Ray Brown: Ain't Misbehavin'

Ray Brown's 1960 album Jazz Cello was one of the first albums in mainstream jazz to be devoted entirely to the cello. Featuring a full horn and rhythm section, Brown treated the cello as a fully realized melodic instrument. On the standard “Ain’t Misbehavin,” he proved that the cello could be featured in a big band setting. After a brief introduction from the ensemble, Brown plays the melody pizzicato, and embellishes the melody with slight ornamentation. With Russ Garcia's delicate orchestration, the cello cuts through the large instrumentation. Brown plays a soulful solo leaving plenty of space for the band figures. A delightful track from a late lamented jazz master.

September 09, 2009 · 0 comments


Sidney Bechet: Ain't Misbehavin'

With the one and only Sidney Bechet joined by the great pianist Earl "Fatha" Hines, virtuoso cornetist Rex Stewart (a feature attraction of the landmark Ellington band), and that New Orleans original, co-Founding Father of jazz drumming, "Baby" Dodds, you might expect memorable results—and, baby, do they deliver! Clearly they were inspired by this Fats Waller tune that is one of the best and most loved songs ever written.

Earl Hines opens with a sparkling, bouncy rendition of the famous melody, using a little left-hand bass rumbling to let you know that the title says "ain't misbehavin'", BUT…. Next, like a musical relay, Bechet takes the handoff and plays a clarion, fairly straight version of the theme, then variations with verve, with Dodds pounding out drum rolls for additional texture. In turn, Stewart jumps in with a perfect response and follow-up to Bechet, using his muted cornet for a wailing first note, then further creative variations of the theme, with exquisite bluesy slurs and accents, until Bechet again follows suit. Hines next offers a beautiful rhythmic yet rhapsodic, virtuoso piano interlude, with Bechet's punctuating phrases behind him. That transitions into some Hines-Stewart exchanges, creating an interesting tonal and rhythmic dynamic. Then Bechet cuts loose with dramatic, blazing inventions and embellishments on the theme, with that inimitable tone and vibrato. Stewart again takes the handoff and launches into his own blazing lines, using muted cornet to wonderful effect, as his and the rest of the band's playing steadily grows in intensity and passion, yet never loses their playful element. Finally Bechet heats things up further, joining Stewart in a high- energy dual/duel back-and-forth ba-dah-dum, ba-dah-dum, ba-dah-dum, dah de dum ending that leaves you breathless.

This is glorious stuff, with tremendous momentum, the great jazz masters spurring each other on to a dramatic ending. This is truly movin' music! If the toes of the person listening next to you aren't tapping, check the pulse; they may need immediate medical attention. And if they aren't smiling up a storm after listening to this, they need another type of attention.

February 20, 2009 · 0 comments


Ray Bryant: Ain't Misbehavin'

Ray Bryant made his mark in the jazz world with some very soulful piano playing, mixing a dose of modernism with a double helping of blues. So it comes as some surprise to find him focusing on old-fashioned stride piano playing on his 2008 CD In the Back Room. Here he performs solo versions of songs by James P. Johnson and W.C. Handy, as well as five Fats Waller tunes, including this rendition of "Ain't Misbehavin'." Bryant proves that he is conversant with stride mannerisms, but his playing lacks the boisterous energy that the great masters of this style brought to their performances. This sounds the way stride might have been played if it had been transplanted from the Harlem rent parties to an academic setting. So it comes as no surprise to see that Bryant recorded this music at Rutgers University. Did the environment inspire a more subdued demeanor, Mr. Bryant? Some listeners may enjoy this more restrained approach to Fats Waller's music, but for my part I prefer a bit more misbehavin' in my Harlem stride.

December 19, 2008 · 0 comments


Django Reinhardt: Ain't Misbehavin'

Grappelli states the melody with the effervescence and lighthearted swing that are his trademarks. Django starts his solo sluggishly here, and in the second eight bars either misses the chord or is trying for an unusual polytonal effect. But in the second chorus he takes flight, and dishes out choice phrases that build on very large interval jumps. Then come some wild and woolly guitar chords that sound—I kid you not—like a steam locomotive heading down the track. The band is so far out of the stratosphere by this point that they don't even reprise the melody. Forget the title—some serious misbehavin' is goin' down here.

October 22, 2008 · 0 comments


Fats Waller: Ain't Misbehavin'

He doesn't sing here, but Waller's skills as pianist and composer are amply displayed. While Fats didn't invent the Harlem stride style (usually credited to James P. Johnson), he was among its most prodigious practitioners. And whereas he didn't write all the best songs of the 1920s (a guy named Gershwin being no slouch), Fats contributed many jazz standards. Both in conception and execution, "Ain't Misbehavin'" personifies Waller's irrepressible mischief and merriment. Disporting the lilting melody with his effortless bubbly touch, he simultaneously goads the song with a vibrant sense of swing, producing a track as irresistible as Fats himself.

November 22, 2007 · 0 comments


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