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Song of the Day #1790

Song of the Day: What is this Thing Called Love?, words and music by the great Cole Porter, was featured in the 1929 Broadway musical "Wake Up and Dream," where it was introduced by Elsie Carlisle [YouTube link]. At 5:44 pm, today, the Northern hemisphere enters the Summer Solstice. And so begins the Fifth Annual Summer Music Festival (Jazz Edition). This entire summer, I'll be spotlighting jazz recordings---from artists past and present. Ironically, long after my playlist was set in stone for the festival, I discovered that TCM has been running a wonderful series of "Jazz in Film" (Mondays and Thursdays in June). This festival was also planned long before recent events, but it is a celebration of a genre that owes so much to the African American experience---while transcending the divisions of social life through the universality of music. Fortunately, for today, I get to highlight one of the great contributions to the Great American Songbook. Though this is going to be a Jazz Summer, I won't be posting many jazz standards, since my ever-growing list of "Favorite Songs" has been featuring such standards for sixteen years! But today's song asks one of the most enduring questions of the human condition. Musicians from every walk of life---every race, every ethnicity, every gender---have explored their answers to that question in a variety of ways over the years, including stride pianist James P. Johnson, Fred Rich and his Orchestra (featuring jazz violinist Joe Venuti and both Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey), twice by jazz guitar giant Django Reinhardt and legendary jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli, the Artie Shaw Big Band, guitarist Les Paul, pianist Dave Brubeck and alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderly, soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet and trumpeter Charlie Shavers, jazz guitarist Joe Pass, tenor saxophonist Stan Getz and pianist Kenny Barron, trumpeter Clifford Brown, tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, and drummer Max Roach, jazz violinist Thomas Fraioli, New York Swing (with guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, pianist John Bunch, bassist Jay Leonhart, and drummer Joe Cocuzzo), the McCoy Tyner Quartet (with tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Al Foster), and pianist Danny Zeitlin [YouTube links]. One of my favorite instrumental renditions comes from jazz pianist Bill Evans [YouTube link] from his 1960 album "Portrait in Jazz"---with its trailblazing interplay between a trio of co-equal improvisers, which included bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian. The album was recorded eight months after Evans's collaboration with Miles Davis in creating the best-selling jazz album of all time, "Kind of Blue." That revolutionary album was largely based on the pianist's impressionistic, harmonic conceptions and modal approach, which led many to view Evans as "the principal creator of [the] album." There have also been some wonderful vocal renditions of this Porter classic by such artists as Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O'Day, Keely Smith, and Bobby McFerrin (with Herbie Hancock on piano) [YouTube link].