31 songs / music

31 songs: Harlem Nocturne

Just imagine a radio playing late at night, in the early 1980s. In pre-Internet days, that was one of the few possibilities you had to listen to music (different music, I mean). One summer night, I was struck by two instrumental songs played one after the other. They were “Harlem Nocturne” by Johnny Otis and “In a Sentimental Mood” by Duke Ellington; they were played by the same band, a new jazz combo called the Lounge Lizards.

My generation had developed a certain familiarity with jazz sounds, thanks to all the old black-and-white Hollywood films seen on television during childhood. Now there it was: the unmistakable evidence that there was life outside the rock’n’roll canon.

And what a life it was! On the cover of their first album, the Lounge Lizards looked like five stylish modern men portrayed in what seemed to be a rehearsal room (you could almost hear the traffic noise outside the window!). They played with competence, with a strange form of punk energy and (yes!) NO virtuosity. This is why Jazz aficionados didn’t like them (their music was filed under “fake jazz”…) and people like me loved them.

The Lounge Lizards made us jump through the looking-glass, searching for a long-forgotten different world with its own style, attitudes and heroes.

Exeunt Ramones and Talking Heads,  Enter  Charlie Parker and Thelonius Monk .

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2 thoughts on “31 songs: Harlem Nocturne

  1. Thanks for the post, ukefranz! I didn’t know the Lounge Lizards, but I really enjoyed listening to their version of Harlem Nocturne 🙂

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