It’s finally cooling off here in SoCal and temperatures are dipping across the country, too. People living in areas that have seasons love the changing colors that autumn brings — arboreal symphonies in the midwest and east. Of course it is spring in the southern hemisphere, where the weather is warming up. In this age of global warming, however, weather patterns are changing and not quite as predictable as in past decades.
My father hated the onset of autumn. He used to say, “the shadows are getting longer,” which sounded disturbing to me. And for those in the far north, like Sweden and Norway, what is known as “seasonal affective disorder” is a real thing. You see it in Bergman films, suicide rates in Scandinavia, and light-therapy used by patients to deal with it.
Ok, discourse on autumn done. Now, here are eight songs with an autumn theme.
We begin with Yves Montand singing the original French version of “Autumn Leaves,” “Les Feuilles Mortes,” which literally translates as “the dead leaves.” It is a remembrance of a summer love, when the passions and sun burned hotter, and now the waves roll over and erase the footsteps of lovers on the sand. It’s a sad song. The great Jacques Prévert (think “Children of Paradise” scenario) wrote the lyrics. He was in the center of the cool left-band bohemian set of postwar Paris, along with Simone de Beavoir, Sartre, Boris Vian, Cocteau, and others.
Next we liven it up with a great live performance of the same standard, with James Moody on flute, from a 1973 German concert. Japanese singer/pianist Akiko Yano follows with a song about autumn and the fruits it brings. She mentions persimmons as one of them. Yano was married to Ryuichi Sakamoto at the time this record was made. Then we hear a pipa (traditional Chinese lute) version of Vivaldi’s “Autumn” from his Four Seasons by the Chinese Baroque Players.
Frank Sinatra teams up with arranger Billy May and his orchestra for Vernon Duke’s classic, “Autumn in New York,” followed by the evergreen Johnny Hartman/John Coltrane album and their song “Autumn Serenade.” Next it’s the inimitable Bob Dorough doing Henry Nemo’s (who was Henry Nemo?) song “‘Tis Autumn.” According to Wikipedia, “Henry Nemo was a musician, songwriter and actor in Hollywood films who had a reputation as a hipster and was sometimes referred to as the ‘creator of jive.'”
We end with a mysterious song by Wayne Shorter called “Fall.” It’s from Miles Davis‘s last album with the famous quintet, before he branched off to record Filles de Kilimanjaro, In a Silent Way, and Bitches Brew. I am not sure what the song is about, being an instrumental. It could mean the season, or the fall from grace in the Book of Genesis. As seasons go, the word “fall” became a synonym in the U.S. for autumn (the English still say “autumn”). It originally signified the falling of leaves. Who knows. It is a beautiful ballad, however, and it ends our show this week.
Hope you enjoy these selections!
Rhythm Planet Playlist for 11/4/16:
- Yves Montand / “Les Feuilles Mortes” / Montand Chante Prevert / Sony France/Philips
- James Moody / “Autumn Leaves” / Flute Summit / WEA/Atlantic
- Akiko Yano / “Autumn Song” / Love Life / Nonesuch
- Chinese Baroque Players / “Autumn Allegro” / Vivaldi Four Seasons (Played on Chinese Pipas) / Kaisonic
- Frank Sinatra / “Autumn in New York” / Come Fly With Me / Capitol Records
- John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman / “Autumn Serenade” / John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman / Impulse
- Bob Dorough / “’Tis Autumn” / Just About Everything / Inner City/Evidence
- Miles Davis / “Fall” / Nefertiti / Columbia/Legacy