Get rebellious with our new release of “Call Me Irresponsible”, music by Jimmy Van Heusen and John Di Martino as our music director. Live a little, do something daring, exciting, something new. Because that is how this song makes you feel “irresponsible, irresistible and undeniably true that it is bad for you”.
Jimmy van Heusen is claimed as one of the best songwriters in American history. Claiming a total of 4 Oscars and 1 Emmy for “best song”Best Song”, he is truly one of the most decorated musicians in American history. Being that he wrote these absolutely classic songs that should show that You should give this album another listen for the sake of hearing the classics and remembering the old greats.
Our new version featuring John Di Martino, it brings these classic hits into a new era. A full list of musicians is available on our website, nightisalive.com and remember to return weekly for a new blog post.
But that is enough of that why don’t you go back to one of our past releases? Specifically, the Colors of Jazz by the Lorca Hart trio featuring Ralph Moore. This new edition of the classic hit “Here’s That Rainy Day” another Jimmy Van Heusen tune, is much more pleasing to the ear with the soft jazz tunes and is a great choice for when relaxing. Click here: https://nightisalive.com/albums/ for your listening pleasure.
As a jazz musician, you know that the quality of your recordings can make or break your career. Whether you’re looking to create a demo to send to record labels or release an album independently, you need a recording that captures the essence of your sound and connects with listeners. That’s why it’s essential to choose a professional studio for your jazz music recording. In this article, I’ll explain why recording quality matters for jazz music, the advantages of using a professional studio, and how to choose the right one for your needs.
Recording Quality Matters for Jazz Music
Jazz music is all about improvisation, spontaneity, and creativity. It’s a genre that requires technical skill, emotional depth, and musical intuition. As a jazz musician, you want your recordings to capture the energy and emotion of your live performances. That’s why recording quality matters for jazz music.
A high-quality recording can bring out the nuances of your performance, highlight the interplay between band members, and showcase the subtleties of your sound. It can transport listeners to the club or concert hall and make them feel like they’re experiencing your music in real-time. A low-quality recording, on the other hand, can make your music sound flat, lifeless, and uninteresting. It can also turn off potential fans and industry professionals who are looking for quality recordings to invest in.
Advantages of Using a Professional Studio for Jazz Music Recording
Recording in a professional studio has several advantages over recording at home or in a cheap studio. First, a professional studio has the equipment, acoustics, and expertise to capture your sound accurately. Professional studios have high-quality microphones, preamps, mixers, and monitors that can bring out the best in your instrument and voice. They also have well-designed rooms and acoustic treatments that can minimize unwanted noise, reverb, and distortion.
Second, a professional studio has experienced sound engineers who can help you achieve the sound you’re looking for. Sound engineers are trained to balance the levels, EQ, and dynamics of your tracks, and they can offer creative suggestions for enhancing your sound. They can also troubleshoot technical issues, such as clicks, pops, and hums, that can ruin a recording.
Third, a professional studio can save you time and money in the long run. While it may seem cheaper to record at home or in a cheap studio, the cost of fixing mistakes, re-recording tracks, and mastering your recording can add up quickly. A professional studio can help you get your recording right the first time, which can save you money on future edits and remixes.
How a Professional Studio Can Enhance the Sound of Your Jazz Music
A professional studio can enhance the sound of your jazz music in several ways. First, a professional studio can offer a controlled environment that allows you to focus on your performance without distractions. Unlike home or cheap studios, professional studios are designed to minimize outside noise and interruptions, which can help you achieve a better performance.
Second, a professional studio can offer a range of equipment and instruments that you may not have access to at home or in a cheap studio. For example, a professional studio may have a grand piano, a vintage guitar amp, or a rare drum set that can add a unique flavor to your recording. They may also have high-quality effects processors, such as reverbs, delays, and compressors, that can add depth and dimension to your sound.
Third, a professional studio can offer a range of services that can help you polish your recording to perfection. For example, they may offer editing, mixing, and mastering services that can help you fine-tune your tracks, adjust levels, and add effects. They may also offer session musicians, backup singers, and other professionals who can add their talents to your recording.
The Role of Equipment in Jazz Music Recording
Equipment plays a crucial role in jazz music recording. The right equipment can capture the nuances of your performance and enhance the sound of your instrument and voice. The wrong equipment can make your recording sound dull, flat, or distorted.
Microphones are one of the most critical pieces of equipment in jazz music recording. Different microphones have different characteristics that can affect the way your instrument or voice sounds. For example, a condenser microphone can capture the warmth and richness of a grand piano, while a dynamic microphone can handle the high sound pressure levels of a drum set.
Preamps are another critical piece of equipment in jazz music recording. Preamps amplify the signal from your microphone or instrument and add color and character to your sound. A high-quality preamp can add warmth, depth, and clarity to your recording, while a low-quality preamp can add noise, distortion, and coloration.
Mixers are also essential in jazz music recording. Mixers allow you to balance the levels of your tracks, add effects, and create a stereo image. A high-quality mixer can offer precision and flexibility in your mixing process, while a low-quality mixer can limit your options and compromise your sound.
The Importance of Sound Engineering for Jazz Music Recording
Sound engineering is a critical aspect of jazz music recording. Sound engineers are trained to capture, shape, and enhance the sound of your recording. They can offer technical expertise, creative suggestions, and troubleshooting skills that can make your recording sound its best.
Sound engineers can help you achieve the right balance between instruments and voice, adjust levels, EQ, and dynamics, and add effects and automation. They can also offer suggestions for improving your performance, such as adjusting your mic placement or changing your instrument.
The best sound engineers are also excellent communicators. They can listen to your ideas and feedback and translate them into technical adjustments that can enhance your sound. They can also offer their own creative ideas and suggestions that can take your recording to the next level.
How a Professional Studio Can Save Time and Money for Jazz Musicians
Recording in a professional studio can save time and money for jazz musicians in several ways. First, a professional studio can help you get your recording right the first time, which can save you time on future edits and remixes. A professional studio can also help you avoid technical issues, such as clicks, pops, and hums, that can cost you time and money to fix.
Second, a professional studio can offer a range of services that can save you time and money in the long run. For example, they may offer editing, mixing, and mastering services that can help you polish your recording to perfection. They may also offer session musicians, backup singers, and other professionals who can add their talents to your recording, which can save you time on arranging and rehearsing.
Third, a professional studio can help you avoid costly mistakes that can ruin your recording. For example, they can help you choose the right equipment and settings for your instrument and voice, which can prevent distortion, noise, or coloration. They can also help you avoid common mistakes, such as playing too loudly or too softly, that can compromise your sound.
Choosing the Right Professional Studio for Your Jazz Music Recording
Choosing the right professional studio for your jazz music recording requires some research and planning. Here are some factors to consider:
Location: Choose a professional studio that is convenient for you to travel to and from. Consider the transportation options, parking, and accessibility.
Reputation: Choose a professional studio with a good reputation for quality recordings, professional staff, and fair prices. Look for reviews, testimonials, and referrals from other jazz musicians.
Equipment: Choose a professional studio with high-quality equipment that can capture your sound accurately and enhance it creatively. Look for microphones, preamps, mixers, and monitors that are well-maintained and up-to-date.
Acoustics: Choose a professional studio with well-designed rooms and acoustic treatments that can minimize unwanted noise, reverb, and distortion. Look for studios that offer different room sizes and configurations to suit your needs.
Staff: Choose a professional studio with experienced and courteous staff who can help you achieve the sound you’re looking for. Look for sound engineers, producers, and other professionals who are knowledgeable, patient, and communicative.
Cost: Choose a professional studio that offers fair and transparent pricing for their services. Look for studios that offer packages, discounts, and flexible payment options that fit your budget.
Frequently Asked Questions About Jazz Music Recording in a Professional Studio
Here are some frequently asked questions about jazz music recording in a professional studio:
What is the difference between a cheap studio and a professional studio?
A cheap studio may offer lower prices but may compromise on equipment, acoustics, and expertise. A professional studio, on the other hand, may offer higher prices but can provide high-quality equipment, well-designed rooms, and experienced sound engineers.
How long does jazz music recording take in a professional studio?
The length of jazz music recording in a professional studio depends on several factors, such as the number of tracks, the complexity of the arrangements, and the skill of the musicians. On average, it can take several hours to several days to record a jazz album in a professional studio.
Can I bring my own instruments and equipment to a professional studio?
Yes, you can bring your own instruments and equipment to a professional studio. However, it’s important to check with the studio beforehand to ensure that your equipment is compatible with their setup and to avoid any technical issues.
Can I hire session musicians or backup singers from a professional studio?
Yes, many professional studios offer session musicians, backup singers, and other professionals who can add their talents to your recording. However, it’s important to discuss your needs and budget with the studio beforehand to ensure that you get the best value for your money.
Let’s Make Beautiful Music Together
Jazz music recording requires technical skill, emotional depth, and musical intuition. To capture the essence of your sound and connect with listeners, it’s essential to choose a professional studio for your recording. A professional studio can offer high-quality equipment, well-designed rooms, experienced sound engineers, and a range of services that can enhance your sound and save you time and money. By considering the factors mentioned above and doing your research, you can choose the right professional studio for your jazz music recording and take your career to the next level.
Dave Brubeck was a legendary jazz pianist and composer who helped to shape the course of jazz music in the 20th century. Born in Concord, California in 1920, Brubeck began playing piano at an early age and went on to study music at the College of the Pacific in Stockton, California.
Brubeck formed his first jazz ensemble, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, in 1951, and the group quickly gained popularity with their innovative approach to time signatures and their use of odd meters. They released their first album, “Jazz at College of the Pacific,” in 1952, and their follow-up album, “Jazz Goes to College,” became a hit in 1954.
In 1959, the Dave Brubeck Quartet released the album “Time Out,” which featured the hit single “Take Five.” The song, which was written by saxophonist Paul Desmond and featured a 5/4 time signature, became one of the best-selling jazz singles of all time and helped to make Brubeck a household name.
Brubeck continued to perform and record music throughout his career, releasing more than 50 albums as a leader and collaborating with a wide range of artists, including jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. He was a prolific composer, writing music for film, television, and stage, and he was also a dedicated educator, teaching at institutions such as the Juilliard School and the College of the Pacific.
In addition to his work as a musician, Brubeck was also a social activist and humanitarian. He used his music as a platform to address issues of social justice, and he worked with organizations such as the United Nations and Amnesty International to promote peace and human rights.
Dave Brubeck passed away in 2012 at the age of 91, but his music and legacy continue to inspire and influence jazz musicians and fans around the world. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest jazz pianists and composers of all time, and his contributions to the genre will be remembered for generations to come.
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.
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.
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?
Who is your dream collaboration (living or legend)?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.