Sick of winter? Based on the e-mails I've been receiving from readers over the past two days, you're not alone. To help cheer you up, I offer you my final top-10 list of jazz songs with spring in the title. This brings my total number of favorites to 30. Which means you can now fire away with your own favorites, and I'll list a selection on Sunday.
On my computer, I've assembled my favorites in a separate iTunes folder, arranged in order of preference. Makes for fun listening, especially on these gray, damp, pre-spring days (it's going down to 29 degrees here tonight). Interestingly, based on my research, the season of re-birth seems to have stirred the creative juices of composers and jazz musicians more so than summer, fall or winter (excluding the holidays, of course).
Here is my final set of 10, in order of preference, labeled 21-30:
21. Some Other Spring—Billie Holiday. Lady Day recorded this Kitchings-Herzog song only twice, once in the late 1930s and again in 1956 with Tony Scott. Interestingly, trumpeter Charlie Shavers was on both dates. My favorite version is from July 5, 1939. Billie was backed by a small group, and she's in her early prime here, with her penetrating bluesy sound. You'll find this track at iTunes on Lady Day: The Best of Billie Holiday or at Amazon here.
22. Spring, Spring, Spring—Johnny Mercer. This lovely Mercer-Gene De Paul song was written in 1954 for the movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Mercer was joined on this track from the mid-1950s by the Paul Smith Trio and the Notables vocal group. Where can you find it as a download? Buried at iTunes. Some genius there misspelled Mercer's first name, so the track is impossible to pull up with the iTunes search engine. To grab it, you must type "We Loved You Madly, Chapter 11: Ebb Tide." Don't ask how I found this track. It was sheer luck.
23. Paris in the Spring—Dave Pell. This Gordon-Revel composition was recorded by the Dave Pell Octet in April 1955. The Shorty Rogers arrangement is light, airy and pure West Coast bliss. Musicians on the date were Don Fagerquist (trumpet), Ray Sims (trombone), Pell (tenor sax), Bob Gordon (baritone sax), Don Trenner (piano), Tony Rizzi (guitar), Buddy Clark (bass) and Bill Richmond (drums). You'll find it at iTunes under Dave Pell's name or on a fabulous double-CD here.
24. Spring Is Here—Jimmy Raney. This tune was recorded by guitarist Raney in February 1955 with his quintet. The group was made up of John Wilson (trumpet), Hall Overton (piano), Raney (guitar), Teddy Kotick (bass) and Nick Stabulas (drums). The group is feathery light but tasty in ideas and phrasing. You'll find it on The Jimmy Raney Quintet: Complete Recordings 1954-56 here.
25. It Happens Every Spring—Frank Sinatra. This Mack Gordon-Josef Myrow gem was recorded by Sinatra in April 1949, during his romantic Columbia period. The song title is from the film of the same name. The orchestra was arranged and conducted by Axel Stordahl and included Ziggy Elman on trumpet and Heinie Beau on alto sax. You can download the track from Amazon here.
26. Spring in Manhattan—Tony Bennett. Arranged by Don Costa, this Reach-Scibetta track was recorded with strings and choir for Columbia in April 1963. It appears on The Many Moods of Tony Bennett as well as subsequent compilations. Tony is at the height of his Street Singer meets Broadway period and gently turns the coals of this unusual ballad beautifully. You can find it on Fifty Years: The Artistry of Tony Bennett at iTunes or here.
27. Spring in Central Park—Dave Brubeck. This tune was recorded in August 1964 for Jazz Impressions of New York. Despite being West Coasters, pianist Brubeck, Paul Desmond (alto sax), Gene Wright (bass) and Joe Morello (drums) had no problem capturing the child-like energy of New York in the spring. Desmond's playing is certainly evocative of Central Park's Poet's Walk, budding yellow crocuses, and the Boathouse on a warm sunny day. You can find this track at iTunes or here.
28. Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most—Stanley Turrentine. Mr. T recorded this beaut in October 1963 for A Chip Off the Old Block. As this rendition demonstrates, Turrentine continues to be somewhat underrated today as a tenor sax giant and a magnificent ballad player. Turrentine was joined here by Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Shirley Scott (organ), Earl May (bass) and Al Harewood (drums). The album is mostly a cooker of Basie material, except for this pretty ballad. You'll find it at iTunes or here.
29. Spring Again—Chico Hamilton. This delightful bossa nova is from Thoughts Of..., recorded in June 2002. In addition to Chico on drums, the group included Karolina Strassmayer (reeds), Evan Schwam (tenor sax), Cary DeNigris (guitar) and Paul Ramsey (bass). This track is at iTunes and at Amazon here.
30. Spring is Here—Anita O'Day. This is another fine vocal execution of a great spring standard. O'Day was backed here by the Billy May Orchestra on this July 1960 session for Anita O'Day And Billy May Swing Rodgers And Hart. Only O'Day could crawl inside this song and extract just a touch of pain. It's at iTunes and here.
Bonus: Early Spring—Miles Davis. In January 1951, winners of the Metronome magazine reader's poll came together to record two sides. This minor-key modal piece by Miles Davis was arranged by Ralph Burns and echoed both Half Nelson and Gil Evans' writing for the Birth of the Cool sessions held two years earlier. The date featured a killer lineup: Miles Davis (trumpet), Kai Winding (trombone), John LaPorta (clarinet), Lee Konitz (alto sax), Stan Getz (tenor sax), Serge Chaloff (baritone sax), Terry Gibbs (vibes), George Shearing (piano), Billy Bauer (guitar), Eddie Safranski (bass) and Max Roach (drums). You'll find it at iTunes on Miles Davis: A Trumpet v. Darkness.
JazzWax clip: Before we move on to other jazz topics (summer?), let me leave you with this gorgeous rendition of Spring Is Here by Chris Connor with the Ellis Larkins Trio from 1954...