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Jazz, Swing, Big Band, Boogie: Loves Learned from ...

Jazz, Swing, Big Band, Boogie: Loves Learned from My Dad

Lee Aldrich MiddlesageIf 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.

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.”

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.”

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.

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.”

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.

Available_on_iTunes_Badge_US-UK_110x40_0824Most music featured here can be found on iTunes by clicking the links below:



  1. Julie Phelps

    2 October

    Lee, I neglected commenting before, and apologize. The music you grew up listening to and have listed is music I’ve been enjoying most of my life also. Benny Goodman – especially The Rose Room – is one of my Sunday morning faves. Waking up to the sounds of Benny while sipping coffee, reading the paper or catching up on FB posts is one of life’s pleasantries.

    When I was a teen I stayed at my best friend’s house as often as our parents would allow. At her home there was no TV. Instead, the house was filled with sounds of classical music. My friend and I would sometimes burrow into her room and listen to broadway musical albums, such as Westside Story.

    Without that earlier exposure I might have missed out on so much! Music enriches our lives, and becoming familiar with all the various types can only benefit us. One of those benefits, of course, is being able to recognize the sounds of various instruments 🙂

    Thanks for the nicely done post.

    • Lee Aldrich

      3 October

      Julie –

      I love your story about your friends house! There are so many genres of music that have a jumping off point in classical and jazz. Had I not been exposed to all that great music my tastes may have been very narrow. Music is such a part of my life and it has such an ability to provoke so many memories and emotions that I can’t imagine a life without all the varied and eclectic sounds.

      Thank you for taking time to respond and sharing a bit of your musical history!

  2. Thanks for this wonderful article It helped me a lot so useful. I’ll refer this site to my friends

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