from the comfort of your home. To gear up for the day, we’ve collected a variety of jazz classics and modern renditions that showcase the history and diversity of jazz.

Louis Armstrong – I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby

We’ve all heard of Louis Armstrong before—the widely influential jazz musician from New Orleans who’s most famous for “It’s A Wonderful World”—but have you ever listened to his first crossover hit from 1929? Featuring Armstrong on muted trumpet, as a vocalist and on open trumpet, this song really showcases the jazz legend’s multitude of talents. 

Miles Davis – “Walkin’”

At the first Newport Jazz Festival in 1954, Davis’s performance of “Walkin” announced a new subgenre of jazz—hard bob—to the world. Incorporating influences from rhythm and blues and gospel, hard pop has a rollicking, rhythmic feeling that offers an excellent backdrop for you to get ready for International Jazz Day. Turn on this song while you grab yourself a drink and queue up your virtual feast of jazz music from around the world.

Eliane Elias – So Nice (Samba de Verao)

Blending her Brazilian roots, her sensuous voice and her instrumental jazz, classical and compositional skills, Elias creates a style that is uniquely hers. Her 2004 rendition of this bossa nova and jazz standard, originally composed by Marcos Valle, showcases her soft rhythms and silky, sultry vocals. This song will make you want to wiggle your hips ever so slightly to the beat.

Lwanda Gogwana – Ucing’ Uyandazi

Born in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, Gogwana is a trumpeter and composer who fuses traditional Xhosa music with jazz harmonies and contemporary musical elements. This song comes from his 2016 album, Uhadi Synth, which was inspired by the Uhadi musical bow, a traditional Xhosa instrument, and the electronic synthesizer.

Janis Siegal, John di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico – Whenever You Come Around

Siegal, di Martino and Plaxico morph this country song into a funky, soulful version that evokes the style of Booker T. & the M.G.’s. Originally produced by A Vince Gill in 1994, “Whenever You Come Around” has direct message of love, which is something we could all use a bit more of in today’s day and age.

Lorca Hart Trio – Here’s That Rainy Day

Released in 2020 by The Lorca Hart Trio featuring Ralph Moore, this new rendition of the jazz standard creates a smooth, relaxed feeling that’ll help you wind down after the day’s excitement.

If those last two songs—Whenever You Come Around and Here’s That Rainy Day—caught your fancy, then check out the other songs on those albums! Cryin’ in My Whiskey and Colors of Jazz are both are available right now in our store.