April 14, 2009

Primed for jazz

If you are like I am (born in the mid to late '60s, raised on '70s TV), you were primed to be a fan of jazz. Did it work on you? Probably not, but "they" sure tried. It worked on me. Gen X-ers would become as familiar with the sound of brushes softly brush-a brush brushing (that's what you call alliteration) on a snare drum and the tinkling ivories of a well-played jazz piano as they would the sound of their mother's voice. Witness a few of the jazz-inflected contributors to our generational zeitgeist. Maybe you didn't realize the conspiracy as it unfolded:

First, one of the nicest and most genuine men to have ever walked the face of this imperfect planet, Fred Rogers (I cried like a baby the day he died, as did you). Fred Rogers was of course an accomplished pianist and composer. It seems like he was always taking his viewers on a trip to Negri's Music Shop. Thank you for that, Mr. Rogers!

That theme sure is jazzy!

At about 3:50, and things get really jazzy at around a minute from that.

"The Music of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood"

Vince Guaraldi and Trio did the music for many of Charles Schulz's "Peanuts" cartoons, with the most obvious perhaps being the wonderful music for A Charlie Brown Christmas (damn I love "Skating"! I could listen to that all year long):

"Mah-Na Mah-Na," originally from Sesame Street(?) and later The Muppet Show:

I would have caught these in rerun form some years after their introduction.

The first season theme music to I Dream of Jeannie was an instrumental jazz waltz written by Richard Wess. From the second season on, however, it was replaced by a new theme entitled "Jeannie," composed by Hugo Montenegro.

And of course that leads to:

The Bewitched theme by Warren Barker

Peggy Lee did a great version of this tune, complete with the lyrics:

  • Primed for Jazz (One More Time)

    Amy said...

    Agree agree agree. You definitely hit the greats. This post totally IS my childhood.

    You're right: Mah-na Mah-na was vintage Sesame Street, 1969 (according to my DVD set). Cake does a fun remake of it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypVe2DbhxXQ

    The Peanuts music always makes me think of this too:


    The kids today have no soundtrack to their lives...tragic!

    Leigh said...

    Wow. This was just a spectacular post on many levels.

    Fred Rogers should be held up as an icon of human decency for all time. What a wonderful neighbor he was!

    But I didn't realize the music was so very good. That was illuminating.

    Peanuts, of course, will always be identified with the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez are modern-day artistic heroes for standing up to CBS and insisting that their vision of Schultz's world -- complete with searching questions of faith and materialism, sophisticated jazz score, and real children's voices -- triumphed to create the very best, the #1 Christmas special.

    I am happy to say that daughter #1 "caught" my passion for Peanuts and Star Trek. I will continue in my pursuit of the perfect Christmas gift for her: the Hallmark ornament that depicts Linus on the stage, giving his speech about the real meaning of Christmas.

    This post was worth the time you put into it, Chris. Thank you!

    But now the "ma-nah ma-nah" song is stuck in my head. Oh well, if you have to have an earworm . . .

    Leigh said...

    Oh, and the Hallmark ornament includes the speech itself. It plays when you touch the ornament, I think.

    Amy said...

    This post was so good I had to come back for seconds! :)

    Leigh - good luck in your search for the ornament. Linus's speech is a masterpiece and never fails to get me choked up.

    And, Chris - I didn't get a chance last night to listen to all of Peggy Lee's Bewitched so I just did, and it is ever jazzy goodness! I guess I was aware of the song, just hadn't absorbed it and enjoyed it.

    Thanks for pulling this all together; loved it.

    Retro Hound said...

    I definitely remember the second Gennie but not the first.

    Great post.

    Chris said...

    Whoa - awesome response! Some posts are like trees falling in forests (with no one there to hear them), and some aren't....I'm thrilled this one found an audience and touched a nerve. I have to be careful to not get too used to such feedback.

    Amy, thank you for that video. Wow, that brings back some sensory memories, doesn't it? Something wonderful usually followed! As far as soundtracks to childhood -- I completely agree. We had so few "media outlets" during the '70s and early '80s, we tended to share such things on a wider scale. For example, I don't think something like Alex Hailey's ROOTS could happen now. Kids today will have such things, but it'll be "pockets" and smaller groups of them - not the entire generation, as could probably be said about us. They'll somehow find each other when they are older to share and reminisce, if they want that. About Peggy Lee -- isn't that great? It's very cool and oh so jazzy.

    Hi Leigh-sorry about that earworm....Yes, he was cut from a finer piece of material (which was then promptly thrown away) than most of us. It's almost like the world didn't deserve him. We aren't likely to see his kind again. Per Peanuts - can you imagine what network executives would do to something like Peanuts today? It would have to be on a cable channel in order to retain any of its artistic and educational value. So your #1 daughter has excellent taste? She is lucky for that, and you two must have lots to share. I received the miniature communicator last Christmas, and "play" with it weekly. Isn't it astounding Hallmark makes such excellent ornaments for a show that has been off the air for 40 years?? I didn't know about the Linus one. You might check Hallmark's Website, but I think they discontinue those after each season. eBay perhaps?

    Thank you, Robert. You do great stuff at RetroHound on a more consistant basis.

    Gilligan said...

    Had to join in on the applause, albeit belatedly. What a brilliant post!

    Chris said...

    Gilligan - "brilliant"? Oh, pu-lease. There is no such thing as belated praise in my book. I'll take whatever I can get!

    Jason said...

    Thank you SO MUCH for this post. I thought I read that Johnny Costa never recorded an album but I found 5 online and am listening now. I can't express how grateful I am to have found this post.

    Chris said...

    Good deal, Jason. I'm glad I had some part in that happening. Costa is quite a pianist. I wondered if he was related to the arranger Don Costa of all those later Sinatra albums.

    Leigh said...

    Chris, according to the son of Johnny Costa's drummer on MRN, Johnny and Don were not related.

    Good posts and more interesting info here.

    Anonymous said...

    "Mah-Na Mah-Na" is actually from an italian faux-documentary about Sweden.