All That Jazz

This is this week’s Playing Favorites, in disguise with a different title.

music notesLast year, we watched the Super Bowl at my daughter’s house.  Not likely this year since theyve moved to Texas.   Anyway, the halftime show included an assortment of hiphop-rap-whatever performers and when it was (blessedly) over, I said, that was awful.   My daughter turned to me and said, What do YOU want for a halftime? Jazz?  Not likely.  It seems to me jazz has fallen hard times, at least as far as getting any airtime, except perhaps on streaming services’ specialty stations.  It wasn’t too long ago that groups like Steely Dan added flashes of jazz to their top-twenty hits and, occasionally, a jazz number would make the pop music charts, like Chuck Mangione’s Feel So Good in 1970 which reached number 4 on the pop music charts.

I first was touched by the jazz bug when I was a Freshman in High School and the TV show, Peter Gunn became a hit featuring the jazz-tinged Peter Gunn Theme written by Henry Mancini (who won a Grammy for it).  I bought a record of music from the show and shortly thereafter, Mancini’s music from the Show Mr. Lucky.   Then one day, I found a record by The Modern Jazz Quartet at the East Haven library.  I brought it home.  The first time I played it on my Mom’s stereo, it got bad reviews … it sounds like they are playing whatever they want, Mom said.  Right!  And I loved it, the way they could wander away from the melody in interesting ways and still convey the spirit of the song.  I began to collect music by jazz artists like Cannonball Adderly, Wes Montgomery and Miles Davis.  In 1959, the Dave Brubeck quartet releasedtime out the album, Time Out which was based upon the use of time signatures that were unusual for jazz.  It became the first million selling jazz album and one cut, Take Five (which featured and extended drum solo by Joe Morrello) was a massive hit.   Brubeck was a regular visitor to the School of Music at Yale University, and I was lucky enough to catch a concert by the Brubeck Quartet on the campus in New Haven.   I was hooked on jazz for good.

Do I really wish that the Super Bowl halftime show could be jazz?  No, I suppose not.  Listening to jazz requires a love of music and attentive listening that doesn’t seem in vogue anymore.   It’s too bad, really.  Music shouldn’t go out of style, replaced by whatever the radio stations feel their young viewers will listen to.  So.  This week’s Playing Favorites features the song that won me over to jazz forever in a live performance featuring Dave Brubeck on piano, the velvet sax of Paul Desmond, an amazing drum solo by Joe Morello and bass by Eugene Wright.


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