If you’re reading this, then you’re probably familiar enough with current technology to know that these days most of us load up our hard drives – and our portable players – with digital music, picking and choosing our favorite tunes from various sources. Just like before, we still sometimes buy entire albums just to get a specific song or two, but now we rip those to our computer and then put the CD away. And sometimes we just buy specific tunes from download stores, simplifying things even further.
But you’ve heard all that before. What I’d like to talk about is something new that I’ve noticed about my own collecting methods. It’s just a small part of the overall picture, but I’m beginning to think that it’s a lot more common that I had suspected. I’ve found that being able to be more selective about getting specific songs has allowed me to load up on some of my favorites, with multiple versions by a lot of different musicians.
From what I’ve seen on music blogs and other places, there are a lot of people out there who are doing the same. Please note that I’m not talking about “theme” blog posts where the writer lists a bunch of tunes that relate to one subject, such as a holiday or the opening of baseball season, but rather the same song by different artists.
In my case, these songs tend to be old jazz standards, and I’ve probably gotten a little carried away with it. For example, I have six versions of the big band tune, “I Can’t Get Started,” and five of another favorite, a ballad that had a brief rebirth when it served as the theme song for the 1997 Clint Eastwood film, Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil. The movie featured k.d. Lang doing the vocal, but I’ve always liked a much older version, with smooth baritone Billy Eckstine backed by the orchestra of Earl Hines — “Skylark.”
Earl Hines was one best jazz pianists of all time, and was enormously influential for many who came along later, including Nat Cole and even Art Tatum. He built his reputation as a soloist early in the jazz age, and in 1928 debuted his own big band. For the next two decades it was one of the most successful – and respected – groups around, and helped further the careers of many of the greats. He even helped give a start to the bebop movement by employing Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillispie in the early years of their careers.
In the early 1940’s, singer Billy Eckstine joined the band and was a big hit for several years, but eventually moved on. By the late 1940’s the big bands were finding it difficult to survive and Hines dissolved the group, later joining Louis Armstrong and others in various ensembles. He also led his own smaller groups and continued to be a much-admired jazz legend for decades, performing regularly until his death at age 79.
Although I only have one tune by Hines, my other multiples are numerous and they cross genre boundaries too. For example, Latin jazz is well-represented — I have five versions of “Besame Mucho”, six of “Wave,” and seven of “Brazil.” But my number one multiple is Ellington’s immortal composition, “In A Sentimental Mood,” which shows up ten times in my collection — and I want more. I guess I’ve become a multiple-music addict.