Sounds of Spring

Featured Image by Benjamin Lehman

The calendar says that spring is here, no matter what the temperature outside reads. Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. It is often a joyful season, with the return of outdoor parties and picnics, high school and college graduations, and family and class reunions. It may be a time for remembering people and places that once were familiar to us. Many jazz classics are inspired by spring. They reflect the season’s changing moods, ranging from the merry to the mellow to the melancholic.   

1. April in Paris—This classic song was written by E.Y. Harburg and Vernon Duke for the Broadway musical, Walk a Little Faster. It has been recorded many times since then. Perhaps the most famous instrumental version was recorded by Count Basie and his orchestra in 1955.  

2. It Might as Well Be Spring—This perennial favorite was written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein for the 1945 musical film, “State Fair.” It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song the following year. The wistful lyrics compare the restlessness, anticipation, and longing to the feeling of having spring fever. 

3. Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most—Lyricist Fran Landesman drew inspiration for this 1955 bittersweet ballad from T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land.” Versions have been recorded by many artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan and Betty Carter.

4. I Remember April—This beautiful ballad has lyrics by Patricia Johnston and Don Raye, and music by Gene de Paul.  It likens the way a romance grows and subsides to the seasons of the year and the flames of a fire.  Bill Evans and Miles Davis have both recorded notable instrumental versions.

5.  Suddenly It’s Spring—This sweet ballad about the blossoming of new love was written by composer Jimmy van Heusen and lyricist Johnny Locke for the 1944 movie, Lady in the Dark. It appears on the album, “Call Me Irresponsible,” featuring vocalist Lucy Wijnands and John Di Martino and the Night Is Alive Band. 

6. Spring Is Here—This mournful tune about unrequited love was written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for the musical I Married an Angel.  Hart is believed to have written the lyrics after several of his marriage proposals were rejected by Vivienne Segal, the musical’s leading lady. Jazz vocalists who recorded “Spring Is Here” include Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, and Chris Connor. Pianist Bill Evans, bassists Charlie Haden and George Mraz, and vibraphonists  Bobby Hutcherson and Joe Locke have recorded the song. 

7. Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year—This tune was written by Frank Loesser for the 1944 movie Christmas Holidaystarring Deanna Durbin. The singer reflects on her lost love, but remains confident that ultimately she will get over him. The song remained relatively obscure until the mid-1950s, when it was rediscovered and became a jazz standard. 

Author: Patricia Martin for Night is Alive

What’s The Most Popular Instrument In Jazz?

Jazz music is a genre that has been around for over a century and has produced some of the most iconic musicians of all time. At the core of jazz music are the instruments that create the distinctive sound that we all know and love. From the trumpet to the saxophone, each instrument plays a crucial role in the jazz ensemble. In this article, we will be exploring the top 5 most popular instruments in jazz. Whether you’re a seasoned jazz enthusiast or a newcomer to the genre, this list is sure to give you some insight into the instruments that have shaped the sound of jazz music over the years. So sit back, relax, and get ready to immerse yourself in the magical world of jazz music!

Importance of Instruments in Jazz

Instruments are the backbone of jazz music. They are what give the genre its unique sound and make it stand out from other forms of music. Jazz is a highly improvisational style of music, and the instruments used allow for the musicians to express themselves in a way that is not possible in other genres. The instruments used in jazz are chosen for their ability to create a wide range of sounds and emotions, and for their ability to interact with each other in a cohesive way.

The popularity of an instrument in jazz is determined by a number of factors. Firstly, the sound of the instrument must be unique and distinctive. It must be able to stand out in the midst of other instruments and be able to hold its own in a solo performance. Secondly, the instrument must be versatile and be able to create a wide range of sounds and emotions. Lastly, the instrument must be able to interact well with other instruments in the jazz ensemble. It must be able to complement and enhance the sounds of the other instruments.

The Most Played Instruments in Jazz – Saxophone, Piano, and Trumpet

The saxophone, piano, and trumpet are three of the most popular instruments in jazz. They are each unique in their sound and have played a pivotal role in shaping the sound of jazz music.

Third Place: Piano – History and Famous Pianists

The piano is a versatile instrument that has been an integral part of jazz music since its inception. It is used to create a wide range of sounds and emotions, from melancholy ballads to upbeat swing tunes. The piano was invented in the early 18th century and has since become one of the most popular instruments in the world.

Some of the most famous pianists in jazz history include Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and Bill Evans. Duke Ellington was a composer, bandleader, and pianist who is considered one of the greatest musicians of all time. Thelonious Monk was known for his unique style and his ability to create complex melodies on the piano. Bill Evans was known for his sensitive and introspective playing style, and his ability to create beautiful harmonies on the piano.

Second Place: Trumpet – History and Famous Trumpet Players

The trumpet is a brass instrument that has been a staple in jazz music since the early 20th century. It is known for its bright and powerful sound, and its ability to create a wide range of emotions. The trumpet was originally used in military bands, but it wasn’t until the early 20th century that it became a popular instrument in jazz music.

Some of the most famous trumpet players in jazz history include Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis. Louis Armstrong was a pioneer of jazz music and is considered one of the greatest musicians of all time. Dizzy Gillespie was known for his virtuosic playing style and his ability to create complex melodies on the trumpet. Miles Davis was known for his innovative style and his ability to push the boundaries of jazz music.

First Place: Saxophone – History and Famous Saxophonists

Our number one most popular instrument in Jazz today, the saxophone, was invented in 1846 by Adolphe Sax, a Belgian instrument maker. It was initially used in military bands, but it wasn’t until the early 20th century that it became a staple instrument in jazz music. The saxophone is known for its smooth and sultry sound, and its ability to create a wide range of emotions.

Some of the most famous saxophonists in jazz history include Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Sonny Rollins. Charlie Parker, also known as “Bird,” was a pioneer of bebop and is considered one of the greatest saxophonists of all time. John Coltrane was known for his avant-garde style and his ability to push the boundaries of jazz music. Sonny Rollins is known for his improvisational skills and his ability to create complex melodies on the saxophone.

Other Popular Instruments in Jazz – Bass, Drums, and Guitar

While the saxophone, piano, and trumpet are the most popular instruments in jazz, there are several other instruments that are commonly used in jazz ensembles. The bass, drums, and guitar are three of the most popular instruments in jazz after the saxophone, piano, and trumpet.

The bass is a stringed instrument that is used to provide the foundation for the music. It is often used to create a walking bassline, which is a staple of jazz music. The drums are used to provide rhythm and to create a sense of forward momentum in the music. The guitar is used to create a wide range of sounds and emotions, from gentle chords to scorching solos.

Drum Roll – Why These Instruments are Important in Jazz Music

The instruments used in jazz music are crucial to the genre’s unique sound and feel. The saxophone, piano, and trumpet are three of the most popular instruments in jazz, and each has played a pivotal role in shaping the sound of jazz music over the years. Other popular instruments in jazz include the bass, drums, and guitar, each of which brings its own unique flavor to the music. Whether you’re a seasoned jazz enthusiast or a newcomer to the genre, these instruments are sure to capture your heart and transport you to the magical world of jazz music.

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.

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,

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.