If I haven’t said it before, my musical tastes are very eclectic. My mom had her style, I had mine, and my dad had his. Our house was a collection of musical genres, but what I want to focus on is the music I came to know, love, and associate with my dad.
One of my first musical memories was that of Billie Holiday on the stereo during a holiday party when I was supposed to be in bed. She sounded different than most of the other music I had heard and I fell in love with her voice. I will always be envious of the fact that when in the Marines during the Korean war and stationed in Chicago, dad had the opportunity to hear Billie live and up close.
I grew up hearing jazz, swing and big band greats. Hearing Glenn Millers “In the Mood,” Duke Ellingington’s “C Jam Blues” or legendary “Take the ‘A’ Train,” and Count Basie’s “Taxi War Dance” and “One O’Clock Jump” made me move to the music then and now…and still makes me want to take swing lessons.
- Listen to Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” here: 14 In The Mood
- Listen to Duke Ellington’s “C Jam Blues” here: 01 C Jam Blues
- Listen to Duke Ellington’s “Take the ‘A’ Train” here: 01 Take The _A_ Train
- Listen to Count Basie’s “Taxi War Dance” here: 05 Taxi War Dance [78rpm Version]
- Listen to Count Basie’s “One O’Clock Jump” here: 15 One O’Clock Jump
One of my dad’s concerns which disheartened him, was that many people of my age and younger listened to so much engineered music that they couldn’t identify the music from a clarinet, trumpet, french horn and most other instruments. He believed that so much music and the history that accompanies the music would be lost.
Dad loved the sounds of the brass, woodwinds and keyboards. His favorite musician was Louis Armstrong not only for his talent with the horn, but his unique and expressive singing voice, and his famous smile. “Indiana” showcases the talent in Armstrong’s band, and the Dixieland style. In addition to great musicians, Armstrong worked with many talented singers including Ella Fitzgerald in “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess.
- Listen to Louis Armstrong’s “Indiana” here: 06 Indiana
- Listen to Louis Armstrong/Ella Fitzgerald’s “Summertime” here: 08 Summertime
In addition to Armstrong, Doc Cheatham and Erskine Hawkins were frequent trumpeters in Dad’s musical lineup. Doc’s “Hello Dolly” an Armstrong classic, differentiates itself from Armstrong’s in the faster pace. And then there’s Erskine Hawkins dubbed “The 20th Century Gabriel” and his smooth “Tuxedo Junction.”
- Listen to Doc Cheatham’s “Hello Dolly” here: 11 Hello Dolly
- Listen to Erskine Hawkins “Tuxedo Junction” here: 02 Tuxedo Junction
Although dad shared more trumpet players, clarinets, saxes, trombones and keyboards followed a close second. Artie Shaw’s “Frenesi” and Benny Goodman’s “Rose Room” feature solos of each performer, but with a definite difference in styles…one dad pointed out. He loved sax players Coleman Hawkins “Sheik of Araby” and Charlie Barnet’s “Cherokee.” And I would be remiss to not include Jimmy Dorsey a phenomenal band leader and trombone player in “Hallelujah.”
- Listen to Artie Shaw’s “Frenesi” here: 02 Frenesi
- Listen to Benny Goodman’s “Rose Room” here: 11 Rose Room
- Listen to Coleman Hawkins “Sheik of Araby” here: 06 The Sheik of Araby
- Listen to Charlie Barnet’s “Cherokee” here: 03 Cherokee
- Listen to Jimmy Dorsey’s “Hallelujah” here: 15 Hallelujah
Most of the music, when listened to in my adult years, was at a family party and we’d be sitting around the bar. At this point in time, the fabulous jazz, swing and big band music was punctuated with a variety of piano music and even opera. Dad loved Fats Waller and also introduced me to Don Shirley’s music…an incredible piano player who played absolutely everything with his own interpretation: jazz, classical, spirituals, gospel, pop.
- Listen to Don Shirley’s “Georgia On My Mind” here: 08 Georgia On My Mind
- Listen to Don Shirley’s “Over the Rainbow” here: 2-08 Over The Rainbow
- Listen to Don Shirley’s Orpheus in the Underworld “Track 2” here: 02 Band 2
While sitting around the bar at almost every gathering, one piece of music would always make it’s way to the dad’s disc player…. “Phantom of the Opera.” And inveriably dad would wait for a particular song, turn up the volume, call me by his nickname for me, and say….”I want you to listen to this. Just listen.” As the song played on, it would reach a crescendo, and again he would say “Just listen to this. Isn’t that incredible?” The song he found so much joy in sharing was “All I Ask of You.”
- Listen to “All I Ask of You” here: 1-13 All I Ask of You
My dad has been gone for almost two years. I miss him everyday and talk to him regularly. And on many occasions I play some of his favorite music for him. I am fortunate that my dad took the time to share many, many brilliant musicians and their work. Had it not been for him saying “Come here for a minute….I just want you to listen to this…” I may have missed some of the most influential musicians in the world.
To my dad, I say thank you. To you, I say I hope you enjoy this music half has much as I did. Thank you for following along.
- Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood”
- Duke Ellington’s “C Jam Blues”
- Duke Ellington’s “Take the ‘A’ Train”
- Count Basie’s “Taxi War Dance”
- Count Basie’s “One O’Clock Jump”
- Louis Armstrong’s “Indiana”
- Louis Armstrong/Ella Fitzgerald’s “Summertime”
- Erskine Hawkins “Tuxedo Junction”
- Artie Shaw’s “Frenesi”
- Benny Goodman’s “Rose Room”
- Charlie Barnet’s “Cherokee”
- Don Shirley’s “Georgia On My Mind”
- Phantom of The Opera’s “All I Ask of You”