Trick Or Treat With A Beat: Halloween Jazz

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Halloween Jack-o-Lantern. i i
iStockphoto.com
Halloween Jack-o-Lantern.
iStockphoto.com

When I was a kid, Halloween meant dressing up with my friends and looking for the spots with the best candy, stopping for pranks along the way — which, if attempted now, would land me in some sort of correctional facility to contemplate that idle-mind/devil's-workshop thing. Now that I'm older, I'm stuck handing out rather than filling up when the ghosts and goblins come knocking. Today, as a season, Halloween has a different sense of rhythm, but some of the best Halloween ear candy hasn't changed.

For more entries in NPR Music's weekly Take Five: A Weekly Jazz Sampler series, click here.

Trick Or Treat With A Beat: Halloween Jazz

To Be Free: The Nina Simone Story

Nina Simone

  • Album: To Be Free
  • Song: I Put a Spell on You

Screamin' Jay Hawkins needed a coffin on stage when he performed this one live. Nina Simone just needed that voice and that attitude. Once, in front of a group of aspiring actors, John Malkovich was asked to name one of his inspirations; he said it was his next-door neighbor, but he was afraid to knock on her door and tell her so. His neighbor, and inspiration, was Nina Simone.

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  • "I Put a Spell on You"
  • Album: To Be Free
  • Artist: Nina Simone
  • Label: RCA
  • Released: 2008
 
Speak No Evil

Wayne Shorter

  • Album: Speak No Evil
  • Song: Witch Hunt

This classic was actually recorded on Christmas Eve 1964. It's a Wayne Shorter story, made even hipper by the likes of Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter and Elvin Jones. Many consider this to be Shorter's finest hour.

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  • "Witch Hunt"
  • Album: Speak No Evil
  • Artist: Wayne Shorter
  • Label: JCT
  • Released: 1964
 
Cover for Hottest New Group in Jazz [Compilation]

Lambert, Hendricks & Ross

  • Album: Hottest New Group in Jazz [Compilation]
  • Song: Halloween Spooks

While the Ike Isaacs Trio lays down the ghostly groove, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross prove to be a gruesome threesome. Open the windows, crank "Halloween Spooks," turn up the volume and take bets on how long before the authorities arrive.

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  • "Halloween Spooks"
  • Album: Hottest New Group in Jazz [Compilation]
  • Artist: Lambert, Hendricks & Ross
  • Label: Sony International
  • Released: 1959
 
Cover for The Music of Raymond Scott: Reckless Nights & Turkish Twilights

Raymond Scott

  • Album: The Music of Raymond Scott: Reckless Nights & Turkish Twilights
  • Song: New Year's Eve in a Haunted House

People who knew him said he didn't go out much. But his music did; the early cartoons of Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Road Runner and others all featured Raymond Scott's compositions. Scott gained a new audience in the '90s when the producers of Ren & Stimpy found his creations to be the perfect sidecar to their own cartoon antics. Scott's titles were hallucinatory: You can practically see the habitants of the haunted house inviting you to their New Year's party in this 1938 recording.

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  • "New Year's Eve in a Haunted House"
  • Album: The Music of Raymond Scott: Reckless Nights & Turkish Twilights
  • Artist: Raymond Scott
  • Label: Columbia
 
Blues for Dracula

Philly Joe Jones

  • Album: Blues for Dracula
  • Song: Blues for Dracula

When I moved to New York in the early '80s, Philly Joe Jones had his Dameronia band working around town. Between sets at The Jazz Forum one night, to the delight of those of us holding milk glasses half-emptied of their cognac, Jones didn't miss a beat with his spot-on take on Count Dracula, originally performed in this 1958 date with Johnny Griffin, Julian Priester, Tommy Flanagan, Jimmy Garrison and Nat Adderley.

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Purchase Featured Music

  • "Blues for Dracula"
  • Album: Blues for Dracula
  • Artist: Philly Joe Jones
  • Label: JVC Japan
  • Released: 1958
 

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