Music I Like That ISN’T Jazz

I often get asked if I listen to music that is not jazz. While the majority of my listening is jazz-centric, I also enjoy a lot of music that most would probably not classify as “jazz.” The origins and relevance of the term “jazz” itself is rife with controversy, and what constitutes “jazz music” is ever-changing and expanding. The more I grow musically, the more arbitrary these categories of music seem to me. Perhaps Duke Ellington said it best, “There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind.”

Enjoy this list (in no particular order) of some of the artists that inspire me outside of the “jazz” realm.


1. Scott Joplin

While closely associated with jazz as a predecessor, ragtime has its own flavor. I really enjoy listening to Scott Joplin’s “rags.” I also highly recommend listening to the New England Conservatory Scott Joplin Ensemble’s recordings. Gunther Schuller wrote some great arrangements of Joplin’s rags and led efforts to revive his music.

2. Dance Bands

While many would consider this jazz, some would classify this more closely with popular music or as dance band music. This music can be incredibly cheesy at times, but I have fun listening to it. Here are some examples of what I mean.

3. Louis Jordan

I am just starting to get into Louis Jordan. While I was vaguely familiar with his name, I learned more about him while reading the book Swing It: An Annotated History of Jive.

4. Perry Como

As cheesy as he was, I will always have a soft spot for Perry Como because he was my grandmother’s absolute favorite.

Now, to move further from the lineage of jazz/dance band/crooners/rhythm and blues… (depicted in this brilliant illustration below). There might be some surprises in this coming section!

History of Jazz by Mary Lou Williams and David Stone Martin

5. Earth, Wind & Fire

My go-to music for when I need to groove along with something!

6. ABBA

Yes, you read that right! For those times when I just need to be a dancing queen.

7. The Carpenters

I love Karen’s voice and I enjoy the songs and arrangements.

8. Stevie Wonder

He was the soundtrack of my high school life. Memorable melodies with stellar harmonies and hypnotic grooves.

9. The Beatles/John Lennon

I was lucky to grow up around a number of Beatles fanatics. My appreciation for their music grows constantly.

10. Bonnie Raitt

My very first memory in life is dancing to Nick of Time with my mom in the dining room. This music still continues to inspire me decades later!

11. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky’s fifth symphony is one of my favorite pieces of all time. I was incredibly fortunate to hear The Cleveland Orchestra perform it while I was in high school. His themes are stunning. He has also been a source of inspiration for jazz musicians (check out a previous blog about saxophonist/bandleader Freddy Martin, for example).

12. Maurice Ravel

Ravel is someone who I am just beginning to explore. I am particularly fond of Ma Mère l’Oye.

13. Early rap

It took me a while to come around to this music. I was fortunate to take a class at Cleveland State University that explored hip hop culture, which gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation for rap and its potential to build community through voicing shared experiences.


Was there any music on this list that surprised you? Who are you listening to these days?

October 2019 Newsletter

I’ve just completed my first month of studying at New England Conservatory! It has been an amazing experience so far. I am taking classes on saxophone, composition, improvisation, and orchestration and loving every second. I have also been fortunate to work in NEC’s beautiful Blumenthal Library and as a teaching assistant in the Music Theory Department. I am looking forward to more wonderful times at NEC!

I am really excited to share that I am joining the board of Jazzhers, an organization with the mission of empowering female and non-binary high school jazz students. I have worked with Jazzhers in the past, and now we are going to be incorporated as a non-profit! Learn more about Jazzhers on our websiteFacebook, and Instagram.

I have been working on consistently posting on my blog. It has been fun sharing my musings and hearing all your thoughts about my writing.

I also have some new charts available on my Noteflight Marketplace store. I am usually uploading at least a couple new scores every month so check in every once in a while.

I’m so thankful for all the wonderful things going on in my life right now. Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

Happy autumn!
Sam
Upcoming Performances
10/17 – NEC Jazz Orchestra with Alan Pasqua and Antonio Sanchez, 7:30 pm, Jordan Hall (More Info)

10/18 – Cecil Taylor Tribute Concert, 7:30 pm, Jordan Hall (More Info)

10/30 – NEC Philharmonia & Jazz Orchestra + Hugh Wolff: Beethoven & Schuller, 8 pm,  Jordan Hall (More Info)
Featured Sounds
New Scores For Sale
Original compositions and arrangements for a variety of ensembles available on Noteflight Marketplace!
Latest From the Blog

 Four – Is There More To It? –  the ending of “If You Could See Me Now” reminded them of the ending of Miles Davis’s tune “Four.” … [Read More

Jitterbug Waltz – “Jitterbug Waltz” was written in 1942 by pianist/composer/entertainer Thomas “Fats” Waller … [Read More]

 Meet the Gellers – The Gellers were vital contributors to the West Coast jazz scene of the 1950s and played with the likes of … [Read More]

Four – Is There More To It?

I am in the process of building up a quintet book for my band consisting of originals and arrangements of my favorite standards. One of the tunes I have arranged is pianist/composer Tadd Dameron’s “If You Could See Me Now.” The ballad became a signature piece in vocalist Sarah Vaughan’s repertoire.

Sarah Vaughan sings “If You Could See Me Now” with the Count Basie Orchestra

I first came across “If You Could See Me Now” on Tadd Dameron’s album The Magic Touch while I was searching for one of Dameron’s few extended works entitled “Fontainbleu” (also worth checking out). “If You Could See Me Now” was simply a gem I stumbled upon.

Barbara Winfield sings “If You Could See Me Now” on my favorite Dameron album, The Magic Touch

I always enjoy learning more about the history of jazz in my hometown of Cleveland and bringing more visibility to Tadd Dameron. That is why I arranged two of his tunes for my senior performance recital, including “If You Could See Me Now.”

My arrangement of “If You Could See Me Now” as performed in my senior undergraduate recital, May 2019

I have performed this arrangement with a few different groups and, after each time, at least one person in the ensemble told me that the ending of “If You Could See Me Now” reminded them of the ending of Miles Davis’s tune “Four.” They are undeniably nearly the same in terms of both melodic content and harmonization.

K.J. McElrath from JazzStandards.com validated this unmistakeable resemblance.

The progression in mm. 5-8 of section “A” is noteworthy in its use of the embellishing F#m7 -B7 cadence in m. 5. A simple I -V7(+5)/IV ( Eb -Eb7(+5) in the original) would have worked just as well. The changes Dameron chooses at this point are also heard in the final measures of a later Miles Davis tune, “Four.

– K.J. McElrath, JazzStandards.com

However, this synopsis did not help me prove that Dameron’s tune had a direct influence on Davis’s later composition.

In search of more answers, I tried to find more information about collaborations between Davis and Dameron. While I knew that both artists were active on the 52nd Street bebop scene at the same time, I was unaware of any evidence of direct collaboration. In writing this post, I came across a live album from 1949 entitled Miles Davis/Tadd Dameron Quintet that was recorded during a jazz festival in Paris. They played several of Dameron’s originals, unfortunately not including “If You Could See Me Now,” as well as standards. Davis blasted blazing bop lines throughout, a stark contrast from his iconic spacious modal playing. I was also thrilled to find one of my favorite (and under-discussed) saxophonists, James Moody fronting the band with Davis.

Miles Davis and Tadd Dameron sharing the bandstand in 1949

As I continued digging, the plot thickened. There have been allegations that Miles Davis did not pen “Four,” but rather it was tenor saxophonist Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. While this 1988 review in the Los Angeles Times suggests that Vinson was well-versed in Dameron’s songbook, I have not been able to find evidence of any collaborations between Vinson and Dameron. This predicament has halted my investigation for now.

As Pablo Picasso said, “good artists copy; great artists steal.” However, even this quote’s origins are disputed. Incorporating quotes of other works into the improvisational and compositional processes have been a foundational element of jazz since the beginning, so a scenario such as this one is no surprise, yet it still sparks my curiosity. If Dameron, Davis, and Vinson “could see me now” writing these speculations, I wonder how they would respond.

Jitterbug Waltz

I have an affinity for the Great American Songbook. To clarify, the Great American Songbook is not a literal book (though there are compilations of tunes from the repertoire such as the infamous Real Books, which usually also include jazz and sometimes rock tunes) but rather a phrase commonly used to refer to the popular American music of the 1920s-1950s from Broadway shows and Hollywood movies. Sometimes the Songbook gets a bad rap, usually because there are tunes that have cheesy lyrics or pedestrian melodies. However, there was also a lot of masterful music produced in this era by the likes of George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, and others. While I enjoy the vast majority of the repertoire, there are some songs that resonate with me deeply. I recently wrote about my obsession with Vincent Youman’s “I Know That You Know” and had fun with the process of diving deep into a tune I felt passionate about. Here I will do the same thing, but with Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz.”


I was first introduced to this tune by my late mentor Bobby Jackson. I was captivated right away by the grand opening motive. I was also amazed by how bluesy the song was, yet it was not a blues in form. I discovered that this sound I was hearing was what is now my favorite chord, the IV7 chord, which is also a sound I heard over and over again in the music of Duke Ellington (one of countless examples being “Come Sunday”) but did not know what it was until years later.

“Jitterbug Waltz” was written in 1942 by pianist/composer/entertainer Thomas “Fats” Waller. He was inspired to write it by a piano exercise his young son was practicing at the time. While he had not recorded on it for decades, Waller chose the Hammond B3 organ for the first recording of this tune.

Thomas “Fats” Waller first recording “Jitterbug Waltz” on B3 organ.

Vocalist Dinah Washington recorded “Jitterbug Waltz” in 1957 with lyrics by Charles R. Grean and Maxine Manners. Jazzstandards.com (a website I have learned a lot from over the years) says the lyrics describe the waltz dance. While Washington’s performance was great and the arrangement compelling in its own quirky way, I was disappointed in the cheesy lyrics, which, as mentioned in the introduction, is a common generalization about the Great American Songbook.

Dinah Washington sings “Jitterbug Waltz”

Thankfully, the lyric debacle was rectified in 1978 by Broadway director Richard Maltby, Jr. for the musical Ain’t Misbehavin (later renamed Hot Chocolates) which detailed Waller’s life. The new lyrics describe a pair of dancers waltz through their tiredness late into the night.

The night is getting on, the band is getting show
The crowd is almost gone and here we are still dancin’
Nothing to do but waltz
Our feet can barely move, my legs are yellin'”Whoa”
But we’re in such a groove that love is still advancin’
Nothing to do but waltz
You can’t suggest that we could go on Jitterbuggin’
We’ve nothing left for moves more strenuous than huggin’
But we don’t need much room to gently cut a rug in we twoI’m tired and out of juice and yet from head to toe
My body’s feeling loose and warm and kind of supple
Nothing to do but waltz
The minutes slip away, my arms just won’t let go
I think I’d like to stay ’til we’re the only couple
Nothing to do but waltz
You never know how far this sort of thing will get you
We’re not as tired as we would like to think, I bet you
You’d stay up half the night with me if I would let you
So come let the waltz play again

Abbey Lincoln and Hank Jones recorded a stunning duo take in 1992 using the new lyrics.

Abbey Lincoln and Hank Jones on “Jitterbug Waltz” with the 1978 lyrics

Cécile McLorin Salvant recorded a dreamy, sensual take of “Jitterbug Waltz” with pianist Aaron Diehl on her 2013 Grammy nominated album WomanChild. This was the first version I heard with a vocalist, thanks to Bobby Jackson, and it has stayed in my listening rotation ever since.

Cécile McLorin Salvant and Aaron Diehl on “Jitterbug Waltz”

These 1978 lyrics have become the predominant ones for “Jitterbug Waltz.” I could not find the original lyrics online. Even when I searched specifically for Dinah Washington’s lyrics, I was only directed to the new lyrics, though I have not been able to find Washington ever recording a version with them.

While I have spent a great deal of time discussing the lyrics, “Jitterbug Waltz” is most commonly played as an instrumental tune because of its difficult leaping melody line at the beginning. Here are some instrumental versions I enjoy. There are many others, too many for me to list here. Is your favorite take of “Jitterbug Waltz” here?

from Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s 1973 Bright Moments
Eric Dolphy waltzing on the flute
another take featuring Dolphy on the legendary live Charles Mingus album at Cornell
an inventive arrangement by Michel Legrand
Zoot Sims swinging hard with a wonderful “warm” tone
Dizzy Gillespie’s take on “Jitterbug Waltz”
Art Tatum bringing his virtuosity and harmonic inventiveness to this tune
Vince Guaraldi, famous of the music of the cartoonThe Peanuts, tearing it up on “Jitterbug Waltz”
Chick Corea bringing some fresh ideas into this vintage tune
Herbie Hancock adding some exciting metric modulations (check out Michel Legrand’s arrangement for this as well)
Erroll Garner offers a lush, slow rendition of “Jitterbug Waltz”
Frank Foster dazzles with a Trane-inspired solo

Meet the Gellers

Sometimes it can be a struggle to put on some new music. I find a lot of comfort in listening to my favorite albums over and over again. While I do deepen my understanding and appreciation of this music when I listen to it again, it is important to be exposed to more artists. I am really thankful one of my incredible mentors Allan Chase (who has his own amazing blog) introduced me to the music of Lorraine and Herb Geller.

Pianist Lorraine Geller (1928-1958) was born in Portland, Oregon. From 1949 to 1952, she played with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm led by Anna Mae Winburn. She played with many legendary West Coast jazz artists including Zoot Sims and Stan Getz.

Alto saxophonist Herb Geller (1928-2013) was born in Los Angeles, California. He attended Dorsey High School long with saxophonists Eric Dolphy and Vi Redd. Herb worked with Billy May’s and Claude Thornhill’s orchestras in New York.

In 1949, Lorraine and Herb met at a Los Angeles jam session. They married in 1952. The Gellers were vital contributors to the West Coast jazz scene of the 1950s and played with the likes of Jimmy Giuffre, Bud Shank, and others live and in the studio.

Lorraine was diagnosed with asthma prior to giving birth to her daughter, Lisa. The birth took a toll on Lorraine’s health and shortly after she suffered pulmonary edema and an asthma attack, tragically passing away at the age of 30.

Lorraine only recorded one album as a leader entitled At the Piano, released a year following her untimely passing. It is a gem, a sampling of the soundscape of a burgeoning artist gone too soon.

Lorraine Geller’s sole album as a leader

The couple recorded together as well. They cut a record aptly titled The Gellers which I have been listening to obsessively for the past week or so. The tunes, a mixture of standards and originals, are catchy yet find ways to surprise and delight the listener. The music feels effortless, even on the burning opening number “Araphoe,” a contrafact over the Ray Noble classic “Cherokee” (first made famous as the theme for the Charlie Barnet band but then became a bebop anthem with the rise of Charlie Parker). I found myself taking particular interest in “I’ve Got A Feeling I’m Falling” for its driving swing and nuanced arrangement.

a playlist of the masterful collaboration between the Gellers

I look forward to further exploring the music of the Gellers and their affiliates. Their music has been a gateway for me to learning more about the West Coast jazz stylings, an area in which I would like to be better versed. What do you think about the Gellers’ music and story?


Sources

September 2019 Newsletter

I can’t believe it’s already September. The summer has once again flown by, but I am so excited for the adventures up ahead. Today is my first day as a student at New England Conservatory! I am so honored to be a part of this talented and friendly community. It is also my first day in my role as a music theory teaching assistant. So many new beginnings!

I have some more exciting news to share. My composition Survivor’s Suite was awarded the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble Prize by the International Alliance for Women in Music!

Check out the press release here.
premiere of Survivor’s Suite
My composition “Thaynks Again” was a finalist in the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra composition contest and will be performed next month in the Earshot Jazz concert. A huge congratulations to my former classmates Seulah Noh and Juen Seok who were the winner and honorable mention of the contest!
Thaynks Again performed by the Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra
I have been working on revamping my blog. I am writing more content including announcements, obscure jazz history, music tips, and more. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Lastly, I have been spending a lot of time expanding my Women in Jazz Directory. The list of musicians includes well over 100 artists now. I also added a section for industry members who are not (at least primarily known as) performers or composers.

There are so many exciting things in the work and I can’t wait to share more soon. Happy September!
Upcoming Performances
In the works! Stay tuned on social media for announcements!
New Scores For Sale
Original compositions and arrangements for a variety of ensembles available on Noteflight Marketplace!

Subscribe to my newsletter to get it in your inbox!

Summer Reading List 2019

Reading about jazz was a passion of mine from a young age. Unfortunately, this facet of my fascination with the music took a backseat during my undergraduate studies, but it’s back in full swing (ha)! Here’s what I read this summer. What did you check out?

Morning Glory, Linda Dahl

Mary Lou Williams’ story is an inspiring one. It was moving to read about how she used the adversities she faced not as excuses for failure but fuel for success. I was particularly amazed by how she went from being solely reliant on her ears to becoming one of the most admired arrangers of her time. I can’t recommend this book enough. It was a powerful read.

Find it here.

Blues Legacies and Black Feminism, Angela Davis

Davis’s book focuses on Bessie Smith, Gertrude Ma Rainey, and Billie Holiday. I listened to Holiday extensively during my early development as a musician, only being able to understand so much about the very mature topics she often sang about. Davis helped me to understand the repertoire of these blues singers in a whole new light, contextualizing their work with the times they lived in. While the book is short page-wise, it is written for a more academic audience, making it a time-consuming and enlightening read.

Find it here.

Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth, John Szwed

As previously mentioned, Billie Holiday was a very important influence for me when I first became interested in jazz (and still is). What I really appreciated about this book was Szwed’s effort in bringing back Billie’s humanity and dignity. So often discussions and literature about her focus on her traumatic past, drug usage, and trouble with the law, leaving very little space to discuss her art and who she really was.

Find it here.

Lady Sings the Blues, Billie Holiday and William Dufty

I have been meaning to read this for so long and am so glad I finally did. This book is notoriously scrutinized for its questionable truthfulness. However, and perhaps Szwed’s book helped me to see this way, that did not bother me. I found it incredibly moving to read Billie’s story the way she felt it. For my purposes, it did not matter if some dates didn’t line up or if she remembered an event differently than others. Reading this book felt like she was speaking directly to me, and I know others have shared this same experience.

Find it here.

Beneath the Underdog, Charles Mingus

Another classic memoir… This book is discussed a lot, however, it seems like not a lot of people actually read it and just talk about the very inflammatory parts. If you are looking to find out detailed information about Mingus’s life, career, etc., this is not that book. However, I thought it masterfully showcased his creativity in a new medium – writing. I do hope that much of the contents of the book are fictional, but we may never know how much is true.

Find it here.

A Life in Pursuit of Music and Beauty, Gunther Schuller (in progress)

As an entering student at New England Conservatory, I thought it was crucial for me to learn more about Gunther Schuller. As NEC’s president, Schuller founded the Jazz Studies and Third Stream (now Contemporary Improvisation) departments. I wrote a paper about him this past spring and read segments of his autobiography in my research. Now, I am committed to reading the massive work in its entirety.

Find it here.

Notes and Tones: Musician-to-Musician Interviews, Arthur Taylor

This book features short interviews with a who’s who list of jazz musicians. These interviews are particularly candid because drummer Art Taylor was conducting them, making the artists feel more at ease talking to a peer. He asked the artists to recall their relationship with Bird and Bud Powell, their thoughts on the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, and how they felt about the use of technology in music. I found their answers to be nuanced and thought-provoking.

Find it here.

Madame Jazz, Leslie Gourse (in progress)

This book is near and dear to me because my copy once belonged to my beloved late teacher Bobby Jackson. I deeply wish we could talk about it together. This book profiles female artists in various stages of their careers in the early 1990s. Some of the women just starting out in the book are now seasoned professionals. Some of the more established women have now gone into obscurity. It is difficult to read about some of the barriers these women faced to achieve all they did. As I read this book, I am in awe of them and aspire to continue their legacies.

I have started a Women in Jazz Directory on my website, which includes a list of musicians, industry members, and ensembles. This book has been incredibly helpful in expanding my list.

Find it here.

Willene Barton: An Overlooked Link in the Big Three Tenor Legacy

As you may know, I created and maintain a Women in Jazz Directory, which includes the most comprehensive (and ever-growing) list of past and active women in jazz that I have been able to find on the internet or elsewhere. I created this resource because it is something I wish I would have had earlier in my development when I was first becoming conscious of how my gender influenced the way potential colleagues, mentors, and other industry members would see me. My hope is for this tool to be empowering and educational, to show other women that this can – and has – been done by women many times over, even if they don’t want to admit it in jazz history class.

I first read about tenor saxophonist Willene Barton in the book Madame Jazz (Leslie Gourse). I was compelled to learn more about her and found what little information I could.

Willene Barton (1928-2005?) was born in Oscilla, Georgia and later moved with her family to New York City where she taught herself to play the saxophone. She played primarily with all-women groups including The Coronians and groups led by former members of The International Sweethearts of Rhythm. There seems to be some discrepancy about whether she was ever a member of the Sweethearts or if they had disbanded by the time she was on the scene. Barton particularly looked up to tenor saxophonists Vi Burnside, who had made her career with the Sweethearts.

When listening to Barton, I am strongly reminded of the husky, growling sounds of saxophonists Ben Webster and Illinois Jacquet. Ironically, after reading the information I could find, it appears she played with them, along with others including Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons. Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis managed her career for a time. It is a wonder how someone so well-connected has been left out of the retelling of this lineage.

While Barton’s discography is not extensive, her entire album There She Blows! is available on YouTube. (I have not been able to figure out why the album cover has her on alto even though I can only find recordings of her on tenor.)

I also found this wonderful live performance as part of a Spanish program about women in jazz. (Starts at 13:25)

Here is her single “Rice Pudding,” more in the rhythm and blues vein.

I was also able to find record of Barton collaborating with trombonist/composer/arranger Melba Liston, who has, along with Mary Lou Williams, posthumously become an icon for the women in jazz movement that was reignited by the larger #MeToo movement. They organized a group to play at the 1981 Kool Jazz Festival.

One of my dreams is to live to see women written back into jazz history. We have been here all along. It is time to shine light on these artists, not relegated to a special section in the back of the book for the women, or even worse, completely left out. After reading this, I hope you agree that Willene Barton’s name could easily go alongside those of whom she played with, and deserves to be there.

Sources

I Know That You Know

I love jazz standards. I especially love finding great tunes that have somehow escaped the common repertoire (though tunes do cycle in and out of popularity). To celebrate my first gig as a bandleader in Boston, I thought it would be fun to profile one such tune that we will be performing tonight entitled “I Know That You Know.”

The website JazzStandards.com provides great background on the tune:

“I Know That You Know,” composed by Vincent Youmans with a lyric by Anne Caldwell (also known as Anne Caldwell O’Dea), was introduced by Beatrice Lillie in the 1926 Broadway musical  Oh, Please!  … Although the show ran for only 75 performances, the song rose to number five on the charts in 1927, performed by Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra. The Benny Goodman Orchestra revived it in 1936 and took it to number 14 on the charts.

JazzStandards.com

This tune was on a couple albums I really enjoy but for some reason it did not stick out to me when I first heard it. It wasn’t until being introduced to Jimmie Noone’s version during Survey of Woodwinds Styles class that I was completely captivated. Between the great arrangement, the sweet tone of the alto saxophone on the melody, and Noone’s virtuosic obligato, I was obsessed. I have probably listened to this version well over 100 times at this point:

Years later, I found another take by Noone:

These are the two versions that I had already heard prior to realizing the splendor of this simple tune. In retrospect, they are absolutely amazing.

Nat King Cole takes it very up-tempo. I love his phrasing on the melody, especially how he sometimes pulls back against the time:

The infamous Sonny Side Up rendition, while great, somewhat obscures the melody with the heavy tenor counterpoint, which is perhaps why I did not realize this was the same tune at first. I love how the two Sonnys express their different musical personalities on this tune (and the rest of the album):

I was thrilled to find out that Sonny Stitt recorded this tune on alto:

Twice! (maybe more?):

My jaw dropped upon first hearing this stunning take by Art Tatum. His use of the whole-tone scale is particularly jarring as are his metric modulations:

And then I discovered “I Know That You Know” made some appearances in film. Here is a fun take from Tea For Two (1950). I love the incorporation of tap dancing in the performance of the tune. While there is some dated dialogue at the end of the clip, I think it is still worth a watch (or 50 if you are like me):

I then found this clip from Hit the Deck (1955). It includes a verse, and I have not been able to determine if that was added for this film or if it is original to the composition. While this performance is in the theater vein rather than jazz, I appreciate the way the delivery of the lyrics changes their meaning:

The lyrics to the tune seem pretty consistent between all the vocal versions:

I know that you know
That I’ll go where you go
I choose you, won’t lose you
I wish you knew how much I long
To hold you in my arms

This time is my time
Will soon be goodbye time
Then in the star light, hold me tight
With one more little kiss
Say, nighty night

They do not hold much substance, and while they are sweet, are not what attracts me to this tune. I think it is the unusual accenting of the 4th beat, along with the contrast elements of the melody with the first half being stagnant and the second half with a lot of motion, that keep me so invested in this song.

What do you think of this tune? Is there another version I should check out? Which tunes are you so crazy about that you have to scour the internet for every version you can find? Let me know!

IAWM Search for New Music Contest Winner!

I am so honored to have been selected as an International Alliance for Women in Music Search for New Music contest winner! My original composition “Survivor’s Suite” was chosen for the 2019 Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble Prize.

Watch the premier of “Survivor’s Suite” from April 11, 2019

Now here’s the part people don’t usually talk about. This is my third time applying for this contest. It is always a little soul-crushing to see these types of press releases come out every few months announcing the winners of contests for which you also applied. Some days it is easier to handle because things are going well otherwise. Sometimes it is really hard-hitting to have that rejection. I just want to take a moment in the midst of my excitement to say that for every award I have won, there are many others I did not, and that’s okay. I want to be real about this common shared experience in the arts world.

A little background on the piece…

Toward the end of high school, I began discovering Duke Ellington’s extended works. I was already very familiar with the classics – “Sophisticated Lady,” “Take the A Train,” “In a Mellow Tone,” and the like. I was also pretty familiar with Ellington’s earlier repertoire – “Hot and Bothered,” “East St. Louis Toodle-oo,” “Black and Tan Fantasy,” and so on. But after hearing The Tattooed Bride, my conception of Duke Ellington, and jazz, was permanently altered. Then I started listening to the suites – Such Sweet Thunder, Nutcracker Suite, Far East Suite, Queen’s Suite, and others.

During my first semester at Berklee College of Music, one of my professors asked me what my ambition was by the time I graduated. I said, “I want to write a suite like Duke Ellington!” At that point, I had very limited previous writing experience, nothing beyond writing a basic lead sheet. I had never orchestrated anything for an ensemble before and had never written a through-composed work (one without a repeating form). I didn’t know the ranges of the instruments or anything about drum notation. I had only been using Finale (a music engraving software) for a few weeks. Yet, here I was with all the hope and ambition in the world.

A lot happened between then and now. A lot. And in spite of all the hurdles and setbacks and sidetracks, I somehow managed to pull it together and make that younger me’s dreams come true. I premiered my first suite this past April in my senior jazz composition portfolio recital, as part of a full concert of original big band music.

The content and context of the piece is intensely personal for me. I tried to convey my experiences of surviving through a very challenging situation in my life. I was afraid to perform it live or put it up for a contest to be scrutinized, but I did it with the support of my family, friends, and teachers.

Thank you so much to everyone who has helped me achieve this and thank you to IAWM for supporting women artists around the world to create and build community.