Jazz Themes

The magic behind our jazz presenters’ theme tunes

Written by Keith Pettigrew

Choosing jazz for our Fine Music Sydney audience is exciting and contemplative. Each of our presenters has their own musical preferences from the 120-year history of jazz: 1900s classic jazz; 50s bebop; 60s cool jazz; 90s European and Latin jazz; jazz versions of 21C pop; modern Australian; non-traditional instruments; and emergent jazz for tomorrow.

Our Fine Jazz catalogue has 48,000 jazz tracks, some the same with different musicians creating a different feel. And then there are the presenters’ own collections. In this series, we will bring you some of the magic that is jazz, expressed by presenters’ theme tunes.

The New Jazz Standard – Thursdays at  7pm  with Frank Presley
Theme: Hey Ya! (Outkast -2003)

The concept of Frank Presley’s program is jazz interpretations of non-jazz music. Frank was reviewing the album The Blues of Joy by Adam Simmons from Origami.  It  reminded  him  of  Sonny  Rollins’s   1957 Way Out West, when  Rollins  used  only  saxophone, bass  and  drums  to  transform  unlikely  pop   themes into sophisticated jazz. Simmons chose just the alto saxophone. Nevertheless, he embraced pop without compromising artistic integrity, swing, groove, interplay, or self-expression. “Perfect I thought, a catchy three- minute interpretation of the 1990s  chart  topper”  Hey Ya! by Outkast from Origami. He embraced pop without compromising artistic integrity, swing, groove, interplay, or self-expression.

Jazz Rhythm – Tuesdays at midday with Jeannie McInnes
Theme: Rockin’ In Rhythm (Duke Ellington and Harry Carney -1931)

Most music has rhythm! But for Jeannie, what makes jazz speak to her whole being, making her move, is the talent of jazz musicians improvising within the melody, so that each rendition of a tune is unique. Jeannie felt her theme tune needed rhythm in name and spirit, and had been recorded by many different performers creating a variety of rhythms. Rockin’ in Rhythm by Ellington and Carney has been recorded by many in the 90 years since the Ellington in 1931, providing a different performer each week. From the original Ellington Orchestra, there are other big bands like the Swedish Harry Arnold Big Band and the Togo Orchestra, small groups like the Modern Jazz Quartet and Oscar Peterson Quartet, individuals like Joe Pass, vocalists Ella Fitzgerald and Maxine Sullivan, and very differently Miriam Makeba and Weather Report. For Jeannie, an ultimate example of “… variations on a theme”.

Jazz After Hours – Sundays and Mondays at 10pm
Theme: Can’t We Be Friends (Kay Swift, lyrics Paul James -1929)

Jazz After Hours has a number of presenters with different styles but a common approach to late night jazz. For a theme tune, Sue Jowell (Sundays) suggested the first track from her very first jazz album, which of course was vinyl, and then her very first jazz CD. It was the satin smooth voice of Ella Fitzgerald, the distinctively rough voice of Louis Armstrong, with Oscar Petersen and his trio of Herb Ellis’ guitar, Ray Brown’s bass and Buddy Rich’s drums.

Some time ago, Sue was asked to fill in for another of our presenters, “… a big ask and even bigger shoes to fill”. Rather than mimic, she chose her own style. She hoped she would not lose audience, there would be few tracks to enjoy, and that “… we could still be friends”. Now she rejoices, starting each program with Sonny Stitt’s 1951 rendition. “Yes, we can be friends”.


A Tribute to Chick Corea

By Robert Vale (Jazz Sketches, Wednesdays at noon) The passing of American jazz pianist Chick Corea at age 79 was recently announced, leaving the jazz...

Jazzed About Your Birthday

Celebrating the great musicians of jazz on their special day! February Birthdays Joshua Redman1 February, 1969 “If I knew what it was going to look ...

Australia Day Jazz – Jazz Rhythm, Tuesday at midday

Jazz has always been inventive, a bit out there, allowing the musicians to improvise on core tunes. Very Australian characteristics. Jazz started ...