Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Rome, Italian Style" Track of the Day: Count Basie and His Orchestra, Ella Fitzgerald & The Tommy Flanagan Trio, "Sanford & Son Theme (The Streetbeater)"

Is it live or is it Memorex? If this were Ashlee Simpson instead of Ella Fitzgerald, I think we'd know the answer to that question.
Song: "Sanford & Son Theme (The Streetbeater)" by Count Basie and His Orchestra, Ella Fitzgerald & The Tommy Flanagan Trio
Released: 1972
Why's it part of the "Rome, Italian Style" playlist?: It's a cover of Quincy Jones' classic Sanford & Son theme that I was recently made aware of by The Smartest Man in the World podcast host Greg Proops' funny reenactment of two different Ella Fitzgerald concerts he saw: first in the '70s, when the Sanford & Son theme was part of her and the Count Basie Orchestra's set list, and then about a couple of decades later, when Proops and his wife watched the audience of predominantly "75-to-80-year-old women who are wearing hats" chew out Fitzgerald's security guard for being too slow to help the frail singer sit more comfortably in her chair onstage. "The people in front of us who haven't stood on their own in 14 years are standing now!," recalls Proops, who then busts out his best cranky old New York lady complaining-about-the-prices-at-Talbots voice. "'She's not comfortable! Get her a seat!'"

Greg Proops is one of the few actors from The Phantom Menace to emerge from that debacle with their dignity intact.
I wish Greg Proops would occasionally have guests on his podcast because I'd like to hear him verbally spar with his old Whose Line Is It Anyway? host Clive Anderson again.
This portion of The Smartest Man's "Counts" episode includes a great description of Basie as a Frank Sinatra bandleader in comparison to Neal Hefti and Nelson Riddle. "The dynamic [between Basie and Sinatra] is fucking wild, right?... That's how the band was: shrieking horns, scintillating trombones... 'Angel trumpets and devil trombones,' right?," Proops says. "And then Count Basie would go, 'Pink!,' in the middle of everything, in the middle of fury. In the middle of a hurricane, Count Basie would hit one white key. 'Pink!'"

The dynamic between the Basie band and jazz singers like Sinatra and Fitzgerald is on display in Fitzgerald's live cover of "The Streetbeater" from her Jazz at Santa Monica Civic '72 album. "Minger's on trumpet!," says Fitzgerald, who's referring to trumpeter Pete Minger during his solo. I like the way Fitzgerald, Minger, saxman Jimmy Forrest and the other band members play off of each other here, and the musical dialogue Fitzgerald carries on with the band's guest soloists is even doper during their electrifying rendition of "C Jam Blues" at the end of the same album.

With his invention of Champipple, Fred Sanford became the George Washington Carver of mixed booze. This Black History Minute has been brought to you by St. Ides. Drink St. Ides: That's the patron saint of 'Holy shit!'
This is a snippet of an illustration I did for my currently-in-the-works book I Suck at Math: A Trio of 10 Articles About Pop Culture. The illustration speculates what it would have been like if Redd Foxx starred in The Phantom Menace, a movie that happens to feature the voice of... Greg Proops. Circle of life!
Speaking of jazz, Fred Sanford's insults to Aunt Esther are like jazz.

Aunt Esther: This old heathen want me to pay him for comin' in here!

Fred: He oughta tip me just to look at you!


Aunt Esther: When I was born, my body was blessed by Mother Nature, honey!

Fred: And as you got older, it was cursed by Father Time!


Aunt Esther: Fred Sanford, I have the feelin' of Christmas!

Fred: And the face of Halloween!


Aunt Esther: Woodrow and I are going to have a baby.

Fred: Well, somebody better call the zoo!

Horn stab!

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