Frankie & Johnny (and John)

September 22, 2016 at 10:30 am

Today’s post comes from composer Kile Smith – I had to share this. I heard it on the radio this week and was really caught off guard by his words. His analysis helps to capture the difference between what is Art Music and what is not (“rock rolled over sophistication”).

The original post comes from the WRTI blog, “Arts Desk“. Here it is:

Two Englishmen, Guy Wood and Robert Mellin, slipped it into the Great American Songbook just before it closed, just as rock rolled over sophistication. It begins from below, a slowly twisting Roman candle of a tune, and explodes in the top range of the singer, as the eyes of onlookers reflect the glory of what songs once were.

Sinatra recorded “My One and Only Love” right away, in 1953, but ten years later John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman made it a landmark of an age.

Johnny Hartman sounds like a man who breaks his heart open, and yours.

Coltrane’s tenor saxophone sounds as if it’s made of something not of this world, and yet it is uncannily apt. Every note is a discovery, every phrase an experiment that comes out exactly right.

Johnny Hartman sings the way every man wishes to sing—an everyman standing up in a room suddenly silent—sounding like a man, but a man who breaks his heart open, and yours. And just when he sounds like anybody, that voice turns into one in ten million.

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman spread their mystic charms, especially in the high ranges of their low instruments. In “My One and Only Love” they made a song for the ages. Remember what songs once were.


Hey man, it happens.

May 13, 2016 at 10:20 am

Friday the 13th. How many bad things could happen today?

Instead of a traditional “listen to this” post, I’m going to bend to popular culture and put give a list of fails, not because we need a laugh at someone else’s expense, but because, well, it happens. We’ve all had a day where fate seems to be against us and we screw up big time. The real test is not whether we screw up or not, it’s in how we pick ourselves up afterwards and move on gracefully.

Speaking of picking ourselves up, that’s exactly what this unfortunate tenor has to do.

I really admire this guy, because under the high-stress of being onstage, trying to remember his words, notes, choreography, and acting, his fall only stops him for a second, and then he’s back on task – and look at the great response from the audience. We’ve been there, man, we’ve all been there.

Equipment malfunction is a major cause of musical disaster. Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do except put down your instrument and try to look good.

Hey, it happens.

And of course, the classic “sheet music falls off the stand” disaster – always at the pivotal moment of your performance, too.

It happens; bravo to this timpanist who keeps his cool and doesn’t miss a note.

And then, sometimes the malfunction doesn’t have to do with the equipment itself, but because the musician doesn’t know how to use the equipment – like this organist who accidentally hits a transposing button at the most important and iconic part of Handel’s Messiah.

It happens. Bad luck to this organist that s/he was playing the loudest instrument at the loudest moment of a loud piece when “it” hit the fan.

But then, sometimes you screw up because you’ve been drinking. Even if you don’t know Bolero, you can probably spot the errors.

We’ve been there. Keep calm and carry on making music.