*The Loews Chicago O'Hare Hotel, home to the Montrose Room, is offering discounted room rates for those attending this show. Book a room, stay 'til the very last note of the final encore and don't worry about having to make the drive home! For information, click here.
Our Smooth Video of the Day: A preview of the Brian Culbertson holiday show Saturday, December 20, at the Montrose Room.
Some of our most popular Christmas songs have very interesting origins. This one is rumored to go back to the time of King Henry the Eighth of England.
In his day, Henry was quite the composer, but research shows that the melody variation that we a are familiar with didn’t reach his island from Italy until thirty years after his death. That makes it music of his daughter's reign, Elizabeth I. The earliest known registration of a ballad with the name "Greensleeves" occurred in London in 1580. There were six more variations registered within that year. Quite the catchy tune for its day. With a sequence of four chords and a repeating bass, it is enchanting in its simplicity.
Fast forward to 1865. A man named William Chatterton Dix, suffering from an illness that left him depressed and bed ridden, he was inspired to write a poem he called "The Manger Throne," describing the scene of the Epiphany from the Magi’s point of view. Six years later, two other Englishmen published a collection of carols. They used the poems first three stanzas paired with the tune of Greensleeves. Using the first line as the title, a favorite Christmas song was born.
Like a beautiful tree filled with different ornaments, this song has had so many cover versions, there’s one for any mood. We should thank Johnny Mathis for getting the ball rolling back in 1958. He was followed by Vince Guaraldi and Ray Conniff, Jr. in 1965. Tony Bennett and Burl Ives both released a version in 1968. On the jazzy side of things, it’s been done by Earth Wind and Fire, Vanessa Williams, Oscar Peterson, Chicago, Mannheim Steamroller, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Dave Brubeck.
Whether you call it "Greensleeves" or "What Child is This," it’s a holiday tradition.
It’s not a real band, just something that came to my mind because I live with several December birthday babies. In the midst of the frustration of buying both a Christmas gift and a birthday gift for them, I came up with an imaginary gift for myself.
To begin, let’s call this fantasy band Sagittarius, in honor of the astrological sign. Musical groups have been named for wilder things, but let me explore that in a future blog post. In this band, we get some of the famous Sagittarius jazz artists who have left us.
Their signature piece would be the one that made Sagittarians, Dave Brubeck and the quartet’s sax man, Paul Desmond, famous. It is also one of the most covered jazz pieces in history. "Take Five" started as a one hit wonder and then wove itself into a jazz icon. Written by Desmond, and thought to be a throwaway piece, from its release in 1959 to today the song has been used by numerous movies and TV shows. During the early 1960s, it was the theme for the NBC Today Show. When he died in 1977, Paul Desmond willed the royalties from the tune to the American Red Cross. You can feel good because every time you hear "Take Five" played over the air, it's helping someone. The donation has amounted to over six million dollars by 2011. Good thing Mr. Desmond didn’t take the used Ronson shaver that was offered as an alternative for payment for the tune.
To round out the quartet, let’s have their drummer, Joe Morello, up on the stand. He’s the one who did the solo in the piece that often gets cut out to save time and make it more radio friendly. Joe Morello passed into the massive jazz club in the sky back in 2011, and although he was not born in December, I think we can stretch the point. And while we’re at it, because the bassist Eugene Wright is the only quartet member still alive, we need to use Jaco Pastorius from Weather Report. He was a Sagittatius too.
Then, last but by no means least, the late great Grover Washington, Jr. would step on the stage to jam with them. After all, his composition "Take Five (Take Another Five)" is one of the best covers of "Take Five!" Now I can finish my Christmas shopping. My jazz fantasy is finished.
If you want a wonderful Sunday morning, tune into the Sunday Brunch on WDCB or stream it live while you go about your day. If you want to have a marvelous Sunday, get dressed and go to the Sunday Brunch at Waterleaf Restaurant. Absolutely grand location, inside and out. The view is glorious. Floor to ceiling glass all around brings you as close to glorious landscape as possible. The décor is modern, yet warm and comforting. The wait staff is friendly and accommodating. The food is fabulous. We were treated to the music of the Bryan Lubeck Trio, a guitarist extraordinaire, while feasting.
It’s easy to find the other Smooth Jazzers seated around you. They’re the ones listening intently, keeping time with the music or chair dancing, all the others are ordinary patrons. I was seated next to Yvonne, a lady I know well from the Chat Box. She recognized me by my finger tapping I think. It was wonderful to put a face to the messages. When I thought it couldn't get any better, our host, Rick O’Dell, showed us to a large table populated with many of my other chat box friends! I sat next to ArtB. I was close enough to talk with Kelikamea and blow air kisses to CynC, CoraP, nikki, MargieM, and AngieS, but I missed out on meeting Retta and Cynthia. It was the like attending Bill Cochran’s Dinner Party on a Sunday afternoon.
My advice, the next time you see a Sunday Brunch date, make your reservation fast. It’s an amazing experience.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of Christmas songs. There are covers of Christmas songs in all genres, which explodes the hundreds into thousands of songs. But, for Thanksgiving, you have to stretch to get a song. You have to play on the theme of thanks. You have to explore the subject of food. You need to wander in the garden of blessings. You have to find a song about going home or gathering the harvest. Let’s face it, Thanksgiving is a hard word to rhyme.
The only song I could remember off the top that has Thanksgiving in the lyric is "Over The River and Through The Woods" originally called a "New England Boy’s Song About Thanksgiving Day." Over the river, and through the wood, to Grandfather's house away! We would not stop for doll or top, for 'tis Thanksgiving Day.
Some of you might think I have lost a marble or two because in this song Christmas Day has often replaced Thanksgiving Day, making it an all-purpose holiday tune.
My investigation took me to an English group, Steeleye Span (not Steely Dan) who does a version of Come, Ye Thankful People, Come, which talks about harvest in the lyrics, but because it is an English hymn, it doesn’t mention Thanksgiving directly. Come, ye thankful people, come, Raise the song of harvest home! All is safely gathered in, Ere the winter storms begin . . .
Doesn’t that sound like good advice for Chicagoans?
Speaking of Steely Dan, if you stretch for a thanksgiving song, you can add "Deacon Blues" to the playlist because of their reference to college football and the Crimson Tide. So, while we’re stretching, let’s go old school into traditional jazz with Thelonious Monk’s "Stuffy Turkey." This is a pour-a-cocktail-and-relax-with-your-guests track. It will make you think you are back in the days of Mad Men and Playboy After Dark. To keep that feeling going, follow up with Kenny Burrell and Stanley Turrentine’s "Wavy Gravy."
When the oven bell rings to say that the dinner is ready and you want your guest to move to the dining room, pull out Mongo Santamaria’s "Sweet Tater Pie." The upbeat bongos and horns will have them dancing to the table. Settle everyone in their places with Vince Guaraldi’s "Thanksgiving" from the Peanuts' special of the same name, the only smooth jazz song I could find in my Thanksgiving jazz scavenger hunt.
While you’re eating, it’s hard to choose between Lee Morgan’s "Cornbread" (with Herbie Hancock on the keyboards) and Booker T and the MG’s "Soul Dressing," so play them both! And to round out the meal, throw in Booker’s "Green Onions," too. As a matter of fact, just do both albums.
If you see any jealousy on any of the faces gathered round the table, you play Cab Calloway’s "Everybody Eats When They Come To My House" and then give them a low volume dose of Patti Austin’s "I Can Cook Too!"
Lastly, to get your guests out the door and on their way, Manhattan Transfer’s "Soul Food To Go" is perfect for fixing take-home plates and finding coats.
After the dishes are done and the food put away, if the overload of turkey didn’t make you sleepy, play Dave Brubek’s "Thank You." This melodically tender solo piano composition that sounds like a lullaby. Dave explains that he wrote it after visiting Chopin’s home in Poland as a thank you for inspiring so many musicians. The beginning is classically inspired, the middle has a soft honky tonk flavor and the ending is a blend of snippets of Chopin melodies.
Next day, to understand what the food coma called Thanksgiving is doing to your body, listen to Eddie Harris sing "That’s Why You’re Overweight," a bluesy monologue of what people have eaten all in one day. Wickedly funny and best reserved for the day after any feast. And while you are casting shame, play Anthony David’s blues version of John Lennon’s "Cold Turkey."
Then sit down and begin to enjoy all the Christmas music!
You’ve had them, but you probably didn’t know what to call them. It’s the phenomenon of getting a song stuck inside your head, then have it repeat itself incessantly. Marketers strive to give you one with every jingle they use. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have to be a song that you hate. Scientists say that they are not dangerous, that they seem to be something that our brains do when they are idling. Women, musicians and tired folk are the most susceptible to earworms.
Being in the combo category of tired woman, mine started after I watched Sam Smith perform on the Jimmy Fallon show. Strange to say, my earworm wasn’t the song he sang on the show. It consisted of the chorus from "Stay With Me," which even invaded my dreams during the night. Perhaps it was because I had learned that the chorus wasn’t performed by a gospel choir, but was actually forty takes of Sam singing it himself. Guess it was firmly stuck in one of my brain wrinkles.
I saw him profiled on CBS’s Sunday Morning show, wearing blue suede shoes and large silver cross earrings. Sam reminded me of Boy George without the hat, dreadlocks or makeup. When he was serenaded by the kids from his grammar school, he smiled and nearly blushed. Sam said that Stay With Me was inspired unrequited love. It was written about a married man who was not aware of Sam’s crush on him.
In an online article, he explained that “I've tried to be clever with this album, because it's also important to me that my music reaches everybody. I've made my music so that it could be about anything and everybody—whether it's a guy, a female or a goat—and everybody can relate to that. I'm not in this industry to talk about my personal life unless it's in a musical form."
Looks like he’s doing a good job of it. Now, as much as I like the song, I needed to turn my attention to curing my earworm problem. I found half a dozen suggestions from the University of Cincinnati.
First, sing or play another melody on an instrument. Second, switch to an activity that keeps you busy, such as working out. Third, listen to the song all the way through. Fourth, picture the earworm as a real creature crawling out of your head, and imagine stomping on it. Fifth, share the song with a friend. Or lastly, turn on the radio or a CD to get your brain tuned in to another song.
They gave no statistics on which option worked best, I opted for the radio cure. As I checked out the Coffee Break Quiz on Facebook. Now, I can thank Rick for being a jazzy brain surgeon! Funny thing is, now there’s a radio station call letter jingle running in side my head instead. Wonder how he did that?
Keeping jazz alive and flowing in a city the size of Chicago sounds like it would be an easy feat, but not always. Like everything in life, jazz has its ups and downs. Case in point, The Jazz Showcase.
In the 1980s, it was in a beautiful room just off the lobby of the Blackstone Hotel. Then someone had the bright idea to remodel the Blackstone into condos, and the Showcase had to relocate. But that was not the first time Joe Segal moved his life's work. It has been on Rush Street, the Northside, in the Lincoln Park, Near North, and a space on Navy Pier. Since 2008, it's been nestled on the east side of the re-purposed Polk Street Station.
The incomparable, irrepresible Joe Segal
When you think about it, being in all those places is not a bad track record for a true Chicago institution that has been in operation since 1947. It never strayed far from its point of origin, the mind of Joe Segal, a student attending Roosevelt University. He opened what's been tagged "Chicago’s Jazz listening room" and has presided over it ever since, with a huge banner of Charlie Parker in attendance. At 88, Joe still greets his guests at the door, ready for pleasant conversation and good music.
On Wednesday, October 22nd, the city is going to say thanks to Joe for his stewardship of Jazz with an honorary street sign. Joe Segal Way will run from the corner of Polk at Plymouth Court, past the windows of the Showcase to the end of the block.
Leandro "Gato" Barbieri, the man behind the Smooth Jazz classic, "Europa"
In jazz, a song can grow and evolve like a person. It can change its mood, its tempo, even its lyric or title. Sometimes the change of artist or instrument is what makes the difference. Sometimes things just morph because they are so good, they just get better and better.
Folks who listened to smooth jazz in the evenings from 1988 to 2009, remember “Europa” as the theme song for Danae Alexander’s Lights Out Chicago show. Anytime I heard Gato Barbieri’s sax being plays on WNUA 95.5, I would look around to see if I had lost track of time and it was suddenly 7 o’clock in the evening!
Herb Alpert has put his jazzy spin on it and oh boy, is it good. You can find it on his CD Steppin' Out. (Still makes me thinks it’s time for a cocktail or two). But the origins of "Europa" are a twisty trail that winds through smooth jazz, pop, Mexico, Chile and France.
I always thought that the original composer was Gato, but one source said it was done by the equally wonderful Carlos Santana. Thinking back, I did remember him doing it in the early 1970’s. That made me wonder if it was one of his Woodstock set, so I dug a bit deeper on the title. The first website I visited said that in the '70s and '80s, "Europa" was the most highly requested wedding song on the continent, which makes sense given the name and because as a first dance or even as the recessional march, it’s romantic and stately. But it seemed that Carlos worked on it then put it aside for years before he and Tom Coster recorded it in 1976 for the Amigos album, so it was not in existence as Europa for Woodstock. Or was it?
That is when I stumbled across someone saying that Santana had transmuted it from another group, The Black Angels, a Chilean/Mexican balladeer group that recorded a song called titled “Y Volvere” back in 1969. Loosely translated, it means "I will return." It’s a song about love that has gone bad. In the translation I read, the singer thinks that after time apart, they will come back together. There is a recording of them performing it on YouTube from 1972.
I thought this is where the trail ends, but I was wrong. In another article, The Black Angels accredited the song to French singer/composer Alain Barriere, (no relation to Gato Barbieri who is from Argentina). He wrote and recorded it a year earlier in 1968. Titled "Emporte Moi,” meaning ‘Set me free.'
In the “Emporte Moi” version, the beautiful long intro is done on a Hammond B3 organ followed by sexy baritone voice. The “Y Volvere” version starts with a guitar and blends in an electric keyboard behind a very plaintiff Spanish vocal. When it becomes "Europa," it goes totally instrumental. Santana uses his guitar to speak for him, Gato belts it out on his sax and Herb trumpet us into the mood. Now that’s jazz evolution at work!
Born the day after April Fool’s in 1943, Larry Coryell defies classification. When I looked him up in my jazz encyclopedias, one of them put him in with the blues players while calling him a fusion artist while the other one totally ignored him.
To rectify this error, I went out to the Tune Genie at SmoothJazzChicago.net and plugged in his name in the search box. There are over ninety Larry Coryell songs to choose from. And there isn’t a bad one in the bunch. On a rainy morning, I got totally captivated by that playlist.
Of course, I started with a favorite of mine, Larry’s take on Wes Montgomery’s "Bumpin' on Sunset," called "Angel on Sunset," done with keyboardist/arranger Don Sebesky. At times it’s bigger and more orchestrated than Wes' version, but Larry stays remarkably true to the original. There are points in the song when I can’t tell who I am listening to, yet when Larry and Don break into an echoing rift, you know that you are in updated territory. Next, I tried "Feels Like Making Love," a tune that really shows how he stays melodically true to a song while adding his own jazzy rifts ebb and flow within the structure of said melody.
But to get a true read on this wonderful guitarist, I suggest you listen to three pieces that demonstrate his virtuosity. Click on "Nefertiti," which has a video that shows him giving advice to up and coming artists complete with snippets of his playing, then listen to "Black Orpheus" for a Brazilian flavor and, lastly, "Improvisation on Bolero," which will show you his classical mode.
And if you want more, check out his website. Myself, I’m diving back into the bottle with the TuneGenie to see what else I can find.
BTW, you can catch him live at Chicago's Jazz Showcase later in the month. He and his trio, featuring Larry Gray and Paul Wertico, open a four-nighter October 16.
One of the things that I love most about jazz is the element of surprise. Artists take a familiar melody, play it and improvise around it. They ebb and flow in both the compositions and the bands that they perform with.
For instance, I just knew I had the answer to the Smooth Jazz Coffee Break Quiz one morning – all the clues seemed to line up to a blog piece I had started, so with my Encyclopedia of Jazz at one hand and a cup in the other, I waited to hear the answer.
Holy Kona, Batman, was I ever wrong!
Across the airwaves came one of my late father’s favorite smooth jazz cuts, Craig Chaquico’s "Sacred Ground. "
My trusty six pound reference book published in 2007 didn’t have Craig Chaquico in it at all. They did have the jazz group called Hot Tuna which another guitarist from Jefferson Airplane formed. Grabbing another less weighty but still jammed packed (pun intended) reference book, I found that Craig wasn’t in there either. That meant they were defining him as a rocker, not a jazz man. Off to do some research.
First, I went to Wikipedia, where I found out that when he was twelve years old, he was badly injured in a car accident. It broke his arms and hands very badly. His father, who was in the accident too, told Craig that Les Paul had used playing his guitar as a form of physical therapy when he had a bad injury and if Craig would do the same, he would buy him a Les Paul guitar when his casts came off. He did and to this day, Craig believes in the power of music to heal. He’s an avid supporter of the American Music Therapy Association, member of Bikers for Charity, Harley Davidson's charitable effort supporting the Muscular Dystrophy Association and when the Carvin Corporation makes one of Craig’s signature model guitars, a tree is planted.
At 16, Paul Kantner of the Jefferson Airplane asked him to join the band. Craig stayed with them through all three phases of the band, Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship and Starship. With the band and as a studio musician, he has played with some of the biggest and the best, from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, to Santana and Russ Freeman of the Rippingtons.
Next, I went to his website. Here I was stopped in my tracks. After checking out the pictures, I found that his next gig, on October 11th is as a featured speaker, not a performer, at the Portland Creative Conference aka Cre8con.
The about section of the Cre8con website explains the event as follows: Cre8con . . . is an interdisciplinary exploration and celebration of the creative process across various creative industries. The conference features keynote presentations from leading creatives who reveal their work and talk about their process, secrets, influences and inspirations.
No wonder he defies definition. Check him out here.
The Sunday Brunch will be back on location for three live broadcasts on 90.9fm WDCB this fall, with wonderful food, a magnificent view and live music! Our show will originate from Waterleaf Restaurant in Glen Ellyn from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm on the following dates:
October 19 (with singer Rose Colella and her ensemble) SOLD OUT
Seating is limited and reservations are recommended. Please call (630) 942-6881 or visit the Waterleaf site to make an online reservation via OpenTable.com.
Featuring a variety of fresh and seasonally inspired items on a moderately priced a la carte brunch menu, Waterleaf has earned Diner's Choice Awards for Best Ambience, Best Overall, Best Service, Fit for Foodies and Special Occasion on OpenTable.com, where it maintains a 4.6/5.0 rating. In addition, Waterleaf recently received a three-star "Excellent" rating in a review by the Chicago Tribune's food critic Phil Vettel.
See you at Waterleaf this fall!
~Rick O'Dell (FmAm1@aol.com)
Our Smooth Video of the Day: Executive Chef Nadia Tilkian describes the fine dining experience at Waterleaf.