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!

When was Louis Armstrong Born?

When was Louis Armstrong Born? 

Nicknamed “Satch,” “Satchmo,” and “Pops,” Louis Armstrong is easily one of the most well-known and beloved jazz musicians in the world. 

Armstrong was born exactly 121 years ago—on August 4, 1901—in New Orleans. Abandoned by his father and raised by his grandmother until age 5, Armstrong unfortunately spent much of his youth living in poverty. However, he found a safe place in the home of a family of Lithuanian Jews for whom he worked, collecting rags, and delivering coal. The family knew that Armstrong lacked a father, so they took special care to feed and nurture him.

At age eleven, Armstrong dropped out of school and joined a street quartet of boys who sang for money. Eventually, he joined a band where he developed his cornet skills. Finally, in 1918, the future legend found his way to a riverboat where he played in a brass band, learned to read music, and began expanding his career.

Now that you know a bit about Armstrong’s origins and childhood, it’s time to take a look at a few of the most pivotal songs in his five-decade-long musicianship!

King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band – Chimes Blues

Dating back to 1923, this is the very first recording that Louis Armstrong ever did! And even at such an early stage in his career, Armstrong was a groundbreaking as an inventive soloist. Just listen to his cornet solo in “Chimes Blues” to see what I’m talking about.

This tune represents the beginning of a foundational change in jazz—a shift in focus from collective musical improvisation to solo performance.

Louis Armstrong – Heebie Jeebies

Also recorded in Chicago, this 1926 tune is said to be the first example of scat singing in jazz history. What is scat singing you may ask? Well, it is improvised jazz singing, usually involving nonsensical syllables that replace lyrics and imitate the sound of an instrument.

Legend has it that Satch dropped a sheet of music while they were recording, so he just did his best to improvise and, in this way, accidentally invented a new style of jazz vocalization that became an instant sensation and inspired countless singers to come! Talk about impressive.

Louis Armstrong – Ain’t Misbehavin’

During a time of segregation, Armstrong was one of the first African American entertainers to “cross over,” meaning that he become popular among not only black audiences but also white and international crowds.

Armstrong performed this song with a band at a popular Harlem nightclub called Connie’s Inn in 1929. White audiences loved his unique style of singing and playing instruments, which led to Armstrong later performing with many popular white musicians. For example, he appeared in many films in the 1950s and 60s, such as High Society in which he played alongside Bing Crosby, Gracey Kelly, and Frank Sinatra.

We hope that you enjoyed this post and that it allowed you to celebrate Satchmo’s birthday!

Obviously, we at Night is Alive do not have any songs featuring Louis Armstrong, but we do have some snazzy tunes that have been inspired by the legacy of Louis Armstrong. A great example is “Hudson River Wind,” which is from our album Old New Borrowed & Blue, available in our store and on all major music platforms.

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

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.

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.

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.

Playful Jazz Tunes for April Fool’s Day

From whoopee cushions to huge plastic spiders, pizza made from candy to confetti on the ceiling fan, April Fool’s Day pranks may seem like a juvenile thing of the past, but really, what’s so wrong about having a little harmless fun at someone else’s expense?

Maybe you’re shaking your head right now. Maybe you’re much too mature for all this nonsense and pranks simply aren’t for you. Well, that is okay, too! You don’t have to pull a prank in order to celebrate April Fool’s Day, which, by the way has roots in an ancient Roman festival that involved disguises and the mocking of fellow citizens.

There are many ways to recognize the holiday, like listening to the playful jazz tunes that we compiled just for you! Honor that inner child of yours by tapping your toes along to these songs while you drive to work or cook dinner.

Ella Fitzgerald – I Found My Yellow Basket

We all know and love Fitzgerald’s iconic tune “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” which was based on a 19th century children’s nursery rhyme about a girl who lost her basket, but did you know that Fitzgerald came out with a follow-up song? Co-written by the Queen of Jazz herself, this charming little tune, released in 1938, just might help to bring your childhood back to life this April Fool’s Day! I found my yellow basket / Oh yes, I really did / I found the girl who took it / I knew just where she hid.

Hoagy Carmichael – Barnacle Bill the Sailor

Inspired by a traditional folk song, this bawdy 1930 tune, which has since become a popular drinking song, tells the story of a fictional sailor named Barnacle Bill. The sailor knocks on a woman’s door and tells her, in rowdy detail, about how he dips snuff and drinks whiskey from an old tin can. I fight and swear and drink and smoke.

Cab Calloway – A Chicken Ain’t Nothin’ But a Bird

Who knew there was a jazz song out there about chicken? I sure didn’t!

All joking aside, despite its silly subject content and lyrics, this tune really showcases the rhythm and soul of the 1940s. Not to mention, it’s hard to hold back a smile listening to such a fun song. You can boil it, roast it, broil it …

Cole Porter – Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love

Did you know that Porter’s first attempt at Broadway was unsuccessful and that it was only after the producer of Paris—the musical from which this song first appeared—convinced Porter to give it another try that he became famous? This 1928 hit song is precisely what brought Porter success in Broadway!

And I bet you also didn’t know that this tune is a favorite of mine because the lyrics are just so witty! With the double entendre and sexual innuendos, it almost feels like Porter is pulling a prank on the audience and listener. Oysters down in oyster bay do it / Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.

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

With its fast pace, upbeat rhythm and stellar trumpeting, this brand-new song will be sure to put a pep in your step this April Fool’s Day. By the end of the day, you’ll be wishing that the day didn’t go by quite so fast!

If you’re looking for more jazz songs that merge contemporary musical artistry with the timelessness of jazz classics, look no further than our new album, Old New Borrowed & Blue, which is available in our store and on all major music platforms today.

This post was written by Blog Editor, Jacqueline Knirnschild.

What fruits and vegetables are harvested in September?

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a record number of Americans planting a vegetable garden for the first time. I guess the idea was, if you’re stuck at home and trying to avoid public places, like grocery stores, why not just grow your own food? There’s also nothing more peaceful, energizing, and therapeutic than planting a seed in the dirt, and waiting for new life to take root and literally emerge from the soil. 

So, now, after all your patience and hard work, comes the fun part: harvest time. There are so many delicious fruits and veggies in season for September, you’ll be smiling and singing as you stroll through your garden, or the local farmer’s market, picking out produce for a scrumptious meal with family and friends. And since no meal is truly complete without the perfect ambience, we put together this playlist of songs to match some of our favorite seasonal September produce!   

Carrots – Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise by Abbey Lincoln

With their slightly sweet flavor and rich levels of vitamin A, carrots are a well-loved and versatile root vegetable that can be used in a variety of fan-favorite dishes, like chicken noodle soup, ginger-carrot cake, and Shepherd’s Pie. Similarly, Abbey Lincoln, a singer-songwriter from Chicago with a career spanning from the late 50s to the early 2000s, also has an extremely versatile voice that excels in not only mainstream jazz but also in more alternative, avant-garde music. 

Broccoli – Sister Sadie by Horace Silver

The thick stalks and round green florets of broccoli have a grassy, mildly bitter, and earthy flavor, reminiscent of the hard bop music of Horace Silver, who was hailed by the New York Times as the master of earthy jazz. During the 1950s, when the soft sounds of cool jazz were soaring the airwaves, Silver came out with tunes that brought jazz back to its basics, with a focus on simple rhythms, blues, and gospel. 

So, why not go back to the basics this September with a tasty broccoli dish like garlic parmesan roasted broccoli or a broccoli bacon salad. 

Blueberries – Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue by Janis Siegel, John Di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico

Contrary to what you may think, blueberries pack a punch—yes, they’re small, juicy, and sweet, but they do also have a bit of a sour, acidic bite to them, especially if they’re not completely ripe. In the same way, this new, jazzed-up rendition of Crystal Gayle’s 1977 slow, crooning tune has a surprising kick at the end that you won’t want to miss.  

Plums – Duke and Billy by Lorca Hart Trio

These juicy and tart stone fruits can be eaten fresh, made into jam, fermented into wine, or even added to desserts and salads. They’re full of vitamin C, which is great for your eyes, and they can have red, purple, green, yellow, or orange skin. The most common color, and probably the most memorable, however, is the deep purple hue of the plum, which reminds me of Lorca Hart Trio’s new song “Duke and Billy.” This tune represents a pleasant conversation between Duke Ellington and Bill Stahan and signifies the rich and royal color purple. 

If you’re looking for more jazz tunes to hum along to while you harvest September produce and cook up some farm fresh meals, check out our albums Cryin’ in My Whiskey and Colors of Jazz, which are both available in our store and on all major music platforms.  

This post was written by Blog Editor, Jacqueline Knirnschild.

“Who is Singing Tonight?”

It all happened one week before a private donor appreciation event.

Musician and bandleader Bill Cunliffe was scheduled to perform with a vocalist and eight-piece band. Months of planning had gone into making sure the event would be as successful as possible, and announcements were distributed electronically and via snail mail by the Night is Alive Productions team. The vocalist had provided recordings featuring herself and Bill on Youtube and other social media as a preview for the honored guests. All was going according to plan.

The event was highly anticipated by all involved, as it was their first time in Akron, Ohio and the first time Oliver Nelson’s music would be performed, reimagined, almost 50 years after its original release. Tunes like “Stolen Moments” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYl2HZ9_Zvs&list=RDyYl2HZ9_Zvs&start_radio=1&t=0) would have new life breathed into them by Bill and his group.

On the Thursday one week before the donor appreciation event, I was out of town on vacation. As Bill’s manager, I left town believing all was under control and running smoothly. He had booked his musicians and vocalist. The music was written and scored. The venue was secured. Little did I know, Bill was leaving messages on my cell phone with unhappy news: the vocalist was sick.

By the time I received the voicemails, it was Saturday and the date of the gig was inching closer. During times like these, one of my most important managing mottos comes into play: “It is not what you know, but who you know and what they think of you.” Bill, being a two-time Grammy award winner, is highly respected in the jazz world, and musicians are (thankfully) eager and willing to join him on the band stand. He reached out to fabulous vocalist Jane Monheit, who graciously agreed to perform on short notice and flew in on the red eye the evening before the event.

A testament to her world-class musicianship, Jane performed cold with barely any preparation and wowed the crowd with her poise and grace. Bill and the musicians in the band were also exceptional, their flexible professionalism leading to a successful and enjoyable event. In the days following the performance numerous phone calls from audience members flooded in, praising the ensemble and conveying heartfelt appreciation for Jane’s willingness to take over for the vocalist who fell ill.

Though such star power usually warrants multiple gigs, this particular group was only scheduled to perform two nights. The second performance was a ticketed event in Cleveland which completely sold out thanks to the Night is Alive Productions team (“We fill the seats!” Use Night is Alive Productions for your events: http://nightisalive.com/).

“Who is singing tonight?” is not a question you want to ask in the moments leading up to a gig. But if you do your job well and work with good people who are willing to help you out in a pinch, the rest will follow. In the end, the music itself is what brings people together and builds a loyal following. The music is the reason why we are here.

Read more about Bill’s tribute to Oliver Nelson here: https://billcunliffe.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/a-tribute-to-oliver-nelson-and-%E2%80%9Cthe-blues-and-the-abstract-truth/)

For more information about Managing Director Kathy Moses Salem and Night is Alive Productions, please visit our web page (http://nightisalive.com/) or contact directly via phone.

Article by Kathy Salem, Managing Director, Night is Alive
Revised and Transcribed by Elizabeth Carney, Content Editor, Night is Alive