I grew up listening to classic jazz. It was really all my grandfather’s fault. He had an infectious love of this music, and when he put those vinyl records on he never just sat and listened. He was always up on his feet, snapping his fingers, singing along, and invariably, dancing. (I got into swing dancing too, but that’s another story.) I just remember this music, especially when he would look at me and start singing, out in the park or at the breakfast table.
Perhaps the song I remember best is Louis Armstrong’s version of “When You’re Smiling”. Grandpa would look at his five year old granddaughter and begin to sing this — even doing his best Satchmo impersonation. This was quite a feat, considering he had a strong Hungarian accent! He liked the Rat Pack too, particularly Dean Martin’s rendition of “That’s Amore”.
As I got older, I began to explore jazz on my own. There are so many types and styles under this umbrella now that there is always something new to uncover. It’s constantly evolving, and full of cross cultural influences.
I recently discovered electro swing for example, in a fantastic track by called “In the Mood for Trouble” by Marcella Puppini which incorporates influences from Klezmer to Django Reinhardt.
Still, there is something about the old school jazz of my grandfather that retains a special charm. I think it’s the pace. Somehow there’s something slow, warm, and romantic about it.
Maybe it’s because it comes from the era before auto tune and all the special effects we’ve become so used to in studios now…
Maybe I’ve watched too many movies set in the 1940s…
Still, whenever I hear this music play, something in me begins to unwind, and a smile slides over my face. Try listening to Louis and Ella sing “They can’t take that away from me” and see if you feel any different.
Maybe the pace comes from a slower time. A time when people sat on porches and chatted with their neighbours, or sat down together for Sunday dinner. There is a sense of place in a lot of these lyrics too, which I don’t hear often in more contemporary music. “Tenderly”, “April in Paris” and “Summertime” are full of the trees, the light, the fields and streets which inspired them.
We spend so much time absorbing the world through screens —now more than ever— that perhaps we don’t notice these things as much anymore.
So here’s to music that reminds you to slow down and enjoy the texture of the moment. “Songs for a Ladies Man” is an album inspired by my grandpa’s vinyl, and the effect that old school jazz still has on me. If it gives you that same feeling, then it has succeeded.