Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

The Friday mix: Music from the American Songbook

I have a friend who I have trouble convincing that good music wasn’t invented in 1964. This is the same guy who won’t watch black and white movies. It’s definitely his loss because he’ll never listen to Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Vaughn Monroe, Count Basie… Some of the best music ever recorded.

I have a mix on my iPod of a couple hundred songs of the crooner / Jazz singer variety. Obviously, I can’t scratch the surface of this great body of music in a single post, but today I’m going to recommend a dozen or so of my favorites.

  1. I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm – Billie Holiday
    Billie didn’t usually do the Nelson Riddle sweeping big band arrangement; this one is a jazzy little version of a classic of the Irving Berlin classic and Billie is, of course, fantastic.
  2. I’m Beginning to See the Light – Bobby Darin
    Hard to choose a song from Bobby Darin. “Mack the Knife” and “Beyond the Sea” are both great. “Splish Splash” was a big hit for him. I love this one.42-21391634
  3. Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love) – Louis Armstrong
    We can all stop singing this song now because Satchmo wins. He spends nearly 9 minutes putting together this brilliant, funny, inspired version of this Cole Porter tune.
  4. Are You Hep to the Jive? – Cab Calloway
    The Hi De Ho Man was a dynamic singer and led an outstanding ensemble. I love the way the guys all sing roughly behind him on this.
  5. Plenty of Money and You – Count Basie
    The Swingers soundtrack is full of great music I had never heard and this is one of them. I don’t usually go in for the blasting brass you often get with some big band, but this one is a minute and half long and follows Calloway nicely. Ignore the photos of whoever these people are on YouTube.
  6. You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You – Dean Martin
    Here’s another from the Swingers soundtrack. I was never a big Dean Martin guy, but he really nailed this song vocally and the arrangement is fabulous. People seem to be fascinated with the romance between these two CSI characters. I’ve seen more than 1 song with footage of the two of them on YouTube.
  7. East of the Sun (and West of the Moon) – Dianna Krall
    OK, so she’s not one of the traditional crooners. She still sings in that style, she’s a crack piano player, and I love this song written by Brooks Bowman in 1934. This might be my favorite song on this mix.
  8. Always True to You in My Fashion – Blossom Dearie
    Blossom Dearie died last year. She was so hip. You probably remember her voice from a couple Schoolhouse Rocks she did (‘Figure 8’ & ‘Adjectives’). Her almost childlike voice was at odds with her unbelievable Jazz sensibilities.
  9. C’est Si Bon – Eartha Kitt
    The amazing Eartha Kitt. Her career included movies (‘St. Louis Blues,’ ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ ‘Erik the Viking,’ ‘Fatal Instinct’, ‘Harriet the Spy,’ to name a few), TV (‘I Spy,’ ‘Mission: Impossible’, ‘Batman,’ ‘The Simpsons,’ more), stage (more than 25 shows on Broadway and around the world), and planty of music on the pop charts, including this song, which hit #25.
  10. Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive – Ella Fitzgerald
    The first lady of song. She swings this Harold Arlen song better than anyone I’ve ever heard sing it, but sadly, you only get the slow intro on this sample. Trust me, though.
  11. At Long Last Love – Frank Sinatra
    This is from my favorite recording of Frank Sinatra, a live performance from 1958 in Melbourne, Australia with vibes player and bandleader Red Norvo backing him. It’s a great recording that turned me into a Sinatra fan. I’m linking to the whole album, since I can’t like directly to this song. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
  12. Stormy Weather – Lena Horne
    Ms. Horne did several great versions of this song. Here is one. The version I have is available here (track #16).  Nobody ever did this song better, as far as I know. Smooth, soulful, and just beautiful.
  13. I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter – Madeline Peyroux
    Ms. Peyroux objects when she is accused of imitating Billie Holiday. I find that just a little ridiculous. She’s channeling Billie Holiday. Still, this is a cute song and she does a nice job with it
  14. Love Is Just Around the Corner – Mel Torme
    I know why Judge Harry Stone from ‘Night Court’ loved Mel Torme. Give this song a listen. He sings scat almost as well as Ella. He also has an amazing ability to go from any note to any note without bending his way into the right pitch.
  15. Paper Doll – The Mills Brothers
    The dreamy intro gives way to a swingin’ lament about a girl who done him wrong. Recorded in 15 minutes and released as a B-side, this song sold 6 million copies. In 1943.
  16. Old Cape Cod – The Puppini Sisters
    OK, so they do it almost exactly like Patti Page did it. The modern production and slightly updated arrangement makes it sound a little better to my ear. Side note, check out the Sisters’ versions of “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Crazy in Love.”

Enjoy with a vodka martini, I think. In fact, make it a double.


September 11, 2009 - Posted by | Jazz, Lounge, Mix CD

1 Comment »

  1. […] this is the oldest thing I have recommended, with the exception of some of the stuff I put in my American Songbook mix.  I was watching an old episode of Cosmos last night (Yeah, I loved that Carl Sagan series. It […]

    Pingback by Evocative and stirring 20th century classical from Dmitri Shostakovich « Missed Music | January 7, 2010 | Reply

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