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.

Feature Friday with Lorca Hart

Feature Friday with Lorca Hart

Are you finding your eyes drooping at the end of a long, challenging week? Don’t worry—you’re not alone. With the schoolyear ending and summer right around the corner, I think that many of us are feeling the heat and are more than ready for Memorial Day weekend! 

And what better way to kick things off than with a Feature Friday? Today, we’re getting to know one of the West Coast’s most esteemed jazz drummers—Lorca Hart. Growing up in a musical family in New Mexico, Hart began performing in high school, then attended the California Institute of Arts and is now part of the wonderful Lorca Hart Trio! 

Drum roll please … 

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

That’s a tough one—probably R&B.

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

Firm Roots by Cedar Walton. There’s something so positive and uplifting about this tune—I love the melody and it’s always a fun song to play!

Do you have a favorite place to vacation?

Maui.

Who is your dream collaboration (living or legend)?

Herbie Hancock.

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

Don’t get so caught up in planning for the future that you can’t enjoy living in the present.

What’s the history of the EP & LP?

What’s the history of the EP & LP?

In order to answer this question, we need to take a quick lesson on the history of music distribution. As we mentioned in a previous blog post, vinyl records were invented in the 1940s and were the predecessors of CDs and digital audio recordings. Lately, vinyl has been making quite the comeback, and we even hopped on the bandwagon with our limited-edition vinyl record of Lovers & Love Songs, which is available in our store today.

But what came before vinyl records?

The phonautograph, invented in 1857 by a French printer and bookseller named Léon Scott, is the earliest example of musical recording. Although the phonautograph didn’t actually produce any audible sound, it did record sound waves as graphical tracings on sheet paper. These tracings weren’t used to play the music back, but rather to analyze it visually.

In 1877, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, which was groundbreaking in its ability to both record and reproduce sound. Edison’s hollow wax cylinder became the most predominant form of musical recording in the early 20th century.

This cylinder, however, could only play for about two minutes, which led Emile Berliner to pioneer lateral-cut disc records and the gramophone. Initially, the cylinders still had better sound quality, but eventually, Berliner improved the mechanisms of the gramophone and created 12-inch records in 1903, which could play music for over four minutes! Thus began the short-lived format war between cylinders and discs, with analog discs ultimately winning, and dominating the industry until the 1980s when digital compact discs were invented.

Alright, so now that you know all about the history of music recording and distribution, you’re probably wondering, where do EPs and LPs fit into all of this?

Well, since phonograph cylinders could only hold two to four minutes of audio, all music releases in the early 1900s were essentially singles. These singles became known as SP, meaning standard play.

Then, in the mid-20th century there was a format battle between Columbia’s 33 1/3 rpm LP (Long Play) and RCA Victor’s 45 rpm. Columbia’s LP held up to two complete songs, while RCA’s version held one song on each side with better sound quality. In 1952, RCA then invented another improvement with the EP (Extended Play) 45, which had twice the recording time.

So, essentially, the EP and LP arose from a commercial battle akin to the competition between Blu-rays and DVD. The LP, however, with its ability to hold more content gained more traction than the EP.

Today, however, artists who are just starting out in their careers often release EP albums, which only have 4 to 6 songs and are thus easier and cheaper to produce than LP albums, which have 10 to 12 tracks or more.

Here at Night Is Alive, we mostly produce LP albums, like our new 2022 release, Old New Borrowed & Blue, which merges the musical artistry of new songs with jazz classics. Old New Borrowed & Blue is available in our store and on all major music platforms!

This post was written by Blog Editor, Jacqueline Knirnschild.

Songs That Are Full Of Hope

Songs That Are Full of Hope 

You know the myth: Pandora opened that infamous box, from which sprung all the misery and evil to plague humankind for eternity. However, not all was lost. She did manage to shut the box before one vital entity escaped: Hope. This is why humans are able to persevere and carry on, despite tantamount struggle.    

To feel hope is to expect a positive outcome and to trust that things will turn out for the best. Hope is important because it can ameliorate a difficult situation and motivate us to build a better future for ourselves. 

With the global pandemic, we have all become very familiar with the role of hope in our lives and world. But did you know that in 2018, a non-profit organization, Mothers in Crisis, designated April as the National Month of Hope? 

To help you celebrate the power of hope and inspire you to plant seeds of hope in your life, community, and world, we put together a playlist of exemplary songs that are full of hope. Enjoy! 

Nat King Cole – Smile

While listening to Nat King Cole’s 1954 hit, I can’t help but think of the well-known fact that it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile. With his pure, buttery baritone, Cole reminds us to smile even if our hearts our aching and breaking. When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by if you smile through your fear and sorrow.  

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

There’s just no way you can a list of hopeful songs without include this 1967 classic! And the production of this song actually also involved a certain level of hope on the part of Tammi Terrell. Apparently, she was a bit nervous and overwhelmed during the recording sessions because she hadn’t rehearsed the lyrics, but hope must’ve carried her through, because her vocals were excellent! 

Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up

Like most of his songs, this 1970 tune was created with firm roots in the black gospel tradition, which originated from the uplifting work songs of enslaved people. Much of Mayfield’s work also inspired the Black community to persevere, and maintain hope, on their quest toward freedom and equality. With just a little faith / if you put your mind to it / You can surely do it. 

Dinah Washington – Trouble in Mind

This vaudeville blues-style song was written by a jazz pianist, and first recorded, in the early 1920s. Since then, it has become a blues standard and been recorded by many artists in an array of styles. With its beautiful lyrics that instill a deep sense of hope, even in the very darkest of times, it’s no wonder that Dinah Washington’s 1952 rendition reached number four on the Billboard Rhythm & Blues chart.  

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

With the recent unpredictable and sporadic spring weather, this is the perfect jazz song to listen to and help you gain hope for a brighter, sunnier tomorrow! This brand-new tune reminds us that no matter how hard the harsh winds may be blowing, the river of life will persist and continue flowing. 

To hear more jazz songs that merge the musical artistry of the new with the traditions of the old, check out our album, Old New Borrowed & Blue, which is available in our store and on all major music platforms.   

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 is a ballad? What are the best jazz ballads?

Nowadays, people seem to use the term ‘ballad’ to refer to a slow, maybe sentimental, and romantic, song with beautiful lyrics. But did you know, technically, that’s not what a ballad is?

A ballad is a poem or song that narrates a story in short stanzas, usually set to music. Ballads were originally written to accompany dances, amd their name was derived from the Scottish word ‘ballares’ meaning “to dance.” Traditionally, dancers sang the alternating refrains of the song in time with the dance. 

Usually, ballads consist of 13 lines with an ABABBCBC rhyming form, but there’s also many variations on that pattern. Only in the later 19th century did the term begin to be used to describe a slower form a popular love song. 

So, now that you know what a ballad is, let’s look at some of the best ballads of all time! 

Billy Strayhorn – Lush Life

This 1933 ballad tells the story of a person who used to frequent the best places in town and relax on the “axis of the wheel of life,” that is, until he fell deeply in love and, later, became heartbroken. Now, the narrator is reflecting on that failed romance and the wearisome nightlife he used to indulge in. “Only last year everything seemed so sure,” Strayhorn sings. “Now life is awful again.”

A fun fact about this ballad is that Strayhorn was only a teenager when he began composing this classic! Talk about young talent! 

Elsie Carlisle – Body and Soul

Written in 1930 for the British actress and singer Gertrude Lawrence, who performed it first in London, this standard has become the most recorded ballad in jazz history, with over 2,200 existing versions! 

With its poignant and relatable lyrics about a person who wants to make sure she won’t be devastated after opening her heart to a new lover, it’s no wonder that this ballad became so remarkably popular. The narrator wonders if she will “stand alone at the shore.” She’s got to know—“oh, body and soul”—that her new beloved has no doubt “inside and out.”

John Coltrane – Naima

Inspired by his wife, Juanita Naima Grubbs, Coltrane composed this ballad in 1959, which has since become a jazz standard. “Queen of the ages,” Coltrane sings. “She transcends history’s pages.” 

The story of true love, and the utter awe that comes with it, never does seem to get old, does it? We always seem to find new ways to express our emotions to the ones we love, especially in the form of musical ballads.  

Always On My Mind – Janis Siegel & John Di Martino 

Recorded by everyone from Elvis to Loretta Lynn, and, of course, Willie Nelson, this iconic song, first released in 1972, tells the story of a remorseful narrator who is looking back and wishing that she would’ve told her beloved just how much she cared. In this new 2021 version, the classic is reimagined as a jazz ballad, which serves to highlight the bittersweet theme of regret. 

If you’re looking for more ballads, and modern jazz renditions of country favorites, check out our album Cryin’ In My Whiskey, which is available in our store and on all major music platforms today! 

This post was written by Blog Editor, Jacqueline Knirnschild.

What are some heartfelt Christmas gift ideas?

With all these global shipping delays, and with Christmas right around the corner, you might be struggling to find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list. To prevent you from seeming like the Grinch, or from having to put coal in the stockings of all your friends, relatives, and coworkers, we’ve come up with some unique gift ideas that won’t require any shipping at all! Don’t believe me, read for yourself:

Mason Jar Alcohol Infusion Kit 

You’ve probably seen these cute jars, filled with dried fruits, spices on Etsy, but did it ever occur to you that you could make one yourself? After all, it is just a mason jar full of herbs and dried fruit—you can buy all those items at your local health food store. All you need is a recipe and some creativity! 

Put dried cranberries, orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and brown sugar into a mason jar and ta da, you just made a hot toddy spirit infusion kit! You might want to add that special touch with a red ribbon around the top, and maybe even a handwritten label that reads, Just add whiskey!

Digital Jazz Album 

No one really uses CDs anymore, so why not gift those music lovers in your life a new digital Christmas album that is sure to knock their socks off? Not to mention, you certainly won’t have to worry about any shipping fees or delays. Just print off a picture of the album and put it in an envelope, or if you really want to be cheeky, wrap it in inside a box with a bunch of tissue paper! And maybe if you’re giving this gift to a significant other, you could invite he or she to slow dance with you to one of the songs—what’s more romantic than that?

You’re in luck because we have quite a few digital albums available in our store right now. Christmas Ain’t Like It Used To Be offers fresh, new and heartwarming holiday songs, along with the stellar vocals of Andromeda Turre; Lorca Hart Trio’s Colors of Jazz takes you on a whirlwind adventure through the rainbow, exploring the vibrancy of contemporary jazz; WJ3 All-Stars’ Lovers and Love Songs sweeps you away on a romantic journey through the ages; and Cryin’ In My Whiskey, featuring Janis Siegel and John Di Martino, is the perfect mix of jazz standards and country classics! You really can’t go wrong with any of these choices.

Personalized Coupons

Grab some card stock, markers, and stickers and make some adorable, personalized coupons that show your loved ones that you really care. Some ideas for coupons: Good for one free hug, one free cuddle, back massage, ice cream date… The options are endless! Just get creative. Oh, and if you really want to have some fun with it, you could even put expiration dates on the coupons—just be ready to redeem them all when the time comes!

Concert Tickets 

Experiences can be more valuable than any tangible object, so, this holiday season, gift your friends, family, and coworkers with an early Christmas gift: tickets to the album concert for Christmas Ain’t Like It Used To Be

On Friday, December 17th at 8pm, Akron will be hosting some of the best musicians in New York City on the Knight Stage at the Civic Center. You and your loved ones won’t want to miss this joyful celebration of Christmas, Hannukah and jazz! To purchase tickets, please see the link below:

https://www.akroncivic.com/shows/370

This post was written by Blog Editor, Jacqueline Knirnschild.

Songs for a Walk in the Fall Leaves

With the autumn leaves beginning to change colors, you’re probably ready to grab a pumpkin spice latte, put your earbuds in and go for a nice long walk in the park. Bask in the rich golds, bronzes, saffron, oranges, yellows, and reds. But before you go, make sure to read this guide to all the fall leaves and trees, complete with some great song recommendations for fall! 

Red – Red Roses For A Blue Lady by Wayne Newton

During your walk, you may be wondering, what trees turn red in the fall? Well, as the weather cools, the wine-colored leaves of the classic red maple and red oak become richer in tone. In addition, flowering dogwood, hornbeam, sourwood, and winged sumac also take on the deep hues of crimson, maroon, and cherry. And what pairs better with red than roses? This easy listening tune from 1965 will help you to unwind, be in the present moment and let all your daily worries fall away, just like the rusty red leaves.  

Purple – Purple Rain (Blues Cover) by Miche Braden

We often forget about the purple foliage, which is less common than the other colors of fall, but no less beautiful, just like this blues rendition of Prince’s famous pop song. Revel in the breathtaking violets, plums and burgundies of sweet gum, smoke trees, eastern ninebark and oakleaf hydrangea while you listen to this heartbreakingly beautiful song. I only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain…

Orange – Autumn in New York by Billie Holiday

As your strolling, you may wonder, what exactly causes leaves to change color in the autumn? Well, you may remember learning about chlorophyll in high school or college biology class—the green pigment in a leaf that absorbs sunlight and transforms carbon dioxide and water to sugars and starch, aka foods that allow the tree to grow. But in addition to chlorophyll, there are also yellow and orange pigments, carotenes ad xanthophyll, that are masked by the immense amounts of green in the leaf—that is, at least until fall rolls around. Due to changes in temperature and the length of daylight in autumn, the leaves stop making food, so the chlorophyll breaks down and the green colors disappear, thus giving the yellow and orange pigments space to flourish.   

The sugar maple and Japanese maple change into particularly beautiful shades of orange that, as Billie Holiday first sang in 1956, make autumn in New York so inviting. On benches in Central Park, greet autumn in New York, it’s good to live it again…

Yellow – Dayne by the Lorca Hart Trio

There’s no better way to revel in the rich stains of fall than with an album titled, Colors of Jazz. With its fast pace, this vibrant tribute to Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter represents yellow. Imagine speeding down the road in a bright yellow sportscar, with the top down, peering through your sunglasses at the golden yellows of the American elm, black cherry, cucumber magnolia, shagbark hickory and witch hazel.  

If you’re looking for more brilliantly colorful songs for fall, Colors of Jazz is available in our store and on all major music platforms!

This post was written by Blog Editor, Jacqueline Knirnschild.