The weathers have warmed and the season’s first bloom is upon us once again. Put away the heavy coats and skis, dust off the gardening tools, throw on these spring-themed tunes and have yourself a hit of fresh air.
This week’s edition of Ambient Alarm Clock focuses on what some might call jazz. The line between jam music and jazz is a line that has little meaning. Improvisation is improvisation. That is why Jerry Garcia played Miles Davis’ music, and Miles Davis played Cindy Lauper’s music.
The selection begins with the same song Count Basie would begin his sets back in the 50s, “April in Paris.” This song features one of the best endings in music, or rather, three of the best endings in music. Next, we move to “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” sung by Billie Holiday. Her backup band at the time was the Benny Goodman group and on this recording you will hear Benny deliver one of his hottest solos. Then, on “Listen to the People,” we have the late Don Pullen playing another best-ever solo on piano.
In 1998, Marc Johnson—a very highly regarded bassist—released an album called The Sound of Summer Running with Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny on guitar. The album’s title track was the first time the pair had recorded together, and features the two of them playing in harmony. We then move to Miles’ cover of Cindy Lauper’s “Time After Time.”
John Coltrane may have been the greatest musician of the 20th century. And, surprisingly for a jazz saxophonist, he actually made the charts with his jammed out version of “My Favorite Things”— one of the greatest musical recordings of all time.
Recently, I had the great pleasure of seeing Jim Hall at the Iridium in NYC. The legendary guitarist—still performing in his 80s—is known for his uncanny use of theory in crafting complex, yet wonderfully melodic solos. One of his best is on the classical Spanish number “Concierto de Aranjuez”. While Miles’ version is great, this one edges slightly ahead.
You may recognize the name Bill Bruford as the drummer who has played in Yes, King Crimson and even a short stint with Genesis. But outside of those projects, Bruford is actually a jazz drummer. Several years back, I made a trip across the pond and caught him playing with Earthworks at Ronnie Scott’s in London. That performance had a massive effect on me, and he has remained my favorite drummer till this day. The selection on today’s playlist is from the band’s 1987 self titled debut, with a drum line very similar to the one he played on King Crimson’s “Discipline.”
Next, Gary Burton and Stephane Grapelli playing the classic Django theme—”Daphne.” This version, from the late 60’s has Django’s long time partner, violinist Stephane Grapelli teamed up with Pat Metheny’s mentor, Gary Burton. And finally, Eric Dolphy’s take on the essential jazz standard “On Green Dolphin Street.”
Today’s playlist was curated by my father who is responsible for all of my musical knowledge. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
1. Count Basie – April in Paris
2. Billie Holiday – What a Little Moonlight Can Do
3. Don Pullen – Listen to the People
4. Marc Johnson – Summer Running
5. Jim Hall – Concierto de Aranjuez
6. Miles Davis – Time After Time
7. John Coltrane – My Favorite Things
8. Bill Bruford’s Earthworks – My Heart Declares a Holiday
9. Gary Burton & Stephane Grapelli – Daphne
10. Eric Dolphy – On Green Dolphin Street