Hot jazz where the words keep up with the music
November 21, 2012 3:18 AM   Subscribe

My favorite kind of song: fast, swingy jazz with lyrics that are witty and/or intricately rhymed, performed by somebody who delivers the words and the music with equal skill. Examples include Bobby Short singing 'Nagasaki', Ella Fitzgerald singing 'Everything I've Got', and Louis Jordan singing pretty much anything. What other performances should I check out?
posted by yankeefog to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Step Right Up.
posted by pompomtom at 3:22 AM on November 21, 2012

Caro Emerald.

And everything by Sinatra.
posted by three blind mice at 4:12 AM on November 21, 2012

Calcutta - The Four Preps
posted by infini at 4:45 AM on November 21, 2012

The Way You Look Tonight - de-schmoozed by Betty Carter and Ray Bryant. I cannot think of a single better example of what you're after!
posted by greenish at 5:10 AM on November 21, 2012

Lambert, Hendricks & Ross!
posted by neroli at 6:14 AM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

You don't mention scat (and I usually don't mention it either) but I just got hip to Joe Williams & Ella Fitzgerald with the Count Basie Orchestra, "Party Blues." A purer outpouring of joy -- in the lyrics *and* in the nonsense scat battle -- I don't think I've heard in quite awhile. It's on youtube.
posted by Infinity_8 at 6:14 AM on November 21, 2012

Lamberts, Hendricks and Ross
King Pleasure
Dave Frishberg in his less maudlin songs, like "My Attorney Bernie"
posted by Jode at 6:15 AM on November 21, 2012

Anita O'Day (seen here in her earlier big band days, or a bit later doing You're the Top, which definitely has the witty rhymes you're asking about) was definitely a master of delivering "the words and the music with equal skill."

There used to be a great copy of a concert she did in Sweden in 1963 up on YouTube but it looks like it has been taken down; the most representative bit I could find is this version of "Let's Fall in Love". Like Infinity_8, I'm usually not into scat singing...but Anita could make sounds that were really just unparalleled.

Blossom Dearie's version of Rhode Island Is Famous for You might seem like a novelty version of an already novelty-ish track, but as the Times noted in her obit, she was really "an interpretive minimalist with caviar taste in songs and musicians...a genre unto herself."
posted by bcwinters at 6:24 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Check out the Nat Cole Trio. Note: not the later Nat King Cole solo stuff.

Hit That Jive Jack
Straighten Up and Fly Right
posted by tommasz at 6:27 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Lucky Millinder

Johnny Mercer, who wrote G.I. Jive, was also a singer.

More recently, you might want to check out Seth McFarlane, of all people.
posted by fings at 6:27 AM on November 21, 2012

Look for a Cole Porter songbook.
posted by chickenmagazine at 6:37 AM on November 21, 2012

Not sure if this is exactly what you're asking for, but check out Kurt Elling: Tanya Jean. He does like a 5-minute volcaese solo that is pretty intricate, and the lyrics are pretty interesting.
posted by crLLC at 6:53 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Hut Sut Song, perhaps?
posted by usonian at 7:58 AM on November 21, 2012

Crazy in Love by the Puppini Sisters should fit your bill.
posted by mefireader at 8:24 AM on November 21, 2012

Try the Manhattan Transfer's album Vocalese. Jon Hendricks (rec'd above) did the lyric writing for the songs and sings in a few of them along with MT. You might look at Another Night in Tunesia (features Bobby McFerrin) and Airegin. The entire album is on Spotify.
posted by PussKillian at 8:50 AM on November 21, 2012

Danny Kaye, who is best-known as a comedian, was also a song and dance man who specialized in lighting fast, tonuge-twisting popular jazz.

Up In Arms (with Dinah Shore)
Symphony for Unstrung Tongue
Gypsy Drinking Song
Tongue Twisters
Anatole of Paris

This, in turn, was a direct inspiration on songwriter Tom Lehrer: Lobachevsky
And also inspired this utter lunacy from Daffy Duck
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:51 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cephalopod - right here on Metafilter Music.
posted by zoinks at 3:01 PM on November 21, 2012

Thanks, everybody! I really appreciate all the great suggestions.

I've marked a bunch of Best Answers, but in this case, "Best" really means "Best At Guessing What I Had In Mind Despite My Inarticulate Attempt To Explain It." Even the unmarked ones have been really helpful to me in pinpointing what it is I'm looking for.

Having listened to and thought about all the suggestions, I now realize that part of what I love about the examples I gave is that they are all, in one way or another, extravagent or unrestrained. Somebody like Sinatra articulates the lyrics perfectly, but he's the essence of cool restraint. Louis Jordan, by contrast, throws everything he's got into every song, and that's part of what I was responding to. In the Ella Fitzgerald performance I linked to, she's got the perfectly controlled delivery she always does-- but the lyrics are all about yelling at, beating up, and even murdering somebody, so they end up adding that manic energy I'm looking for. And "Nagasaki" is just an outpouring of extravagent rhymes, and Short throws himself into them.

I wouldn't have understood that without listening to and thinking about all the answers. So, in addition to a bunch of great songs to add to my playlist, I now have a greater understanding of what it is I like about them. Thanks, all!
posted by yankeefog at 3:10 AM on November 23, 2012

Based off your answer, a few more things to give a whirl

Cab Calloway
Louis Prima
Louis Armsrong
Fats Waller
Kay Kyser

and moving (a bit) beyond jazz, to Jump Blues,
Tiny Bradshaw
Wynonie Harris
posted by fings at 7:55 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Fantastic, fings-- those are great, and I never even knew that "Jump Blues" was a genre. Based on those examples, it's definitely a genre I like.

posted by yankeefog at 3:47 AM on November 26, 2012

I forgot Felix Figueroa's Pico & Sepulveda the other day.
posted by usonian at 7:48 AM on November 26, 2012

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