HOLDING ON

Artist: Gregory Porter

Genre: Jazz

Notable lyrics:

Weight of love on my shoulders
I thought that it would be easier than this
I thought my heart had grown colder
But the warmth of your kiss, I can’t dismiss
Though my past has left me bruised
I ain’t hiding from the truth
When the truth won’t let me lie right next to you
But it’s holding on
And it’s holding strong
Even though I tried to make it
Played the part, but I can’t fake it
It keeps holding on
And it’s holding strong
Even though I tried to break it
Heaven knows that I can’t shake it

I know I’ve been very irregular these days, but it’s the end of my semester and the exams have left me feeling lazy, yet stressful. As a way of making amends, I’m going to recommend this pearl to you fellas.

Born in Sacramento, California, Gregory Porter is an American singer, songwriter, and actor. At the age of 21, Porter lost his mother to cancer, but only after she entreated him from her death-bed: “Sing, baby, sing!” Porter mostly composes Gospel, Blues, and Jazz music, and has won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album in 2014 for Liquid Spirit and in 2017 for Take Me to the Alley. ‘Holding on’, a single released in 2016 from his fourth studio album ‘Take Me to the Alley’, has gained fame through its remix version, made in collaboration with Disclosure, an English electronic duo.

Weirdly nostalgic and seductive, this jazz club hit pulls all the right strings. It’s one of those songs you’ve never heard before, but can swear has been etched semewhere in your mind; not because of the tune is mainstream (oh no, it’s definitely not mainstream), it’s just a lot of hard work and intricately woven tunes. The piano is ever so delightful, and takes you back to those 60’s night clubs, with the good music and the better cocktails. The soulful voice is just an addition to its already pre-dominant tune. And the saxophone, oh! the saxophone! If it weren’t the angels’ favorite instrument, besides the harp, I’d be rightfully stunned. The beautiful saxophone that would leave any jazz song incomplete in its absence, alters the mood into a more seductive one. The song is about an unrequited love that’s got you weak in the knees, and you’re begging your lovely counterpart to do anything but leave you. Wow, that just got real, huh?

Anyway, I can’t stress on this enough ‘Jazz needs to be explored and encouraged more’. With one of the most significant and beautiful genres dying out, people have got less to look forward to. If you’re a Jazz artist and are reading this, don’t you worry for there’s always somebody (actually, a whole lot of people) rooting for you. The undivided attention one pays to Jazz won’t ever fade away; so, for the love of God, keep experimenting with your music, sire/madam/miss!

 

MY FUNNY VALENTINE

Artist: Chet Baker, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald

Genre: Jazz

Notable lyrics: 

My funny valentine
Sweet comic valentine
You make me smile with my heart
Your looks are laughable
Unphotographable
Yet your my favorite work of art
Is your Figure less than Greek?
Is your mouth a little week?
When you open it to speak
Are you smart?
But don’t change your hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little valentine stay
Each day is Valentines day
Is your figure less than Greek
Is your mouth a little weak
When you open it to Speak
Are you smart
But don’t change your hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little valentine stay
Each day is valentines day

I’m a little too late for Valentine’s day, but such timeless classics defy all dimensions of time.

This beautiful, BEAUTIFUL tune, was originally composed in 1937 for a musical ‘Babes in Arms’, by Richard Rogers, a man with innumerable compositions, and Lorenz Hart, a prominent Broadway musician.  The song first caught the eyes, or ears in this case, of the Jazz legend Chet Baker, who decided not only to use his weapon, the trumpet, but also to sing for a change. Baker’s version will leave you mesmerized. Other Jazz legends like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald followed. What attracted a lot of attention was the unlikely lyrics. While most songs were in praise of a perfect, polished lover, this one is rather intimate; it’s not about having a beautiful lover, but finding the beauty within your lover. Indeed very captivating, especially in the era where women were told how they could be beautiful.

The lyrics of the song talks about a very old, but gilded love, where you’ve grown completely comfortable around each other; you make fun of each other, but you wouldn’t want to change a hair on them. A very unique song of its make, this seductive tune has not a very distinct Jazz ethos, but strong vocals (at least in Sinatra’s version of it), making it a ballroom favorite. For the first time, Jazz music wasn’t all about the string quartet, and this started a very subtle revolution.

Here’s Chet Baker’s and Ella Fitzgerald’s version of the same:

LA JAVANAISE

Artist: Madeleine Peyroux

Genre: Jazz (French)

Notable lyrics:

J’avoue
J’en ai
Bavé
Pas vous
Mon amour
Avant
D’avoir
Eu vent
De vous
Mon amour

Ne vous déplaise
En dansant la Javanaise
Nous nous aimions
Le temps d’une chanson

A votre
Avis
Qu’avons-
Nous vu
De l’amour
De vous
A moi
Vous m’a-
Vez eu
Mon amour

Ne vous déplaise
En dansant la Javanaise
Nous nous aimions
Le temps d’une chanson

Hélas
Avril
En vain
Me voue
A l’amour
J’avais
Envie
De voir
En vous
Cet amour

Ne vous déplaise
En dansant la Javanaise
Nous nous aimions
Le temps d’une chanson

La vie
Ne vaut
D’être
Vécue
Sans Amour
Mais c’est
Vous qui
L’avez
Voulu
Mon amour

Ne vous déplaise
En dansant la Javanaise
Nous nous aimions
Le temps d’une chanson

Translation:

I had
A few
Tough years
Didn’t you
My true love
Until
At last
You crossed
My path
My true love

If you don’t mind
While dancing the javanaise
Our love lasted
As long as a song

What do
You think
That we
Have seen
Of true love
Let me
Tell you
I was
Deceived
My true love

If you don’t mind
While dancing the javanaise
Our love lasted
As long as a song

Alas
April
In vain
Draws me
To true love
I was
Willing
To see
In you
This true love

If you don’t mind
While dancing the javanaise
Our love lasted
As long as a song

Life is
Pointless
When it’s
Devoid
Of true love
But that’s
The choice
You made
For us
My true love

If you don’t mind
While dancing the javanaise
Our love lasted
As long as a song

The combination of French, the language of love and Jazz, the music of love, has to be one of the most magnificent creations of mankind.

Originally written by Serge Gainsbourg back in 1962, this song happens to be a cover by Madeleine Peyroux, an American jazz singer and songwriter who began her career as a teenager on the streets of Paris. She is known for her vintage jazz and blues songs. When Peyroux was just 13, she moved to Paris with her mother, where she began singing, ‘inspired by the street musicians of Paris’ Latin Quarter. By 1989, she was performing as a member of the old-timey jazz band the Riverboat Shufflers. Around age 16, she joined another vintage-inspired ensemble, the Lost & Wandering Blues & Jazz Band, and spent several years touring Europe performing jazz standards by such legends as Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and others’.

While Gainsbourg’s version of the song, which is the original one, is sensual and authentic, with perfect 60’s French music, Peyroux has brought out the sheer delicacy in the song. Even though the two versions don’t necessarily contradict each other, they’re not that similar, save for the same lyrics. Why I have chosen this version is because I was more drawn to the innate authenticity that persists, even with the progression in the art of Jazz. When I first heard the song, Madeleine was mistaken for a 50’s Jazz artist, such is her vocal charm. Released in 2006, the song retains the timelessness a jazz song is entitled to have.

The elegant, pared-down arrangements are all brushed drums, acoustic guitars, and cool organ licks. But of course it’s Peyroux’s voice that brings it all home–preferably one where the shades are drawn, embers are smoldering in the fireplace, and the white wine is kept dry.

What a perfect way to describe the song. Also, the soft and toned music makes is especially pleasant, like something you’d play in a very nice restaurant, or to accentuate your lover’s voice as you have a candle-lit dinner on the terrace on a warm evening, or even on a beautiful cruise across the Pacific. Her perfect pronunciation, The sweet music of the violin and the piano swipe are all beautiful attributes of the song.

The Javanaise is made to seem like a dance the lover’s asking his beloved to remember they had on an evening, on a street with the street band playing this song (the latter half of this story is all made-up). That’s the beauty of French Jazz music when it’s played in every nook and corner of Paris – it’s mind-numbing and mesmerizing. One quiet walk through Paris on a lovely summer’s night will fill your life with so much bliss that you’ll never be worried about the little things again. That is, of course, if there’s no threat of robbery.

 

 

CAN’T TAKE MY EYES OFF YOU

Artist: Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons

Genre: Swing (Jazz)

Notable lyrics:

Pardon the way that I stare,

there’s nothing else to compare,

beside, her view leaves me weak,

there are no words left to speak.

I’m aware of the plethora of covers of this song (Muse, Heath Ledger, et al) but I guarantee you, this is the most authentic and the best version there is (not to mention, the original one). The song has also played a part in several movies as a soundtrack. So, if it rings a bell, you know why.

Having to be one of the most romantically striking songs there is, the hit track was released back in 1967, the pre-revolutionary era (in terms of music, of course), earning a top position in the billboard charts for a whole week (we don’t respect billboard anymore but back then, the competition was tight), and thereby instantly fetching a gilded record for the artists. During the late 60’s, the highly contagious Rock music was all the rage and Jazz had seen better days. Even if the song is listed as a ‘pop rock’ song, there are certain attributes that make it more of a Swing oriented song; the indiscreet bass guitars, the drums, the lively maracas, an occasional trumpet and the heartfelt, sensual singing that is perfect for serenading a love interest. On the other hand, the lyrics are just as flattering as the rest of the song. If only you could imagine how the ladies back in the day were smitten (just watch the live shows, Frank wasn’t kidding around).

With a song that starts off with a bold instrumental piece, it’s important to maintain the same calibre throughout the entire song and just that has been done so immaculately, with the outstanding chorus and thereon. The mid-20th century flair is very conspicuous and adds to the originality of the song belonging to the worldly genre of Jazz. The song fades into a gradual end with the actual performance still being as intense as ever – guess they had to stop somewhere!

I can’t point the exact time or place of the song’s discovery, but all I remember was how bewitched I was; I often found myself obsessively listening to the tune while goofing around, unwinding after a long day or – pretty much all the time. Everyone deserves a wonderful favorite Swing song and this one has to be mine.

LA VIE EN ROSE

 

 

Artist: Louis Armstrong

Genre: Jazz

Notable lyrics:

Hold me close and hold me fast
The magic spell you cast
This is La Vie En Rose

When you kiss me heaven sighs
And though I close my eyes
I see La Vie En Rose

When you press me to your heart
I’m in a world apart
A world where roses bloom

And when you speak…angels sing from above
Everyday words seem…to turn into love songs

Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be
La Vie En Rose

I guarantee you’ve probably heard this song somewhere, sometime in your life. I myself heard this song in Wall-E and spent a good hour searching for this beautiful, heartfelt tune. And also, might I add how complete my world is, even if for a moment, when I listen to this song?

‘La vie en rosé’ translates to ‘life in pink’. it is a delicate and soulful ballad, made famous by the French singer ‘Edith Piaf‘ in the late 40’s. The song was complete with lyrics and light music until Louis Armstrong, the undeclared ‘god of jazz’ decided to enhance the song with the addition of his infamous saxophone solo. most of the lyrics were omitted because the saxophone, on its own, added a miraculous touch to the end you never knew you needed. Used in over 30 movies, this song captures the essence of love so stupendous, it’ll leave you dazed and smitten within a matter of seconds. the song oozes romance and splendour in a way most post-Jazz songs fail to do so.

There’s really something so extraordinary about Jazz no words can define; it must have something to do with the melodious tune of the saxophones. The early 1900’s were really a golden era for the rise of Jazz music, with wonderful artists like ‘Ray Charles’, ‘Eartha Kitt’, ‘Duke Ellington’, ‘Aretha Franklin’, and our very own ‘Louis Armstrong. Amidst the rise in struggle for equality, Jazz was the music that embraced everyone and showed no discrimination on the basis of a person’s skin color. as a matter of fact, most of these Jazz artists were people of color and that paved way for a historical movement that, essentially, changed the world. not only did it help eradicate racism, it also gave opportunities for women of color (and women alike) to prove their excellence outside the house. Jazz, with such a rich and fluent history, is most likely to go extinct within a few decades due to the lack of talented and skilled artists and the alarming rise in popularity of Pop music. If a genre of music helped create such a revolution, it must be celebrated in the best way possible: by preserving its authenticity and integrity.

The next time you’re in Paris having a breakfast in the balcony, (or doing anything, anywhere, for that matter) don’t forget to play this song on repeat for it with soothe your senses and tell you why your life is worth living.