❝ I told him what I was looking for and he started pulling out records. We began, as I knew we would, with Coleman Hawkins’s famous 1938 take for Bluebird. It was a waste of time, of course, because Hawkins barely goes near the actual melody. But I let my dad enjoy it all the way through before I pointed this out.
“It was old-school, Dad. The one I heard. It had a proper melody and everything.”
Dad grunted and dipped into a cardboard box full of 78s to pull out a plain brown cardboard sleeve repaired at three edges with masking tape, containing the Benny Goodman Trio on shellac, with a Victor black-and-gold label. He has a Garrard turntable that has a 78 setting but you have to swap out the cartridge first — I laboriously removed the Ortofon and went looking for the Stanton. It was still kept where I remembered it, on the one clear bit of shelf behind the stereo, lying on its back to protect the stylus. While I fiddled with the tiny screwdriver and got the cartridge mounted, Dad carefully slipped the disk out and inspected it with a happy smile. He passed it to me. It had the surprising heft of a 78, much heavier than an LP; anyone weaned exclusively on CDs probably wouldn’t have been able to lift it. I took the edges of the heavy black disk between my palms and placed it carefully on the turntable.
It hissed and popped as soon as the needle hit the groove and through that I heard Goodman make his intro on the clarinet. Then Teddy Wilson soloed on piano, then Benny on clarinet again. Luckily, Krupa on drums kept a low profile. This was much closer to the tune poor dead Mr. Wilkinson was playing.
Benny Goodman Trio – Body and soul
“Later than that,” I said.
“That won’t be difficult,” said Dad. “This was only recorded five years after it was written.”
We sampled a couple more on 78 including a 1940 Billie Holiday take that we left on just because Lady Day is one of the few things Dad and I truly have in common. It was beautiful and sad, and that helped me realize what I was missing.
Billie Holiday – Body and soul (1940)
“It’s got to be more upbeat,” I said. “It was a bigger combo and it had more swing.”
“Swing?” asked my dad. “This is ‘Body and Soul’ we’re talking about, it’s never been noted for its swing.”
“Come on, Dad, someone must have done a more swinging version — if only for the white folks,” I said.
“Less of that, you cheeky bastard,” said Dad. “Still, I think I know what we might be looking for.” He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a rectangle of plastic and glass.
“You’ve got an iPhone,” I said.
“iPod touch actually,” he said. “It’s not a bad sound.” This from a man who ran a fifty-year-old Quad amp because it had valves rather than transistors. He passed me the earpieces and slid his finger around the screen like he’d been using a touch control all his life. “Listen to this,” he said.
There it was, digitally remastered but still with enough hiss and pop to keep the purists happy. “Body and Soul,” clear melody and just enough swing to make it danceable. If it wasn’t what I’d heard off the body then it was definitely played by the same band.
“Who is it?” I asked.
“Ken Johnson,” said Dad. “Old Snakehips himself. This is off Blitzkrieg Babies and Bands, some nice transfers from shellac. The liner notes say that it’s ‘Jiver’ Hutchinson on trumpet. But it’s obviously Dave Wilkins, because the fingering’s all different.” ❞
Moon Over Soho (Peter Grant, #2)
And now for some music …
I cannot locate ‘Body and Soul’ from Snakehips on YouTube so we’ll have to settle for
Ken “Snakehips” Johnson medley (1940)
and we’ll finish off with a modern take;
Tony Bennett & Amy Winehouse – Body and Soul