Thursday, August 24, 2006

Can't help bloggin'

Today is the birthday of songwriter Murray ("Guess Who I Saw Today?") Grand. Born 1924, the last we heard, he was alive and well and living in Del Boca Vista. To hear the melody of this wonderfully droll ditty, pick up the Hi-Lo's album, All Over the Place

April in Fairbanks
music and lyrics Murray Grand
from New Faces of 1956

Autumn in New York
And April in Paris
Are no longer chic.
Winters in Mallorca
And summers in Capri
Are gone, so to speak.
The people who have the wherewithal
Have found a new place to have a ball.
They've deserted the Champs-Elysees,
The Piazza d'SpagnaIs no longer gay.
They say their thanks for Fairbanks,Alaska.

April in Fairbanks,
There's nothing more appealing.
You 'll find your blood congealing
In April in Fairbanks.
Bright Arctic moonlight illuminates the ice-floes
When ev'rybody's breath shows
In April.

You've never known the charm of Spring
Until you hear a walrus sighing.
The air is perfumed with the smell of blubber frying.
April in Fairbanks;
You'll suddenly discover
A Polar Bear's your lover
In Fairbanks.

Subzero weather
Will turn your skin to leather
Your jaws will lock together
In April in Fairbanks.
North Polar breezes will sing you a cadenza
And bring you influenza
In April

I'll leave the Rivera to the fools who want a fancy palace.
Give me an igloo , the Aurora Borealis.
April in Fairbanks;
I really can't believe it.
I know I'll never leave it alive this April.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Gone fishin'

To be sung to the tune of the "Hit Parade" theme song

So long for a while
That's all the blogs for a while
So long to Doctor Chilledair
And the posts that you picked to be read
Sooo longgg

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Houston, we have lift-off!

This month is a bonanza one for me, for not only did I help get into print in Japan for the first time one of my desert isle discs, "Dick and Kiz Harp at the 90th Floor" but also a heretofore never-on-CD release from the same originating label, 90th Floor, "Mal Fitch's Mal/Content," and a previously unreleased session by the great Beverly Kenney. AND a CD on which I am the associate producer and with which I had the most hands-on involvement in this current batch of SSJ releases, Lincoln Briney's "Foreign Affair."

More information about it is now available at Lincoln's site: which just went LIVE this morning after, it seemed to me like, tweaking than it took to crack the Dresden Mayan Codex. Worth the wait, though.

As for the other SSJ releases this month, aside from Lincoln's, you can read all about it---in Japanese---here:

Monday, August 14, 2006

The One and ONLY Lorez

Today is the birthday of LOREZ ALEXANDRIA (b 1929 Chicago, died L.A. 2001)

In 1994 Alexandria performed at an afternoon concert at Pedrini's Music Store in Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley and hundreds of fans were on hand. Many had to content themselves with hearing and seeing her on the in-store video setup. One of those rare singers who I could not detect had lost anything vocally over the years.

She had an interesting background which includes, according to the liner notes for her 1964 Lorez the Great, “an eleven-year association with an a cappella singing group directed by Lu-Shay Allen [a former minstrel comedian turned Baptist minister]. The singers appeared in and around Chicago, made occasional short trips through the Midwest, and on one occasion sang for President Harry S. Truman at Blair House in Washington, DC.”

In 1992 Leonard Feather posited the notion that the ONLY thing that stood in the way of Alexandria’s moving to the forefront of Great American Songbirds was her failure to attach herself to a signature tune (or at least repertoire), i.e. “an outstanding piece of material that could become exclusively identified with her and perhaps catch the ear of a recording executive.” Still that didn't stop Alexandria from amassing a large body of work, consisting of more that twenty albums on the Impulse, King, Argo, Discovery, Pazz and Hindsight labels.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Confessions of an Otokichi

Listen (mp3 links for a limited time only)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Cat blog Friday

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Kuro being held by the sentient thing that he thinks is another cat.

My web site

More Turley

By 1970 Bob Turley (see day before yesterday's entry) was no longer an on-air personality, but that didn't stop him, as station manager, from dropping into the control room and carrying on from time-to-time with whomever happened to be broadcasting. Here's a couple of minutes banter circa 1970 (courtesy of former WKAZ-er Johnny Goyen), between the great Turley and dee-jay Jay Jarrell on Charleston, WV radio station WKAZ. Outrageous! However on earth did they get away with it in my Bible Belt hometown? That's also Turley doing the Fratenity House comm'l at the end of the clip.

Not long ago I asked Bob:

ME: Do you still have a turntable?

His reply:

BOB: I never leave home without it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Bob Turley R.I.P

My O-RIG-I-NAL hero, mentor, what have you, was Charleston, West Virginia disc jockey Bob Turley who died yesterday. I learned of this the same day from a comment posted to this blog in response to an entry of a few months ago. The email read as follows:

"I was "googling" Bob Turley's name when I ran across this piece. I have listened to the old stories of his early days in radio. What a character! Bob Turley died today at 8:15 a.m. after a short illness. Until the end, he was his usual, wonderful self. He will be missed by all who knew him and by many who never saw his handsome face. I am a good friend of his daughter, Robin. I consider myself privileged to have been a small part of his life."

Here is the part of my original blog entry that pertained to Turley:

I was an on-air disc jockey at WKAZ, the Charleston station where Turley was employed, while I was attending a local college circa 1963. The things I tend to recall from my youth when I go back and double check on them turn out to have been remembered with a fair degree of accuracy And what I remember about Bob is that he was simply and inarguably GREAT! Case closed. The emphasis between records spun was definitely on comedy, and Bob---I recall---was up there with the best of 'em like Stan Freberg, and Bob and Ray. Again, I am pretty sure I am right about this.

Bob was so far out when he was at the peak of his powers in the late 1950s that he was, as they say, "too hip for the house," Not just Charleston, but pretty much anywhere else for that matter. And so, eventually, Bob moved more and more behind the scenes and became a program director at 'KAZ and was no longer on the air at all. I think that is the way it played out. I have not lived in Charleston for more than thirty years, but I remember it as being a great radio town.

I can still recall the theme song that Bob used at one time: "The Duke" from the Miles Davis/Gil Evans album, "Miles Ahead." For a morning drive time radio show, it simply does not get any further out than that.

Then there were all those dozens and dozens of cartridges that he manipulated with extraordinary dexterity to punch in all of these outrageous sound effects, and voices. Then Bob would jump back in with an ad-libbed response, then segueway into a commercial, or whatever. I do recall that he was very well-liked and pretty much ruled the place, but was forever getting called into the very nice Don Hays' office (he was the station manager) for a mild wrist slapping. Such is the lot of geniuses which Bob Turley was in my opinion.

Sometimes I was given the honor of doing a bit of impov on Bob's show after I was off-duty. It was all totally off the cuff. For a kid who practically grew up listening to this stuff---in fact, Bob was only eight years my senior--- it was quite an honor to actually have become a part of that wild and wacky daily radio production. What I wouldn't give to hear an air check of that nutty show today.

On a cheerier note, also yesterday, I made the acquaintance of film director-producer Ronald Neame. Ninety-five years-old and totally in possession of just about any faculty that you might care to discuss. What a guy! To my way of thinking he is our most important living cinema treasure. Too bad the internecine and troglodytic AMPAS don't see things my way. Otherwise, an honorary Oscar of one sort or another would have been presented years ago.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Mister First Nighter Strikes Again

I also posted this today on a list serve devoted to (Duke Ellington says there's no such word as. . .) jazz and jazz-oriented singers.

Last night I sallied forth from Los Angeles proper, crossed the Orange Curtain and went to Huntington Beach (Surf City USA) to hear Pinky Winters and her band (Tom Garvin, Ralph Penland, and Chris Collangelo) at the relatively new Orange County 4 star Cavallino Ristorante and Jazz Bar --- It was my first visit to the establishment, which has been operation since the first of the year.

Pseudo-cosmopolitan Los Angeleneans tend to get nosebleed when they have to travel any farther south than the Santa Monica freeway ("Omigod are we EVERRRR in Hicksville.") But, in fact, Cavillino's has every L.A. (proper) jazz-dining venue beat hands down. No competition. Quite a long drive from the city of L.A. (The City Where the Future Come to Die), but worth it. Cavallino's is a bright light shining in a bad old world.

Cavallino's is sort of like a humane Vibrato (an upscale but NOISY L.A. scenemaking madhouse co-owned by Herb Alpert). Or a much nicer Henri's Backroom (Canoga Park), which is kind of dumpy and where the sound system seems to consist of a reconditioned Karaoke machine.

Cavallino's has the best sound system, food, ambiance, clientele, and staff I've come across in this neck of the woods in a long time. Finally a jazz club in L.A. (well, almost L.A.) worthy of Pinky Winter's estimable skills as a performer. The Gardenia where she successfully appeared a couple of weeks ago in L.A. with Bob Florence doesn't count, for it is not really a jazz club. THINK, instead, Andrea Marcovicci.

Cavallino's is not even all that expensive for gourmet dining and the music is FREE! The place was packed with Orange County fans of Winters whom she hadn't seen for ages. Two vacationing Australians had even travelled ALL THE WAY from Hollywood. A good ninety minute schlep. Another couple came bearing greetings to Pinky from Blossom Dearie in NYC. Another Winters fan turned out to a world expert on crop circles! Think Mayans.

Most of the performers who play Cavallino's are OC locals, and not as well known as Pinky Winters, but several with whom I'm familiar are also quite good in their own right. Especially guitarist-singer Clem Ahia, who happens to be playing there tonight with a world class trio backing him (Llew Matthews, Ralph Penland and Tony Dumas) and Orange County's own Jack Jones, vocalist John Wood.

Plus, you haven't lived until you've heard Pinky Winters sing "Limehouse Blues."

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Kopeeez have arrived!!!!

Through this blog, in the Fall of last year I made the acquaintance of a certain Lincoln Briney of Napa, California. Initially, we had a few email back-and-forths about group vocal jazz singing---his passion. In time, Lincoln revealed to me that he was even a bit of a singer himself. But it soon became clear to me that not only was he not just a mere singer but was, indeed, a very fine one. This was made obvious via a work in progress CD he sent to me, some tracks of which had been in circulation of a demo disc he had put together. But most were brand new and had not been heard by anyone besides Lincoln and the players on the date. I was jazzed by what I heard. So much so that I was even able to convince---not a hard task at all---Yasuo Sangu, the head of SSJ Records in Japan, to issue Lincoln's official debut CD, Foreign Affair. The release date is August 23rd. More information about it---in Japanese, natch---is just now available at SSJ's site.

Master jazz guitarist Bill Frisell appears on two cuts, the title track and Chorado. It's doubtful that there has ever been another CD that covers such a wide variety of repertoire: everything from Matt Dennis to Ron Sexsmith, with stops in between for the likes of Jobim, Sade, Stevie Wonder and much more. That rarity of rarities and miracle of miracles: a 100 % commercial, approachable, and listenable recording but without so much as a scintilla of artistic compromise!

Because I was instrumental in getting the CD to market, I have been accorded the honor of having my name placed on the CD as "associate producer." But basically I am just a fan and as such have listened to Foreign Affair many many times. And I never tire of it, or cease to be amazed at how much I continue to discover upon repeated auditings. The players on the CD consist of a who's who of the burgeoning Seattle music scene. I feel that I am being completely objective when I say that this is a truly wonderful and amazing production. Hard for me to pick a favorite track, but here's a generous mp3 sampling of one of them, Lincoln's version of Sade's "Love is Stronger Than Pride."

Friday, August 04, 2006

Disc o' the Day

What follows is the text of my friend Charles Cochran's new page at CDBaby :

Here is Fred Astaire on the subject of singer-pianist Charles Cochran in 1963:

“I think one of the main reasons for Charlie Cochran's success is his devotion to his art. It seems that he takes hold of a song as if he owns it... its story and lyrics as well as its musical values. Charlie is instinctively a young man of good taste and good manners. He works because he enjoys it. He really loves to sing and in order to do so to his personal satisfaction, he travels extensively, appearing in night clubs at various ends of this country and abroad. He has acquired a large following since his entry into the professional ranks about 5 years ago.

For some time now, I have admired the Cochran style and was extremely pleased when we were able to sign him for AVA Records.

Cochran is particular and decisive about his choice of song material. He has chosen most of the numbers in this album because he can hardly resist singing them. I hope people will buy it for the same reason.”

And now flash forward to 2005 and Rex Reed in the New York Observer:
“With so much angst, the best anti-depressant is music. Charles Cochran, an esteemed pianist and saloon singer who used to be a staple on the Manhattan club scene when the word “cabaret” only existed in the basements of Berlin, is back in circulation at Danny’s on West 46th Street, where he is holding court every Sunday and Monday night through May. He takes you back to the sublimely balmy midnight hours when chic song stylists peppered and salted intimate watering troughs all over town, and taxis didn’t cost half the rent to get you there. Retirement in Palm Beach hasn’t cost him any I.Q. points. His songs are stylish and sophisticated, and so is he.

Up-tempo tunes are usually fillers inserted by performers who fear their audiences will grow drowsy from too many ballads. Mr. Cochran doesn’t waste your time: His love songs are treasures . . .When he picks up the pace, it’s with obscure gems like Irving Berlin’s “Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun” and Cy Coleman’s “On the Other Side of the Tracks.” The stories he tells are the reminiscences of days when you could rent a penthouse with a grand piano for $350 a month. The names he drops are Laurette Taylor, Mabel Mercer and Hedy Lamarr. He brings tears to the most jaded eyes. He makes you want to live the lyrics. . . Put Charles Cochran on your calendar, and learn something.”

In between, in 1983, here’s what the great Jeri Southern had to say about Cochran:

“Charles Cochran sings with a purity and straightforwardness that are rarely heard these days, always paying attention to the lyric and observing its most subtle meanings and nuances.

His impeccable musicianship is clearly apparent in his intonation, phrasing, time, and control. The voice is gorgeous (and he uses it beautifully), but he never sacrifices the lyrical interpretation to make us aware of it---a temptation to any singer of lesser taste and discernment.
In short, I think Charles is a great artist and best of all, I guess, is that every time I hear him sing I feel that it’s just for me---I think you’ll feel that way too.”

This is Cochran’s sixth album in as many decades. It just might be his best!

“. . .a first-rate repertoire of out-of-the way show tunes, intimate jazz, and ballads that only a born-and-bred New York song

Cat blog Friday - rerun

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I call this "Kuro on Acid"

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

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Buy my memoir, Early Plastic