After the extended psychodrama of the Christmas season, the calendar has clicked over to a whole new year and we’re still getting used to writing 2016 instead of 2015. And many of us are back to the grind after having been off work or school for a few weeks, so we’re lucky if we even know what day it is……Actually, this is a problem for me at the best of times. With all this temporal disorientation in mind, I thought it might be fun to look at jazz songs or standards with days of the weeks in their titles, just to straighten ourselves out a little.
On the face of it, this seemed pretty easy. Without too much trouble or digging around I could think of tunes for every day of the week……except Tuesday, I had the devil of a time with that. Now, I know what you’re thinking – what about “Ruby Tuesday”, by The Rolling Stones? As an old Stones’ fan, I thought of that one right away, but it doesn’t exactly fit in with the rest of the song list, comprising entries by jazz titans like Earl Hines, Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk, among others.
Stymied, I consulted the Google oracle about “songs with Tuesday in their title” and found several articles – more lists, really – devoted to this subject, which inspired some hope. Unfounded hope as it turned out – there have been all sorts of songs written about Tuesday, all of them having even less to do with jazz than “Ruby Tuesday”. Tuesday was seemingly a hot topic in the pop/rock world, with various entries by Stevie Wonder, The Moody Blues, The Cowboy Junkies, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cat Stevens and some others I’ve never heard of, such as The Minders, The Paper Aeroplanes and The Smithereens, as in “blown to”. But as far as I could tell, in jazz, you couldn’t even get arrested on a Tuesday. A good friend offered a solution to this problem, which I’ll return to later – you know, like next Tuesday.
Before going any further, there’s one tune that covers all the days of the week in its lyric – T-Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday Blues”, or “Call It Stormy Monday” as it’s sometimes known.
They call it stormy Monday, Tuesday’s just as bad
They call it stormy Monday, Tuesday’s just as bad
Wednesday’s worse, but Thursday’s also sad.
Eagle flies on Friday, Saturday I go out to play
Eagle flies on Friday, Saturday I go out to play
Sunday I go to church, get down on my knees and pray.
Lord have mercy, my heart’s in misery
Lord have mercy, my heart’s in misery
I’m crazy ’bout my baby, please send her home to me.
My first exposure to this blues classic changed my life forever, it’s no exaggeration to say that my subsequent interest and career in jazz all stemmed from the impact of it. When I was nine or ten, the British Invasion – and the pop/rock explosion it generated – was in full swing (or rather, full non-swing) and I was listening to it all on records and the radio like everybody else. Gradually I was drawn to blues music by hearing interpretations offered by The Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, John Mayall, Cream, etc. So at about twelve or thirteen I was predisposed and almost, but not quite, ready for what happened one night when I was home alone. I flipped on the TV in the basement den and fatefully it was tuned to PBS, which was airing a documentary on the blues. In fairly short order T-Bone Walker appeared in black and white on an outdoor stage, performing “Stormy Monday” in the key of A at a grinding slow tempo. After a chorus of spine-tingling guitar he sang the opening line and then he played two devastating chords: an E-flat ninth sliding quickly down to a D ninth on bar two, which rang like a thin electric wire stretched across a thrumming railway track – shwayaaanngg! My adolescent, sheltered little white mind caved in, I was blown backwards by the heat and sound, the blunt, I-don’t-give-a-damn power of it. The British boys didn’t sound like this.
Just as I was recovering, Walker did the same thing in bar five with even greater effect – shwayaaanngg! again, Jesus tonight. This was too much – what was that beautiful, mysterious chord? It seemed to carry all sorts of messages about things I had no business knowing or even wondering about. There was danger – sex and pain and rage, booze and burning buildings, loose women, freight trains and ecstasy – all tied up in the feeling of that chord. I was fooling around a little with the guitar then and all I knew was that, whatever it took, I had to find out how to play that magic chord, and soon.
As all this was racing through what was left of my mind, T-Bone started the second chorus: “Eagle flies on Friday, Saturday I go out to play”. This knocked me out too, the poetry of it; what could it possibly mean? My father seemed to know something about everything, I’d have to ask him about this when he got home. I did and he chuckled in surprise – “What brought that up?” I told him about T-Bone Walker and he explained that “eagle flies on Friday” meant getting paid, because there’s an eagle on the American dollar – it’s Friday payday and we party Saturday. I thought to myself, “Sounds good, when do we start?”
Below is a clip very similar to what I saw and heard that night. I suppose many lives turn on these fateful moments, but I often wonder how different mine might have been if I hadn’t heard T-Bone at just that right moment, by pure coincidence – that is, if coincidences exist.
The other Monday song is “A Monday Date”, written by Earl Hines in the twenties and a staple of the trad jazz repertoire ever since. This may be the earliest recording of it, by Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five, on June 27, 1928 – with Fred Robinson on trombone, Jimmy Strong on clarinet, Hines on piano (also heard talking), Mancy Carr on banjo and the great Zutty Singleton on drums. A blistering piano intro by Hines is interrupted by some good-natured kidding around by Louis, who then takes us to the land of jazz as only he can.
Here’s another favourite version of it by Jack Teagarden, from THIS IS TEAGARDEN, done for Capitol in 1956. In many ways it’s the quintessential Teagarden record – Jack singing and playing a dozen of his favourite old tunes, beautifully backed by three different smallish big bands stocked with the cream of veteran L.A. swing/studio players. The elegant and propulsive drumming of Nick Fatool  is a constant on all the tracks. And fittingly, the trombone sections comprise some of the best – Bennie Benson, Si Zentner, Joe Howard, Lloyd Ulyate  and George Roberts on bass trombone – not all together, but in various combinations. Several of the arrangements feature wonderful choruses of the trombones in harmony with Jack on top; I’ve seen hardened old trombonists get all misty-eyed listening to them.
On to troublesome Tuesday……. I was wracking my brain trying to come up with a Tuesday jazz tune. I couldn’t think of any well-known ones, but figured that among the thousands of forgotten jazz tunes, there had to be one with Tuesday in the title. I was expecting it might end up being one of those obscure old Duke Ellington numbers with the funny, alliterative titles, like “Rumpus in Richmond” or “Braggin’ in Brass”. You know, like maybe “Tuesday Tickles” or “Tokin’ on a Tuesday” or something, but no soap. I was about to go with “Ruby Tuesday”, but it just didn’t feel right. No jazz snobbery and nothing against The Stones – I’ve loved them since I was about nine and still do – but throwing in “Ruby Tuesday” would disrupt the symmetry of it all, plus I knew what would happen. I’d write the damn thing with “Ruby” included and some record-collector genius would come out of the woodwork and point out some Tuesday rarity I should have known about and I’d feel like an idiot – something I can manage all on my own, thank you very much.
In a sense that’s just what happened, only before the fact. I sent out an S.O.S. to my main man Bill Kirchner in New York, explaining the situation and asking him if he could think of any Tuesday jazz tracks. It didn’t take him long. After returning home from my gig that night – Tuesday of course – there was an email waiting for me from Bill. Not only did he think of a tune – “Tuesday at Two”, by the Chico Hamilton Quintet – but he even sent a YouTube link to it. I was flabbergasted, but shouldn’t have been. As a saxophonist, composer/arranger, teacher, record producer, historian and writer, Bill has an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz, but there’s more to it than that. He also has eagle eyes and keen ears, knows his way around YouTube and other technology and above all, he has an amazingly detailed memory, sharp as a straight razor.
I thanked him profusely, while also feeling a little sheepish. I should have remembered this tune because it’s on an album called GONGS EAST, which I’ve had for some time now. The problem is that, not only has my collection exceeded my shelf space, but also the grasp of my mind – half the time I can’t remember what CDs I have, let alone the names of all the tracks on them. I used to think there was no such thing as having too many jazz records, but I’m starting to wonder.
Chico Hamiton had a long, very productive career as a drummer/bandleader whose groups were very distinctive and gave many important players – Jim Hall, Paul Horn, Eric Dolphy, Dennis Budimir, Albert Stinson, Gabor Szabo and Charles Lloyd – their first major jazz exposure. This alone made him influential, but he also introduced his own unique take on ensemble sound and chamber-jazz by using the bowed cello (Fred Katz and later Nathan Gershman) as a regular voice in his 1955-60 quintets, along with the lighter-textured guitar and various reed players who doubled on flute. His first quintet tended to be more light and polite, but the later groups, like the one in the clip below, were more experimental and harder-swinging. But regardless of the period, personnel or instrumentation, Chico always managed to put his own stamp on the bands he led, the highly original vision came mostly from him.
“Tuesday for Two” is an ingenious, angular line based on “Just One of Those Things”, but with no written bridge, though the bridge is used in the blowing choruses. It was written by the great Gerald Wilson, whose incredible career as a trumpeter and major composer/arranger spanned his early time with Jimmie Lunceford in 1939 to his death in 2014, four days after he turned 96. The tune is performed by Chico’s third quintet with Eric Dolphy on alto, Dennis Budimir on guitar, Nathan Gershman on cello and Wyatt Ruther  on bass. Dolphy, in phenomenal early form, and Budimir are the soloists. (YouTube clip no longer available.)
Now on to Charles Mingus and his “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting”, which leads off one of his greatest records – BLUES & ROOTS, from 1959. Though done with a different band, this track explores the same fast 3/4, church-gospel-blues territory as “Better Git It In Your Soul” from MINGUS AH UM, recorded a year earlier. The personnel is Willie Dennis and Jimmy Knepper on trombone, John Handy and Jackie McLean on alto saxophone, Booker Ervin on tenor, Pepper Adams on baritone, the great Horace Parlan on piano, Mingus, and his regular ‘partner in time’ Dannie Richmond on drums. Perhaps only Mingus would have a group this big with no trumpet(s). But then again, unlike his idol Duke Ellington, Mingus at times had trouble finding – and keeping – trumpet players who could deliver what he wanted. The soloists here are Handy, Dennis, Parlan, Ervin and Richmond. All I can say is “let’s get ready to testify”.
Speaking of Duke, the next day of the week is covered by “Suite Thursday”, written in the late-fifties by Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. The title is a play on John Steinbeck’s novel SWEET THURSDAY, though any other connection between the two is debatable. The four movements are Misfit Blues, Shwiphti, Zweet Zurzday and Lay-by, and the suite is defined by the minor-sixth interval used as a motif at the very beginning and end and cleverly manipulated throughout. The original studio recording was done for Columbia in 1960 and is very good, but I prefer this live version on THE GREAT PARIS CONCERT from The Salle Pleyel in February of 1963. The band is in towering form throughout this record and a special highlight of the suite is Ray Nance’s violin, both plucked and bowed. Ellington did many great things in his career, not the least of them was giving Ray Nance a musical home for 25 years.
Thank God it’s Friday, and thank God for Thelonious Monk and his “Friday the 13th”, superstitions be damned. This would have to be considered one of Monk’s ‘simpler’ compositions but, as is often the case with his music, this is deceptive. The eight-bar, riff-like melody line seems straightforward enough but has little turns of articulation and syncopation that are difficult to play properly, and this complexity is deepened by the dense row of chords moving underneath on every beat. The version I’ve chosen is from the celebrated concert Monk gave at Town Hall on February 28, 1959 with a ten-piece orchestra arranged by Hall Overton, one of the crowning moments of Monk’s career. There’s an earlier version from 1953 with a front line of Julius Watkins on French horn and Sonny Rollins on tenor, but their pitch problems are so extreme that it’s mostly a painful listening experience.
With no horns duplicated here, the instrumentation achieves maximal range and colour for a band of this size. Only some reed doubling could have augmented this, but the sound is very powerful and nicely spread out, with lots of bottom end. The personnel is Donald Byrd (trumpet), Eddie Bert (trombone), Robert Northern (French horn), Jay McAllister (tuba), Phil Woods (alto saxophone), Charlie Rouse (tenor saxophone), Pepper Adams (baritone saxophone, Monk (piano), Sam Jones (bass), and Art Taylor (drums). Jones and Taylor weren’t with Monk for very long because they were in such high demand; mostly because of Jones, they’re one of my favourite Monk rhythm sections.
It’s Saturday, time to step out on the town with Frank Sinatra and “Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week)”. This is from one of Sinatra’s classic Capitol albums COME DANCE WITH ME, from 1959, with arrangements by the always insouciant Billy May. Vocally, Frank was at his peak and the effortless perfection of this track is aided by its brevity. I suppose some purists would quibble that this is more popular music than jazz, because of the tune and there’s no improvising, and blah-blah-blah. I would answer them with this question: when a performance swings this much, what else could it be but jazz? And with that settled, take it away Ol’ Blue Eyes:
Perhaps fittingly, there are more songs about Sunday than any other day and I’ve chosen three here – “Sunday” (dah), “A Sunday Kind of Love” and “Come Sunday”. I would have included “Gloomy Sunday” too, but neither of my favourite versions of it – by Bill Harris, and Bob Brookmeyer/Eddie Sauter – the latter version inspired by the former – are available on YouTube.
“Sunday”  was written in 1926 and, somewhat preposterously for such a simple tune, it’s a collaboration between four men with long music/entertainment business associations. Three of them – Ned Miller, Chester Cohn and Benny Kreuger – are mostly forgotten now. The fourth – Jule Styne – was just 17 at the time and would go on to have a long, successful career as a songwriter and composer of such musicals as BELLS ARE RINGING, GYPSY, and FUNNY GIRL. “Sunday” has long been a staple of the jazz repertoire because its form, melodic contours and harmonic rhythm are so adaptable to improvising. Ben Webster certainly loved it, he played and recorded it countless times over his career. Here’s a noted version by Ben with the classic Oscar Peterson trio with Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen, done for Verve in 1959. Not much needs to be said except that Oscar was always on his best behavior around Frog, who does some jumpin’ here.
And just to hear the words, which also go through all the days of he week, here’s a vocal version by Johnny Hartman. He recorded a better one at a slightly faster tempo a few years earlier, but I couldn’t find it on YouTube – this one will do nicely though.
Written in 1946, “A Sunday Kind of Love” was also the work of four collaborators – Barbara Belle, Anita Leonard, Stan Rhodes, none of whom I’ve never heard of, and Louis Prima (!). It was first recorded in 1947 by the Claude Thornhill band with a vocal by Fran Warren. It was as close as Thornhill came to having a hit and the song is forever associated with Warren. There were better singers than Fran Warren, but not for that band – her warm voice and lilting delivery suited it perfectly.
All kidding about the Lord’s Day and the Devil’s music aside, it’s appropriate to close with a true religious experience – Mahalia Jackson singing “Come Sunday” with The Duke Ellington Orchestra. “Come Sunday” is from one of Ellington’s most ambitious works, “Black, Brown and Beige”. Written in 1941-42, it premiered at Carnegie Hall on January 23, 1943 and was recorded for RCA shortly thereafter. When Duke recorded a reworked version of it for Columbia in 1958, he knew he had to have Mahalia Jackson sing “Come Sunday” – who else? But he had a hard time persuading her, because she was so religious and Duke’s band was, well…..secular, shall we say. The story goes that he worked away on her, and knowing she loved to cook, Duke finally won her over by enjoying her food so much; he was very sly and a noted glutton. This is a nice twist on that old wheeze about the ‘best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.’
Not much needs to be said – or can be said – about this performance. I’m not religious in any overt or conventional sense, so I’m not normally comfortable with this type of pronouncement, but…..if God has a voice, I’d like to think it would sound like this:
Notes.  – Nick Fatool became a very prominent drummer in the Swing Era, playing with Benny Goodman in 1939 and Artie Shaw in 1940-41. He moved to Los Angeles in 1943 and became a very busy session player, from 1944-58 he was one of the house drummers for Capitol, making countless records with a dizzying array of artists. He was also part of the Dixieland revival in California during the fifties, playing with many groups centered around ex-Bob Crosby band members like Nappy Lamare, Eddie Miller and Matty Matlock. In later years he became a regular on the burgeoning jazz-party circuit and played well right up until his death in 2000, at 85.
Trombonist Dan Barrett came to know Fatool when he began playing jazz parties as a young man in the late ’80s and told me this story about Nick. At one of the parties, Nick was holding court with Dan and some of the younger guys, haranguing them about how they didn’t have any road chops, didn’t know how to travel in style. This was Nick’s advice as I remember Dan telling it: “You young guys don’t know how to fly, here’s what I do. I get to the airport nice and early, at least two or three hours before take-off, that way there’s no sweat or big lineups. I check my drums and luggage and get my boarding pass, then I’ve got some free time. So I look around and find a newsstand, maybe buy a magazine and a couple of newspapers. Then I walk around and find a nice bar with comfy chairs and a big window with a clear view of the runway. I settle in, read the sports pages, have a few tastes……and watch my flight take off.”
 – Like Nick Fatool, Joe Howard and Lloyd Ulyate (pronounced “Elliot”) were veterans of the big bands who settled down to studio work in L.A. Though they didn’t play together on this Teagarden album, they did an awful lot of TV, movie soundtrack and record sessions together as a kind of trombone tag-team. Each could play pretty much anything on the horn, but they were musician’s musicians, faceless to the general public. The two became fast friends and shared a love of boating and fishing, so once a year they’d take a week off, rent a big boat, stock it up with booze and food and go deep-sea fishing on the Pacific. This leads us to the infamous Catalina Island trombone story.
This story was told to me by several trombonists over the years, with different LA players involved – Howard and Ulyate in some versions, Frank Rosolino, Milt Bernhart or whomever in others. Later I read it in Bill Crow’s indispensable JAZZ ANECDOTES and I have it on Bill’s authority and that of several others that it was definitely Joe Howard and Lloyd Ulyate.
Anyway, after being at sea for three or four days, the pair were in need of gas and supplies, so they docked at Catalina Island. Neither of them had shaved, washed or changed clothes and some drinking had been done, so they looked like vagrants – picture Humphrey Bogart in THE AFRICAN QUEEN. While the boat was being gassed up and supplies were being delivered, they spotted a little open-air bar/restaurant on the beach and decided to have some lunch there – it was a very casual place, so their appearance wouldn’t be a problem. They had some food and a couple of beers and listened to the jazz quartet that was being led by a clean-cut, collegiate trombonist with show-off tendencies. Noticing how young and earnest he was, their eyes locked and they smiled wickedly in silent conspiracy.
The band took a break and the kid trombonist was standing with his horn near the cash register when the two went to pay their bill. One of them said, “Say kid, you sounded pretty good, but I noticed you had some pitch problems and cuffed a few notes up high on that thing.” The kid got really offended, wondering what these bums would know about it and pointing out defensively that the trombone was a “pretty difficult instrument to play, you know.” Lloyd grabbed the trombone and said, “Gee, I dunno, it looks pretty simple. All you gotta do is blow in this end and kind of move this slide gizmo around like this, right?” Then he proceeded to play Tommy Dorsey’s version of “Gettin’ Sentimental Over You” – in the key of D major, with the treacherous C# way up high – perfectly. The kid’s eyes popped out of his head, his jaw was on the floor. “See, it’s easy! – anyone could do it – here, you try it Joe!” and he passed the horn over to Howard, who played the same thing, only up a minor third in F. The kid was turning green after this, just flipping out.
And with that they beetled off, saying, “Well, thanks kid and keep practicing, you’ll get the hang of it eventually”, leaving behind one seriously discombobulated young trombonist with his tail between his legs.
Rob McConnell loved that story and had some hilarious bits about trombonists learning to play Dorsey’s theme song because it was such a test piece. Rob said everyone fixated on getting up to the really high fifth note – the C# – without worrying about the rest of the tune. So after months of practice when you finally made it up to the C#, you kind of relaxed – hey, I made it! – then proceeded to step all over yourself on the way back down, playing all kinds of fart-notes. He also had a condensed version of “Sentimental” to save air – just five bars – the first three and the very last two. It was very funny.
 – Wyatt Ruther was a very solid bassist, nicknamed “Bull”. He played and recorded with all sorts of people on the West coast in the ’50s and ’60s – Chico Hamilton, Gerry Mulligan, Big Miller and many others. Eventually he settled in Vancouver, where he played in saxophonist Fraser McPherson’s trio with guitarist Oliver Gannon. This trio made a good live record which began to make some noise and Fraser’s late-blooming career as a jazz player started to take wing a little. In 1977, Frazz took this trio on a concert tour of the Soviet Union, which was very successful and led to three subsequent tours there. Shortly after that first trip he came to Toronto to play at Bourbon St. a couple of times and I was in the band. We hit it off musically despite our wide age difference and Frazz asked me to make his next Soviet tour in June of 1981, right after my first son Lee was born, with guitarist Peter Leitch along as a great late replacement for Oliver, who was suffering from tendinitis. On the 1977 Soviet trip, Wyatt was late a couple of times for lobby-calls before concerts, owing to maybe having a little too much to drink. Frazz ran a pretty tight ship and didn’t take this too well, so that’s partly why he asked me to make the next trip, my first of three Soviet tours with him. I never met Wyatt, but wish I had. I’ve always felt a strange connection to him because of the Frazz thing, and because I like his playing.
 – Many years ago, the Barry Elmes Quintet did a western tour and one of the gigs was a concert at the East Vancouver Cultural Centre, which was a large converted church also known as “The Cultch”. At the set-up/sound check, Ed Bickert and I were checking out some amps that were provided. I don’t remember where the other guys were, it was just Ed and me and he started playing “Sunday” at a perfect medium tempo. So I fell in with him and started playing time, for real. He played about four beautiful choruses, full of his pithy blues-inflected lines and his patented self-comping, which made it sound like there was a second guitarist present. It was as intense and perfect as anything I ever heard him play, a complete little performance for absolutely no one, at a sound check. I’ll never forget it, a reminder that for a musician of Ed’s seriousness and spartan focus, every situation was a musical situation.
© 2016 – 2017, Steve Wallace. All rights reserved.