NPR logo Too Darn Hot: Jazz For The Heat

Too Darn Hot: Jazz For The Heat

The recent East Coast heat wave has had us thinking about all things hot — and not much else. With all due respect to the resilient residents of the South and West, who are accustomed to such climes, 100-degree heat tends to sap people's will to do much more than marinate in their own lethargy. No matter where you are, when the temperature is unrelentingly oppressive, sitting around (or lying face-down) with an iced beverage in hand and music in the background is as pleasant a way to pass the time as you can find. Beat the heat with these five songs.

Too Darn Hot: Jazz For The Heat

Cover for Twelve Nights in Hollywood

Too Darn Hot

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Ella Fitzgerald

  • Song: Too Darn Hot
  • from Twelve Nights in Hollywood

The recent Twelve Nights in Hollywood box set features Ella Fitzgerald and her band (just a trio or quartet) at their loosest and most comfortable in front of a small club audience, with nary a repeated song throughout. This version of "Too Darn Hot" was recorded live at a 1962 performance in Hollywood's Crescendo Club. Fitzgerald's sense of humor and interplay with the audience are on full display. At this point in her career, the "First Lady of Song" and her band were playing for audiences of thousands around the world. Playing for about 200, though technically work, must have been a nice break.

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Song
Twelve Nights in Hollywood
Album
Twelve Nights in Hollywood
Artist
Ella Fitzgerald
Label
Hip-o Select
Released
2009

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Cover for Complete Savoy Live Performances: Sept. 29, 1947-Oct. 25, 1950

Hot House

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Charlie Parker

  • Song: Hot House
  • from Complete Savoy Live Performances: Sept. 29, 1947-Oct. 25, 1950

"Hot House," a jazz standard penned by pianist Tadd Dameron, features blistering sax work from Charlie Parker in this 1948 broadcast from New York's Royal Roost Club. Al Haig mans the piano, Max Roach drives the drums in the back, Miles Davis' trumpet rings clear and fast, and bassist Tommy Potter rounds out the personnel.

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Song
Complete Savoy Live Performances: Sept. 29, 1947-Oct. 25, 1950
Album
Complete Savoy Live Performances: Sept. 29, 1947-Oct. 25, 1950
Artist
Charlie Parker
Label
Savoy
Released
1998

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Cover for Ken Burns Jazz

Hotter Than 'Ell

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Fletcher Henderson

  • Song: Hotter Than 'Ell
  • from Ken Burns Jazz

This 1934 big-band burner bursts with energy. Fletcher Henderson formed his first band a decade earlier. By this time, his skills as a great composer and bandleader were more widely known. Henderson had a knack for spotting top talent to staff his bands, and this one is no exception. Featured here are trumpeter Henry "Red" Allen, tenor saxman Ben Webster and possibly Benny Carter on alto sax. Henderson's brother, Horace, served as arranger.

Hear "Hotter Than 'Ell" on YouTube.

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Song
Ken Burns Jazz
Album
Ken Burns Jazz
Artist
Fletcher Henderson
Label
Sony Mid-Price
Released
2000

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Live at the Village Vanguard

Slow, Hot Wind

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Mary Stallings

  • Song: Slow, Hot Wind
  • from Live at the Village Vanguard

Haunting percussion, followed by Eric Reed's sparse piano intro, sets the mood for the voice of Mary Stallings to ease into the sultry Henry Mancini/Norman Gimbel tune "Slow, Hot Wind." This 2001 live recording captures Stallings on stage in the second stage of her jazz singing career. As a young woman, she toured extensively with everyone from Dizzy Gillespie to Ella Fitzgerald. Stallings eventually moved away from her music career to spend time just living her life. Years later, Gillespie convinced her to begin singing again, and she's been doing so ever since.

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Song
Live at the Village Vanguard
Album
Live at the Village Vanguard
Artist
Mary Stallings
Label
MAXJAZZ
Released
2001

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Here Comes Frank Foster

The Heat's On

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Frank Foster

  • Song: The Heat's On
  • from Here Comes Frank Foster

"The Heat's On" comes from tenor saxophonist Frank Foster. Joining him on his first recording as a leader in 1954 are drummer Kenny "Klook" Clarke, Percy Heath on bass, trombonist Benny Powell and talented pianist Gildo Mahones, whose name is not immediately recognizable to most, though he played for many years with jazz greats of all sorts.

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Song
Here Comes Frank Foster
Album
Here Comes Frank Foster
Artist
Frank Foster & George Wallington
Label
Blue Note Records
Released
1998

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