April 10, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
April is Jazz Appreciation Month. One of the many cool things about the Smithsonian's monthlong celebration has been online. The creators of the LEGENDS OF JAZZ PBS series put together a one-hour web special, hosted by 2007 NEA Jazz Master Ramsey Lewis, that features conversations with and music by NEA jazz royalty - pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi, trombonist Curtis Fuller, singer Jimmy Scott, Basie-veteran Frank Wess, and saxophonist Phil Woods. Nancy Wilson, herself an NEA Jazz Master, talks with Ramsey Lewis about his own half-century career. Find it here.
© 2008 WBGO
February 13, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
This Valentine's Day our announcers are celebrating by sharing their favorite love songs with you.
Let us know if you share their sentiments, or tell us what your must-have CD is on the most romantic day of the year.
Rhonda Hamilton's Picks
"Cheek to Cheek" by Irving Berlin. This song has sentimental value for me. I lost my mother when I was 12 years old, but I remember when I was a very little girl she taught me to sing this song. It was one of her favorites and the first song I ever learned.
"Loving You" by Stephen Sondheim. This song is from Sondheim's musical Passion. The melody is very pretty, but I chose the song for its words. The lyrics express a very passionate, all-consuming, life changing love.
"Luiza" by Antonio Carlos Jobim. I chose this song for its melody. The lyrics are in Portuguese so I don't understand them, but the melody is so heartbreakingly beautiful, you can sense that it is a song of longing and a very deep and passionate love.
There are countless versions of "Cheek to Cheek", but one classic is by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
Nancy Wilson & Peabo Bryson sing "Loving" You on the CD Color and Light - Jazz Sketches on Sondheim
Michel Camilo plays "Luiza" on his Solo CD.
Brian Delp's Picks
"Witchcraft" (Frank Sinatra) Love is truly a spell that ensnares us all...
"If You Could See Me Now" Love lost sometimes teaches us more than love found...
"Autumn Nocturne" The best season to find love (not spring!)
Monifa Brown's Picks
1. Shirley Horn "Too Late Now"
To me Shirley Horn is synonymous with the ballad - she is the Queen of the ballad! With the whisper of a single phrase she has the ability to send tingles down your spine. She had the ultimate control of her voice, not to mention she was as sensitive as a piano player. Her phrasing was impeccable and the timbre of her voice was so sweet. I loved the way she could take a line from a song and stretch it out like taffy, bending and twisting new meaning into each word.
The lyrics to this Burton Lane song really convey what it feels like to be in love:
Too late now to forget your smile
The way we cling when we danced awhile
Too late now to forget and go on to someone new
Too late now to forget your voice
The way one word makes my heart rejoice
Too late now to imagine myself away from you
It is one of my ultimate favorite love songs and Shirley Horn for me sings the definitive version.
2. John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman - "My One and Only Love"
This is without a doubt one of the most sophisticated and romantic love songs I know. The balance of John Coltrane's robust yet lyrical, eloquent and tender playing alongside Johnny Hartman's cool, unruffled and warm baritone - is nothing short of sublime.
It is hard to believe that until this recording, Johnny Hartman was relatively unknown despite his prowess as a singer. And even more shocking is the fact that it was not until three decades later --when his singing was featured in the heart-wrenching "Bridges of Madison County" with Clinton Eastwood and Meryl Streep (love this movie!)-- that he was introduced to an entire new generation of audiences.
The lyrics to "My One and Only Love" are also beautiful:
The very thought of you makes
My heart sing,
Like an April breeze
On the wings of spring
And you come to me all your splendor,
My one and only love
The shadow's fall and spread their
Mystique charms in the hush of night,
While you're in my arms.
I feel your lips, so warm and tender,
My one and only love
If this is not romance - I don't know what is!
3. Abbey Lincoln - "Strong Man"
I love Abbey Lincoln and I love Oscar Brown Jr., who penned the song for Abbey. As the story has been told, Abbey told Oscar that she was tired of singing songs about ‘no good men' and that she wanted to sing a song about a man she could be proud of.
Abbey recorded "Strong Man' on a 1957 session called "That's Him," alongside an all-star cast that included Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Kenny Dorham, Paul Chambers and Wynton Kelly. I grew up listening to this album...my dad loved it. The song brings back great memories of listening to music with my dad as a kid and now as an adult who is blessed with my own ‘strong man,' the song has taken on an even deeper meaning.
Abbey Lincoln is a remarkable storyteller and really knows how to get to the heart of a song and enrapture her listeners in anything she sings. Her gifts make her truly unique and there is no one around who sings quite like Abbey (who happens to be a brilliant composer in her own right). Abbey Lincoln is also an incredibly emotive singer who has an unparalleled ability to manipulate time, melody, phrasing and subtle nuances of the music, which allow her to completely own any song she sings.
Gary Walker's Picks
Dianne Reeves, "Just A Little Lovin'" from "That Day" on Blue Note Records:
" Just a little lovin' early in the mornin'
Beats a cup of coffee for starting out the day
Just a little lovin' when the world is yawning
Makes you wake up thinking
Good things are coming your way"
Put me down for that day starter kit!
Sarah Vaughan, "The Island" from "Crazy & Mixed Up" on Pablo Records
" Make believe we've landed on a desert island
Bathe me in the waters, warm me in the moonlight
Taste me with your kisses, find the secret places...."
By now, that box of chocolates is a melted mess. Replace with wine. Stir. Return.
Kurt Elling, "Not While I'm Around" from "Flirting With Twilight" on Blue Note Records
"Nothin's gonna harm you, not while I'm around
No one's gonna hurt you, no sir, not while I'm around
Demons are prowling everywhere, nowadays
I'll send them howling
I've got ways...."
One definition of the comfort found in a special relationship. Sound too corny? Consider: one night the two of you are coming out of a great hang at your favorite late night joint. Suddenly you're surrounded by would be evil doers. One of you is a third degree black belt, singing Kurt's song and whuppin' some butt.
Now that's luv, L....U....V
Rob Crocker's Picks
1) Joe Cuba "To Be With You"
Joe's single swept over Brooklyn. All of us in school thought this was exactly what we were trying to say to our girlfriends.
2) King Pleasure "This is Always"
"This isn't Sometime. This is Always". Simple but endearing lyrics about love. From High School till adulthood they've touched me.
3) Sarah Vaughan "That's All"
I first heard this as a kid on WCBS-AM, my mother's favorite radio station. "I can only give you love that last forever" or "I can only give you country walks in springtime..." These were some of the lyrics that caught my young mind.
Michael Bourne's Picks
I have a personal connection to three love songs. I've actually "performed" all three during the free-wheeling "parlor games" that I host on the last Monday morning of the January jazzfest at Mohonk Mountain House. "Old Devil Moon" because, while I've played the American Popular Songbook for decades on the radio, it's the only standard that I've (more or less) "sung" in public ever. "As Time Goes By" because the fundamental things about love always indeed apply. "I'll Remember April" because my Other Half walked in the door on an April 13th and, after not seeing each other more than 25 years, lovingly walked right into my very cells.
John Cooper's Picks
Marcus Roberts "Single Petal Of A Rose".
Taken from his recording The Truth Is Spoken Here. One of the prettiest versions of this I've ever heard.
John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman - "Dedicated To You"
This recording features the classic My One & Only Love, but over the years I've found this song to be my favorite. The power of love to move an artist to create music, paint or write a book is a powerful force indeed.
Rachel Z - "Iyakutanda"
Taken from her recording Trust The Universe. The song title is Zulu for I LOVE YOU. Rachel plays this in duet with Gumbi Ortiz. The melody is beautiful while being easy and complex at the same time. Just like love.
© 2008 WBGO