Sophie Tucker: Some of These Days

Sometimes the edgy and risqué performers are the ones that seem the most dated to a later generation. What was daring a hundred years ago, when Sophie Tucker started singing this song, will hardly raise an eyebrow now. Yet Sophie Tucker won't quietly fade away into history. Listen to almost any one of her recordings, and you know that this lady was destined to stand out from the crowd, and always will. Every later larger-than-life female vocalist—Barbara Streisand, Ethel Merman, Tina Turner, Madonna and others to come—is standing, to some degree, on her capacious shoulders, and are part of a Tucker tradition, whether they know it or not.

"Some of These Days" was her biggest hit, but she almost missed it. One day in Chicago, Tucker's maid took her to task: "See here, young lady," the servant said, "since when are you so important that you can't hear a song by a colored writer? Here's this boy Shelton Brooks hanging around, waiting, like a dog with his tongue hanging out, for you to hear his song." Tucker listened, and liked what she heard—as did audiences who kept demanding this song from her for the next half century. Even on the earliest recording, made for Edison in 1911, Tucker's personality comes out loud and clear, with a voice that somehow manages to be both intimately conversational yet also shouted out to the back row. But this rendition is jazzier and features a more relaxed accompaniment. Tucker's voice is in fine form, both on the big notes and the little quivering cries, and her vibrato is especially impressive. Around the same time, Tucker recorded this song with Ted Shapiro as well. But this is the version to check out, and the one that turned Tucker's signature song, already well known, into a hit again.

September 12, 2009 · 0 comments


Johnny Smith: Some Of These Days

Starting with an introduction over a pedal point, Johnny Smith’s take-no-prisoners version of “Some Of These Days” is an excellent primer to the guitarist’s work. Smith could say a lot in a short time, and although this performance is here and gone in two-and-a-half minutes, it sounds complete and satisfying. Smith stays close to the melody for most of the opening chorus and then launches into a fleet-fingered solo comprised mostly of single lines. His opening phrases are simple 4-bar ideas, but starting in the second eight his phrases expand and motives from early in the phrase are developed later in the same thought. Pancoast takes over for a quick Peterson-esque chorus, and then Smith returns with the melody, this time played in chords, but not in parallel block chords. Indeed, the independent movement of the inner voices in chorded passages was one of the hallmarks of Smith’s style. It is also one of the many reasons why he is still considered a guitar giant more than a decade after he set the instrument down for the last time. The Mosaic set above has brought Smith’s playing to the attention of the jazz public, but for guitar players, Smith was always a master.

September 02, 2009 · 0 comments


Louis Armstrong: Some Of These Days

With his classic big band recording of "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," the basic formula for Louis Armstrong's arrangements was set: melodic interpretation on trumpet, solo break by a member of the band, vocal solo, another solo break, then big final trumpet chorus. Now, there's nothing wrong with a working formula, especially—as in Louis' case—when you're the first person to do it. His version of the evergreen "Some Of These Days" was made fairly early in the series and in this case, the formula was turned inside out. It sounds like the band is reading a stock arrangement which means that there's more for them to do than just accompany Louis. Still, Louis gets all of the solo space he normally had, just in a different order. After the saxophone intro, he sings first, and since the song was fairly well-known, he takes a lot of liberties with it. In fact, it almost sounds like he's singing in the wrong key for the first half of his chorus, but he's just singing an adventuresome variation of the melody. After a clumsy break by Jimmy Strong, Louis plays his first trumpet solo. In contrast to the vocal, he's fairly conservative, using a set of symmetrical phrases and closing with a hoochie-coochie riff that was part of the arrangement. The saxes have a variation and the playing is about as clean as any of Louis' backing groups of this period. Louis' final solo is a dazzling display which covers the entire range of the horn and peaks with a sustained high D-flat. Louis didn't favor his low register much, and on the non-vocal take also included on the above CD, we can hear why: in the same spot, Louis moves to the lower register and he gets covered up by the saxes. Within a few years, recording techniques would improve and there would be less of these balance issues. What is surprising is that the non-vocal version was issued (mostly outside of the US) even with the balance problem. While not the equal of the vocal version, the instrumental take is worth a listen.

September 02, 2009 · 0 comments


Gonzalo Bergara: Some of These Days

There's no shortage of Hot Club swing groups covering this antique chestnut of a tune; it's fun to play and audiences never seem to get tired of hearing it. Improvising through these changes with any degree of freshness is quite another matter. From stage left, enter Gonzalo Bergara.

Perhaps this Argentine guitarist, composer and teacher isn't such big news to West Coast jazz Manouche fans, who have had the opportunity to hear him in venues around his current California stomping grounds, but his playing was quite a shock to this East Coaster when I heard him at the 2008 Django in June event in Massachusetts.

Here's the thing: it's not just the chops, which are considerable, or the speed and dexterity of his execution, impressive though it may be. It's the attack – rarely have I heard a right-hand technique with more nuance. On "Some of These Days" (the album's only non-original tune), pearlescent lines rapid-fire from the fretboard as if his fingers are kissing each note with lapidary precision, bringing fresh sparkle and polish to a priceless old jewel. Don't miss these kisses.

July 12, 2008 · 0 comments


Previous Page | Next Page