JUMP FOR JOY, 2020
“Jump for Joy” is a small collection that refused to die. I started working on it ten years ago, as part of my second jazz standards album. (I had released “Easy Street,” my first standards record, in 2010). Things got in the way—family emergencies, money issues, musician issues, etc.—but the most unusual problem was that I had returned to my roots in folk-rock and was releasing CDs of “cosmic country” à la 1970s Southern California sound under the name C.C. Grace. I couldn’t find the artistic space to complete a jazz standards record, so these five songs were in limbo, waiting to be officially released. (There are some demos floating around.)
I decided to release an EP so that these songs could finally be born! I revisited them with Mark Massey on piano (amazing player, here in Pasadena) on “Jump for Joy,” “On the Street Where You Live,” and “Peel Me a Grape.” The mighty Rob Lockart played his haunting and powerful clarinet on “Summertime.” (His solo and ride on that song are some of the finest clarinet playing you’ll hear anywhere.) Rob had played on my first two CDs, and I had been blown away by his musical sensibilities. Jason Danielson, of Des Moines, plays the electric piano on “Summertime.” He flew to LA several years ago to record a bunch of stuff with me, so I’m glad that I can finally release this track. I love the confident vibe of his playing. Last, but never least, my favorite guitar player, Alphonse Thomas Izzo, played the sweet licks on “Why Try to Change Me Now.” I met Tom when we were kids, and he blew me away and continues to do so. The remaining tracks are live loops manipulated by my husband, Eric Rawson. He’s been engineering, arranging, and producing my music almost since the day we met in Iowa City a lifetime ago.
My first CD, “Time and the Weather,” quite literally, bankrupted me. I used a full band of terrific session players and recorded at a pricey (for me) studio in LA. That financial devastation put an end to my music for almost ten years. The only way back was to start recording with primarily loops and then supplement each track with live players. Actually, I prefer it this way. New technology has allowed me to return to the greatest love of my life—singing—affordably and easily. None of this discussion about computer loops vs. live players is a concern at all for younger musicians who grew up with computers and auto-tuning, but for old-timers it’s still an issue. Last, I like to point out I’m not a jazz singer. I merely sing songs I love, no matter the genre, and many wonderful jazz DJs honor me by playing my cuts. So with this very long introduction, here are the five songs I hope you will love as much as I do:
“Jump for Joy”
Duke Ellington’s “Jump for Joy” makes my ears jump for joy! The lilt, the exuberance, the thrill of freedom—wow! My go-to music is usually slow and sad, mostly because up-tempo, major key songs don’t tug at my musical heart, but “Jump for Joy” grabbed me the minute I heard it. It’s my all-time favorite “happy” song. “Jump for Joy” was the title song of Ellington’s 1941 musical revue, which he referred to as “the first ‘social significance’ show.” I like to say that if God has a playlist, “Jump for Joy” is in heavy rotation!
I’ve been singing versions of this song since a friend introduced me to Dave Edmunds and Love Sculpture when I was eighteen. It was the fifth track on “Blues Helping.” Dave’s guitar and vocals blew my mind and hooked me on “Summertime” for life. This is probably my favorite song in the world, but I can’t tell you why because I’m not sure myself. It’s something about the combination of despair and jubilation. . . it seems to contain every painful and beautiful sensation of being human. I can’t fail to mention the irony of “Summertime” following “Jump for Joy” on this collection. Duke Ellington had some pretty harsh things to say about Gershwin and “Porgy and Bess,” and the opera has been controversial since its inception. Gershwin’s thinking was considered liberal at the time, but as Gary Younge writes in The Guardian, “liberalism . . . is not absolute but relative. As attitudes change and conditions progress what looked like noble intentions curdle into condescension.” Still, Ellington recorded Gershwin’s tunes and respected his work. Like many people, I believe that music can transcend the moral shortcomings of its creators. It had better, or there would be little left to listen to.
“On the Street Where You Live”
This track snuck onto the collection. Although I l love the song, it wasn’t one of my all-time favorites. Still, I kept hearing different ways to phrase it until I finally had to record it. When I sing, I see little bursts of shapes in my head, which show me where the notes want to go, and I draw the shapes in the air as I sing (this passes for sheet music for a musician who has always played by ear!). This song has lots of strange little shapes that interest me.
“Peel Me a Grape”
This funny and entertaining song is a joy to sing. David Frishberg is a genius. Enough said!
“Why Try to Change Me Now”
I heard Fiona Apple’s cover of this on an episode of “House” a few years ago and loved the song. It has everything I require for ear titillation: lushness, dreamy melodies, stately movement. Oh, and Tom Izzo’s guitar!
So that’s all, folks. I hope you enjoy this collection.