Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Moon June Spoon 5

Here’s the penultimate installment of Moon June Spoon, one in which we take a moonlight stroll to the sounds of jazz guitar, a western swing band, acoustic blues & lots more, including two soundclips. Also—horror of horrors—there's a song out of alphabetical order; a "moon" song I love & couldn't leave off the list, tho I'd forgotten it earlier.

Hope you enjoy these.

Moonlight Serenade: The golden tones of the Glenn Miller Orchestra in peak form on this lovely instrumental—now that’s good stuff. This song developed from an earlier Glenn Miller number, “Now I Lay Me Down to Weep.” The Mitchell Parrish lyrics sung by Sinatra et al. actually came later. To my ear, the Miller Orchestra instrumental is the preferred version; I like the tempo & the overall feel better than the ballad version. Glenn Miller Orchestra: Golden Hits (The Masters);
Frank Sinatra: Moonlight Sinatra (Reprise)

Moonlight in Oklahoma: This is an obscure old western swing number I have on an excellent compilation called Doughboys, Playboys & Cowboys. The tune bounces along at a pleasing tempo, & features honky tonk piano, with steel guitar whining atmospherically in the background. & what a band name—Smokey Wood & the Wood Chips: Doughboys, Playboys & Cowboys – The Golden Years of Western Swing (Proper)

Moonlight in Vermont: This beatiful & evocative song is a favorite, & one I’ve played around with myself in various settings, tho I’ve never been quite satisfied with any rendition I can concoct—the harmonies & bass movement in the song move it along in subtle ways that move the song thru a dazzlingly lyrical landscape. I love both the recorded versions I have—as a guitarist, I really go for Johnny Smith’s legato chord melody, but Lady Day’s version is fantastic too. Johnny Smith: Moonlight in Vermont (Roulette Jazz); Billie Holiday: Body & Soul (Verve)

Moon’s Going Down: The real blues—the Charlie Patton version is about as gritty as the acoustic blues gets—amazing guitar work by one of the early blues masters & a vocal that’s a gravel road thru a stark landscape. Rory Block’s version has a lot to recommend it, too—Block’s has a lot a guts & gusto in both her vocal & her guitar playing
& she can really drive that guitar! Charlie Patton: The Best of Charlie Patton (Yazoo); Rory Block: Best Blues & Originals (Rounder)

Oh, You Crazy Moon: Moonlight Sinatra is pretty heavy overall on the ballad side of the spectrum, with lots of Nelson Riddle’s strings & woodwinds. This, however, is a upbeat number with plenty of brass, literally & otherwise, about how the moon can sway lovers’ affections. A couple of other songs worth mentioning from Moonlight Sinatra (more in the moody ballad mode) are “Moonlight Mood” & “Reaching for the Moon.” Frank Sinatra: Moonlight Sinatra (Reprise)

A Sailboat in the Moonlight: A Carmen Lombardo piece covered in 1937 by Johnny Hodges & His Orchestra, with the following line-up: Cootie Williams, trumpet; Barney Bigard, clarinet (really featured here); Johnny Hodges, alto & soprano saxes; Harry Carney, baritone sax; Duke Ellington, piano; Fred Guy, guitar; Buddy Clark, vocal. Duke Ellington: The Duke’s Men: Small Groups, vol. 1 (Columbia Jazz Masterpieces)

Grapefruit Moon: I’m simply re-posting what I wrote earlier about “Grapefruit Moon” in the Songs 4 Foodies series from last fall. There are a lot of sides to Tom Waits; one of them is bringing his Old Crow & Chesterfields growl to a beautiful melodic accompaniment; there are a number of examples, both from earlier & later in his career. “Grapefruit Moon” is from Waits’ first album, before his voice “changed,” & before the 3:00 a.m. poetry or crazed Americana or Klezmer-blues of his later incarnations. It’s a lovely lyric—piano playing against a backdrop of strings; & while “Grapefruit Moon” doesn’t match the poetry of later Waits’ lyrics, the title itself is a nifty image—not only visual, but literally “bittersweet.” Perhaps you have to be young to sing about this kind of heartache—Waits makes it sound real. Tom Waits: Closing Time (Asylum)


  1. To my untrained ear, the "Moonlight in Vermont" has a bit of a Hawaiian sound to it.
    My dad bought a Time Life collection of Swing records and "As You Remember Them" compilations. "Moonlight Serenade" is so familiar. Even Kevin started humming it when I turned it on.

    Sorry this series is ending - it's so entertaining.


  2. Hi Kat:

    That sounds like a fun collection of your dad's-- I'm sure "Moonlight Serenade" would be on any such collection. Glad you've liked the series. There'll be more like it in the future!

  3. did you just put that text below your blog header - the celestial roadmap noone's folded, the Idaho Garage sale. has that been there all along or am i just waking up or did i see it b/f and forget? ha! either way, i like it! rich, original metaphors. writers live for these things, you know!

  4. John, I came across a review of a collection by a Scottish poet named Rob Mackenzie over at Barbara's blog - - and was interested enough to look up his work. The book is called The Opposite of Cabbage and contains a poem I think might interest you, mainly because it reminded me of your work in the way it has a soundtrack running through it, among other things. The poem is called White Noise. I'll paste it here for your perusal. Spoiler alert. It's very sad. I hope you like it.

    White Noise

    From a third floor window, low trumpet notes
    have cradled the world in blue for weeks
    but today they cry like anarchic goats

    pale as the sky bleached in haze overhead.
    Babies keep whining in the long line of prams
    from plaza to supermarket, impatient to consume.

    Frank pays attention for the first time although
    the queue has stood, undiminished, for years
    just as the FTSE trampolining the pound

    is, for some, a reason to live and, for others,
    hidden as the rage of commuters on the bypass
    or a life-support machine’s final squeak.

    In the hospital, Frank’s baby’s breath blew out
    like the cherry blossom crash-landing around
    the kerbs and drains, raised briefly with every

    loitering hope and passing bus. The pram babies
    linger like cappuccino froth or white candles waiting
    to be lit on windowsills in favour of an unclear cause

    while televisions drone on regardless. The trumpet
    bleats. The reason for a note remains mysterious
    until the next and then the next, just as commuters

    beat out progress by traffic lights. The system
    functions. The operation was successful for a time.
    Her eyes opened, blue, for a moment blinked

    and shut. The eighth day. He hears it is good
    that tills keep clinking, that each day bears
    its fair share of crashes, that disappointment

    and music are made possible only by love.
    The trumpet croaks a flat minim and Frank says,
    ‘I tried I tried everything but nothing worked

  5. Hi Jen & Mairi:

    Jen: It's been there pretty much all along-- I think at one time it was in the left-hand frame but that was back last year. Glad you like. The "celestial roadmap no one folded" is a reference to one of my old poems.


    That is an interesting poem-- I do like it, & can see some ways it's a bit like things I've done. Thanks for thinking of me & giving me a chance to see it!

  6. God, I love Moonlight idea of Heaven is hanging out at the bottom of the ocean: dancing with Leslie Howard, and listening to Glenn Miller play.

  7. Hey Ginger: Now that's a really evocative image!


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