Tuesday, June 2, 2009


For E, EP, Eilonwy, Ade, W and Mr Flashlight who unwittingly got me to write this because he asked about my favourite swing music.

It's pretty obvious to most people around me that I've firmly embarked on a sort of musical journey - listening, trying and dancing. Getting out of my well worn musical grooves and really paying attention to what I love. I'm like a child in a candy store. No, scratch that - like someone who's lived in darkness for a long time and has just begun really tasting the wind and rain.

My musical journey - is more than just a journey into finding new music to listen to. For so long, music was something *other* people did - always felt like such a fraud saying that I loved music when I couldn't play anything. How can you claim to know or love the ordered beauty of Bach or the wayward wistful genius of Bill Evans when you don't even know basic music theory?

The answer is that you don't, you don't. Out of my corner and into the sun - starting guitar and piano lessons at this late stage because I find that I do, after all, love music and want to say it with all my heart and mind.

Art is the perfect union of the Dionysian and the Appollonian. Order and chaos- soul and mind. So yes, you need the technical understanding to stay in love with music. I have flirted with this long enough - exchanged adoring glances across a crowded room,played footsie under the table - but now, a commitment needs to be made.

It started a long time ago - but it deepened into a real love, full bodied and strong when I started dance last year. At first, it was about the steps but early on, one of my partners caught my arm and said to me: listen, listen to the music and dance to it.

I listened. And never stopped.


Mr F asked for my favourite swing music - so here's my little dissertation on that.

But his voice came out just the way I remembered it – gentle, almost husky, but with a huge amount of body, like it was coming through an invisible mike. And like all the best American singers, there was that weariness in his voice, even a hint of hesitation, like he’s not a man accustomed to laying open his heart this way. That’s how all the greats do it.

We went through the song, full of travelling and goodbyes. An American man leaving his woman. He keeps thinking of her as he passes through the towns one by one, verse by verse, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Oklahoma, driving down a long road the way my mother never could. If only we could leave things behind like that – I guess that’s what my mother would have thought. If only sadness could be like that.”

- Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro

I dropped salsa for swing once I realised I could dance to music I already loved and I can't run away from the fact that my favourite men in the world are Frank, Nat, Tony, Bobby and Louis. The old time-y crooners, the ones whose voices calmly embraced the words and music without embellishment and fanfare and yet managed to shade the song with every emotion under the sun. I don’t think it’s particularly sophisticated but – there it is, my happy music.

Here's a partial list - partial because there are so many! and also because it just keeps growing.

Bobby Darin's Beyond the Sea and I'm Beginning to see the light.

Sinatra's Love’s been good to me - hm. Hang on there - its not a song I've danced to, but no matter, love it anyway.

Nina Simone - My baby just cares for me

Nat King Cole's Paper Moon - torn between Ella's and Nat's.

USA and Cheek to Cheek – Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald – these two are just unbelievable together.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love - haven't found my favourite version yet.

Sinatra's New York New York - Classic and clich├ęd,I know. But. Such fun to twirl around the room to.

Nearly everything by Tony Bennett - Is there anything he can't sing well? - posted on fb recently that I love the song "I left my Heart in San Francisco" – I’ve heard the Bobby Darin version my whole life - but Tony Bennett's just blew it out of the water.

Mack the Knife - Bobby Darin's for dancing and Nat's for sheer goodness :)

Sing,Sing,Sing – Benny Goodman

In the Mood – Glenn Miller

Stompin’ at the Savoy – Benny Goodman

Easy Does It – there are a million covers but I love the one by Oscar Peterson especially, even though I've never danced to that particular one.

There's lots and lots more, Duke Ellington, Dinah Washington, Count Basie, Nina Simone, Benny Goodman. Having music exchanges with maybe 4 different people on fb, in real life and by email right now and loving it.


Honestly? I don't know if I've listened enough to really say what my favourites are - it may be that I'll look back on this post in two years and totally laugh at myself because by then I may have discovered all kinds of other stuff I love or I'll be more discerning in my taste in music. But for now, let me say that I love this - this music and this journey.

"But for now let me say I love you
Later on there'll be time for so much more
But for now meaning now and forever
Let me kiss you my darling then once more
Once more"

But for now - Jamie Cullum

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