Thursday, January 29, 2015

"Thoughts on a Quiet Night"

Night Thoughts

This moon-shine past my bed—
Could it be frosted ground?
I lift my head and see it’s the dazzling moon.
I lower my head and think of home.

Jack Hayes 

Version of Li Bai’s “Jìng Yè Sī”
© 2015

Image links to it source on Wiki Commons
Liang Kai: “Li Bai In Stroll”; 13th century
Public domain

Thursday, January 8, 2015

“Stardust” – Jazz on Nylon #8

Some music for your Thursday—& more Hoagy Carmichael at that.

When it comes to the Carmichael canon of songs, so many of which have become standards at a deep level, almost like folk songs (approached in our time probably only by the Beatles), we must admit it’s hard to pinpoint one as a high water mark. But if one had to make such a selection, “Stardust” would almost have to be the choice. There have been over 1,500 recordings of the song since it was first composed as an instrumental in 1927; the Library of Congress added it to the definitive recording archive, the National Recording Register, in 2004.

The song has a complex evolution. Carmichael claimed it came to him first as a melody he whistled. He first recorded it—actually as an upbeat instrumental—in 1927, but the song didn’t attract much public interest. Carmichael composed a lyric for it, but his publisher rejected it, & the lyric we know today was written by Mitchell Parrish, with some input from Carmichael. The song with Parrish’s lyric & a slightly modified melody was published in 1929. It wasn’t until the following year that Isham Jones recorded it as a slow ballad that it reached the form we know today.

“Stardust” was composed in the key of C, & that’s the key it’s typically played in. The song’s structure is idiosyncratic, & the melody wanders widely, spanning the range of a 10th. It's been noted that there are distinct similarities between the melodic structure of the song & the pattern of some Bix Beiderbecke improvisations.  There is a contrast between the arpeggiated movement in the A section & the straightforward quarter note melody found especially in the C section. As Oscar Hammerstein II wrote:

“Star Dust” “rambles and roams like a truant schoolboy in a meadow. Its structure is loose, its pattern complex. Yet it has attained the kind of long-lived popularity that few songs can claim. What has it got? I’m not certain. I know only that it is beautiful and I like to hear it.”

Today’s guitar version is based on an arrangement by the great Brazilian master Laurindo Almeida, & played with great skill & feeling by Tony R Clef. Clef is, like Naudo Rodrigues who has also been featured in this series, a guitarist whose work appears on YouTube, & I'd encourage you to check out his channel there; however, he has recorded an album, Tuesday Afternoon on Big Round Records, & this has received really positive reviews. I admire both his playing overall & his handling of the Almeida arrangement, which moves from a fairly straightforward reading of the song into a full on Bossa Nova treatment.


Image links to its source on YouTube

Tuesday, January 6, 2015



Under hundreds of other iron heels
I dreamed a dream about you.
Walking out one autumn evening the sounds of the blues,
Feather-light footsteps
the dimly lit tread.
Feather-light footsteps avoid all roads
and know that I love you.

Steinn Steinarr ("Malbik" in the original Icelandic)
Translation by Sheila Graham-Smith © 2015


From Wikipedia:
Steinn Steinarr (born Aðalsteinn Kristmundsson, 13 October 1908 – 25 May 1958) was an Icelandic poet.

Many Icelanders regard Steinn Steinarr as their greatest poet, although he remains almost unknown outside of Iceland, due perhaps to a lack of effective translations of his poetry.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons   
Sólarlag við Tjörnina (Sunset by Tjörnin) by Þórarinn B. Þorláksson (1867-1924). Made in 1905.
Public domain.

Monday, January 5, 2015

“Winter Moon”

A happy Monday to you, friends—or whatever day you happen by here. Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season…or at least made it through relatively unscathed. However you fared, here’s some gorgeous music for your Monday—just in time for tonight’s full moon.

Of all the great songwriters who helped to create the beautiful “Great American Songbook of the early to mid 20th century, I may well like Hoagy Carmichael best. His melodies are timeless, & his harmonies unfailingly rich & fascinating. There’s a depth to the music, as well as an unfailing goodwill. It’s become a bit of a “thing” to call Carmichael the “first singer-songwriter”, which isn’t really accurate, in part because he didn’t write the lyrics to as many of his compositions as is commonly thought (though when he did write lyrics, they were first-rate), & he also didn’t record very often as a singer. Simply put, Carmichael’s voice isn’t the classic sort you’d associate with singing jazz tunes. His pitch is imperfect & his range is limited. Despite that, I’ve always enjoyed the recordings he did make, & one in particular stands out: Hoagy Sings Carmichael, originally released in 1956 on the Blue Note label. This session finds Carmichael backed by an all-star band called the Pacific Jazzmen, & led by Johnny Mandel. Among the luminaries are Art Pepper on alto sax, Al Hendrickson on guitar, Harry “Sweets” Edison on trumpet, & more.

“Winter Moon” is one of Carmichael’s later compositions, copyrighted in 1957 (oddly a year after the release of the record!), & it’s not well-known—which to my mind is a shame, because it’s a heartbreakingly lovely song. Art Pepper did cover it as an instrumental, but this is one of the few Carmichael songs that hasn’t made its way into the standard repertoire.

Hope you enjoy it.

Image links to its source on the net. Although this isn’t a public domain image, there are many copies available on the net, & many of them considerably higher resolution than this. That being the case, along with the fact that the post is educational in nature, I believe this is “fair use.”