Two For Tuesday: Julie London (Encore Presentation)

From September 2016

I think most of us know Julie London as Dixie McCall, RN on the TV show Emergency! in the Seventies. The show was produced by her first husband, Jack Webb, and also starred her second husband, musician Bobby Troup, as Dr. Joe Early. She started her entertainment career as an actress, acting in 45 movies and TV shows, including 1956’s The Lady Can’t Help It with Jayne Mansfield and Tom Ewell (she appears to a drunk Tom Ewell early in the movie).

Today, though, I want to feature Julie London the jazz singer. She recorded 29 studio albums over a recording career that spanned from 1955 to 1969. Her first single, “Cry Me A River,” accompanied by Barney Kessel on guitar and Ray Brown on bass, was her most successful, reaching #9 on the Hot 100. That was the most chart success she had (her last single, “Like To Get To Know You,” reached #15 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1969), but her albums were reasonably successful, as much for their erotic (for the Fifties) album jackets as for her singing.

“Perfidia,” from Latin In A Satin Mood (1963)

“Black Coffee,” from Around Midnight (1960)

She retired from both acting and singing at 52, when Emergency! was cancelled. She suffered a stroke in 1995 and died in 2000, the year after Troup died, on what would have been his 82nd birthday.

Julie London, your Two For Tuesday, September 27, 2016.

Two For Tuesday: The Dave Brubeck Quartet (Encore Presentation)

Dave Brubeck died on December 5, 2012 at the age of 91, and I did a tribute to him that day, despite the fact that it was Wednesday.

Jazz tunes are generally in 4/4, or common, time: four beats to the measure, the quarter note (or crotchet) getting one beat. Occasionally, you’ll see a tune in 3/4 time, or waltz time (Wes Montgomery’s "West Coast Blues" is a good example). In 1959, pianist Dave Brubeck and his quartet (Paul Desmond on alto saxophone, Eugene Wright on bass, and Joe Morello on drums) decided to flip that paradigm on its head. They went out of their way not to create an album where all of the songs were in common time. The resulting album, Time Out, was a classic.

WGN in Chicago used "Take Five" (our first video) from that album as the theme for its late movie in the Sixties. I was about twelve the first time I stayed up long enough to hear it, and it made a huge impression on me, mostly because I couldn’t figure out where the beats were. I knew enough about music to know that there was something strange about the timing of the tune, but had no idea where to put the beats. I finally learned that it was in 5/4 time, so I knew that you had to count to five rather than four, but still couldn’t do it; the first three beats are syncopated (Dizzy Gillespie said that you can use the line "Who parked the car? I did" to get the beats right) and I hadn’t gotten that far. By then, though, I was hooked.

Many years later I bought the whole album, and the liner notes explained some of the rhythmic patterns. The time signature of "Blue Rondo a la Turk" (the second video) is 9/8, which is like 3/4, where the eighth notes (or quavers) are divided into three groups of three. Here, though, the beats are arranged 2-2-2-3, 2-2-2-3, 2-2-2-3, 3-3-3, and it goes on like that for a few measures before swinging into common time, but with echoes of the 2-2-2-3 pattern spread throughout. I was happy to hear it as the background for Radio Shack’s Christmas commercials a few years back.

I wrote this whole treatise in music theory as a tribute to Dave Brubeck, who died early this morning at the age of 91. He and Vince Guaraldi are the two main reasons I developed an appreciation and love for jazz at an early age.

Rest in peace, Dave Brubeck, your Two for Tuesday for Wednesday, December 5, 2012.

Two For Tuesday: Antonio Carlos Jobim (Encore Performance)

A repeat from July 2013.

Antonio Carlos ("Tom") Jobim (1925-1994) was one of the primary forces behind bossa nova music, and his songs have become standards that have been recorded by numerous artists, including Frank Sinatra, who recorded an album with him in 1967, Francis Albert Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Possibly his most-familiar song is "Garota de Ipanema" ("The Girl From Ipanema"); the best-known recording of the song was by Stan Getz, João Gilberto and his wife, Astrud, on the 1963 album Getz/Gilberto, which popularized bossa nova in the United States. (Though one of my favorite songs of all time, I chose not to include it here.)

The hardest thing about doing a "Two for Tuesday" on Jobim is that there are just so many songs of his that I love. I chose two of my favorites: "Wave," recorded live for Japanese TV (I’m unsure of the date), and "Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars)," from his 1962 debut album, The Composer of Desafinado Plays. A lot of his music is available on YouTube, including a number of full albums. A couple of my favorite albums, largely compilations of previously-recorded material, are Verve Jazz Masters 13: Antonio Carlos Jobim, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Finest Hour, and Compact Jazz: Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Enjoy Tom Jobim, you Two for Tuesday, July 16, 2013.

Two For Tuesday: Dick “Two Ton” Baker (Encore Performance)

From August 27, 2013

Something a little off the wall this week.

I grew up in Chicago, as many of you know, home of the legendary Riverview Park. Sadly, I never got there, but I do remember the ads for it. Many of the ads at the time were done by a man named "Two Ton" Baker, who for years had been a radio personality in the Chicago area. In fact, his show went out over the Mutual Broadcasting radio network, of which WGN radio was a big part in those early days.

You know how things get filed away in the back of your mind and stay there until one day they pop out and you just have to find out more about them? Well, I was tooling around the Internet one day, and suddenly the name “Two Ton Baker” made its way to the front of my brain, and I just had to Google him. And, as luck would have it, a wonderful person named Dick Baker (no relation) has built an entire website dedicated to two Ton and his music. And what great music it is! Two Ton was an excellent piano player and singer who recorded not only songs for adults but for children as well. I encourage you to go visit the site, which has a full biography, a discography, a huge collection of Dick’s recordings, including a few recordings of his shows for WGN.

Here are a couple of songs that are representative of Two Ton’s musical mastery. The first is a recording of “Civilization (Bongo Bongo Bongo)”, a song written by Bob Hilliard and Carl Sigman that has been recorded by many others, including Louis Prima and the Andrews Sisters and Danny Kaye.

The second is “Bert The Turtle,” also known as “Duck and Cover,” a Cold War song primarily taught to kids to teach them how to survive a nuclear explosion.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the music of Two Ton Baker; if you did, visit the website.

Two for Tuesday: Django Reinhardt (Encore Presentation)

This is a very early 2fT that I did back in February 2013. I’m running a little behind today…

Jean Baptiste “Django” Reinhardt was born in 1910 to Manouche (French Roma) parents. He became an excellent guitar and banjo player at an early age. At eighteen, he was injured in a fire, crippling the ring and pinky fingers on his left (fret) hand. Thanks to his brother Joseph (also a great guitar player) bringing him a guitar while in the hospital, he was able to regain and even surpass his level of virtuosity, even though he was using just two fingers on his left hand to solo.

In 1934, Django formed the Quintet of the Hot Club of France with his brother Joseph and Joseph Chaput on rhythm guitars, violinist Stephane Grappelli, and bassist Louis Vola. They made a number of records (two of which can be heard here: 1937’s “Sheik of Araby” and 1936’s “Limehouse Blues”) now considered classics by jazz aficionados. The Quintet was on tour in England at the beginning of World War II, and Django returned to France, believing that he was better off there. He survived the Nazi persecution of the Roma, largely because a number of Nazi officers were jazz fans as well. He reformed the quintet using more traditional instruments, including Hubert Rostaing on clarinet, during the war, and reunited with Grappelli after the war. The quintet disbanded in 1948, after which he toured with Duke Ellington before retiring in 1951. He died in 1953 of a brain hemorrhage.

Django’s playing influenced many guitar players, including several featured here (notably Tommy Emmanuel and Chet Atkins), B. B. King, Carlos Santana, Les Paul, and many others. Much of his catalog was unavailable for a time, but through the magic of compact disc technology, the music of Le Quintette du Hot Club de France and of Django Reinhardt is now once again generally available.

Django Reinhardt: your Two for Tuesday, February 19, 2013.

“The Sheik of Araby”

“Limehouse Blues”