J TALK

Let’s talk a bit about the “J” ladies who will join us on this 9th walk into my feminine song series. Our stroll starts with a century-old blues, the title of which has origins lost in haze beyond where the crow flies. Speculation has it that the Crow in the title refers to racist Jim Crow laws in Southern states in those vestigial days, or to the name of a Native American tribe, but no one seems to know for sure. In any case, CROW JANE is a ‘blues J’ that’s a jewel of its genre, performed here New Orleans street-style:

Next, we have a sweet little number from 1930. You’ll love her when you see….

I don’t know about you — I could go for more of this gal. But enough walking. This time, we’ll go by Cab (the fare is quite good):

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H I

Sixty-plus year old song titles with girl’s names beginning with ‘H’ and ‘I’ are scarce, which makes it expedient to ‘HI’light both in a two-for-the-price-of-one post.

If there is so much as a hint of a hanger-on among America’s all-but-forgotten H songs, it is HARD-HEARTED HANNAH….but even that haughty harridan has hardly been heard hereabouts since hapless Herbert Hoover was handed his heave-ho from the White House hundreds of historic happenings ago.

Still, I would give Hard-Hearted Hanna a play if not for a gal who looks like Helen Brown (whereas the previous paragraph looks like hell in black and white):

As for the letter I, if you were around in 1903, you may remember IDA, who was sweet as….apple cider?

And, just to show that IDA is not just for us old geezers, here some young’uns show her a little love:

I’d-a like-a to be shown-a little love too, but no one has ever written an enduringly endearing ditty titled Mistermuse. When will they invent a time machine so I can go back and change my name to someone like Barney Google? (If you don’t remember Barney, Google him.)

Eyes-a waitin’.

 

GEO ON MY MIND

How times flies — basketball season is back. The National Basketball Association began play yesterday, with college basketball to follow shortly. But, for the season opener (Oct. 19) which leads to this post, we have the Harlem Globetrotters, whose famous theme song is the Sweet G song which gets our ‘girl’s-names-starting-with-G-songs’ ball bouncing:

Next, let’s go with this contemporary take-off on a 1937 Count Basie/Jimmy Rushing hit:

Sensing a Geo-centric pattern here? This (from ALFIE, 1966) is the new girl of the bunch:

Last, but no less ‘Geo,’ we have this all-time standard sung by the composer as it should be sung (not that others haven’t done it equal justice in their own way):

NOTE: Sorry about eclipsing my usual limit of three clips per post, but all four songs rose to the level I was seeking in this ‘Geo-desy,’ and I couldn’t bring myself to drop one.

THE NAME OF THIS SONG IS DINAH!

A favorite of jazz musicians ever since it first appeared in 1925, DINAH has been recorded hundreds of times, and yet, practically nobody remembers who wrote it. As they sing on some of the old records,”The name of this song is Dinah,” and it was written by HARRY AKST.Warren Vaché, author, THE UNSUNG SONGWRITERS

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If you Akst me: of all the girl’s name songs beginning with D, is there any one finer than DINAH? I’d sigh, “DAH! Not in the state of Carolina!” Composed by Harry Akst (lyrics by Sam Lewis and Joe Young), the song “is so relaxed and without pretense, it’s almost as if it simply happened rather than was written” — so writes Alec Wilder in his book AMERICAN POPULAR SONG. I agree, to the tune of two hearings, starting with this animated effort by

If you think #1 was animated, #2 is even more so:

Let’s wrap it up with a favorite by a real Dinah — the great Dinah Washington, singing a song which takes me back to my 1960 basic training days at Fort Knox, KY, where I first heard her original 1959 recording on a ‘blue’ evening at the PX. Can you place the MC*?

*The MC (emcee) in this 1960 clip was future U.S. President Ronald Reagan. PX, for the benefit of life-long residents of the DMZ (demilitarized zone), stands for Post Exchange.

THE SPELL OF GIRLS

Four months ago today, a 12 year old girl by the name of Ananya Vinay won the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC. Happening that her first name begins with “A” leads to a question which leads to where this post is headed:

For some time now, I’ve been kicking around in my head the idea of a series of posts featuring old songs, each title of which is (or includes) a girl’s first name, beginning with “A” and continuing through the alphabet. I’ve hesitated to put this idea to the test for several reasons, the main one being that I question whether there is much of an audience today for one of my passions, namely old songs (loosely defined as 50+ years old). But then I thought: THE SPELL WITH IT! It’s my party….

So let’s get started. Fitting as it would be to get on the A Train with a song titled “Ananya,” I regret to say I know no such song. So I’m going to go with a gal who’s even older than I am, MISS ANNABELLE LEE. Hey, if she was good enough for Edgar Allan Poe, who wrote a famous poem titled ANNABELLE LEE, she’s good enough for me:

POST TIME

When last we met on June 30, I left open whether my future posts would be on an every-ten-days schedule or on a when-the-spirit-moves-me non-schedule. Seeing as how most of us live in a democracy (not to be confused with a demagogracy?), I decided to put the matter to a secret vote. My fellow Americans, base supporters, and gulliblites everywhere, I hereby and now and forever proclaim that the outcome is in!

Yes, friends, the results are in, and doubtless you are on tenterhooks, dying to learn the winner — as well you should be — but kindly hang in there. After all, I’m trying to build up a little suspense here.

DRUM R-O-L-L, please. It is my dis-stinked honor and privilege to announce that 100% of the eligible voters, consisting of me, myself and I (in cahoots with Charlie Barnowl — who? — let’s stop for a spell: it’s Barnet), have opted to vote for….

I confess that Barnet, being deceased, could vote in spirit only. But spirits are flighty, to say the least. Will the spirit stick around, pushing me to act when inspiration is at a peak to post? Other-wise, my frequency of posting will most likely depend on….

However, if my mood is down in the dumps, that doesn’t mean I can’t soar. You see, although I brook no Prohibition on drowning my sorrows — easy for me (not to mention myself & I) to speak — there are times….

Until next time, then — whenever that may be (ye know not the day or the hour) — me leaves myself and I with this reminder:

“The higher a drunk feels in the evening, the lower he feels in the morning.” –Evan Esar

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THE DUKE AND THE COUNT

Contrary to what the above title may suggest, this post is not a narrative of two nabobs of European nobility in medieval times. Rather, it’s about two giants of jazz royalty in Big Band-era America: one whose birthday, and the other whose expiration day, occurred last week. I refer to Duke Ellington (born 4/29/1899) and Count Basie (died 4/26/1984).

If you’re of a certain age, no doubt you’ve heard of them, but unless you’re a pre-rock jazz buff, that’s probably the extent of it. Permit me, then, to introduce you to these musical titans of yesteryear, and to a sampling of their legacy.  After all, it’s not every day that you get to meet a Duke and a Count.

I could get carried away with all there is to say about the former, but in the interest of not getting carried away, I will confine my remarks mainly to this quote:

Ellington has often credited his sidemen with the success of his band. But those who knew Duke and his music best — and this includes those very sidemen — will invariably tell you that what set Ellington’s apart is just one thing: the brilliant conductor-composer-arranger-pianist-bon vivant and leader of men, Duke Ellington himself. –George Simon (from his book, THE BIG BANDS)

Here are two of the Duke’s many compositions, the first from the 1930 film CHECK AND DOUBLE CHECK, and the second from a European tour decades later:

Let us now turn to that other distinguished composer-pianist-band leader, Count Basie, whose talents weren’t as multifaceted as the Duke, but whose orchestra likewise outlasted the end of the Big Band era. Quoting George Simon one more time:

For several years [after] the days of the big bands, Basie didn’t do well, and he was forced to cut down his group to a sextet. But then he made a comeback and, aided greatly by support from Frank Sinatra, who helped him get lucrative bookings in Las Vegas and appeared with him in a series of successful concerts, the Basie band [again] rode high. 

 Let’s jump to a conclusion with this swinging rendition (especially the last seventy seconds) of Basie’s own composition and theme song: