In my first year of college, I learned a couple of things, some from my first boyfriend. Scott was a few years older than I was, a Californian who had an associate’s degree in accounting and a love for jazz, and did a little drumming himself. He also had picked up a camera one day and fell in love with it, eventually taking pictures for a local newspaper. And that led him to leave his bookkeeping job and lovely coastal city to come to Missouri’s famed journalism school. I was glad he did, a nice guy in nearly all ways, although I was a little too young and a little too ambitious to appreciate him for the long haul.
Still, he shared his love for Maynard Ferguson, and Louie Bellson, and the Manhattan Transfer. I first heard “Until I Met You” when he bought me the Mecca For Moderns record. My brother and I later saw them perform at the Fox Theater in St. Louis, a fabulous show. I still love that vocalese.
I happened on the Count Basie “Corner Pocket” on WEW radio one afternoon. The station, 770 AM, was known for being the oldest west of the Mississippi, and for playing big band. The station still chugs on, after a fire, then a move to a house in West County, then back to South St. Louis. I imagine there have been significant programming changes since those days, but I hope not too many. I bought my first car in 1985, a bronze 1972 Chevelle that would seem like a tractor to my kids, I imagine, with no automatic anything (even the automatic transmission had been converted to a three-on-the-tree manual transmission), no air conditioning, and no music but AM radio.
The AM radio was an adventure in itself, though, and I found plenty to hear between WEW, KATZ (blues, soul), and others. This was before Rush Limbaugh (yes, a Missourian, too, sad to say) took over AM radio, and there were still lingering gems on the AM dial. And it was a dial. The beauty of having to turn an actual dial was that you could keep tuning to find stations, or snippets of strange things from Del Rio, Texas, or Mexico, or even Cuba as a later boyfriend found Castro one night while riding.
I had always been a fan of big band, although it was always sort of an embarrassment to admit that as an already-outcast high school student, which is a damned shame that caused me to turn down a coworker with an extra Sarah Vaughn ticket. Ugh. I did evolve. My brother landed a job in a record store in our little suburb with an owner who had all sorts of old swing band friends who stopped by on occasion. It was an education for him, and for our whole family. We had always known the store, but as we got older, we usually went other places that sold more of the music we liked. This store was close, but it specialized in classical and jazz, although that never stopped a fifth grade me from asking weekly if they had a new Monkees record, years after the Monkees had broken up.
Again, I digress. I heard “Corner Pocket” in my car, and immediately went looking for a recording. It’s hard to remember this, but back then, looking for songs was more elusive, not a matter of googling and poking around Discogs. I looked through a number of record stores, and found it, finally, not on the April in Paris album, but on an Italian recording of a few Duke Ellington and Count Basie hits.
The Manhattan Transfer version of this song may have grabbed me first, but I feel a swelling joy every time I put on the Basie version. It truly does swing, with the piano opening to the blaring horns, all with Buddy Payne’s rhythm keeping the whole thing going. I love it.
Time to go find that April in Paris album.