Friday, May 15, 2009

Squeeze Me

Ev'ry-body listen!"

So says Mildred Bailey at the top of "Squeeze Me." Her voice managing to be kittenishly sexy through-out the brief number, no mean trick at a time when the blues had already been chastened, blanched, one might say, at least in so far as popular -- meaning white -- jazz singers were concerned. True, few people would have guessed that Mildred was a white woman and she seems to have done little enough, at least in her recordings, to avoid being confused with other singers of a richer, more authentically blue, hue. The Ellington song's actually an innocent enough tease, nothing too suggestive in the lyrics of Lee Gaines. The sex is all in the singer. Mildred was a substantial girl, with a smallish voice and enough swing in her for a full orchestra. She sounds like a lot o' fun, a good squeeze, one might say.

On of the niftier features of my Mac has been the ease with which I've been able to put my music library on it. There are still cds yet to be copied, but already, as I did tonight, I can search for a song like "Squeeze Me" and pull up no less that a dozen or so recordings from my own library. Thus Mildred Bailey, to kick things off, but also in no particular order, Louis Armstrong, who's squeezing is done to a very New Orleans beat, mit banjo no less, a slow drag behind his sweet lead horn, with just a chorus or so sung in scat. More exotically, Peggy Lee, at the height of her Latin era, backed by a boy chorus, squeezes to a Bosa Nova beat, her signature whisper coming in syncopated short plosives. She even growls, just a little, less kitten than cub. The Delta Rhythm Boys make the song all but sexless, though their harmonies are lovely.

Among my favorite versions of this tune: Dinah Washington, The Queen, and another big girl like Mildred, puts some genuine sexual energy under her belt, adding "papa" and "daddy" here and there, putting a note of hot impatience into "I'm in the mood to let you know/I never knew I loved you so/Please say, you love me too" and NOW, damn it, daddy, now. Sarah Vaughan, her voice playfully sliding around the bass fiddle, shaping the notes with her usual, reefer-hazy ease, riffing lazily, drops and swoops and sails. Unsurprisingly Diana Krall's is the sexiest version, but there is a hint of a lingering pleasant post-coital regret in Ella Fitzgerald's recording. Ella strings out the words "when I get this feel-ing I'm in ec - sta - sy," and the ecstasy sounds recent and believable, particularly backed by Ellington's own smooth pace at the piano.

Ellington's own version, on the Centennial recording I have, has a nice easy groove for the first bar or two then a trumpet blast that heralds a change into swing. But perhaps my favorite version to date is Lou Rawls, growling in about the sexiest voice ever, making the song a rough plea for release. Phew!

Dear A. tends to buy pop records and then play the one or two songs he actually likes over and over, and over again. He's kind enough to do this usually in the privacy of his office, or when I'm not at home. But I don't generally spend my evenings comparing renditions of rather quaint jazz standards from my library. Tonight though, looking for a little musical distraction, I've done just that. I'm planning to "burn" a cd for a friend, of naughtier blues songs, and so was searching for provocative numbers to include. "Squeeze Me" doesn't quite make the cut, not really having quite the right blues beat, though Mildred comes close, and lacks sufficient suggestion in even the most suggestive versions. I need blatant stuff for my "mixed Tape," as we called them back in the days of cassettes. But I ended up listening to "Squeeze Me" over and over tonight because it fit another need, namely cheering me up after a wardrobe malfunction.

We are setting up a table on the sidewalk tomorrow to sell new bookstore T-shirts at the University District Street Fair. I've volunteered to help, and to hand out coupons offering 50% off on any used book. I'm actually looking forward to the day. I'll be in baggy shorts, sandals with socks, a long-sleeved shirt and my Amish straw hat, and will hopefully not get sunburned this year. My intention however was to wear one of our attractively designed new T-shirts. I was given one, free of charge, to wear tomorrow. The problem? I didn't try it on until tonight. Despite my request that we produce larger sizes, the biggest size we have is a rather modest XL. "I am of traditional build" as the fat lady says in the African detective stories. When I slipped into my new shirt tonight, the design, which features a squirrel reading in a tree (trust me, it is cute, and the graphic attractive, honestly,) was spoiled by my paunch. My tree expanded so at the roots as to look like a redwood as seen by a flea. The XL needed to be at least a XXL in order not to fit me like a sausage-casing.

Depressed by this reminder of my expansion from extra to extra extra, I gave the T-shirt up and came down to write and cool out with some blues. I'm not sure just how I hit on "Squeeze Me," but I ask you, what could be more appropriate to my present circumstances and state?

And so, once again, Mildred, honey:

"Treat me sweet and gentle
When you say goodnight
Just squeeze me
But please don't tease me... "

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