Tag Archives: Brian Setzer Orchestra

The quietest New Year’s Eve

What are we doing New Year’s Eve? Oh, not much. Just sticking close to home, staying socially distanced.

“When the bells all ring and the horns all blow
“And the couples that we know are fondly kissing
“Will I be with you or will I be among the missing?”

We’re all among this missing this year, making this classic all the more poignant as 2020 finally ends. Maybe next New Year’s Eve.

Written by Frank Loesser in 1947, “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” has been described as the only notable jazz standard with a New Year’s Eve theme. This sophisticated tune tempers an unrequited love with some hope. We all could use some hope these days.

It’s great no matter who does it. Let’s go.

It’s the ’60s. You’re in a roadhouse, the one hard by the tracks. You hear this.

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” King Curtis, from “Soul Christmas,” 1968. (Recorded on Oct. 23, 1968, at Atlantic Studios in New York. That’s Duane Allman on guitar.)

Then you head uptown to a nightclub. You hear this …

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” the Ramsey Lewis Trio,” from “Sound of Christmas,” 1961.

… and this …

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“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” Eydie Gorme, from “That Holiday Feeling!” Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, 1964. (Steve sits this one out.)

… and this.

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” Lou Rawls, from “Merry Christmas Ho Ho Ho,” 1967.

Four decades later, you wander into a hotel ballroom …

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“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” Brian Setzer and Julie Reiten, from “Dig That Crazy Christmas,” the Brian Setzer Orchestra, 2005.

This blog post originally appeared here in different form … 10 years ago. Man. Where does the time go?

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Filed under December 2020, Sounds

And so another year ends

This summer marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Frank Loesser, the great songwriter who came up with that holiday favorite, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and the best New Year’s Eve song ever.

I know that because I somehow managed to see “Heart & Soul,” a documentary about Loesser, twice this year on Turner Classic Movies.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” has a great story behind it. Loesser wrote it in 1944 for their housewarming party, singing it with his first wife, Lynn Garland. They often performed it for friends at parties. Four years later, he sold the song to MGM. His wife didn’t approve. She’d always thought it was theirs alone, something special.

Well, it was special. MGM used it in the 1949 film “Neptune’s Daughter,” and it became a big hit, released by at least seven duos that year. Often covered since then, it’s a bit of an acquired taste. If breathy, baby-doll vocals are your thing, then you probably like it.

But the most special of Loesser’s tunes — at least at this time of year — is “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve.”

Written in 1947, it’s been described as “the only notable jazz standard with a New Year’s Eve theme.” This sophisticated tune tempers an unrequited love with some hope. It’s great no matter who does it. Listen for yourself.

It’s the ’60s. You are in a nightclub, one hard by the tracks. You hear this …

soulxmascd

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” King Curtis, from “Soul Christmas,” 1968. (Recorded on Oct. 23, 1968, at Atlantic Studios in New York. That’s Duane Allman on guitar.)

Then you head to a nightclub uptown. You hear this …

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” the Ramsey Lewis Trio,” from “Sound of Christmas,” 1961.

… and this …

steveeydieholidayfeelinglp

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” Eydie Gorme, from “That Holiday Feeling!” Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, 1964. (Sorry, Steve sits this one out.)

… and this.

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” Lou Rawls, from “Merry Christmas Ho Ho Ho,” 1967. It’s out of print.

Years later, a husband-and-wife duo revives that style.

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“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” Brian Setzer and Julie Reiten, from “Dig That Crazy Christmas,” the Brian Setzer Orchestra, 2004.

This is for Jeff O. Better late than never, my man.

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Filed under December 2010, Sounds

12 days of Christmas, Day 2

Do you go to see Christmas shows?

Last month, we went across town to see a high school production of “White Christmas” which turned out to be quite dazzling. Of course, this is a school that supports music like some schools support football. You get the idea.

(As I watched, I kept thinking that the kids from our son’s musical — probably half the number involved in this production — would at any moment deliver that “Blazing Saddles” moment, crashing through the set and stealing the show. But I digress.)

Long ago, I took my dad to see Mel Torme at Christmas time. That was something. As was Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

But the Christmas show to see, the one we dig, is the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

No one mounts a show quite like this.

Everyone’s dressed for Christmas, from the big band to the backup singers (who quite nicely jingle your bells, strutting the fine line between naughty and nice). There’s lots of sparkle and glitter and, of course, it snows at the end.

There’s a little something for everyone, whether you came to hear the Christmas music, or all those horns, or Setzer’s guitar work (yes, there’s even a little of the Stray Cats).

I should have taken my dad to see this, too.

It was a little like those old Christmas shows we watched when I was a kid — a little bit big band, a little bit lounge and a lot of showmanship.

They aren’t touring this year, so this will have to do. Showtime!

“Boogie Woogie Santa Claus”

“Sleigh Ride”

“Run Run Rudolph”

All from “Boogie Woogie Christmas,” the Brian Setzer Orchestra, 2002.

“Dig That Crazy Santa Claus”

“Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”

“Angels We Have Heard On High”

All from “Dig That Crazy Christmas,” the Brian Setzer Orchestra, 2005.

If you want the whole package — sounds and visuals — check out “The Ultimate Christmas Collection,” which has all of these cuts plus a DVD of a 2004 show at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles. I think 2004 was the first year we saw them. And then in 2005, and in 2006.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

It’s New Year’s Eve! Stand back!

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It wasn’t until we owned our first house that Janet and I felt grown up enough to host a New Year’s Eve party.

Until then, we were out at the bars with all the other amateurs on New Year’s Eve. We were young enough that New Year’s Eve was essentially one big high school or college reunion night.

But as 1988 turned into 1989 — as best we can remember — we hosted a New Year’s Eve party at our rambling old house on the east side of Madison, Wisconsin. We had lots of food, drink, friends and party favors.

Our lingering memory of that party is that of one of our friends — who shall remain nameless — holding court in our dining room, holding party poppers and blasting away.

“Stand back!” our friend would shout. Then our friend would pull the string — pop! — and shower the room with confetti.

Ever since, every time we see a party popper … “Stand back!”

Or, every time New Year’s Eve rolls around … “Stand back!”

Having a New Year’s Eve party? You may want these tunes for your mix.

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“Thank You for a Good Year,” Alexander O’Neal, from “My Gift to You,” 1988.

Or one of these three versions of “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” That familiar tune was written in 1947 by Frank Loesser, who also wrote “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

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A bluesy instrumental version by King Curtis, from “Soul Christmas,” 1990. Recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York on Oct. 23, 1968. That’s a young Duane Allman on guitar.

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A swinging big-band version by the Brian Setzer Orchestra, from “Dig That Crazy Christmas,” 2005.

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A laid-back acoustic version by Mindy Smith, from “My Holiday,” 2007.

Oh, and be sure to get plenty of party poppers.

Credit Where Credit Is Due Dept.: The photo of the party popper was taken by Hazel Jones of the UK and was posted online in July 2007 at the Museum of Temporary Art.

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Filed under December 2007, Sounds

Three under the tree, Vol. 12

My friend Steve was on the sidewalk, taking a break from the drudgery of work and out for a smoke on a 15-degree Monday morning, wearing more of a hang-dog look than usual.

“You don’t have any Brian Setzer tickets, do you?”

“No,” I said, “I decided not to go. Why?”

“I called over there and they just sold out. I was going to take my son. Maybe I’ll just go out there and see if I can get a couple before the show.”

Brian Setzer brought his annual Christmas extravaganza to our town last night, playing the casino ballroom. I highly recommend seeing the show if it comes to your town. I’ve seen it three times, but didn’t feel strongly about seeing it for a fourth time.

Today’s three under the tree are from the Brian Setzer Orchestra, memorable tunes from his past Christmas shows.

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“Santa Claus is Back in Town” and “(Everybody’s Waitin’ for) The Man with the Bag,” the Brian Setzer Orchestra, from “Boogie Woogie Christmas,” 2002.

On the former, a gritty Leiber-Stoller number that Elvis did so memorably on his 1957 Christmas album, you hear how Setzer’s guitar and the big band play off each other.

The latter is a little more obscure, Setzer’s swinging cover of a tune that was a big hit for Kay Starr in 1950. It’s also been covered by Diana Krall, Vonda Shepard and Lee Ann Womack.

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“Angels We Have Heard on High,” the Brian Setzer Orchestra, from “Dig That Crazy Christmas,” 2005.

This traditional song — you know, the one with the “Glo-oooo-oooo-oooo-ria” refrain — is seemingly rarely done by contemporary artists. Setzer and the big band update it in style, wrapping an upbeat but faithful instrumental performance around more traditional, choir-like vocals. It’s exciting to hear it live. People love it.

Enjoy. More to come.

Now, the rest of the story: Steve and his son went out to the casino without tickets and were handed a couple by some friends who couldn’t go. That, folks, is living right. Steve says the show was swell as usual but admits he, too, may be Setzered out after repeated viewings.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2007, Sounds