Many people now know that Don Randi was a member of the Wall of Sound/Wrecking Crew group of top studio musicians thanks to the “Wrecking Crew” documentary film and the many recent appearances and interviews Don has done in connection with it. What a lot of people don’t know is Don has recorded 20 jazz albums of his own and one of his albums, “New Baby,” was nominated for a Grammy Award for album of the year. He loves to compose, play and arrange jazz music so with his biography “You’ve Heard These Hands” nearing release; I thought it would be nice to bring attention to some of his great jazz work because there’s many fascinating stories in the book about the LA jazz club scene and Don’s start in the music business because of jazz.
Recently, I searched for Don Randi’s jazz music on YouTube and found his cut of “Waltzing Matilda” from his album titled “Where Do We Go From Here” that was released on Verve Records in 1962. At the time, Don’s band was a jazz trio and he recorded that album with Leroy Vinnegar on bass and Mel Lewis on drums. I was curious to hear Don’s jazz version of the song which was originally written in 1895 by Australian poet Banjo Patterson and Christina MacPhearson. “Waltzing Matilda” is considered Australia’s unofficial national anthem.
I was using my cell phone at the time and while listening to the song I set my phone down on my coffee table, near the edge. Don’s jazz arrangement of “Waltzing Matilda” is great, by-the-way. As the song was playing my cat, Timon, who was sleeping under the kitchen table, came into the living room, walked to the coffee table and started to rub his face on the phone in delight. Could it be Timon loves this song? I picked up my phone and played the song again and Timon jumped up on the couch with me, rubbed his head on the phone as I held it and purred. Wow, Timon has a favorite song! I have another cat, Nala, but she seems to prefer pop music.
Excited, I told Don… Cats love your music! At least Timon has the good taste to love the song. Anyway, this reminded Don about the recording and told me that “Waltzing Matilda” is a public domain song, but his arrangement is not and is registered with BMI. For many years Don received checks from BMI for small amounts like ten dollars to twenty-five dollars for the use of his recording of “Waltzing Matilda.” Curious to know who was playing his song and being very diligent in reporting the use to BMI, he called them to ask who was playing it. They looked up where the usage reports were coming from and it turned out to be a television station in Perth, Australia. For many years the TV station played Don’s recording when they signed off the air each night. What a hip version for them to play!
Since I reminded Don of the song and his fondness for it, he decided to include it in his set last week at The Baked Potato, where he performs with his current band, Quest. What a treat that was to hear “Waltzing Matilda” live and I smiled wondering if Timon might have jumped up on Don’s keyboard while he played it.
The following day I played it again on my phone for Timon, since he missed the live performance, so I could take a picture of him for Don, but I speculated if he would still react the same way. He did…
P.S. Don Randi is allergic to cats.
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