Welcome all to 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗹𝘆’𝘀 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗿, a series of weekly reviews by Charles Connolly - an artist in his own right. Here, Charles delves into the greatest brand new singles brought to you by the best unsigned artists on our electrifying and eclectic set of 𝙉𝙚𝙬 𝘼𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙨𝙩 𝙎𝙥𝙤𝙩𝙡𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩 playlists.
Charles can’t get enough of this GAS…
I often delve into the dark ages like an old fart, despite not being old. I mean, just HOW many times have I mentioned The Beatles?? At least once or twice. Oh, the 60s was quite the decade. The revolutionary, swinging 1960s. But going back as far as the 50s for me is rare. The pretty and beautiful 1950s. Maybe I mentioned the odd quiff? Perhaps an “uh-huh-huh” or so? How about the 40s? The brave and romantic bomb-stricken 1940s. Well I might have done. Maybe to mention the war, for old times’ sake - “those days of going down to the shelter while listening to Vera Lynn” etc…. Have I even touched on the 30s? The gloriously opulent (Great Depression notwithstanding) 1930s. Perhaps I mentioned Art Deco or Cubism once? I just can’t remember. And what of the 20s? What, NOW? No, no - wrong century. The similarly gloriously opulent (not to mention roaring) 1920s, before anyone could conceive even the notion of a depression, great or small. It’s more than likely that I had fun with the odd flapper or two, but let’s be honest here. I haven’t really gone into that era. It’s a hundred years ago, for Christ’s sake! How is that possible??
I will be ignoring the Great Depression and only concentrating on the good things. There is so much I love from the 20s (those 20s, not these 20s) and 30s. The style. The rich sophistication. The architecture (although so much beauty was lost in this first obsession of “out with the old, in with the new”). It was a time of revolution. Of change. Of newness. Of “never been done before”. Everything previous had been based on what had come before. It had always been the next chapter. But this was a completely new book! New plot. New characters. New scenes. New look. New feel. And it was for the first time all about the young! The 60s had a lot in common with the 20s and 30s. Admittedly the architecture of the 60s was absolutely god-awful, but at least it was new and different. Proof that new and different is not always best. But for every atrocious concrete block of 60s, there was a new piece of Pop Art, or a fabulous new group, 45 or Beatles LP. Music was the key element of the 60s. The 20s and 30s did manage to give us stunningly striking Art Deco buildings and interiors. And with these curves and lines and statements, came Cubism: Picasso at his most famous. But not only that. This era gave us jazz. Jazz for the masses. It was all the rage. It was something new and exciting to which the young could nod and sip.
But for me, the best thing to come out of this golden era was the Great American Songbook. For those not familiar with such a book, and for those who recoil from the idea of having to read, don’t worry. It is not a “book”. It is an unofficial collection of the most famous and influential songs and jazz standards of that era. In its full form, it comprises around 500 tunes penned by a cluster of great composers. Notably Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, and Jerome Kern, to name but a few. These songs personify the era, and while they are wrongly labelled as “timeless”, they will indeed live on forever. Although the Great American Songbook did continue right into the 50s, its heart and soul remains in the 20s and 30s. My love of this GAS (a fortunate acronym) stemmed from one of my favourite people of all time. Fred Astaire. Everything about this man leaves me wholly satisfied. His style, elegance, charm, wit, petite frame and unbelievable talent as the greatest dancer of all time (you’re welcome to argue), and even as a uniquely cosy singer, all add up to true excellence. With his jaw proudly forward, he would sing just so many of these “timeless” songs throughout his vast and wonderful roster of films, before bouncing, swinging, swaying, scurrying, scuttling, leaping, spiralling and tapping into dance. Classic songs that were written specifically for Fred to sing in a specific plot of a specific film. And yet we know these songs entirely out of context. I wonder if these composers knew the greatness of what they were casually tossing into the heap one cloudy afternoon. There is absolutely no doubt that I personally have been heavily influenced by these songs in my own writing - along with so much else. Although I do go for a lot of classical music, I feel I am simply too young to be taken up and away by it, as I was not brought up listening to it. The GAS is my classical. My roots. Which is perhaps weird for someone in their gloriously opulent 30s (just). But there you go.
New Artist Spotlight member, Louise Lewis (from the Philippines), has spent recent years studying jazz at college in her current home of Paris, France. Oh là là! You might know her as Yi, but she changed her artist name for the simple reason that it was IMPOSSIBLE to search for on any streaming platforms. Sensible lady. Luckily though, nothing else has changed. She was a jazzer then, she’s a jazzer now. But not jazz in the way of Bebop: when the double bass solo goes on long after everyone has gone home. More in the way of the Great American Songbook. Yi - her official real name (although also not her real name) - writes songs. Songs with melody, yet with their roots in jazz. The tail end of September brought us Clarity - an EP of which I will be talking about the final track - (Duet). This particular song is a bit different. She gets help from not one, but two people. The first is Cecilee, another much loved NAS member who thoroughly enjoys a right good old collab. This lady from Virginia not only sang half the lyrics, but also WROTE half of them. When writing, I am a selfish little bugger. I like to keep it all to myself. But Yi very much likes to get the best of everything from the best of everyone. Again: sensible lady! This daughter of a pastor sees wisdom and sense at every turn. Cecilee breathed something special and new into what was already a good song. She made a true story from the words. But what of the music? Well, of course this was Yi. Both Yi and Louise Lewis (being one and the same) have been releasing wonderful jazz standards with soul over the months and years, but she could not have done it without the help of the fabulous pianist and arranger, Anton Grytzyk from Kharkiv, Ukraine. I have popped a link below, should you wish to hire him. His quality is supoyb and he’s excellent value. Not only would you be receiving excellent work worth far more, but you’d be helping out someone deep in the heart of war. What means little to you, might mean a lot to him. So. Anton puts the J in jazz. He injects the Gershwin into the Hoagy Carmichael. He finds the notes in between. The ones we were too scared to use, or didn’t know what to do with. But all so musically. He hides technical dissonance behind natural beauty. This unsung hero turns the duo into a trio, and completes the song with Astaire’s very own style, elegance and charm. Take out one of these three artists, and the piece is incomplete. They hold each other up. Three people working together to gain the strength of ten.
After a few notes of subdued Rhodes electric piano to set the mood, Yi’s unusual and frankly rare (yet wonderful - think Joan Armatrading) contralto voice melodically begins to narrate. In this particular song, her voice is perhaps in a slightly higher range than her usual, but she still handles it deftly. At this point I was struck by two things. One: the vibrato of the Rhodes and the vibrato of her voice pulse at exactly the same rate. Two: am I going to be able to distinguish Yi’s voice from Cecilee’s? Still mesmerised by the unison vibrato, Cecilee joins us for the second verse. It is unmistakably different to Yi’s voice. How stupid of me to think they would sound the same. Both voices excellent, and both with different qualities. And with this second voice comes our third unison vibrato - it really takes you somewhere else. At 1:23, a rather unlikely grand piano enters, all gusto and tailcoat. It adds so much! Mainly because the soft Rhodes could not compete with the bold vocal harmonies introduced at this point. The whole piece from here on is more spritely and bright, mainly because the Rhodes chooses to have an early night, and the piano takes the night shift all the way through till morning. You know what these jazz bars are like - awake through the night, then sleeping through the morning. I won’t say any more about the piece because there isn’t a great deal of point. Best to simply listen.
The link is below. Do what Fred would have done: tap.
Next year I will be in my brave and romantic 40s. Hopefully not bomb-stricken.
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