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Rolling Stone India’s Jazz Playlist

A jazz playlist for these times, the pandemic story in song

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Sunil Sampat Apr 28, 2020

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Does music create a mood for us… or do we play the music that matches our mood? There is maybe a little bit of each of these factors that decides our listening menu. We are suggesting such a menu. This playlist is contextual to the unique scenario we find ourselves in.

We attempt to accentuate on the moods, mindsets, reactions and hopes of society as we battle the predicament brought about by COVID-19. These jazz classics and their themes might just resonate with the way you are feeling these days. This is a story told by the music.

Stan Getz with Eddie Sauter – “I’m Late, I’m Late!”

The music here sounds reminiscent of the frenzy of life pre-COVID. There were unending deadlines, traffic snarls, and always being behind the clock. Life was a constant rush… and we didn’t even know it. It was rather like a T20 cricket match. Hectic, result-oriented and perhaps a little contrived!

Clifford Brown – “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”

Oh! The pollution, the awful air quality in our cities, the constant haze on the horizon. That was our lot just a few weeks ago. Brownie gives you a slow, laid back reminder of that time.

Dexter Gordon – “Those Were The Days”

Regret, yearning and longing for the pre-pandemic days. Ah! Those were such good times, Uff! (read: who needs this change? No IPL, doubts about my trip to Europe, a wasted business opportunity… whatever). This old Russian folk song has been given swinging treatment by the towering tenor saxophone of Dexter Gordon. The nostalgia is palpable in it.

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Duke Ellington Orchestra – “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be”

The Duke had strong views on many subjects, and I can just imagine him writing this particular song to express what we are all feeling at this time. The title tells the tale! Things just won’t be the same in the future.

Ella Fitzgerald – “Blue Skies”

There is always a bright side to every problem. In just a short few days since the lockdown began, the air quality has improved dramatically, the sunsets are breath-taking and the skies are blue as they haven’t been for a while. Ella Fitzgerald tells you all about it.

Sarah Vaughan – “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” 

These days I’ve heard people wanting confirmation of what day it is, what date it is and Sarah Vaughan is even confused about the time! Sign of the times. Is it Wine O’clock yet?

Lou Rawls – “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water”

A lot of people are getting restless and very anxious to return to their earlier lifestyle. They don’t care about the blue skies and the sunsets. They are even ready to drink muddy water from polluted streams as long as they return to the rat race. Lou Rawls seems to be with them!

Joe Williams – “Imagination”

The world is unlikely to return to the earlier norm. We have learnt a few lessons in this lockdown of how we can improve our future. Or have we? This is a time for reflection and for taking forward some positive ideas. Joe Williams urges you to use your imagination to bring about these changes.

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Chuck Mangione – “Feels So Good”

There is such an upside to this period of isolation. We all get to spend time with our families, read books, indulge in hobbies, learn something new and have a chance to start anew. Chuck Mangione sums up this period of respite from the old routine. Feels Good!

Billie Holiday – “As Time Goes By”

Some things just don’t change. “The fundamentals still apply” as Lady Day tells you in this famous song from the Hollywood classic film, Casablanca.

Eddie Jefferson – “Things Are Getting Better”

The future is ours to shape. From the lessons of the pandemic, the lockdown and the hours spent in thought, surely, we will learn to edit out the mistakes from the past. Eddie Jefferson assures us that life is going to be better. It’s for us to make it so.

Tony Bennett – “Smile” 

It is all about attitude. Tony Bennett sings this ever-optimistic ballad written by Charlie Chaplin. Be optimistic about the future, it is as happy as you care to make it.

Louis Armstrong – “What a Wonderful World”

Nobody gave a more appropriate message for the future. Satchmo has brought us one of the two most beautiful songs ever (the other is John Lennon’s “Imagine”). It never fails to bring a smile and some cheer. We are truly blessed to live in this most beautiful world. Hopefully, we will learn and remember to respect it more. Life is beautiful. So is jazz!

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