Music

"Stella By Starlight" accompanies "Bella By Barlight" of course. Performed by Miles Davis on trumpet with John Coltrane on tenor and Bill Evans on piano. As always, it's worth listening to what Bill Evans does with the song's harmonic structure. He almost never plays melodically but instead squeezes every possible nuance out of the changes. For an itinerant pianist like myself it was always fascinating to listen to and almost impossible to imitate. And as is alluded to in the story, "Stella" is a tune that defies jazz convention which may be why most jazz vocalists have avoided it - with the notable exception of Anita O'Day who really owned the tune when she sang it. 

"A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" accompanies the story by the same name, played by pianist Ellis Marsalis father of jazz musicians Wynton and Branford Marsalis. The main character in here is a pianist (or rather a "retired" pianist, like myself) who recorded himself playing the tune to impress his mistress but made one tiny mistake that he can't forgive himself for. There's a great a capella version of this song sung by Manhattan Transfer.

"Why Can't He Be You?" inspired the story by the same name simply because of the beauty of Patsy Cline's version of the tune. In fact I've looked around for years and have been unable to find  any other versions which is surprising because it's at least as catchy as some of Patsy's other bigger hits like "Crazy" and "I Fall To Pieces" and tells a bit of a universal story too. The tune also features the piano stylings of Floyd Cramer, probably Nashville's most famous and influential pianist. Cramer had almost no left hand. His entire thing was to provide little upper register phrases in between and sometimes behind the singer's vocal. For a few months in my late teens I played piano for a hard-core country band. When I first started I was completely clueless what to play and listened to Cramer for hours on end just to catch his drift.

"Dimming of the Day" was my perhaps puzzling choice to accompany the story "Count Rumford" but I was genuinely stumped what music could possibly accompany the world's longest polemical argument between two lumberjacks in the middle of the coldest night of the year. No problem. Just reach for any Alison Krauss recording you have handy. I am a huge Krauss fan. For years, I used to run an hour a day with her singing in my earphones the whole way. I also think "Dimming of the Day" has the requisite melancholy for frozen pipes at 14 degrees below zero. The song is from the Alison Krauss and Union Station 2014 album "Paper Airplane." Check it out - and everything else ever recorded by Krauss, a national treasure.   

"Oblivion" is a piece of music I love so much I almost used several different versions of it to illustrate my stories on this site. For example you'll find it with "Balloons" and "Sherry at the Knights of Columbus". It's by the late, great Argentinian accordionist Astor Piazzolla. Piazzolla gained some fame in the US in the 1980s as an advocate and purveyor of the tango as a musical form filled with exquisite passion and nuance. I was introduced to his music by the late jazz guitarist Atilla Zoller whom I befriended  in Southern Vermont in the late 1980s.  Atilla was a frequent guest on my jazz show on VPR, playing live with his band something like once a month for several years. He was a wonderful, generous man of immense talent.

"Deep Six" - I'm not a fan of Marilyn Manson - in fact, I dislike most rock music in whatever form, but this tune seems to address murder to me and I like Manson's scream. What would the Chucks listen to? Manson is maybe too obscure for them but some deeply misogynistic tunes would likely suffice like from, say, certain male country stars.

"Falling Down" - Avril Lavigne to accompany "Phobia." this is a surprisingly serious song from the punk-teeny bopper fave. But I kind of like it and I was faced with not many choices for this story. Most songs about "falling" involve "falling in love" or "jumping" involve "jumping for joy" etc.

"Blue Gardenia" - is one of my favorite jazz-interpreted ballads, especially sung by Dinah Washington. I tell the story of Dinah's tortuous career within the story. Like many jazz divas she was forced to sing a lot of crap for commercial reasons. On this song Dinah was finally paired with quality jazz musicians and the results are magical.