Monday, November 09, 2009

Ac-cen-tu-ate the Positive

Warning: Little or no poker content.

As in the classic Bing Crosby hit, which I've heard a whole bunch lately, since it's been in the regular rotation on the "Swing Kings" channel on DishTV that I often turn on as background music, particularly late at night. Big-band music is something that I enjoy now and then, and listening to this channel is part of my neverending quest to expand my personal horizons.

Which reminds me of something only somewhat related: I was channel surfing Wednesday evening and stumbled into the Mark Twain Award show on PBS honoring Bill Cosby. I only hung around for about 15 minutes because Chris Rock was annoying, but in that time an aged-but-still-doing-well Rita Moreno gave an absolute stunning rendition of "Brazil" (the Spanish version) in tribute to Cosby. Very good stuff; I've always loved that song, and this was one of the best takes I've ever heard.

Also good stuff on that "Swing Kings" channel, even if one has to listen to a lot of random samplings from various Greatest Hits CDs of the era. For every "The Peanut Vendor" (an awesome Stan Kenton tune), there's something mediocre, like Benny Goodman's take on "Amapola". As I type this, Buddy Rich's pretty good version of "Dateless Brown" is playing, and the best of the last half dozen or songs have been Bunny Berigan's "Blues" and the classic "Oasis" by the Joe Loss Orchestra. Loss's lively version of "Amapola" is the best one, too.

Unrelated question: Did every band of the era record "Frenesi"?

Right now it's Pearl Bailey's "It Takes Two to Tango", which is on every few hours, and it's a meh song for me. Too bad they don't have more Anna Mae Morse, whose "Cow Cow Boogie" is one of my personal cult faves from that era. The channel plays tons of Cab Calloway and a bit of Louis Jordan, too, but not, it seems, Jordan's classic "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby", which just about anyone recognizes from the old Tom & Jerry cartoon. For that song, they instead play the wretched Bing Crosby version (backed by the Andrews Sisters). While I otherwise enjoy most Andrews Sisters stuff, this song is one that they and Bing should never have touched. This was a terrible match of song and singer; think of something like the Offspring's "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)" done as a serious song, and you've got an idea of how bad and dated Crosby's "Is You Is" plays today.

But everyone had their clunkers among the gold. "The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe" and "Ac-cen-tu-ate the Positive" are much more listenable Bing classics for me.

Latest three bands: Chet Baker, Woody Herman, Red Nichols and His Five Pennies. Nichols, Fats Waller and others, with heydays in the '20s, seem to represent the oldest end of the music spectrum on this channel. Very old stuff, but very new to me, most of the time. It's interesting, too, as I'm learning a bit about some songs I've heard all my life, even if I never realized I was hearing them. Know what I mean?

"9.20 Special" by Count Basie starts up. That's a good one, one very familiar but one I never had tagged in my head until recently, as is the next one, Louis Armstrong's "The Mooche". And they're great examples of why I'm listening.


TenMile said...

Nice post. I enjoyed it.

And have enjoyed the music of which you write.

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Haley said...

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