*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.
I love all kinds of music, but there is something about smooth jazz and especially Dave Koz’s music. They brings me such joy, and whenever I see him live it always brings me to tears. If you have not had the chance, please do. He is the benchmark of how concerts should be, especially the Christmas concert.
I've had the pleasure of meeting him and quite a few of our smooth jazz superstars many times. Peter White to Mindi Abair, Jonathan Butler, Rick Braun and Euge Groove--just to name a few. Not name dropping, but they truly are as glad to see us as we are to see them. So many incredibly talented, and incredibly humble people. After giving 110% to us at a show, they always seem to find a little more time and energy to stick around and meet their fans. They are grounded enough to know enough to acknowledge the fans who appreciate them.
To me, that speaks volumes about their character. You don’t find that in most music types at this level of success.
Dave and Friends will be here on the 12th. Get your tickets and don't miss 'em!
Our Smooth Video of the Day: One of the highlights of every Dave Koz Christmas show is his song about Hanukah.
I can see that October is going to be one of those months – with so much happening that by the end of it, we will be happily exhausted with our stomach muscles toned and tightened from so much hopping up and down in excitement.
Tonight, it was the Cubs winning their wild card game!
So I had to research baseball and jazz. I found three songs, but only one that fits the bill for us smooth jazz fans. It’s a bossa nova for which pianist Dave Frishberg wrote both the lyrics and melody. Released in 1969, it was entitled "Van Lingle Mungo." The other song was called "Willie, Mickey and Duke" and is more a showtune than jazz. And lastly, there is the famous Steve Goodman folk song called "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request."
Van Lingle Mungo started as an ear worm then morphed into a song consisting of thirty seven names of major league players, rhymed loosely. Van Lingle Mungo was a pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Dave had a melody that he wanted to put lyrics to, but the words were alluding him. After seeing the name in a Baseball Encyclopedia, Dave kept repeating it until he decided to use "Van Lingle Mungo" as the chorus. Trying several times to construct stanzas around it, Frishburg searched for inspiration. He found it in the names of players. Some are quite obscure, but they all sound intriguing when he sings them.
The Cubs are well represented by eight players, starting with Phil Cavarretta, Augie Galan, Frankie Gustine, Stan Hack, Claude Passeau, Howie Pollet, Johnny Vander Meer and Eddie Waitkus.
Not to be outdone, there are also eight White Sox names, if you include Phil Cavarretta, who played most of his career with the Cubs and just two seasons with the Pale Hose. Rounding out the roster are Frenchy Bordagaray, Ferris Fain, Thornton Lee, Hank Majeski, Johnny Sain (manager), Hal Trosky and Early Wynn.
Of all the players mentioned in the song, Eddie Basinski is the last surviving man. He’s 92. Here's the song:
I'm hoping that the Cubs will continue to live by their manager Joe Maddon’s sentiment - “Don’t ever let the pressure exceed the pleasure.” Which is giving me an earworm by Maysa called "Friendly Pressure."
Go Cubs! Win it all! Then we can finally retire Steve Goodman’s folk song, "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request."
Remember the piece of office equipment that was on every executive’s desk in the 1980s, the one that you talk into and then someone else listens to and transcribes from? It’s not what I would consider a musical instrument, but then again, how many drum solos are performed on desk tops every day? Seems that the lowly Dictaphone has been used as an instrument and incubator for one our favorite jazz bands, Down to the Bone.
Digging further, I learned that Down to the Bone isn’t just one band. It had a US set of artists and a UK set, but the common denominator was writer, producer and leader Stuart Wade.
According to Wikipedia: "Down to the Bone is unique in that the leader, Stuart Wade, does not play any instruments at all. Instead, Wade uses a dictaphone to hum tunes into which are then recorded by the band." Amazing!
From their bio on their official website – the first paragraph says it all:
"Down To The Bone is Stuart Wade as producer, writer and mastermind behind the whole groove project, working with other talented musicians and co-writers to bring together a project of good grooves."
And he has done it over and over again since 1995. The list of artists who have played in Down to the Bone is a wonderful who’s who of contemporary jazz. On the current US side of things, the flutist and saxman, Katisse Buckingham is a Los Angeles native who provided the sound for Will Ferrell’s jazz flute solo in the movie, The Anchorman. He won a Golden Globe for his score for the Robert Redford film, All Is Lost, and is a featured soloist on the Universal Pictures animated film, Minions. Rufus Philpot on five string bass and Oli Silk on keyboards and Pablo Mendelssohn on trumpet are transplanted Londoners.
The current album is called Dig It. It was done by the UK band members and released here in April of 2014. Two cuts from it, "The Sweetness" and ""The Bounce," are part of the Smooth Jazz Chicago playlist. Thank you Stuart. Keep that Dictaphone working.
It was announced this week that Vanessa Williams is not only going to be a judge for this year’s pageant, but also the Chief Judge. Now there is a controversy hinging on who will apologize to whom before Vanessa is welcomed back to the organization.
Rewind to 1984, when Vanessa won the contest. She was the first African-American woman to become Miss America. In her bow embellished, one shoulder lavender gown and appropriate '80s big hair, she walked the runway thrilled. She did eleven months of her reign before some nude photographs taken years earlier surfaced in Penthouse magazine. She relinquished the crown to avoid dragging herself and the pageant through the mud. We were shocked and amazed. She had done an outstanding job as Miss America, doing more appearances that normal.
But the loss of a crown was a gain for smooth jazz lovers. Vanessa used her music to heal. With the yoke of Miss America’s responsibilities behind her, she went into the studio and put out the aptly titled album in 1988, "The Right Stuff." The song "Dreamin’" hit number one on the pop charts. She went on to give us "Save the Best For Last" in 1991. However, as her music career flourished, calls for her to take on acting roles soared too. She’s been busy on stage and screen, so we haven’t had a CD from her since 2009.
So, if there is an agreement between her and the pageant officials, we will get to see her in a new role, that of judge. I hope everyone will be able to let bygones be bygones. But if not, could there be a new CD?
Jazz happens every day. Some days it takes me from the present moment to other moments in my life. Listening to the stream, a song caught my attention, so I went to see what the title and artist were by way of TuneGenie. That was when the fun started. Seeing that it was a song by David Foster called "Flight of the Snowbirds," it made me giggle.
The title took me back to the summer of 1988, when I was working in a riverside high rise. The rehearsals for the Chicago Air and Water Show began on a clear Wednesday afternoon. We could hear the planes as they flew high above us, getting their bearings over the lakefront. Someone found that there was an empty upper floor facing east. It was a great observation deck.
We oohd and ahhd our way through our afternoon coffee break, sipping lemonade and swapping trivia about airplanes. The blue jets soared and flashed in the sunlight. We got glimpses of them between the buildings and in the clear space that the river afforded us. We debated whom we were getting a peek at, the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds, vowing to grab a newspaper or a brochure on the way home to look up who was gracing our skies. (Remember, this is pre-Google, so info access was not as instantaneous as it is today).
On the schedule was a visiting team called the Canadian Snowbirds. Described as a precision team of the Canadian Air Force, it wasn’t clear if they were prop planes or jets. As there was no picture of the planes, I filed them away in my brain as a side note.
The next day, while I sat in our 20th Floor lunchroom with floor to ceiling windows facing east down the Chicago River, we heard the telltale rumble of jets beginning their maneuvers. Before we could abandon our table and head for our impromptu viewing station, I spotted a dot in the sky above the river. In seconds, it became a formation of bright red fighter jets flying down the river at the same level as our lunchroom. When they streaked past us, my heart leapt. Being a child of the Cold War atomic bomb drills in grammar school, I uttered an explative while I dove under the table in full belief that we were under attack by the Soviets!
My co-workers coaxed me from my duck-and-cover posture under the table by assuring me that there was no attack on Chicago. Actually, I was waiting for the second wave and when it didn’t arrive, I decided to dust off my pride and emerge.
I was teased unmercifully by my co-workers. In my defense, all I could say was "who knew that snowbirds were RED!"
Chicago loves its jazz. We celebrate it over the Labor Day weekend every year with a public festival on the lakefront. And we have Duke Ellington to thank for it.
The Duke’s death in the summer of 1974 sparked several Chicago musicians to stage a festival to honor his legacy. They held it at the southern end of Grant Park near the museums in the old band shell. The crowd was ten thousand strong. It became an annual event, but by 1978 there were three different August jazz events being planned. When confronted with the dilemma of issuing overlapping permits, a solution was proposed by the city to combine them all into a full week festival. Starting with two days called Jazz Panorama, a tribute day for Ellington, one for John Coltrane and Wes Montgomery, the 29th celebrating Charlie Parker’s Birthday, followed by a day for Blues and Swing and ending with a day without a title that featured Benny Goodman and Mel Torme, the Chicago Jazz Festival was born.
The Petrillo Music Shell was new and over 125,000 people attended the first Jazz Fest. Putting it on Labor Day weekend and broadcasting portions of it on WBEZ and WDCB have helped it become a worldwide draw for fans of jazz.
Grab your sunscreen and head to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion for this year’s edition of the Jazz Fest, now held in Millennium Park. It’s some of the best free music around. Hope to see you there!
They call this part of the year the "dog days." When I was a kid, I thought it was because of the heat, when the only things dogs would do was find a shady spot, stick out their tongues and pant. But that’s not the case. It’s because of the influence of Sirius, the brightest object in the constellation Canis Major (Latin for the big dog). Rising and setting with the sun and visible to the naked eye, Sirius was believed by ancients to have added its heat to that of the sun to make the days sultry.
Here are some stars who have added their heat to the constellation of Jazz with birthdays in August.
I want to start on Saturday, the Ides of August (the 15th), but if I do I miss Karen Briggs on the 12th. She is the wonderful violinist who played with Yanni in the 1980s. So we will cut cake in honor of her, Bobby Caldwell’s great vocals, Everette Harp’s sexy saxophone, David Benoit’s twinkling keyboards and Nick Colionne’s grand guitar.
Or we could ask birthday boys Branford Marsalis and Gerald Albright to play a new arrangement of "Happy Birthday" that we will ask Wayne Shorter to write for the flumpet, a trumpet–flugelhorn combination that was specially designed for the late Art Farmer, between bites of cake and spoons of ice cream.
Then, we need to get some pretty flowers for the late Oscar Peterson, Isaac Hayes, Count Bassie, Art Farmer, Diana Washington, Charlie Parker and Michael Jackson, the August born musicians who have left behind their music for us to enjoy.
Then, just like that, the month is over. The dog-star has trotted off to play in the sky for another twelve months and we have to look ahead to September.
~Lydia Barnes (email@example.com)
The Smooth Video of the Day: August 18 birthday boy David Benoit teams up with veteran vocalist Jane Monheit on a new track.
We think about them frequently, even write songs about them. Just ask Andreas Vollenweider while he’s "Dancing with the Lion" or Gregory Porter when he sings "Be Good," which is subtitled "Lion’s Song." You can stretch the point with Warren Berhardt’s "Felinicity," because a lion is a really big cat. I can even argue that an entire form of music is named for one. Reggae music come from the Rastafarian religion of Jamaica, which worships his highness Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia, who was known as the Lion of Judah. Bob Marley, one of the most famous proponents of both Rastafari and Reggae wrote him a song called "Iron Lion Zion."
And why is this important to jazz fans? Because August 10th is World Lion Day. It’s getting a lot of publicity this year because of the Cecil the Lion tragedy, and that is a good and bad thing. Bad because Cecil is dead and the remaining lions in the wild are endangered, good because it is raising our consciousness. The range of the Lion was once this entire planet. He was absolutely the King of the Beasts. Today, they are confined to a small patch of Asia and several places in Africa. Sad legacy for such a magnificent creature.
And what is contributing to the endangerment of the Lion, the Tigers and the Bears? Sad to say, it’s the growing population of man. We tipped the scale in our favor decades ago without providing large enough places for the wild things to live. Now we are lamenting their demise. There are over thirty organizations fighting to turn the tide for all the big cats, especially the Lion.
Hopefully, we will be able to continue to sing to them (from a safe distance) and not to their memory.
I missed the birthdays of some very influential people (jazz and otherwise) who were born in the early days of the month of August.
On the 1st of August, we needed to acknowledge Francis Scott Key. Not jazz, I know, but you have to admit that "The Star Spangled Banner" is one of the best songs to hear. It reminds us that we are living in the land of freedom, the place where jazz was born, raised and perfected. Without his song, we wouldn’t be talking about our songs.
Then, on the 3rd, Tony Bennett celebrated his 89th birthday, crooning his way into our hearts. Keep singing Tony, we love you.
These days the 4th of August is newsworthy because it is the birthday of our Commander in Chief – President Barack Obama. But if he were alive today, I am sure that it wouldn’t edge out the fact that this day is shared by the great Louis Armstrong (1910 – 1971). If he were still around, I'm pretty sure Louis and his golden horn would be blowing out a chorus of Happy Birthday to the President while POTUS did the same thing to the candles on a big White House cake.
Luckily, there isn’t another birthday to mention until the 9th, when Whitney Houston (1963 – 2012) shares the date with Jack DeJohnette, a Chicago jazz man who switched from piano to drums and played with Miles Davis, Sonny Rollings and Pat Metheny. Or the 10th of the month Patti Austin shares the date with Leo Fender, the inventor of the solid body Fender guitar, but I have done a blog piece on her, so that gives me some wiggle room. Looking at my Jazz Birthday Calendar, it means I have between six and sixteen days to catch up with the other August artists that I want you to know about.
So, here are my best wishes to them all and my sincere apology for being late. Like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, I’m off to do my research because I’m late!
No, she wasn’t a smooth jazz artist, but her father was a member of a boy band that was dominant in the '80s and '90s, and her mother was powerful songstress who crossed genres (including Smooth Jazz) with stunning ease. When Whitney Houston sang, we all held our breath and got goose bumps from the high notes.
We’ve watched Bobbi Kristina her entire all-too-short life. I remember Whitney bringing her onstage as a toddler, getting her a chair and singing the rest of the performance to little Bobbi Kristina. Then there was the inside look at the entire family, the reality show called Being Bobbie Brown. To me it ended up being more about Bobbi Kristina and Whitney than about Mr. Brown.
Her mother died a tragic death, very similar to the one she experienced. Almost three years to the date of Whitney’s accidental drowning in her bathtub in the Beverly Hills Hilton on Grammy weekend, Bobbi Kristina’s sad accident is even more tragic.
She never got to show us what she could do with her voice or her life, but I believe that now she is in the arms of her mother. Peace be with them both.