Teddy Swims

Jaten Dimsdale (aka Teddy Swims) has launched his career the new-fashioned way – posting covers on YouTube. So far it’s earned him over a million YouTube subscribers, over a million Facebook followers, and a record deal with Warner Brothers.

Swims’ voice can genre bend all over the map. I really don’t need to say much except watch these videos to see what this guy can do. If you like what you see, check out teddyswims.com where you can link to pretty much everything he’s got out there.

Here is Swims’ take on “Tennessee Whiskey”, a song covered over the years by George Jones and Chris Stapleton.

On this video of Swims’ original tune, “Broke”, he lends his soulful voice to a playful collaboration with Thomas Rhett – the reigning Entertainer of the Year from the Academy of Country Music 2020 Awards.

And now for something completely different, here’s Teddy throwing down some modern R&B on “Night Off”.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Lawrence Ferlinghetti passed away on Monday at the age of 101. He was a central figure in the cultural life of San Francisco for decades, as an acclaimed poet and as owner of the City Lights bookstore and publishing company of Beat Generation fame. Many fascinating obituaries have been written in the past couple of days, wonderful reading for fans – like myself – and for folks not that familiar with his place in American letters. I’ve especially enjoyed Emma Brown’s in today’s Washington Post (hope you can read it behind the paywall).

In 1958 Ferlinghetti published his best selling volume of poetry, A Coney Island of the Mind, now over a million copies in print. Seven of the poems in the volume were “conceived specifically for jazz accompaniment and as such should be considered as spontaneously spoken ‘oral messages’ rather that as poems written for the printed page.” And indeed, in 1957 he’d recorded two of the seven on “Poetry Readings in the Cellar”, joined by Kenneth Rexroth, a senior figure in San Francisco poetry.

The first 20 minutes of the record feature Rexroth reading “Thou Shalt Not Kill (In Memory of Dylan Thomas)”. Jump past that to hear Ferlinghetti recite “Autobiography” (at 21:00) and “Junkman’s Obbligato” (at 33:45), separated by a shorter poem about a statue of St. Francis (at 31:30). If you try to read along, you’ll find that “Junkman’s Obbligato” is not precisely the version in print.

Chick Corea

Modern jazz lost one of its greats a few days ago. Take some time to search the web to read about pianist Chick Corea’s amazing, 60-year career. Like all jazz greats, Corea collaborated with many, many fellow artists, and in his case a who’s who of the genre. Below are just a few – and I’m leaving out his jazz fusion defining work with Miles Davis!

One of his earliest collaborations was on Stan Getz’s 1967 album, Sweet Rain. The album represented a move in a modern jazz direction for Getz following years of bossa nova innovations. Corea not only played on the album, but wrote two of the tracks, including “Windows”. Here are Getz and Corea performing that song live in 1972, featuring bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Tony Williams.

In that same year of 1972, Chick formed the band Return to Forever with Stanley and others. They recorded two albums that year, the second of which featured “Spain”, perhaps Corea’s best known composition. Here is a live performance of the song from 1975 featuring several of that year’s DownBeat magazine’s best jazz musician poll winners. OMG. Stanley Clarke, George Benson on guitar, Hubert Laws on flute, Lenny White on drums, and listen to what Bill Waltrous can do on a trombone (2:40)! (you may have to do a “double click” to get to this video, but it’s worth it).

Chick’s collaborations with vibes master Gary Burton spanned over 40 years. Their first album together was 1973’s Crystal Silence, and their last was 2012’s Hot House (see this post from a few years ago). Here’s an intimate two-song set from the NPR Tiny Desk Concert series, starting with “Love Castle” from their 2008 collaboration The New Crystal Silence, and the title track from the original Crystal Silence.

Duets in Love

Over the past couple of years, couples have been recording duets across the pop music spectrum.

In 2019 Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes recorded “Señorita” and dished up a couple of steamy performances at the MTV Video Music Awards and at the American Music Awards. The two became a couple around the time they recorded the song and remain so.

Halsey and Yungblud covered Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” when they were dating in early 2019. They broke up later that year, but the chemistry in this video is clear. Halsey wrote my favorite song of her’s, “Finally / Beautiful Stranger”, about their relationship. See that video on my Lizzo, Dua and Halsey post from last year.

Finally, and more recently, rapper turned rocker (at least at the moment) Machine Gun Kelly released this video of “Bloody Valentine” featuring his girlfriend, Megan Fox. Travis Barker of Blink-182, co-wrote, produced and played drums on the track, and the song – as well as much of Kelly’s Tickets to My Downfall album, reflect the influence. OK, this isn’t technically a duet – they just fake it – whatever.

Christine and the Queens

2020 was chock full of hit singles by woman artists from Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion to Dua Lipa, Miley Cyrus, Fiona Apple, Taylor Swift, and the list goes on. But rising to #3 on Rolling Stone’s Songs of the Year, and #1 on Time Magazine’s list, is “People, I’ve Been Sad” by Christine and the Queens. Christine and the Queens, though sometimes simply Chris, is the stage name of French singer, songwriter, producer Héloïse Adélaïde Letissier.

I first saw her perform a couple of years ago, watching one of those Jools Holland shows that runs and re-runs on MTV Live. Here’s the official video of “Tilted”, the song I saw her perform, featuring her signature combination of hypnotic pop music and creative choreography. “Tilted” was the top single from her first studio album, 2014’s Chaleur humaine (Human Warmth).

Here’s a live performance of “Girlfriend” from the 2019 Glastonbury Festival. The song is from her second full-length album, 2018’s Chris. After watching this, you’re gonna want to see her in concert once we can do that sort of thing again.

Finally, here’s the choreography-free video for “People, I’ve Been Sad”. Released in February 2020 it arrived just in time to channel the loneliness of the pandemic year, though clearly written from pain that preceded recent events.