Tea Time With Jesse

Six of One, Half Dozen the Other

Music Fridays – When Good Instumentals Go Bad

Posted by middlerage on September 28, 2012

I’m not a music historian, so I can’t say for sure the following two songs are instrumentals (Jazz maestro Notsonieuw is welcome to chime in here), but I’ve always known them as instrumentals. So when I came across versions with lyrics I took an interest. The title of this post is tongue-in-cheek, because actually I like these lyric-ified versions (just not as much as the regular instrumental versions).

With or without singing, a couple of fine Jazz numbers. First up is Sarah Vaughan singing the theme to Peter Gunn. And, oh man, that low, sultry voice. Sexy.

Second up is Oscar Brown, Jr., singing to the Jazz standard Work Song. And as a bonus, Nina Simone (and her amazing voice) also singing Work Song.

Updated since first draft to add the incomparable Ella F. singing Take the A Train. This take blurs the lines since the lyrics are few and sound ad hoc. A bunch of her song is scat which is just vocal instrumental, but there are some actual words going on in heerha.



One Response to “Music Fridays – When Good Instumentals Go Bad”

  1. jjhensley said

    All these songs were originally instrumentals. As a rule, I’m against this — because when singers gain, horn players lose. I undertook a difficult transition from trombone player to trumpet player, largely because the trumpets get to play the melody (and, admittedly, the obnoxious screeching over the shout chorus). But singers always trump trumpets when it comes to the melody.

    The one outlier above is “Take the A Train.” The vocal version was adopted by the original band: Originally an instrumental, the lyrics were invented by a 20-year-old woman (as opposed to written, because she sang along with the radio) whose father knew someone who knew Ellington (or something like that). Strings were pulled, and Joya Sherill got to sing her lyrics to Ellington, who hired her to sing with the band for a short time.

    Even after Joya’s departure, the song remained a vocal feature (for many years) for Ray Nance — a member of the trumpet section:

    I still can’t approve, because it was obviously meant to be a trumpet feature:

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