September 10, 2018
Kicking off the week, we have this absolutely fabulous guest post from Grammy-nominated singer and saxophonist Becki Biggins, who has kindly written about her top 5 jazz tunes for any event! Enjoy.
I won’t lie to you; deciding on my top 5 jazz tunes has been a tricky undertaking. Where do you start, when cherrypicking the music you’ve been listening to and performing for more than half your life? Should I go with big bands? Swing? Dixieland? Fusion? It’s like being asked to pick your favourite child, although perhaps with less family repercussions.
So, here they are – my favourite tunes. The ones that give me goosebumps when I hear their introductions, the ones that make me wish I was up on that stage, and the ones that, when I’m performing them, I’m somewhere else…
Sing, Sing, Sing by Benny Goodman
Where to begin? It would have to be drummer Gene Krupa’s unmistakeable, insistent, mesmeric introduction on the floor tom, followed by the way the arrangement builds in stages, bringing in new motifs for each instrumental section following more drum interludes. Plus it’s fast!
Sweet Gingerbread Man, by Marion Montgomery
The late, great Marion Montgomery had a style all her own; she was discovered by Peggy Lee but left her own take on the classics, including this one written by Michel Legrand (in uncharacteristically whimsical fashion). You may have heard Sammy Davis’ version, but I love Marion’s – it’s charming.
It Had to Be You, by Harry Connick Jr.
This tune is one a favourites for the introduction alone! It has a promise of something fantastic, something world-beating and incredible, then it suddenly drops to Harry Connick’s voice accompanied by jazz trio – from the ridiculous to the sublime.
My Funny Valentine, by Chet Baker
For me, this is the seminal version of My Funny Valentine. Chet Baker’s voice and trumpet playing were so minimalist and understated, which allows the melody and the meaning of the words to come across. And when he sings ‘Yet you’re my favourite work of art’ it gets me every time…
I had to include At Last, as it’s the tune I’ve had the most requests for – mostly as the first dance at weddings. The lyrics are poignant, yet the style of the tune (the way Etta James does it, anyway) has a little bit of swagger – it’s sexy but sweet. Here’s my version.
If you’d like to know more about Becki, check out her Instagram feed where she introduces us to her record collection as part of #turntabletuesday. If you'd like to make an enquiry about Becki for a future event, please feel free to visit her profile page or get in touch using the contact details below.
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By Henry Fosdike