Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wednesday's Radio Show: Slumming Saxophonists

Here's the playlist from this morning's radio show. As always, the underlined links represent songs you can download and/or play.

Jazzman Carole King TOM SCOTT (1974)
Small World (Pt. 2) Huey Lewis & the News STAN GETZ (1988)

Waiting on a Friend Rolling Stones SONNY ROLLINS (1981)

Dat Dere Rickie Lee Jones JOE HENDERSON (1991)

Just The Way You Are Billy Joel PHIL WOODS (1977)
Aja Steely Dan WAYNE SHORTER (1977)

I love your smile Shanice BRANFORD MARSALIS (1991)

I'm So Blue Melanie ART PEPPER (1976)

Take a Walk on the Wild Side Lou Reed RONNIE ROSS (1972)

Who Will Save Your Soul Jewel JOSHUA REDMAN (1997)

Pick Up The Pieces The Phil Collins Big Band JAMES CARTER (1999)

Your Latest Trick Dire Straits MICHAEL BRECKER (1985)

Lady Madonna The Beatles RONNIE SCOTT et al (1968)

Young Americans David Bowie DAVID SANBORN (1975)

Almost made it: How Can I Stop (The Rolling Stones with Wayne Shorter) Lazarus Heart (Sting with Branford Marsalis), Both Sides Now (Joni Mitchell with Wayne Shorter),
Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (Joni Mitchell with Wayne Shorter) , The Way (Me'Shell Ndegéocello with Joshua Redman) I Be Blowin' (De La Soul with Maceo Parker) Red Top (Steve Miller with Phil Woods), Love Ain't No Triple Play (Dr. John, Bennie Wallace and Bonnie Raitt), My Life is Good (Randy Newman with Ernie Watts), Muddy Water (Madeleine Peyroux with James Carter)

No way: Ernie Watts on the Ethel Merman disco album (no kidding), I Want To Make The World Turn Around (Steve Miller Band with Kenny G.); for that matter, anything featuring Kenny G., Najee, Kirk Whalum, Gerald Albright and other "smooth jazz" artists.

I've been brewing about this show for a while, but I had no idea how successful my quest would become. Originally, I thought I would have to double up on artists, but that was definitely not the case. To qualify, the saxophonist had to play on the original version or collaborate with the well-known rock/pop artist. And they had to be traditional jazz saxophonists, best known for hard bop or some other format rooted in the great jazz traditions.

I realized I cheated a little bit by including fusion/smooth jazz players Tom Scott and David Sanborn, but the former provided a great introduction to the program while the solo performance by the latter performer is nearly iconic. I would have loved to have included musicians like Dexter Gordon, Jackie McClean and Cannonball Adderly, but as far as I know, they never strayed outside the jazz idiom during their lifetimes.

In putting together this show, I wondered why a traditional jazz instrument like the saxophone
has fit in so comfortably into rock, pop and r&b. Part of it is due to the way jazz eventually morphed into those newer kinds of music. But some credit has to be given to saxophonist Louis Jordan, whose highly popular "jump blues" records during the 40s were considered in many circles as the original rock records – and were huge influences on Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Bill Halley. Halley, in fact, did covers of Jordan's songs, "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" and "Caldonia."

I owe a big thank you to the folks at the All About Jazz bulletin board, who helped me expand my original list by refreshing my memory or otherwise pointing out solos that I was unaware of.

On to the notes…
  • On every show, I try to throw a curveball. And the Shanice hit probably ran contrary to all the listeners who expected Branford to be blowing on a Sting tune during my show. The fact is, if you listen to Sting's first two solo albums, he doesn't give Marsalis a lot of space – the notable exceptions being "Lazarus Heart," "We Work The Black Seam" and the remake of "Shadows in the Rain." Plus, I have a soft spot for the song, which has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. As Shanice herself says during the song: "Blow, Branford, Blow!"
  • Until the good folks at "All About Jazz" reminded me, I totally forgot the story about "Just The Way You Are." Producer Phil Ramone was unsatisfied with the performance of Richie Cannata, Joel's longtime sax player and the guy who had the big solo on "New York State of Mind." So, Ramone – who had one of his first gigs as an engineer on the classic Getz/Gilberto (1964) album, which won him his first Grammy– brought in Phil Woods to fit in more comfortably with the song's Bossa Nova beat.
  • Even non-fans of Phil Collins (including myself) owe it to themselves to check out his 1999 live album, A Hot Night In Paris, which sees Collins back behind the drum kit in a jazz/big band setting. Sure, he does instrumental versions of his old Genesis and solo hits, but the smoking 12:39 version of the Average White Band's "Picking Up The Pieces" (with an electric solo from Carter) is worth the price of admission.
  • The Art Pepper/Melanie collaboration was a pleasant last-minute surprise. Pepper, one of the premier alto sax players of all time, rarely went outside the jazz world. But somehow, he collaborated with the singer of "Brand New Key" on this song, which is definitely more jazz than pop.
  • It's no surprise that the Rolling Stones have frequently collaborated with jazz musicians. Not only is their music respected across genres, but drummer Charlie Watts' background is in jazz – and he frequently plays traditional jazz when he's not with the Stones.
  • You may not be familiar with Ronnie Scott, but he was actually one of the premier figures on the British jazz scene during the 60s, receiving plaudits from Charlie Mingus, among others, for his playing style. Scott, a last-minute addition to "Lady Madonna" and one of four saxophonists on the track along with Harry Klein, Bill Povey and Bill Jackson, returned to pop about 20 years later. He was the one who performed the sax solo on "I Missed Again" by Phil Collins.
  • The collaboration between Jewel and Joshua Redman comes from her live performance on "Saturday Night Live" back in 1997. A significant improvement over the original song, no?
  • Ronnie Ross, the other relatively unknown Brit Ronnie on the show, performed with MJQ, Woody Herman and Clark Terry during his lifetime. He also taught the sax to Transformer (1972) producer David Bowie, who has played the instrument on several of his records.
  • In interviews, Mark Knopfler admits to the minor thrill that "Your Latest Trick" has provided him. You know the way people will pick up a guitar and play the "Smoke on the Water" riff or try "Heart and Soul" on a new piano? Well, music store owners have told the former Dire Straits frontman that the distinct solo from that song is generally the preferred tune of choice for musicians auditioning a new saxophone.

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