*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: The electronic press kit of Eric Darius.
Most love songs are sung to a person who welcomes the attention, who gives back the affection and who wants to be with the singer/artist. But in the real world, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes love is one way, with only the singer being the one aware of the situation.
The first time I heard a song about love that wasn’t returned was in 1964. The Girl From Ipanema" defined unrequited love for me. "When she passes, I smile but she doesn't see, she just doesn't see." Originally called “Menina que Passa” (“The Girl Who Passes By”), it was conceived as a part of a musical comedy about a Martian who lands in the middle of Brazil’s carnival and becomes obsessed by a girl in a bikini. The rest of the music faded into obscurity when the musical didn’t get produced while this beautiful bossa nova became an international sensation, overpowering two Beatles songs in the process. Although it rose just to number five on the charts, it passed the Beatles "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and then went on to become the most recorded song ever, edging out Paul McCartney’s "Yesterday." To me, the thing that makes it so haunting is Astrud Gilberto’s accented English and the gender flip. She is singing lyrics that are clearly for a man. At first I thought that the singer/songwriter was so shy that he had to get someone else to sing it for him. No so. She was chosen because she was the only one in the studio who had enough fluency in English to make it sound right. Otherwise, her husband Joao Gilberto, would have been the singer and it would have been done totally in Portuguese.
Another 1964 hit was "Going Out Of My Head" by Little Anthony and the Imperials. In it, Little Anthony croons that he is being driven mad because "I see you each morning, but you just walk past me, you don't even know that I exist." Although it was written by Bobby Randazzo, a childhood friend of the band, especially for them, it was quickly covered and made jazzy by Wes Montgomery the following year. Since then, it has been embraced by jazz artists from Ella Fitzgerald to Ramsey Lewis to Frank Sinatra to Luther Vandross.
"My Cherie Amour" hit big in 1969 for Stevie Wonder. Originally written for a girlfriend he had in school, the tune's upbeat message speaks to the sweetness of new love. However, he modified the lyrics after their breakup. Keeping the melody but removing her name and generalizing the object of his affection in French, he laments that she isn’t paying him any attention, "I've been near you, but you never noticed me." It’s been covered by Anita Baker, Quincy Jones, Minnie Ripperton and Ramsey Lewis.
"Just My Imagination" done by the Temptations was a sledge hammer in a velvet glove when it was released in 1971. The first line says "Each day through my window I watch her as she passes by," while at the end of the same stanza he admits that "But in reality, she doesn't even know me." Next, the chorus clearly states that he is in deep trouble because "it’s just my imagination running away with me." Then the song goes on to tell of his dreams, "A cozy little home out in the country with two children, maybe three." Poor guy! It was done as a nod to the ballads that the Temps did back in the 1960s. As a departure from the psychedelic sound they were recording at that time, they didn’t have much hope for it, but it hit big. Later it was covered by Larry Carlton, Booker T and the MG’s, Babyface and Gwyneth Paltrow, Euge Groove and Peter White, just to name a few of the smooth jazzers.
Roberta Flack’s 1973 hit "Killing Me Softly’"qualifies as unrequited love because the lyric "He sang as if he knew me in all my dark despair, then he looked right through me as if I wasn't there" sums it up nicely. I find that in all these songs it’s the recurring idea, someone looking right at you but not seeing you. And I appreciate this one because it isn’t done in the gender flip mode. It was written for a woman, sung by a woman owing the feeling she is having.
The ever enigmatic Earth Wind and Fire may have written one for us in 1975 called "Reasons." The line "I'm in the wrong place to be real, I'm longing to love you, just for a night" makes me suspect that it is. But with most of their lyrics, I am never sure.
In 1984 Luther Vandross gender flipped the Carpenters 1971’s hit – "Superstar" (Long ago and oh so far away), which was a song about the relationship between a groupie and a rock star. The performer has moved on, and she is left with only his song on the radio to cling to. Hitting the number two slot on the charts, held out of first place by Rod Stewart’s "Maggie Mae," it was originally recorded in 1970 by Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen Revue on their Live album. It helped propel Rita Coolidge from backup singer to soloist. Yet, it didn’t even hit the charts until Richard Carpenter changed one line of the lyric. Hearing the then up and coming Bette Midler sing it on the Tonight show, Richard decided to reduce the risqué factor by changing one line. "I can hardly wait to sleep with you again" turned into "I can hardly wait to be with you again" with the songwriter's permission, and it got plenty of air time across the country. Luther’s version makes me wonder which female superstar he was referring when he sang "Your guitar, it sounds so sweet and clear, but you're not really here, it's just the radio." Could he be referring to Traci Chapman or Joyce Cooling or Sheryl Crow? Sadly, we’ll never know.
And Lionel Ritchie did a smooth job with his unrequited love song "‘Hello" in 1984. From the first words, we know that this man has it bad and he even admits that it is a one way street by saying "I've been alone with you inside my mind." But he’s hopeful because he asks the musical question "Hello! Is it me you're looking for?" as the chorus. Ten years later Luther Vandross worked his magic on it to make it even smoother on his album, Songs.
Now, after all this musical game of Loves-me,Loves-me-not, the only thing I can think to do is to take the advice of Crosby, Stills and Nash. "Don't be angry, don't be sad, Don't sit crying over good times you've had . . . Sometimes you can't be with the one you love, honey, so love the one you're with!"
I want you to think about Star Trek and jazz. For Trekkers, if I say music and Klingon, the only thing that comes to mind is Opera. Really bad opera. But Star Trek has many musical references, many of which are smooth jazz. Maynard Ferguson did a jazz version of the Star Trek Theme song on his album Conquistador in 1981, six years before the Next Generation series came into being.
In the original Star Trek, Mr. Spock played a Vulcan lute while Lt. Uhura sang. There are lutes galore, from the Bajorians to the Vulcans, alien species all have their own version of the instrument.
In Star Trek Next Generation, Lt. Commander Riker was a very frustrated jazz musician, his instrument of choice, the slide trombone. Data, the overachieving android, is seen playing a violin, an oboe and keyboards. Even Captain Picard has Ressikian Flute and was shown playing a duet with a crew member on keyboards. Q, the omniscient alien, plays a trumpet. Geordie LaForge dressed as Alan Adale plays a mandolin. But, to find a saxophone, you have jump series to Voyager, where Harry Kim is the only sax player in the Trek pantheon.
That brings up to the original question. You see, John Tesh, the well-known keyboardist, appeared in the role of a holographic Klingon on a pain-stick gauntlet in the season two episode called ‘Icarus Factor’ of Next Generation. Sadly, he did not play the piano. As a matter of fact, Klingons have played only drums, concertinas, accordions or guitars. I guess that’s why Klingon Opera sounds so strange.
Don’t believe me, check it out here. Now, Beam me up Scotty, and don’t spare the bagpipes!
The signature instrument of Smooth Jazz--is it a man?
In the HBO documentary “Santana," Carlos Santana said, “The guitar is a woman. The saxophone is a man.”
I agree. Have you ever watched guitar players? I’ve seen how George Benson plays with his eyes closed, in his own world like a young lover with his love.
The expressions that B.B. King makes when he is playing could lead you to believe he named his guitar Lucille after very special woman, but that is not the case. Yes, she’s held gently in his arms, coaxed by him to produce wonderful sounds. She’s so special that Gibson Guitar Company duplicated her back in 1980s, and you can still order one of her clones today. She’s the longest running specialized instrument in their line. But no, Lucille was not a woman that he was intimate with. According to B.B., he named his guitar because of a fight in a wooden night club that resulted in the place catching fire. After successfully escaping, he went back into the fire to save his guitar and was nearly killed. Finding out that the fight was over a woman named Lucille, he put that name on his instrument to remind him not to be that foolish ever again.
Getting back to Santana’s statement, the logic holds that all string instruments are women because they have to be cradled gently to sound right. Even though the string bass is much larger than the guitar and used more in jazz trios than the guitar, it is still held gently in the player’s arms. Just watch Stanley Clarke or Dave Holland play theirs.
Stretching the thought further, the violin is intimately cradled between the shoulder and chin. Jean Luc Ponty gives us electrified violin solos sounding so jazzy you might think they were done on a guitar. Even the cello is embraced and protected by the legs of the player. Although it’s not an instrument you usually see in the jazz band, one of the legendary jazzmen, Dave Brubeck has a son who is a jazz/pop/classical cello player. Matt Brubeck backs up Sheryl Crow, Traci Chapman and has recorded with his dad. When Matt Brubeck drapes himself over his cello, he makes her cry the blues.
If the saxophone is a man, it’s got to be because of its clear voice and hard brass exterior. That would put the all the brass on the male side of the equation along with the clarinets and woodwinds. Boney James and Rick Braun blow loud and clear. Chuck Mangione can wake the dead with his flugelhorn and I don’t have enough space to give Louis Armstrong his due.
Then the piano must be a man too, because it has a tuxedo of a persona, all shiny, dressy black and white. Pianists often dress in tuxes too, to match their beautifully balanced instruments. So the very French café sound of the accordion seems like a little boy sporting a tux!
However, an organ can be a man or a woman, depending upon whether it is has an ornately carved wooden exterior like a fancy dressed woman or a utilitarian one like a Yamaha or Hammond B3, which would make you think it’s one of the guys.
Expanding on this, would a harmonica be a baby girl? Carefully held, cradled with both hands and life softly blown into her? Stevie Wonder might agree, as he used his harmonica to celebrate the birth of his baby in the song, "Isn’t She Lovely."
Last, let’s talk about drums. There are some many kinds of drums it makes your head ache. They must be androgynous and badly behaved because no matter which kind you play or how they look, they keep getting beaten on!
Bill Cochran's "Dinner Party" show gives our blogger, Lydia Barnes, some food for thought.
Who would you like to have Dinner with, living or dead?
After attending a couple of Bill Cochran’s Dinner Party chats on Saturday night, I remembered this old chestnut. It’s used as a conversation starter, but if you give it some time to sink into your brain, it can be quite the quandary. Now that I am thinking a lot about jazz, I have an easy answer.
First, let me say to him, Happy Birthday (August 3rd). He’s probably tired of everyone remarking that he is 88, but hey, even in this world of good medical science, it’s an achievement and a monument to his good genes, good living and good luck.
Think about it. In his nearly nine decades on this planet, he has encountered and worked with most of the important jazz artists who ever were. And a lot of Hollywood royalty, too. Sitting across from him would be a night of wonderful memories and great stories.
For instance, from a 2010 interview with Keith Speara of the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Speara: Who came up with “Joe Bari,” your original stage name?
I did. Bari is in the heel of the boot (of Italy) and Calabria is in the toe. My parents are from Calabria.
Rosie Clooney and I won this amateur contest, and then Pearl Bailey gave me a job down in Greenwich Village in her revue. Bob Hope was at the Paramount Theater with Jane Russell and Les Brown’s band. He came down to see Pearl Bailey and he got a big kick out of me because I was the only white kid in the show.
He said, “What’s your name?” I said, “Joe Bari.”
He said, “That’s a city in Italy. That’s a phony name. What’s your real name?”
I said, “Anthony Dominick Benedetto.”
He said, “Well, that’s a little long for the marquee. Let’s economize it and call you Tony Bennett.”
So when I paint it’s still Benedetto. And when I perform it’s Bob Hope’s name, Tony Bennett.
Very cool to be given your stage name by Bob Hope.
The second part of the same article that caught my eye was the admiration Tony has for Louis Armstrong. With birthdays only a day apart, I am sure they got toasted together on several occasions. And if in my Dinner Party wish, I got to have a person from the great beyond, I would have Louis come too. Here’s what Tony says about Louis:
“. . . He’s my idol. He’s my favorite. A lot of people listen to Sinatra and Nat Cole and say, ‘Boy, they really swing.’ People don’t realize that Louis Armstrong invented swing. He was an American genius. He actually invented bebop. Every musician I know that really knows how to play well, their idol is Louis Armstrong.”
And finally, here’s a great sum up of the two of them, straight from Tony’s mouth:
“ . . .You have to put a little humor in; it lightens up the show. It’s in the tradition of Louis Armstrong. I don’t want to act like I know more than the public. I still believe in the Louis Armstrong philosophy, where there’s melody and harmony and just the right tempo. I’m a strong believer in entertaining the audience. I’m a jazz-pop singer, but I really like to make people walk out feeling good.”
Thank you Mr. Bennett/Benedetto. You always make me smile!
Be sure to drop into one of the Dinner Party Chats while listening to Bill Cochran’s Dinner Party Show, Saturday and Sunday nights from 6pm to 10pm at SmoothJazzChicago.net. Everyone’s welcome! BYOB and a comfy chair. There’s always room around Bill’s table and the music is delicious.
Chicago born Chaka sang on Wendy Williams fiftieth birthday show. It was a rare TV treat. Naturally I went over to her official website.
It’s vibrant, engaging and very informative. The bio was so information packed I was impressed and disappointed at the same time. She has so many accomplishments listed that the bio was very light about her early days in Chicago. But, after reading it, I saw that they have a timeline and thinking that it will be just about her music, I explored it.
BINGO! This is what I was looking for – the early life of Chaka Khan. Complete with pictures.
It tells the tale of a girl who grew up in the crucible of the 1960’s civil rights days, the Feminist movement and the Vietnam War Protests, if you know how to read between the lines. It hints at why when she sang “I’m Every Woman” it rang so true.
Did you know that October 19th is Chaka Khan Day in both the state of Illinois and the City of Chicago? But this first weekend of August should be declared Chaka Khan Weekend because she will be at the Chicago Theater on Saturday.
Smooth Jazz haters like to flatter Boney James by saying that he gets "unfairly" lumped into the category. Citing that his playing is more robust, street wise and harder than what smooth jazz fan are supposed to like, he shouldn’t be included.
Balderdash! We love Boney!
He’s diversity personified. Boney crosses genres often and with magnificent ease. His passion is still the music, even after fourteen albums, four of which went gold.
Discussing his newest album “The Beat” in the bio section of his website, Boney said,
"There was no sense that this had to be a certain thing . . . I was recording for fun, experimenting with this hybrid R&B and Latin sound, two genres I love. So, my playing on this album has a different energy. I think it's one of the best records I've ever done.”
Speaking of energy, he must have tons. In August, he will be playing eleven venues, doing his Midwest shows with Brian Culbertson. And don’t think he is done after August. He has plenty of dates booked for the rest of the year. He averages fifty shows a year. That is prolific and accessible. Think about it – that keeps him on the road nearly every week, going somewhere.
He summed it up the best, “I just want to be fresh, not derivative.”
So there, haters, hush up and listen to the man play.
The Alabama native spent most of her too-short life in Chicago
Chicago does has a street named Honore (and sometimes pronounced "honorary"), but it is not to be confused with the over 1500 honorary streets that have been named for people who have contributed to life in Chicago. The wide brown signs hang under the green ones to give a nod of gratitude to people who have added memorable threads to the fabric of Chicago.
Joining the ranks of musicians like Sam Cooke, Muddy Waters, Sammy Davis Junior and Lou Rawls will be Dinah Washington, The Queen of Blues. Although we haven't heard her voice since her passing in 1963, she has not been forgotten. On what would have been her 85th birthday, August 29th, the block at 3800 to 3900 of South Prairie Avenue in Bronzeville will become Dinah Washington Way thanks to the persistence of jazz lover Al Carter Bey.
Miss Washington's first hit was, "What a Difference A Day Makes." Now we can point to the sign and wonder what a difference would it have made to her to have her own street.
Watching the commercials for Keira Knightley’s new movie, Begin Again, made me think. She has added herself to the list of actresses who really do sing, playing an ingénue singer named Greta, who becomes the project of Dan Violet (played by Mark Ruffalo). There are even a couple of scenes with Celo Green, so if you want, we can use him to start the male version of the list.
If you want to go way back in the crossover of acting and Jazz, Judy Garland comes to mind. Hollywood restricted her to show tones and happy songs, but she still did a great job when she was allowed to do things with more jazz overtones, like "As Long As He Needs Me" or "The Man That Got Away."
Billie Holiday was approached to do the movie Showboat, but she declined. Pity, because I love adding her to any list I am making. And wouldn't it have been marvelous to see her in that antique setting? But the roundabout way to do it is to add Diana Ross for starring in Lady Sings the Blues, the imperfect fictionalized bio of Billie’s life. I’m happy now.
The Fabulous Baker Boys featured Michelle Pfeiffer as a confused chanteuse who comes in to save the act and ends up causing conflict between the brothers. She actually sings two songs, "Making Whoopee" and "My Funny Valentine," rather well. Torchy and sensuous.
Gweneth Paltrow did a duet of Smokey Robinson’s "Cruisin’" with Huey Lewis back in 2000. Made it to Number 1 on the adult contemporary chart, stayed there for a week, too.
Need I mention Whitney Houston did it? We all loved her in the Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale. There is so much to write about her I can't manage it all in one list, but trust me, she will not be ignored.
Madonna can switch gears like a Lamborghini. From Desperately Seeking Susan to League of Their Own to Die Another Day, she’s crossing acting and singing genres all the time. She even slips into the smooth jazz genre on occasion.
Then there's Jennifer Lopez. She’s been more than a double threat most of her career because she started out dancing on the Waynan’s television show, In Living Color.
And lastly, I want to talk about Jill Scott. She did an entire series for HBO called The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. With Anika Noni Rose, she plays Precious Ramotswe. They solved crimes in Botswana. Filmed on location, with actors from the region, she plays a woman who helps others but has to wrestle with her former relationship with a jazz trumpeter. If you don’t watch more than the first eleven minutes you get to hear her sing for a few seconds.
I'm sure that there are more ladies who sing and act, but they don’t come up on jazz station playlists or in my memory. But if you know of a few, let me know.
(Note from Rick O'Dell: Please join me in welcoming Lydia Barnes to SmoothJazzChicago as our primary columnist/blogger. Lydia's passion for the music dates back to the early '90s, and we're pleased to be able to present her unique view of happenings--not just music-related!--in our world. You'll find the rest of her writings at her site.)
Before flying east for the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island, the Joey DeFrancesco Trio will honor us with a touch down on Friday, August 1st. Playing Evanston S.P.A.C.E. with drummer and Chicago native George Fludas, guitarist Jeff Parker and his trusty Hammond B3, Joey is sure to deliver a sweet treat for jazz lovers. If you’re a fan of the rich tones the B3, this is the show for you. Whether they’re slowing down Michael Jackson’s "Billie Jean" to making her extra jazzy, transforming Bobby Hebb’s "Sunny" from a 1960s pop icon into a new millennium jazz diva, or making the theme to the Godfather into audio honey, Joey will makes his B3 a killer B!
Check out his website. To hear all the cuts mentioned above, click the media tab and choose video. He has full length songs posted. His latest release is called Enjoy the View and with him at the keyboard, I’m sure we will.
No babysitter that night, no problem. The S.P.A.C.E. is open to fans of all ages! Don’t miss it, because he heads back to his hive until December 7 when he ventures out again. But not to Chicago, the closest he will come will be Columbus, Missouri.
Longtime Smooth Jazz fan and loyal listener Tom Campeggio just got back from his weekend at the beautiful Osthoff Resort. He sent us this note:
Well, it was a great weekend at the Osthoff Resort. The music, food, wine were all very good. The Rick Braun/Richard Elliot was rocking, shall we say. Had some people dancing in the aisles, or up and pointing their fingers to the sky with the music. Both Richard and Rick mentioned about their CDs, so during the concert I snuck down and bought all three of them they had brought along. The BWB, Summer Horns, which I did not know Richard was on and then the one CD they both made together in 2007, the R N R one. The Steve Cole show was nice as well, although Nancy preferred the night before. We got to the hotel about 7:00pm as we stopped in the Milwaukee area to get dinner on the way. It really was a nice time and can’t thank you enough again for this.
Thomas Campeggio |Controller Combined Resources, Inc.
Mr. Campeggio was the grand prize winner in the "Jazz on the Vine" giveaway we did in February on SmoothJazzChicago.net.
They're already making plans for the 2015 event. Plan on attending next year. It's definitely worth the drive from Chicago!