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Once Upon a Summertime

Once Upon a Summertime

One of the most difficult songs to sing well is Once Upon Summertime. Written in 1954 by Michel Legrand, French music producer Eddie Barclay and French songwriter Eddy Marnay, the slow waltz originally was entitled La Valse des Lilas (or The Lilac Waltz). In the late 1950s, the song was given English lyrics by Johnny Mercer to make the melody accessible to singers in the American and English markets. Blossom Dearie was first to record the song with Mercer's words ...

Irene Kral: Live in 1977

Irene Kral: Live in 1977

In 1975 and '78, singer Irene Kral released what were arguably her finest small-group albums—Where Is Love and Gentle Rain, respectively, for the Choice label. She was accompanied only by pianist Alan Broadbent. [Photo above of Irene Kral with daughters Jodi, left and Melissa, from Being Irene Kral's Daughter by Jodi Burnett] A month after the second album was recorded and a bunch of months before it came out in 1978, Kral and Alan appeared with bassist Frank De La ...

Blossom Dearie on Dusty

Blossom Dearie on Dusty

One of my favorite Blossom Dearie albums is That's Just The Way I Want to Be. Recorded in London in early 1970 for the European Fontana label, the album features all hip, pop originals, most of which you've never heard before. Blossom is impossibly vulnerable and delicate on the record. Nestled among the album's gems is my favorite Blossom Dearie song—Dusty Springfield. Last week, I was emailing with singer  and poet Arlene Corwin in Sweden, and it turns out she ...

Tiny Grimes on Prestige

Tiny Grimes on Prestige

In the 1950s, musicians who could play jazz, blues and R&B increased their income considerably. Guitarist Tiny Grimes was one of those who could switch around depending on the recording and touring opportunity. For much of the early and mid-1950s, Grimes was on the road extensively fronting an R&B group called Tiny Grimes and His Rocking Highlanders. In 1957 and '58, the blues went through a revival of sorts as rock 'n' roll grew increasingly popular. In '58, Chuck Berry, ...

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase: The "lost" ensembles of Miles Davis

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase: The "lost" ensembles of Miles Davis

This week, let's take a look at some history related to the most important jazz musician to come from the St. Louis area, Miles Davis. As a bandleader, Davis had many celebrated groups over the years, such as the “Birth of the Cool" nonet; the six-piece ensemble that recorded Kind of Blue; the first “great quartet" of the 1950s featuring John Coltrane; and its successor in the 1960s with Tony Williams, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter. All of ...

Buddy & Ella Johnson: Walk 'Em

Buddy & Ella Johnson: Walk 'Em

Back in the early 1950s, R&B was still largely unknown by white radio listeners and record buyers. Marketed to adults in Black urban neighborhoods on jukeboxes in corner bars and clubs, R&B's dance beat picked up where swing left off and modern jazz began. Swing dancing faded after World War II as marriage rates climbed. Many swing bands also cut back on touring in the late '40s due to fewer clubs thanks to higher taxes on venues that allowed dancing. ...

Herbie Nichols: The Third World

Herbie Nichols: The Third World

In a crowded 1950s jazz universe where every pianist had a distinct artistic footprint, Herbie Nichols was among the most singular. Often compared by critics to Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell, Nichols wasn't really much like either keyboard giant. If anything, Nichols' brooding style probably had more in common with Hungarian composer-pianist Béla Bartók and the dark Russian composers he admired as a child. Now, with perspective, he sounds like the father of the churning, modal approach pioneered by piano ...

Gábor Szabó: Gypsy '66

Gábor Szabó: Gypsy '66

Mainstream jazz in the 1960s had a distinct sound. Artists such as Paul Desmond, Jim Hall, Wes Montgomery, Wayne Shorter, Gary Burton, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Horace Silver and others were influenced by the emerging young-adult scene that ran parallel to the teenage youthquake. Sixties jazz was eclectic and shaded by the revolution in pop music, in some cases stormy and pointed and in others gentle and mystical. One musician whose contribution in the '60s and '70s is overlooked is ...


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