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The Five Best Introductions

Updated: Aug 26, 2020

There is no substitute for live performance. I think that can be applied to any style of music, but there is something even more profound witnessing live jazz. The spirit of this improvised art takes on more profound levels when it can be experienced in the moment. In addition to many of the studio-recorded masterpieces, there are so many live albums that are really great. This blog post is going to take a bit of a detour, just for fun. Instead of discussing the music, I want to talk about some of introductions of tunes. Those oral preludes that have struck a nerve for being fascinating or capturing a certain moment of history, or letting us in - even a little - to some of the thoughts and passions of these musicians.

5. Sonny Rollings Introduces Old Devil Moon

Okay, I love this because I think it shows Sonny's authenticity. He was known to be one of the most pure improvisers, always genuine, always fresh. Here, we have Sonny introducing a tune without knowing exactly where it came from, and as we can hear from the crowd member's chiming in - neither do they.

4. Frank Sinatra Introduces Count Basie and Fly Me to the Moon

This entire album is full of great interaction between Sinatra and Basie both shining on Quincy Jones's great arrangements. But it is that line Frank lays down, "Now, this Man here, is going take me by the hand and he gonna lead me down the right path to righteousness and all that other mother the right tempo." Count has been leading us down the path to righteousness in the right tempo since the 1930's.

3. Wee Marquette at the Birdland introduces Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers

Wee Marquette was the MC for the Birdland for many years. Here we get to witness his charisma. I also love the "fly on the wall' moment as he references the new trumpet sensation Clifford Brown.

2. Rev. Jesse Jackson Introduces Cannonball Adderley and Walk Tall

This album provides a glimpse into the sociology of jazz and the civil rights. It was recorded in Chicago at a meeting of a local chapter of Operation Breadbasket - an organization dedicated to improving the economic conditions of African Americans. The introduction seems to pull it all together - a fiery Rev. Jesse Jackson encouraging everyone in moments of challenge and change to simply Walk Tall because, "The storm doesn't really matter until the storm starts to bring you down."

1. Duke Ellington introduces Chinoiserie

So you have to understand that Ellington veiled himself behind layer after layer of sarcasm and this introduction is roughly three or four layers deep! From his sarcastic swipe at the ideas presented by Marshall McLuhan, to the notion that from their perspective it was difficult to know who was enjoying the shadow of whom. This is a charismatic Ellington presenting real ideas of race and cultural identity behind a veil. The intro and the work in general show that Ellington never stopped pushing against back against racial stereotypes!

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