On the Radio with Donna Summer

Often a song can pack so much sound and history that you can close your eyes and be transported.  Donna Summer’s “On the Radio” is a song so amazing that it serves as a marker for all songs of the disco century.  The song has the DNA of everything that made disco great. Listening to Donna Summer’s classic “On the Radio” puts you right back in the glitter and dance of disco long ago.

The song has a storied past. Initially written by her producer Giorgio Moroder and first played for her at his house in early 1979, the song failed to move Summer. Moroder put the song on the shelf knowing that someday it would be just right for her.  

Months later Moroder was working on the soundtrack for the movie “Foxes” and could not get the song out of his head.   He approached Summer again and asked her to listen one more time. This time she felt it and agreed to re-write the lyrics and record the song.  

Not an easy re-write, she is quoted as saying the whole song came from the lyric “It must have fallen out of a hole in your old brown overcoat.”  She wrote the song about lost love and the emotions that remain. From that point on, she knew where and how the song should go. A hit was born. The slow-ballad beginning that gives way to that incredible disco drum beat pushed the song to the top of the charts.  The song became so popular so fast that they included the track on her upcoming album release. They named the album “On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I and II.”

Donna Summer’s loved the song “On the Radio” and commented that she always felt the song was a legato Italian melody at its heart.  Hearing the song again feels like being in a time machine traveling to an era that has not lost any of its detail or flare. Donna Summer’s “On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I and II” is a fantastic song collection and worthy of inclusion on anyone’s playlist.


Post Written By Michael Brigger 

Jorma Kaukonen: Front Row Seat to the 60’s.

Jorma Kaukonen: Front Row Seat to the 60’s.

Few decades in America are as defined and culturally rich as the 1960’s.  The era is responsible for some of the greatest music in the history of rock.  Listen to any 60’s band and you are immediately taken back in time. The music was a reflection of the passion and protest of the people.  The mental shift that took place in the 60’s can still can be felt present day. There are many legendary stories that can be told of the generation.  Jorma Kaukonen’s new book entitled “Been So Long: My Life and Music” is a front row seat into a world of music, drugs, and fame in the hippie 60’s.  

In “Been So Long: My Life and Music,” Jorma Kaukonen reflects about his life,    music and the artistry that defined the 60’s and found success.  This Rock & Roll Hall of Fame artist is best known for being the legendary guitarist for Jefferson   Airplane. He was a major part of the super-group that produced hits like, “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit”.  These are era defining songs that still get constant radio play 50 years later. Getting his start with other great San Francisco artists like Jimmy Hendrix, and Janis Joplin, Kaukonen was there from the          beginning. He played Altamonte, Monterey and Woodstock. These concerts are at the heart of 60’s music and this guy was around to see it all.

In the book Kaukonen draws a contrast between the artists and the fans who flocked to their shows.  He writes that the artists were not all drug induced artist like many have come to think. While drugs, alcohol, and a fear of monogamy were always present, these artists were professional musicians.  He states that he and his music peers did not look at themselves as hippies or drop-outs. They were successful artists that had reached a high level of success and the money that comes with it. They were not living in a beat-up old Volkswagen.  These were mega stars with mansions in San Francisco. They had rich people problems. They did not share the same life as their fans.

Kaukonen’s “Been So Long: My Life and Music,”  is not filled with endless stories of drugs, sex and parties but a clear look at a time in music that caused huge and lasting change to our culture.  Kaukonen’s honest and humorous telling of his past experiences is an amazing look at a time that many wish they could relive. Now 77, Jorma Kaukonen is still touring and active on the music scene.  He also developed a musical retreat in rural Ohio called the Fur Peace Ranch. At the ranch, Kaukonen brings students and professional musicians together to get instruction and hear the stories first hand.

Written by Michael Brigger

Chet Baker: “My Funny Valentine”

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


Chet Baker

“My Funny Valentine”


My funny Valentine, sweet comic Valentine

You make me smile with my heart

Your looks are laughable


Yet you’re my favorite work of art


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

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

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

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

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

Melody Gardot “Our Love is Easy”

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

Melody Gardot

“Our Love is Easy”

Deep within your heart,

You know it’s plain to see

Like Adam was to Eve,

You were made for me

They say the poisoned vine

Breeds a finer wine

Our love is easy

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

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

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

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

Carmen McRae, “I Only Have Eyes for You”

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

Carmen McRae

“I Only Have Eyes for You”


Are the stars out tonight?

I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright

Cause I only have eyes for you, dear

The moon may be high

But I can’t see a thing in the sky

Cause I only have eyes for you


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

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

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

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

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

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


Etta James

“I Just Want to Make Love to You”


I don’t want you to be no slave

I don’t want you to work all day

But I want you to be true

And I just wanna make love to you

Love to you, ooohooo

Love to you


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

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

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

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

Looking for the beat? Find it in the rhythm section.

Think of your favorite jazz piece.

You can probably hear it clearly in your head. Think of the tempo, the solos and how the song makes you feel. Now, think about how that piece would sound if you took away the drums, the double bass/electric guitar and the piano/keyboard. There’s no doubt that piece would most likely sound disjointed and not as dynamic as the piece that you fell in love with does.

That’s why the rhythm section is at the heart of every jazz song you hear. Without it, everything would just fall flat.

So what is a rhythm section?

A rhythm section, also known as a backup band, provides the rhythm, harmony and beat for a jazz band or ensemble. A typical rhythm section might have one or more guitars, a keyboard instrument or piano, a double bass or electric bass and drums. There’s no set number of instruments for a rhythm section. It can be made up of two or three instruments, or it can have several keyboardists, guitar players, string players and drummers.

Large rhythm sections are often led by a bandleader or a conductor. This person deciphers the tempo of each song, when the song starts, when the song gets slower, when the soloists are supposed to change and how a song a song will end.

In jazz groups and jazz fusion bands, the rhythm section members usually perform improvised solos. Drummers might “trade” short solo sections with a saxophone player or trumpet players. This is often referred to as “trading fours.” Drummers and horn players will alternate four-bar solo sections during a song. It’s common for them to trade eights, twos, ones, or other numbers depending on the style of the piece.

Some pieces that spotlight what rhythm sections do best are “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis,
“Ornithology” by Charlie Parker, “Birdland” by Weather Report and “Actual Proof” by Herbie Hancock to name a few.

What are your picks for best rhythm section? Let us know in the comments.

Ron Carter: Mr. 2,221…and Counting

If you love jazz, but you don’t know who Ron Carter is, you really don’t love jazz.

Why do we say that?

Because Ron Carter is one of the most prolific, innovative and influential bassists in jazz history.
He’s also played with a number of the greats. From Lena Horne to B.B. King, Miles Davis to even A Tribe Called Quest, Mr. Carter’s talent has transcended a variety of genres.

Carter was born in Ferndale, Michigan on May 4, 1937. He started playing cello at age ten, and later switched to the double bass. He went on to play during his time at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York and the Manhattan School of Music in the Big Apple.

His professional career in music started with gigs playing bass for Jaki Byard and Chico Hamilton. Carter hit the big time in 1963 when he became a member of the classic and acclaimed Miles Davis Quintet. In it, he played alongside Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams. He played with the group until 1968. During his time, he recorded two albums with them—Seven Steps to Heaven in 1963 and E.S.P. in 1965.

After his quartet time, Carter went on to forge a number of musical partnerships and was a member of the New York Jazz Quartet. He also was a sideman on many Blue Note recordings playing with Freddie Hubbard, Duke Pearson, McCoy Tyner, Horace Silver and many others.

In a career which spans more than 50 years, Carter has more than 2,221 albums to his credit. He’s the most recorded jazz bassist history and was recognized for it by The Guinness Book of World Records in 2016. At 81, Carter is still teaching and performing.

So far as his style, it’s been described as such.

“What makes Carter so unique is the fact that describing his style is more comparable to describing the entire jazz genre—it includes a grandiose and diverse spectrum of sophisticated music that has evolved over the past several decades. Carter has been at the forefront of various jazz movements, from bebop to bossa nova, straight-ahead to experimental. If that weren’t enough, he has thrived in virtually every form of ensemble playing from conservation-driven duos to quartets to big bands. He has played the bass lines that all students of jazz have to learn and does so with impeccable tone, technique, and temperament.”

Ryan Madora

Bass Players to Know: Ron Carter, notreble.com

Sept. 15, 2017

Night is Alive’s own Donald Vega performs on piano with Carter’s Golden Striker Trio.

This just goes to show the caliber of the great talent that we work with. In a nutshell, we represent legends who have been inspired, mentored and celebrated by jazz greats, and we’d love to share their unique sounds with you—and the world.

Learn more about what we do and who we represent.

How are Whitney Houston and Dionne Warwick related?

Nitch Drinkard married Delia McCaskill and had eight children. The second oldest of the Drinkard children was Lee. She married Mancel Warrick. They had three children: Delia (named after the grandmother), Mancel Jr. and Dionne. When Dionne produced her first single in 1962, her last name was mis-spelled as Warwick instead of Warrick. She decided to keep Dionne Warwick as her stage name.

They youngest of the Drinkard children was Emily, who went by the nickname “Cissy.” Cissy married John Houston. Cissy and John had three children. The youngest was Whitney.

Whitney Houston is a cousin of Dionne Warwick. Whitney’s mother, the gospel-trained vocalist, Cissy Houston, is an aunt of Dionne. Cissy is the one who taught Whitney how to sing professionally.

Whitney Houston first performed at 9 years old at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, NJ and become extremely famous as a gospel singer over the next few years.

Whitney Houston is the debut studio album by American contemporary R&B and pop singer Whitney Houston. It was released on February 14, 1985, by Arista Records. The album

initially had a slow commercial response but began getting more popular in the summer of 1985. It eventually topped the Billboard 200 for 14 weeks in 1986, generating three number-one singles — “Saving All My Love for You”, “How Will I Know” and “Greatest Love of All” (a cover of “The Greatest Love of All”, originally recorded in 1977 by George Benson) — on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, which made it both the first debut album and the first album by a solo female artist to produce three number-one singles.

Dionne Warwick used to describe her cousin Whitney as “the little girl I never had” which just showed how close the pair was.

There has never been a more famous family relation regarding famous Gospel Singers in the United States than that of Dionne Warwick and Whitney Houston.

Whitney died in February 11, 2012 and the following month of March, Dionne revealed in a conversation with Good Morning America that she had spoken to Whitney that day and that she had asked her to attend the Clive Davis’s Grammy Party at the Beverly Hills Hotel that night. “You’ve got to be there for me.” Whitney told her.

Hour later, Whitney was found dead in a bathtub. A death that Dionne described as “surreal” as she asserted Whitney was up and happy, and her vocals getting ready in those days, and that she had everything to live for.

Order Willie Jones III Tickets Today

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Drummer Willie Jones III is best experienced front row, and “full throttle.” His latest release is Groundwork featuring compositions by Cedar Walton,  Eric Reed and Buster Williams.

When Willie was still living in LA, Billy Higgins told him: “Don’t wait for somebody else to decide when you are ready to be a leader.”  Well… Willie is now one of the world’s leading jazz drummers and a brilliant leader.

Eric Reed says: “Willie has a west-coast swagger to his swing that isn’t lackadaisical and a New York edge that isn’t overwhelming. There is nothing academic about Willie on the bandstand.”  With the band Willie has put together for this gig, we will be hearing what Willie calls… Straight-Swingin’-Real-Jazz!


Willie Jones III, drums
Eric Reed, piano
Ralph Moore, tenor saxophone
Mike Olmos, trumpet
Mike Gurrola, bass

ORDER TICKETS HERE: https://jazzbakery.org/events/willie-jones-iii-wj3

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