Feature Friday with Jeremy Pelt

Feature Friday with Jeremy Pelt

Fourth of July is right around the corner! How are you celebrating? Barbeque and fireworks? Going to the lake house? Long weekend out of town? I don’t know about you, but to me, it sure feels like I have been craving a vacation for a while now, so I am really looking forward to a long weekend with family and friends. We could all use a break to relax and recharge, and what better way to get the festivities started than with a Feature Friday?

This week we are speaking with one of the most preeminent young trumpeters in the jazz world—Jeremy Pelt. Voted by Downbeat Magazine as a rising star on the trumpet, Pelt has performed with some of the biggest names in jazz, like Cliff Barbaro, Keter Betts, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and Ravi Coltrane. His latest release is Soundtrack, which Apple Music calls sublime and soaring in its harmonic imagination.

Now, you’re lucky enough to get to learn a bit more about this fiery and lyrical trumpeter …

What motivates you?

That’s a hard question to answer, as my motivation changes daily.

 What games did you play when you were a child?

Monopoly.

 What was your first job?

 My first job was a student! Alongside that, I was very entrepreneurial and to that effect I had a car washing business in my neighborhood where I would travel with a pail and sponge and wash people’s cars. I called it “Jeremy’s Jolly Car Wash.”

 What was your most beloved song as a child and why?

I didn’t have any beloved songs in my childhood but, interestingly enough, there are old songs that I hear to this day that take me back to my childhood, and then that’s when I remember the songs fondly. But it’s filtered through an adult lens.

Feature Friday with John Di Martino

Feature Friday with John Di Martino

Summer is really heating up—finally! I don’t know about you, but for a while there, when we were having fifty-degree mornings and evenings, it didn’t really feel like summer. Now, though, with the sound of the ice cream truck around the corner and the sweat slick on the back of my neck, I’m ready to turn on some country music, take a dip in the pool and crack open a beer!

Country music is the sound of summer in America, and there’s really not a hotter country album out right now than Cryin’ In My Whiskey, which offers jazzy renditions of your most favorite country classics, like “Whenever You Come Around.”

And this Friday, we get to chat a little bit with composer, arranger, and pianist John Di Martino, who is featured in Cryin’ In My Whiskey, and who journalist Mark Ruffin described as “one of the most inventive small group arrangers in NYC.”

What was your most beloved song as a child and why?

“Once in a Lifetime” by Anthony Newly.

What is your favorite country song (that is not included in Cryin’ in My Whiskey)? 

“El Paso” by Marty Robbins.

What was it like rehearsing and producing this album? 

I really enjoyed producing and arranging this project. Kathy Salem and I are thinking about making another country music CD featuring a male singer!

Our album Cryin’ In My Whiskey is available on all major music platforms now and in our store.

Serene Songs for Painting Parties

Serene Songs for Painting Parties

Are you looking for something to do outside with friends this summer? Maybe you’re not the outdoorsy type and you’re more interested in artistic stuff. Well, no problem. If hiking and kayaking sound exhausting to you, and drinking and dining outside have gotten a bit boring, how about hosting an afternoon of painting en plein air? I’m sure that you and your friends will love being able to explore and challenge yourselves creatively, while also getting to chit chat and enjoy the beautiful weather!

And with all the new painting products and techniques out there, you’re sure to find something that fits your interests. Whether it be hiring an instructor to teach watercolor for beginners, using watercolor pencils, Winsor & Newton watercolor pallets, or painting landscapes or portraits, there is a plethora of fun options out there!

By now, you’re probably wondering, what songs should you listen to during your painting party? Don’t worry—since music is our game at Night is Alive, we’ve got you covered!

Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World

Kick off your watercolor painting party with this classic song from 1967 that everyone is sure to know and love. Be like Vincent Van Gogh and capture the feelings of nature around you. Like Armstrong sings, paint pictures of the trees of green, red roses too and the skies of blue and clouds of white.

Hudson River Wind – John DiMartino, Joe Magnarelli & Wayne Escoffery

With the hot weather we’ve been having lately, there’s nothing like a nice river wind to cool the sweat on the back of our necks, and that is the exact sensation that this beautiful song portrays. Let the saxophone refresh and revitalize your energy and creativity as you splash colors onto your canvas!

Nat King Cole – Nature Boy

This 1948 tune is one of the lesser-known ones from the great Nat King Cole, but by no means is it less enthralling. The lyrics tell the story of a “very strange, enchanted boy” who wandered “very far over land and sea” and told the speaker that “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return,” which I think is a wonderful message to keep in mind as you paint the enchanting world around you. Maybe your finished painting can be given to a loved one as a gift!

The WJ3 All-Stars – Wave

This beautiful lowkey jazz instrumental provides the perfect backdrop for a peaceful day of watercolor painting. Let the soft melody of the trombone and the rhythm of the drums carry your imagination away into a dreamy, blissful landscape.

Lorca Hart Trio – Blues Alliance

There’s nothing more enjoyable to paint than the sky and the setting sun, and this song will inspire you to capture all those stunning shades of blue in your painting.

If you’re hosting a watercolor painting party and you’re looking for some more relaxing instrumentals to set the mood, I would definitely recommend our new albums, Old New Borrowed & Blue and My Ship, both of which merge the musical artistry of new songs with jazz classics. Colors of Jazz would also be a great one since each song represents a different color and emotion. These albums are available in our store and on all major music platforms today. Also, if you’d like to book one of our lovely musicians, please contact us today.

Jazz Songs for Juneteenth

Jazz Songs for Juneteenth

Maybe you’ve seen the Juneteenth flag—the white star atop blue and red—and wondered what this holiday is all about? Well, it is celebrated on June 19th to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. It was first celebrated in Texas, where in 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay and declared that the more than 250,000 enslaved black people in the state were free by executive decree.

If you’re a history buff, you may know that the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, so why, you may be wondering, did it take two more years to official free all of the enslaved people? Well, that is because the proclamation was not able to be implemented in places still under Confederate control—like the westernmost Confederate state of Texas. Therefore, slavery wasn’t completely abolished until Juneteenth.

As early as June 19, 1866, the formerly enslaved black Texas began celebrating with festivities. But it was not until June 17, 2021, that President Joe Biden signed a bill that made the day—also known as Freedom Day or Jubilee Day—into an official federal holiday.

On Juneteenth, you may also see people flying the red, black, and green Pan-African flag, which was adopted by the Universal Negro Improvement Association in 1920 and represents the blood, soil and prosperity of Africa and its people.

Now that you have an introduction to the holiday, why don’t we take a closer look at a few songs that have played a huge role in the fight for civil rights in America.

Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit

Just because slavery was officially abolished in 1865 with the Thirteenth Amendment, doesn’t mean that equality was instantaneous. In fact, far from it. As we all unfortunately know, the struggle for racial equality still persists today.

Following the Thirteenth Amendment, many racists, and racist organizations, like the Ku Klux Klan, retaliated in the form of lynching.

In 1939, a Jewish-American man named Abel Meeropol wrote a poem that protested against lynching, such as those in Indiana during the 1930s. As many photos from that period show, racially motivated violence was far from over.

Meeropol made the poem into lyrics with music and his wife performed it at venues in New York City. Then, legend has it that the founder of the only integrated nightclub in New York City—Café Society—introduced Meeropol’s song to Billie Holiday, who performed it for the first time in 1939.

The song, which compares the Black American victims of lynching to the fruit of trees, was named by Timemagazine in 1999 as the “Best Song of the Century.” And activist and scholar Angela Davis said that this song is “the most influential and profound example of a continuing site of music and radical social consciousness.” It has been thought of us a declaration that began the civil rights movement.

Nina Simone – Mississippi Goddam

“Mississippi Goddam,” released in 1964, encapsulates the Simone’s response to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, and the racially motivated murder of the Emmett Till in Mississippi. In case you aren’t familiar with these atrocities—in 1963, a white supremacist bombed a black Church in Birmingham, which killed four people and injured over 14. And in 1955, a group of white men abducted, tortured, and lynched a fourteen-year-old boy named Emmett Till.

They keep on sayin’ ‘go slow,’ Simone sings in the protest song. To do things gradually would bring more tragedy. Why don’t you see it? Why don’t you feel it? I don’t know, I don’t know. You don’t have to live next to me, just give me my equality!

Happy Father’s Day — 5 Songs to Make Dad Smile!

What are your plans for Father’s Day this year? Are you grilling? Golfing? Going to a car show? Maybe you’re just relaxing on the couch drinking beer with your dad and watching ESPN. No matter what you’re doing, the most important thing is to show your dad that you care, and what better way to do so than with a curated playlist?

My dad always said that it’s the thought that counts, so this Father’s Day don’t worry about finding that “perfect” gift for dad or spending a lot of money on some fancy present, just give him something from the heart. Say, something like a mixtape or burned CD full of his favorite tunes!

To help you out, we put together a few songs that your dad is bound to enjoy!

George Strait – The Best Day

This sweet country tune from 2000 tells the story of a father and son who share a moment right before the son is about to get married. The father reminisces on the times when they used to go camping together and then the song closes with the son recognizing that he’s learned so much from his parents about how to act in a marriage.

Ugh, if this song won’t make your dad tear up, I don’t know what will!     

Chrisette Michele – Your Joy

This 2007 soul ballad is really popular at father-daughter dances because the lyrics are so poignant. Michele’s strong vocals stunningly deliver a beautiful, heartfelt message that is sure to pull at your dad’s heartstrings. No one can compare to the way my eyes fit in yours / You’ll always be my father, oh, oh / And I’ll always be your joy.

Faith Hill – There You’ll Be

This is another country classic that illuminates the power of a loved one to show up, no matter how much time has passed. You probably know that this 2001 ballad was the theme song of the movie Pearl Harbor, but did you know that it was actually first offered to Celine Dion? I bet she regrets turning it down …

Dolly Parton – Daddy Come and Get Me

You can never go wrong with Dolly Parton. And this 1970 song is no exception. It tells the story of a woman whose husband locked her into a mental institution, and who is desperate for her dad to come and get here. Because when times get rough, you know that you can always count on your dad. 

The WJ3 All-Stars – God Bless the Child

Slow things down with this smooth instrumental rendition of Billie Holiday’s classic song. The delicacy of the piano will provide a nice backdrop for a heartfelt conversation with dad. Don’t forget to tell him how much you appreciate everything he’s done for you!

We at Night is Alive know that it can be very challenging to come up with a unique Father’s Day gift idea, but with our many jazz albums, getting a gift for dad doesn’t have to be so difficult this year!

If you enjoyed the WJ3 All-Stars tune, I recommend checking out their newest release My Ship, which explores the dreams of our childhoods. Nothing beats reminiscing on Father’s Day, right?

Or, if your dad is more of a country fan, he might like our album Cryin’ In My Whiskey, which puts a jazzy twist on many country classics!

Patriotic Songs to Listen to on Flag Day

Patriotic Songs to Listen to on Flag Day

Did you know that at the start of the American Revolution in 1775, regiments all fought under their own flags? A flag was then made to unify everyone—the “Continental Colors.” Only problem was that the flag had a Union Jack in the corner and therefore was much too similar to the British flag. Finally, in 1777, what we now recognize as “Old Glory,” or the Stars and Stripes, was created. Legend has it that the upholsterer Betsy Ross made the first American flag, but there is actually no historical evidence of this.

In 1885, a teacher from Wisconsin named came up with the idea to have a holiday that honored the American flag, and then in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson officially established June 14th as Flag Day.

So, now that you know a bit more about the history behind the holiday, it’s time to celebrate, right?

We gathered up some songs that pay tribute to “Old Glory,” and honor our American and revolutionary history. Invite your relatives over for a BBQ, or a dip in the pool, and enjoy!

Johnny Cash – Ragged Old Flag

A spoken word monologue set against a backdrop of the snare drum, this 1974 song tells the story of an old man who is mighty proud of the flag hanging in his small town. You see, we got a little hole in that flag there when Washington took it across the Delaware

Cash released the album Ragged Old Flag following President Richard Nixon’s resignation. He seems to have wanted to reunite Americans those during difficult times. The song suggests that despite the negative moments throughout history, hope will persevere, and the flag will still continue to fly.

Dolly Parton – Color Me America

This lesser-known song from living legend Dolly Parton is definitely worth a listen. As usual, her vocals are stellar, and the delivery is direct and strong.

The ballad comes from Parton’s 2003 album For God and Country, which sought to provide comfort and solace to the nation following the 9/11 attacks. The lyrics certainly don’t shy away from the ugliness present in our country, but they also manage to still drive home the message that love overpowers all: I see red when evil speaks spilling red blood on our streets and I feel blue from grief and sorrow that it brings but the white and light of love God’s own spirit like a dove lift’s us up and hands to us an olive branch.

Billy Murray – You’re a Grand Old Flag

Talk about an oldie but a goodie—this patriotic march was written in 1906 for a musical titled George Washington, Jr and is now stored in the Library of Congress. With all of our technology today, this spirited march may not seem like much to you, but shortly after it was originally performed on stage, it became the first song from a musical to sell over one million copies of sheet music!

Another interesting fact: the song title was inspired by an encounter the writer had with a veteran who fought at Gettysburg in the Civil War. The vet had an old flag carefully folded up that he referred to as “a grand old rag.” There were many objections, however, to the song title because some people didn’t feel comfortable referring to the American flag as a rag.

Although Night is Alive is yet to produce an American-themed album, we do have an album of country jazz, called Cryin’ in My Whiskey, which is available in our store and on all major music platforms today.

This blog post was written by Blog Editor, Jacqueline Knirnschild.

Feature Friday with Nicolas Bearde

Feature Friday with Nicolas Bearde

Sometimes the week just flies by smoothly by without a hitch! The weekdays blur effortlessly into the weekend, just like the fuzzy white poplar seed pods floating around in the air.

Those hazy days of summer have officially begun and what better way to melt into the encroaching sea of bliss than with a Feature Friday? Today we are chatting with the lovely Nicolas Bearde, whose silky baritone draws in crowds from all around the West Coast!  

Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, award-winning vocalist Nicolas Bearde has always loved listening to music with his mother, and now, he has recorded six CDs, the most recent of which peaked in the Top 20 on the Jazz Week Charts. Bearde also has experience working as a music educator at the California Jazz Conservatory.

If you are not playing jazz, what is your favorite music to play?

R&B and hard funk! Or something like Caribbean-Soul… so much to choose from!

If you were a song, which would you be and why?

I’d likely be something out of the Stevie Wonder catalogue—he goes so deep. Or more likely—at this point in my life—probably “Here’s To Life,” which is an Artie Butler and Phyllis Molinary composition. I think it speaks to where I am in life right now—I seem to be in a period of constant reflection… 

Do you have a favorite place to vacation?

Hawaii is one of my favorite places on earth! I don’t get there very often, but I feel a deep connection with the green-ness of it and the constancy of the ocean-song.

Who is your dream collaboration (living or legend)?

It would be interesting to have spent time with composer/songwriter/arranger like Duke Ellington or the songwriting team of Gamble and Huff. 

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

Treat others as you would be treated… a golden oldie you might say, but it works in every culture! 

Sweet Songs for Strawberry Picking

Sweet Songs for Strawberry Picking

Now that school is out, maybe you’ve been tasked with babysitting your grandchildren or your nieces and nephews, but you’re struggling to come up with fun activities to do with them. Or maybe, if you’re like me, you’ve just been finding yourself googling chocolate covered strawberries near me. Either way, chances are, you could probably use a nice day of strawberry picking!

And you’re in luck because, according to horticulturalists, mid-May to early July is the best time of year to go strawberry picking in the eastern and midwestern northern states! Strawberries are in season now in this area, which means they are the most naturally ripe. So, the local strawberries you’ll be picking will be much tastier than the strawberries you’ll find at the grocery store, which have usually been shipped from thousands of miles away!

Find a wild strawberry patch, farm, or orchard near you, grab a pail and a speaker, and turn on these sweet tunes while you pick some berries!

Miriam Makeba – Love Tastes Like Strawberries

Nicknamed “Mama Africa,” this South African singer, songwriter and civil rights activist was famous in the 1960s and 70s for her many musical accomplishments in Afropop and jazz, and for becoming a symbol of the anti-apartheid movement.

In contrast with her other more political songs, this 1962 tune is very light and whimsical. The dreamy lyrics will make biting into a dewy strawberry feel like true love’s kiss! The berry man cried, won’t you try this / We looked, we stopped, we stole a kiss / The berries are gone and the spring has passed / But I know my love will always last.

Wynton Marsalis – The Strawberry

This 2017 collaboration at the Lincoln Center Orchestra features many wonderful contemporary artists who really do a great job creating a fun, vibrant and eclectic sound that’ll be sure to put a pep in your step as you wake up early on a crisp summer morning to pick some delicious strawberries. Your grandkids and nieces and nephews will also probably love trying to identify all the different instrument sounds in the composition.

Also, here’s a quick tip: morning is the best time to pick strawberries because it is still cool out, so the delicate berries won’t bruise and will last longer and store better!

The Beatles – Strawberry Fields Forever

While you pick some scrumptious berries, embrace your inner free-spirit, and indulge in a sense of childlike wonder with this beloved 1967 tune. Did you know that John Lennon thought this song was his finest work with the Beatles? Do you agree?

Grover Washington, Jr. – Strawberry Moon

This funky 1987 tune comes from one of the founders of smooth jazz—Grover Washington, Jr. I don’t know about you, but the silky saxophone and charming melody of this song really makes me want to sit on the back patio at dusk, sip on some champagne and munch on some chocolate covered strawberries!

Deanna Washington – Strawberry Wine

Inspired by the songwriter’s coming of age story as a teenager at her grandparents’ dairy farm in Wisconsin, this sentimental 1996 ballad became a signature for both Washington and Matraca Berg, who wrote the song.

There’s just something nostalgic about the sweetness of strawberry wine. It brings you back to summers passed, doesn’t it? The hot July moon saw everything / my first taste of love oh bittersweet / Green on the vine.

The WJ3 All-Stars – Star Eyes

All the yummy strawberry sweetness and nectar might just go to your head and give you star eyes! After the day’s adventures, come home, relax with your loved ones, and listen to this peaceful jazz song while you eat some fresh-baked strawberry scones.

If you’re looking for some more dreamy jazz songs that’ll bring you back to your childhood, check out the newest album from the WJ3 All-Stars—My Ship, which is available in our store and on all major music platforms today!  

This post was written by Blog Editor, Jacqueline Knirnschild.

Feature Friday with Wayne Escoffery

Feature Friday with Wayne Escoffery

What are your plans for the weekend? Maybe you’re going hiking, or kayaking? What about the drive-in movies? With the nice temperate weather we’ve been having lately, the possibilities are endless! Whatever your plans are though, we at Night is Alive, hope you enjoy yourself as much as we enjoyed sitting down and chatting with jazz saxophonist Wayne Escoffery!

Born in London and now based in New York City, Escoffery has experience performing with a multitude of musicians, such as Carl Allen, Eric Reed, and the Mingus Big Band. And now, we at Night is Alive are lucky enough to have collaborated with him on three albums: Christmas Ain’t Like It Used to Be, Old New Borrowed & Blue, and most recently, My Ship. In the latest release, My Ship, Escoffery’s vibrant sax is sure to make you want to move and groove!

Now, time to learn a bit more about Wayne Escoffery:

If you are not playing jazz, what is your favorite music to play?

I’ve always enjoyed playing Funk music a la James Brown, “Soul Jazz” a la Eddie Harris and Fusion a la The Yellow Jackets. Unfortunately, I don’t get to play those styles as much as I would like. 

If you were a song, which would you be and why?

A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke. It’s timeless, and will make you feel happy, sad, hopeful, and sexy all at the same time. 

Do you have a favorite place to vacation?

At the moment, Portugal and Mallorca are at the top of the list. But, I think it’s ultimately more about the company you are with and your state of mind during the vacation that is most impactful. 

Who is your dream collaboration (living or legend)?

Miles Davis.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

“Be patient, you’ll get ‘em next time.” –Jackie McLean 

What is polyphony?

What is polyphony?

Get your notebooks out and your pencils sharpened, because today we are continuing our lesson in musical theory! If you haven’t already, please read our post about the differences between the melody and harmony.

So, last time we talked about how the melody is a sequence of notes that sound pleasing, while the harmony refers to a blending of notes. Before we go any further today, I’d like to also mention that the harmony can also informally refer to any parts of the composition that accompany the main melody. Remember, the melody is the backbone and leader of the piece, while the harmony refers to the vertical relationship between different pitches. The harmony creates chord progressions that complement the melody.

Now that we’ve refreshed ourselves on those basics, let’s take a look at a slightly more complex musical term—polyphony.

In Greek, ‘poly’ means many and ‘phony’ means voice, which contrasts with monophony, meaning one voice. As the etymology indicates, polyphony refers to music in which more than one entity—voice or instrument—plays melodic lines at the same time. This differs from harmony in the way that harmony is usually dependent on the main melody, whereas polyphonic music has each entity playing their own independent melodic lines.

However, things get tricky, because even though in polyphony, each “voice” is independent to a certain extent, these melodic lines are still connected by the overall harmonic framework. A polyphonic musical texture, therefore, still has harmony. The harmonic framework—meaning the blending of pitches to make chords—is what makes the music sound good! If a song didn’t have harmony, it would merely sound like an unpleasant cacophony of sounds. And, in case you didn’t know, ‘caco’ in Greek means bad.

Technically speaking, any music that consists of multiple “voices” is polyphonic, which would be most music. But in the Western music tradition, polyphony often refers to a particular technique called contrapuntal, or counterpoint. With this technique, there is no foreground or background lines, as with most pop songs today, but rather involves a mutual conversation between the lines. With counterpoint, the notes in each independent melodic line also coincide to create chords. Bach was a composer who loved writing in the intellectually stimulating counterpoint technique.

But chances are that if you’re reading this post, it’s because you love jazz music, so you may be wondering, what exactly does this have to do with jazz?

Well, polyphony was used in the traditional jazz that developed in New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century. In these early jazz compositions, the trumpet often played the melody, while the clarinet and trombone improvised semi-independent lines that were counterpoint in nature. And in bebop jazz—originating in the 1940s—the bass played a consistent countermelody of quarter notes that produced a polyphony with whatever other musical texture was played on top.

After that lesson in music theory, you deserve to sit back, relax, and let the polyphony of this 1993 jazz tune wash over you. Listen to the independent melodies of the bass trombone and bari sax in Mingus Big Band’s “Moanin’!”

Now that you understand musical theory better, why don’t you take a listen to the sample tracks from our newest album, My Ship, and see if you can identify the melody, harmony and chord progressions! Or just simply try to identify the different instruments that are playing simultaneously.

This post was written by Blog Editor, Jacqueline Knirnschild.