Curtis Zimmermann

Curtis Zimmermann works as an advertising sales executive for an academic publisher in Philadelphia. He’s been a music critic, news reporter, financial fraud investigator and spent many years in corporate sales, all the while maintaining a healthy obsession with music history. He first became intrigued with genre-bending covers in college when he stumbled across a used copy of Ray Charles’ box set “The Complete Country & Western Recordings 1959 - 1986.”

Apr 022019
 
fallon roots doo-wop

About a decade ago, I was walking down 23rd Street in Manhattan, when suddenly, without warning, a group of teenagers in front of me burst into song. To my surprise, they belted out the doo-wop classic “In the Still of the Night.” I immediately texted my father, a lifelong fan of the tune, saying I thought the scene was emblematic of just how well the track has endured.

“In the Still of the Night” was first recorded by the Five Satins in 1956. The song was not a huge hit upon its release. But with its memorable chorus and perfect doo-wop harmonies, it has grown more popular through time. In the ‘80s, WCBS-FM (New York City’s oldies station) repeatedly listed the song in the number one spot on its annual Top 500 countdown. Around the same time, the song appeared on the 1987 mega-selling Dirty Dancing soundtrack. There have been a number of covers over the years, most notably by Philly soulsters Boyz II Men, who gave it the “Cooley High” treatment in 1992.

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Mar 222019
 

There are great drummers and then there was Hal Blaine. As a member of the famed Wrecking Crew of Los Angeles studio musicians, Blaine provided the backbeat to the soundtrack of the ‘60s and early ‘70s. He played drums on countless hits, backing such artist as the Association, the many Phil Spector Girl Groups, the Beach Boys, the Byrds, the Carpenters, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Simon & Garfunkel, Sonny & Cher, and the Mamas & the Papas (we could go on all day). With such a pedigree, it’s little surprise that he not only played on a number of cover songs, he played on some of the greatest covers of all time!

Since his death last week at the age of 90, tributes to have been popping up everywhere. We’ll simply add our own, the only way we know how – by going through some of his best covers.

So to Hal Blaine, we count it off one last time: 1-2, a 1-2-3-4…

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Mar 152019
 

Despite the controversy surrounding the Best Picture-winning film Green Book, the movie might actually be the best thing to ever happen to the legacy of pianist Don Shirley. Though Shirley’s relatives have objected to the way Shirley was portrayed in the film, before its release his life and music had been largely lost to history.

As of this writing, his biography on Allmusic.com is only one paragraph. Many of his albums don’t even have track listings on the site. The website AllAboutJazz.com lists him twice, both times in articles about the film. In the jazz and popular music encyclopedias at two local libraries, I only found one reference to him, a single small paragraph in The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz.

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Feb 282019
 
julian lage crying

For the closing track of his new album Love Hurts, jazz guitarist Julian Lage took a sheet from the Roy Orbison songbook with a cover of “Crying.”

The song was one of Orbison’s signature hits. He recorded the emotional ballad lamenting lost love in 1961, then later teamed up with k.d. lang for a duet in 1987. It has inspired numerous covers over the years, with many coming from the country side of the dial by artists such as Waylon Jennings, Glen Campbell, Ronnie Milsap and Deana Carter. Contemporary country queen Carrie Underwood even delivered a version of the tune when she was on American Idol.

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Feb 052019
 
chuck deardorf blind faith cover

When jazz bassist and educator Chuck Deardorf was a young trombonist, he often found himself listening to the bass. “They get to play the whole time, and I thought, ‘wow they sound like they’re having a lot more fun than I am’,” he said explaining his instrument of choice in an interview on the arts website Centrum. “The bass just shapes the music so much. You have a lot of responsibility and freedom to really determine where the music goes.” Deardorf made this childhood vision a reality on his new cover of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home,” where he uses his bass to reinterpret the song’s vocal melody.

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Feb 042019
 
rayland baxter covers

In his recent memoir, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy philosophized on how online streaming has changed the way artists get their inspiration. “Anyone can access any era of music at any time,” Tweedy wrote. “So instead of being influenced only by the recordings and generations of musicians most accessible and obtainable to study, musicians today can draw upon almost anything ever recorded.”

These sentiments rang especially true when I first heard Rayland Baxter’s 2018 album Wide Awake. Listening to the record is like taking a trip through Baxter’s musical education. One can detect elements of alt-country rock, blue-eyed soul, new wave, the solo works of various Beatles, all sung with the confidence of a ‘70s singer/songwriter at the Troubadour. Hearing all these musical styles smash together, it makes sense that he was able to cross four decades with two covers. During a recent performance at Paste Studios, he played songs by Neil Young and the late Mac Miller. He took two serious tunes from very different artists and reworked them in his own way to make them seem lighter and definitely more fun.

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