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.

Serene Songs for Painting Parties

Serene Songs for Painting Parties

Are you looking for something to do outside with friends this summer? Maybe you’re not the outdoorsy type and you’re more interested in artistic stuff. Well, no problem. If hiking and kayaking sound exhausting to you, and drinking and dining outside have gotten a bit boring, how about hosting an afternoon of painting en plein air? I’m sure that you and your friends will love being able to explore and challenge yourselves creatively, while also getting to chit chat and enjoy the beautiful weather!

And with all the new painting products and techniques out there, you’re sure to find something that fits your interests. Whether it be hiring an instructor to teach watercolor for beginners, using watercolor pencils, Winsor & Newton watercolor pallets, or painting landscapes or portraits, there is a plethora of fun options out there!

By now, you’re probably wondering, what songs should you listen to during your painting party? Don’t worry—since music is our game at Night is Alive, we’ve got you covered!

Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World

Kick off your watercolor painting party with this classic song from 1967 that everyone is sure to know and love. Be like Vincent Van Gogh and capture the feelings of nature around you. Like Armstrong sings, paint pictures of the trees of green, red roses too and the skies of blue and clouds of white.

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

With the hot weather we’ve been having lately, there’s nothing like a nice river wind to cool the sweat on the back of our necks, and that is the exact sensation that this beautiful song portrays. Let the saxophone refresh and revitalize your energy and creativity as you splash colors onto your canvas!

Nat King Cole – Nature Boy

This 1948 tune is one of the lesser-known ones from the great Nat King Cole, but by no means is it less enthralling. The lyrics tell the story of a “very strange, enchanted boy” who wandered “very far over land and sea” and told the speaker that “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return,” which I think is a wonderful message to keep in mind as you paint the enchanting world around you. Maybe your finished painting can be given to a loved one as a gift!

The WJ3 All-Stars – Wave

This beautiful lowkey jazz instrumental provides the perfect backdrop for a peaceful day of watercolor painting. Let the soft melody of the trombone and the rhythm of the drums carry your imagination away into a dreamy, blissful landscape.

Lorca Hart Trio – Blues Alliance

There’s nothing more enjoyable to paint than the sky and the setting sun, and this song will inspire you to capture all those stunning shades of blue in your painting.

If you’re hosting a watercolor painting party and you’re looking for some more relaxing instrumentals to set the mood, I would definitely recommend our new albums, Old New Borrowed & Blue and My Ship, both of which merge the musical artistry of new songs with jazz classics. Colors of Jazz would also be a great one since each song represents a different color and emotion. These albums are available in our store and on all major music platforms today. Also, if you’d like to book one of our lovely musicians, please contact us today.

Happy Father’s Day — 5 Songs to Make Dad Smile!

What are your plans for Father’s Day this year? Are you grilling? Golfing? Going to a car show? Maybe you’re just relaxing on the couch drinking beer with your dad and watching ESPN. No matter what you’re doing, the most important thing is to show your dad that you care, and what better way to do so than with a curated playlist?

My dad always said that it’s the thought that counts, so this Father’s Day don’t worry about finding that “perfect” gift for dad or spending a lot of money on some fancy present, just give him something from the heart. Say, something like a mixtape or burned CD full of his favorite tunes!

To help you out, we put together a few songs that your dad is bound to enjoy!

George Strait – The Best Day

This sweet country tune from 2000 tells the story of a father and son who share a moment right before the son is about to get married. The father reminisces on the times when they used to go camping together and then the song closes with the son recognizing that he’s learned so much from his parents about how to act in a marriage.

Ugh, if this song won’t make your dad tear up, I don’t know what will!     

Chrisette Michele – Your Joy

This 2007 soul ballad is really popular at father-daughter dances because the lyrics are so poignant. Michele’s strong vocals stunningly deliver a beautiful, heartfelt message that is sure to pull at your dad’s heartstrings. No one can compare to the way my eyes fit in yours / You’ll always be my father, oh, oh / And I’ll always be your joy.

Faith Hill – There You’ll Be

This is another country classic that illuminates the power of a loved one to show up, no matter how much time has passed. You probably know that this 2001 ballad was the theme song of the movie Pearl Harbor, but did you know that it was actually first offered to Celine Dion? I bet she regrets turning it down …

Dolly Parton – Daddy Come and Get Me

You can never go wrong with Dolly Parton. And this 1970 song is no exception. It tells the story of a woman whose husband locked her into a mental institution, and who is desperate for her dad to come and get here. Because when times get rough, you know that you can always count on your dad. 

The WJ3 All-Stars – God Bless the Child

Slow things down with this smooth instrumental rendition of Billie Holiday’s classic song. The delicacy of the piano will provide a nice backdrop for a heartfelt conversation with dad. Don’t forget to tell him how much you appreciate everything he’s done for you!

We at Night is Alive know that it can be very challenging to come up with a unique Father’s Day gift idea, but with our many jazz albums, getting a gift for dad doesn’t have to be so difficult this year!

If you enjoyed the WJ3 All-Stars tune, I recommend checking out their newest release My Ship, which explores the dreams of our childhoods. Nothing beats reminiscing on Father’s Day, right?

Or, if your dad is more of a country fan, he might like our album Cryin’ In My Whiskey, which puts a jazzy twist on many country classics!

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 songs should you play at a dinner party?

Cooling temperatures mean fewer barbeques and outdoor gatherings, but it also means more
dinner parties inside, more evening chats over glasses of wine by the wood-burning stove.
Whether you’re hosting a vegetarian dinner party, a formal dinner party or a birthday dinner
party, we’ve hand selected some tunes that are sure to set the perfect mood for your guests.
Billie Holiday – All of Me


There’s no better way to start the night off than with a well-known jazz standard from the iconic
Lady Day. First published in 1931, this tune revolves around the emotional despair of a
heartbreak, yet, with the repetition of high notes, it has an almost jubilant feel to it.
WJ3 All Stars – I’ve Never Been In Love Before

A heartwarming instrumental jazz song like this provides a lowkey and sophisticated background
great for sipping on cocktails and munching on hors d’oeuvres. Bruschetta anyone?


Andy Williams – Moon River


Even if your guests aren’t jazz enthusiasts, they’ll most likely recognize this song, which won an
Academy Award for Best Original Song when it was first performed by Audrey Hepburn in her
1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Then, a year later, Andy Williams covered the song, and it
became the theme to his T.V. show. The Moon River Theatre in Branson, Missouri was also
named after Williams’s cover of the song!


Jimmy Durante – Make Someone Happy


Enjoying good food with loved ones is bound to make everyone happy, just like this 1965 song!
Durante’s gravelly voice and his Lower East Side accent and style also create a nice ambience to
light up a cigar after dinner and settle into a comfy armchair.


Dean Martin – Ain’t That A Kick In The Head


After everyone has relaxed and digested their food for a bit, it might be a good time to dance to a
swinging big band jazz arrangement like this one. Martin originally performed the song in the
1960 film Ocean’s 11 and surprisingly, it did not end up charting. But no matter, it’s still one of
Martin’s most beloved songs, and it will still get you swirling around and tapping your toes with
a dance partner!


Lorca Hart Trio – Bye Ya


Eventually, to everyone’s’ dismay, the hour gets late, and the night must come to an end. But
first, one last laugh and hug! While guests are putting on their coats and kissing cheeks goodbye,
this upbeat, jovial instrumental, with a slamming drum solo to boot, will keep everyone
marching happily along and remind them of all the fun you had that evening.

If you’re looking for more lovely jazz music to play at your elegant dinner party, we recommend
Lorca Hart Trio’s album, Colors of Jazz, and the WJ3 All Stars’ album Lovers & Love Songs,
both of which are available in our store and on all major music platforms today.

This post was written by Blog Editor, Jacqueline Knirnschild.