Bing Crosby and the Mills Brothers enjoyed long careers in pop music, but they were all influenced by jazz in their early years. “Dinah” starts out like one of Crosby’s pop records, with Crosby singing the melody with minor variations over a small orchestra with strings. Then the tempo jumps up, there is a jazzy trumpet break, the Mills Brothers enter, and most of the orchestra is silent for the rest of the recording. John Mills sings a tuba part under the three-part harmony of his brothers (John also plays guitar for the rest of the side). Donald Mills takes a scat break to finish the chorus, then Crosby takes over with a scat solo of his own. While Crosby sings even eighth notes on top of the beat, he varies the line with sharp rhythmic emphasis. Trumpeter Frank Guarante accompanies Crosby when he goes back to the lyrics at the bridge, and then again in the first half of the next chorus, but the solo at the bridge which follows is not a trumpet, but a vocal impression by Harry Mills. The side comes to an exciting conclusion as the Mills Brothers riff like a high-powered big band behind Crosby.
Monk was the consummate modernist of common-practice jazz. He was arguably the consummate historian, too. Consider:
Of his peers and followers, Monk showed the most interest in performing repertoire composed before 1930 ("Dinah" is from 1925). Pianist Herbie Nichols, in the first-ever review of Monk in 1944, wrote he would rather hear Monk play 'Boston' than anyone else. ('Boston' is more or less the left-hand 'oompah' of stride, but filled out and played by both hands behind a singer or band - Count Basie did it especially well.) Monk Plays Duke Ellington
was one of the first and still one of the best tribute albums by a major jazz artist. And producer Orrin Keepnews reported that after listening to the playback of 1957's "Functional," Monk declared, "I sound just like James P. Johnson."
"Dinah" is the first, fastest and most Harlem-esqe performance contained in Solo Monk
, the most stride-reliant album in Monk's discography. I wonder about two possible tributes: "Dinah"'s lyrics refer to "Carolina" - could that be James P., yet again, whose own "Carolina Shout"
and "Carolina Balmoral" are key stride pieces? "Dinah" does lead off Solo Monk
; I can see Monk saying, "Just to be clear, this is for James P." Also, the closing trill: Monk almost never trills otherwise, but he can't seem to stop himself from ringing that bell at the end of several striding tracks on this disc. Is that a hat tip to Fats Waller, who constantly trilled too?
A concert on the 2nd December 1934 at the Ecole Normale de Musique marked the definitive arrival of the Quintette du Hot Club de France. Imagine how it must have sounded to 1930s jazz fans – no drums, no brass, no saxes! Twenty-six days later Reinhardt showed what a short step the campfire extemporizations of a Manouche gypsy guitarist were from jazz improvisation. The group stood out because their jazz was so quintessentially European at a time when everyone else’s was so quintessentially American. Their boulevardier brio convincingly suggested that jazz could reflect “local” culture without sacrificing the elements that made Afro-American jazz so compelling and subversive.
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