Posted on January 31st, 2014 2 comments
Swing back to a rehearsal hall in New York City, 1943. Those words, or something close to them were very probably spoken by the young bandleader as he coaxed his musicians into playing the lilting, modulating melody with a silky smooth finesse that would become part of the band’s signature style. The tune: Eager Beaver. The band: Artistry in Rhythm. The leader: Stan Kenton.
“Eager Beaver” was a sophisticated, swinging “riff tune” that featured Kenton on solo piano, engulfed in a true jazz orchestration that set the band apart from the traditional big band sounds of Miller, Dorsey, Shaw and Goodman. It was a hit – Kenton’s first big one – with growling tenor sax solo by Red Dorris and a crazy, loud and high-reaching trumpet section. The song would become so popular that it would be part of the Kenton songbook until his death in 1979. A sleeker, cleaner, definitive version was recorded in 1956 featuring Maynard Ferguson leading those high trumpet notes, and Vido Musso laying down the swingin’ tenor solo.
“Eager Beaver” laid the roots for Kenton’s “Progressive Jazz” style. Kenton and the band’s style was influential among musicians in the modern jazz, bop, west coast jazz and other styles that were forming in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. While Kenton’s style and sound progressed, Eager Beaver remained an important and steady chart in the Kenton library.
One of the things that always intrigued me about this tune was how flawlessly the arrangement combines the sounds of the saxes, trumpets and bones against a solid rhythm section. But the big things for me are 1) the tenor solo, and 2) the modulating ending.
The tenor sax solo was kick-ass before the term kick-ass was coined. The 1943 tenor sax solo had a growling, modern sound that was at least 10 years ahead of its time, forming the basics of what would become the Rhythm & Blues – and then Rock ’n’ Roll sounds of the 1950s sax players. The 1956 version by Vido Musso went a step further, being cleaner, more sophisticated and unique in tone and composition.
Now, the ending, that’s another thing altogether. As a young musician I tried desperately to get a copy of the arrangement to see how the modulations were written. But this was back in the 1980s, before the world was laid at our fingertips with the World Wide Web. I tried like hell to figure it out by ear, but it was beyond my ability.
A few weeks ago, on a whim, out of the blue, I typed “Stan Kenton Eager Beaver” into the eBay search box. Hot damn, Sam…this arrangement featured here came up for sale, cheap. I got it, of course.
Those of you who can read music can check out the Tenor and Alto sheets below. You can see how each verse at the end steps up, integrating with the next verse in such a fantabulous way that that the listener doesn’t even realize what is happening…they just know they are hearing something cool.
For those of you who don’t follow sticks (notes), the best way I can explain what’s happening is that at the end, the melody “steps up” a note each verse, but in such a way that the last note of the first verse becomes blends in with the second, stepped up verse so you don’t even realize there’s been a modulation. Crazy, sophisticated jazz, man.
Below are two videos of the riff. The first is a “soundy” from the early 1940s, giving you an idea of the original version of the song (it sounds like it’s been sped up a little in the video.) The second is the 1956 version, clean and cool, much closer to the way Kenton would have sounded live.
The 1956 version of Eager Beaver
Below here are the sheet music pages from the 1944 Robins Music arrangement. Follow along with the saxes at the end to dig the modulation.
You can see that his sheet music was well used; someone even added their own section at the tenor sax solo (underneath are the chord progressions for the tenor solo).
This sheet music is also great because it features several ads to buy more sheet music. Talk about a captive audience!
There seems to be a cocktail recipe for every song title ever recorded. Eager Beaver has not been spared, but the recipe is kind of dull compared to the complexity of the song (It’s also probable that the cocktail was invented independently of the song, and refers to the person eager to complete a task, or a chick who is hot to trot, which no doubt is whom the song is named after.)
– 2 oz rum
– 3 oz coffee liqueur
– 1 oz orange liqueur
Mix everything together in a shaker with ice; shake and pour over cubes in a highball glass. To “jazz it up” a bit, use spiced rum, and garnish with an orange slice and cherry. Good stuff.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this jazzy trip down a road that doesn’t get nearly as much travel as it should. I hope I opened some of you up to a cool tune that was recorded at the very start of the modern jazz era, and that it will inspire you to check out more by the master musician, Stan Kenton.
-Tiki Chris reporting from the listening room at Tiki Lounge Talk
Posted on September 6th, 2013 1 comment
There are two sides to the exotic or “Tiki drink” story.
One, which is most accepted, is that in order to be a true Tiki bar drink, the recipe must follow (as closely as possible) the original recipes from drinks created from around the turn of the 19th to 20th century, to the 1960s. Anything else is not “authentic”.
The other side states that exotic Tiki drinks are always evolving, as mixologists use their ingenuity to create new and exciting cocktails in the Tiki spirit.
With that in mind, this week we are featuring a cool new drink found on Savuer.com:
The Barbacoa Cocktail
From their site:Julian Cox, a bartender at the Los Angeles restaurant Rivera, gave us the recipe for this colorful cocktail, which takes its smoky flavor from puréed chipotle chiles in adobo and its sweetness from ginger syrup. To make your own ginger syrup, boil 1/3 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water with one 2” piece of peeled and smashed ginger for 5 minutes. Strain and refrigerate.Sounds good, huh? Peppers in a drink? Here’s the recipe:1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz. agave nectar
1/4 oz. ginger syrup
1 tsp. puréed canned chipotle in adobe
1/2 lime, quartered lengthwise
2 oz. mezcal or white tequila
1 strip red bell pepper, for garnish
1 small piece beef jerky, for garnish1. In a cocktail shaker, combine lemon juice, agave nectar, ginger syrup, chipotle purée, and lime wedges. Using a muddler or a wooden spoon, muddle ingredients.
2. Add 1 cup cubed ice and pour in mezcal; stir. Transfer mixture to a cocktail glass and garnish with bell pepper and beef jerky. Yes, that said beef jerky.Now, I haven’t tried this drink yet, but I’m guessing it’s pretty crazy in a good way. I’m planning on trying it this weekend, but if any of you kats or kittens tries it out, please leave me a comment on how it turned out!International Exotic Cocktail Day 2013Don’t forget, this year’s International Exotic Cocktail Day is Friday, October 4th! No matter where you are, take a minute to enjoy an exotic Tiki drink, to celebrate our love of the good life! Join the Facebook Group for info, events and more recipes!-Tiki Chris reporting from the bar at Tiki Lounge Talk, the B-lounge for swingin’ Tikiphiles and vintage hipsters.
Posted on September 28th, 2012 1 comment
The Asbury Park Cocktail
I couldn’t find much info on where this drink originated, although by the ingredients, I’d have to guess it’s a mid-20th century concoction, maybe leaning closer to the 1930s. It’s a simple recipe that’s perfect for this time of year.1 1/2 oz brandy
1/2 oz apple brandy
1/2 oz sweet vermouthShake over rocks, strain into a Martini glass. Serve straight up; Optionally garnish with a slice of fresh red apple and cinnamon stick. To make it more of a “Tiki” drink, serve it in a Tiki mug!-Tiki Chris reporting from behind the bar at Tiki Lounge Talk
Posted on November 25th, 2011 1 comment
As far as exotic cocktails go, The Painkiller ranks as one of the most famous…and most ordered…at the Tiki Bar. Along with the Navy Grog, Zombie, and of course the Mai Tai, The Painkiller has become one of the drinks most closely associated with Tiki. Kind of funny, when you realize the drink wasn’t concocted until the early 1970s…a time when the Tiki Bar craze was already beginning to fade.
Before the recipe I have to make a note that Pusser’s Rum, a brand that’s only been around for about 30 years, claimed and trademarked the cocktail “Painkiller”, claiming it was originally created using their rum. Uh…well, the Tiki community takes issue with that claim, but Pusser’s does own the trademark. Whatever…use any rum you want at home. I prefer Meyers for this blend.
The Painkiller Cocktail Recipe
Shake all ingredients in a shaker until nice and frothy. Strain over crushed ice in a Tiki mug or Collins glass and garnish with a chunk of fresh pineapple…an orange wheel and cherry are nice with it, too.
Painkiller Tiki Bar, NYC
Many of have probably heard of this drink in the last year as it, and an NYC Tiki Bar that went by the same name, made minor headlines when Pusser’s sued the New York City Tiki bar “Painkiller” over rights to the name. It seems what Pusser’s was really pussed-off about was that they weren’t using their brand of rum…again, whatever. The bar had to comply with Pusser’s demands, and is now called PKNY. The REAL news to this story is that…hey! Another Tiki Bar opened in New York City! From what I’ve read it’s not a traditional Tiki Bar, but is still keeping the spirit alive.
Posted on August 19th, 2011 No comments
Since the other day was National Rum Day, I had to experiment with a few goodies to see if I could come up with something new. Well kids, I did. First I tried some of the Appleton Estate and El Dorado rums mixed with coke and lime. Now, I know some of you will say this is a big waste of such great rums. But the flavor was unique, dark and really very enjoyable. Equal parts of each rum in a tall glass with ice, add in coke and stir. Add fresh lime a little squeeze at a time.
But it didn’t stop there. I needed to make something my Tiki friends (that’s you) would consider worthy of the drink log. So, after a few experiments…
The Rum Noir
surfaced as the winner.
1 oz Appleton Estate Rum
1 oz El Dorado Demerara Rum
1/4 oz cinnamon schnapps (the hot stuff)
1 oz orange juice
1/2 oz fresh lime juice (adjust to taste)
2-4 drops bitters
Splash of Coke
Put everything into the shaker (except the soda) with ice and shake it up real nice. Pour into a tall Tiki mug with ice, add a splash of coke. Garnish with a lime wedge and orange slice. This recipe is pretty close to a planter’s punch, with a little kick. It’s called the Rum Noir because of the dark rum, and because I invented it while pulling the trigger on the print version of my latest swingin’ book, A Flash of Noir, which is now available in Print, for Kindle and for Nook. Check it out 😉
-Tiki Chris P. reporting from Pirate’s Cove Tiki Bar at Tiki Lounge Talk, the web-lounge for swingin’ chicks and kool vintage hipsters.