Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Leaves: Headstones and Dead Leaves

Glossary: Headstones and Dead Leaves

I’m trying hard to write about bands that I haven’t written about before, and this is a bonus, because it seems that Glossary has never been written about on this site. I can’t be sure, but there’s a good chance that I heard about the band from a now defunct blog called Nine Bullets, which was founded back in 2006 by a gentleman who went by the name Autopsy IV, who championed the kind of Americana roots rock that Glossary played so well. (Longtime readers of this site may remember that Autopsy IV was a contributor here back in 2008-2009).

Often compared to Lucero (with whom they have toured, and shared members and a record label) or Drive-By Truckers, because they actually do sound like those bands, Glossary, from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, had their own style, and released a handful of albums from the late 1990s through the 2010s, all of which are worth checking out. Led by legally blind singer/songwriter/guitarist Joey Kneiser, Glossary focuses on character-driven and personal songs that are well-written and well-played, often featuring harmony vocals from Kneiser’s now ex-wife Kelly (with whom he continues to perform).

“Headstones and Dead Leaves,” from 2006’s For What I Don’t Become, is a perfect song for the theme, and for this time of year, as we head into the Halloween season, although despite its title, it is a hopeful song. The singer tells his partner that he doesn’t want her to die for him, or give up anything for him, because the world is cruel enough. He continues:

And headstones and dead leaves 
Are just reminders of 
What happens to living things like us 

In the end, though, he says that together, they can bury their regrets and “walk away alive.”

It appears that Glossary went on hiatus in 2013, when its drummer hurt his shoulder, but reformed in 2017 for some anniversary shows. Kneiser has released some fine solo albums, some more music with Kelly (now) Smith, and tours as a solo and duo act.

Bottom line—if you like this sort of music, Glossary is one of those bands that you might have missed, but it is never too late to catch up.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Leaves: Autumn Leaves

Cannonball Adderley: Autumn Leaves


During this theme, there has already been a mention of “the elephant in the room.” To me, the phrase refers to an obvious choice that everyone is ignoring. Indeed, it sometimes seems to me that one of our themes is more difficult than it needs to be, because everyone is rejecting a song as too obvious, My rule is that the first song that comes to mind is first for a reason: its quality. So here is my post of Autumn Leaves.

I know the song as a jazz standard. Cannonball Adderley’s version was released in 1958, one of three versions that year that established the song as a jazz classic. The passionate playing here of especially Miles Davis and Adderley show why. Although the song would become one of Davis’ signature tunes, available in at least four different live versions dating from 1958 to 1966, this is the only studio version of it that Davis made. Davis introduces the song, and his soloing stays close to the melody. This allows Adderley to make his entrance soloing, without restating the melody at all. So this version becomes a showcase for Adderley, which would explain why it is on his album, not Davis’. But make sure to listen all the way through to this one, for Hank Jones’ startling second solo near the end.

Yves Montand: Les Feuilles Mortes


In researching this post, I discovered something I never knew: Autumn Leaves has words! In fact, it has two sets of words, in French and English. The French lyric is the original. It started life as a poem, Les Feuilles Mortes by Jacques Prevert, and it was set to music by a Hungarian, Joseph Kosma. Yves Montand was the first to record it, in 1945. The French poem is quite different from the English lyric. Here is one translation I found:

Oh I would like you so much to remember/ The joyful days when we were friends./ At that time, life was more beautiful/ And the sun burned more than it does today.

Fallen leaves can be picked up by the shovelful/ You see, I have not forgotten…/ Fallen leaves can be picked up by the shovelful,/ So can memories and regrets./ And the north wind takes them/ Into the cold night of oblivion.

You see, I have not forgotten/ The song you used to sing me./ This song is like us./ You used to love me and I used to love you/ And we used to live together/ You loving me, me loving you./ But life separates lovers,/ Pretty slowly, noiselessly,/ And the sea erases on the sand/ The separated lovers’ footprints

Karrin Allyson: Autumn Leaves


Karrin Allyson’s Autumn Leaves is the only version I could find sung in both languages. Allyson takes the French lyrics in the original tempo, and then switches to double time for the English lyrics. At both speeds, she finds all of the emotional power of the song. The English lyric is almost a new song. Johnny Mercer wrote it in 1950, and his wife at the time, Jo Stafford, was the first to sing it. There is, in my mind, no good name for the musical genre that Stafford worked in. I have heard it called “Standards”, but that term can refer to any song that is performed by multiple artists. I have also heard it called “pop music”, but again the term has broader application. At any rate, I am referring to the musical genre where the singer performs with a full orchestra, and the arranger is just as important as the singer. Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole are examples of artists in this genre, and both would record their own versions of Autumn Leaves. Whatever this genre should be called, it is one of my least favorites, which is why I did not include Jo Stafford’s Autumn Leaves in this post.

Paula Cole: Autumn Leaves


In the jazz world, there are two ways to perform Autumn Leaves, fast and slow. Karrin Allyson does both, but I wanted to conclude with a great slow sung version, and Paula Cole of all people nails this one. Actually, the choice of Cole for this one makes more sense than I expected. I knew Paula Cole as a major label artist who had sung with Peter Gabriel and then had solo hits with Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? and I Don’t Wanna Wait. But it turns out that Cole was jazz singer before any of that happened. She records on her own label these days, using Kickstarter for funding, and her most recent album, Ballads, marks a return to her roots.