Desert Island Discs, Day Four
“La Venus du Mélo”
I was scanning up and down the radio dial one day when I suddenly was knocked flat by an amazing, crystalline voice singing an American Songbook chorus as if melodic jazz was her first language. It was Stacey Kent singing Bobby Troup’s “You’re Looking at Me”, and it was one of the great musical discoveries of my life.
Another of my great musical discoveries was Raconte-moi, Stacey Kent’s 2010 album completely in the French language. My favorite song from it, “La Venus du Mélo,” is outrageously playful and seductive. If it weren’t so innocent, it would be illegal.
Sadder Than You Think: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” - Judy Garland
The versions of this song that you hear on Christmas are mostly drab little tunes of well-wishing. You have Frank Sinatra to thank for that—he was making an album called A Jolly Christmas, and he asked that the original lyrics be altered to fit the title.
Before that, the song was a central number in the 1944 Judy Garland film Meet Me in St. Louis. In the scene, little sister Tootie (played by Margaret O’Brien) is sad that the family will be moving to New York next year and that this Christmas may be their last in a town the family has lived in for generations. Older sister Esther (Garland) tries to comfort her, but doesn’t do very well. If you’ve never heard these original lyrics, you may find yourself subtly unsettled. Gone are optimistic lines looking toward “from now on”. Instead, lines are simply hoping that “next year” will be cheerful and that until then we’ll have to have “a merry little Christmas now”.
For a special young lady on the other side of the country.
from Stormy Weather (1943)
If This Isn’t From a Book, It Should Be
Been listening to a lot of old 50’s Humphrey Lyttelton cuts. And loving it.
For your enjoyment: his band’s rendition of Rodgers and Hart’s “Manhattan” from the I Play as I Please album. On his final BBC Radio 2 Best of Jazz broadcast, Humph chose this recording as perhaps his favorite of his performances. It’s hard to argue with the man when so much of his stuff is a joy to hear.
A recording I can’t stop listening to:
Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden singing Hoagy Carmichael’s “Rockin’ Chair” at New York’s Town Hall in 1947.
30 Days of Music
Day 9: A Song You Can Dance to
Gotta be swing dancing, and one of my favorites in that line is Woody Herman and “Your Father’s Mustache”.
30 Days of Music
Day 19: A Song from Your Favorite Album
The absolute truth is I don’t care much for albums these days. I mainly take on songs one-on-one, single by single, each performance as a unit to itself. So apart from carefully chosen compilations and “greatest hits” collections, the only long-players I really care for are concept albums (I could have picked something from The Black Parade today) and live recordings. Here, from the famous Carnegie Hall Concert, is The Benny Goodman Quartet with “I Got Rhythm”.
30 Days of Music
Day 24: A Song That You Want to Play at Your Funeral
I’m one of those people who want a bit of levity as well as gravity in his remembrance. Pair this sentiment with a love of jazz, and you inevitably come up with a New Orleans funeral. Get a brass band to follow my hearse, have some pallbearers lower me in the grave or on the crematory conveyer belt, and then let the dancing begin. Here, from The Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s Funeral for a Friend album, is their performance of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” which embraces both the sorrow and the joy of one who passes on.