[MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON, "MOONGLOW"]
Welcome to Afterglow, I’m your host, Mark Chilla.
Songwriter Paul Simon has been delighting us with melodies for over 50 years now. This week, I’m going to take a dive into the Paul Simon songbook, and explore some vocal jazz interpretations of his music. First, we’ll hear some jazz artists tackle the music of his 1960s duo Simon and Garfunkel, including a few artists who recorded their songs in the 1960s, like Frank Sinatra and Carmen McRae. And then later, we’ll hear jazz interpretations of some of Simon’s solo songs from the 1970s and beyond.
It’s The Paul Simon Jazz Songbook, coming up next on Afterglow
[MUSIC - SOPHIE MILMAN, “50 WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR LOVER”]
Singer Sophie Milman from her 2009 album Take Love Easy with the 1975 Paul Simon tune “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover,” originally off of his album Still Crazy After All These Years. In this recording, you heard drummer Mark McLean transforming that original iconic drum part by Steve Gadd into something a little more Afro-Cuban.
[MUSIC CLIP - PAUL DESMOND, "AMERICA"]
Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, we’re exploring jazz interpretations of Paul Simon. Simon’s melodic gifts were recognized by musicians almost immediately when the duo Simon and Garfunkel first became famous in 1965 when their song “The Sound of Silence” became an underground radio hit. Although they were primarily recording folk music, artists in pop, rock, R&B, and even jazz music began to perform their songs as soon as the late 1960s. In the background right now we’re hearing jazz saxophonist Paul Desmond performing Simon and Garfunkel’s “America,” from a 1969 recording he made of all Simon and Garfunkel tunes.
One of the first jazz singers to perform a Simon and Garfunkel tune was Carmen McRae. In 1968, she made “The Sound of Silence” the centerpiece and title track of her latest album, turning into a soulful jazz strut.
Here is Carmen McRae in 1968 with Paul Simon’s “The Sound of Silence,” on Afterglow.
[MUSIC - CARMEN MCRAE, “THE SOUND OF SILENCE”]
[MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “MRS. ROBINSON”]
A swinging version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” from Frank Sinatra and arranger Don Costa from the 1969 album My Way. Before that, Carmen McRae with Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” from her 1968 album called The Sound of Silence. Both of those songs were featured in the 1967 mega-hit film The Graduate, which likely helped put them into the repertoires of these jazz and pop icons.
When “The Sound of Silence” initially became an underground hit in 1965, the duo Simon and Garfunkel was basically broken up. Simon had moved to England and Garfunkel was taking classes at Columbia in New York. But their newfound success caused them to record again, and they quickly put together two new albums in 1966. Many of the songs from these albums, including “Homeward Bound,” “I Am A Rock,” and “Scarborough Fair” have become folk music classics. But let’s hear a few songs from these albums as performed by jazz musicians.
First up, this is singer Rachel Caswell and bassist Jeremy Allen in 2015 with the 1966 Simon and Garfunkel song “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” on Afterglow.
[MUSIC - RACHEL CASWELL, “THE 59TH STREET BRIDGE SONG (FEELIN’ GROOVY)”]
[MUSIC - KARRIN ALLYSON, “APRIL COME SHE WILL”]
Karrin Allyson in 2011 off of her album Round Midnight with the Paul Simon song “April Come She Will.” Before that, we heard Rachel Caswell and bassist Jeremy Allen in 2015 off of the album All I Know with the Paul Simon song “Feelin’ Groovy” aka “The 59th Street Bridge Song. Both of those songs were originally recorded by Simon and Garfunkel in 1966.
After Simon and Garfunkel found more success on their 1968 album Bookends and their work in the film The Graduate, the famously splintered relationship between Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel came to the fore. They recorded one more album in 1970, their ambitious, diverse, and hugely commercially and critically successful album Bridge Over Troubled Water. As a duo, Simon and Garfunkel went out on top, and inspired dozens of other artists over the years to cover their songs.
Let’s hear two songs from that album now as recorded by jazz artists. I’ll start with the New York Voices. In 1998, the jazz vocal group released an album called The Songs Of Paul Simon, featuring jazz interpretations of songs from Simon’s entire career, both with Art Garfunkel and solo. They kick off the album with this track from Bridge Over Troubled Water.
Here are the New York Voices with “Baby Driver,” on Afterglow
[MUSIC - NEW YORK VOICES, “BABY DRIVER”]
[MUSIC - QUINCY JONES, “BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER”]
Quincy Jones and singer Valerie Simpson, of Ashford and Simpson fame, with Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” That comes from Quincy Jones’s 1970 album Gula Matari. Fun fact, Valerie Simpson later sang background vocals on Simon’s solo album Still Crazy After All These Years, and Jones later did string arrangements for Simon’s album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon.
Before that, we heard the New York Voices with Simon and Garfunkel’s “Baby Driver.” That comes from their 1998 Paul Simon jazz tribute album.
[MUSIC CLIP - PAUL DESMOND, “THE 59TH STREET BRIDGE SONG (FEELIN’ GROOVY)”]
Coming up in just a bit, we’ll hear some jazz interpretations of Paul Simon’s solo works. Stay with us.
I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to Afterglow
[MUSIC CLIP - BOB JAMES, “TAKE ME TO THE MARDI GRAS”]
[MUSIC CLIP - BILL EVANS, “I DO IT FOR YOUR LOVE”]
Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been listening to jazz interpretations of the music of Paul Simon this hour. And now I want to turn my attention to Paul Simon’s solo songs. While Simon’s first post-Simon and Garfunkel solo album stayed close to his folk music roots, his later albums into the 70s and 80s embraced the eclecticism of Simon and Garfunkel albums like Bookends and Bridge Over Troubled Water.
His 1977 album Still Crazy After All These Years is arguably his jazziest album, exploring more adventurous jazz harmonies and featuring jazz musicians like Michael Brecker and Grady Tate on the album. It’s also an album that jazz musicians embraced. In fact, what you’re hearing in the background right now is legendary pianist Bill Evans and harmonica player Toots Thielemans in 1979 performing a Paul Simon song from that album “I Do It For Your Love.”
Let’s hear a jazz singer with the title track from that album now. This is singer Susannah McCorkle in 1993 with “Still Crazy After All These Years,” on Afterglow
[MUSIC - SUSANNAH MCCORKLE, “STILL CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS”]
Susannah McCorkle in 1993 from her album From Bessie To Brazil with Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years.”
In the last 20 or so years, jazz singers have dug deep into the Paul Simon catalog to find interesting songs to reinterpret. And luckily for them, Paul Simon’s solo catalog is filled with gems of rich melodic and harmonic nuance, and evocative lyrics.
I want to play for you now a couple of jazz interpretations of perhaps lesser known Paul Simon tunes. I’ll start with a song Simon wrote for his underrated 1983 album Hearts and Bones. This is jazz singer Alexis Cole in 2016 with “Song About The Moon,” on Afterglow.
[MUSIC - ALEXIS COLE, “SONG ABOUT THE MOON”]
[MUSIC - HOLLY COLE, “ONE TRICK PONY”]
[MUSIC - ALMAZ YEBIO, “FURTHER TO FLY”]
Swedish-based jazz singer Almaz Yebio in 2013 with the Paul Simon song “Further To Fly,” originally off of Simon’s 1990 album Rhythm Of The Saints. Before that, we heard singer Holly Cole off of her 2000 album Romantically Helpless with her smoky version of Simon’s “One Trick Pony” the title track from his 1980 album and film. And before that, Alexis Cole (no relation) with Simon’s “Song About The Moon,” from her 2016 album of all Paul Simon songs called Dazzling Blue.
I have one more jazz interpretation of a Paul Simon song for you this hour, and this comes from singer Kurt Elling. Paul Simon’s 1973 song “American Tune,” based on a centuries-old German melody, is one of his most famous songs, a world-weary quasi-political tune from Nixon’s America. At least a couple jazz versions of this song exist, including one from singer Curtis Stigers in 2007, but I keep gravitating back to this one version, marvelously sung by Elling from his album 1619 Broadway — The Brill Building Project.
To close off this hour of Paul Simon songs, this is Kurt Elling from 2012 with “American Tune,” on Afterglow.
[MUSIC - KURT ELLING, “AMERICAN TUNE”]
Kurt Elling in 2012 with “American Tune.” And thanks for tuning in to this look at some jazz interpretations of the music of Paul Simon, on Afterglow.
[MUSIC CLIP - BRAD MEHLDAU, “STILL CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS”]
Afterglow is part of the educational mission of Indiana University and produced by WFIU Public Radio in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana. The executive producer is John Bailey.
Playlists for this and other Afterglow programs are available on our website. That’s at indianapublicmedia.org/afterglow.
I’m Mark Chilla, and join me next week for our mix of Vocal Jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, here on Afterglow.