Quand le jazz est là, the jazz programme we listen to most evenings on Radio Canada, follows the lead of so many CBC programmes these days and plays the same material two or three times a month. It still beats the
sh stuff played on English radio that time of night so if we get Etta James singing Don’t Cry Baby twice in two weeks I’m not going to complain. However, and you knew there would be a however, three times this month we’ve been “treated” to a bizarre version of Nature Boy by Claudia Acuña, the Chilean jazz vocalist and composer. To begin with she draws it out to Wagnerian lengths – or whatever the equivalent is in jazz terms – and then for the last 2 minutes turns it into a Bossa Nova riff.
As a much needed palate cleanser I turned to YouTube and found that everyone and their nearest and dearest have done a cover since Nat King Cole first recorded it back in 1947. So I thought why not go for the original.
Of the song a reviewer in Los Angeles magazine referred to it as sounding “… like something that, from the minute it was written, existed out of time and place—all thousand and one Arabian Nights compressed into two and a half minutes as mediated by a cracked Mojave Debussy slugging down the last of the absinthe from his canteen.”
By all accounts composer eden ahbez was an unusual person and part of the early “hippie” movement in California. When Nat King Cole had him tracked down so he could get the rights to record Nature Boy ahbez was living under the L in the famous HOLLYWOOD sign. He slept outdoors with his family and ate vegetables, fruits, and nuts. He claimed to live on three dollars per week. Lest it be thought he was only that “cracked Mojave Debussy” he went on to write other songs for Nat King Cole and worked with others as composer/arranger and producer. He once told a questioning policeman: “I look crazy but I’m not. And the funny thing is that other people don’t look crazy but they are.”
The word for January 22 is:
Mendacity /menˈdasədē/ /mɛnˈdæsədi/: [noun]
Mid 17th century from ecclesiastical Latin mendacitas, from mendax, mendac- ‘lying’
I’ve loved this word ever since I heard Burl Ives as Big Daddy declaiming it in A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. And a word that seems more appropriate for revival every day.