I finally gave in. You can now follow me on Twitter @KevinKniestedt. This is another easy and fast way to get Groove Notes updates, and other brief thoughts from me on jazz, other music, movies, nachos, and weird work schedules.
There were some thoughts that kept popping up in readers posts. One was “Why didn’t (insert song here) show up on the list?”. Another is “My list would look completely different from this one.” A third was “There is no way that Take Five should be number 1.”
Let me start by saying that my own personal list would also look a bit different from this one. I’ve seen emails and posts from casual listeners to the very jazz educated saying the exact same thing.
Everybody’s list is going to look different. The great thing about this list is that it took the input of about 2,800 different people, and I am not aware of any jazz list out there that has asked and received its construction from such a wide variety of people.
Yes, it was a popularity contest, just like anything else is when you open votes up to the public. That is why you see a song like Take Five at the top. It was extremely popular when it was released, is still in heavy rotation on most jazz radio stations, and is one of the few albums still found in the ever-shrinking “jazz section” at large book and music stores.
I will also say that while I was the one who compiled the votes, I also submitted my vote, and only one song I voted for made the list (Red Clay).
Does it make me angry? No, and for several reasons. The main reason is that no one asked me to make my own list. Therefore why should my own personal musical tastes be reflected throughout the list? Because I host a radio show and write a blog? Therefore I know better and have better taste than the casual listener?
This wasn’t a list offered up to only “jazz experts.” People from all ages and backgrounds voted, and that is why I think this list is unique.
Many people have also asked me what song(s) or artist(s) I think should have been on this list that didn’t make it.
I’ve also been pretty quiet about this one, because again, this isn’t MY personal list.
That being said, I can say that I assumed “A Child is Born” by Thad Jones would make it. I always assumed it was one of the most beautiful ballads in jazz and that my opinion on that was more widely shared. I also figured correctly that females would dominate the vocal recordings that made the list, but I assumed that there would be more of a variety of female vocalists that made the list than what we ended up seeing.
A lot of people also commented on the lack of recent jazz recordings that made the list. While I WISH there were more recent recordings on the Jazz 100, I also understand why there isn’t. Voters had 100 years of jazz to choose from, and in what is inevitably a popularity contest that only allows your favorite five to be submitted, I was not surprised to see the masses choose Miles Davis over Terence Blanchard in a all-time jazz popularity contest (for better or for worse).
Angry voters were in large part angry because their song didn’t make the list, therefore they felt they weren’t represented and their expertise is somehow put into question by the other 2,799 voters.
To those unhappy voters: don’t take it personally. In fact, have fun with it and discuss it. That is what opinion-based lists are for, typically. In fact, let it inspire you to create and post your own list, for comparison. It will allow you to listen to a ton of great music that you enjoy at the same time!
Finally, people have asked me what songs would be on MY list. While I am going to choose to not create a top 100 list (mainly because I feel like it could drastically change by next week), I will share some of my favorites that would always be on my list, that didn’t make our Jazz 100.
A Child is Born – Thad Jones/Mel Lewis
I Remember Clifford (A variety of versions)
A Mis Abuelos – Arturo Sandoval
Tumbleweed – Michael Brecker
Straight Life – Freddie Hubbard
Thanks again for all of your feedback, and keep it coming!
Below are two links. The first is a short 5 1/2 minute produced piece featuring highlights from his interview as well as music, and audio from The Tonight Show.
The second link is the 28 minute full interview with Doc.
Also included in this post is video and photos of Doc, as well as a transcript of the 5 1/2 minute feature. Enjoy!
SEATTLE, WA (KPLU) – Grammy Award winning trumpeter Doc Severinsen comes to the Pacific Northwest for a concert next weekend. Probably best known as the flashy dressed bandleader for Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” Orchestra, Severinsen had a career that spanned sixty-five years, and is back on the road after a very brief retirement. KPLU’s Kevin Kniestedt caught up with the eighty-three year old musician while on tour.
Kevin: For 25 years, Doc Severinsen was the best known trumpet player in America, as his band played the theme song that brought Johnny Carson out on stage to begin The Tonight Show. But Doc’s career began long before he was on television. In fact he still remembers his first paid music job.
Doc: It was during the depression the Great Depression. I played at the Blaylock Grange Hall out in the middle of a bunch of wheat fields. They had what they called then a Hard Times Dance. I got fifty cents for it, and I thought to myself, “wow”.
Kevin: Severinsen never looked back, touring with some of the best bandleaders ever, including Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Charlie Barnet.
Doc: It was sort of like being in a rock band sort of is today. You know, you go to a ballroom or a concert hall, and they were always jam packed. They knew everybody in the band, they knew every song we were going to play. It was like riding a huge wave. It was wonderful.
Kevin: In the early fifties, Doc decided it was time to settle down.
Doc: I had a wife and a daughter. It was time to get off the road, and I had a life long love affair with New York. So I settled there, and pretty soon through some things that occurred, I got some notice, and was hired to work at NBC as a staff musician.
Kevin: That staff musician job led to being hired as a trumpet player for the Tonight Show band when Steve Allen was hosting the show. Jack Parr became the host after Steve Allen left, and the NBC decided to hire a new host by the name of Johnny Carson.
Doc: After about a year, the producer of the show came to me (he also produced Johnny’s road shows) and he said “You know, Johnny wants you to come in and take over the band on the show. He’s not happy with the way things are going, and he’d like you to come in and try it and just see how it goes”. I said “Absolutely.” And it was the single biggest break of my life.
Kevin: Doc offered more than leading the band. He would fill in as an announcer when Ed McMahon was off, and he and Johnny Carson would often take part in some quick-witted banter:
Johnny: Get that Mickey Mouse outfit together and have them sit down. What are you going to do tonight, doctor?
Doc: Well we are going to stand around and wait for you to decide whether we are a band or an orchestra.
Johnny: What would you prefer to be called?
Kevin: Severinsen was also known for his loud wardrobe.
Doc: My first night on the show, I thought “Wow. What am I going to wear?” So I was walking down a street in New York, and passed a place that sold ties. And they had some really wild ties. And (I) wore one on the show that night. And I come out, and it was like throwing raw meat to a lion. He just went right for it. And I would come out every night in something that was pretty far out. And after I had been on the show for a lot of years, one night I just said “Aw, the heck with it. I am just going to wear a blue suit tonight.” Well, I gave a cutoff to the band, and went up to my dressing room, and there was an immediate message from Johnny: “What in the hell was wrong with your outfit tonight?” And it never happened again.
Kevin: When Johnny Carson retired from the Tonight Show, Severinsen left NBC as well. He took a good portion of the Tonight Show Band on the road, recorded a few albums, was a guest conductor for a few symphony orchestras, and then headed to Mexico to retire or so he thought.
Doc: I had been told by a next door neighbor “You’ve got to go hear these guys play at the so-and-so restaurant.
Kevin: “These guys” were guitarist Gil Gutierrez and violinist Pedro Cartas, who make up the band El Ritmo de la Vida, or “the rhythm of life”.
Doc: I think I dropped my cutlery and looked up and thought “Holy Cow! These guys are great. They’re not just good, these are world class musicians.”
Doc: So I made some calls to the states to see if we could get some dates up here for them. And they said “Yeah, but you’ve got to play with them too.” That hadn’t really occurred to me. So after a couple of months of trying to integrate the trumpet in with the guitar and violin, it worked.
Doc: Somebody asked us what kind of music we called it. I said “I don’t know.” They said “Well it sounds like world music.” I said “Good, then it’s world music”.
Doc Severinsen and El Ritmo de la Vida perform Saturday, October 16th at the Kirkland Performance Center at 8 PM.
On Tuesday, September 7th, I had the opportunity to interview the American music icon Dr. John from our Seattle Performance Studio, as well as hear him play a couple of songs. Below is a summary of my interview and the performance, written by KPLU’s Nick Morrison. You will also see photos, and at the end you will find a link to the audio of the performance and interview in its entirely.
Mac ‘Dr. John’ Rebennack has been at the heart of New Orleans funk and R&B since the 1950’s so when he paid a visit to the KPLU/Jazz24 studio for a solo piano/vocal performance, we were sure we’d get a good dose of The Crescent City. We certainly did.
He began by treating us to two songs from his most recent CD, Tribal. The songs, Potnah and Change Of Heart were written by Dr. John and Southwest Louisiana singer/songwriter, Bobby Charles (writer of such Louisiana classics as See You Later Alligator and Walkin’ To New Orleans). In fact, as Dr. John tells interviewer, Kevin Kniestedt, Tribal was initially meant to be a collaboration between Rebennack and Bobby Charles. Unfortunately, Charles passed away in the early stages of the project so Dr. John finished it himself, as a tribute to his old friend.
Dr. John also talked about the ongoing plight of the residents (and refugees) of New Orleans and South Louisiana, five years after Hurricane Katrina and now in the midst of the BP oil spill aftermath.
He concluded by performing one more song: Dorothy, a touching instrumental written for his mother.
By the end of the session it was clear that Dr. John is a man with a mission. Wherever he goes, he takes the musical pleasures and the societal pain of New Orleans with him. He wants us to enjoy the music while never forgetting that his beloved home city is still a long way from being healed.
KPLU’s four weekday jazz hosts, Dick Stein, Robin Lloyd, Abe Beeson, and myself, individually sat down and recorded thoughts on a variety of topics related to jazz.
With all of us coming from different backgrounds and upbringings, you will hear very different and interesting perspectives on topics ranging from what the first jazz we remember ever hearing, what music was playing when we were growing up, what how we got hooked on jazz, what live jazz performance blew our mind, what jazz musicians we think are doing great things today, and, if we could pick anyone to see play one song in concert, alive or dead, who would it be.
Enjoy the first Groove Notes Audio Blog by clicking here.
Watch Teddy Wilson, Benny Goodman, and Lionel Hampton play Moonglow, as picked by Dick Stein:
Watch Thelonious Monk play ‘Round Midnight, as picked by Abe Beeson:
Watch Michael Brecker, as picked by Kevin Kniestedt:
Watch Dizzy Gillespie play Manteca, as picked by Robin Lloyd: