My Favorites (Jazz): "That Kind of Woman" Joe Williams with the Count Basie Orchestra

They don’t write songs like these anymore and Joe Williams’ rendition is exquisite.  I bought an album of Count Basie’s big band to enjoy a swinging good time and when this song came on, I was blindsided.  I wasn’t ready for this level of sophistication and artistry.  Typically you would expect Duke Ellington to exhibit high sophistication and subtlety within his compositions.  To hear this song with the Count Basie Orchestra was a fresh and wonderful experience.  Basie is known for making you swing real hard and for having a great time.  Listening to him is like going to the bar to hang with friends and to have a great time laughing and enjoying the night out.  Listening to Duke is like going to the art museum with your significant other and sharing the depth of the pieces in the exhibit.  If you were to combine the experiences it would be expressed in this song.  The soulfulness expressed combined with the artistry of the composition makes for an amazing auditory experience.

The song interestingly enough was written by famed composer Burt Bacharach.  Having studied with Darius Milhaud while at the Mannes School of Music, you can hear his composition training in this arrangement.  Being heavily influenced by jazz while growing up and attending shows, watching the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker on 52nd Street, Bacharach would go on to write for popular artists like Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield, The Carpenters, and his long-time collaborator Dionne Warwick.  He also wrote the title song to the movie Alfie, along with Hal David (has lifelong songwriting partner), in which Sonny Rollins is featured in the movie’s soundtrack (Oliver Nelson did arrangements on the soundtrack as well).

Bacharach’s music has always been appreciated by jazz artists.  Miles Davis remarked to him that he really liked the song, “Alfie.”  Stan Getz recorded an album of Bacharach’s tunes as well.  This is an obscure piece that probably should not be so obscure.  It is characteristically Bacharach with extended sections and phrases.  As the Wikipedia articles states:  

“Bacharach's music is characterized by unusual chord progressions, influenced by his background in jazz harmony, with striking syncopated rhythmic patterns, irregular phrasing, frequent modulation, and odd, changing meters” - Wikipedia

Aside from the richness of Joe Williams’ voice and delivery of the lyric, what really creates the emotion in ”That Kind of Woman,” is the build-up of the lyrics, melody and harmony to the climax of the piece at the end.  The culmination of the songs meaning which is expressed not only in the lyric (the word “free”), but in the way he chose to use the chords and elongate the melody, was nothing short of exhilarating.

Unfortunately I could not find the actual recording online of the version I have, but this one is just as evocative.

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