Saturday, December 31, 2005

Saisonal felicitationes,,,,

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,,,,hola, and akemashite omedetoo gozaimasu, and here now are the great Jackie and Roy wishing you. . .

My web site

Friday, December 30, 2005

Thursday, December 29, 2005

This just in. . .

The mailman just delivered copies of Bobbi Rogers' 1980 recording, Tommy Wolf Can Really Hang You Up the Most. (link for a limited time only)It's now available on CD for the first time. . .in Japan, natch. It is a personal favorite, and I'm (I'll go so far as to say) proud that I played a small part in getting this miracle-of-a-recording back in print. I wrote a bit about the CD and Ms. Rogers in a blog entry a few months ago.

I didn't really do much except to put Toshie Miyaki , of Celeste Records , together with Mort Fega, the producer of the original recording and owner of the master. And, oh yes! At the very last minute, when Wolf's publisher couldn't supply the songs' lyrics for the CD booklet, I copied them while auditing the recording. At first, it proved a bit slow-going and tedious, but finally, when I realized just how good (was there ever any doubt?) Fran Landesman's lyrics are, I realllly got into the process of playing lines over and over again to get it just right (they really hold up even under the closest of scrutiny).

This is now available at And while, per usual with Japanese CD imports, the price is, ahem, a trifle high, in this case I would say the it's definitely worth every last penny of the 33 simoleons that it costs. It is also possible that allmusicservices does or will soon have copies.

Celeste has packaged this quite nicely, with liner notes also in Japanese by Keizo Takada, and Mort Fega did a beautiful job in overseeing the digital remastering of the disc just before his death earlier this year.

Bah humbug be-bop

I realize that I might be rushing the season (Christmas 2006) just a tad, but the sentiments in Jack Sheldon's Jazz Musicians' Holiday (link for a limited time only-link removed 1/1) could just as easily apply to the upcoming New Years festivities.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A lone voice of dissent in the wilderness

At last. . .someone besides Nathan Lane blows (so to speak) the whistle on this ridiculous Harlequin Horse Opera, Broke My Back Mounting Him, or as it is known in Japan, The Man Who Brought Back No Fish . . .Read it here.

It is mere coincidence that the writer of this aforementioned breath-of-fresh-air , film critic (and oh so much more) David Ehrenstein, has been my good friend and constant travelling companion for the last thirty-five years. My, well, Tonto as it were.

Tommy Tommy

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To the best of my knowledge, this June Christy 45 (link for a limited time only) with Jonah Jones has never been released on a LP, CD or "all other improvements and devices which are now or hereafter may be used" (to quote from the famed Peggy Lee vs. Disney lawsuit). It is from Bock and Harnick's Tenderloin and represents Capitol Records' 1960 attempt to get jazz singer June Christy on track as a commercial recording artist. And they continued unsuccessfully to do so before finally throwing in the towel after the failure of her 1964 Something Broadway, Something Latin.

The first time I heard I heard this final Christy LP for her longtime label, Capitol, it was obvious that an edict had come down from "suits" on high in the Capitol Tower to either sell out or get out. There are several very commercial tracks on it, replete with plink-plink-plink piano triplets, and the few more-or-less listenable cuts are by far the most pop-ish things she ever recorded. It’s the one dubious album she ever made, and that includes the disappointing 1977 Interlude, issued initially in the U.S. on the Interplay label. MORE

Friday, December 23, 2005

Cat blog Friday

This Japanese site offers hundreds of wonderful pics of kitties. All you need is a knowledge of Japanese OR a soupcon 'o patience to navigate it.

My web site

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Martin Denny Lives!

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Christmas record of the Day: Last Christmas (link for a limited time only)by Japanese comedian-singer-ukelelist Takagi Boo. Compare and contrast with version by Inner Voices/La Voix posted here a few days ago. Talk amongst yourselves.

Along with Tatsuro Yamashita's Christmas Eve, (link for a limited time only) the George Michael/Wham recording of Last Christmas has been a staple on the Japanese seasonal record sales charts ever since it was released, one year after the Yamashita, in 1984.
Answer to yesterday's riddle:

Q. How is Brokeback Mountain different from any movie western that's come before?

A. The good guy gets it in the end.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


I've just been informed that Inner Voices (see yesterday's entry) can also be heard on the Christmas album of fine Japanese singer Yasuko Agawa . . .reader Chris S. suggests that a good title for the Japanese release of Brokeback Mountain might be The Man Who Brought Back No Fish; JB suggests that another title for BBM might be---wish I had thought of it---Rodeo and Juliet. . .best movie I've seen this season is the Wood Man's Match Point. . .happy to note that on February 13th the great Johnny Mandel will be repeating his very successful recent concert for the L.A. Jazz Institute at L.A.'s Jazz Bakery. . .EX-CLU-SIVE: which two teen tabloid darlings were spotted last night slapping and scratching to a bloody draw in the celeb back room of the popular Hollywood watering hole, The 13th Step?. . .Riddle: Q. How is Brokeback Mountain different from every other movie western that's come before? (answer tomorrow). . .thanks to Walter Winchell Enterprises for permission to use, herein, a few of his patented ellipses. . .

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

'Tis the season for autograph hounds

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Now it can be told. The group alluded to in my blog entry of last Sunday, La Voix, is in reality the West Coast group of session singers, Inner Voices. And for quite a few years now they have presented an annual Christmas music concert at this city's (L.A.) Jazz Bakery. I would go so far as to call the occasion, in these increasingly transitory and superficial times in which we live, something resembling an actual---pace Tevya--- tradition. And for good reason. These four Inner Voices (minus soprano Julie Delgado, off touring somewhere in Europe with---gakkk---Rod Stewart) constitute, singly, collectively and inarguably, the Rolls Royce of such assemblages. Go from one end of the radio dial to the other and you're bound to hear at least one, several or all of their voices singing commercials or back-up on recordings.

Most of the concert was a cappella, and while it has been my pleasure to hear a few other fine such groups in concert (most notably Take Six), before last Sunday I've never had the chance to witness the creation of music like this in such close proximity.

After the show, and somewhat in jest, I said to Morgan Ames, the leader and arranger, "I always thought there might be some element of trickery in such affairs. But now, up close, I can see that it isn't smoke and mirrors at all, but, instead, just plain old meticulous, arduous advance preparation." Somewhat the most endearing aspect of the afternoon was that it all seemed, even from a few yards away, so fun and spontaneous. None of the quartet nor their guest artists, Andrea Robinson and Jim Gilstrap, even appeared to break a sweat. (It's called ACT-ING.) The act of proficiently performing from memory a two-hour, four-vocal-part mostly a cappella concert seems to me like a daunting one.

These superb artists---Morgan Ames, Shelby Flint, Michael Mishaw, Melissa Mackay---sang mostly acappella and missed not so much as a beat throughout (hard enough for most professional vocalists to intone the mere melody of one song entirely on key). There might have been one minor mistep. I could tell by the way the foursome joshed with one another briefly after the song, but it was far too subtle to have been apprehended by all but the most meticulous and schooled of listeners in attendance. (If you prick Inner Voices, do ((even)) they not bleed?)

The repertoure ran the gamut from the traditional "I Wash My Face in a Golden Vase" to "Jingle Bell Rock" done as a samba. Finally, the afternoon's highlights were far too numerous to mention, but Flint's high notes on Handel's Messiah were a wonder. Especially because they seemed so effortlesly produced. Standing ovation time. Of course, afterwards she nearly collapsed after from the sheer sense of. . . Did-I-just-do-that?

Too bad I will apparently have to wait for another whole year before the next coming of Inner Voices "live." Meanwhile, will someone please secure these guys a much-deserved endorsement deal with Evian bottled water?

Worth waiting for

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Not one to gush over celebs---i.e., meeting, breaking bread with, litigating against, stalking, and even more speakable and unspeakable interfaces with ---one of the few of the lot that I've always wanted to encounter or at least be in the same room with is Teri Garr. And last Thursday night at L.A.s Book Soup, I finally had my chance!

I wrote about the forthcoming Garr booksigning event a few weeks ago here . And for me to brave driving the Sunset Strip late into the holiday season, you have to know I wanted to be there reallll bad.

As most know by now, Garr has finally been diagnosed with multiple schlerosis after more than a decade of uncertain and altogether MS-diagnoses. (The valium sleep-torture rack treatment as described in her wonderful and funny new memoir, Speedbumps reads just like something out of the Middle Ages.)

A nice and adoring crowd was there to meet her, not one of whom grumbled a bit as time wore on and Garr was more than a half-hour late. Mumbling something about traffic as she made her way to the lecturn under her own steam and with daughter Molly in tow, the radiant Teri had the audience eating out of the palm of her hand from start to finish.

I am happy to report than while MS may have somewhat slowed Garr's stride, all of her essential Teri Garr-ness is still intact. As it turned out, it was one of the few delayed pleasures I've ever meditated upon that lived up to my expectations. Just as I hoped, she was alternately droll, wise, and hilarious by turns, often so quickly as to engender whiplash.

A question that I wanted to ask Garr was something she partially addressed right off the bat; i.e., her acknowledgement that the initial title of the memoir was the wonderful one of Does This Wheelchair Make Me Look Fat? (She also said that she'd contemplated calling it The Joy of Handicap Parking!!!) And so in the Q&A session that followed her reading of sections from the book, when I asked her why she had changed the original title to the somewhat ho-hum Speedbumps, her co-writer, Henriette Mandel, in the back of the room answered for her: "She caved," she shouted out. After the audience had their good laugh over that, Garr did not exactly answer my question, but it was obvious from her attendant equivocation and fumfering (in her mouth, fumfering is elevated to high art) that the Good Taste Police at her publishers had stepped in.

There are two signatures on my copy of Speedbumps, obtained last Friday evening: the regulation "To Bill Reed" with the heart shape AND "Sincerest Love. And I really mean it." The latter is actually a stamping machine that Garr carries with her and uses whenever her writing hand gives out. Fortunately, she was feeling no pain that night and gracefully gave every book buyer a double dose of her autograph.

In turn, I gave her a copy of MY memoir, Early Plastic, published by Landfill Press. I hope she reads it.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A Yuletide posting. . .

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. . .that combines two of my favorites things: The Little Rascals and a cappella.

Here , through the auspices of the Vocal Group Identity Protection Program (VGIPP), is a wonderful U.S. quintet recording for Japan under another name---La Voix---than the one by which they are known in their native land. (link for a limited time only)

My web site

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Cue the gamelans

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For the past several days on this blog I have been putting up mp3s of my fairly extensive vocal jazz collection here at Oblivion Towers. But that is not all that I collect. I also specialize in Indian Original Cast Recordings of Broadway shows.

You would be surprised at how many such recordings exist. For example there are actually India cast recordings of two failed 50s B'way musicals, "Flahooley" and "Whoop-up" (urp) both of which barely made it to disc in the U.S. The star of the former is Indian 5-octave wonder, Yma Poon.

What nearly all of these have in common is that they appeared on 78s as well as on their rpm-challenged cousins (by the time of MFL in the U.S. 78s had gone the way of the horse and buggy). The reason being the ongoing lack of electrification on that continent well into the 50s. Thus the need for many Indian afficianados of the Broadway musical to rely upon the old standby, the handcranked 78 player. ("Oh, Mary, you crank this time. My arm's tired.")

Some of these recordings even sported translations into one of several Indian dialects. And you haven't lived until you've heard Robinson and Solt's 1954 "Sandhog" rendered in Hindi.

But while Lerner and Loewe's classic "My Fair Lady" was almost always translated into the main language of the nation where it was being performed, due to the large British population and the high degree of English language facility of the educated indigenous population of India, in that country MFL was both performed and recorded in English. The only major change being that the male lead is called "Professor Umbelli" and instead of transforming Eliza in a proper English lady, her Svengali is going to attempt to, as he says, "Make you a touchable."

Here then is "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" (link for a limited time only) from the six 12-inch disc 78 rpm set (it's a wonder they didn't sell the damn thing with a truss) of the New Delhi production of "My Fair Lady."

Thursday, December 15, 2005


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Kropped Kitty Kuro

Three "records" of sorts

It suddenly dawned on me the other day, while listening to his wonderful new CD with Spain's Big Band Terrassa, that jazz singer David Allyn may have established a Guinness Book of World Record(s) of sorts as a solo U.S. recording artist.

Next to Allyn, who began recording on his own in 1946, and since 1940 as a featured vocalist (with Jack Teagarden) on disc, most everyone else who springs to mind is an absolute piker, Crosby, Como, Bennett, Sinatra et al. Inasmuch as Allyn was still recording as recently as this year, that makes a grand total of 65 years. And 59 years as the main "artist of record" on the label, as opposed to "with." To hear a rare 1946 Allyn recording on the fine, fine superfine Atomic label, cliquez ici. (link for a limited time only)

Ellington vocalist Herb Jeffries began recording a few years before Allyn, in '34 (with Earl Hines) , but did not head into the studio under his own name until 1945.

Hate to get all hair-splitting and Jesuitical about all of this, but Jeffries' last---to the best of my knowledge--- album, The Duke and I, was recorded in 2002. Giving him a 58-year span. . .assuming that nothing was released after that album. But Allyn is still in the studio working on new material even as of the writing of this. Don't know what Jeffries is up to in the studio these days?

Oh, what the hell, they are both such great guys and fine singers, let's let them split the Guinness trophy. Besides, I doubt that this longevity achievment is one of which Allyn and/or Jeffries are necessarily proud anyway. LOL. Still, it is interesting to contemplate.

My heart has always gone out to stereotyped ballad singers like David Allyn, Vic Damone and Johnny Hartman who have had to labor under the false notion, "Yeah, but can they swing?" It feels like Allyn, with his great new CD with the Terrassa band, has set out to redress that mistaken notion, when it comes to him, once and for all time. Takes a lot to keep up with that wonderful outfit, and Allyn does it! Nearly every track is a flagwaver.

Allyn also published his memoirs this year. . .available at

AND. . .today is the birthday of Greta Woodson, who may be the country's OLDEST recording artist. Long retired from performing and now living in Tulsa, Woodson (now known Greta Heslet) began recording in 1928 with the great Jean Goldkette band and also around the same time as a soloist for Victor. She worked with Goldkette both as a "girl Singer" and as part of the trio Winken, Blinken and Nod. Way to go, Greta!

Of all the non-jazz recording artists in the world, by far my favorite is the long-running Japanese pop star, Tatsuro Yamashita, whose seasonal favorite, Christmas Eve, has also just established a "record" in that country. First released in 1983, it took a few years for it to catch on, but after it did in '86 as the result of a TV commercial, it has managed to hit the Oricon (think Billboard mag for Japan) Top 100 chart every year around this time for the last two decades. Though Christmas Eve was originally recorded in Japanese by Yamashita, there is another track by him with lyrics written by my friend Alan O'Day. Here is just a taste of it.

My web site

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Helen Merrill Rarity

Listen here for a limited time only (link removed)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A reader from Altoona (let's call him "Dave X") writes. . .

Hello Bill Reed: I just discovered your blog and I really enjoy it. Love learning about jazz music and vocalists-- especially enjoyed your interview with Jo Stafford on the "Songbirds" website. But ya gotta let us know the identity of the singing duo you featured on December 4! The song is so saccharine and upbeat . . . It lingers, like a haunting refrain. Who are the mystery artists? I couldn't begin to guess-- The only performing sisters from the 1920s that I know of are Lillian and Dorothy Gish-- film stars, not vocalists. Could you let us know the answer to the musical question in an upcoming post? Thanks very much. Cheers, Dave.

Why sure, Dave. "Twimmin De Cwismas Twee'"---ulp---was one side of a 45 rpm by the once widely-known---how quickly we forget---Twenties duo, the Duncan Sisters. It was issued sometime in the early 1950s, when they were long past their prime, on the fine, fine, superfine label, Duncan Disc. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only release on the label. The flip side is---gakkk---"Dear Santy."

Here is what one site has to say about the Duncans:

"The Duncan Sisters could seem an anachronistic joke to those who never saw them perform. Unless you have been fortunate enough to view their early sound film, It's A Great Life, it is doubtful you have ever witnessed their charm and originality. Today, if any photo accompanies some mention of them it is usually one depicting their Topsy & Eva act. With Rosetta in blackface, it suggests something beyond the pale and reeking of common racism, but Vivien and Rosetta were never vulgar or offensive and their skill with close harmony singing, dancing and clowning made them one of the top acts in vaudeville."

Another site that I found tells you more than you probably will want or ever need to know about the girls.

I had a picture sleeve of the Duncan 45 around here at Oblivion Towers, and that I was gonna post, but not even the archelogists from all those U-I Mummy pix of the 30s would have been able to find it and so you will just have to content yourself with the entire version of "Twimmin'" instead (we aims to please). To the rest of the readers of this blog---and you know who you are---forewarned is forearmed.

My web site

Sunday Funnies

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

This is part of an email I received from. . .

. . .a new reader (we'll call him "Rick X") a couple of days ago., along with my response (hope he doesn't mind my reprinting).

Hello, Bill—

Hauled out one of my most cherished vinyl discs the other week, transferred it to CD at home, started listening to it over and over, just digging it again. ABC-Paramount, Jackie and Roy, *Free and Easy*, late 50s. Quite probably you know it—Bill Holman charts, medium-big band with great players (Porcino, Stu Williamson, Charlie Mariano, Shelly Manne, others). One of the tunes is—guess what—"So It's Spring." A phrase in those lyrics has always eluded me—it sounds something like "meetch-ah-poh." Have never been able to understand it, even after what must now be many hundreds of listenings.

There are almost no liner notes on the album beyond a few snapshots and some clever patter by Jackie and Roy outlining the history of the side. On the album itself I saw that Tommy Wolf is one of the people credited for the tune. I didn't know anything about Wolf and was hoping google could help me find the lyrics. So today I go there, plug in "'So It's Spring' Tommy Wolf lyrics"—and it takes me to your absolutely remarkable, intensely evocative piece on Bill Black, a.k.a. Clay Mundey. Had never heard of him.

Thanks hugely for writing the piece. My brother, a musician, and I used to dig early Page Cavanaugh Trio things—even worked out our own version of "The Three Bears." I'm going to send him your essay.

With every good wish—

To which I replied:

Dear "Rick X":

When I began blogging and home-paging a couple of years ago, yours is the kind of literate and thoughtful email I thought would result. . . several times a day. Ha! And alas! Not to mention lackaday!

Ironically, I heard the phrase "Nichevo" just last night---I already forget the context---and thought hard but not long about it, and so what we have going on here is a kind of vulcan mind-meld twixt you and I. "Nichevo" is Russian and means "it really doesn't matter." It also appears in the Vernon Duke song "Not a Care in the World."

Thanks for the kind words about the Bill Black essay. When I wrote that, I was perhaps one of only a few remaining in the world who remembered him. The release of his CD was not fought for at all by me. Just happened, and then after it was released on August 25th, I sent a copy to New York dee-jay Jonathan Schwartz and he immediately put it into fairly heavy rotatation on his satellite radio show. I still can't believe it. Not even experts on the big band era recalled Bill. Now, thanks to a Japanese record label and Schwartz, thousands know him. The moral, I suppose, is hire a good publicist and retain him or her even after death if you can manage it. Or else, hire CBS' "Ghost Whisperer."

There is a connection between Tommy Wolf and Black, both of whom are from St. Louis, that I have never been able to suss out, even after talking with Wolf's widow, Mary. Several other songs on the CD are by St. Louis writers.

Anyway, glad to have been of service. That will be fifteen cents, please. LOL

And yes, of course, I know the Jackie and Roy version as well. But there is a possibility that Black's even predates it.

And as for Page Cavanaugh, he is still knocking out a terrific "live" version of "The Three Bears" several nights a week here in L.A. Please allow me while I invoke a cliche and deem him "A National Treasure." Single dearest man in the world. And have you ever heard his recording of Bobby Troup's "Triscadecaphobia"? It's the national anthem of the newly emerging Third World nation state of Ool-Ya-Koo.




To which "Rick X," in turn, replied:

Wonderful to hear from you. I'll pass this along to my brother. . .and I'll look forward to hearing the Bill/Clay album. It's no wonder at all that I couldn't pick up on "Nichevo." I think of myself as reasonably literate, but I've never encountered the word elsewhere that I know of. Mind-meld indeed. Great to learn of the Vernon Duke connection—a tune whose lyrics I don't know. An old pal from high school. . . a big V. Duke fan *. Bet he knows that Russian term.

Wonderful also to have word of Page Cavanaugh. His music lit up my boyhood and still sounds marvelous.

I send huge thanks again and every good wish.


* I should have also noted in my original email to Rick that the lyrics of "Not a Care in the World" are, in fact, by John Latouche who probably picked up the phrase from Russian Vladimir Dukelsky (Vernon Duke).

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Neko no blogu Kinyoobi

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Spur of the Moment

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Still from the original silent version of Brokeback Mountain (1926)

Brokeback Mountain: The story of two shepherds who, instead of tending their flocks by night all seated on the ground, were back at the pup tent doing the beast with one back.

I got an advance look at this highly anticipated---ahem!---buddy flick last night on a video supplied by the film's distributors. But halfway through, I became so bored I was almost tempted to remove the traceable, watermarked DVD from the machine and put it up for sale on ebay and then sit back and watch the fun begin as the street outside my house filled up with video piracy police. THAT'S how bored I was. Like a glorified TASTEFUL version of Song of the Loon as directed by Martha Stewart.

And no wonder my attention strayed! There is only one (supposed) hot male-to-male action scene in the film. And on the copy I watched---on a new TV set---the scene was so dark (intentionally for this particular DVD?) that one could only guess what was going on. If the film is as commercially successful as it is touted to be, and the scene in question really is that tastefully beclouded, one can already hear Mr. and Mrs. Front Porch in mall cinemas all over America turning to one another and asking: "What's he a-doin' to him?" The only giveaway is the sound of a gob of spit qua lubricant hitting someone's hand (presumably Heath Ledger is the top)....KER-SPLATTT. And what my longtime saddle pal David Ehrenstein would like to know is, if these dudes had never before frolicked in the fields of sodom---as is tacitly implied---then how did Ledger know to do that? Sheep anyone?

Which brings up to the matter of the presumed straightness of both male leads---Ledger as "Ennis Del Mar" (!) and Jake Gyllenhaal as the aggressive bottom, "Jack Twist" (and turn). That being the case (and until I have pictures proving otherwise. . .), I half-suspected a disclaimer added to the end credits to the effect that "No heterosexuals were harmed during the making of this motion picture." Instead, all I got was Willie Nelson singing "He Was a Friend of Mine." I'll say!

These guys sneak off from their unsuspecting wives (that is until Jake's wife surreptitiously catches the two of them swapping spit. . .but that's another story) for an epic two-decades-long worth of fishing trips, in which nary a fish is caught and brought back home.

Every motion picture carries with it a freightload of ideological underpinnings. Even Scorchy with Connie Stevens. And while Bareback, er, Brokeback Mountain (sorry...couldn't help myself) in the final analysis will probably only set the cause of gay lib back a few minutes, still when it comes to that. . .every little bit hurts. The net result of Brokeback Mountain is a veritable Triumph of the Will of The Closet.

Joe Gage has nothing to worry about.

Opens wide---so to speak---after Christmas.

Monday, December 05, 2005

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Yesterday I attended a delightful Sunday afternoon jazz concert given by two L.A. musical landmarks, the wonderful Howlett (“The Grass is Greener”) Smith, and Carole Simpson, whose lone major label album, on Capitol, All About Carole, has always been in print somewhere in the world during the nearly fifty years since she recorded it in 1957 (my CD copy comes from Czechoslovakia).

Though there have been a couple of other minor releases by Simpson, this is basically it. “All About” (cliquez ici s’il vous plait) has remained in print since its inception in (still) musically literate Japan where her minor-label Tops LP now fetches big bucks on the collectors' market.

The occasion had all the necessary requisites to get me out of my cocoon here at Oblivion Towers! 1. It was nearby 2. Free 3. In the daytime 4. And a priori certain to be a quality affair.

The venue was a Sunday afternoon holiday social held at a local Presbyterian Church here in L.A. (the city where the future comes to die) where Howlett and Carole serve in the capacity of Sunday morning hovering musical gurus. And while a collection plate was passed midway during the affair, still the five bucks I plopped into the plate was a small price to pay for the musical enjoyment proffered by these two musical vets.

Seated on risers behind twin electric pianos (she a Yamaha, he a Kurzweil) , the pair knocked out a dozen or so duo piano renditions of standards, alternating between solo and duet vocals, on such as “Getting to Know You,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “S’Wonderful,” “Jingle Bells” (“Can we make this jazz?,” Howlett mused aloud to Carole. And they did!), and an especially memorable solo by Howlett, WHISTLING, on “Come Sunday.”

Between numbers, Carole and Howlett (longtime musical compatriots) engaged in a kind of post-bop Bickersons badinage that the large assemblage seemed to appreciate almost as much as they did the music qua music.

Lots more transpired, including sweet but less than entirely memorable turns by some of Howlett’s students. Still. . . knowing what I know now, I’d travel far, at night yet, and pay big bucks to do it all over again!

My web site

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Time to drag out. . .

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. . .the old xmas lps and CDs once more. Each year I pledge that after this yuletide I will consign the lot to a festive post-holiday bonfire. But still they prevail in the closet and even unto the crawlspace above my bedroom.

With the exception of a few titles, almost all of them---even the jazzier ones---are just not all that great. Maybe that's why I don't tend to listen to them the other months of the year? Could be.

One guilty pleasure that I do have a weakness for is the Stan Kenton xmas album. Curious, inasmuch as it is arranged by a decidedly non-jazzy arranger, the stodgy Ralph Carmichael. Maybe Stan had Bill Holman or Shorty Rogers go over the charts after Ralphie handed them in. The end result is a rather stately, yet swinging affair. I always play it while trimming the tree each year. It's---I believe they call it---a tradition around here at Oblivion Towers. In my heart of hearts, I'm guess I'm still such an old cornball.

One of my least favorite seasonal sets is by one of my most favorite singers, June Christy. The main problem with it is all the, errr, special material by a certain husband-and-wife songwriting team, who I keep incorrectly thinking is the same couple who made the Lee Marvin anti-kommie klassic, "Shack Out on Highway 101." But that's another pair.

How Junie manages to keep a straight face whilst intoning the lyric likes of "it's a terrible disgrace all this trash around the place" is a testament to. . .what? Grace under fire? When jazz singer Pinky Winters recreated half the Christymas album---with Pete Rugolo conducting!---a few years ago in a "live" setting," she privately vouchsafed to me of finding the melodies of the songs to be "needlessly complex." But Ms. Winters soldiered on and managed to make a nice festive holiday hash out of the stale fixins at her disposal.

Last year I compiled a CD titled "The Worstest Christmas Ever" to give out to all the friends that I had left. And that gesture pretty much put the Ki-bosh on all those relationships that I had remaining.

The, ahem, artists include: The Singing Dogs, as well as Cats, Ed "Kookie" Byrnes, "Marlene" (whom I've always assumed was the terrific jazz vocalist Marlene Ver Planck recording under a nom de demi) singing "I Want to Spend Christmas With Elvis," and the centerpiece of the collection, Jimmy Jules and the Nuclear Soul System singing "Xmas Done Got Funky," which I reluctantly sold last year on ebay to a buyer in Italy for $160.00. And this track, recorded on a vanity label in the 1950s by a famed sister duo of the Twenties. Any guesses? A hint: it was incessantly played over the p.a. system during Mistress Lyndie (she's from West Virginia...I'm so ooo prouddd) England's b and d sessions at Abu Ghraib prison.

My web site

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Howzis for getting your. . .

. . .heart started? click-a-rooney (link removed) HERE

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A faithful reader of this blog writes me this a.m.:

"And did you notice that the segment in the 11/28/2005 Letterman, the one about the coffee from Starbucks being pumped into the Ed Sullivan Theatre, is a parody of the climax of King Vidor's 'Our Daily Bread'?"

My response:

I'm not surprised. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I am in awe of Letterman. Just so much in the great midwestern humorist trad of George Ade, Herb Shriner, et al. (And of Bob and Ray, Henry Morgan, Fred Allen, and so on and so forth.)

It is a measure of Letterman's brilliance, I think, that on those somewhat rare occasions when he has a NEWSMAKER on, that he is usually entirely serious and devoid of japery.

Last week he showed the now famous footage of Boosh trying to unsuccessfully open doors in China. Then said, "Talk about not having an exit strategy."

Yeah, I know he has someone write that stuff. But he's the one who does the genius hiring.

If only he didn't have on those demographic-skewing (allegedly) musical acts for the kiddies. i.e, Urban Sprawl, The Triffids, Martha Proud and the Birth of God, ad nauseum. 99% gar-bage.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

I went to the great arranger-composer Johnny Mandel's 80th birthday party last night. It was shared with his longtime friend and also new octagenarian, M.D.-bassist hyphenate Dr. Ralph Gold.

An amazing affair whose attendees included several other swingin' docs, and a multiple PHD cat---name escapes me now-- who wielded a rather nice alto sax! Also cardiologist, Stephen Berens, who plays first rate jazz piano. So good, in fact, that a private for-friends-only recording that he cut recently has now ended up in rotation on Sirius satellite radio.

Attending also were the three, not-so-arguably, finest living jazz arrangers: Bill Holman, Bob Florence, and, of course, Johnny Mandel. And some of the best singers, including Morgan Ames, Michael Mishaw, Shelby Flint, Melissa MacKay, Bill Henderson, and Pinky Winters. Henderson sang "Sleepin' Bee" and Winters, accompanied by Bob Florence, gave us two songs, Mandel and Frishberg's "You Are There," and "I Thought About You." The others were heard in the context of the vocal group, Inner Voices. You can catch their annual Christmas concert this year on the 18th of December at L.A.s Jazz Bakery.

Among the other guests were: Van Alexander, Quincy Jones, Ruth Olay, Bill Marx, Marilyn and Alan Bergman, John Pisano, Pete Christlieb, Gary Foster, Tim Weston, and many dozens more. That list should convey the sense that the evening consisted of not only wonderful conversation, but great non-stop music, as well.

Had a nice long talk with Bill Henderson. I have two manufactured but unauthorized recordings of him with which he was completely unfamiliar. They are very very good, especially for bootleg CDs. I will send him copies. ("It's not the first time I was ripped off," he laughed. "And probably won't be the last.") Meanwhile, he surely would love to get those great Discovery recordings of his re-released. He was amazed that I actually know who owns the rights to them. He has never been able to find out.

If there had been---heaven forbid---a bomb dropped on the Beverly Hills manse where the celebration was held, you'd have effectively wiped out what's left of a (mercifully) still vital L.A. actual music scene.

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Cat Blog Friday

Head shots

Mystery vocalist contest #3

The first person to identify this mystery vocalist (link for a limited time only)wins a free copy of Bill Black's Down in the Depths. Reply using "comments" toggle below. Deadline, midnight next Sunday, November 27th.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Teri Garr's new memoir, Speedbumps

Highly recommended. On Letterman a couple of weeks ago Garr referred to a very rare form of MS (which she has) which "makes you believe that Phil Spector is innocent." In the book it's "in extreme episodes you might think that O.J. Simpson is still going to track down Nicole's murderer---unlikely, but possible." Budabing budaboom!

She'll be doing a signing at L.A.'s Book Soup on December 15th. You can spot me. I'll be the one with the deliriously adoring grin on his face. But then, that's not much of a clue it it? Folks really love Teri Garr!

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And the winner. . .isn't

The answer to my mystery singer contest #2 (see 11/15/05 entry).

This was a very early recording of a tap dance instruction record by---drum rolllllll--- jazz vocalist Beverly Kenney.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Cat Blog Friday

Get da funk outta my formerly feral face!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Mystery Singer Contest #2

The first person to identify this mystery vocalist wins a free copy of Bill Black's Down in the Depths. Reply using "comments" toggle below. Deadline, midnight next Saturday, November 20th.

My web site

Friday, November 11, 2005

Cat Blog Friday

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Decisions Decisions Decisions

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Teri back with Dave

It was so terrific to see Teri Garr back on the Letterman show after a skeenteen year hiatus. One suspects that there could have been some bad blood between Dave and Teri--there were rumors of an affair that might not have ended well--that caused her to vertiginously drop from view on the program, on which she was a regular. But then Garr's protracted absence from the show began, ten years or so ago, at just about the time she was diagnosed with MS, and so I factored that into the Dave disappearance equation as well.

I always thought that, in addition to being a hell of an actress (vide: One From the Heart, Mister Mom, Tootsie, Young Frankenstein, etc. ), Garr gave just about the singlemost funny TV panel turns of all time. Right up there alongside Dody Goodman and Genevieve on Parr). I can recall that my ex-employer, Ricky Jay (real name Richard J. Postash), felt similarly.

I really missed Garr on Letterman a lot, but I kept up with sightings of her. These included voiceovers in the Skooby Doo movies (gakkk), and a very very very close friend of mine (I guess you catch my drift) saw her speak a year or so ago speak at an AIDS charity function. He reported back to me that she was both effective in the points she was making about that disease and still able to bring down the house with humor at one and the same time. So that was goods news!

She is out and about the past few weeks flakking for a book she has written, Speedbumps: Flooring It Through Hollywood. Hudson Street Press, original title: Does This Wheelchair Make Me Look Fat? And that is what brought Garr back full circle to her appearance on Dave last night. Promoting her book.

Usually I timeshift Dave, and watch him the next night. Last evening, I tried to view in real time. Alas, not even Garr on Dave was decaf enough to keep me awake. But I checked it out this a.m. and am happy to report that Garr (they opened the segment with her seated) has not lost so much as one millisecond of her brilliant comedic timing sense (her father Eddie Garr, was a well-regarded burlesque comic).

There was lots of funny back and forth banter between the host and guest: "I thought you were mad at me.". . ."No! I thought you were mad at me," etc. Another example:

Dave: "I hope, now, that you will come back more often."
Teri: "Absolutely not!"

But the funniest moment occured when Garr began ticking off the various stripes of MS, i.e., the kind that results in cognitive disfunction (Garr: "I already had that before MS"), a variant that brings about numbness and tingling in the extremities, etc., and, Garr added:

"A very rare form that causes you to believe that Phil Spector is innocent." Whoaaaa! Kozmik rimshot!

An aside: Garr was a dancer in two movies produced by PS.

The audience did not seem to "get it," i.e. toohipforthehouse. Or else they could not hear the riff. It went by so fast. But Dave and Paul Schaffer did, and you could tell from the collective expressions on their faces that they could hardly believe their ears.

As for me, I'm off to BookSwamp to "get it," i.e, my very own copy of this great and funny lady's book.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Websterian reflections

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Of course you know singer Peggy Lee, but are you familiar with her younger and somewhat less famous sister, the dancer?

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Saturday, November 05, 2005

By December, singer Pinky Winters will have had three CDs released in Japan this year. Not bad. . .not bad atall!

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The first was in August, a Japanese issue with bonus track, of her 2002 CD with Richard Rodney Bennett, "Rain Sometimes." I produced it, and there's more about the making of the album here .

Early December will see a first time CD issue of her 1958 Argo album "Lonely One." A transitional recording, it finds Pinky still somewhat in the cool school vein of her 1954 debut recording on the Vantage label. For it wasn't until 1985, her next recording---17 years later!---"Let's Be Buddies," that she truly found her, ummmm, stylistic sea legs. On that album, she is accompanied by the great Lou Levy on piano.

And it is Levy who is also heard on the third Japanese release, also due out in December. Actually recorded two years prior to "Buddies," the circumstances surrounding the making of "Pinky Winters Sings Johnny Mandel" are detailed in its liner notes:

"In 1982-'83 the late Joel E. Siegel produced a now-legendary concert series, The Great American Songwriters, at Washington, DC's Corcoran Gallery. Included were such notable performers as Jackie & Roy, Carol Sloane, Shirley Horn, Sheila Jordan, Blossom Dearie, and. . .Pinky Winters, accompanied by Lou Levy.

When Siegel asked Winters and Levy which songwriter they wished to salute, their answer was mutual and immediate. . .Johnny Mandel. And soon the duo was off to DC to perform their 2/27/83 tribute. Afterwards, Siegel gave Winters and Levy a tape of the show to "Do with as you wish." Now 23 years later it is receiving its World Premiere release.

In addition, Johnny Mandel has generously contributed, as a bonus track, "Take Me Home," a 1991 demo recording that he produced in his home studio with Winters and Levy."

Mandel is also heard on the bonus track adding tasteful synth lagniappes to the Mandel-Bergmans song. He also provided a thoughtful encomium on the back of the CD, to the effect that, well, this album is, to put it mildly, very very good! Here's an
advance taste (you'll need the actual CD itself to hear Levy's sublime 1:47 intro to Pinky's vocal).

By the time that most Japanese recordings reach the U.S., the cost can be so great, "Lonely One" notwithstanding, as to necessitate the ransoming of one's first-born. But plans are already afoot to make copies of "Pinky Winters Sings Johnny Mandel" available online at a budget-conscious price. More details here as they become available.

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Friday, November 04, 2005

Friday, October 21, 2005

Cat Blog Friday

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Official Kuro 8 x 10 (sideways) glossy by James J. Kriegsmann, N.Y.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Sue Raney alert

Happy to learn from jazz singer Sue Raney that she will be making a rare local L.A. appearance next Wednesday, October 26th, at Herb Alpert's spectacular Bel Air boite, Vibrato. According to their web site, Sue will be performing from 9 pm to closing (their web site says 6 pm but that is incorrect), and will be accompanied by Alan Broadbent, piano; Pat Senatore, bass; and the redoubtable Kendall Kay on drums.

These days, Sue, who is soon to go into the studio to record a new CD (two maybe?), mostly appears in symphonic pops concerts, so this date offers an increasingly rare opportunity to hear her in this type of intimate environment. I saw her a year or so ago in concert in Thousand Oaks, CA and she brought new meaning to the phrase "Time has stood still" except for the part about her artistry, which still continues to evolve.

Vibrato is located at 2930 Beverly Glen Circle in Bel Air. Tends to be a tad pricey, but the food and service are great and so is the caliber of performers, which in the recent past has included Dave Frishberg, Michel Legrand, Toots Thielemans, Pinky Winters, Bob Florence, and, well, I guess you get the picture.

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Saturday, October 15, 2005

Jackie Paris "found"

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Jackie Paris must be the most under-appreciated and unknown, but inarguably great, artist in the entire canon of jazz singing. Since the mid-1940s, followers of that scene have never ceased to wonder why he didn't "happen." He was supposed to have been a shoe-in, but somehow it was not to be. And so, he swingingly soldiered on for more than a half-century with a dozen or so one-offs on various record labels, and increasingly peripatetically in less than the highest of profile venues.

When I finally saw Paris perform "live" in L.A. in the early 1990s (on a double bill with Chris Connor!), he was absolutely at the peak of his powers. Leading me to wonder more than ever exactly how his career had failed to ignite the way that most jazz critics and Paris' fans had predicted all those years. Thus, I set out to track him down, did so rather easily thanks to the powers of the internet, and we began a correspondence that culminated in his sending me (unbidden) three Japan-only CDs that I hadn't even known existed.

And when Paris died on June 17, 2004 at age 79, only (it seemed to me like) days after giving what might have been his most well reviewed gig ever (see Variety 3/15/04), it was another one of those cosmic jokes that I always turn to for renewed proof of the randomness and meaninglessness of it all.

Fortunately, Paris did not die alone and forgotten like so many overlooked artists, but instead surrounded by, among others, several filmmaker-friends who had been looking after him for the last few months of his life.