Sunday, November 8, 2015

Differently each time

This week I ran across a few inspirational quotes I wanted to share:
"Jazz is the only music in which the same note can be played night after night but differently each time." - Ornette Coleman
"Few are those that see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts." - Albert Einstein  
"Normality is a paved road: it's comfortable to walk on, but no flowers grow on it." - Vincent Van Gogh
In this spirit, I wanted to go back to talking about individuality by sharing different versions of the song "Stardust" by Hoagy Carmichael. Even though each musician is playing the same song, they each approach the same notes from a different perspective.

To learn more about Hoagy Carmichael, listen to this NPR Jazz Profile.

Nat King Cole


Differently each time

1. Louis Armstrong

One of my favorite recordings, Louis Armstrong approaches "Stardust" with a sense of urgency. In addition to his masterful trumpet playing, his vocal placement of each syllable gives the song an assertive authenticity. 

Listen to Louis Armstrong play, "Stardust":

2. John Coltrane

Saxophonist John Coltrane approaches "Stardust" with a mix of a straight tone and a warm sub-tone. His mixture of tone depending on the imagined lyric or the register of the saxophone allows for him to match the intent of the song: "Sometimes I wonder why I spend/ The lonely night dreaming of a song."

Listen to John Coltrane play, "Stardust":

3. Nat King Cole

An absolutely breathtaking version, Nat King Cole's rendition of "Stardust," with the arrangement by Nelson Riddle,  includes orchestral instruments such as violins and harp. This backdrop paints a picture of stars across the nighttime sky, adding to a dreamy atmosphere. 

Listen to Nat King Cole play, "Stardust":

4. Lionel Hampton

Vibraphonist Lionel Hampton popularized his instrument while playing with such contemporaries as Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and Buddy Rich, among others. This particular version of "Stardust" has a mysterious quality, added by the sound of the vibraphone. 

Listen to Lionel Hampton play, "Stardust":

5. Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald's pure, powerful voice enunciates each lyric of "Stardust" with revery. Along with this sense of revery is Fitzgerald's ability to tell the story of the lyrics, which is virtually a love song about hearing a love song: "The melody haunts my reverie/ And I am once again with you."

Listen to Ella Fitzgerald play, "Stardust":


6. Dave Brubeck 

Pianist Dave Brubeck and saxophonist Paul Desmond compliment each other through the narrative of "Stardust." In this particular recording, Desmond's crisp, light alto saxophone sound seems to hover like a bird as Desmond provides support. Understated, this version tells the same "Stardust" story from a more withdrawn angle. 

Listen to Dave Brubeck play, "Stardust":

Final thoughts:
It is comforting to know within any song, form or structure we not only can be ourselves - we have had the permission since our own inception. 

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", where I improvise a new poem everyday! I also share jazz music and art there, so stay tuned! 

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Since September 2015, I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer/ editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene. 


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