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Thread: Political Jazz Recordings

  1. #1
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    Political Jazz Recordings

    How about a list of politically explicit jazz recordings? Singles and albums. This should be broadly construed so as to include social commentary, anti racist commentary, etc. Of course vocal stuff is not musical per se and music being the most abstract of arts is not explicitly political, though some types of program music is so ingrained in us as to evoke particular feelings (military marches for example). With all that in mind, here goes. My list is not at all intended to be definitive. Indeed it is rather short. It's just intended to get the juices flowing and the ball rolling.

    1) Black and Blue Fats Waller/Louis Armstrong

    2) Strange Fruit Billie Holiday

    3) Liberation Music Orchestra

    4) Freedom Now Suite Max Roach

    5) Freedom Suite Sonny Rollins

    6) Attica Blues Archie Shepp

    7) Nonviolent Integration Duke Ellington

    8) Deeds Not Words Max Roach

    9) Fables of Faubus Charles Mingus

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    Registered User Brownian Movement's Avatar
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    The Hungry Blues, lyrics by Langston Hughes. Recorded by James P. Johnson in 1939.

    It's the Same Old South. Vocal by Jimmy Rushing, the Count Basie Orchestra.

    Gone With What Wind?

    Black and Blue. Music and Lyrics by Fats Waller and Andy Razaf.
    The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise

  3. #3
    Have a Little Faith Tritone Sub's Avatar
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    Here are some off the top of my head...

    1. East Timor - Ginger Baker (a song on the album Going Back Home)

    2. Song for Che - Charlie Haden (but you mentioned Liberation Music Orchestra so I guess this is already covered)

    3. Tuskegee Experiment and Nu Blaxpoitation - Don Byron (two albums by Byron that unfortunately I haven't heard yet, but it's clear from the titles and what I've read that there's a great deal of politics in this music)

    4. American Blood/Safety in Numbers - Bill Frisell with Victor Godsey (several political songs on this album)

    5. Numbers (For Mumia) - Vijay Iyer (off of the album Panoptic Modes -- there's another track on here that had a political inspiration but I can't remember which one)

    6. Alabama - John Coltrane (about the church bombing)

    7. Dave Douglas (too many tunes to mention)

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    Player to be named later duaneiac's Avatar
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    "The Real Ambassadors" by Dave Brubeck

    "Hiroshima: Rising From the Abyss" by Toshiko Akiyoshi, a stunning musical portrait of the chaos and horror of war and the lessons one must learn in its aftermath.

    "Volunteered Slavery" by Rahsaan Roland Kirk

    "Manteca" by Dizzy Gillespie, if only for the intro part where he chants "I'll never go back to Georgia"

    "Mandela (Bring Him Back Home)" by Hugh Masekela

    "Liberation Dance (When Tarzan Met the African Freedom Fighter)" by Abdullah Ibrahim

    "Tiananmen!", "Self Defense!" and "Never Give Up!" by Jon Jang

    "Der Fuehrer's Face" by Spike Jones

    "Mississippi Goddam", "Why? (The King of Love is Dead)" and "Sunday In Savannah" by Nina Simone, the latter two songs were recorded by Ms. Simone in a concert the day after ML King, Jr. was killed.

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    F D R Jones - By Ella and also Cab Calloway - It was from a broadway musical. Which in it's self was apparently political in a good part.

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    Registered User Saundra Hummer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fran
    F D R Jones - By Ella and also Cab Calloway - It was from a broadway musical. Which in it's self was apparently political in a good part.
    Interesting, never having heard of it. When was it performed????

    Thought I had heard most of their music at one time or another. Was this unmemorable or what? Would like to hear it, and would like to know what it is all about.
    Sandi from Hermosa Beach

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    Black, Brown and Beige - Ellington

    Let Freedom Ring - Denys Baptiste

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    Quote Originally Posted by Saundra Hummer
    Interesting, never having heard of it. When was it performed????

    Thought I had heard most of their music at one time or another. Was this unmemorable or what? Would like to hear it, and would like to know what it is all about.

    It was of course from the early '30's. The future of a new born baby is being sung about to the effect that he will be a famous person greeted joyfully on the streets etc.
    It was of course in praise of President Roosevelt


    I found the record - It was Decca 2105 - Ella with Chick Webbs Orchestra
    The other side was "I Love Each Move You Make"

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    Registered User Saundra Hummer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fran
    It was of course from the early '30's. The future of a new born baby is being sung about to the effect that he will be a famous person greeted joyfully on the streets etc.
    It was of course in praise of President Roosevelt

    Finally, something before my time.

    Rich's grandmother blamed everything that happened to them, that was bad, on FDR, even when a snow storm hit their lettuce crop, with all the crates sitting in the fields, the lettuce waiting to be picked the next morning. It was his fault you know.
    Sandi from Hermosa Beach

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    Player to be named later duaneiac's Avatar
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    A few more I thought of:

    "Looking For America" by Carla Bley

    "I Wish I Knew How It Feels to Be Free" by Billy Taylor

    "My Country Used to Be" by Dave Frishberg

    "Aung San Suu Kyi" by Wayne Shorter

    "America the Beautiful" has been recorded by Ray Charles, Ruby Braff & Dick Hyman, and Shorty Rogers/Bud Shank & the Lighthouse All Stars

    And taking one step away from jazz:

    "The House I Live In" by Frank Sinatra

    "Political Science", "The Great Nations of Europe" and "Rednecks" all by the great Randy Newman

    "The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing" by Frank Zappa

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    "Suppertime," by Irving Berlin. (Am not 100% sure, but I think Ethel Waters was the 1st person to perform this song.)

    Blizzard of Lies," Dave Frishberg. (Part of it, at least.)

    "Jump for Joy," Duke Ellington. (From failed musical; same title.)

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    'Ballad of the Fallen' - Charlie Haden and Carla Bley's marvellous recording making reference to US policy in Central America in the 80s.

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    Hmm... I can't categorize this recording as political, but Mary Lou Williams addressed numerous social/societal wrongs in this (apparently true of her album Music for Peace also):


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    Quote Originally Posted by duaneiac
    A few more I thought of:

    "Looking For America" by Carla Bley

    "I Wish I Knew How It Feels to Be Free" by Billy Taylor

    "My Country Used to Be" by Dave Frishberg

    "Aung San Suu Kyi" by Wayne Shorter

    "America the Beautiful" has been recorded by Ray Charles, Ruby Braff & Dick Hyman, and Shorty Rogers/Bud Shank & the Lighthouse All Stars

    And taking one step away from jazz:

    "The House I Live In" by Frank Sinatra

    "Political Science", "The Great Nations of Europe" and "Rednecks" all by the great Randy Newman

    "The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing" by Frank Zappa
    Jazz? Some yes, some no, some dubious. If you're gonna include the latter examples, might as well go with Jimi Hendrix' version of the Star Spangled Banner or the entire corpus of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seger, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith.

    I do think that Carla Bley and Charlie Haden were trying to do some interesting things trying to incorporate politics into their music (as opposed to the poetic narrative). It is hard to impart social content into something as abstract as music though Wagner and Schoshtokovich (sp?) certainly tried. Having said that, clever as Randy Newman is, and much as I enjoy him, I wouldn't consider him a jazz musician.
    Bebop is the music of the future.--Dexter Gordon
    You know how to whistle, don't you? Just put your lips together and blow. -- Lauren Bacall

  15. #15
    Player to be named later duaneiac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gabegabrielsky
    Jazz? Some yes, some no, some dubious. If you're gonna include the latter examples, might as well go with Jimi Hendrix' version of the Star Spangled Banner or the entire corpus of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seger, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith.

    I do think that Carla Bley and Charlie Haden were trying to do some interesting things trying to incorporate politics into their music (as opposed to the poetic narrative). It is hard to impart social content into something as abstract as music though Wagner and Schoshtokovich (sp?) certainly tried. Having said that, clever as Randy Newman is, and much as I enjoy him, I wouldn't consider him a jazz musician.
    Well, I did preface the latter examples with "taking one step away from jazz". Sinatra was certainly a jazz singer -- when he wanted to be. "The House I Live In" doesn't really have any jazz feeling to speak of, but Sinatra himself was no stranger to jazz (or at least Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, Billy May and Duke Ellington didn't think so).

    I'm not familiar with much of Zappa's work. I only knew this song from when he did it on "Saturday Night Live" decades ago and from the version recorded by the Persuasions. Many would make the case that Zappa's work is certainly jazz influenced at least. Like I say, I'm not familiar enough with his work to make that claim, that's why I put him "one step away from jazz"

    Randy Newman is just a personal favorite. His best songs remind me of Dave Frishberg and his work is respected by many bona fide jazz musicians. His song "I Think It's Going to Rain Today", for example, has been recorded by such performers as Kenny Burrell, Peggy Lee, Nina Simone, Larry Goldings, Houston Person and Curtis Stigers. He's also a good pianist, but yeah, he too is "one step away from jazz".

    Are there any jazz versions of Springsteen songs? The few Dylan covers I have heard done by jazz musicians have not been all that rewarding. Dylan's songs are much more about the words than the melody. Even Dylan reworks the melodies around so much in concert that it can take a few lines for a listener to realize which song he is doing.

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