Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Sunday, July 29, 2007

"Lush Life," the Billy Strayhorn song as sung by Johnny Hartman, accompanied by John Coltrane and his quartet -- the most "lush" of the versions I know, except the song plays on the other meaning of "lush," as in, drunk. As in, alcoholic. Strayhorn was in fact an alcoholic. But, listening, I feel the lushness of loneliness. Late night music.

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"Cocktails for Two," Spike Jones. He's famous for his sound effects, which are astounding, and less for the tightness of his bands. Never discussed: The brilliance and boldness of his pastiche. A smooth '40s crooner fronting a frantic neo-Dixie combo, as on this record -- it's delightfully wrong; it undercuts the Romantic-ness of the singer, and yet the record wouldn't work if the singer weren't playing it Absolutely Straight. Comedy Heaven has a special place for the straight men and women.

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"Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue," Duke Ellington, Live at Newport, 1956. Paul Gonsalves's famous extended solo, goes on for minutes and minutes, never quite building to a climax and always fresh, putting out that extemporaneous melody. And in the background, the band shouting him on, and the crowd building to an ecstatic roar. Nothing like Coltrane's extended solos a few years later; still, retrospective ears hear the stirrings of a '60s-style demand for excess and ecstasy in jazz and rock, more in the crowd reaction than in the music itself.

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