I am one of many or one of few
blessed with blue beneath my beige
Age has no power over singers
even the unbalanced or quirky
First a slap on the upright bass
not uptight, plays soooo right
Then a snippet of snare and a
clink on the ride cymbal, yeah
Dust off a classic, “St. James Infirmary”?
Nope, too melancholy mournful
This lineup deserves a quick trip
on Route 66, flying down that road
on wings of azure razor-sharp steel
In an instant, the crowd really feeling it
One deep breathe and she does the whole
trip, all destinations, in one breath:
St. Louis, Joplin, OK City, Amarillo,
Gallup, Flagstaff, Winona, Kingman,
Barstow, San Bernadino… and then,
with a gasp, winds down to the final line:
“Get your kicks – on Six-Six”
Sure, it’s Nat’s line, but it’s homage
to the King of cool, of keys, ivories
We’re all Cole miners in this club
© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Photo of Amy sitting in with Madison’s All That Jazz, used by permission.
NOTE: The links below lead to YouTube videos – check out Krupa, Sinatra, and especially my girl Dusty.
For the Sunday Whirl and Poets United’s Poetry Pantry. The word “Blue” shouted to me in the Whirl Cloud – then the snare and ride, both essentials in any drum kit. The snare most folks know – it’s the smaller drum up front; the ride cymbal is one of two in most kits, and it gives a light tapping sound, while the “crash” cymbal does exactly that! There’s also a “high hat,” that gizmo with two small cymbals facing each other, connected to a long rod and controlled with a foot pedal, sometimes hit with sticks during a solo. Add a bass drum controlled with a kick pedal and a tom-tom (or “tom”), which has a deeper tone than the snare, and you’re about fixed. The toms get a workout on Gene Krupa’s classic, “Sing, Sing, Sing.”
Of course, REAL jazz players use more than sticks; for singers who have a ballad to share, they should have brushes for that swooshing sound in the rhythm. Some players use bundled bamboo sticks, which give a sharp, crispy tone to the skins (drum heads). But the most important part of any drummer’s kit? THE BRAIN. Good drummers have taste, a knowledge of the tunes (not just the pace, but the flavor of the song). The best musicians I know, the non-singers, learn the whole song, including lyrics. This gives a distinct flavor to any solo, knowing what word goes with what note, so when they streeeeeetch out on Johnny Mercer’s “Laura,” say, they can slide into “footsteps that you hear down the hall” with meaning. (Mercer wrote the words after David Raksin provided the theme for the Gene Tierney movie, “Laura.” The tune was so popular, they hired Mercer to write lyrics, and the song took off, especially the version by Frank Sinatra. any others. Same goes with “Satin Doll,” the Ellington classic – lyrics later provided by Mercer.)
Good example of tasteful sax soloing: Listen to Dusty Springfield’s version of “The Look of Love.” Stan Getz, who went to Brazil to pioneer the samba with Gilberto and Jobim, plays the sparest, breathiest solo to back up Dusty’s menthol cool. Tasteful piano? Listen to Bill Evans back up Tony Bennett years ago, two giants in one studio. Another vocal-sax pairing of note, Billie Holiday and Lester “Prez” Young.
I could go on, but how about this: Tell us YOUR example of taste in a song, where all planets were in alignment! Peace, Amy