Music is the ultimate melting pot. In 1927, a year after the subject of this post was born, Columbia released the first recorded version of a folk song old enough that its origins, although traced to Asia Minor, have been lost. It was performed by Tetos Demetriades, a Turkish singer who had emigrated to the United States, and his rendition of the song was a Greek dance heavily influenced by Middle Eastern music. In 1941 another Greek-American musician named Nick Roubanis  recorded a jazz instrumental version which put an Oriental spin on it that most of the subsequent covers have emulated. And there have been a lot of them; it’s been recorded in Yiddish and Arabic, by Cuban bands and jazz musicians, by The Beach Boys and a thrash metal band named Dark Angel…and most famously as a surf-rock instrumental by Dick Dale, whose version plays over the opening credits of Pulp Fiction. Not bad for a tune that can be played on one string of the guitar.

The song, of course, was “Misirlou,” and in the mid-’60s Nick Ayoub, a Quebecois musician born to Lebanese parents in Trois-Rivières, released his own easy-listening version on an LP named Dance To The Saxophone, which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on The Lawrence Welk Show. Ayoub, who played sax, oboe and English horn in addition to being a composer, cut his teeth in dance bands with the likes of trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, was constantly in demand as a session musician, and by the 1960s was an integral figure in Quebecois jazz (one of his records is even named The Montreal Scene), frequently playing in clubs and on the CBC. Throughout the ’70s and ’80s he settled into a teaching career, before passing away in 1991.

Ayoub’s take on “Misirlou” is, in yet another touch of musical cross-pollination, a bossa nova, most likely inspired by (and trying to cash in on) the Brazilian music craze kicked off (in North America, anyway) by a 1964 album by Stan Getz and João Gilberto.

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