Quintette du Hot Club de France: Tea For Two (take 2)

“Tea For Two” must have been one of Django Reinhardt’s favorite songs at this period, as he recorded it five times between 1937-1939. Three of those versions were made by the QHCF in 1939 for the same label (All 3 of the 1939 versions can be heard on the above CD.) This version stands out from the others for its beautiful relaxed tempo and for Django’s amazing solo. The cut opens with Django and Stephane in duet on the verse. Grappelli is as elegant as ever, but Django is feeling rhapsodic and as he begins his solo on the tune, he goes into a breathtaking run, astounding not only for its length, but also for its asymmetrical architecture. Maintaining his penchant for single line solos, his second eight features a brilliant development of the song’s primary motive. In the next eight, he develops one of his own lines, but then returns to examining the original tune to finish his chorus. All of this is done so artfully that the casual listener can barely tell what’s going on. Django’s accompaniment style has also made a new development: there is a wonderful moment during Grappelli’s solo where Reinhardt hits a roll at full strength, but then immediately brings the volume down. In classical music, that’s known as a forte-piano, but it is rarely used in jazz. Here, it is a perfect way to balance the QHCF’s usual rough-and-ready style with the tender reading of a timeless standard.

August 29, 2009 · 0 comments


Nat King Cole & Lester Young: Tea For Two

Prez’s Aladdin sessions often sound like they were made in somebody’s garage, but they’re invaluable, documenting his music during a long reprieve from the Count Basie Orchestra. “Tea for Two” features two future stars, 26-year-old bassist Red Callender and 24-year-old pianist Nat “King” Cole, whose jobs are primarily to set Young up and stay out of his way—though Cole gets off a glittering syncopated variation. Young’s sax sound and phrasing, distinctive as ever through the static and tape hiss, is also as adventurous as ever. His mellow tones form startling abstractions that occasionally let a faint trace of the written melody through, but are simply on a higher level than his young journeymen are prepared for: When Young breaks into stop-time during the song’s final third, Cole hardly knows what to do.

Surely it’s no coincidence that the Lester Young Effect would soon dominate the music in that city, first nourishing young L.A. players like Dexter Gordon, Buddy Collette and later Wardell Gray, then setting the standard for the scene’s new “cool” style. Here we find Lester delivering it to their very doorsteps.

August 16, 2009 · 0 comments


Joe Mooney: Tea For Two

In September 1946, composer and critic Alec Wilder proclaimed in Downbeat that the Joe Mooney Quartet was one of the finest small groups in the history of jazz. Mooney built this intimate quartet after successfully translating the advanced harmonies of bebop to the accordion(!) A stylish, hip songwriter in his own right, Mooney loved creating humorous parodies of standard pop songs, as in this winning update of “Tea For Two”. While the opening chorus delights with lines like Do you long for oolong like I like for oolong, baby? the final chorus updates the story nearly 40 years in the future: Flash! 1983; See! Chick still on his knee .For all of its obvious values, the quartet may have been too intimate for its own good. Existing far before the days of jazz concerts, the understated style of the group couldn’t compete with the rowdy clientele of the average nightclub. Within three years, the quartet was no more.

For Mooney, it was another in a series of failures to catch the public’s attention. He had toured with his brother Dan as “The Sunshine Boys” in the early 1930s (the name was ironic since both brothers were blind). After the quartet’s demise, Joe switched his primary instrument from accordion to Hammond organ. He made recordings in 1952 (both on his own and with the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra), then full LPs in 1957 and 1963-1964. Although he performed in New York nightclubs as a result of these recordings, he was never able to generate enough popularity to keep him in the Big Apple. When work dried up for him in New York, he retreated to his home in Florida where his local fans provided the loyal following that had eluded him up north.

July 05, 2009 · 0 comments


Martial Solal: Tea for Two

At age 80, Martial Solal exhibits more energy and youthful enthusiasm in his playing than most pianists half his age. He is at once a stylist who plays in a disjointed, unpredictable manner that can be disturbing to the ear of some. His keyboard proficiency is phenomenal, and his exploratory probing is inventive and challenging to the listener. On the standard "Tea for Two," Solal removes all but the barest of identifying melody lines and creates a vehicle where he can deconstruct and then reconstruct to his own liking the essence of the tune. His attack approaches a level of vivaciousness that can sound at times almost angry, but he manages to strike a delicate balance between that emotion and manic unleashed exuberance, ably assisted by the symbiotic playing of twin brothers bassist Francois Moutin and drummer Louis Moutin. You have never heard this old familiar song played like this, and perhaps it is too far explored for those who like to follow a melody, but make no mistake Solal is expanding the boundaries of both time and space, and it is interesting to hear what comes out of this still fertile musical mind. Always engaging in his own unique way, Martial Solal shows why at any age he is still a joy to listen to. Bravo to the maestro.

May 08, 2008 · 0 comments


Anita O'Day: Tea for Two

Anita O'Day

Looking like a grande dame in Vogue, singing like a dame outa Down Beat, Anita O'Day walked away with Jazz on a Summer's Day (1960). The documentary of 1958's Newport Jazz Festival should have been called Jazz on a Summer's O'Day.

"I was scheduled for 5 o'clock in the afternoon," Miss O'Day recounts in her autobiography, "and I asked myself what to wear. 'It's teatime,' I told the Italian lady who ran a dress shop in Greenwich Village. She brought out this black dress, trimmed with white. We both knew it was right, but I asked what I could wear on my head. She went into the back room and came out with a black cartwheel, trimmed with white feathers. Both went with my see-through, plastic pumps and for a fun touch I added short white gloves."

After flicking mud from an earlier rain off her shoe, a tightly hemmed Anita wriggled on stage and squinted at the crowd. "Performing in the afternoon was a bonus," she recalled, "because I could see the audience. I spotted Chris Connor out there." Like O'Day, Connor had served a stretch as Stan Kenton's vocalist. "That was good," Anita thought, "because I can make my performance the way I want it to be when I know some of the audience digs what I'm doing and I can relate to them."

She related with what amounts to a clinic on jazz singing, in particular wowing the crowd with her up-tempo take on the 1925 chestnut "Tea for Two." Blazing through the lyrics, Anita treats both melody and rhythm to a complete makeover, exercising the unbridled flair of an interior decorator given carte blanche by a client with deep pockets. Following a short piano solo, Anita switches to scat, trading fours with Poole's wire-brushed drums. To conclude, Anita amuses the audience by exchanging wordless quotes with her trio from "Flip Top," a favorite '50s TV jingle. "You get a lot to like with a Marlboro," the original assured. "Filter, flavor, flip-top box." In those halcyon days, cigarette jingles were considered harmless fun. Fifty years later, coffin-nail jingles are thankfully a thing of the past. Anita O'Day, though, is as much fun as ever.

April 07, 2008 · 0 comments


Art Tatum: Tea for Two (1952)

Tatum recorded this tune several times, often as a solo performance. With his trio, he arranges the original melody by adding small riffs to announce each solo—Stewart's being, of course, both bowed on the bass and hummed—and the final return to the theme. The swing is infectious all the way through, and the counterpoint between the three instruments and between Tatum's hands can make you wonder what is written and what is improvised in this awesome tour de force.

February 04, 2008 · 0 comments


Blossom Dearie: Tea for Two

Strangely enough, Blossom Dearie (accompanied by only herself at the piano) sings the verse of this song at a swifter tempo than the rest. Easy, since the rest is sung and played at a very, very slow tempo. But what's not easy is to swing at such a slow tempo—unless one has Ray Brown's burnished bass sound and Ed Thigpen's delicate brushwork by your side. And in this setting listeners can fully enjoy Blossom's exquisite phrasing of the words to a song they may well rediscover, thanks to her.

February 04, 2008 · 0 comments


Ran Blake & Jaki Byard: Tea for Two

One thing is for sure, at least: these two may not be having tea, but they are having a lot of fun, and from the highly playful intro on, too. They explore their keyboards and the styles they love and have mastered (stride among them, of course). They share bits of the melody, split roles and registers, like two longtime partners playing witty and innocent tricks to an old song they adore, after all. And if these two didn't give us so much pleasure, there's a good chance we'd be jealous of them. Because where on earth can one remain a child at play forever, except in front of two grand pianos?

February 04, 2008 · 0 comments


Art Tatum: Tea for Two (1939)

Listening to the first half of Tatum's 2½-minute "Tea For Two," you might think you're hearing a cocktail pianist with the fleetest right hand in history, but still a cocktail pianist. When he shifts from rubato to up-tempo stride, however, hold onto your hats! To say this man could play jazz is like saying Aristotle could philosophize, Euclid was good at math, Rembrandt had a gift for portraiture, or Nixon could lie. Tatum's rapid-fire modulations require a mind as quick as his right hand, which was faster than a cardsharp anxious to catch the next riverboat. Dazzling.

November 08, 2007 · 0 comments


Previous Page | Next Page