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)