Dinah, Sarah, Abbey And Michelle: A Snowy And Jazzy Story

Three weeks ago, we here in my section of the greater Philadelphia region were blessed with a storm that deposited a foot of heavy, messy snow. Ooh la la! I spent four hours, spread over three days, hurling the white stuff off of my walkways, driveway and rear deck. That’s a lot of work for a guy who has made a depressingly large number of revolutions around our friend the Sun.

That barrage was the seventh or eighth snow event this year. So, when the forecasters told us to expect plenty more snow for last week’s Wednesday, I went into a bit of a funk. “Enough with the shoveling already! This winter bites the big one big-time! In other words, it f*cking sucks!” I loudly thought to myself.

Fortunately, as it turned out, the outcome could have been worse, though it was bad enough. Nine inches of white matter descended onto my area, white matter that was, mercifully, far less dense than had been predicted. I spent an hour and a half that Wednesday afternoon lashed to my snow shovel, and then the job was done. I went back into the house feeling okay but, unbeknownst to me at the time, in need of some soul sustenance.

Enthroned at the dinner table at 6:15 PM, my wife Sandy and I chomped away and happily chit-chatted (Sandy: “Please pass the salt.” Neil: “Huh?” Sandy: “I need the salt. Please pass it.” Neil: “What?” Sandy: “Pass the salt, you nitwit!” Neil: “There’s no need to shout!”)

As we ate, musical accompaniment was provided by WRTI, Temple University’s radio station that spends half of each day (6:00 AM till 6:00 PM) spinning classical fare and the other half broadcasting jazz selections. So absorbed am I with filling my maw at dinnertime, music ordinarily connects only moderately with me then. But that wasn’t the case on the after-shoveling evening in question.

Around 6:30 PM, in between bites, I perked up my ears. A distinctive voice, one I recognized, began to soothe me. And the words being sung seemed very right. They got to me, made me go all warm and fuzzy inside. “I took a trip on a train/And I thought about you./I passed a shadowy lane/And I thought about you.”

It was Dinah Washington singing I Thought About You, a number written in 1939 by Jimmy Van Heusen (who composed the music) and Johnny Mercer (who penned the words). It’s a great song, one that I and most of us have heard over the years. Sinatra, Diane Schuur, Ella and a million others have recorded it. Dinah Washington’s version came out in 1959 on her album What A Diff’rence A Day Makes! Dinah nailed it.

Dinner all of a sudden, as good as it was, became better. But WRTI wasn’t done with me, thanks to Ms. Blue, that evening’s program host. Half an hour later I found my ears doing that perking-up thing again when another female voice captivated me. I knew whose voice it was. Sarah Vaughan’s. And I knew the song too, Can’t Get Out Of This Mood. It has a moody lyric, yup. And in this recording the instruments swagger and caress, as often is the case when jazz practitioners are at work. The number is damn good, not least because it was placed in Sarah’s hands. Or should I say mouth? Jimmy McHugh (music) and Frank Loesser (lyrics) wrote the tune in 1942. Sarah waxed it eight years later.

Well, Sandy and I, by then removed to the living room sofa, kept the dial set to WRTI for another two hours. And the only pieces that really registered with me during that time were by lady vocalists: Abbey Lincoln and Michelle Lordi. Somehow my mind and emotional mechanisms weren’t programmed that night to find any manner of enlightenment in non-vocal pieces or in songs warbled by persons of the male variety, though both sorts abounded on the WRTI airwaves throughout the evening. No, the female voice was what my shoveling-weary arms and shoulders and all the rest of me needed for sustenance, for rejuvenation. If Sandy and I hadn’t turned on WRTI that evening, I’d have gone to bed in an untuned state of being.

Ah, Abbey Lincoln. She’s a favorite of mine, a powerful singer and a songwriter who examined the human heart and the imbalances in society with a sharp eye. But she wasn’t the author of the tune that I heard on WRTI, which was Lost In The Stars, a melancholy rumination from the 1949 musical of the same name by Kurt Weill (music) and Maxwell Anderson (book and lyrics). If Abbey’s cries and laments don’t move you, especially those that begin at the song’s three-minute mark, then you’re a lost cause. Her recording dates from 1959.

As for No Moon At All, the composition sung by Michelle Lordi, it was a new one to me. It’s a terrific song, playful and perceptive. No Moon entered the world in 1947, the work of David Mann (music) and Redd Evans (lyrics). Michelle’s version, witty and jaunty (but not annoyingly jaunty), entered the world last year. Her vocal approach meshes ideally with the tight jazz combo frolicking with her. Dig those guitar and trumpet solos.

While compiling that which you currently are reading, I realized that only one of the four jazz vocalists — Michelle — is with us in the flesh. Dinah, Sarah and Abbey left the planet in 1963, 1990 and 2010, respectively. The three of them were superior talents. And also quite famous.

As for Michelle Lordi, who is not a big name at all, I believe her to be a marvelous singer. She’s not show-offy, for which I give the thumbs-up sign, and she’s able to find her way deeply into a lyric. She resides somewhere in my neck of the woods and performs regularly in it, as well as in The Big Apple and here and there too. I saw her perform in, of all places, a pub two miles from my house three years ago, and wrote about the show. I guess my review was pretty much a rave.

Well, the time has come for me to mention that yours truly has been tinkering with this essay a whole lot. There’s only so much tinkering a guy can stand! Adios, for now, amigos. I hope you enjoyed the music contained herein.

(Don’t be shy about adding your comments or about sharing this essay on social media or via email. I thank you.)

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56 thoughts on “Dinah, Sarah, Abbey And Michelle: A Snowy And Jazzy Story

  1. acomediansguidetoenlightenment March 30, 2018 / 1:20 am

    I loved this so much. I swear I owned a jazz club in the 30s and 40s in my past life. 😜 I don’t know a ton about jazz but I’m learning. I have a record player and play Billie Holiday’s “Shades of Blue” record mercilessly. You’re absolutely right. There is something about this sound that just puts your spirit at ease and lights up your heart! Thank you for the songs. I especially loved Dinah Washington’s “I Thought About You.” I know what record I’m buying next!!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. andrewcferguson March 30, 2018 / 1:48 am

    Jazz just ain’t my bag of cats, man, but I’m with you on female singers. There are times when only a woman’s vocals will get to you. And I know what you mean about it not being too showy-offy, too – that’s why I generally prefer Carole King’s own versions of her songs.

    Let’s hope Spring is finally around the corner for us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 30, 2018 / 9:17 am

      You know, I wonder if you’d like some of the raucous “free” jazz — by Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, later-day Coltrane, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Liz Einsig Wise March 30, 2018 / 2:17 am

    You might enjoy my friend Kitt Lough’s album, “Orange Colored View.” She sings “No Moon at All” on it, which was my introduction to that clever song.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. greenpete58 March 30, 2018 / 7:53 am

    It’s always nice to find another jazz lover, Neil, as we’re in short supply these days (I just listened to a Charlie Parker CD on the drive to work this morning). I’m familiar with all these great singers except Lordi. Until about a year ago, I regularly listened to the jazz show here in southwest Ohio, on WYSO (Antioch University). Then the anchor took leave, and they replaced jazz with hip-hop. Such is life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 30, 2018 / 9:21 am

      Jazz is hanging in there . . . somehow.
      In Philadelphia there’s a real good club called South. I go there a few times a year.

      Like

      • Liz Einsig Wise March 30, 2018 / 11:16 am

        Have you ever been to LaRose in Germantown? The Monday night scene is a real throwback. There is a cover charge. Usually have a plate of food you can buy in the $10 range. Service is extremely slow, but the jazz is a mix of older players in the house band, people sitting in, out-of-towners dropping by, high school kids… I think financially they’re just hanging on, but they were the folks who welcomed my bass-playing husband with open arms after Hurricane Katrina. It’s a very sweet scene.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. The Artist's Child March 30, 2018 / 8:19 am

    Wonderful to hear some great female vocalists who can really sing and have their own unique style without any annoying gimmicks. They must have warmed up a cold night. I hope that spring arrives soon in your part of the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Laurie Graves March 30, 2018 / 8:20 am

    What a wonderful way to end a tiring day. (It’s been quite a March, but I do believe winter is on the way out.) Music, like reading, fills so many needs, often coming at just the right time. Also, your dinner conversation sounds remarkably like the ones we have at our house. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Robert Parker March 30, 2018 / 8:52 am

    Great selections and I enjoyed your essay, very nice of you to share this tune-up for everyone’s state of being.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 30, 2018 / 9:26 am

      I’m glad you liked this piece, Robert. Thanks a lot for letting me know. Have a good weekend —

      Neil

      Like

  8. Robert Parker March 30, 2018 / 9:32 am

    You too, Neil, break out the sunglasses, predicting sunshine for Boston & Philly tomorrow, almost like it was spring!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. joyce hamilton March 30, 2018 / 12:28 pm

    Thanks for the music….especially Lincoln and Lordy…..l wasn’t familiar with them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 30, 2018 / 12:53 pm

      Hello there, Joyce.
      I like Abbey Lincoln a lot. I saw her perform once, I think. Maybe twice. She wrote a lot of the songs that she performed. She is missed.

      Like

  10. cincinnatibabyhead March 30, 2018 / 12:52 pm

    Not “show-offy” doesn’t roll off CB’s touge but it works perfectly. Perfect phrase Neil. Love these singers and choices. Michelle is new to me but I dig her. Cool to hear singers still doing this “not show offy ” style. I got rid of my snow shovel because it doesn’t snow up here anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. C C Cedras March 30, 2018 / 2:50 pm

    Thanks, Neil! I love the women, so much.

    Last night, I attended the preview of the coming (2018-2019) season at our own Moss Arts Center, and there is an interesting selection of jazz performances coming! The one that interests me most, I think, is Martha Redbone performing her “Roots Project.” The rest are unknown to me, so I’m researching (YouTube and Google — you know me). John Hollenbeck? Cyrus Chestnut? Fred Hersch/Kurt Elling/Kate McGarry performing Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” — that one has me very interested. Any thoughts on this jazz line-up?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 30, 2018 / 3:02 pm

      Hello there.
      I’ve seen Cyrus. He’s a good piano player.
      The Fred/Kurt/Kate combo is very unusual. Fred’s a real good piano player, and Kurt and Kate are singers. It might be a fine show.

      Like

  12. Alyson March 30, 2018 / 4:49 pm

    What a lovely post full of beautiful female voices – Funnily enough I was already tuned into songs from a long gone era as I have just featured Blue Moon over at my place to coincide with the full moon. I love the sound of Michelle Lordi and with her song I just might have a contender for that point in the month between full moons when there is No Moon At All!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 30, 2018 / 5:17 pm

      Evening, Alyson.
      I’ve put it on my list to go and see Michelle Lordi again. She’s still singing once a week or so at the pub I mentioned.
      I’ll be looking at your latest piece pretty soon.
      Bye for now —

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Ann Coleman March 30, 2018 / 5:57 pm

    It’s amazing how music can lift our spirits, isn’t it? We may like different types of music (although I admit I think your tastes are good), but I honestly don’t know anyone who doesn’t like some kind of music!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. tylerus March 31, 2018 / 2:33 pm

    Hi Neil. I’m on a nominee list for Liebster. Per the rules, I’ll be posting as well (tomorrow) and will mention/link to your great blog. 🙂

    Like

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 31, 2018 / 2:37 pm

      Thanks, but I’m an award-free blog (please see my About page for details). I appreciate your thinking of me, though.

      Like

  15. alhenry April 1, 2018 / 3:21 pm

    Music will save you when nothing else will (or when it snows without cease). A story I read in elementary school, of all places, continues to resonate with me (though I maddeningly cannot recall the title)–it’s a post-apocalyptic tale with this tremendously poignant scene: Three people standing around a battery-powered phonograph listening to the music of a dead world, knowing that shortly the battery will die and they will never again hear recorded music. Brings you to your knees, doesn’t it?

    Thanks, Neil, for the music.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 1, 2018 / 4:54 pm

      Hello there, Amy.
      That short story is a really troubling one. Its premise sounds like something that would have fit in perfectly on the old TV show called The Twilight Zone.

      See you —

      Liked by 1 person

  16. pjlazos April 2, 2018 / 10:38 am

    Love all these artists! :0) And it snowed again last night. :0(

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Blue April 2, 2018 / 11:42 am

    Hi, I’m Ms. Blue, the jazz radio host responsible for the program that night. Hearing stories and feedback about how the show resonates with others fulfills, for me, the necessary reciprocity of community programming. Thank you so much for reaching out and letting me know about this article. Im a huge proponent of female vocalist and agree that their sound tends to effectively tug our heart strings in a manner that others cant. I enjoyed reading the comments here and the overall theme of wishing for winters end. That night was the first official day of Spring yet, Philly was being inundated with Ice and Snow storms. So, I countered that with jazz standards about Spring, especially the song and overall concept of ‘Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year…’
    Thanks again for reaching out. It’s listeners and lovers of music like us that sustain stations like ours.
    In closing, Id like to paraphrase Kafka… “Music is the axe for the frozen sea within us.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 2, 2018 / 1:19 pm

      Hello there, Ms. Blue. You are one of my favorite program hosts on WRTI. I’m glad you were on the air during the evening of March 21 — the music you played inspired me to write this story.
      Thanks a lot for stopping by. Take care.
      And, by the way, I couldn’t agree more with what Kafka said.

      Neil S.

      Like

  18. Eugene Hurwitz April 2, 2018 / 4:29 pm

    I totally agree that female vocalists bring additional depth to the standards of the Great American Songbook. Few of today’s vocalists, however, can interpret the lyrics of these songs with true depth and feeling. Michelle Lordi is one of those few. A treasure in the Philadelphia area, she is deservedly gaining recognition on the national level.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 2, 2018 / 5:11 pm

      Michelle is a true talent. I was very impressed when I saw her perform a few years ago.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts, Eugene. Much appreciated.

      Like

  19. tanjabrittonwriter April 3, 2018 / 12:52 am

    Thank you for yet another insight into your musical soul, Neil. I am impressed by the width and depth of your interests.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. viewfromoverthehill April 4, 2018 / 8:02 pm

    You sure managed to take me back Neil: When I lived in L.A. I worked on Canon Drive, in an office next to Pablo Records. The likes of Ella Fitzgerald and other Jazz greats passed my door each work day. Nice post. Thanks, Muriel

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 4, 2018 / 8:38 pm

      I remember Pablo Records! I might have a couple of their albums. I’m not sure. I wonder if they are still in business.

      Like

  21. K E Garland April 6, 2018 / 4:28 pm

    This was enjoyable Neil. It reminds me of black and white movies and good television and movies that had recognizable plots and clear cut endings. I know that’ s probably not where you were going with this but listening to that Vaughn song made me nostalgic of a former time 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 6, 2018 / 4:44 pm

      I know what you mean, Kathy. It’s a beautiful song. And Sarah’s rendition of it is kind of wistful and dreamy.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. jeanleesworld April 13, 2018 / 9:49 pm

    Ah, there is nothing quite like a powerful jazz singer. Thanks so much for this ravishing collection of voices!

    Liked by 1 person

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