Archive for Mahalia Jackson

When The Saints Go Marching In

Posted in Music with tags , , on September 19, 2018 by telescoper

As a bit of a change from Open Journal of Astrophysics stuff I thought I’d post this very hot Gospel number featuring the very wonderful Mahalia Jackson, whose many claims to fame include the fact that she gave singing lessons to Aretha Franklin. If you think her voice sounds powerful in this recording, then it’s even more impressive when you see that in this live performance at the Newport Jazz Festival she was standing way back from the microphone! She wasn’t called `The World’s Greatest Gospel Singer’ for nothing.

Anyway, if you look at the title of this piece and think `Oh no, not that old one again’ because it has been done to death by Trad Jazz bands then please give it a listen because I think this version really rocks. The tune When The Saints Go Marching In is an old spiritual and, as such, was composed by the person who wrote all the best music: `Trad’.

One of the things about Gospel music is that it’s usually played in a very distinctive 4/4 which makes it very difficult to resist clapping. But why do so many people -even at Jazz festivals – find it so hard to clap on the right beat? It only works if you clap on an off beat (i.e. beats 2 and 4). If you clap on all the beats or just on the on beats it just kills the rhythm. On this track you’ll hear that Ms Jackson has to deliver clapping instructions not once but twice to an audience that seems to insist to clap on every beat of the bar (and on some beats that don’t correlate with the actual rhythm in any way). I guess “All God’s Children Got Rhythm” might not actually be a true statement.

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Come Sunday

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on January 21, 2018 by telescoper

I can’t believe that I’ve been sharing music on this blog for almost a decade and haven’t yet posted this. It’s a beautiful Duke Ellington song Come Sunday, written for the extended concert suite Black, Brown and Beige, later appeared in the Duke Ellington concerts of sacred music, and eventually became a jazz standard. It was written for solo voice along with the full Ellington band, but this almost entirely a cappella version featuring the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson with a few bits of Duke Ellington on piano is my favourite version. It’s a hauntingly elusive melody, but Mahalia Jackson fills it with her entire soul…

Jazz on a Summer’s Day

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on June 20, 2010 by telescoper

It’s been a lovely sunny weekend and I’m feeling too lazy to blog properly, so I thought I’d resurrect and update an old post. The video clips in that older version were deleted a while ago, but have now been replaced by one long clip which gives me an excuse to replace this post about the wonderful film Jazz on a Summer’s Day. Not that I need an excuse…

At the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, Mahalia Jackson (“The world’s greatest gospel singer”) played a lengthy set on the Sunday evening, and her whole concert was so good it was subsequently made available on CD.  She wasn’t really a jazz singer, but she was born in New Orleans (in 1911) and her style developed in the shadow of both the jazz and blues traditions that had their origins in her home town.

Three tracks from her 1958 concert made it into the film. Two of them are the sort of exuberant up-tempo stompers typical of Southern gospel music; there’s something about that beat that sets your pulse racing and makes it almost impossible to resist clapping your hands on the off-beat. The fine example here are a jaunty finger-clicking Walk all over God’s Heaven and  a highly locomotive rendition of Didn’t it Rain, a tune written by the world’s greatest composer  “Trad”. Both of them have the crowd of jazz fans leaping about in the aisles.

As you can hear, Mahalia Jackson’s voice is simply phenomenal.  She has so much power and emotional expressiveness that she is in a class on her own when it comes to this kind of music. In fact she gave singing lessons to the young Aretha Franklin, the one “soul “singer who came anywhere close to that quality of voice. But if you really want to hear music with from the soul, listen to Mahalia Jackson.

Although she had a number of hit records, Mahalia Jackson refused to sign for any major record label and performed throughout her life almost exclusively on gospel radio stations. I think she could easily have become a pop star if she had wanted to, but she saw her mission in life to communicate her faith to others through music. She also used a great deal of her earnings to help others by founding school bursaries and through other charitable works.

As in this concert, she usually performed with a backing band of piano, bass and organ but despite the lack of a drummer they build up a tremendous forward momentum.

Terrific though the first two tracks undoubtedly are, what comes next and last is truly sublime. The Lord’s Prayer is such a familiar piece of text to anyone brought up in the Christian tradition that it is difficult to imagine in advance of hearing this performance that it could be sung in such a way. The contrast between this and the previous track is immense, which makes it even more effective. This is no rumbustious rabble-rouser, just a simple and pure expression of her own deep religious faith. 

Almost as moving as her singing are the cuts to the audience reaction – the same people who were leaping about a few minutes earlier sit in deep and respectful contemplation. And who wouldn’t.. I’m not a religious man but there is certainly religious music that moves me very deeply, and this is a prime example.

Amen

Posted in Jazz, Music with tags on November 8, 2008 by telescoper

A few days ago I put up a short clip of The Train and the River taken from the opening moments of the film Jazz on a Summer’s Day. This post contains the two last numbers to feature in the film, and the last one in particular is very very special.

At the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, Mahalia Jackson (“The world’s greatest gospel singer”) played a lengthy set on the Sunday evening, and the whole concert is available on CD.  She wasn’t really a jazz singer, but she was born in New Orleans (in 1911) and her style developed in the shadow of both the jazz and blues traditions that had their origins in her home town.

Three tracks from her 1958 concert made it into the film. Two of them are the sort of exuberant up-tempo stompers typical of Southern gospel music; there’s something about that beat that sets your pulse racing and makes it almost impossible to resist clapping your hands on the off beat. A fine example is this highly locomotive rendition of Didn’t it Rain, a tune written by the world’s greatest composer  (“Trad”) which has the crowd of jazz fans leaping about in the aisles.

As you can hear, Mahalia Jackson’s voice is simply phenomenal.  She has so much power and emotional expressiveness that she is in a class on her own when it comes to this kind of music. In fact she gave singing lessons to the young Aretha Franklin, the one “soul “singer who came anywhere close to that quality of voice. But if you really want to hear music with from the soul, listen to Mahalia Jackson.

Although she had a number of hit records, Mahalia Jackson refused to sign for any major record label and performed throughout her life almost exclusively on gospel radio stations. I think she could easily have become a pop star if she had wanted to, but she saw her mission in life to communicate her faith to others through music. She also used a great deal of her earnings to help others by founding school bursaries and through other charitable works.

As in this concert, she usually performed with a backing band of piano, bass and organ but despite the lack of a drummer they build up a tremendous forward momentum.

Terrific though that track undoubtedly is, what comes next is truly sublime. The Lord’s Prayer is such a familiar piece of text to anyone brought up in the Christian tradition that it is difficult to imagine in advance of hearing this performance that it could be sung in such a way. The contrast between this and the previous track is immense, which makes it even more effective. This is no rumbustious rabble-rouser, just a simple and pure expression of her own deep religious faith. 

Almost as moving as her singing are the cuts to the audience reaction – the same people who were leaping about a few minutes earlier sit in deep and respectful contemplation. And who wouldn’t.. I’m not a religious man but there is certainly religious music that moves me very deeply, and this is a prime example.