The Train in Jazz & Blues

Since the first half of the 19th century, the sounds, symbols and metaphors of the train have cut across the American musical landscape. The significance of the train has been reflected in virtually every musical form: work songs, spirituals, folk, blues, jazz and pop. From the work-gang rhythms of pounding railroad track spikes to the sounds of train whistles and the clickety-clacks of the tracks, the onomatopoeia of the railroad has been a strong presence in American music. Author Albert Murray called the rhythms of trains, “the definitive percussive emphasis in jazz.”

This podcast gives the listener an ear into some of the amazing sounds and symbolisms of the train woven throughout our country’s music.

Playlist 

“All Aboard” Muddy Waters
“Honky Tonk Train Blues” Meade “Lux” Lewis
“Locomotive” Thelonious Monk
“This Train” The Staples Singers
“Move Along Train” The Staples Singers
“Build That Railroad” Duke Ellington, Al Hibbler
“Track 360” Duke Ellington
“B & O Blues” Joe Turner and Pete Johnson
“Mystery Train” Little Junior Parker
“On the Atchison, Topeka & the Santa Fe” Johnny Mercer
“Dixie Flyer Blues” Bessie Smith
“Rock Island Line” Lead Belly
“Chattanooga Choo-Choo” Susannah McCorkle
“Mystery Pacific” Django Reinhardt
“Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” Louis Jordan
“Happy Go Lucky Local” Duke Ellington
“Daybreak Express” Duke Ellington
“Along the Track Blues” Duke Ellington
“Take the ‘A’ Train” Duke Ellington, Betty Roche

Paul Desmond, Original

There weren’t many alto players back in the late forties and early fifties who didn’t attempt to sound like the great Charlie Parker—his influence, on all jazz instruments in fact, was so pervasive that few could escape his gravitational pull. One notable exception was alto man Paul Desmond, who eschewed Bird’s hard-biting virtuosic style for a lighter, more relaxed approach, marked by a highly lyrical melodicism. Yet even Bird himself, and many of the Bird-influenced players of the time, such as Cannonball Adderley, admired Desmond’s playing—Adderley called Desmond “a profoundly beautiful player.” So this episode is the story of a jazzman who went his own way and left a legacy of some of the most beautiful solos in jazz history.

Playlist 

“Somebody Loves Me” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Koko” Charlie Parker
“Out of Nowhere” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“In Your Own Sweet Way” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Blue Rondo a la Turk” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Tangerine” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Indian Summer” Lee Konitz
“You Stepped Out of a Dream” Stan Getz
“Moonlight in Vermont” Pete Brown
“Countless Blues” Lester Young
“Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” Johnny Hodges with Duke Ellington
“Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Here Lies Love” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“This Foolish Things” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Stardust” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“How High the Moon” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“All the Things You Are” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Koto Song” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck

Farmer’s Art

Art Farmer was one of the jazz world’s all-time great trumpet and flugelhorn players, and one of its most lyrical. In this episode Bob Hecht talks with the noted flugelhorn player Dmitri Matheny about Farmer, who for many years was his mentor and main inspiration.

Playlist

“Stardust” Art Farmer
“Three Little Words” Art Farmer
“Stormy Weather” Dmitri Matheny
“Goodbye Old Girl” Art Farmer
“I Waited For You” Art Farmer
“I’m Old Fashioned” Art Farmer
“Petite Belle” Art Farmer and Jim Hall
“Stompin’ at the Savoy” Art Farmer and Jim Hall
“Sing Me Softly of the Blues” Art Farmer
“Mox Nix” Art Farmer
“Warm Valley” Dmitri Matheny

My Funny Valentine

In some ways, “My Funny Valentine” is an unlikely song to have endured since the 1930’s… it is a rather atypical love song, imbued as it is with the rich irony and whimsy of its creative lyricist, Lorenz Hart. In this podcast, we celebrate the popularity and longevity of this ubiquitous Rodgers & Hart standard.

Playlist

“My Funny Valentine” is performed by the following artists:

Charles McPherson
Carmen McRae
Bill Evans & Jim Hall
Miles Davis
Sarah Vaughan
Frank Sinatra
Chet Baker & Gerry Mulligan
Kate McGarry

Beatle Jazz

This podcast explores the history of the love-hate relationship of the jazz world and the Beatles. We trace the evolution of the Beatles initial, devastating impact on jazz, to the present day when their music is ubiquitous, and revered.

Playlist

“Yesterday” Eric Reed
“Can’t Buy Me Love” The Beatles at Shea Stadium
“A Day in the Life” Wes Montgomery
“Imagine” Stanley Cowell
“A Hard Day’s Night” Count Basie
“All My Loving” Duke Ellington
“Blackbird” Brad Mehldau
“For No One” Ken Peplowski
“Let It Be” Joshua Redman
“Eleanor Rigby” Vince Guaraldi
“Mother Nature’s Son” Joel Frahm with Brad Mehldau
“She’s Leaving Home” McCoy Tyner
“Revolution” Bill Frisell
“Yesterday” Eric Reed

Sophisticated Lady

One of Duke Ellington’s most famous compositions, “Sophisticated Lady,” actually had its genesis in two of his band members’ original musical ideas. In this podcast we explore whether Duke’s greatest genius wasn’t perhaps more that of a collaborator than a composer.

Playlist

“Sophisticated Lady” Coleman Hawkins

“Cotton Tail” Duke Ellington

“I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart” Johnny Hodges with Ellington

“Satin Doll” Duke Ellington

“Concerto for Cootie” Cootie Williams with Ellington

“I’m Beginning To See the Light” Johnny Hodges with Ellington

“Sophisticated Lady” Alan Broadbent

“Sophisticated Lady” Duke Ellington

“Mood Indigo” Barney Bigard with Ellington

“Sophisticated Lady” Charles Mingus

“Sophisticated Lady” Sarah Vaughan

Miles Davis, Space Man

Trumpeter Miles Davis was famous for how he used his unique concept of space to create indelible, dramatic solos. In this episode we explore how Miles evolved from a young prototypical bebopper, playing a style in which ‘more’ was often considered hipper than less, to  become a musical minimalist, playing in ways in which ‘less’ is often much more.

Playlist

“Basin Street Blues” Miles Davis

“Now’s the Time” Miles Davis with Charlie Parker

“Dizzy Atmosphere” Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker

“Embraceable You” Miles Davis with Charlie Parker

“Bye Bye Blackbird” Miles Davis with John Coltrane

“I Thought About You” Miles Davis

 

Solo Flight

Charlie Christian was the first superstar of the electric guitar, ultimately paving the way for future greats like Wes Montgomery and Jimi Hendrix. As his childhood friend Ralph Ellison said, “With Christian, the guitar found its jazz voice!” This is the story of his remarkable rise and fall, and the significance of his contributions.

Playlist

“Wholly Cats” Charlie Christian with Benny Goodman

“Solo Flight” Charlie Christian with Benny Goodman

“Blue Devils Blues” Walter Page’s Blue Devils with Hot Lips Page, trumpet

“Swingin’ the Blues” Lester Young with Count Basie

“Good Mornin’ Blues” Charlie Christian and Lester Young, Kansas City Six

“Rose Room” Charlie Christian with Benny Goodman

“Flying Home” Charlie Christian with Benny Goodman

“Pagin’ the Devil” Charlie Christian and Lester Young with Kansas City Six

“Swing to Bop (Topsy)” Charlie Christian

Hughes Blues

Langston Hughes’ love of jazz suffused his work as a poet. Hughes was considered a pioneer in jazz poetry, and collaborated with numerous jazz musicians in poetry readings. This podcast features a number of his jazz-influenced poems, along with a number of music selections from Hughes’ personal record collection.

Playlist

 “How Long Blues” Count Basie

“Blues at Dawn” Langston Hughes reading, Henry “Red” Allen, trumpet

“The Mooche” Duke Ellington

“Consider Me” Langston Hughes reading, with Charles Mingus

“Dreams” Langston Hughes reading

“The Pearls” Jelly Roll Morton

“’Round Midnight” Thelonious Monk

“Good Morning Blues” Jimmy Rushing, Count Basie

“Homesick Blues” Langston Hughes reading

“The Weary Blues” Langston Hughes reading

“Scenes in the City” Charles Mingus, Melvin Stewart narrating

“I, Too” Langston Hughes reading

“Night & Morn” Langston Hughes reading, Henry “Red” Allen, trumpet

“After Hours” Avery Parish with Erskine Hawkins

“Backlash Blues” Nina Simone

“Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” Randy Weston

 

Strange Fruit

“Strange Fruit” is the iconic lynching protest song written by a Jewish schoolteacher from the Bronx, and immortalized by Billie Holiday. Time Magazine named it “the song of the century.”

Playlist

“Strange Fruit” Billie Holiday
“Strange Fruit” Billie Holiday
“Strange Fruit” Sidney Bechet
“Strange Fruit” Herbie Hancock and Marcus Miller
“Strange Fruit” Caroline Hecht

Whitney Balliett, Jazz Poet

We’ve had many great jazz critics and writers, but perhaps no one whose work rose to the literary, and even poetic, reaches of Whitney Balliett’s. Dan Morgenstern once called him “the greatest prose stylist to ever apply his writing skills to jazz.” In this podcast, we sample some of Balliett’s unique descriptions of the music of a handful of jazz masters.

Playlist

“Blue Again” Louis Armstrong
“West End Blues” Louis Armstrong
“In a Mellow Tone” Ben Webster
“Fine & Mellow” Doc Cheatham
“Surrey With the Fringe on Top” Blossom Dearie
“Summertime” Sidney Bechet
“These Foolish Things” Lester Young
“Off Minor” Thelonious Monk
“Parker’s Mood” Charlie Parker

Goin’ Home

This is the story of how a piece of classical music composed in 1893 crossed over to other genres, tapping into a universal longing for home.

Playlist

“New World Symphony”, Second Movement, Antonin Dvorak, composer; Dublin Philharmonic
”Goin’ Home” Art Tatum
“Goin’ Home” Yo-Yo Ma
“Wade in the Water” Hank Jones, Charlie Haden
“Steal Away” Mahalia Jackson
“Goin’ Home” Paul Robeson at Carnegie Hall
“Goin’ Home” Ben Webster
“Goin’ Home” Jack Teagarden
“Goin’ Home” Sam Cooke
“Goin’ Home” George Cables

Conversations with Thelonious

Thelonious Monk was not known for his volubility. This podcast focuses on a few of his known conversations, and one notable missed opportunity.

Playlist

“Blues Five Spot” Thelonious Monk Quartet
“Trinkle Tinkle” Monk with John Coltrane at the Five Spot
“Monk’s Mood” Thelonious Monk
“Off Minor” Thelonious Monk
“Brilliant Corners” Thelonious Monk
“Nutty” Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane
“Tea for Two” Bud Powell
“Tea for Two” Thelonious Monk
“Smake It” Walter Davis, Jr.
“Flyin’ Hawk” Thelonious Monk with Coleman Hawkins
“Four in One” Thelonious Monk
“All Alone” Thelonious Monk

I’ll Be Seeing You

A virtual anthem of World War II, the song “I’ll Be Seeing You” was popularized by Bing Crosby, Jo Stafford, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and many others. It became emblematic of the war, in which separations and loss were all too common. In this podcast we look at the unlikely history of this song.

Playlist

“I’ll Be Seeing You” Billie Holiday, recorded in 1944
“I’ll Be Seeing You” Bing Crosby, recorded 1944
“I’ll Be Seeing You” Jo Stafford, recorded 1944
“I’ll Be Seeing You” Frank Sinatra, recorded 1944
“I’ll Be Seeing You” Rosemary Clooney, recorded 1991
“I’ll Be Seeing You” Bobby Hutcherson, recorded 2007

Satch & Bing

For decades, Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby collaborated, in films, radio and TV, on duets that showed their unique wit and musicality. This podcast presents the story of their friendship and musical rapport.

Playlist

“At the Jazz Band Ball” Louis Armstrong & Bing Crosby
“Stardust” Louis Armstrong
“St. Louis Blues” Bing Crosby with Duke Ellington
“I Surrender, Dear” Bing Crosby
“I Surrender, Dear” Louis Armstrong
“Heebie Jeebies” Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five
“Gone Fishin’” Louis Armstrong & Bing Crosby
“Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” Louis Armstrong & Bing Crosby
“Blueberry Hill” Louis Armstrong & Bing Crosby
“Up a Lazy River” Louis Armstrong & Bing Crosby
“Hollywood Palace Medley” Louis Armstrong & Bing Crosby
“Happy Birthday to Bing Crosby” Louis Armstrong
“Now You Has Jazz” Louis Armstrong & Bing Crosby