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Phil's Jazz Pleasures 7

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Phil’s Jazz Pleasures 7
Jazz Covers of Modern Composers

I hope you are all bearing up as well as can be expected; still no live music. But soon maybe – fingers crossed (and toes!)? This month I thought I would focus on music written by some of the truly great modern, popular composers of the last 60 years and covered by jazz musicians. I have had to be very selective of both the composers and the covers. I hope you enjoy my mix.

Composers chosen are Jimmy Webb, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Lennon and McCartney, Burt Bacharach, Sam Cook, Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain and Bob Dylan. No real surprises there; all out of the very top drawer with tunes immediately identifiable by anyone (certainly over 30ish!?)

A favourite song of mine is Glenn Campbell’s Wichita Lineman written by Jimmy Webb. An interpretation and arrangement of a song surely very hard to improve on. Yet Cassandra Wilson gives it a terrific shot with an acoustic trio. Just what a voice she has – melting all over you! Van Morrison has written some exceptional songs over the years and Cyprus Avenue is up there amongst the very best. Orphy Robinson, the great British multi instrumentalist, delivered a tremendous adaptation of it in 2019 with his R3 Collective. Jo Harmon’s vocals are just spot on.

Joni MichellJoni Mitchell’s song writing has had a huge impact on the music of the last sixty years; arguably the greatest female singer/songwriter of all time. She has formed a very productive musical relationship with Herbie Hancock and it is his version of her Edith and the Kingpin that I have selected. The splendid, smouldering vocals are supplied by Tina Turner!  Burt Bacharach HAS to be included too – and I have allowed myself the indulgence of including Dusty Springfield’s iconic The Look of Love. Another great soul singer with an unbelievable voice was Sam Cooke and I have included Bill Frisell’s plaintive jazz guitar adaptation of his deeply meaningful song -  A Change is Gonna Come.

Chick CoreaOnto Lennon and McCartney – just where to start? Well, I truly adore the exceptional American flautist Herbie Mann’s version of Come Together. A truly magnificent tune gets a certain moody menace added to it. I have also chosen two great jazz pianists. Firstly, Brad Mehldau’s simply immaculate version of Blackbird. Secondly, the recently deceased Chick Corea’s quite exceptional work on Fool on the Hill. How that man could play and arrange – a huge talent - his work will be truly missed by jazz aficionados around the world.

It is impossible to conceive of music in the last half decade without considering Michael Jackson’s catalogue. The San Francisco Jazz Collective made a great album of many of his songs in 2016. I have chosen a song Jackson wrote himself - Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough. Whatever else Michael Jackson did no one can doubt he was exceptionally talented musician and performer. As was Kurt Cobain and I have chosen a version of his Smells Like Teen Spirit by The Bad Plus. Jazz Times described The Bad Plus’s music as coming from “the world of Los Lobos, Tom Waits and Pearl Jam.” Perfect description – and truly an exceptional innovative jazz group.

Abbey Lincoln in 1966Last but by no means least the man Rolling Stone places at the very top of its greatest song writers of all time – Bob Dylan. The number of times people who tell me they hate Dylan then ask “who wrote this great tune/song?” Invariably the answer is Dylan. From his huge catalogue I have picked just two. Nina Simone’s rendition of Dylan’s chilling The Ballad of Hollis Brown. The doom-laden lyrics seem perfectly suited to her voice and interpretation. On a much more optimistic note, Abbey Lincoln offers a perfectly delivered Mr Tambourine Man.

This Month’s Playlist

Cassandra Wilson          Wichita Lineman on Belly of the Sun
The R3 Collective         Cyprus Avenue on Cyprus Avenue
Herbie Hancock            Edith and the Kingpin on River: The Joni Letters
Dusty Springfield          The Look of Love on The Silver Collection
Bill Frisell                     Change is Gonna Come on History, Mystery
Herbie Mann                Come Together on Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty
Brad Mehldau               Blackbird on The Art of the Trio, Volume 1
Chick Corea                  Fool of the Hill on The Definitive Chick Corea on Stretch and Concord
San Francisco Jazz Collective   Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough on The Music of Michael Jackson
The Bad Plus                 Smells Like Teen Spirit on These are the Vistas  
Nina Simone                 The Ballad of Hollis Brown on Spotlight on Nina Simone
Abbey Lincoln              Mr. Tambourine Man on Who Used to Dance


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