The Finest Worksong

Labor Day 2018

It’s been over 95° for the last few days of August and even though the Fall semester has already started (at least for me), this seems like a good time to make a cocktail and relax. So let’s end summer 2018 with a toast to the good times just past and those yet to come.

All the tunes shown below are not available on Spotify , so I may have to make substitutions or–how Millennial–accept that this may just be a collection of YouTube videos. If there’s a playlist at the end you’ll know I figured it out. And so I don’t have to keep saying it, all of these ‘videos’ are really just audio clips with the requisite YouTube visual.

Meanwhile, cheers!

Cocktails for Two, Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra (1938)
There’s something about hearing the Dorsey band that always makes me want to put on white bucks with linen trousers and start dancing. What better way to start our cocktail party?

Drinking Wine Spo Dee -o-Dee, Wynonie Harris, 1949
Known as Mr. Blues, and sometimes borrowed from his proper place in the R&B and jump blues firmament to slum with the founders of rock ‘n’ roll, Omaha‘s native son had more than one alcohol-themed song. (Though nowhere near as many as his contemporary, Jimmy Liggins.) This one hit #4 on the charts and was later covered by The Rock & Roll Trio, among many others.

Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer, BIllie Holiday, 1949
Sometimes it seems like people didn’t set about to really killing Prohibition until World War II was over. If that’s true, 1949 must have been a banner year. Here Lady Day salutes the best way to spend a summer holiday–eating and drinking.

Whiskey Do Your Stuff, Louis Jordan and his Tympani Five, 1954
Without Louis Jordan. the (mostly) alto playing bandleader, Joe Jackson‘s jump blues LP would have been an EP. A multi-talented singer, writer, player and showman, Jordan brought a comedic flair to some of the great dance tunes of the 20th century.

Drinking Again, Dinah Washington, 1962
The idea behind playing Mozart and Bach to expectant mothers may explain why my two favorite versions of this Johnny Mercer torch song both hail from the year of my birth. I had to pick (though I included the Sinatra version on the playlist), so Dinah Washington got the nod. My favorite of the great mid-century jazz singers, Dinah could do it all: gut bucket R&B, sophisticated ballads, free-forming it at a jam session with some serious heavy-weights. I’m a sucker for that ever-present hint of church in her voice.

John Pizzarelli w. The George Shearing Quintet, 2002
The 1960s threw a lot of babies out with the cultural bathwater and so drug songs (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds?,  Acid Queen?, Panama Red?) replaced the drinking songs of those morons who were their parents. It’s taken decades for people like my near-contemporary and fellow NY Metro native, John Pizzarelli, to rediscover the lost masterpieces. Here he takes on Bobby Troup‘s classic with the help of Mel Torme‘s favorite partners: The George Shearing Quintet.

Here’s the playlist. I padded it with more greats so you’ll have an hour or so to raise toasts, touch glasses and enjoy the company. I’m publishing a day earlier than I usually do so you can enjoy it, whatever your weekend plans.





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