VARIOUS ARTISTS / Jitterbug Waltz Mixtape

fats waller 03.jpg Fats Waller literally wrote hundreds of songs but for jazz musicians the one that has had the largest impact is “Jitterbug Waltz.” The descending, spiraling melodic line can be performed as a ballad or as a scorching blow-out. The harmonic structure offers an ample springboard for all kinds of improvisation. And the three-quarters time signature gives the song a unique grace when played along side most other jazz standards. fats waller 04.jpg Waller’s music was made during an era when ballroom dancing was at its zenith. Indeed, popular dance from ragtime (the Cakewalk), to the jazz age (the Charleston), to the swing era (the Lindy Hop) had a major impact of popular culture worldwide. “Jitterbug Waltz” is a modernist take on an old dance tradition. The title of the song aptly illustrates how the new (jitterbug, twenties slang for dancers) meet and surmount the waltz, which was formerly a staple of 19th century ballroom dance. Although people rarely waltz in post-war America, Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” remains an honored staple of jazz musicians. The song is favored by pianists and saxophonists, thus it is not accidental that the majority of these versions feature keyboards or reeds. We open with the author, Fats Waller featured on organ supplemented by a big band. And we close with drummer/vocalist Nat Yarbrough’s trio offering a pas de deux featuring a female vocalist shadowing Yarbrough’s coolly exuberant reading of the lyrics. It’s a tres sophisticated version that opens with finger-busting acrobatics from pianist Chip Stephens before sliding into Yarbrough’s warm baritone that is shadowed by a female vocalist. Like a deliciously chilled glass of fine wine capping off a flirtatious evening, the singers entwine as they offer up the lilting lyrics and end with a gentle exchange of scat lines. In between Waller and Yarbrough we get some truly inventive readings including the Brooklyn Sax Quartet and vibist Bobby Hutcherson who are complemented by treatments featuring vocalist Abbey Lincoln, Dinah Washington and Pyeng Threadgill. Although saxophonists David Murray (featured in the Bobby Battle Quartet), Zoot Sims and Arthur Blythe (featured with bassist Santi Debriano) offer stirring renditions, predictably it’s the pianist who really shine. Whether it’s a romping Oliver Jones, an introspective Randy Weston, or a thoroughly modern Marcus Roberts who does a variation on an Ahmad Jamal-type groove that is as graceful as a seagull skimming the lake on a soft spring afternoon. These thirteen versions are a capsule survey of varied examples of how jazz artists perpetually create the new while building on the old. Jazz is a history of rebirth; the goal is not to trash the past but rather to transform the tradition, to make it anew, to renew through rearranging. This pre-bebop staple is an excellent example of jazz’s classic albeit nonetheless ever surprising ability to resurrect itself. —Kalamu ya Salaam Jitterbug Waltz Mixtape Playlist jitterbug cover 01.jpg 01 Geechee – Fats Waller jitterbug cover 02.jpg 02 The Offering – Bobby Battle Auartet jitterbug cover 03.jpg 03 When There Is Love – Abbey Lincoln jitterbug cover 04.jpg 04 For Sentimental Reasons – Bobby Hutcherson jitterbug cover 05.jpg 05 Zoot Sims Recorded Live at E.J.'s – Zoot Sims jitterbug cover 06.jpg 06 The Fats Waller Songbook – Dinah Washington jitterbug cover 07.jpg 07 The Way of the Saxophone – Brooklyn Sax Quartet jitterbug cover 08.jpg 08 Cookin' at Sweet Basil – Oliver Jones jitterbug cover 09.jpg 09 Marrakech – Randy Weston jitterbug cover 10.jpg 10 Of the Air – Pyeng Threadgill jitterbug cover 11.jpg 11 New Orleans Meets Harlem, Vol. I – Marcus Roberts Trio jitterbug cover 12.jpg 12 3-ology – Santi Debriano jitterbug cover 13.jpg 13 Triple Play – Nat Yarbrough

This entry was posted on Monday, May 9th, 2011 at 3:16 am and is filed under Cover. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “VARIOUS ARTISTS / Jitterbug Waltz Mixtape”

tayari Says:
May 11th, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Each version is uniquely special. Thanks to Fats Waller we have such a warm yet touching love song told through a dance–the jitterbug waltz. Appreciate it, Kalamu.

Ukali Says:
May 16th, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Yes, indeed!

This one is timeless.

The versions by Rahsaan Roland Kirk (Bright Moments) and James Rivers (Dallas Sessions) are my favorites. This is the kind of lyrical jazz that let’s you do what you wanna… dance, tap your feet or just sit, listen and think.

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