Jazzman by Carole King (Ode, 1974)

As a kid I would always get Todd Rundgren & Carole King mixed up. Without the aid of pictures or video, I was left to compare the two by their songs’ chord progressions led on the piano, the vocal range of their voice, Carole the alto and Todd the tenor and the garbled frequencies of AM radio squealing out of poor Volkswagen car speakers. It would be hard to do now without prejudgment, but listen to Hello It’s Me & Jazzman side by side and tell me that they don’t sound very similar.

I have a memory of being in the South Shore Mall standing outside of J.C. Penney’s with Jazzman playing through the speakers and asking my mom, ‘Is this guy that sings Hello It’s Me?’. ‘No this is Carole King.’, she replied with a look of confusion. I took her word for it but still was not convinced.

This was Carole’s biggest hit outside of her Tapestry singles, rising up to #2. She wrote this song David Palmer, former singer in Steely Dan. Fagen & Becker have never had a song of theirs or a cover ever rise that high. But I think David might have traded that fact for a steadier career in the Dan. The ‘jazzman’ in this song is Tom Scott, who cuts loose on the sax many times within the 3:43 minute timeframe, no doubt inspiring everyone from Al Stewart to Gerry Rafferty to find a jazzman of their own.

Carole sings this one so sweet you forget that the lyrics trip over themselves a bit. She wants the jazzman to take her blues away by making the pain the same as his. I guess misery loves company, but how exactly does that lift one above the old routine? What Carole is really testifyin’ about is the power of music and how deeply it affects emotions. She should know and I can’t agree more. So enjoy this touch of Georgia slide….

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