Saturday, February 10, 2007

All Hail The Big Mouth

Somewhere out there a “new” Martha Raye CD has just been released. I can’t recall the imprint right off, but I can assure you, it isn't on any major label, but, instead, on one of those myriad small operations dedicated to keeping alive actual music with melody, rhythm, harmony, taste, intelligence, and so on. I rest my case.

No doubt it contains some of the same material that was included in an interesting Raye LP set that was released just before the dawning of the CD era. Nice stuff on that earlier entry, including a version of "Is That All There Is", a song of which Mick Jagger once remarked, "If I could write a song that sick I could die happy." Also a lot of material from TV: "Little Girl Blue," "Taking a Chance on Love, Happiness is Just a Thing Called Joe, Watch What Happens and many more.

Regardless of the conservative image Raye put forth trouping for the boys in 'Nam, she was also quite the party gal. I have a friend who was a gypsy in "Hello, Dolly" when she was in it. He remembers an elaborate marijuana garden growing on her New York terrace, and lots of pot parties after the show. A deeply beloved human being, a great artist. . .and a ”head” of the first water.

It's sort of funny that when people talk about Raye today, it’s as a singer---an essential link in the evolution of jazz singing---and forget how funny she was. It was just the opposite when she was alive. In this clip from her old TV variety series, she displays both aspects of her artistry. Two minutes and 15 seconds worth of great rhythm singing, with a five second pit stop in the middle for a brief bit of silliness.

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