Is Jazz Music Good for Studying?

Is jazz music good for studying?

With the schoolyear starting back up again, you might be thinking about how to improve your study skills. Maybe you want to try out meditating to declutter your mind before hitting the books. Or maybe you’re one of those people who motivates themselves with an M&M after each page.

Some people like to study early in the mornings, others like to stay up all night, and some prefer silence while others can’t stand it. Well, if you’re someone who likes noise, you might be glad to find out that jazz music is excellent for studying because it helps reduce stress!

One neuroscientist found that the improvised nature of jazz engages the brain and minimizes stress in ways that classical music does not. And stress, as you may already know, is the enemy of memory ability. The happier and more relaxed that you are, the more likely you are to remember an important fact or vocab word. And we all know that the swinging style of jazz always puts a smile on your face!

The only thing to possibly be wary of is jazz songs with singing because the lyrics may confuse and distract your brain. The best jazz to listen to while studying is definitely instrumental. 

So, sharpen your pencils, get out your highlighters and headphones and turn on these snazzy instrumental tunes!

 WJ3 All-Stars – Broadway

This vibrant, fast-paced 2022 tune will warm up those brain waves. Your eyes will glide easily through the dense paragraphs as you listen to the dazzling sax solo.

John Di Martino, Joe Magnarelli & Wayne Escoffery – Tell Me Why

Now that you’re in the groove, you’re probably becoming more curious about what you’re studying and learning. Like this jazz song, you’re digging deeper into the layers of meaning that exist in the world and you’re wondering, why? Why are things the way that they are? Well, keep up the hard work and contemplative thought and soon enough, you’ll be the expert with all the answers!

WJ3 All-Stars – I Should Care

I don’t know about you, but after studying for a while, I can start to get into a slump. Maybe you’re getting a bit drained and apathetic. But don’t worry, this song will give you the second wind that you’re craving! It’ll make you remember why you care so much about your studies.

John Di Martino, Joe Magnarelli & Wayne Escoffery – Please Don’t Go

The backbone of this song is definitely the energetic drumming, which creates an upbeat tempo that’ll perk you right up and get you through that last assignment. And then, once you’ve completed your work for the day, you can celebrate by dancing a little jig! The librarians will be so entertained that they just might not want you to go!

If you’re looking for more spunky instrumental jazz tunes to listen to while you study, check out our albums My Ship and Old New Borrowed & Blue, both of which are available in our store and on all major music platforms!

Feature Friday Q&A with Gerald Cannon

Feature Friday Q&A with Gerald Cannon

Happy Friday! You made it to the end of the week! Gosh, it sure does feel good, doesn’t it? And the cherry on top is that we have the first installment in a brand-new Feature Friday Q&A series! This time, we’re interviewing the musician, composer, and painter Gerald Cannon.

Jazz bassist Gerald Cannon has performed all over the world with Roy Hargrove’s band, made his debut in the New York City visual art world, and is currently an instructor at the Julliard School and Oberlin College and Conservatory.  

But before all of those accomplishments, he was just a boy growing up in Racine, Wisconsin. Read the interview to learn more about his formative years.

JK: I read online that your initial inspiration was your father Benjamin, who was a guitarist, and bought you your first bass. So, I’m guessing that music was a big part of your household growing up?

GC: Oh yeah, constantly. My father had a gospel quartet when I was a kid—I mean he always had one as far back as I can remember. So, there was always music in our house. We used to rehearse at our house on Wednesday evenings. There were always guitars around the house, and I was never supposed to touch his guitars, but I did every time he left the house. He called me one day, and I though, uh oh, I’m in trouble, and if I hadn’t been able to play anything, I would’ve been in trouble! But I figured out a few notes—actually a few notes that my uncle sang in my father’s gospel quartet. I just played something nice that he sang—he sang bass. So, then my father took me immediately to a music store and bought me my first electric bass. I was nine years old then.

JK: Did you play any instruments before the electric base?

GC: No. Just electric bass.

JK: So, at age 9, did you know that was what you wanted to do with the rest of your life?

GC: Yeah, I kinda did. After that I pretty much spent all my free time on it. I was just really happy to have something that I could call my own. My brother was an actor and, so when I started taking lessons—I was about 9 or 10—my brother started taking voice and acting lessons.

And my mother and father used to dance all the time. I guess that before I was born, they used to win awards for their dancing abilities. And my grandmother was a great gospel pianist in the South. So, it’s kind of always been there.

JK: Was your mother also a musician?

GC: No, she wasn’t. She was just a housewife, but she loved music and could dance. Her and my father used to dance in our living room to Nat King Cole and some records and stuff.

JK: What was your most beloved song during your childhood?

GC: Oh, that’s an interesting question cause, like I said, we listened to music a lot. Let’s see—it would be this record my dad used to play all the time. It’s a Kay Burrell record called Midnight Blue. And I remember hearing “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You” all the time when I was a kid. I mean we just had records—I don’t know; I don’t really have a special song. We listened to music all the time in our house. It’s kind of hard to think of just one. It was all good music too—we listened to lots of jazz; my dad played lots of gospel records.

JK: What was the first song that you learned on the electric bass?

GC: Hmm. Probably The Old Rugged Cross. If I remember correctly. That was 50 years ago.

Tune in next time to learn more about Gerald Cannon. And in the meantime, you can listen to him play in the WJ3 All-Stars’ newest album, My Ship.

What is Syncopation?

What is Syncopation?

As a jazz fan, you obviously love listening to the notes flowing out from the bell of a saxophone, but can you actually visualize those notes, on a staff? Are you able to see the music as well as hear it?

Trust us, learning a bit about musical composition won’t ruin the magic of jazz—far from it, it’ll only enhance it. Because when you gain a deeper understanding of all the intricacies, you’ll develop an even stronger appreciation for the enchanting nature of jazz music!

So, in that spirit, we’re continuing our blog series on the basics of musical theory and composition. If you’re curious to learn more, check out our posts about melody, harmony, and polyphony.

Today, we’re going to be learning about syncopation. But first, before we talk about that, let’s quickly run through the concepts of rhythm and beat. As you might already know, every piece of music has an internal natural flow, like a pulse or the ticking of a clock, that repeats until the end. This pulse is called the rhythm, which is organized into beats per measure.

Syncopation is a rhythmic structure that avoids the natural flow, or beats, of a piece. And how does syncopation avoid the beats, you may be wondering. Well, it’s actually quite simple—the notes are displaced so that they don’t fall precisely on the beats of the time signature. Instead, the notes can be played in anticipation—earlier than you’d expect—right before the marked beats, or they can be delayed and played after each beat of the pulse.

Believe it or not, in some melodies, every single note is syncopated—meaning that every note falls before or after the beat! And in jazz, this is a very popular technique. Most jazz musicians prefer to accentuate the upbeats. So, if you’re tapping your foot along to the music, the notes that are played when your foot is in the air are the ones that are emphasized.

Now this all may sound very complicated, but to the jazz musician, it actually comes quite naturally—eventually, master musicians do it intuitively, just like how you fluctuate your voice while speaking.

Syncopating notes gives the musician freedom to express their own interpretations of the beat. And to be honest, if there was no syncopation, jazz simply wouldn’t be jazz—it wouldn’t sound right—because most jazz compositions incorporate a mixture of syncopated and non-syncopated notes.

Many well-known songs from “Hey Diddle Diddle” to “Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)” include syncopated notes.

Can you spot any syncopation in this 2022 jazz rendition of “Can’t Buy Me Love” from the WJ3 All-Stars?

“Can’t Buy Me Love” comes from the album My Ship, which is available in our store and on all major music platforms today.

This post was written by Digital Marketing Manager, Jacqueline Knirnschild.

Songs to Commemorate 9/11

Songs to Commemorate 9/11

Unfortunately, we all remember that horrid day when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The atrocity sent shockwaves throughout the nation, affecting all Americans, and changing the country forever.

It can be extremely hard to deal with such immense tragedy, but somehow, music usually seems to help. Music can help us to remember the devastation, honor those who died, sort through difficult emotions and find hope for the future.

Here are some songs that may help you to commemorate 9/11 this year.

Alan Jackson – When the World Stopped Turning

Even if you weren’t in New York City when the attack occurred, it still felt like time had stopped. This 2002 Grammy-award-winning-song explores the surreal nature of 9/11 and all the mixed responses that people experienced.

As Jackson sings, when tragedy strikes, everyone reacts differently. On 9/11, some people stood in shock at the sight of that black smoke, while others shouted out in anger and fear, and others just sat down and cried.

Somehow, though, the song manages to evoke a sense of hope by pointing out that atrocities can bring people together and make us more grateful to be alive. Maybe, as the song depicts, in the aftermath of 9/11 people began noticing the sunset, speaking to strangers on the street, and standing in line to donate blood.

Mary Chapin Carpenter – Grand Central Station

This 2004 song was inspired by an interview that Carpenter heard with an iron worker who was one of the first people on the scene after the towers fell. He said that at the end of his shifts, he would go to the train station so that the souls of the victims could follow him.

The lyrics are extremely poignant: I ain’t no hero, mister, just a workin’ man / An’ all these voices keep on askin’ me to take them / To Grand Central Station, Grand Central Station.

Carrie Underwood – So Small

Even though this 2007 country song doesn’t explicitly talk about 9/11, the overall message is one of hope and love, which I think are things we can use a lot of when confronting tragedies throughout history. As Underwood sings, tragedies can make us realize that our daily problems are not so bad. When you figure out love is all that matters after all, it sure makes everything else seem so small.

New New York – The Cranberries

All wounds heal in time, and as we’ve seen in the past 21 years, New York has persevered. As the Cranberries point out in their 2008 song, all wounds heal with time.   

Dolly Parton – Color Me America

In 2003, in the wake of 9/11, Dolly Parton released this album For God and Country to comfort the nation with faith and patriotism. This original ballad reminds us to all to be proud of where we’ve come from, no matter what has happened in the past.  

Feature Friday Q&A with Steve Davis (Part III)

The conversation with trombonist Steve Davis continues! And this week, he’s giving us all the juicy, behind-the-scenes details about the recording of the new album, My Ship!

JK: What was it like recording the album My Ship?

Stevie-D: Like I mentioned about Willie—to work with him is always great. He always puts together all-star groups, dream bands. Everybody on the date is playing on such a high level, and we all go back and have history together. There’s always such a good camaraderie and collaborative spirit working together and it’s just so inspiring to hear everybody soloing on such a high level, playing the ensemble passages. We really got together on some nice arrangements. And Willie asked me to put together some particular arrangements and I was really honored to do that. At the same time, we wanted to keep the approach somewhat streamlined—not too much over arranging and super complex writing because it just wasn’t necessary. And hopefully, it leaves some space for everyone in the band to do their thing and shine and give their full expression and contributions. Hopefully we achieve that and the record’s really wining. Anytime it’s Gerald Cannon and Willie Jones playing bass and drums it’s going to be swinging, big time. Yeah, I’d just say we had a great time doing it. And playing with Jeremy and Wayne Escoffery, they’re both just A1, top shelf tenor sax—you can’t do any better than that. And Isiah is a wonderful young pianist whose got a very strong voice already. We just had a blast—it was fun.

JK: And you did the arranging for the album, correct?

Stevie-D: Now that I’m thinking back on it, yeah, I guess I did do most of it. I guess it could’ve been anyone of us who filled that role, but I guess I did. Everyone helped a great deal to work out any kinks and make the music as smooth and hip and swinging as possible, so I really appreciate everybody’s efforts in that regard, and of course just everyone’s tremendous playing. I can’t wait to really have a good listen.   

JK: Kathy said that a couple of the tracks were beloved songs from her childhood. It all seems very serendipitous—like the album is about accomplishing one’s childhood dreams.

Stevie-D: I’ve been privileged to be on a few of these projects with Kathy and Willie now and it’s always such a pleasure. I really appreciate her spirit for the music and musicians. It’s just really easy and fun to work with her. I would say that when she gives us a theme like this, it does provide us with some really nice inspiration and it’s very genuine. It’s not some kind of manufactured thing; she’s really speaking from her heart when she talks about these songs and gives us an idea of what she’s trying to get to, in an emotional way, through the music. Sometimes when you’ve been playing—just showing up and making records, you can forget about that a little bit. You just kinda play the part, and that’s it. My Ship, though, is personal and I love that. Actually, at this point in my career, I always wanted to be involved in projects that are meaningful like that. I’m happy that this one is what it is and to be on it and be a part of it and that it’s doing well—that people are hearing it and digging it. Kathy’s collaborations with Willie—there’s a solid reputation there now, people know oh man, this record’s going to be swinging! So, it’s a real honor to be a part of that.

JK: So, could you tell me more about the arranging process?

Stevie-D: You get a list of songs. I don’t know that I suggested any of the tunes but they’re all such good pieces that I just, uh, embraced the assignment if you will. And then when you know who’s on the date and who you’re writing for—the instrumentation obviously, but the personality—you have history with the musicians and you can picture everyone’s musical voices, so I kinda start there—who’s going to take the lead on this? What would be a nice way to voice the horns, and then of course Gerald is a good writer and Willie is too, so I always defer to musicians of their caliber and those two in particular, and I ask, what do you hear on this? Do you hear something a little different they might say no that’s cool, or they might say nah this is cool let’s do it like this or they might say, that’s cool but how about right here what about this. I love that—when we collaborate. I never want to overwrite so that everything is so precise that everyone is locked in—it kinda takes the fun and collaborative spirit out of the music, which is the essence of what jazz music is all about. Art Blakey used to say—he’d point to the jazz band and say ladies and gentlemen, “This here is democracy at work,” and that was pretty profound to me, so that’s a good lesson to remember and try to adhere here. So yeah, that’s kinda maybe the bset way to describe it—I try to offer an interpretation on some specific things but always with room for everyone to add their two cents in there or twenty bucks and make the music that much better and that much more personal so that it’s a group sound and I think we achieve that.

JK: What is your favorite song on the album?

Stevie-D: Oh man that’s hard. That’s really hard. I can honestly say there’s something about every one of these tunes that with the arrangement and the way they came together that I was so proud of and really felt great about. It’s hard for me to choose, I mean it. I think “Wave” was not my suggestion, but I wound up playing a little on it and thinking, I don’t know about this—it was toward the end of the session—so that was a pleasant surprise, or moment. But that “Taking a Chance on Love” is pretty swinging—I like that. And “Can’t Buy Me Love”—I’m a Beatles fan, so I love that song, we all do. But “Taking a Chance on Love” might be a sentimental favorite for me.

Songs for a Long Flight

Songs for a Long Flight

Since we’ve been locked up for the past few years with COVID, chances are that you’re feeling a bit restless. Maybe, due to travel restrictions, you haven’t left the country in years. Or maybe, you’re a homebody and just recently got a passport. Well, either way, now is the time to indulge your wanderlust! Hop on a flight to the exotic destination of your dreams—Paris, Bangkok, Fiji—who knows where you’ll go!

And while you’re waiting to board that 9-, 10- or 12-hour flight, take a look at the playlist we made especially for you. These songs will help you to unwind, enjoy the view out the window and get you excited to explore a new city or village!

Willie Jones III, Steve Davis, Jeremy Pelt – Wave

I don’t know about you, but I always snag the window seat if possible. There’s nothing like soaring above the clouds at sunset, sipping on a glass of complimentary wine and listening to some instrumental jazz music, like this new 2022 song “Wave.” Featuring some of the top musicians in the industry today, this tune will inspire you to reflect on all the ups and downs in life while you gaze out the window.  

Ella Fitzgerald – April in Paris

Originally written in 1932 for a Broadway musical, this slow song reveres the beauty of springtime in Paris and creates the perfect atmosphere to get you in the mood for your trip abroad. Whether you’re going to Paris or not, traveling internationally will be sure to make your heart sing, and who knows, maybe you’ll stumble upon the chestnuts in bloom that Fitzgerald croons about so beautifully.

Otis Redding – (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay

This charming 1967 hit is all about sitting and watching the morning sun, wasting time, which is exactly what you’ll be doing on your flight and during your vacation. So, enjoy it. Savor every moment. In our daily lives, we’re always rushing, like busy bees pollinating flowers, but we never stop to smell the roses. Well, this is your chance.

Willie Jones III, Steve Davis, Jeremy Pelt – My Ship

Yes, you are on an airplane, but with all the wine and exhaustion, do you ever look out the window and mistake the clouds for the sea? As adults, we don’t often indulge our imaginations, but why not? Why not imagine that you’re on a ship with sails that are made of silk, decks trimmed with gold and aglow with a million pearls?

If you’re single and looking for love, who knows, maybe this flight is taking you across the seas to find your true love and set the sails in your heart.

If you’re looking for more relaxing jazz music for your flight, check out My Ship and Old New Borrowed & Blue, which are both available in our store and on all major music platforms today!

Feature Friday Q&A with Steve Davis (Part II)

Happy Friday! We’re back to continue the conversation with the wonderful Steve Davis, who is a jazz trombonist & music educator. If you missed last week’s post, please check it out here.

JK: When you were a child, did you dream of becoming a trombonist?

Stevie-D: You know not initially, I just loved music. Another story about my nana—when I was six years old, my brother was maybe 2. I have a great memory of a visit and my brother and I are watching Tom and Jerry reruns and there’s one episode where Jerry is running away from Tom, running around the orchestra, trying to get away from Tom and Tom is on the piano and he’s on all fours and he’s playing doodle-doodle-doodle, like the left hand of a stride piano—what my nana calls the boogie-woogie—she would start playing doodle-doodle-doodle, so I loved that. Maybe it reminded me of my nana’s playing, I don’t know. So one day we were visiting and it was quiet and I made my way to the piano and I had no idea what I was doing and took my index finger and I went down to the base of the piano, down low, and I played a C—I didn’t know what a C was but I played it, and I don’t know how I knew this, and my nana came running in from the other room and she shouted to my mother named Syd—Sydney—and she said, “Did you hear little Stevie!? He made the change; he made the change!” The change is the fourth chord of the blues, and I had no idea at 6 years old what making the change was, but I sure felt special. So, that moment, I think, I knew something, I love music. I knew I was a musician right then. This is something I can relate to; I can bond with this. I just love music and I played a little electric bass, electric guitar, and the trumpet, and baritone horn, and when I got to the trombone, I was listening to jazz by then—my dad’s Blue Note Records—and I heard a great record by Lee Morgan. Most or any jazz fans know—called “The Sidewinder.” It’s just so funky and incredible and swinging and great, and I asked my father, what’s that? He said, oh, that’s Lee Morgan, that’s funk before funk. I said, I love that, and he said if you like that you might like these, and he made me a list— Horace Silver, Art Blakey and the Messengers, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, and then I was gone. Like wow. I just went into the world of jazz. And then I heard J.J. Johnson on the trombone on a Horace Silver record, called “The Cape Verdean Blues,” and I was like that’s the trombone? The trombone can sound like that?! And I was done for, that’s it.

JK: So, would you say that you accomplished your childhood dreams?

Stevie-D: Wow. I guess so. I played with so many of my heroes and many of whom aren’t with us anymore and you know I still feel pretty young—I feel like that skinny kid with hair, like a teenager or in my early 20s. And I met Jackie McLean at the Hartt School at 18. I attended school there in the mid to late 80s and he was a huge mentor for me and recommended me to Art Blakey and when I graduated, I moved to New York and became a Jazz Messenger—the last Jazz Messenger. In 1990, I did my first tours, and it all kinda just went from there—playing with Jackie McLean’s band after that for 6 years, and Chic Corea and several of his great bands over the years—Jimmy Heath, Penny Golson, James Moody and Freddy Hubbard and I’m like wow. I’m looking back now, and thinking was that me? Was I really there for all that? And meeting Slyde Hampton and Curtis Fuller—my heroes. Having them encourage me along and just being in their midst. Now, yeah, I can actually realize my dreams in that way and now every time I get to play music.

I just worked with Willie Jones III these past four nights at Dizzy’s in New York with one of his great sextets—he’s so masterful at putting groups together and I’ve always enjoyed playing with him. Of course, he’s a great drummer, but just the way he goes about assembling a band—he’s so smooth and he really knows what he’s doing and it’s just a pleasure every time, so that’s a dream come true. And playing with my peers and playing with younger musicians who used to be students and now they’re great new voices in the music—that’s a dream come true. It’s all wonderful. My. children play music—my son Tony is quite an accomplished guitarist in New York. He’s 28 now and I don’t know how that happened. My … daughter Angie is doing music education at the Hartt School and she’s 21, she’s going to be a senior and my youngest, Mickey plays tenor sax, he’s 16, and I think he wants to major in Dexter Gordon when he goes to college—haha I’m joking—but yeah he loves music, so I’m so thrilled for them that they found it for themselves. And when I play with my wife Abena, she’s a great vocalist, we have a great time doing projects, so I’m just loving it all now and I will always draw on my influences and my mentors and try to pass it on the younger musicians.

JK: Wow, that’s wonderful! It sounds like you’re really living the dream.

Stevie-D: Being a musician is not without its difficulties and there are times for all of us who do this where it’s a lot to manage. It can be difficult just keeping up with everything you have to do. Because jazz musicians by and large don’t have the support system that maybe other professions might have that, kind of built in. It is a wonderful community and we do all support each other. So whatever difficulties there are, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have to remember, wow I’ve actually been able to do this for 35 years as a professional. This is a blessing—it’s nothing but great.

Q&A Feature Friday with Stevie-D

Q&A Friday Feature with Steve Davis

Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, and raised in Binghamton, New York, trombonist Steve Davis has always had a gift for music, which led him to release twenty albums, gain recognition for his hard-swinging, lyrical style, perform internationally and teach jazz workshops at the Jackie McLean Institute.  

More recently, Davis—nicknamed Stevie-D—has joined with Night Is Alive to arrange the music, and play the trombone in the 2022 album, My Ship, which also features Willie Jones III (drums/bandleader), Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Wayne Escoffery (tenor sax), Isaiah Thompson (piano), and Gerland Cannon (bass).

And since My Ship is about looking back fondly on your childhood dreams, today we’re going to get to know a bit more about Stevie-D’s childhood, family, and early musical influences!

JK: I read that jazz was played often in your household when you were growing up. Were your parent’s musicians?

Stevie-D: My parents weren’t musicians but they both loved music and my father, in particular, was a record collector—he had a lot of jazz, blues and rock ‘n’ roll albums. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, I had access to his vast record collection and then later CDs. So, there was always good music playing in the house, and just a culture of appreciation of jazz music in particular. And then my grandparents on both sides—my dad’s father, my grandsire, he was also a newspaper journalist like my father was at that time, but a big jazz fan and played the trumpet as a hobby. My dad played the electric bass and did a few gigs in my hometown of Binghamton, NY, but he was mostly just a music fan and played for fun. And my grandsire played the trumpet, and he could belt out “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “When the Saints Go Marching In” and he loved Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.

 

And then on my mother’s side, my nana, I called her, she was a great stride pianist. She was the real jazz musician in the family. She was semi-professional and lived in Connecticut. She died when I was 19, but as a kid, I got to hear her play. When I started playing trombone as a teenager, I got to play with her a little bit when we would visit. She didn’t read a note of music, she played by ear—she was a real jazz musician, but being a woman at that time, it just wasn’t so acceptable for her to just do that, so when I look back on it, I think it was relegated more to the parlor entertainment, like “Oh isn’t that nice, you know, she’s playing the piano.” But she played all kind of Gershwin and American songbook standards and Ellington, and I learned a lot from her. She could really play.

JK: That’s an amazing story, but a shame that she wasn’t able to pursue it more.

Stevie-D: Well, she did to some degree. Boy, she would sit down—she had a piano in the house, it’s a Steinway, my parents still have it—and she’d sit down at that thing and just start swinging and play all kinds of things—”Honeysuckle Rose,” “Them There Eyes,” “Undecided”—some of the old swinger tunes, and she’d sing a little bit. She just had it. She knew what to do. So, then I would get my horn out eventually and she would teach me some of these tunes and I did it just naively, and we had fun together. So, I did get to play with her, and looking back all these years, forty years later, I cherish those memories very much. She’s a big influence on me for sure.

JK: Did you have a most beloved song growing up?

Stevie-D: Wow. Um. There’s so many. Well, one of the first songs I learned to play on my trumpet—I started on trumpet then I switched to baritone horn, and they suckered me into the tuba for a while at school, and I would up on trombone at 14, so I was a bit of a latecomer—but one of the first songs I could play on any of those instruments was “When the Saints Go Marching In,” just by ear. I always like that song, but I think everyone loves that song. My nana’s favorite song was “Embraceable You” by George Gershwin, and I played it at her funeral when I was 19 years old and I did it, again, the best I could by myself. I didn’t even appreciate or understand the depth of that moment the way I would now. So, I love that ballad.

There are so many songs I love, and plus as a kid, I was listening to the blues, B.B. King and Muddy Waters, and rock ‘n’ roll, Rolling Stones and the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix. There’s lots of great music but “Embraceable You” was a special one because it was my nana’s favorite, so I think that one’s very close to my heart.

JK: Have you played it since then?

Stevie-D: Here and there. It’s one of those tunes that I, you know some songs are so special to you that you hold it out for the right time. There are some other American Songbook standards that I wanted to play in my 20s when I had become a serious jazz musician and now that I’m 55 years old, I finally feel ready to play them in the way that I was dreaming of as a younger musician. My wife, Abena—her name is Abena Koomson Davis—she’s a great singer and knows a lot about the American Songbook. She loves “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” so I always play that one for her and I love that song too. There’s so many obviously, that was one of the things that was so fun about the project with Willie and everyone—we always delve into some of the great standards, and I think all of us really appreciate the opportunity to interpret some of the American Songbook classics and put a little bit of a fresh spin on it, but also play the tones hopefully with a great deal of integrity and genuine feeling.

JK: Do you think you’ll record a rendition of “Embraceable You” at some point?

Stevie-D: I’d love to. I look forward to it. I haven’t yet. I’m just holding that one. I appreciate the question. I’m looking forward to it; probably sooner than later.

And the conversation will continue . . . Look for the next installment of the interview next Friday! And in the meantime, if you’re looking for more Stevie-D, check out our album My Ship, which is available in our store and on all major music platforms now. 

Five Songs for a Road Trip Out West

Five Songs for a Road Trip Out West

I don’t know about you, but I start to feel a bit of ennui during the late part of the summer. Especially when I was a kid, out of school for months, I’d start to feel a bit restless by mid-to-late August. Maybe this is why August is such a popular month for people to take a trip out to the American West?!

The American West is filled with unparalleled natural beauty that is sure to satisfy your craving for the picturesque. The pristine lakes and remarkable mountains of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. The stunning red rock landscapes of Moab, Utah. The hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles of Yellowstone National Park.

And with all the outdoor activities—hiking, kayaking, paddleboarding, just to name a few—the West is definitely the place to go to find some adventure!

Now, the most important question: what music should you listen to on your road trip out to the great American west? Don’t worry, we got you covered with the best tunes to get you in the mood for your vacation!

Marty Robbins – Ballad of the Alamo

This song comes from the epic 1960 historical war film, “The Alamo,” which stars John Wayne as Davy Crockett. Listen to this ballad before you tour the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas and as you’re walking around, you’ll notice that between the setting and the rising of the sun, you can hear a ghostly bugle as the men go marching by . . .

Eddy Arnold – Cattle Call

As you’re driving out west in your car or RV, you’re going to see plenty of open spaces, fields and, of course, cattle! This fun 1934 tune will be sure to put a grin on your face as you admire the cows and oxen. 

Maybe if you’re feeling especially frisky, you can stick your head out the window and say hello to the livestock! Moo! Who knows, maybe you’ll help scare away the howlin’ coyotes!

Sons of the Pioneers – Tumbling Tumbleweeds

First recorded in 1934, this western ballad captured the spirit of the Great Depression. Following the Dust Bowl, the “Dirty Thirties” saw many men wandering around the country looking for work, drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

And did you know that the Sons of the Pioneers, founded in 1933, are actually still around today? Of course, the membership has changed frequently over the years, but they are now one of the longest-surviving country groups in the world!

Harve Presnell – They Call the Wind Maria

This song was written for the 1951 Broadway musical, Paint Your Wagon, which takes place during the California Gold Rush of the mid 19th century. The driving, staccato rhythm of the tune, played on the string instruments, creates a sense of restless, unending motion, as if one is riding a horse or cowboy all day and night long!

Janis Siegel, John Di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico – Always on My Mind

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erNCR–NNMk

A classic tune performed by everyone from Loretta Lynn to Elvis, and, of course, the figure of outlaw country himself, Willie Nelson, this iconic ballad just had to be included on our list. The strong sense of bittersweet regret is simply timeless.

But have you ever heard a jazzy rendition of the song? Boy are you in for a treat with this new recording that features an impeccable flute solo by Aaron Heick!

“Always on My Mind” comes from our country jazz album, Cryin’ In My Whiskey, which is available on all major music platforms and in our store today.

Songs to Listen to During a Late Summer Storm

Songs to Listen to During a Late Summer Storm

Did you know that the more heat and humidity there is in the air, the stronger and wetter a thunderstorm will be? Yup, that’s right. The hot, humid draft rises to a point where it eventually condenses and forms a cloud, which grows until it’s ready for a torrential downpour.

But a summer storm doesn’t have to be a downer or disappointment. Rather, the overcast skies and rain can be a nice break from the seemingly relentless sun! And what better way to enjoy a later summer storm than reading a thrilling novel while you sip on a nice glass of crisp white wine and listen to some soft jazz?

Lorca Hart Trio – Here’s That Rainy Day

I don’t know about you, but there’s something about those gray clouds in the sky, obscuring all the blue, that calms me. Ah, there’s nothing like the smooth trinkle of raindrops sprinkling against the windowpane and the musty smell of a well-loved book with worn, dog-eared pages.

This new 2021 tune really captures the spirit of a cozy rainy day. Ralph Moore’s smooth, buttery saxophone really takes the edge off and makes you want to kick back and relax.

Stormy Weather – Etta James

This 1960 ballad is heart wrenching in its exploration of sorrow following the dissolution of a romantic relationship. The speaker’s heart is full of stormy weather since she and her man are no longer together.

She feels like she just can’t go on, yet, at the same time, James’s powerful, sunny vocals and the lyrics about praying to walk in the sun once more seem to hint at future hope. Because remember, after a rainstorm always comes a rainbow.

Come Rain or Come Shine – Ray Charles

Whether we like it or not, there are many ups and downs in life. But without the alternating rain and shine, we would all just be bored, wouldn’t we? The so-called rain is what makes us stronger, and, like Ray Charles sings in this song, it also shows us who is really there for us when it matters.

As you enjoy your later summer storm, why not celebrate love with this beautiful 1959 tune? It’ll remind you of all those people who have stood by you come rain or shine.

John Di Martino, Joe Magnarelli & Wayne Escoffery – Hudson River Wind

Maybe you’ve been having a difficult time lately. Misfortune just keeps knocking at your door and it won’t stop. Well, you know the saying—when it rains it pours, meaning that when things go wrong, they do so all at once.

Challenging periods like that may seem unbearable and insufferable, but if you’ve ever been to the Hudson River in eastern New York, you know that it can actually be quite magical to watch the storm stir up the water. This lovely 2022 song will inspire you to change your perspective and view your setbacks not as reasons to cry but as opportunities to grow.

If you’re looking for some more relaxing, instrumental jazz tunes for your rainy afternoon or evening, I’d recommend our new albums Old New Borrowed & Blue and My Ship, both of which are available in our store and on all major music platforms today!

This post was written by Digital Marketing Manager Jacqueline Knirnschild.