June 14, 2021

From Etta James to Miles Davis, the exquisite music of Mad Men

Jon Hamm and Elizabeth Moss in the unforgettable Mad Men, an exquisite series accompanied by the best jazz

With seven seasons aired between 2007 and 2015, Mad Men, the series created by Matthew Weiner became one of the greatest classics of the new golden age of the genre. The radical transformation of advertising accompanying the emergence of pop and counterculture in the 1960s resulted in one of the best stories ever told on television with an odd-era reconstruction.

The years of the series from the mid-50s to the early 70s are mirrored in the music that changes with the same virulence as the way of selling. But in the beginning, the style Mad Men it is encrypted by jazz in all its forms: from the packaging that serves to continue exploiting the figure of Marilyn Monroe to the revolution of Miles Davis. The following is a guide Madison Avenue of jazz as the seasons go by.

“Moonglow” (Benny Goodman, 1936). El soundtrack de Mad Men dates back to the golden era of swing represented by two great orchestras: that of trumpeter Glenn Miller and that of clarinetist Benny Goodman. “Moonglow”, composed by Will Hudson in 1933, became a jazz standard from this instrumental version that Goodman recorded with a legendary quartet line-up: Teddy Wilson (piano), Gene Kruppa (drums) and Lionel Hampton (vibraphone. ). The counterpoint between the soft sound of the clarinet and the evanescent strokes of Hampton creates a nocturnal, dreamy, eternal atmosphere.

“It’s Magnificent” (Cole Porter, 1953). Born in Indiana in 1891, Cole Porter was going through the last years of his life when the first scenes at the Sterling & Cooper agency took place and the activity on Madison Avenue was radically transformed. By then he had already become one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century with major contributions to the songbook jazz and Broadway musical. This instrumental version of “C’est Magnifique” that is heard in the series was composed for the musical Can-Can. In the 1960 film she would be played by Sinatra and Shirley McLaine.

“Manhattan” (Ella Fitzgerald, 1956). One of the greatest voices in jazz, Ella dedicated an entire album to songs composed by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, a duo as important to the genre as Porter. The name of the song is explicit, an ode to the Big Apple that is the center stage of the series. Fitzgerald recorded it accompanied by the Buddy Bregman Orchestra, and the album received a 1973 special Grammy for records over 25 years old that had a historic quality. Twice as long has passed since then and, of course, he sings better every day.

“I’m Thru With Love” (Marilyn Monroe, 1959). Who is more Marilyn in Mad Men? Betty Draper or Joan Holloway? It would be necessary to enter into a speculation between the physical characteristics and the psychological profile of two of the central female characters of the series, but the truth is that the ghost of Monroe flies over the series and includes it in its soundtrack. Marilyn’s short life was even more so in music: some songs in movies like Gentlemen prefer blondes (1953) and The adorable sinner (1960) and a couple of singles. “I’m Thru With Love” is the B-side of “I Wanna Be Loved By You.” Of course, the blonde could sing, closer to the whisper of Chet Baker than to the overwhelming eloquence of the Fitzgerald. A pop icon in the final stretch of traditional jazz.

Miles Davis

Miles Davis

Miles Davis

“Blue In Green” (Miles Davis, 1959). The changes in the mentality of the time are reflected in the revolution that the release of the album meant for jazz Kind of Blue that Miles recorded in two historic ten-hour sessions in March and April 1959, at the Columbia label studio on 30th Street. Accompanied by John Coltrane (sax), Bill Evans (piano), Paul Chambers (double bass) and Jimmy Cob (drums), the trumpeter left engraved a hinge in the century of the same depth that the appearance of Picasso supposed for the painting. The idea of ​​sophistication that the protagonists of the series yearn for and that also constitutes it as fiction (entertainment falls short here) is mirrored in this new classical music.

“Concert of Aranjuez” (Miles Davis, 1960). Another stellar cameo of Davis ‘trumpet on the series’ soundtrack is in his interpretation of “Concierto de Aranjuez” included on the album. Sketches of Spain that marked a transversal line between jazz and classical music. Davis also made the music of Manuel de Falla his own here, inaugurating a current known as third stream (third stream). As often happens with revulsive artists, the adaptation that the jazzman made of Iberian cultured music disappointed locals and strangers: it was coldly received by the critics of the time and Joaquín Rodrigo, author of “Aranjuez”, made public his displeasure with the version.

“Trust In Me” (Etta James, 1960). This style of jazzeado blues is the core of a pop subgenre referred to as music. Mad Men and that she had her definitive figure in the tragic Amy Winehouse. It was already vintage when Etta, a decisive influence on Janis Joplin, recorded it for the album At Last! and he put it in the top 30 making a virtuous use of nostalgia with a melody whose origins went back thirty years. Pop would later change the perception of time: the music that was recorded thirty years ago may today be more novel than the strictly new.

Etta James

Etta James

Etta James

“There Will Never Be Another You” (Bud Powell, 1961). On an original tune by the charismatic Chet Baker, pianist Bud Powell recorded this instrumental for the album A Portrait of Thelonius, his tribute to another pianist: the decisive Thelonius Monk. Powell was one of the leading figures of be bop and was part of the Modern Jazz Quartet, spearheading the renewal of jazz in the 1950s. He passed through life with difficulty, between schizophrenia, alcoholism and tuberculosis that ended his life in 1966.

“Fly Me To The Moon” (Julie London, 1963). This version of the standard that Sinatra globalized was edited on the album The End Of The World, one of the few in which the classical beauty of the actress-singer is not exploited as pin up girl (A review of her covers shows her as a leggy Rita Hayworth between jazz and pop). The London was not English but Californian and she shone as an actress between the 50s and the late 70s when she played the nurse Dixie McCall in the series Emergency! (1972-1979), a milestone from the previous golden era of the genre on broadcast TV. His voice is also heard in the English series The End of The Fucking World, although the cocktail style of this “Fly Me …” brings her closer to the arms of Don Draper than to a dysfunctional adolescent love. His style and look could well inspire the fantastic period reconstruction of the series.

Astrud Gilberto

Astrud Gilberto

Astrud Gilberto

“Drinking Water” (Astrud Gilberto, 1965). The emergence of bossa nova gave jazz a new life in the early sixties. That pairing made it the emblematic music of South American modernism and the records of Joao Gilberto or, in this case, his wife Astrid were not strangers in the discotheques of the Madison Avenue creatives thirsty for novelties in a snobbish frenzy that would soon have them. taking LSD. But that is another story. With “Drinking Water” the hardcore Mad Men whose undisputed sound is that of jazz.