As summer progresses and the rose garden takes on a certain fetching raggedness, it’s time for a Rifftides tribute to the season. There may be dozens of pieces of music that would be appropriate. The staff has chosen three classics.
Dave Brubeck wrote “Summer Song,” with lyrics by his wife Iola. Louis Armstrong sang it—perfectly—on the 1961 Brubeck album The Real Ambassadors. For reasons known only to whoever posted this on YouTube, the embedded photos include shots of Ella Fitzgerald, who had nothing to do with the music. Otherwise, photos of charm and nostalgia support the song.
One of John Lewis’s most satisfying extracurricular recording projects away from the Modern Jazz Quartet was his 1955 album The Modern Jazz Society Presents A Concert Of Contemporary Music. His writing, tinged with baroque touches, was exquisite. Featured on Lewis’s “Midsommer” are J.J. Johnson, trombone; tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson in a superb solo; and Tony Scott, clarinet.
Finally, I suppose that it would be illegal to salute summertime without including the George and Ira Gershwin song from Porgy And Bess that gave the season its enduring anthem. If ever a recording could fairly be labeled definitive, it is this “Summertime” by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, recorded in 1957 with Russell Garcia’s orchestra and arrangement. In this case, Ms. Fitzgerald has plenty to do with the music. Trumpet players—and probably everyone else— will note the perfection of Armstrong’s opening phrases.
Enjoy the rest of your summer.