Eric Feltenâ€™s call for suggestions of odd or unexpected pairings brought enough responses that weâ€™ll run them in two installments. My first thought was simply to list the names of the musicians and their performances, but the comments accompanying your messages were as interesting as the couplings themselves. Wherever possible, the Rifftides staff has provided links to pertinent recordings. Some of the pairings donâ€™t seem all that disparate, but perhaps oddity is in the ear of the beholder.
Iâ€™ll get the ball rolling with two unusual Duke Ellington partnerships. The first was Bing Crosby singing â€œSt. Louis Bluesâ€ with the Ellington band in 1932. At 27, Crosby was in the early stage of his stardom. If you have doubts about how much he owed Louis Armstrong, be sure to hear this. Mae West does â€œMy Old Flameâ€ in full insinuando backed at one point by gorgeous Ellington voicings for clarinets. She sang several numbers accompanied by the Ellingtonians in the 1934 film Belle of the Nineties.
Now, itâ€™s your turn
One of the oddest pairings in jazz, I think, was between Gil Evans and the music of Jimi Hendrix on Evansâ€™ Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix was supposed to participate on the project, but he died before it could happen.
My favorite unexpected pairing of people was between Ray Charles and Milt Jackson for the album Soul Brothers, Soul Meeting.
Cahl’s Juke Joint
I have a few off the top of my head.
The first one I offer may not be deemed as successful by most, and it certainly was miles from commercially successful, but I think it is surprisingly effective, Stan Kenton and Tex Ritter (Rare Capital LP from 1962-The cover has a spur dangling from a Mellophonium! ) particularly “Wagon Wheels.”
(Note: There have been reports recently that Capitol will reissue Stan Kenton and Tex Ritter and, as a masochism bonus, Kenton Plays Wagner. DR)
(Note: the Hackett-Gillespie album comes up again in the next installment. I’ll offer a reminiscence. DR)
Bing Crosby and David Bowie (Crosby Christmas TV Special doing a medley on ‘Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy’, yes, not an album but amazingly good.)
Dave Brubeck and Louis Armstrong (‘Summer Song’ from The Real Ambassadors.)
T-Bone Walker and Johnny Hodges (Doing ‘Stormy Monday Blues’ on JATP tour 1967. This is GREAT.)
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University of Delaware Public Radio
I thought Brubeck and Anthony Braxton on that old Atlantic LP from
the late Seventies worked. With time, I don’t consider it to be such
a strange pairing, but as a 21-year-old at the time, it was a real
I don’t know if this qualifies, but here goes: 1972”s BILL EVANS-GEORGE RUSSELL album.
The late pianist Bill Evans was a mere sideman on several of composer George Russell’s highly experimental late 50s recordings, but in 1971, with a major contract with Columbia Records, he commissioned a work from the notoriously uncompromising Russell for his second release for the label. The result was the album Living Time, one lengthy, often raucus avant-garde piece in eight “events” — some with rock rhythms – that was so radically removed from Evans’ lyrical pianistic style, that he got lots of hate mail, and his Columbia contract was dropped. With Evans’ well-known penchant for a conservative, inwardly developmental approach to his own art, it still makes one wonder “What was he thinking?”
The BILL EVANS WEBPAGES