This spring, the lilacs seem to have blossomed a bit earlier than usual. They are everywhere in this big valley, in shades from snow white to purple so deep it’s almost black. We have three banks of lilac bushes In our south 40. The one at the bottom end is the biggest and most glorious. Here are a couple of glimpses. Unfortunately, I can’t offer you the aroma.
What does this have to with jazz? It needn’t have anything to do with it; the subtitle of the blog is, “…on jazz and other matters.” But if you insist, we can work out a connection. We don’t have much rain around here now, which is fine with fruit growers worried about blossom damage. We have high winds sweeping down off the Cascade Mountains, which is not fine with cyclists and runners.
So, here’s the somewhat strained connection to the title of this post, which has some of the same words as the name of the song. “Lilacs in the Rain is a splendid popular song from the late 1930s. It was written by Peter DeRose as a piano piece. Mitchell Parish, the lyricist of “Stardust,” added words. The song became a hit, giving DeRose three hits in 1939. The other two were “Deep Purple” and “The Lamp is Low.” Several people recorded “Lilacs in the Rain” that year, including the bands of Charlie Barnet and Bob Crosby, the latter with Crosby’s vocal. As far as I know, Bob’s brother did not make a commercial recording of the piece but, trust me, Bing sang it better. Here he is in a recently discovered air check from his Kraft Music Hall radio program.
The arranger (John Scott Trotter?) deserves mention for those hip little interludes he placed in the 16 instrumental bars between Crosby’s first and final choruses.
Over the next 25 or 30 years, many people recorded the song, among them artists as diverse as CarmenMcRae, the doowop vocal group The Ravens, Junior Mance and Carl Perkins—not the “Blue Suede Shoes” Carl Perkins, but the pianist who was an important part of jazz on the west coast in the 1950s. Perkins played with Chet Baker, Harold Land, Dexter Gordon, Buddy DeFranco and the Max Roach-Clifford Brown group, among others. We see him here at a club date in Vancouver, BC, with the Curtis Counce quintet, between bassist Counce and tenor saxophonist Land. Frank Butler is on drums, Jack Sheldon on Trumpet.
Perkins’s “Lilacs in the Rain” is on the one album he made as a leader. The bassist is Leroy Vinnegar, the drummer Larance Marable.
Perkins died in 1958 at the age of 29.