George and Ira Gershwin’s cheeky and titular showtune, “Lady Be Good” (aka “Oh Lady Be Good” with varied punctuation!?! ;) is a rather unpretentious 16-bar chorus rejoinder to a somewhat forgetful verse, however its lackluster melodic quality perhaps lends a hand to the performance’s theatricality. Thelonious Monk’s tune “Hackensack,” however, offers an angular melody and asymmetrical rhythms to give the music some wallop. But because of its simplicity, “Lady Be Good” often features an extraordinary talent from the performer beyond the music, such as Fred Astaire’s choreography or Ella Fitzgerald’s vocal improvisation.
Perhaps flashiness is the key. Beboppers embraced the tune as a vehicle to show off the linear motion within the harmony. For instance, Craig Klein’s use of chromaticism in the upper register is like a tap dance on top of Mt. Everest. And his dexterity throughout the extended outro invokes the blues over a rhythm section that has captured the gospel spirit. Yet it’s Klein’s scat vocal solo that really shines because we all knew that he could play the trombone. So when he effortlessly tips his hat to the First Lady of Song, he’s flirting. Oh, Craig Klein Be Good!
Here is a YouTube video of Craig Klein performing this tune with the Jazz Vipers.
Recommended reading: Ali vs. Inoki: The Forgotten Fight That Inspired Mixed Martial Arts and Launched Sports Entertainment by Josh Gross. Published by BenBella Books.