As I write this, Vince Guaraldi’s classic album ‘Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus’ is spinning on the turntable. “Moon River”, to be specific. Guaraldi always did dig a good Mancini tune. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Some context is in order.
For years now, I’ve gravitated towards playing that special brand (some would say weaker or *gasps* illegitimate brand) of jazz known as West Coast jazz on Sunday mornings. Why? Well, for starters -if you didn’t already know- I happen to really like West Coast jazz. The reasons why I dig it are the same reasons why I find it perfect for Sunday mornings. It’s often times more subtle in its messaging, lush in its delivery, bright and chipper in mood, and happy in disposition.
You’ll notice I said ‘West Coast’ jazz and NOT ‘cool’ jazz. That’s because, in spite of what you may have heard and read, those two terms are not synonymous. At all. Well, I’ll admit that there often is a lot of overlap between the two, but there’s just as many examples that directly contradict the relationship that many try to make between the two. I may go into a full discussion about that in another post, but for now, just go with it. West Coast jazz is simply the music made and recorded on the Pacific Coast of the United States in the 1950’s and early 60’s. It’s generally speaking a more relaxed, breezy flavor of jazz, mirroring the laid-back culture of mid-century modern California as opposed to the more strident, earthy jazz coming out from east of the Mississippi River. Maybe it’s because I’m a Californian myself, but I love West Coast jazz.
Especially on Sunday mornings.
Sunday mornings here at Raggy Waltz are sacred. They are rigid in their unstructured schedule, unfolding lazily over the span of hours. Will breakfast be made immediately after escaping the bed? Who knows. And what WILL breakfast be? To be determined. Opening the window curtains and letting the sunlight in, gazing out on a world that is largely still asleep and only reluctantly stirring, playing anything that isn’t gently swinging, liltingly arranged jazz would be criminal. On goes Gerry Mulligan with his irreplaceable sidekick Chet Baker.
This isn’t to say that other jazz musicians and sub-genres aren’t fit for Sundays. In fact, now that it’s early afternoon here in Southern California, Guaraldi has been followed by Oscar Peterson (“When Lights Are Low”, from one of his excellent albums cut in Germany in the late 1960’s). It’s on Sunday afternoons that I find myself wearing a hole in the floor tapping my foot to Horace Silver’s hard-grooving music or Charles Earland’s nasty organ records. No, I’m not exclusionary about the ‘who’, just particular about the ‘when’. Perhaps you prefer to be jolted awake and to attention with the sassy trumpet of Lee Morgan or exchange your bed sheets with Coltrane’s sheets of sound. That’s alright, and you get special points for opting to start your day with jazz in the first place. As for me and my house, however, I prefer my Sunday soundtrack to start off softly, as in a morning sunrise.
Lennie Niehaus? Carl Perkins? The Mastersounds? Don’t mind if I do.
West Coast Albums Played This Morning:
Gerry Mulligan And His Ten-tette // Gerry Mulligan (Capital H 439)
Lennie Niehaus Volume 2: The Octet // Lennie Niehaus (Contemporary C 2517)
Mambo With Tjader // Cal Tjader (Fantasy 3202)
Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus // Vince Guaraldi (Fantasy 3337)