Nowadays, Sean Collins is producing and hosting a new podcast on behalf of the Providence Institute for Human Caring, called Hear Me Now. As it turns out, he should have been behind the mic all along.
Sean can do almost anything. He’s a great news producer, teller of jokes, empath, thinker, tinkerer and all around beacon of light. In addition to producing some of NPR’s best news magazines, he’s produced several episodes of Music Inside Out and, in his spare time, created our website.
We spoke recently about which songs might make a good primer for someone interested in learning about jazz this winter — a premise that I extravagantly disavowed. As so many guests of Music Inside Out have told us, a song has to knock a listener in the head, or the heart, first. That’s the song that belongs at the beginning of a primer playlist and it’s different for everyone. From there the listener falls down a proverbial rabbit hole to find an entire world of music waiting to be explored.
There’s gonna be a great day
Years ago, Sean told me that the pianist Keith Jarrett and his extraordinary 1975 performance in Cologne, Germany — forever memorialized as The Koln Concert — helped him understand jazz for the very first time. That’s a mighty fine rabbit hole. My winter list (and, yes, I made a list because I can never resist Sean) begins with more bombast. A recent recording of the song “Great Day” by the New Orleans singer Robin Barnes, led me to the 1963 original* on an album called The Explosive Side of Sarah Vaughan.
Ms. Vaughan’s “Great Day” starts in a hurry and keeps going in such an infectious way that it makes me feel optimistic and excited about everything — even getting out of bed.
Sometime after falling in love with “Great Day,” I read an interview with the extraordinary New Orleans drummer Earl Palmer (1924-2008) — the man who helped create the backbeat of rock ’n roll with Fats Domino, the songwriting producer Dave Bartholomew and engineer Cosimo Matassa, before joining the Wrecking Crew in Southern California. When asked which of more than a thousand recordings he made stood out, he cited … The Explosive Side of Sarah Vaughan. I shoulda known. More often than not, New Orleans musicians and sensibilities hide in plain sight in the best of American popular music.
Take a listen to our interview and so much more good and helpful advice on Hear Me Now.
Sean will direct you to the Spotify List of many songs I’ll be listening to this winter. Of course, my list is still growing. So come back here any time for some new tunes.
*[Ed. note: As it turns out, this jazzy, up-tempo “Great Day” isn’t the first version Ms. Vaughan recorded. A much more intimate interpretation appears on 1961’s After Hours, with accompanists Mundell Lowe (guitar) and George Duvivier (double bass).]