Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Further brushes with jazz greatness

I’ve had several encounters with Miles Davis. Once on a flight back from Paris. Perfectly pleasant, with my laying on him a copy of a bio of the first jazz musician, trumpeter Buddy Bolden, that I’d just finished a few minutes earlier. Talk about your post-bop synchronicity!

Another time was of a Sunday afternoon in 1961 at the Village Vanguard where Davis was splitting the bill with Blossom Dearie. I was the guest of Jean (Great Day in Harlem) Bach. Davis sat with us between sets, and at one point a man approached him and gave out with the following piece of advice:

“Miles, you should do a concert at Carnegie Hall and then release the album and call it “Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall.” Duh! As chance and music history would have it, Davis had only recently done that very thing and the record that resulted from the performance had just been released. Gee, it must be tough to be famous especially when one has to suffer fools like this one. But, to paraphrase the immortal words of Oscar Brown, Jr., He (Miles) was cool: “Thanks, man,” he replied to the fan without even so much as looking up at him.

But my favorite Miles story is one extracted from my memoir, Early Plastic. An incident that I witnessed with my very own not quite baby blues (hell, they’re hazel). To wit:

Shortly after jazz pianist Cecil Taylor and I met in 1965, I went to see the opening night of an engagement of his at the popular and long-running Village Vanguard. In the middle of his first set, who should walk in---looking very unlike his late period Electoid From Planet Ten self of later years---but a natty, dapper and Saville Rowed Miles Davis. All eyes left Cecil on stage and turned to focus on Miles and his still somewhat socially taboo blonde date as the two made their way to one of the club's postage stamp-size tables. They sat down in front of the bandstand, downed one drink apiece, stayed for all of five minutes, then when Miles gave the signal to his date, they split.

I was there again the next night when, at nearly the same time, Davis came in once more, this time with a different, but equally stunning Aryan number, and proceeded to do exactly the same thing: five minutes, and gone! Cecil later told me that this jazz equivalent of a head-on clash between Godzilla and Rodan took place for several more nights running!

Davis' obvious rancor probably stemmed from feeling that Cecil's improperly uncloseted homosexuality, unlike his own more discreet gay ways (including a rather torrid affair with a North American reggae singer), reflected badly on the macho image of jazz. Or maybe he just hated Cecil's off the charts AND walls musicality.
It's not just the bitchy world of opera that has its divas.

My web site

Monday, May 30, 2005

Oscar Brown, Jr.

If it hadn't been for the great Oscar Brown, Jr., who died day before yesterday in Chicago at age 78, I would never have had the chance to sing with Charles Mingus. Let me explain.

(Flashback accompanied by music from Mingus' "Black Saint and the Sinner Lady.")

It's a quarter-century-or-so ago---maybe more---and my friend Jo Hart, who's had a long, checkered and complicated past with Mingus, has invited my good friend and constant traveling companion of (now) the last 35 years, David Ehrenstein, and I to spend an evening with herself, Mingus, and a few others at New York's (another now) legendary jazz club, the Five Spot.

My longterm memory remains killer (just can't remember what I had for breakfast) for I can still recall that the band that night was Jackie McLean's with a guest appearance by Japanese trumpet player, Terumasa Hino, who today is a household name in Japan. The Miles Davis of. . . I suppose. I don't know if he was so famous back then, though. But I wouldn't be me if I didn't digress, and so I will "Cut to the verb!," as my friends are sometimes wont to scream at discursive little me. And so, back to the flashback:

At one point, Mingus says to no one in particular (maybe McLean has just played the song):

"Someone should write lyrics to Bobby Timmons' "Dat Dere.'"

And I have the brassbound temerity to say (as if any further proof were needed that great minds truly do think alike):

"Oscar Brown, Jr. already has."

And with very little in the way of prompting from Mingus I then proceed to sing the lyrics, with him joining me midway, humming along. "Hey daddy, what dat dere and what dat over dere and daddy, etc."

Suddenly I'm reminding myself of Gloria ("Well, it was the very semi-finals of the ping pong tournament. And the door was locked. Well, don't you see? The very semi-finals!") Upson in Auntie Mame. i.e., "I mean there I was singing 'Dat Dere' with Charles Mingus. At the Five Spot! Can you imagine?!"

Not too long ago I even had a brush with Oscar Brown Jr. greatness at the California Afro-American Museum where I was curating a show about the history of blacks in Hollywood. I was sitting at my desk, when the door opened and one of my co-workers walked in accompanied by a pleasant looking black man somewhere in his sixties.

"I think here's someone you'd like to meet," my associate said. I recognized the "someone" at once as none other other than:

"Oscar Brown, Jr. It's an honor!"

I stood up, we shook hands, and Brown seemed genuinely stunned that I actually knew who he was. Or perhaps he was just surprised at seeing a white face in what he probably perceived as an otherwise all-black operation.

We chatted for a while, and he couldn't have been nicer. No points for that in my book. But for all the wonderful music he wrote. . . lots and lots of points. The twilight of the gods, I tell you. The twilight of the gods. Or as the Incomparable Hildegarde was overheard saying not long ago to a friend while standing in line at the Planetarium Station post office on New York's Upper West Side: "Talent is a thing of the past."
Or as I was saying to David only this morning, "How can I be expected to take the high road when it's not just shut down for repairs, but permanently closed." Courage!

I wonder? Is this the only "hit" you'll get on Google if you put in: "Charles Mingus" + "Jackie McLean" + "Oscar Brown, Jr" + "Hildegarde" + "Auntie Mame"?

My web site

Sunday, May 29, 2005

While we're on the subject of . . .

. . .lesser known jazz singers, like Beverly Kenney, whose voices were suddenly stilled while they were still at the peak of their powers, take a look at the site---near the bottom of the page--- of the sister of fifties baritone Ronnie Deauville. He was another of those singers, like Kenney, who I once fretted over as to what exactly caused them to suddenly fall below show biz radar. Ronnie Deauville is such an obviously gifted singer that not even the mid-fifties coming of rock and roll is sufficient to explain the sudden demise of his career.

Eventually, I had some nice phone conversations with Sheryl Deauville. One thing that I learned is that she---a lifelong Los Angelino--- and I had most likely been in the same room/hall/space/venue on any number of occasions.

Of all that Sheryl told me, perhaps the most interesting fact was that her brother's singing voice was not really taken from him. Though he was paralyzed from the neck down, due to a 1956 auto accident, for a while he continued to perform: a Steve Allen TV appearance, gigs in "A" list clubs, etc. But in those pre-handicap access days, it was all just too much for him and so he packed it in for good somewhere around the late-1950s.

Sheryl Deauville is totally aware---it is obvious from her web site---of how great an artist was lost when her brother's singing voice was more or less silenced. I was happy to learn from her that Ronnie was still able to live a relatively good life, finally settling down in Florida with his wife and four children. He died in Florida in 1990. The last time Sheryl saw her brother, not long before his passing, he gave an impromptu concert for her, and his singing voice, she said, was as strong and rich as it had ever been.

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.

My web site

Friday, May 27, 2005

Cat Blog Friday - rerun

Posted by Hello

artist: Jay

Thursday, May 26, 2005

I Wish I'd Written This

Bo vs. Carrie: Hold Your Nose, Not Your Breath

By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Washington Post

W e Watch So You Don't Have To:

The played-out genetic strain of Duane Allman and the lost descendant of Patsy Cline squared off last night for the penultimate broadcast of the scandal-rich but talent-scarce fourth edition of "American Idol."

Finalists Bo Bice and Carrie Underwood hit the stage of the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood for the last competitive round of the Fox ratings behemoth.

Between them, they couldn't hit a note to save their lives. Bo sounded like a truck in first gear and Carrie sounded like a bad set of brakes.

Each competitor got to sing three songs.

First, one picked by the producers. Then, one of their choosing. I don't even remember what the last song choice was all about.

It didn't matter anyway, because by then the three judges -- Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell -- had given up trying to give pointers to the sources of the painful noises coming from the stage and had become hellbent on fueling the "American Idol" machine in the face of the disaster.

"This is the best season ever!" gushed Randy as the last shattered note hung in the air.

"I'm so happy . . . country girl and southern rocker up there -- wow, this is big!"

Simon thanked America for actually listening to him this season, as though he was really pleased with what he'd heard last night.

Paula momentarily forgot she's under "investigation" by Fox for allegedly making a move on a former "Idol" contestant, and jumped Simon and tried to kiss him on the lips.

Simon, not to have his preening interrupted, pushed her away, and hard.

Like two cans of Coke -- brown sugar water supported by a giant marketing and distribution scheme -- the two talent impersonators were never more in need of the "Idol" hype factory to make them seem like the Real Thing.

By the end of the broadcast, Bo was winking and pointing at people in the audience like he had some kind of nervous tic.

Carrie was still coming on dumb-as-a-post. If there is a god in heaven, she will not win tonight, though, of course, that would mean Bo will.

And if he's an American idol, I'm the queen of Freedonia.

And How About This? (Just In) A**hole.

My web site

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Beverly Kenney Postscript

More than four decades later, the suicide of jazz singer Beverly Kenney, who appeared to have the world in a jug with the proverbial stopper in her hand, remains a matter of some conjecture amongst followers of the passing jazz parade. Sort of the post-bop Richard Cory.

Only a day or so after I posted my blog entry on Kenney three months ago, I received an email from a person identifying himself as the singer's last lover (of two years, let's call him) Jack. He dated Kenney almost up to the time of her untimely death at age 28 in 1960.

Jack had seen my blog, I phoned him up and we have since spent several hours on the phone talking. I think it is safe to say that my friendship with him has now extended well beyond the Beverly Kenney connection.

According to Jack, Beverly's "successful" suicide attempt was her, at least, second try. And on yet another occasion, she had checked herself into New York's Bellevue Hospital as a potential suicide.

Although little has appeared about Kenney in print since her death, in 1992 New York disc jockey Jonathan Schwartz somewhat made up for lost time with a fairly lengthy profile about her in GQ magazine. Which is the last place one might have expected to find such an article by the way. Almost at once the piece became, if only by default, a Rosetta Stone of sorts for the many thousands of Kenney fans remaining throughout the world (especially in Japan).

But it would appear as if Schwartz got at least one major observation about Beverly wrong. He seemed at pains to tie her suicide up into a nice neat little bundle by directing his readers at a flame she allegedly still carried for Greenwich Village hovering intellectual Milton Klonsky.

But Beverly's affair with Klonsky was long over when she killed herself. In fact, her close friend, actress Millie Perkins, once told me that she was asked out on a date by Klonsky after he'd broken up with Beverly. But Kenney seemed to register no marked emotion over the disclosure.

Instead, it would seem that Beverly Kenney was an undiagnosed manic depressive; with the motor that drove the depressive swing appearing to have been rock and roll coming along to pull the rug out from under her career at just the point she was establishing herself as a major jazz attraction. Indeed, one of the songs she sang on the Steve Allen Show was one she wrote entitled "I Hate Rock and Roll."

During the last few months of her life, Kenney was undergoing psychotherapy, being paid for by her boyfiend Jack, who told me:

"She really didn't have any money at that point because there were not a lot of club dates because rock and roll had taken over everything. It got to the point where we were drifting apart. She moved out to a residence and I kept in touch with her. Maybe four months later, it was Christmas time and I called her for a drink. We just weren't lovers anywhere. And that's the last I saw her. Maybe two weeks later I was working and a friend of mine who knew her and who knew I had been out with her said, 'What did Beverly do?' And I said, 'What do you mean, what did Beverly do?' And he said, 'I saw in the paper she killed herself.' And I was wiped out. He Said, 'Let me drive you home.' He drove me home to the Village. We stopped and there was an envelope in the mailbox saying, 'I really did love you. Please see that I'm cremated. Nothing to do with you. . .it's not your fault.'"

Curiously, in Japan, until very recently, all writing on Kenney (in liner notes, biographical entries, etc.) attributed her death to a hotel fire. It's a great Baroque worry of mine as to how the usually punctilious Japanese ever managed to get it so wrong.

My web site

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Posted by Hello

Monday, May 23, 2005

the buck flick phenom

Saturday, doing some research for my new TV series, The 99 Cent Chef © , I decided I'd drop by the Van Nuys installation of the outlet/cutout chain, the 99 Cent Store (in Japan their opposite numbers are known as Hundred Yen Stores). After I'd finished my homework there, I thought I'd amble about the rest of giant emporium to see what was new since the last time I'd popped in. Here's what I ended up buying:

An outdated Boston Terrier calendar, a 99 cent clipon scanner radio, a balm/ointment/salve for a certain ailing part of my anatomy (not what you think) AND...

. . .eleven one dollar (er, 99 cents) DVDs. According to Videoscan, the national point of sale tracking service, in the third week of December 2004, 19 of the top selling DVDs were buck items from Genius Entertainment, including a compilation of Popeye cartoons and Lucy Show episodes, which came in at 17 and 18 right below the Star Wars Trilogy and Dawn of the Dead. The Genius outfit, located in Solana Beach, CA, is just one of a number of companies now trafficking in buck DVDs.

Apparently these cheapies are now all the rage, with cineastes making frequent pitstops at various Wal-Marts, Targets, and 99 Centers etc to pore over the hundreds upon hundreds of copies crammed into display bins. For example, I'm reasonably certain that I heard one Latino talking to another, standing next to me, using the phrase mise en scene as the duo rifled though one of the plentiously stocked bins. All of which gives me an idea for a new ad campaign: "The 99 Cent Stores---they're not just for bottom feeders anymore!"

Here's what I picked up last Saturday:

Jack Benny x 3 with guests Liberace; Humphrey Bogart; Jayne Mansfield, respectively. The first episode wherein Benny and Liberace try to outcamp each other is worth the price of admission alone. Watch this one and see what George Burns meant when he said of his old pal Benny, "Put a dress on him and you can take him anywhere."

Felix the Cat x 8, including the classic "Felix in Hollywood"

Borderline, a terrific little FBI meller with Fred MacMurray and Claire Trevor. In a an early scene in the film, Trevor, playing a relatively dignified and classy FBI agent, tries to convince her boss that, "I can masquerade as tawdry and cheap." Yes, Claire, we know. . .we know." As if she ever played anything BUT! Cut to the next shot, where Claire gets off a Greyhound bus in Tijuana, suitcase in two, popping gum to beat the band. Cut to next shot where without even a connective scene she's seen as a dancing girl in a lowbeat cantina.

Topper x 3. I haven't checked yet to see if these are any of the episodes were written by the young Stephen Sondheim. But if you think I'm making that up, then you lose points on Gay Jeopardy.

Gumby X 8, including the Klaymation Klassic. Gumby is oh so zennnn.

Road to Hollywood - Bing Crosby. Haven't looked at it yet, but it appears to be a compilation of the Hal Roach shorts.

One Step Beyond x 3. The poor man's Twilight Zone

Number 17. Early Hitchcock talkie.

College - Buster Keaton. Probably a boot, but they even have the nerve to leave the Kino logo on.

Down Among the Z Men. An, alas, not very good---in fact quite awful---Goon Show movie that bears almost no stylistic resemblance to the classic British radio starring Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan et al. Not a hundredth as good as their Running Jumping Standing Still Film.

Red Skelton x 3. Reed's Law posits the notion that if you thought something was good when you were a kid, then it probably was. I loved Skelton so much that I even named my goldfish after his Gertrude and Heathcliff. But Skelton just might be the exception that proves the rule. Like chalk on a blackboard to me today. But I couldn't resist, because of the guests: Franklin Pangborn (did you know he was the first announcer on the Jack Paar Tonight Show?; there's more Gay Jeopardy bonus points fer ya), Carol Channing, Peter Lorre, George Raft, Reginald Denny and Mary Beth Hughes (j'accuse!).

After I got home with my lot, I phoned a friend of mine who works for one of the largest DVD companies in the country.

ME: Bob, even considering the fact that they use stiff paper sleeves, how can they afford to sell these for a dollar?

BOB: I can't imagine. WE couldn't even manufacture them for less than a dollar and twenty-four cents. They must press them in China.

ME: I bet I know how they do it.

BOB: How!

ME: volume Volume VOLUME

Presumably, most of these titles are supposed to be in public domain, thus allowing their manufacturers to dispense with a tarsome little thing known as copyrights. I would guess that most of these buck companies have a near armada of intellectual property lawyers on their staffs to fend off claims of copyright infringement.

Maybe the next step will be the founding of societies for folks to gather together---a la New York's historic Theodore Huff Society---to have showings of their more obscure finds.

Here is a link to a web site that tracks all the latest news and releases re: this new phenomenon.
My web site

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Pics from Harold Arlen Centenary at AMPAS

Posted by Hello

copyright 2005 David Ehrenstein - click to enlarge

Hollywood's most glamourous and (coincidentally) longest-running couple, Tony Martin and Cyd Charisse.
Posted by Hello

copyright 2005 David Ehrenstein - click to enlarge

Monty Python's Eric Idle. I wonder what David said that made Idle laugh so hard?
Posted by Hello

copyright 2005 David Ehrenstein - click to enlarge

Another glamorous pair: legendary dancer, Dr. Fayard Nicholas and Katherine Hopkins-Nicholas.
Posted by Hello

copyright 2005 David Ehrenstein - click to enlarge

Songwriter Jerry Leiber (and Stoller) of whose song, "Is That All There Is?," Mick Jagger once remarked, "If I could write a song that sick I could die happy." I call this, "The head of the co-inventor of rock and roll floating in space."
Posted by Hello

copyright 2005 David Ehrenstein - click to enlarge

Actress Betty Garrett and unidentified fan.

Bonus snap

Posted by Hello

copyright 2005 David Ehrenstein - click to enlarge

The photographer of the previous five photos, David Ehrenstein, with Liz Smith. Taken a couple of weeks ago when David interviewed Smith for a panel at the L.A. Times Book Fair. Doesn't she look great for 80? Hell, great for 40!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Dear dairy, I mean diary....

In working on my Bill Black CD release (due in September), I was recently able to track down a member of the '49 Gene Krupa band who has almost preternatural recollection of his time with the outfit. Someone with more knowledge of the band would do well to interview him. Very articulate and amenable. Interesting fellow. Eventually left the music biz for the wide, wonderful, exciting world of....public seating. Then when he retired---sometime in the 80s I guess---he moved to Florida and fell into a five-year, five-nights-a-week gig playing lounge piano at a hotel. "Tonight! Direct from the Gene Krupa Band. . .sort of....."

He could recall fascinating minutiae, like, oh the time Ethel Krupa, Gene's wife, found an expensive ankle bracelet of her husband's inscribed "With Love From Lana [Turner]."

Gene: Oh, honey, that ain't s**t.

Ethel: That's exactly what it is.

Forthwith, she then flushed it down the toilet.

Also recalled that Bill Black never carried suitcases. Everything in paper bags, so the guys in the band called him "Bundles Black."

Jazz sidemen - musician stories of that era are so wonderful, vide the two books of them recalled by Gerry Mulligan bassist Bill Crow.

Yesterday a musician laid a great Jack Sheldon tale on me. For those unfamiliar with the still musically active Sheldon, in addition to being one of the great jazz trumpet players, he is perhaps the last true hipster standing. The shaggy dog tale is too long and involved to recount in detail here. But the punchline goes something like:

Friend (to Jack): Have a nice day.

Jack: I'm afraid I've already made other plans.

For years I've been looking for a perfect anodyne to "Have a nice day." The best I could come up with, though, was "How the Hell Can I?" Sheldon's "I've made other plans" is perhaps the perfect comeback.

In the 70s and 80s, Sheldon was one of the busiest musicians in Hollywood, and a familiar face to most of America through his regular appearances on the Merv Griffin TV show. So I could hardly believe my eyes one time when, about twenty years ago at L.A.s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, I espied Sheldon out on the plaza playing trumpet and anecdotalizing (as only he can) with a regulation tip jar at his feet. I later learned that he did this on a regular basis. Probably for no other real reason than to keep his embouchure in shape. Now, I ask you, How Hip Is That? The Power of Positive Woodshedding!

For the Bill Black project, I am going to the library today to reel through three years of microfilm for Down Beat mag, circa '48 - '50! Talk about mal de mer! I should take some Dramamine with me.

My web site

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Don't laugh...

Posted by Hello
New Social Security Card to be issued by the Bush Administration



My web site

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Punks in Toyland

Posted by Hello


Digging through a stack of old mags this morning, I came across two xeroxed volumes of "Punks in Toyland," a cartoon series created a quarter-century ago by Alix, a teenager of my acquaintance. Two volumes of the stuff. Fairly brilliant stuff. Alas, I think Alix went on after HS graduation to go to law school. Gakkkkk!

My web site

Monday, May 16, 2005

Spike Jones

Posted by Hello


This morning while listening to the Spike Jones collection on Rhino, Spiked ---that's the one with the long essay by Thomas Pynchon and the previously unreleased version of Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse" !!!!!!---I recalled a blog entry that I posted in March. I wrote:

"In 1974, I put out one issue of a 'little mag" entitled Soon. I had started on a second issue of the thing, but the mimeo machine broke down, then we moved to California, and then, and then. . .. The second issue was to have been an all-Spike Jones number. (If anyone's interested in publishing it, I still have the complete manuscript.)"

Recollection of that post precipitated a look, just now, at said manuscript. And a pretty rich confection, it is. Containing an epic essay by David Ehrenstein, "Spike Jones and the Comedy of Deconstruction," which opens with prefatory quotes by French structuralist Julia Kristeva AND Bobby Short ("One of the big tunes when I was a little boy was "Cocktails for Two," which had words like serviette, chansonette and rendezvous. I remember I used to sing it 'some secluded rondayroo.'"). There's also a career profile by moi, a complete discography and Eleven Spike Jones Pomes by Richard Meltzer. Here are a few of them:

1. A SCYTHE CHOP YOUR EYE (SPIKE ACTUALLY SAW THIS HAPPEN)

she close her eyes
("old Miss Thighs")
choppy chop chop choppy
slice em up
closed

2. WHAT SPIKE ET

he ate the frog
who built his wooden arm
out of pez and he ate the pez too
but he wasn't dead so he jumped out of the guy's
grip and butted a kid wearing winter clothes and smoked and read

3. SPIKE JONES'S GREAT ELM HALLUCINATION

not much of a great elm hallucination

For those three and eight others in a similar vein I paid Meltzer with an Elvis Sun 78. An equitable exchange?

My web site

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Shameless self-promotion

I sell one or two of these per week on ebay. No one has ever written back complaining. On the other hand. . ..

My web site

Saturday, May 14, 2005

No disrespect intended

By the time the next century rolls around and American Popular Song is ensconced in concert halls much the same way that European classical music is today, one name will ubiquitous. That of Frank Sinatra, who almost single-handedly kept THE music alive throughout the entirety of the last half of the 20th Century, a time marked by multitudinous upheavals of musical fads and fashions. Today is the eighth anniversary of his death.

Over the years, I seem to have been the recipient of an inordinate number of Sinatra anecdotes: some amusing, others not so much so. So many stories, in fact, that at one time I wanted to collect them in a book. Here are two of them.

A singer-pianist friend of mine was working in the lounge of midtown Manhattan hotel when Sinatra walked in. He sat for several hours listening to her, then at the end of the evening he came up to speak with her. Ascertaining that she lived across the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey, he said:

Frank: (reaching inside his coat) Here, take my gun. A woman can't go around driving alone at 1 o'clock in the morning.

Singer: (somewhat hysterically) NO, FRANK! I DON'T WANT YOUR GUN!

Frank: Well then let me send one of my boys with you. A lady alone at night. . ..

Singer: No, really, Frank, I've driven this route three times a week for years. I'm fine.

The next night he came in again, watched her for a few hours, then when he departed said:

Frank: You're great. Someday I'm gonna do something for you.

That was about fifteen years ago. But to the best of our knowledge, he never did. . .yet!

The other Sinatra tale was told to me by Jo Stafford when I interviewed her for the newspaper, the L.A. Reader (reprinted
here). Stafford had been a bandmate of Sinatra's in the Tommy Dorsey outfit.

Shortly after departing the Dorsey band, Sinatra made his solo debut appearance, December 30, 1942, at New York's Paramount Theater during which time the engagement was so successful that it was extended from two to ten weeks. By the time it was over, Sinatra's asking price had jumped from $750 per week to $25,000, and he had became a masscult phenomenon that outstripped anyone or anything else in the history of modern showbiz from Lizstomania forward.

It was during the first (of two) Paramount stand that Jo Stafford visited with him backstage. After chatting a bit with her, Sinatra made ready to effect his exit. This time, though, Stafford recalled, he wanted to try something different. Sinatra turned to his phalanx of bodyguards, assigned to protect him from the roiling mass of bobbysoxer humanity on the other side of the stage door, and announced:

"Fellas, I just know that if I open that door, stand there and look at those girls in square in the eye honestly and sincerely that they will respect me and let me pass without you guys having to form a flying wedge to get me out of here." (or words to that effect)

Stafford remembered what happened next:

"At first the guys tried to talk him out of it, 'No, Frank,' etc. But he remained convinced that he could stare them down. And so the bodyguards stopped trying to reason with him. They said, 'Okay, Frank, don't say we didn't warn you.'"

Then, Stafford said, the bodyguards stepped back, shrugged their shoulders, and cautiously opened the stage door. Outside in Times Square it was business as usual: hundreds if not in fact thousands of teenage girls shouting and screaming like all the tape loops in hell going off at once. But with the apparition of Sinatra seen commandingly standing there alone, for an instant it all became preternaturally silent.

Sinatra waited a beat then moved forward. And in a scene eerily prefiguring the one of Sebastian and the "Dark Ones" in Suddenly Last Summer, the assembled 99% female multitude pounced on all hundred-and-some-odd pounds of the singer and began to devour him, even to the point of stripping Frank of his clothing. The crowd did not part exactly like he had predicted it would.

The bodyguards, according to Stafford, didn't act quite at once, but waited just long enough to make sure he had "learned his lesson." Exchanging a few amused glances, they then waded in to rescue him.

Already Sinatra had begun to develop what we in modern psychiatry call a "Moses Complex."


My web site

Friday, May 13, 2005

Japanese cat calendar

Posted by Hello


Click on pic, then click again lower right to fill screen with photos of delightful Nihon no neko.

My web site

Thursday, May 12, 2005

If you break it, you buy it!

Posted by Hello


Photo taken by me a couple of years ago at a typical upscale Japanese fruiterer. Total value of ALL Japanese-grown melons shown here is in excess of 1,000.00 U.S. dollars. The ones on the top left approx. $100 a pop. The reason being that there is very little farmland available in that nation; thus anything grown on it is expensive. And in the case of these hand-tended melons. . .verrry much so. Eat and savour slowlyyyy.

My web site

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

John Wood gig

Here's the info I promised about jazz pianist John Wood's gig tomorrow night. Gleaned from www.lajazz.com

Thursday, May 12, 2005 JOHN WOOD TRIO WITH SPECIAL GUEST ELOISE LAWS

6:00 - 10:00 PM

Crowne Plaza Los Angeles Airport Hotel

5985 W. Century Blvd.Los Angeles (310) 642-7500

John Wood (P) Eloise Laws (Voc) Tony Dumas (B) Don Littleton (D)

To my ears, John Wood (otherwise known as "Mr. Drum Machines Have No Soul") offers the rhythmic pulse of an Ahmad Jamal crossed with harmonic inventiveness and melodic sensitivity of Bill Evans. . .if you can imagine such a thing. Wood is the most exciting jazz pianist I've heard in a long time. He has recorded eleven mostly self-produced albums featuring such lofty musical lights as Joe Henderson, Ray Pizzi, Billy Higgins, Joe LaBarbera, Eric Von Essen, Leroy Vinnegar et al. So with a "musical cast" like that, how bad can he be? The answer is good. . .very very good.

No Cover- unless stated otherwise* - $15.00 minimum - Validated Parking

*Hmmm, wonder what "unless stated otherwise" means? Stated where? At the door? (Always read/listen to the fine print, i.e., "Hey keen teens. Pimple-on adds blotches and blemishes to the clearest of skin. (soto voce) If clear skin persists, see your dermatologist.")

My web site

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

1st Annual Dr. Chilledair Mystery Vocalist Sweepstakes

Guess the mystery jazz vocalist and win two sorta valuable CD prizes, one of which is the forthcoming Japanese release of Down in the Depths, the previously unissued album by Gene Krupa vocalist Bill Black, plus one other exciting new Cellar Door Records (Japan) jazz vocal release (to be announced).

Clue: this obscure but released track finds a veteran jazz vocalist singing---for her---atypical repertoire in an anomalous instrumental setting.

To send your answer, click the envelope icon below.

Winner to be announced May 20th.

My web site

Monday, May 09, 2005

Bill's Record Collection

Little old lady whoooo.... Posted by Hello


You just never can tell what you'll find at the Goodwill. A few years ago---IN THE PARKING LOT YET---I made the acquisition to my, um, already eclectic LP collection, of "Anyone Can Yodel". Nope, it wasn't the new Stephen Sondheim country musical, but a yodel instruction disc. Unfortunately it isn't by the late, great Judy Canova, but instead by a certain Magnus Bucher, who does not elicit so much as one single hit on Google. Even my dry cleaner gets one or two!

Unfortunately, the disc itself was shattered, but still the jacket is a keeper. Maybe the purchaser of the lp just got fed up with the instructional results and hurled the disc across the room? Could it have been Joe Reber, whose name is written in faint ink on the back? Inasmuch as there is exactly one person by that name in all of this here state of California---annals of Googlery---in Apple Valley, yet, I bet he's the one!

Apple Valley is where the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum is located. Which reminds me. I think I'll drop by some afternoon soon to see if the gift shoppe has any Dale Evans' Marshmallow Treats (Roy's favorite) for sale. Or maybe I'll just whomp up a big batch here at Oblivion Acres. Simple enough:

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter or magarine

6-10 ozs. regular marshmallows (about 40)
or 4 cups miniature marshmallows

5 cups Rice Krispies

1. Melt butter in 3-quart saucepan. Add marshmallows and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until marshmallows are melted and mixture is syrupy. Remove from heat.

2. Add Rice Krispies and stir until well-coated.

3. Press warm mixture evenly and firmly into buttered 13 x 9 inch pan. Cut into squares when cool. Yield: 24 (2-inch) squares.

Of course, t'would be nice to drop by Apple Valley just to see how Trigger's holding up. To wit:

NEWSWEEK, April 11 1966. Roy Rogers has sent the remains of his famous horse to a taxidermist. Trigger retired to pasture in 1959, and now it develops that the white-maned palomino rode into his final sunset last July at age 33. "I really was shook up when Trigger passed on," Rogers told a reporter last week. "I just couldn't bury him."

And while we're on the subject of the King of the Cowboys, here is a Japanese senryuu for urging children to bed (author anonymous):

"One who is asleep
Is the very first to smile
And to be as Roy!"


My web site

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Pete with a "K"

When you do a Google search (see my previous post) it helps if you spell the subject's name correctly. If you Google under the name of "Pete Kameron" with a "K" and not a "C", there is no end of fascinating "hits." Kameron, who apparently is still alive, goes back to the late 1940s as a manager of the famed folk group, The Weavers. Also associated with, as a music publisher, Woody Guthrie.

Fittingly, the meager and brief catalogue of the record label in question, FM, owed by folkie Kameron and jazz personal manager Monte Kay, was almost evenly divided between jazz and folk. Other issues on the label were by Eric Dolphy, folksinger Len Chandler, jazz arranger Bill Russo and the folk group, The Big 3, one of whose members was Cass Elliott.

Of special interest is that Kameron is one of the major figures in the nearly half-century's worth of controversy and litigation involving the African pop song, "Mbube," better known in the West as "Wimoweh" and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," which can be read about at length
here.

My web site

Saturday, May 07, 2005

FM Records

Frank Gauna design Posted by Hello

Cover for FM Records' Big 3 album (1964)

My blog entry of a few days ago regarding FM Records set me off on one of my dog-with-a-bone internet researching sprees, but I came up mostly empty-handed. As luck would have it, one of my readers informed me this very morning that "Yes, you are right. The late Monte Kay WAS one of the owners of the label." Kay was a record producer (Royal Roost Records) and personal manager (Chris Connor, Herbie Mann, et al)

And on an internet group, I came across the following mention of some other FM releases:

"The Big Three (featuring Mama Cass)*. Also, one of my all time favorites, Jo Mapes 'And You Were On My Mind' which features her incredible song 'The Miles Grow Fast'. Mapes told me in the sixties that the company went bust while the LPs were on the docks ready to be shipped out. Carolyn Hester had one, and I found several in remainder record stores and am still buying them off e-bay."

(* There was a second Big 3 LP entitled "Live at the Recording Studio.")

Also today, yet another reader of this blog writes to tell me that:

"FM also released a 45 from the [Chris Connor] Village Gate set, FM 3002 which featured I Concentrate On You and A Lot of Livin' To Do -- doubtful that these would be alternate takes though I've never heard the actual 45 to be able to discern this. I've always hoped there's additional material from the Village Gate hiding somewhere out-of-sight in the vaults, away from previous discographers'/compilers' eyes."

And, yes, the same writer informs me, there was a CD release of Chris Connor's second FM lp, Weekend in Paris.

Another partner in FM, the above-noted reader informed me, was Pete Cameron. Presumably, Monte Kay was the "creative" part of the team, and Cameron the, ahem, financial brains behind the FM operation. But something of a man of mystery, for none of the 1,190 Google "hits" thus far seem to be the Cameron who could have been a partner in a record company, unless it's the same Cameron who also is the Salomon Adventure Challenge Series manager for Frontier Adventure Racing, or the reservations commitee chairman of the Twin Cities Jazz Society, or the Newport News city councilman, or the Wyoming rancher and cowboy poet Pete Cameron, or the country and western fiddler, or music publisher Pete Cameron who was one of the last persons to see Jimi Hendrix alive, or the deceased president of the Cameron Coca-Cola Bottling Company, or ...?

And what did "FM" stand for? "Frequency Modulation"? Or maybe just "Fine Music"?, or. . .?

And you wonder why I never manage to get any work done.


My web site

Friday, May 06, 2005

The Queen of Ajax

If Marlene Dietrich were still alive---she died on this day in 1992---she would be. . . vewwy vewwy old. Her NYTimes obit headline deems her a "symbol of glamour." But I seem to recall an interview with a Times reporter many years ago which began with Dietrich down on her hands and knees scrubbing her dressing room floor. Looking up and seeing the Times guy, she said: "Just call me the Queen of Ajax."

The late Nat Shapiro was Michel Legrand's manager for many years, the guiding force behind "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well" and "Hair" and produced dozens of recordings (Lena, Maysa, Nina et al). He also co-wrote the seminal jazz book "Hear Me Talkin' to Ya." Nat authored several other books as well, published music, flakked for Frank, Mr. B., Nina. . . and I run out of energy just thinking about it all. Somehow he managed to also find the time to be a good friend of mine. Nat also produced some of Marlene Dietrich's recordings, one of which I recall was the star's Live in Rio album.

Apparently the job came with certain responsibilities that went beyond the usual record producer job description. Nat told me that one time the door bell rang at his upper West Side apartment at two in the morning. He answered it and there stood none other than Dietrich. Nat was a night owl and a bit of an insomniac as well, Marlene had been wandering the neighborhood and spotting his lights on, thought she'd drop in to say hello. At 2 am. . .without advance word. But then, goddesses seldom phone ahead.

Nat's wife Vera, awakened from a sound sleep, peeped through a crack in the door and espied their unexpected visitor. A few minutes later, according to Nat, Vera then made HER entrance into the living room, dressed to the nines, with full makeup, hair out of curlers, her best frock, the works. . .at 2 am!

Years later I mentioned to Vera that Nat had told me about the occasion but that I didn't really believe that the ultra-sensible woman that she is was capable of such overweening vanity and feminine competitiveness. . .even in the face of Marlene Dietrich. In so many words, Vera told me to "Believe it, honey, believe it!"

My web site

Sleeping one off...

Posted by Hello

Thursday, May 05, 2005

A listener writes in:

Posted by Hello


Dear Dr. Chilledair:

Was FM Records always a Roulette subsidiary, or did Roulette (and subsequently EMI) just acquire them at some point?I have never seen the original LPs - but I guess they don't say 'Roulette" anywhere based on what you're saying....

Best,

Jazz singer fan guy

***

Dear JSFG:

Originally, FM Records was definitely not a part of Roulette. Looking at one of the FM LP labels just now I note the imprint, "A Division of Village Planners, Inc." (?) I believe that Chris Connor's manager Monte Kay was a part owner. He's the husband (number one?) that Diahann Carroll punched out in public.

There were only a handful of releases on the FM (three?). Two by Connor and, I think, a Herbie Mann. I believe that producer Alan Douglas also had something to do with the label. At least, he produced Chris Connor's second LP for FM, Weekend in Paris. I'm not certain whether that LP ever appeared on CD, even in Japan. Terribly silly liners:

"Ah Chris, we've seen you in so many moods. We've heard you worried and heard you blue. We've heard you when your song was new to everyone. We know your sound of joy and how it has grown. Yours is a sound that resounds thorugh the years. Your way is stronger now and time has blessed you. Since you began, the places of the world are closer. So you swing into Paris for the weekend. You breathe its art and blend it with your own and you sing so all of us may hear."

(If I could write prose that purple I could die happy!)

Then, the liner notes were repeated in French, i.e. "Nous qui t'avons au traverser....etc."

Meanwhile, back in the States, FM Records is collapsing all around Monsieur Kay et Village Planners, Inc. I sense that the Chris Connor in Latin America boot was probably skedded to be an FM release. Maybe Chris' best recording IMHO.

I can recall that back in '63 there was a very long delay between the announced date for the first FM release, Chris' "Early Show - Late Show" and the time when it finally appeared. Months, not weeks. A not-hopeful augury.

"Early Show - Late Show," the LP with the funny "Black Coffee" lyric glitch, is also the one with the best Engrish lyric sheet I have ever seen on a Japanese CD issue. To wit: "Something due any day, I don't know right away, soon as it shows, men canibal down the sky, flaming its eye brought us boos, who knows" etc etc etc. Quite the hoot.

Hope that answers your question. . .and then some.

My web site

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Mary Ann McCall

Today is the birthday of jazz singer Mary Ann McCall. She was born in 1919 and if still alive today (she died in '94) would be. . .oh to hell with it, you do the math.

McCall is one of the most underestimated of the big band era singers. I don't think she recorded too much on her own after that: I have a Jubilee lp, Detour to the Moon and a Coral lp, Melancholy Baby, both circa late fiftes - early sixties. Also an album and a few odd singles for the Regent label in the fifties. All of the Regents were arranged by Ernie Wilkins. She also appears on the 1977 LP the Woody Herman 40th Anniversary Carnegie Hall Concert, produced for records by my deeply-missed friend, the late Nat Shapiro. Herman's band, of course, is the one most closely associated with McCall.

I’m glad I had the good sense to check her out sometime during the early 80s when she was singing at a little bar in the airport Hilton, near LAX. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the little squib announcing her appearance in a local handout. Oh, they must be keeping it very low key to keep the crowds away. And so I arrived there extra early. That is how naive I was a mere two decades ago.

You've probably already guessed the rest: with the exception of myself, there was practically no one else there. I had McCall and another equally great jazz artist, Nat Pierce, her accompanist, pretty much all to myself. And I went back again and again, weekend after weekend and got to know her pretty well. She would always sit with me between sets and schmooze.

Even at this late grandmotherly stage in her career she was one of jazz singing's best kept secrets. I wish I had brought a tape recorder along with me to capture those extraordinary sets. She and Pierce had been musical cohorts for nearly four decades by that time. And it showed: No muss, no fuss, no killer lounge act pyrotechnics, just straight-ahead jazz singing and piano. She just sang the songs and went home!

My web site

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Pink Lady it's not

Take a listen to a portion of this current (and brilliant) reimagination of Coleman Hawkin's 1933 "Queer Notions" by the veteran Japanese rock group, Tin Pan. But then what would you expect from a country which still has music education at every grade level of public school? Here's a bit more info about the group's latest CD at amazon.com.

My web site

Monday, May 02, 2005

Conclave of the music neo-Luddites

It didn't mean much to jazz musician John Wood that I praised his piano playing nearly to the skies when I wrote about him hereabouts a few weeks ago. When he got in touch with me Saturday evening, it wasn't so much to thank me for that, but rather to take issue with several somewhat unkind things I had written in the same blog entry about his record executive father Randy Wood (still alive and well at age 88 and living in SoCal). Basically John felt that I taken the low road when I dismissed his dad, founder of Dot Records, as not much more than a music schlockmeister.

The conversation begin rancorously enough but as the somewhat marathon phone call wore on, it soon became obvious that we have a lot more in common that unites us, rather than the other way 'round. For example, I think that it is safe to say that we both profoundly feel that multiple track recording technology---first harmlessly enough with 2, then 4, 8, 16, 32, etc.---has had a markedly deleterious impact on the continuum of the culture of U.S. music. "When musicians stopped playing in the studio together, that was the beginning of the end," John said. And I tend to agree. It's a complicated issue deserving of a book in and of itself.

As John began to reel off the complex and multifarious accomplishments of Randy Wood, I started to feel that I had essentially shot myself in the foot with my peremptory depiction of his dad as a musical impresario of questionable accomplishment;
just because he happened to have been almost single-handedly responsible for the recording success of the likes of Pat Boone, Lawrence Welk and Billy Vaughn. It's a vox populi musical need that calls for scratching. T'ain't no sin. And there's a much fairer and even-handed---than mine---overview of Wood's contributions to the record industry to be found here.

Randy Wood, his son also told me, was the president of perhaps the only major independent record label NOT to demand/extort/inveigle music publishing rights from its artists. John spiritedly emphasized this several times. And he's right; it is an important point.

He was also at pains to emphasize the major cultural import of his father's internationally known mail-order record shop, Randy's in Gallatin, TN. To give this devil his due, in my (somewhat) offending original blog entry, I was at pains to praise Wood, Sr. for that accomplishment. To wit:

"Late at night in the mid-1950s found many of us in my hometown in West Virginia listening not to local radio stations, still continuing to pump out our parents' retrograde faves like "April in Portugal" and "Lisbon Antigua", but to the 50,000 watt clear channel station out of Nashville, WLAC, featuring deejays Gene Nobles and John R. Enacted after hours and away from parental scrutiny, auditing WLAC was so clandestine and forbidden, that it operated like a vicarious trial run for sex---something that few teens in the 50s had partaken. Not in my set, anyway. In between their pitches for mail order rhythm and blues packages from Randy's Record Shop in Gallatin, Tennessee and salacious paeans to the lubricating properties of White Rose Petroleum Jelly, this powerhouse outlet blanketed almost the entire country with the real deal in black music, instead of the pale white simulacrum coming to be known as rock and roll."

There is now a Tennessee state historical marker on the site of the shop.

As for the relative musical merits of Lawrence Welk and other Dot Records artists, John is right: compared to the likes of the (c)rap coming off the musical assembly lines today, Welk, Vaughn et al are veritable Duke Ellingtons by comparison. "These people," John said, "were all solid professionals. As a kid I was my dad's timekeeper. I was in the studios all the time and saw how good they all were."

I did cop to a lot of John's criticisms, and to invoke a line from a favorite Peter Sellers comedy album of mine (spoken with thick upper class U.K. accent), I think that by the end of our phone conversaton John Wood and I were "agreed upon the essentials and divided only on the minor points."

I would like to announce, BTW, that John Wood and his trio (with guest, vocalist Eloise Laws) will be making a rare L.A. appearance this coming May 12, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel near LAX (more details later). Inasmuch as no jazz pianist that I have heard in recent times---on records---has moved me quite so much, it's an evening to which I truly look forward.

My web site

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Cell phones make mice explode

I have never had an impulse to suddenly stop short of ongoing ontology and dial someone up on a cell phone, one of which I do not now, nor ever will own. Recently in Trader Joe's grocery, here in L.A. (for some inexplicable reason, a hotbed of cell phone use), I stopped to eavesdrop on a call a customer was making.

I wondered what could possibly be so overweeningly urgent as to necessitate such an action? A reminder to a sick child to take his medicine? Dialing up a neighbor to tell them you'd forgot to turn off the oven and would they please check into it for you? Phoning the hospital to find out how your maid Consuela's brain surgery turned out? (So like her to get sick just when she's needed most---to stop your house, fresh out of escrow, from burning to the ground!)

As I edged closer to the Trader Joe's shopper, I caught the tail end of the opening cell phone conversational salvo---in the whiniest of tones imaginable---to the party on the other end: ". . .should I get one bottle or two?" Not since the absurdity of Camus' man in the phone booth!

DID YOU KNOW that most of those livingdead stumbling around on cell phones in the malls and highways and byways of America will die prematurely of brain cancer ? Sad on the one hand, on the other. . .mmm mmm mmm, that's more Trader Joe's chocolate chip cookies for you 'n me. Unless, just like cigarette smoke, there's also such a thing as second-hand cell phone death rays???

My web site