Al Jarreau

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You might only remember Al Jarreau if you are a person of a certain age or if you were a huge Moonlighting fan.  A consummate singer and performer, Jarreau had pretty much dropped out of the spotlight in the last couple of decades.  In fact, I think the last pop culture hit he had was the theme to Moonlighting.  At 76, Mr. Jarreau has moved on to the next plane of existence.

Take a minute to familiarize yourself with Mr. Jarreau if you don’t already know his work.  He was originally a Jazz singer, but he crossed into so many genres that he was impossible to pigeonhole.  And wow, was he smooth.  No.  Not just smooth.  Al Jarreau was smooooooooooth.  His voice was silky and pure and clean.  There were no missed notes, no extraneous flourishes, no gratuitous posturing. There was just music, and it was good.

Now all the smooth leaves no room for rough edges, which means Jarreau was never quite to my taste.  But this, singing his 1981 hit “We’re in This Love Together” is how I will always remember him.  Another great voice is just a memory, but it’s a pretty fine one.

Pete Fountain

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My daddy played the clarinet.  He said he fell in love with the sound it made when he saw a performance of Peter and the Wolf as a child.  He didn’t keep up with it after high school.  He wasn’t interested in making it a career, and hobbies like drinking and talking were more fun to him.  But he always loved clarinet music.  Which is why I immediately thought of him when I heard that clarinetist Pete Fountain had passed away at 86.  This makes the great concert of the afterlife a little more entertaining, and it’ll certainly make my father happy.  Of course, it sadly leaves this plane of existence just a little more bereft.

 

As Seen on TV: “Humanism”

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Am I the only one who thinks this is the coolest theme song to come around in years?

Television theme songs might be a dying art form, but don’t tell Jean Batiste & Stay Human that.  This music swings and grooves and funks along like nothing else I’ve heard in a long time.  I included a clip of an actual opening from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, but if you want to hear the music without any of the surrounding stuff (crowd cheering, guest line-up, or really awesome graphics), click here.  It’s even funkier, even if the clip is reallllly boring.

 

Joey Alexander

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I didn’t intentionally go quiet.  I just got kind of distracted.  And I’ll probably be more distracted soon, because the new semester at SJSU has begun. *sigh*  I’m not sorry, just a little rueful that I didn’t get more reading done over the break.

But a couple of weeks ago–right before Rock legends started dropping dead–I was watching 60 Minutes and I saw a profile on this young Jazz prodigy.  And if you haven’t seen or heard him before, then let me warn you, Joey Alexander is very young.

This clip is a couple of years old; I think he’s all of twelve now.  And he is stunningly good.  Self-taught for the most part, too.  That is, I believe, what is known as genius.  Joey is remarkably composed and articulate for his age, also a sign of genius.  He knows his stuff.  What gets me most is the lightness of his touch on the piano, fingers seemingly weightless on the keys.  His playing style reminds me a lot of Vince Guaraldi; if I believed in reincarnation (and I do), I might think this is a rebirth of that great talent.

Keep your eyes and ears on this kid.  He’s going to do great things.

“Sweet Georgia Brown”

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I try to note the passings of icons from my childhood, musical or otherwise.  Today, I saw on ABC 7’s website that Meadowlark Lemon from the Harlem Globetrotters passed away Sunday at 83.  I see ads for the Harlem Globetrotters every so often, and I always think of the team I remembered when I was a kid in the 70s.

I probably first saw the Globetrotters on some variety show or TV special, or maybe even their appearance on Scooby Doo.  While I was never a basketball fan, I enjoyed the theatrical antics of the Globetrotters.  They were everywhere in the 70s, led by Meadowlark Lemon, who played with the team for over twenty years.  But the team has a much longer history, and still goes on today.  They don’t have the superstar profile they did back then, but little has changed.  They still clown around and play better than just about anyone else.  Their games are exhibitions, entertainments, simple fun.

The Harlem Globetrotters’ theme song is “Sweet Georgia Brown.”  It’s a jazz standard, but the only version I’ve ever heard (and ever want to hear) is the Brother Bones version that accompanies the Globetrotters.  I tried to find a clip of the song that included the 70s era players, but there didn’t seem to be one.  Pity, because they really were fun to watch.

Allen Toussaint

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Damn.  I was kind of hoping he’d live forever.

Listening to Toussaint is a little like listening to Mingus or Monk for me.  I feel something inside me that I didn’t know was empty, fill up.  His music truly is food for the soul.

Thank you, Allen Toussaint.  Your spirit will always be with us.

Ornette Coleman

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Jazz legend and pioneer Ornette Coleman has died at the age of 85.  (Click here for a good essay about him from ABC news.)

Coleman was a musician like no one had ever heard before; the aforementioned ABC article likens him to James Joyce and Jackson Pollock.  He was revolutionary.  While I don’t own any of Coleman’s brilliant albums (something I should rectify soon), I’ve long enjoyed and been intrigued by his sound.  This is music that demands something of the listener, that makes you pay attention.  You may not like it, but you cannot deny it.

It was also announced today that Christopher Lee had died, so it’s not been the greatest day in the entertainment world.  I guess the Universe needed some more talent in the afterlife.