If they ask me, I could write a book
About the way you walk and whisper and look
I could write a preface on how we met
So the world would never forget
Music always tells a story, and of all the stories to be told, none are more poignant than those of love. Jazz music has done this for a century.
I think about some of the first jazz vocalists I ever listened to, recordings by Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald and Nancy Wilson, and how they spun these tales through their music, and the delivery of the lyrics they were interpreting. That was when I was 16 or 17, though. The first love songs I ever heard were things my mom played on 98.1 KUDL in Kansas City. I guess I never really thought about what love songs were or could be, I just thought they were all soft rock by either guys with high voices or women with low voices, maybe some piano and probably a guitar solo. "Baby" was certainly a word I thought should be often-utilized in everyday life, and the more tender, the better (even though I didn't really know what that meant). When jazz came into my life, I was really surprised at what a love song could be, because it could be a whole lot different than Michael Bolton (thank God).
I'm sure the first "jazz love song" (whatever that means) I heard was Nat King Cole's Unforgettable, and then maybe When I Fall In Love. But there was also It's Only a Paper Moon and Orange Colored Sky, and those are way different in style. Sinatra had All The Way and I Thought About You, which were soft and tender, but he swung the heck out of The Way You Look Tonight and I've Got You Under My Skin. And that's not even counting the massive number of instrumental ballads I fell in love with from Chet Baker and Clifford Brown and Ben Webster and so on. Jazz showed me that you can have a huge emotional range stemming from the same feeling or situation. As musicians, when we learn songs, we get a bunch of recordings of the same tune to study. There are a LOT of recordings of Body and Soul, in a lot of differing styles.
One of the many things I love about jazz is how it shows the artist's personal perspective on a feeling that all of humanity can share. I might know what love feels like from my own experiences, and I know that love is an emotion that we all share, but really, no two people share that emotion in quite the same way. Creative music like jazz allows the freedom of the artists to convey their own lens of perspective with the listener, which in turn broadens the listener's angle of view and enriches their life.
So, what are your favorite jazz love songs? Drop us a note and let us know! Our Spring concert on March 22nd will be full of great love songs, with the orchestra bolstered by a string section and the great vocalist Molly Hammer. Please join us, and please continue to find ways to let jazz, this beautiful art form, enrich your life. Thank you.