Tag Archives: Ramsey Lewis Trio

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 …

steveeydieholidayfeelinglp

“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.

setzerdigcrazyxmascd

“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 3

There again will be no Christmas party at the newspaper this year.

This, of course, does not qualify as news. Such good will has been an unnecessary expense for some time now.

So I reached in my desk drawer the other day, pulled out my Santa Claus and Rudolph action figures from the vintage stop-action “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” cartoon and put them out on my desk.

Even if the Norelco snowman can slide down the dust on that desk — cleaning anything but office wastebaskets and carpeting also has been an unnecessary expense for some time now — it’s a little Christmas party.

Truth be told, I’m not really much of a party hound, but it’s still nice to get together with folks at the holidays. It probably won’t be with the folks from work, away from work. For many, I am that guy old enough to be their dad. And not that cool guy old enough to be their dad. So it goes.

It may be just those of us gathered around the digital hearth. That sounds like a happening Christmas party. Let me reach over here and cue up some sweet tunes to put us right into that Christmas groove.

Let’s jazz it up with a timeless vibe from another time.

“Sound of Christmas,” the Ramsey Lewis Trio, 1961.

Rest assured that this is one groovy album, way ahead of its time.

I heard a cut off this record almost 25 years ago on a late-night radio show in Madison, Wisconsin. I’d taped the show — mostly a Christmas show — but the cut wasn’t name-checked. I played that tape every Christmas, but the song remained a mystery.

It was probably 10 years ago that I learned the name of the cut, and then only because it was was on a budget Christmas CD I picked up at one of those farm-and-home stores so familiar to the Midwest.

Six years ago, “Sound of Christmas” came out on CD, and I grabbed it.

Earlier this year, a vinyl copy turned up while crate digging. Hope you will forgive its occasional snaps, crackles and pops. Think of it as the fire we’re sitting by as we enjoy some bevvies and snacks.

So we start with that song, then just keep that laid-back groove going.

“Christmas Blues”

“Merry Christmas Baby”

“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”

All from “Sound of Christmas,” the Ramsey Lewis Trio, 1961.

Recorded in October 1961 at Ter Mar Recording Studios in Chicago. Ramsey Lewis on piano, Eldee Young on bass and Red Holt on drums. They were joined by a 10-piece string ensemble on the latter.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

Three under the tree, Day 21

williexmastape

Willie’s Hot Christmas continues.

In this little series within a series, we’re recreating a radio show I taped off the air while living in Madison, Wisconsin, in the late ’80s. For the back story, check out the Day 20 post.

The first part consisted of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by Jimmy Smith, an unknown jazz sax instrumental version of “The Christmas Song” and “Merry Christmas” by Lightnin’ Hopkins.

Now back to the old WORT-FM show, where Willie Wonder has cued up …

ramseylewissoundxmascd1

“Christmas Blues,” the Ramsey Lewis Trio, from “Sound of Christmas,” 1961.

This is a cool, laid-back bit of instrumental jazz — just Lewis on piano, Eldee Young on bass and Red Holt on drums. I found this cut on a budget CD several years ago, then picked up the album when it was re-released on CD in 2004.

“Christmas in the City of the Angels” Johnny Mathis, from a Columbia 7-inch single, 1979.

Mathis offers his take on Christmas in Los Angeles in a tune perhaps cut exclusively for Los Angeles radio stations. This was released as Columbia 1-11158, with “The Very First Christmas Day” as the flip side. I can’t find it available anywhere. Though Mathis has recorded several Christmas albums since the early ’60s, this cut never made it to an album.

(The Mathis cut has gone from radio to tape to CD, and then ripped, so that may explain the sound quality if you find it lacking.)

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“You’re All I Want For Christmas,” Salsoul Orchestra with Jocelyn Brown, from “Christmas Jollies II,” 1981. It’s out of print, but can be found on eBay and from vinyl record sellers.

The Salsoul Orchestra pumps out its great blend of Philly soul, funk and Latin sounds — all orchestrated by Vincent Montana Jr. — and Brown adds some lovely vocals on this upbeat tune.

Willie’s Hot Christmas continues tomorrow.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2008, Sounds

Three under the tree, Day 13

Well, we wound up with only 8 inches of snow, but it still looks like a winter wonderland out there. Even if it meant shoveling twice in one day.

Yesterday, we served up three versions of “Winter Wonderland” with vocals. Today, we have three instrumental versions.

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“Winter Wonderland,” Arthur Lyman, from “With A Christmas Vibe,” 1959.

Vibes, bass, piano and bongos rule the day. This is a laid-back bit of Hawai’ian lounge/exotica from the master, accompanied by Harold Chang, John Kramer and Allan Soares. This classic was re-released on CD in 1996, at the height of the lounge wave. Its original title was “Mele Kalikimaka.”

ramseylewissoundxmascd

“Winter Wonderland,” Ramsey Lewis Trio, from “Sound of Christmas,” 1961.

Lewis’ sprightly jazz piano drives this version, complemented nicely and subtly by El Dee Young on bass and Red Holt on drums. This classic was re-released on CD in 2004.

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“Winter Wonderland,” Reverend Horton Heat, from “We Three Kings,” 2005.

Some sweet roadhouse piano drives this version, though there is plenty of raved-up and rockin’ guitar work by Jim Heath. The liner notes don’t mention the keyboard player, though.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2008, Sounds