Saturday, May 28, 2005

Beverly Kenney. . .from a reader

Dear Bill,

I was totally shocked and moved by your texts on Beverly Kenney. I am a Japanese fan of Beverly Kenney (as you have written, one of many). It was my custom to search in Google about Beverly Kenney, and at last after the long years of my online research I discovered your newly written blog entries. Recently [Swedish jazz singer] Monica Zetterlund has died a tragic death in fire, and not a few Japanese articles described her death with the phrase “like Beverly Kenney.” It is still believed that Beverly Kenney was burned alive to death in some Hotel. It is possible that somebody (jazz critic?) in Japan misunderstood the news of her cremation as an accident in fire and it became the generally accepted opinion until now in Japan (if she was cremated at all). If not so, it is a strange coincidence between the misunderstanding on the Japan side and Beverly’s own wish for cremation. I am also in no sense New-Ager, but your report of the interview with Millie Perkins was shocking enough….. May Beverly’s soul rest in Heaven now. That Beverly Kenney is popular among Japanese jazz fans is no wonder. She is cute, sophisticated, has an air of innocence and sang with highly original phrasing. These are just the elements that appeal especially to the taste of the Japanese. But the best way to describe her appeal to Japanese is her “hakanasa”. Hakanasa is a word difficult to translate into English. It is “fragility” or “frailty” in good and highly aesthetic sense. We have perhaps somehow intuitively sensed, aestheticized and adored that tragic side of her personality which you revealed through your interviews. Thank you very much for your interest in Beverly Kenney and your wonderful texts on her!

Od (Tokyo, Japan)


My email reply:

"Thank you for your kind words about my blog and Beverly Kenney. I usually believe that there is strong logic behind Japanese aesthetic choices and your remark about hakanasa was very enlightening. I played Beverly Kenney the other day for a Japanese friend who is not a jazz fan and had never heard her before. He was fascinated and somewhat moved by her. He said, 'What an interesting voice. I have never heard anyone who sounded like that before.' Interesting."

In other matters vocally jazzical, a couple of weeks ago I announced the "1st Annual Dr. Chilledair Mystery Vocalist Sweepstakes." To say that I was swamped with entries is a vast overstatement. Two! For all those who've written in---One---asking for the correct answer , the singer is Beverly Kelly. Usually, Kelly's style is best described, especially on her two sixties abums for Riverside, as "far out." However, on the highly commercial recordings made for British Reader's Digest, a snippet of which was heard here in the contest, she is the very model of a singer who (in the words of friend describing Julie London) just sings the songs and goes home. Not that there's anything wrong with "far out."

She resides in Southern California and is now the interesting hyphenate of jazz singer-psychotherapist, Dr. Bev Kelly (she still records). We have spoken on the phone a bit recently, and in one conversation she told me about how people continue to confuse her---Beverly KELLY---with Beverly KENNEY and express amazement that "You're not dead after all" (or words to that effect). Until fairly recently, there was an online obit for her. Clearly it was Beverly KENNEY who the writer was describing. I wrote in disabusing him of his thanatopsical notion, and in one of those increasingly rare net interactions, the change was made within 24 hours.

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