Hi folks, time for a new song and video – also long past time for a brand new love song for my beautiful Catherine. Not conventional, of course (am I ever?) but I had a pretty good sense I was onto true feeling from the way the final verse took twenty tries to sing without my voice cracking (lyrics being by then well enough memorized to discount my also teary eyes).
I try to mention inspirations whenever I do a piece (my favourite art is art that makes me want to do some art). In this case Catherine is of course the primary one, but I also ended up thinking about Cab Calloway rather helpfully. For sublime melancholy listening I’ll go for Billie Holliday every time, and for technical wonder (not just genius phrasing but stunning diction) I’m very partial to Ella Fitzgerald. But after a few years of intense club kid silliness, I discarded all elitism and high fashion ideas many years ago, so I also love many who are considered to this day to have been too commercial to be artistically excellent – including the great early creators of popular music.
There is no way to listen to Cab Calloway singing “St James Infirmary Blues” without recognizing one of the greatest vocal talents of all time. That number is also especially good for showing one of his most useful ideas. Just as Lucille Ball was remarkably nervy in her time for being willing to make herself look grotesque and un-feminine for a joke, Calloway was a thousand times more cool because he never limited himself to parts of his vocal range which were self-evidently cool. He could be silly, overdramatic, mocking, barking, moaning, keening, or even running you a patter line for a street-corner con.
Please don’t think I’m trying to call myself a musician or singer of any stature whatsoever (never have, and would not). But I always think about his daring choices when I’m on my second or third vocal take, and use that boost to try some outside stuff that might be completely nuts, or might just be a genuine timbral find (growl-yodel?)
And now – without further ado, here is the tune and video.
Go big screen and Turn It Up! (lots of layers of silly/pretty). ;o)
(or you can click the “Watch on youtube” button for the direct hi-resolution link)
Once again I have immense gratitude for the lovely folks who contribute their superb video work to the public domain on Pixabay.com
If I ever manage to get some money together, I already have an international team of camera people I am eager to engage. And in the meantime, their beauty adds to mine – and the world can always use more of that, no?
Grazie friends, Danke, Merci, Xie-xie and all of the other sincere appreciation which I am as yet too ignorant to more precisely target.
Final technical note on instrumentation – not a clarinet or a sax, but a xaphoon! I admit I was skeptical about the price when I bought it, but when every other beast in the house is out of commission with leaky pads, this wee beastie with a ten year old reed, wrinkled-up like a crinkle-chip will still give me almost an octave of sweetness. Finger pads only! (a reed like a plumbers recorder – yes, a great idea)
And to be really honest, the xaphoon was only in the right key by purest luck, I actually built the whole piece off my wonky tuning of the drums! (the universe sure loves an idiot-tryer, don’t it?)