NPR logo Hard Up: Jazz For Empty Pockets

Hard Up: Jazz For Empty Pockets

Empty pockets.
iStockphoto.com
Empty pockets.
iStockphoto.com

Money is on everyone's mind right now. Maybe you're worried about your own money, worried about the state of the world economy, or relieved to have a job and a paycheck. If you have the money blues, listening to a few jazz tunes rooted in the blues is a good investment for your ears and your soul.

Stop listening to the change jingling in your pockets, and instead listen to the sound of money in jazz. After that, check out NPR's Planet Money blog for a more serious (and informative) take on money. No soundtrack included.

For more entries in the Take Five series, click here. And don't forget to subscribe to the Jazz Notes newsletter.

Hard Up: Jazz For Empty Pockets

Jazz Profile

Gettin' Paid Waltz

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Mose Allison

  • Song: Gettin' Paid Waltz
  • from Jazz Profile

Pianist Mose Allison, "The Sage of Tippo," sings of investing in a local watering hole late into the night while waiting for a man to show up. It might be a better idea to dance right over to a bank with that check. This song will have listeners waltzing all the way there.

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Song
Jazz Profile
Album
Jazz Profile
Artist
Mose Allison
Label
Blue Note
Released
1987

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Cure All

Money Changes

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Robert Walter

  • Song: Money Changes
  • from Cure All

New Orleans-based soul-jazz organist Robert Walter gives a nod to traditional jazz lines on this piano-based tune. Midway through the song, it breaks into a Latin feel, then back into a strong swing. The organ effect at the end provides an unexpected twist that sounds great within this versatile song.

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Song
Cure All
Album
Cure All
Artist
Robert Walter
Label
Palmetto
Released
2008

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Jazz Me Blues: The Best of Jimmy Witherspoon

Money's Gettin' Cheaper

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Jimmy Witherspoon

  • Song: Money's Gettin' Cheaper
  • from Jazz Me Blues: The Best of Jimmy Witherspoon

Jimmy Witherspoon sings about making plenty of money, but prices keep rising, so it doesn't go very far. Writing a blues song about it was a good way to cope. The song isn't slow and brooding — it's upbeat and swinging — which goes to show that being blue doesn't feel all that bad.

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Song
Jazz Me Blues: The Best of Jimmy Witherspoon
Album
Jazz Me Blues: The Best of Jimmy Witherspoon
Artist
Jimmy Witherspoon
Label
Prestige
Released
1998

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Cover for I Got Rhythm: Art Tatum, Vol. 3 (1935-1944)

With Plenty of Money and You (Oh! Baby What I Couldn't Do)

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Art Tatum

  • Song: With Plenty of Money and You (Oh! Baby What I Couldn't Do)
  • from I Got Rhythm: Art Tatum, Vol. 3 (1935-1944)

Whenever you find yourself flush with a few extra bucks, grab your significant other and jump for joy to this tune, penned by Harry Warren at the tail end of The Great Depression and played by Art Tatum here. The song is also known as the "Gold Diggers' Lullaby," written for the 1936 movie musical Gold Diggers of 1937.

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Song
I Got Rhythm: Art Tatum, Vol. 3 (1935-1944)
Album
I Got Rhythm: Art Tatum, Vol. 3 (1935-1944)
Artist
Art Tatum
Label
GRP
Released
1935

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Cover for Dot Com Blues

Only in It for the Money

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Jimmy Smith

  • Song: Only in It for the Money
  • from Dot Com Blues

Noted New Orleans pianist and singer Dr. John joined the legendary organist Jimmy Smith for a rousing blues number backed by a large ensemble. The horns blow the blues right away, while Dr. John sings about a bit of opportunism.

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Song
Dot Com Blues
Album
Dot Com Blues
Artist
Jimmy Smith
Label
Verve

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