Take The 'A' Train: Jazz By The ABCs

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Summer is fading away and school days begin soon. Thinking of school naturally conjures up thoughts of teaching the alphabet: Wouldn't literacy education be more fun through jazz? Here's an A-through-E guide to a few jazz tunes that are even catchier than the theme to The Letter People. If you remember The Letter People — and especially if you don't — you can rekindle your childhood love of singing puppet-letters on YouTube.

Take The 'A' Train: Jazz By The ABCs

Best of the Duke Ellington Centennial Edition

Take the "A" Train

  • Artist: Duke Ellington
  • Album: Best of the Duke Ellington Centennial Edition

Billy Strayhorn's composition, "Take the 'A' Train," became the signature theme of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. He thought up the song while following subway directions to Ellington's home in the Sugar Hill section of Harlem.

Pony's Express

"B" Frequency

  • Artist: Pony Poindexter
  • Album: Pony's Express

Pony's Express is one of few albums saxophonist Pony Poindexter recorded as a leader. Poindexter spent time playing in the bands of jazz legends Billy Eckstine and Lionel Hampton, but also played plenty of club dates around the San Francisco area where he resided. In the 1960s, he worked with Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, playing in the vocal group's backup band for a couple of years. After living overseas for a time, Poindexter returned to the Bay Area, but the talented musician never really gained the widespread recognition he deserved.

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Song
"B" Frequency
Album
Pony's Express
Artist
Pony Poindexter
Label
Koch International
Released
1962

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A Life in Time: The Roy Haynes Story

Little Peace in C for U

  • Artist: Roy Haynes
  • Album: Life in Time: The Roy Haynes Story

Featuring two letters, "Little Peace in C for U" was originally released on Flamingo, a Michel Petrucciani and Stephane Grappelli album. Roy Haynes served as the drummer for this date. A Life in Time: The Roy Haynes Story chronicles the career of the ever-youthful octogenarian from 1949 to '98, both as a sideman and a leader. Haynes still performs today with his Fountain of Youth band, and one would never be able to guess his actual age by witnessing his considerable energy in live performances.

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Song
Little Peace in C for U
Album
A Life in Time: The Roy Haynes Story
Artist
Roy Haynes

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Cover for Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery [Remastered]

D-Natural Blues

  • Artist: Wes Montgomery
  • Album: Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery [Remastered]

Following Charlie Christian, one of the first important electric guitarists, Wes Montgomery is one of the most influential forces behind the development of modern jazz guitar. Though Montgomery had been playing professionally since the late 1940s, it took until 1960 for him to finally earn his place as a leader for a recording date. After this record hit, Montgomery was always a leader. His influence can still be heard in many modern jazz guitarists today.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
D-Natural Blues
Album
Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery [Remastered]
Artist
Wes Montgomery
Label
Riverside Records (Jazz)
Released
1960

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E.S.P.

E.S.P.

  • Artist: Miles Davis
  • Album: E.S.P.

"E.S.P." is played by the quintet supergroup composed of trumpeter Miles Davis, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams. This Shorter-penned post-bop tune is full of energy and a seemingly invigorated Davis. The intensity and style of the musicianship showed the new direction jazz was moving into during the mid-1960s.

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