Monday, June 8, 2009
Moon, June, Spoon #2
In honor of the very recent (& apparently very potent) full moon, some more “moon songs” for your consideration. This really should have been up yesterday evening for the full moon, but so it goes. For some cogent observations on the power of the full moon, please check out Life at Willow Manor & The Gold Puppy.
In the meantime, enjoy!
East of the Sun (& West of the Moon): I love this song, so the parenthetical mention of the moon carries full titular force with me. This tune pretty much has it all—lovely melody, great swing, & enchanting lyrics. When it’s sung by Sarah Vaughn, what more can you ask for? Sarah Vaughn: Sarah Vaughn in Hi-Fi (Columbia)
Fly Me to the Moon: What a gem, & so versatile—play it fast, play it slow; play it in 4/4 or 3/4 (Eberle & I used to play it in waltz time in Five & Dime Jazz, flute & electric guitar). It’s true that everyone thinks of this as Sinatra’s song, but check out Astrid Gilberto’s version sometime—you won’t be sorry! In case you don’t know, Ms Gilberto’s was the voice for the classic bossa nova recordings of Jobim’s “Girl from Impanema” & “Corcovado.” Astrid Gilberto: Astrid Gilberto’s Finest Hour (Verve)
Honeymoon Blues: So I asked myself—is it “fair” to include “honeymoon” title songs? & I said, of course, because that gives us “Aba Daba Honeymoon” (see last Wednesday’s post) & the great bluesman Robert Johnson, who promises to take his beloved Betty Mae for a honeymoon “in some long, long distant land.” From what I understand, by the way, the term “honeymoon” came from a tradition of in-laws giving a newlywed couple a months supply of mead or honey wine. Robert Johnson: King of the Delta Blues Singers, vol. 1 (Columbia—I have this on vinyl, but Columbia has re-issued this on CD)
How High the Moon: Another favorite old standard “moon song” that really swings. As you can see, I happen to have a number of recordings of this tune, but for some reason I don’t have the classic Les Paul-Mary Ford version. Not to worry—thanks to YouTube, you can listen to that one below. Being a guitarist, I really like the Barney Kessel & Django versions. Grappelli-Kessel: Stephane Grappelli Meets Barney Kessel (1201 Music), Lionel Hampton: Flying Home (Living Era), Sarah Vaughn: Sarah Vaughn (Compact Jazz), Mary Stallings: Mahattan Moods (Concord), George Shearing: Jazz Masters 57 (Verve), Django Rheinhardt: Django the Unforgettable (BGO), Charlie Parker: Confirmation: Best of the Verve Years (Verve)
Howlin’ at the Moon: For some very good reasons, a lot of folks immediately think about songs that tug at the heartstrings or sound flat-out haunted when they hear the name Hank Williams. But Hank could sing some wonderful up-tempo, good-humored songs, too, & “Howling at the Moon” is one of them. The storyline is pretty basic—he’s so worked up over his gal that he’s giving the proverbial howl (& doing some other odd things, like trying to fill his horse with gasoline). A fun tune, & there’s the wonderfully cheesy wolf howl thrown in for good measure. Hank Williams: 40 Greatest Hits (Polygram)
I Wished on the Moon: This is another personal favorite in the “moon song” category, with words & music by Dorothy Parker (!) & Ralph Rainger; Parker was in her Hollywood years. The song was introduced in The Big Broadcast of 1936 (a film I haven’t seen) by der Bingle himself. I have a few recordings of this; if I had to pick a favorite, I might lean toward the Geroge Shearing version, with vocal by Teddi King. The other two are also fine; as far as Ol' Blue Eyes goes: as you can probably guess from the title, that’s not the last time I’ll refer to this particular Sinatra album. (Coleman Hawkins: Jazz Masters 34 (Verve), George Shearing: Jazz Masters 57 (Verve), Frank Sinatra: Moonlight Sinatra (Reprise—on vinyl & in mono)
If the Moon Turned Green: This is a tune I know about only because of our dear friends Audrey & Cheryl. They sent me a wonderfully generous package of cds on my 50th birthday, & among those was the 3-disc set Stitt’s Bits –BeBop Recordings, 1949-1952. This little number is on disc three, from the time Sonny Stitt was playing with Gene Ammons. The vocal is by a singer named Larry Townsend; Stitt contributes a beautiful (but short) solo, playing tenor sax on this take. Sonny Stitt: Stitt’s Bits –BeBop Recordings, 1949-1952 (Prestige)