Instrumental music runs from smooth jazz, to movie background, elevator music, exotica lounge jazz & music for shopping. The key to it is that it is unobtrusive. At once time it would surface on the hit parade: i.e. Stranger on the Shore by Aker Bilk or Percy Faith’s Theme from A Summer Place. Think Lawrence Welk smooth, James Last banal, Kenny G inoffensive.
I came a cross a boxed 3 lp set of Bert Kaempfert – Strangers in the Night. He is neither the best or the worst of this genre. His orchestrions are safe, at times there are various ‘shadings’ with wordless chorus or hammond organ for variety. Originals & covers of popular songs. Good in small doses 🙂 But small doses aren’t for me as I also have an mp3 of 100+ Classic Greats. (clearly public domain)
The lp to cd transfers also include David Rose: The Stripper – known for TV show themes & as orchestra leader on the Red Skeleton Show, he was at one time married to Martha Raye, later to Judy Garland. The Stripper is that classic sleazy sax shimmy & the rest of the lp keeps that brassy mood. Sort of Dixieland with a dash of banjo are The Village Men – I reclaimed this lp on one of my visits to the east coast. It had been a Xmas present from my folks. An odd mix of styles with things like ‘007 Stomp.’ The cover found on line brings back memories. The lp is available via amazon.uk but I don’t think I really need clean copies – the sound of the needle on vinyl is integral to this music now.
Bill Butler at the Pump Room (https://archive.macleans.ca/article/1962/10/20/chronicle-about-a-revue-maigret-burnford-reed-and-a-possible-liberace) – classic cocktail lounge recorded live in a now defunct Toronto club. I picked it up at the long-departed used record/books store that was walking distance from my house. The Kaempfert mp3 includes Songs You Know & Love; plus a bit of Stan Kenton.
In fact next to this cd is an mp3 collection of Stan Kenton’s 100+ Original Recordings! This is solid, easy jazz. A step above Kaempfert & moving in the Ellington direction. These 100+ collections are randomized song dumps of lps. Which in Kenton’s case meant that themed lps have been broken up. ‘Themed’ is a popular structure – an lp of show tunes, of bossa nova, etc.
I did reassemble some of Kenton’s as I did have his West Side Story lp at one time. Also I reassembled his lp of songs from Hair. Both are sublime. There are some collected around latino, film music, even TV themes. If you want easy jazz, that is real jazz, Stan Kenton is a great musician to start with.
Finally to round out & break up the mood I added Songs You Know & Love – more public domain original recording of classic instrumentals & songs by the likes of Judy Garland, Eddie Cantor, The McGuire Sisters, The Mills Brothers. Songs that my mother loved & that I recalled from movies, radio shows. I guess this is now deep nostalgia because today golden oldies means songs by Depeche Mode or Ultravox 🙂
This story goes back, way, way back, to when I was living in Cape Breton. I have done minimal editing for things like spelling, punctuation & name consistency. As you may gather I was not out at the time but clearly wrestling with the process.
The piano was in tune. I was amused. It had been such a long time since I sat down to play that hearing such perfect F# was almost shocking. I’d expected the upright to sound like the room; cluttered, yet nearly ordered, a confusion of opposites.
In one corner, between the window & the stereo, was an untidy pile of books, all of which dealt with Surrealist painters; armchairs from at least four different decades of Eaton’s, each upholstered in a different floral print but all the prints were in warm blues & orange. All nearly in tune, a minor chord connecting them, a subtle Debussy harmony.
“First time, eh, David?”
I stopped exploring the piano to listen to his question intermingle with the fading F, underscored by the sound of Scotch being poured over ice at a small bar in other corner of the room.
The question caught me unprepared, not sure whether to answer with bravado or innocence. I played a few random chords, deciding on innocence because I had accepted this invitation to find some way of progressing beyond bravado.
“Yes.” I admitted. “Does it show?” I laughed to cover my nervousness. Carefully closing the piano I turned on the bench to survey the calculated unbalance of the room once more.
In the brief silence between drinks-mixed & drinks-brought I felt a terrifying, dizzying, self-pity, thinking that I must be pretty screwed up to actually let myself go this far. Lonely wasn’t an easy word for me to use about myself, it smacked of self-pity, rather than the self-realization one expected an admission of loneliness to bring. My need to get behind that admission to its cause brought me here to actualize, or at least confront the cause.
“You play well.”
“Not really, but, thanks.” I mumbled taking my drink & sipping it. “I may fumble with some taste, but play? I’ve never had the discipline or the inclination. Like I said before I am a compulsive listener, a professional admirer.”
“Not too stiff?’
“No, the Scotch. I’m not good at judging. I pour some add ice then pour a dash more.”
“This is fine.” I sipped again. The drink didn’t blur my vision or attack my liver. I swivelled on the bench & flipped the piano open. “This amazes me.” I played the F# again, blindly running through a Rachmaninoff prelude.
“Your piano is so in tune.” I explained, apologetically dropping my hands to my knees.
“Don’t be so nervous.” He sat beside me, briefly putting his hand on my leg. “First times don’t have to be worst times.”
“Sorry, Steve.” I looked him in the eyes, greener than I’d expected in the bright light over the upright, then looked away. “Am I making an ass of myself?”
I was playing lame-duck, not sure of what else to do. Physical, sexual contact with another man had been on my mind for some time, elaborate fantasies of the perfect motions & emotions but those fantasies didn’t prepare or equip me for taking this opportunity. All the clever openings seemed trite. I couldn’t treat this as blithely as I’d just treated Rachmaninoff.
“Not at all. But you are right about one thing.” He reached up & flicked off the piano lamp.
“You do fumble tastefully.” He laughed putting his arm round me.
“You’re being kind.” I got up & walked over to the window. The touch of his arm was unsettling. I knew touching was inevitable but I wasn’t prepared for it.
“I’ve seen you in the park before.” Steve said. “What ever became of the little red-head?”
“Jean?” I knew the name wouldn’t mean anything to him but it felt good to say it to someone. “We drifted apart. She felt something missing from our life together, something I couldn’t seem to understand.” Something I did understand but never accepted it as being enough to keep us apart but at the same time a something I was afraid would tear us even more than it had, if I’d been able to … Hell, blame falls where it wants, it can’t be altered.
“So when she left, you started having doubts about your manliness?” There was a slight mocking tone to his voice that I liked, one that I used sometimes myself & that familiarity made me more trusting. Maybe I was just anxious to trust, because I never fully trusted Jean. How could I trust her when I couldn’t be honest with myself.
“Partially. I noticed you in the park. Sometimes alone, often with other men.”
When he approached me I knew the life he led. Not that he swished, wore makeup or the like, but he didn’t hide.
“Though doubts is a bit too negative. Puzzled would be more like it. Puzzled my manliness.” I used the same mocking tone for manliness as he had.
part 2 next week