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Rolling Stone India’s Jazz Playlist

Listen to jazz compositions celebrating motoring

Sunil Sampat Apr 30, 2019

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America’s love affair with highways and driving is no secret. It is a large part of their culture. Writers have written about this romance in elaborate detail. American jazz musicians have also been bitten by this bug! There are several jazz compositions celebrating the car, motorcycle and indeed, the highway. This weeks’ jazz playlist takes a look at some of these jazz offerings.

1. Mose Allison – “V-8 Ford Blues”

This singer songwriter,who also plays piano has made a song out of his car. His devotion to the vehicle is heard when he sings about checking his gasoline in the morning and his oil at night!

2. The Modern Jazz Quartet – “The Cylinder”

This wonderful jazz quartet from the Fifties brought many listeners into jazz by their very imaginative compositions. This one, written by the band leader and pianist John Lewis, describes the tune as “the sound that an old car makes which is rickety but melodious at the same time.”

3. Lambert, Hendricks & Ross – “Poppity Pop”

This one is celebrating the motorcycle! It is a superb trio piece with uptempo vocal scatting by Jon Hendricks. This one really swings.

4. Dizzy Gillespie – “Swing Low Sweet Cadillac “

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The Cadillac has been the ultimate status symbol for several generations of Americans. With his innate sense of (jazz) humor, Dizzy Gillespie sings and swings his Cadillac to the tune of the old gospel song, “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.”

5. Nat ‘King’ Cole – “ Route 66”

This is a universal classic and needs no introduction. On the original version, Nat plays piano and sings. This song has inspired thousands of people to drive down this highway which, as the song says “goes from Chicago to L.A.”

6. Wilson Pickett – “Mustang Sally”

About as classic as a car song can get. When Ford launched the Mustang in 1965, an entire generation of Americans went ga ga over it. This song was written as a blues/R&B song. The reason it finds its way into this list is because both the car and this song are deeply embedded in ones imagination! Several jazz musicians have also played this song but we thought the original, with its intricate guitar opening deserves this slot.

7. Janis Joplin – “Mercedes Benz”

Many will argue that Joplin is not jazz. Granted. It certainly is a reasonable facsimile thereof and in any case, Joplin, like Ray Charles straddled many categories of modern music. In any case it is a good song and fits this category like a model T Ford!

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