The segues between thoughts and subjects my mind makes often seem to befuddle people, including my Hubby, until I backtrack and connect the dots for them. Now, in Don’s case, this is a guy who actually passed the test to get into Mensa so he ain’t a mental-lightweight by any means! He’s told me the problem is that where most folks think linearly, I seem to able to jump from point “A” and go immediately to “Z” to reach a conclusion that’s just as sound and logical as those who tackle things by consciously thinking them through one step at a time. He’s right about that, or so it seems, because while most of the time I can fill in each of the steps in-between to show why my “Z” was not only logical but often the best answer, in reality I hadn’t reached that “Z” by consciously going through those steps. My mind simply just went there. How that actually works on a biological level, I’ve absolutely no idea but I do know for certain that the wiring in my brain is rather convoluted and fudged together as a result of having epilepsy, having had a stroke at age 27, having gone through chemo so many times, and then partly due to just being me.
Today’s post is just one of those odd segues. It started out with a new set of icon/clip art images I created after noticing a growing interest in my prior releases of alpha-numeric icons. I played with a few different styles until I decided on doing a dulled metal finish on an Art Deco style font that in my mind resembles the structural steel of the Eiffel Tower. While I was working on it, a melody kept going through my head and when I realized that it was the great jazz standard “Harlem Nocturne” it instantly made sense to me. While most people probably recognize that tune best as the theme from Stacy Keach’s Mike Hammer show, it was written in the 1930′s and first recorded in 1941. In the 1920′s through the 1930′s the Harlem neighborhood of NYC was going through a tremendous renaissance and was at the top of it’s artistic form as far as exposing the creativity,sensitivity,massive skill,and tremendous heart of the newly developing northern, urbanized black culture. From visual artists like Aaron Douglas and Lois Mailou Jones to poets and play-writers like Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen to musicians like Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday. Harlem was the hottest, sexiest place on earth. Art Deco was also in it’s hey-dey at that time and the particular brand of that art movement which came out of Harlem was in perfect harmony with the stark sensuality of the works coming out of Paris typified by anything having to do with Josephine Baker.
Ironically, the composer of Harlem Nocturne, Earle Hagen, was not only a white guy, he was also responsible for composing the theme songs for “Gomer Pyle”, “The Andy Griffith Show” and “That Girl” – Hardly compositions you’d confuse for great black jazz standards… ;-( I’ve no idea how Earle played this tune himself or what his original concept for it was meant to sound like, but the version I grew up loving was played by a local jazz trio at the Theatrical Grill, a dark, smoky nightclub in downtown Cleveland, Ohio – which even in the early 1960′s was the only place where both white and black customers would come together to dig the black saxman belting out this melody in such a hungry, heartbreaking manner that it could stir you to tears, spur you to drag that bartender (or cocktail waitress as your choice may be) into the coatroom to get it on right then and there, or all three at the same time.
Ahem. Now that I’ve got my composure back, thought I’d turn y’all onto a web page titled “42 Versions of Harlem Nocturne”. It’s hosted by Radio Station WFMU and they’ve got MP3′s on that page for each of those 42 very, veeeeerrrry different versions. The earliest version they’ve got was recorded by in 1941 and they’ve got variations as diverse as the Quartet San Francsco, which has a violin and obie alternating turns on the main solos which give it a decidedly gypsy feel; to Esquizel’s version where the traditional alto sax part is replaced by what is either an absolutely incredible female vocalist or a Theramin (with my narrow level of hearing I honestly call tell the difference); to a ukelele plinking away au natural; to The New York Jazz Orchestra’s Ska rendition; The Ventures doing it up surf-style; Terry Edwards and the scapegoats with their post-punk interpretation, and of course the version that most of you probably recognize as the theme from the 1970′s tv show, “Mike Hammer”. With perhaps the sole exception of the version by Wildflower (?who?) each one has it’s own kind of cool that makes me want to stop everything I was doing just to listen. I’ve still got the version from my childhood rumbling in my brain as my all time favorite and having a hard time deciding which of the versions on WFMU’s BEWARE of the BLOG will take it’s place. According to the Earle Hagen link, Harlem Nocturne has been recorded by at least 500 different artists! Which is your favorite?
Free Icons of the Day
The following is a reduced-size preview of my “Eiffel” Alpha-Numeric icon/clip art series. As you can see, it inludes Capitals A-Z, Numerals 0-10, plus some punction and coordinated ding-bats and of course, the obligatory Eiffel Tower. To download the entire set in one fell-swoop, simply right-click (or control-click) anywhere on the preview. The zipped file contains all images as 512px X 512px .png’s.