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THE LONGEST REVIEW... EVER

First week at Serafina, 4th February, 2024

And now, for something different, a different venue, and in a moment of idleness, I elected to record a list of every song at Serafina's first jam session. Two days later...


A few surpises: turns out almost every vocal number came from a musical (film or theatre). Most of them come from the 30's and 40's . Sammy Kahn as a writer of lyrics came up time and again, Michael Buble messes with the chords a lot, Diana Krall sings moody, but listen to her duet with Tony Bennett (Nice Work If You Can Get It). And the newest song on the list (C'Est La Vie) is more than 40 years old. As are most of us...


I have listed all the songs by whoever was leading them at the time, so I haven't named all the guilty parties – there were 20 of us which is a pleasing result.

Keith Hughes clarinet, and saxophone

Keith opened proceedings with some solos so good we could not possibly keep the standard so high – don't worry, we didn't...


Autumn Leaves: based on a French song "Les Feuilles mortes" composed by Joseph Kosma in 1945. There have been more than a thousand commercial recordings of the song. None of them as good as Eva Cassidy



Blue Bossa

An instrumental jazz composition by Kenny Dorham. It was introduced on Joe Henderson's 1963 album Page One. A blend of hard bop and bossa...


Days of Wine and Roses

From a film of the same name, with music by Henry Mancini. The film depicts the downward spiral of two average Americans who succumb to alcohol use disorder and attempt to deal with their problems. Sounds a bit like the jammers on a bad day...


Jane Little

Nice Work If you can get it. A popular Gershwin number, composed in 1937 for the play A Damsel in Distress. This Tony Bennett/Diano Krall duet swings!



Lover Come Back To Me Romberg/Hammerstein, composed in 1928. Recordings all over the place: try Billie Holiday's version, 1952, a hot quintet - must have been one her sober moments. The balance between Freddie Green's guitar, Ray Brown's Bass and Oscar's piano is almost exactly what we didn't achieve on Sunday.



The Way You Look Tonight

Fred Astaire sang this in the 1936 film Swing Time . Jerome Kern's classic has been recorded every decade since.


Rose

Wins the prize for furthest travelled. She picked three varied tunes, and struggled at times with an overly boisterous band. Rose is a singer to watch in 2024 – (the famous Newsletter kiss of death? Hopefully not!)


Besame Mucho A bolero song written in 1932 by 16 year old Mexican songwriter Consuelo Velázquez , who, apparently, hadn't been kissed yet... Diana Krall's typically atmospheric version . You can sleep through the intro if you want..


The Thrill Is Gone Bluesman Roy Hawkins 1951 song made famous by BB King. These are two recordings – 1971 and 2010 – showing how B B King stuck to the original feel and tempo over several decades. The Jam Session version left me lost for words.





My Baby Just Cares For Me

Nina Simone's iconic version has totally eclipsed the Gus Kahn/Donald Henderson 1930 original and uses a very different set of chords, some of which occur in the Ireal Pro version we used here. This is a song that suits Rose's style.


1930:

Eddie Cantor in blackface, and a truly average version.

1959

The Nina Simone version – Juilliard trained, and her contrapuntal classical chops showing!



Jeff Harris

Jeff the most in-the-bebop-groove of all the jammer saxophonists, and this was one of his better performances .


Birks Works. 1951 standard by Dizzy Gillespie – Birks was Dizzy's middle name. This recording is from his 1957 album.


Georgia Hoagy Carmichael classic. One of the few ballads that Mr Harris has done of late. Everybody else has done it as well – but few have done it better than Ray Charles, of whom and which several stories could be told, none of them suitable for an august journal such as this one. As soon as the jammers have scored an orchestra, four part of backing vocals, a full string section, and a taste for flatulent over production, we can do it like this too.



In the meantime,. I quite like Mr Harris' version.



Now is The Time

It is amazing what you can do in a woodshed... Charlie Parker bebop flavoured standard with a blues form. The original 1945 issue (take 4) appears to have been tidied up for a more genteel audience, (such as the Jammers? ...not) Try the gutsier



Halfway through the session, a happy little vibe about the joint, and more good stuff to come – none better than....


Ashley

Having built a solid reputation for the bog-standard Elvis and Sinatra repertoire, Ashley went and ruined it by singing with quite some sophistication. This was the best vocal set of the afternoon.


Summertime

A much recorded 1935 Gershwin song from the opera Porgy and Bess. We have all heard the Ella Fitzgerald/Louis Armstrong versions, so this clip is a little different. Janis Joplin at her hippy weirdest – you had to be there, and if you were, you probably can't remember...



C'est La Vie

Had not heard this one before - Ashley's take on the Vince Jones ballad from 1984. Beautiful. The ballad, not Ash.


Detour Ahead

A 1948 standard credited to Carter, Ellis and Frigo, who were part of The Soft Winds, a group they created after leaving Jimmy Dorsey's orchestra. But you knew that. The lyrics are said to compare love's progress to a motor trip. We have all run out of petrol from time to time, but Ashley nailed this one.


Bill Evans recorded a great version, as did Sarah Vaughan...


Around this time (well give or take an hour) Jamie took over from Adam on bass. Great to see him back...


Ruby

How High The Moon Composer Morgan Lewis penned this for the 1940 revue Two For The Show. Ruby gave an animated performance, with pianist Malcolm Hornby, both somewhat overwhelmed by a boisterous bass and guitar section. We turned up the vocals, they got louder...


That Old Black Magic. Ruby's second number was the Arlen/Mercer tune written in 1942. She clearly likes the song and sings it with gusto. Reminded me of Annie Sellick's version which is a great example of how musicians listen to, and riff off each other. The scat/drumming interlude will grow on you...



Blue Skies: Another confident take by Ruby – the clip is of Eva Cassidy's famous version of this Ella Fitzgerald standard – must learn that outro...




Andria. Andria came for only her third or fourth time at a jam session – and chose a ballad/Mexican set which she tackled con brio.


Dream a Little Dream: another song where the IrealPro version is infinitely inferior to the 1968 Mama Cass take of this popular ballad. A 1931 song with music by Fabian Andre and Wilbur Schwandt and lyrics by Gus Kahn. Robbie Williams and Michael Buble have covered this popular song, Robbie in C (Mama Cass' key) and Michael in F - neither of those gentlemen appear to have access to Ireal Pro which could be a good thing...


The Bar didn't serve sandwiches. The pizza looked pretty good....


Sway

"¿Quién será?" is a bolero-mambo song written by Mexican composers Luis Demetrio and Pablo Beltrán Ruiz, in 1954. It has become a repertoire staple, with versions (and this is listed in rising order of bolero mambo-ness) by Julie London, Dean Martin, Diana Krall and Michael Buble amongst others. Andria started out singing a fifth above the melodic line, stuck resolutely to the task in the face of zero help from the Assembled Jam Session Orchestra, all of whom, including the piano player, should be shot as a kindness to others. And it all sounded quite unlike this


Besame Mucho

Staying with the latin theme,and disregarding any deep insight the AJSO might have gleaned from doing it about 45 minutes earlier, a slightly livelier reprise of Besame Mucho, and a better result all round...


Deb

I Fall in Love Too Easily. A 1944 song composed by Jule Styne with lyrics by Sammy Cahn, originally featured in musical Anchors Aweigh, but soon taken as a serious jazz ballad. Many of you may be disappointed to have missed the Barry Manilow version.


In case you don't "get" Miles Davis, we might as well listen to his genius version - a difficult ballad which the Debster managed to get away with.



... followed by


Have You Met Miss Jones? I have, actually, and this was one of her favourite toons. Rodgers and Hart, 1937. Deb's take on this was typically bright and breezy – good end to her set. The attached clip is the incomparable Oscar, and the only recording of his that I have heard with block chords from start to finish, Ray Brown (bass) playing dyads, and the longest pause I have heard in a while.


Dave

Time for a cruise round the room . Are you a musician? No, that was Huich's Dad, turns out he lives just round the corner. Are you a musician? No? Well, don't let that stop you, it never stopped anyone else. Are you a musician? Dave from behind the bar, used to be a wedding singer, would like to sing   . And did it rather well. Seeing as his son runs the joint, we might see him again...


Fly Me To The Moon is a much requested classic example of the 6-2-5-1 chord sequence that underpins so many jazz tunes. Originally titled "In Other Words", it was written in 1954 by Bart Howard. And was in 3/4 time until Quincy Jones changed it to 4/4. For something a bit different, I have picked a coloratura version by Lady Gaga – terrific tension throughout - wait for the full orchestra coming in about three bars from the end.



The Good Captain

And that brings us to the wrap up. The Good Captain had worked hard all day, but called a coupla toons for enders.


Lucky Southern. As ever, we got better on the second chorus, but this Keith Jarrett tune one popped

Beatrice: Another tricky one, Stan Getz on sax

and then, the Jam Session Full Orchestra got up to murder Stolen Moments for a finale. At last, the racket was appalling to the end. A rather satisfying day...


If you managed to read all the way to the end of what is easily the longest Newsletter review in 25 years, you should really get out more. But thank you anyway.

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