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.

When film director-writer-jazz pianist Raymond DeFelitta (Cafe Society, The Thing About My Folks) first approached the singer about featuring him as the subject of a documentary, Paris was straightforward and candid about his terminal illness. And so, the film, which did proceed apace, became not only a docu project, but, alas, a deathwatch as well. No doubt 'Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris will, in part, address the issue of his puzzling professional obscurity.

Early portions of 'Tis Autumn were shown last year at a NYC memorial service for the singer. Based upon a recent converation that I had with DeFelitta, I'm happy to report that the film, which contains both old and new performance footage along with Paris interviews, is on track and should be completed sometime early next year. The release of the film is to be accompanied by a soundtrack CD that will contain not only Paris classics, but some rare unreleased items as well.

Because of my personal eschatological leanings, I don't think that Jackie is necessarily looking down and smiling from some angelic aerie now that he is finally about to get his (overdue) due. Still, it is a fine and worthy thing that DeFelitta and Company are engaged in and I wish them the best of luck.

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Cat Blog Friday

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Kuro in the Zone

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Happy Birthday, "Dirty Lenny"

Today is the birthday of my nomination for the first posthumous Nobel Peace Prize, Lenny Bruce. Here's what I wrote about him in my 2000 memoir, Early Plastic:

Not since the Irish Potato Famine had NYC’s Lower East Side, in the 1960s, witnessed such an influx; only this time the settlers were disaffected youth from middle America. The neighborhood saw businesses springing up that catered to these post-WW II baby boomers: trendy spots such as the Engage Coffee House, Peace Eye Bookstore, Elk's Trading Post, Sindoori Imports, and the Paradox Zen Restaurant. Overnight, zapaterias became art galleries, hamische delicatessens transformed into head shops---"Over Five Million Love Beads Sold"---and so on. Stanley's Bar remained the locus centris of the "scene." The great neighborhood movie palace, the Loew's (pronounced Loewies, puh-Ieese) on lower Second Avenue, was an especially noticeable example of the changes taking place. The new Lower East Side population was far too busy with the drug-induced movies going on in their heads to bother with those projected on the Loew's giant screen, and after one last final showing of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, the place went dark. Then! The lights went on again, when the old car-barn of a theater played host to Lenny Bruce! For One Night and One Night Only! continued. . .

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Cat Blog Friday

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Kurozilla

Monday, October 03, 2005

What a NIGHT!

Another dream concert under the auspices of the Los Angeles Jazz Institute! Last year (for me) it was Helen Merrill singing the Gil Evans charts from her nearly half-century young Emarcy album, Dream of You. Last night it was Johnny Mandel leading seventeen of L.A.'s finest through a fifteen-song program of some of his most famous compositions and/or arrangements. A highlight for me was Mandel summoning up singer Pinky Winters to sing,---sans rehearsal and accompanying her on piano---Mandel and Frishberg's "You Are There." Winters proved once again why she is the undisputed champion and once-and-future Queen of "You Are There."

For the record, the program also consisted of, in no particular order, San Diego Party, Barbara's Theme and Black Nightgown (all from the film I Want to Live), Georgia on My Mind (from Hoagy Carmichael's World-Pacific album that Mandel arranged), Krazy Kat (from JM's tenure with the Artie Shaw bop band), Low Life, Not Really the Blues (Woody Herman era Mandel), Emily, M*A*S*H, A Time for Love, The Shadow of Your Smile, Groover Wailin', Keester Parade, Seascape.

The usual suspects on the bandstand included: Bill Mays, Carl Saunders, Kim Richmond, Chris Conner, John Pisano, Bobby Shew, the great young drummer Kevin Kanner, Andy Martin, et al

The evening, officially titled "The Compositions and Arrangements of Johnny Mandel," was a bright beacon shining out from the heart of the recording industry beast, i.e. Los Angeles, aka the city where the future comes to die.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Brooks, Brill 'n Phil

Somewhere around here at Oblivion Towers I have a copy of a very rough outline of a Brooks Arthur profile that I wrote. Arthur is the proverbial jack-of-all-trades: songwriter-arranger-singer, current Adam Sandler producing-writing partner, etc. I was going to pitch the article to a Japanese mag, but never got around to it. Part of what motivated me to write it was a 1998 CD, "Songs Are Like Prayers," of Arthur singing Jewish-oriented ballads like "My Yiddishe Momme" and "Anniversary Song." It seems that Brooks Arthur started out in the biz wanting to be the next---gakkkk--Eddie Fisher, or somesuch.

If you have an ear for stuff like this, and I DO, it's quite good. Arthur has a terrific voice and delivery on this CD (again, not everybody's musical cup 'o meat). Interesting, the extensive liner notes find him thanking nearly every person he ever met or worked with from Borscht Belt comics, to Brill Bldg staffers, to his dentist. Must be a 150 names, with only one conspicuous by its absence. . .Phil Spector (Arthur was his second significant engineer). Methinks that thereby hangs the, again, proverbial tale.

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