Category: Jazz

Star Eyes

Let’s dip for a minute into the work of master bebop vocalist Anita O’Day. When she began her career during the big band era of the 1940’s, she presented herself as the ‘cool chick’ of her time, performing in casual attire instead of in evening … Continue reading Star Eyes

Soon

I’m settling down to listen to Ella Fitzgerald sing the Gershwin songbook for the next three hours. Fitzgerald did those whole songbook projects, recording an entire library of great American standards. She did the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin and others. That’s years … Continue reading Soon

Sinnerman

Remixing is all well and good, modernizing old things for young ears, but some works need no help. Some works are already so modern in their drive and immediacy that it’s like there’s no such thing as changing times. Nina Simone, of course, almost singlehandedly … Continue reading Sinnerman

San Francisco Fan

Cab Calloway may not be a household name, but you’ve damn sure seen his signature moves or heard one of his songs. Fans have come to Cab Calloway through odd pathways, from the Betty Boop shorts that featured his animated avatar in the 1930’s, to his showstopping cameo in The Blues Brothers in 1980, to covers by unexpected artists like The White Stripes in the aughts. Like a lot of people, I came to this song through Joe Jackson’s cover. In the 80’s Jackson did more than anybody to guide rock fans into the world of swing and jazz music. His jazz covers proved that music that was swingin’ in the 30’s was still swingin’ right in tune with post-punk and new wave. That was a pretty surprising epiphany, given that rock fans tend to view jazz as being as stodgy and musty as their granddad’s old suits. Nobody could ever call Cab Calloway stodgy: he was always in the business of razzle-dazzle and good razzle-dazzle never fades. Calloway has managed to pop up as a cultural reference point in every decade, and being dead hasn’t slowed his roll. He just always comes back around, just as cool as the first day he did the Hi-De-Ho.