After many weeks of no local jazz coverage in The Seattle Times, there are a couple stories in today’s paper. While this isn’t exactly covering the local jazz scene (aka local jazz musicians, local jazz clubs and day-to-day or week-to-week happenings), we’ll take what we can get.
Johnny Mandel, this weekend’s featured guest artist at Centrum’s Jazz Port Townsend, is probably best known as the composer of the beguiling bossa “The Shadow of Your Smile.”
And therein lies a tale.
Arguably Mandel’s most famous tune, it wasn’t meant to be a song at all, at first, but an instrumental theme for the film “The Sandpiper.”
“I wrote it for that whole opening sequence with those gorgeous shots of Big Sur,” explained the 86-year-old songwriter, arranger and sometime conductor in a phone interview from his Los Angeles home. “But all the movie producers [back then] wanted a title song. I said, ‘OK, but I need a lyricist. How about Johnny Mercer?’ I figured let’s start at the top.”
Michael Feinstein’s latest CD, “The Sinatra Project II: The Good Life,” is not, strangely enough, all about Frank Sinatra. It makes room, too, for a twisted, distinctly non-Sinatra ditty about the upside of making it through an “H-bomb” explosion.
Why is the lone male survivor so happy?
Because he has all 13 surviving women to himself.
And where did “Thirteen Women,” the CD’s peppy opener, come from?
From the B-side of Bill Haley and Comets’ hit “Rock Around the Clock,” by way of Ann-Margret (who recast it as “Thirteen Men”).
Other items on Feinstein’s eclectic new recording also have strong associations with other singers. “Sway” belongs irretrievably to Dean Martin. “Once in a Lifetime” (no, not the Talking Heads song) was a signature tune for Sammy Davis Jr.
Still, Feinstein’s tribute to Sinatra is evident in his covers of such classics as “The Lady Is a Tramp” and “The Way You Look Tonight,” along with lesser-known ballads, including “I’ll Be Around” and the CD’s title track (also a hit for Tony Bennett).
When Feinstein brings his crackerjack 17-piece band to Benaroya Hall on Friday, he’ll perform songs from “The Good Life,” no doubt.
One thing that was missed in this article is that Feinstein’s “crackjack 17-piece band” includes some of Seattle’s top-flight jazz talent including: Bill Ramsay, Thomas Marriott, Mark Taylor, Dave Marriott, Michael Barnett and others!
Pianist Ramsey Lewis is one of the lucky few jazz musicians to cross over with an instrumental hit, his first being the 1965 smash “The In Crowd.” Ever since, Lewis has drawn pop-music-size crowds. Though his music is a little on the slick side for hard-core jazzers, there’s no denying his technical prowess and funky feeling for the blues. Lewis plays Seattle this time with an electric band — Joshua Ramos (bass), Charles Heath (drums) and Tim Gant (keyboards) — with the express purpose of revisiting his 1970s album “Sun Goddess.”
Lewis opened a four-night stand Thursday and continues at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave., Seattle; $30.50 (206-441-9729 or www.jazzalley.com).