Blackberry Winter

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Blackberry Winter (Alec Wilder, Loonis McGlohon)

In the book Alec Wilder in Spite of Himself: A Life of the Composer, by Desmond Stone (1996), in discussing the 1976 collaborations between Alec Wilder and Loonis McGlohon, the author says on page 206, including a quote by Wilder:

“Where’s the Child I Used to Hold?” has not been widely performed since Dick Haymes sang it, but that is certainly not true for “Blackberry Winter,” another 1976 Wilder-McGlohon collaboration, one set apart by its haunting sixteenth-note motive and its unexpected harmonic and rhythmic progressions…

Wilder has recalled that he wrote the tune on a day when he was visiting McGlohon and fussing at the piano:

Something I played pleased him so I worked out the idea into a full length melody. He expressed interest in putting a lyric to it. I was convinced that my rhythmically unconventional devices would seriously hinder any attempt to find adequate words. Not at all. Mr. McGlohon, in his usual impeccable taste, found all the right words even if the phrase “blackberry winter” is unfamiliar to Northerners.

What is blackberry winter?

The Old Farmer’s Almanac says:

Blackberry winter is mainly a Southern term used to describe a brief period of cold weather that coincides with the time the blackberries are in bloom, (typically in early to mid May).

Wikipedia says:

Blackberry winter is a colloquial expression used in south and midwest North America, referring to a cold snap that often occurs in late spring when the blackberries are in bloom. Other colloquial names for spring cold snaps include “dogwood winter,” “whippoorwill winter,” “locust winter,” and “redbud winter.” The different names are based on what is blooming in particular regions during the typical spring cold snaps.[1][2][read more]

In an article published in March 2011 at Dave’s Garden (davesgarden.com), Darius Van d’Rhys differentiates between the expressions blackberry winter, dogwood winter, locust winter, and redbud winter, saying:

Oldtimers also knew that blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) need a cold snap to set buds on the blackberry canes, so as sure as night follows day, there will be a cold snap when the blackberries bloom, called Blackberry Winter. It comes with a somewhat less severe return of a continental polar air mass after the maritime tropical air masses have begun to dominate the weather. In some areas, a late cold snap occurs with the blooming of the locust trees (Robinia pseudoacacia) usually before the dogwoods bloom or the redbuds (Cercis canadensis). So you have Locust Winter, and Redbud Winter happening after the first flush of warm spring days and before Dogwood Winter and Blackberry Winter.

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Teddi King — from her 1976 album Lovers & Losers, Audiophile AP 117

Teddi King – vocal
Loonis McGlohon – piano, arrangement
Mel Alexander – bass
Jim Lackey – drums

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Blackberry Winter (Alec Wilder, Loonis McGlohon) – lyric

Blackberry winter comes without a warning
Just when you think that spring’s around to stay
So you wake up on a cold rainy morning
And wonder what on earth became of May

Blackberry winter only lasts a few days
Just long enough to get you feeling sad
When you think of all the love that you wasted
On someone whom you never really had

I’ll never get over losing you
But I’ve had to learn that life goes on
And the memories grow dim, like a half forgotten song
‘Til the blackberry winter reminds me you are gone

And I get so lonely, most of all in springtime
I wish I could enjoy the first of May
But I know it means that blackberry winter
Is not too far away

lyric transcription by doc: published on 1 May 2018; edit: 4 May

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Keith Jarrett Trio — from sessions recorded at Generation Sound Studios, NYC, October 14, 15 & 16, 1976; released on the 1977 album Bop-Be, (US) Impulse! Records AS-9334, IA-9334, (UK) ABC Records IMPL 8053

Keith Jarrett – piano
Charlie Haden – bass
Paul Motian – drums

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Roland Hanna — from the 1980 LP Plays the Music of Alec Wilder, Inner City Records IC 1072

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Dolly Dawn — from her 1981 album Memories of You, Dawn Records DDI 2001, Audiophile Records ACD-201

personnel for this  track:

Dolly Dawn – vocal
Bucky Pizzarelli – guitar
Phil Bodner – flute

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Joe Derise — from the 1981 LP House of Flowers, Audiophile AP-153

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Loonis McGlohon — originally released on the 1981 or 1982* album Loonis in London, Audiophile Records AP-166 — A 1996 CD album titled Loonis and London, Audiophile Records ACD-166, features the eleven tracks from the original album, plus an additional ten tracks.

From the AllMusic.com review of Loonis in London, by Dave Nathan:

Friend, confidant, and collaborator with foremost American composer Alec Wilder, as well as accompanist supreme, Loonis McGlohon has made a rare recording as a leader. McGlohon was the musical director for the erstwhile Wilder popular radio series, American Popular Song. But more often than not, he is accompanying a singer, a skill at which he is particularly accomplished, the Gerald Moore of jazz piano, if you will. He has worked with numerous singers like Eileen Farrell, Teddi King, Mark Murphy, and David Allyn. His presence brings out the best in those whose voices may have seen better days, like Dick Haymes and Johnny Hartman.

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Mike Campbell & Tom Garvin — from the 1984 LP Blackberry Winter, ITI Records ‎JL 009

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Joyce Breach with Jerry Melaga — recorded in 1985; released in 1995 on the CD album Songbird, Audiophile ACD-199

Joyce Breach – vocal
Jerry Melaga – piano

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Marlene VerPlanck — from her 1986 album Sings Alec Wilder, Audiophile AP-218, Audiophile (D)AP-218 (gatefold cover)

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Joyce Breach with the Loonis McGlohon Quartet — from her 1991 CD album Confessions, Audiophile Records ACD-269

album personnel (from Jazzology.com):

  • Loonis McGlohon – piano, arrangement
  • Joe Negri – guitar
  • Virgil Walter – string bass
  • Reid Hoyson – drums

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Alexis Cole, accompanied by Harry Pickens on piano — from the 1999 CD album Very Early

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Those fond of classically trained vocalists might particularly enjoy the following two recordings:

Valerie Errante, Robert Wason, Ken Meyer, Aleck Brinkman ‎– from the 2000 album Songs Of Alec Wilder, Albany Records TROY 404

medley: Blackberry Winter / The Echoes of My Life (second song: m. Alec Wilder, w. Rogers Brackett)

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David Daniels and Craig Ogden ‎– from the 2003 album A Quiet Thing: Songs for Voice and Guitar, on Virgin
Classics

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Jack Donahue — from the CD album Strange Weather, released in May 2004 on the PS Classics label

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Stéphy Haïk — from the musical program Lambert Wilson chante la Nuit américaine, recorded live at the Opéra Comique in Paris on 7, 8 & 9 June 2005; released 20 October 2005 on the DVD “La Nuit Americaine” — music arranged by Régis Huby

From the “About me / English” page at stephyhaik.com:

Another exciting addition to Stephy’s busy schedule was her performances in Lambert Wilson’s musical “La Nuit Americaine”, dedicated to the great American composers of the last century. Directed by Helene Vincent, arranged by Regis Huby, the show toured more than a year in France (la Cite de la Musique a Paris, Chalon sur saone, Perpignan, Carcassonne, Theoules, Lyon, Chambery, Vallauris, Frejus and Lacoste) ending the French tour triumphantly in Paris’ “Opera Comique”.

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Thomas Marriott · Bill Anschell · Jeff Johnson · John Bishop — from the 2007 CD album The Cool Season – An Origin Records Holiday Collection, Vol. 2, Origin Records 82494

album personnel:
Thomas Marriott – trumpet, flugelhorn
Bill Anschell – piano
Jeff Johnson – bass
John Bishop – drums

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Marian McPartland — piano solo from her 2008 CD album Twilight World, Concord Music Group, Inc. ‎CCD-30528; album recorded on 11 & 12 September 2007

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Solon High School jazz choir “Blame It On Our Youth,” of Solon, Ohio — published on YouTube, 10 May 2009

featured soloists are video provider momomiller, Sami McAtee, Melanie Breza, and Kami Schmidt

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* Disagreement as to the release date of Loonis in London, Audiophile Records AP-166:

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  1. Trackback: like a half forgotten song | Songbook

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