Jazz honored by grammy® hall of fame

by Alan Kurtz

Grammy at 50

In the wake of the 50th Annual Grammy Awards, which CBS telecast nationally in mid-February 2008, we temporarily set aside our usual aversion to show-business award ceremonies to reflect on the Big Picture, something we here at Jazz.com never tire of analyzing, contemplating, examining, inspecting, perusing, pondering, probing, scrutinizing, studying, surveying, vetting, viewing, weighing, and otherwise casting a watchful eye upon.

"The Hall of Fame Award," explains The Recording Academy's website, "was established in 1973 to honor recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance that are at least 25 years old. Inductees are selected annually by a special member committee of eminent and knowledgeable professionals from all branches of the recording arts."

As of February 2008, 73 jazz singles and 51 jazz albums have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. However, in listing these inductees, The Recording Academy's website gives, like a POW, only name, rank and serial number. Jazz.com is therefore pleased to complement the Grammy honor roll with a detailed review of each HOF jazz track. Plus, since many HOF singles are drawn from HOF albums, our handy track reviews will guide you to those albums as well.

Let it be said, however, that while most of our reviews confirm Grammy's HOF choices, in some cases we beg to differ with the "eminent and knowledgeable professionals." Most notably, their 2007 election of Duke Ellington's "Cocktails For Two," hardly one of the Maestro's masterpieces. We also treat "Sing, Sing, Sing," "Cherokee," "Star Dust," "Frenesi," "Night Train" and "Mack The Knife" with less than reverence.

Sometimes Grammy herself seems downright befuddled by jazz, as in 2001's election of "Moody's Mood For Love," credited to saxophonist James Moody on the Prestige label in 1952. Although Prestige twice released "Moody's Mood For Love" (based on the standard "I'm In The Mood For Love") by James Moody—first as an instrumental recorded in Sweden in 1949, later with Eddie Jefferson's vocal, remade stateside in 1954—James Moody did not record "Moody's Mood For Love" in 1952.

What did distinguish 1952 in this regard, however, was Prestige's release of the bestselling "Moody's Mood For Love" by King Pleasure, singing Eddie Jefferson's lyric based on James Moody's improvised 1949 solo. Confused yet? Grammy's eminent and knowledgeable professionals were. To us, at least, it seems likely that King Pleasure's single, which put vocalese on the map, is Grammy's Hall of Fame choice, even if the poor dear didn't fully know what she was doing.

And while we're at it, we must take issue with Grammy's arbitrary classification of certain Hall of Famers as non-jazz. What, for instance, do the following have in common? We'll tell you in advance: according to Grammy, they're not jazz.

•  Bunny Berigan's "I Can't Get Started" and Glenn Miller's "Moonlight Serenade," two Swing Era stalwarts. Just because jazz happened then to be America's pop music doesn't mean it stopped being jazz.

•  Lena Horne's "Stormy Weather" and Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five's "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie," 1940s hits by crossover artists thoroughly steeped in jazz.

•  Julie London's "Cry Me A River" and Peggy Lee's "Fever," pop-jazz delights from the 1950s. Barney Kessel's contribution to "Cry Me A River" and Shelly Manne's to "Fever" make those hits jazz irrespective of the singers, who resolve the argument anyway beyond dispute in jazz's favor.

•  Or how about Henry Mancini's crime-jazz classic "Peter Gunn," Mongo Santamaria's Latin-jazz favorite "Watermelon Man," or Getz & Gilberto's tall-&-tan-&-young-&-lovely "The Girl From Ipanema"? The latter's exclusion from jazz is especially silly, considering that the album it powered to smash success is enshrined in Grammy's Jazz HOF.

•  And don't even get us started on Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World." Not jazz! It's like saying the Statue of Liberty isn't in New York. Crimea River!

Reservations aside, we commend The Recording Academy's Hall of Fame for so prominently honoring jazz, and proudly salute the class of 2008 HOF jazz inductees:

Louis Armstrong & Earl Hines, "Weather Bird" (1928)
Louis Armstrong, "St. Louis Blues" (1929)
Duke Ellington & His Famous Orchestra, "It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" (1932)
Benny Goodman and His Orchestra, "King Porter Stomp" (1935)
Benny Goodman Sextet, "Seven Come Eleven" (1940)

Etta Jones, Don't Go To Strangers (1960)
John Coltrane Quartet, Ballads (1962)

Complete List:
Grammy Hall of Fame Jazz Singles


January 21, 2008 · 2 comments

  • 1 Woody Strong // Feb 06, 2008 at 04:17 PM
    Louis Armstrong's great recording of 'West End Blues' should be mentioned. This 3-4 bar intro cannot be duplicated by many trumpet players. I define big band music as one catagory - and jazz as another. Louis Armstrong was a crossover. He recorded pop songs 'Hello Dolly' later in life. The definitive STARDUST was produced by Artie Shaw with the fine Billy Butterfield opening bid - the blend of the orch - then the outstanding clarinet of Artie Shaw. Arrangement simple but ONLY top flight musicians can handle it. Shaw's did! Fats Waller should be included...Ain't Misbehavin' and 'Your Feet's Too Big' are alltime classics. Woody
  • 2 Alan Kurtz // Feb 07, 2008 at 04:53 AM
    Not to worry, Woody. Armstrong's "West End Blues," Shaw's "Star Dust" and Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'" are all in the Grammy Hall of Fame. Fats's "Feets Too Big," though, still hasn't made it. Maybe next year.