So you haven’t yet arranged the dinner music for tonight? Well, never fear, postmodern conservative is here. Nothing says romance more than the crickle-crackle of an old 78, preferably from the swing era.
1.) If Dreams Come True, Ella Fitzgerald w/ the Chick Webb Orchestra. The younger Ella, before the dare-devil scatting.
2.) Me, Myself, and I, Billie Holiday. A shame we didn’t get more of these up-tempo numbers recorded by Billie, as she was too stereotyped as a torch singer—this take is with the great Lester Young.
3) When I Take My Sugar to Tea, Nat King Cole Trio. Gentlemen, listen and learn.
4) Finesse, Django Reinhardt on guitar, Rex Stewart on cornet, I forget the clarinetist. Perfection throughout…
5) Georgiana, Count Basie Orchestra w/ Jimmy Rushing. You are the sweetness, underneath the sun, rolled into one…
6) Body and Soul, Coleman Hawkins. The monumental tenor solo, a hit single in its time.
7) These Foolish Things, Billie Holiday w/ Teddy Wilson(piano). What can one say? Whole essays have been written on it, trying to capture an iota of its beauty…still my heart has wings!
8) I Let a Song Go out of My Heart, Duke Ellington. For me, it took about ten listens before I realized it was just as perfect as its title suggests.
9) I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love with Me, Frank Sinatra. The I had always placed you, way above me line is one of those lyrics that helps you understand what Plato is talking about in the Symposium.
10) Corcovado, Carlos Jobim, Stan Getz, and Astrud Gilberto. My wife once briefly fooled me into thinking that Astrud Gilberto was an Engineering Major. For the ten seconds or so I believed her, I was very depressed. We will always have Lester to thank for what Stan Getz did on this magical album.
11) La Vie En Rose, Edith Piaf. This is not the very best song here, but perhaps the most intense one. Here’s something I wrote about it years ago: “I do not want to know the meaning of the lyrics, for they will inevitably be too definite and down-to-earth, bounded by dictionary meanings, and worse, upon knowing the words I might detect hints and connotations of the merely human, of foibles and motives and half-baked ideas. No, it is better to be the ignorant American here, to have only seen Paris in movies and to fancy French as the very Language of Romance, and in this state to experience the swell, the sigh, and even the soaring flight of Piaf and orchestra. Amid such music, the title is enough, for I do know that “vie” means life, which calls to mind that “La Vita Nuova,” Dante’s collection of love sonnets, means “the new life.” Love of the Beloved, after all, beckons us toward a higher life, one that is all the more glorious for just beginning or being as yet just out of reach. It is a life wherein the world becomes new and full of hitherto unnoticed delights—a “fairyland” as “Stars Fell on Alabama” puts it, made of what was only everyday yesterday. The Lover’s eyes having been opened to the presence of the Beloved, they are able to see much else besides.”
12) Faded Love, Maddox Brothers and Rose. Of course, there’s a time to come down to earth, too, and who better to bring us there than Rose Maddox, who can’t refrain from crackin’ some jokes in the midst of a weepy love tune.
Perhaps someone else can assemble the classical equivalent…I think it would include lots of Chopin, definitely Dove sono i bei momenti from Mozart’s Figaro, and of course the Dido/Aeneas duet by the sea from Berlioz’s Les Troyens.
We’ll consider the rock music equivalent another time…for now, let the scratchy old records play, the cigarette smoke curl, and the black and white films flicker in the distance…