Thursday, February 28, 2008

Welcome to Blogistan!

There's a new jazz blogger on the block, Bob Levin. The name of his creation is: . But if you don't feel like typing all that in (who would?), here's a handy-dandy link that will take you there in a flash. Well worth doing so, I might add, for there's a terrific interview with jazz singer Carol Sloane that will no doubt appeal to most regular readers of this blog. . .and you know who you are. Also an interesting series of posts about the mysterious disappearance of just about all things Chet Baker from youtube.

Monday, February 25, 2008


"Home" to Oklahoma. The last part of Nobuko Miyamoto's search for "her" Lee Wiley. Part, The Last.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

THE Simpson

Singer-pianist Carole Simpson suffered a stroke prior to the 1999 recording of her "Remembering" CD. It didn't cause much change in her wonderful playing. But it DID alter her voice. Since then, she has been a bit self-conscious about singing, but WILL do it. Frankly, I love her "new sound." It's got all the necessary elements: pitch , swing, conception, etc. Her version of "Have I Been Too Long at the Fair" on the aforementioned collection---and with her "new" voice---is, arguably, definitive.

Simpson came on the scene in 1957 with a fine album on the Capitol label. She was not only a terrific singer and pianist but also glamourous to the max. As the notes for "All About Carole" inform, she was "born in Anna, Illinois, not too many Octobers ago, Carole began her career with classical studies in both voice and piano. Turning to popular music she became the sensation of such places as Chicago's Black Orchid, Las Vegas' Desert Inn, and Manhattan's Pierre Hotel." (Carole once told me that while "All About" has always remained in print somewhere in the world, she has never earned so much as a single penny from it. But that is a remark best saved for discussions about "creative" bookkeeping in the record biz.)

Not long after the album's release, though, marriage and motherhood's gain turned out to be the national music scene's loss. Note the "national," however; and for the last x number of years or so, Carole has remained extremely active on the local L.A. music scene. Until recently she had a long-running gig in a now-defunct restaurant, The Georgia, on the city's trendoid artery, Melrose Avenue (actually not so trendoid anymore).

Carole has also been involved in a number of projects with inarguable L.A. music legend, songwriter-pianist-singer-whistler Howlett Smith. One of their pasttimes is a duo-piano act in which they trade off singing and playing, and engaging, in between songs, in good-natured carping over correct keys, interpretations, etc. Leading one local wag (guess who) to dub them "the post-bop Bickersons."

I caught their act again last night at a fund-raiser for L.A.'s St. Paul's Presbyterian Church. The highlights, per usual, were too numerous to mention. Howlett, once again, demonstrated why he was able to hold down a single gig---at Santa Monica's late-lamented Bob Burns Restaurant---for more than two decades.

And I'm happy to report that Carole's playing is as strong as ever, and her singing, what it might lack in power (wish they'd upped the volume on the mic just a tad last night), is, more than ever, a lesson in how important it is to fully inhabit a song rather than just parroting the words.

Playing With Kuro

Wednesday, February 20, 2008



Monday, February 18, 2008


Alas, it's not a Page gig I'm writing about here. Instead, certified national treasure, pianist-singer Page Cavanaugh is back in the hospital after yet another spill and fracture. Those old bones -- Page is 86 -- just don't heal so well after a certain time in life. Fortunately, he has a keyboard in his room and so I might take a tape recorder when I visit him this afternoon and capture an album entitled: "Page Cavanaugh Live From Rehab." Or not.

If anyone wishes to send him a get well card, here is his address:

Page Cavanaugh
c/o Valley Palms Rehabilitation Center
13400 Sherman Way
North Hollywood, CA 91605

BTW his friend Larry Novak is still working on getting Page his well-deserved star on the H'wood Walk o' Fame.

And another fine singer-pianist, Joyce Collins. is also hors de combat right now. She needs help and support and I believe that an evening is being planned for her in the near future at L.A.'s Jazz Bakery. Further details to be posted here soon.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Friday, February 15, 2008



I once flew to Japan and accidentally left behind all my CDs. EXCEPT for the burn of Paula that happened to be in my player at the time. And do you know what? By the time we landed at Narita I got to where I kinda liked Ms. Greer. A somewhat recherche exemplification of the Stockholm Syndrome I suppose.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008




Sunday, February 10, 2008


HERE IS A CLIP from an award-winning 45-minute 2002 Japanese TV documentary in which Japanese actress-singer Nobuko Miyamoto goes in search of "her" Lee Wiley. Translated narration spoken by Bill Reed (i.e., Me!). One of the participants in the docu, Gus Kuhlman, talked about the making of the film in an online oral history.

"Lee Wiley came down. I met her, and we became friends. And I always made---there was a lot of interest in---I wrote a small book about it. One time I got a call from a producer in Japan who said that they wanted to do a documentary on Lee Wiley. I'll try to shorten the story. Her picture up there. That's the Japanese actress who was an award-winning actress in Japan, who was going to be the main one who was acting in this. What happened was her husband was a director [Juzo Itami of "Tampopo" fame]. One day he threw himself out of a six-story window, out of his office, and killed himself. And she went into a terrible state, and she wasn't doing any movies or doing anything. And she heard Lee Wiley's song--she was singing, And she just fell in love with this, and she liked that, and she heard more of her. She tried to learn more about Lee Wiley, and she couldn't learn anything. So they went on the Internet and asked for anyone who could give her help on Lee Wiley. And they got no answer. They were just about to withdraw and give up the idea when they got an e-mail from Barbara Lea. She's a singer here who is currently singing in New York City and is another good friend of mine. And she said, "Get a hold of Gus Kuhlman if you want to know more about Lee Wiley." So they did. They contacted me, and that did it. From that point on they were able to make the movie. So she didn't impersonate Lee Wiley. It was called 'My Lee Wiley', and she just wanted to learn more about her singing and everything. So part of it was filmed here right in this room and outside. They did a heck of a job. It was named Documentary of the Year in Japan in 2002. So it was a lot of fun to do. No script or anything. It was just off-the-cuff stuff. It was very nice. I have some pictures upstairs of that, too, when they were filming here. And they had sent us some VCR's of her earlier films that she had done before this. So we got to know who she was, too. We still correspond."

Thanks to Jeremy Cavaterra and Kurt Reichenbach

Rashomon in Beverly Hills

In yesterday's L.A. Times, an article about the admittedly not-untalented lyric writing duo of Marilyn and Alan Bergman contains the following quote (quite possibly canard):

"A cash-starved Alan wrote 'That Face' as an engagement gift for

While just last month, in an obit for Lew in the Times, there is another version of the event in question:

"One night while dining at Frascasti's Restaurant in Beverly Hills with Bob Carroll (I Love Lucy'), Phyllis Kirk walked in and immediately, Lew fell in love. He went over to her and said, in
true Lew style, 'You are beautiful!' She patted the seat next to her and invited him to sit down. The very next morning he got up and wrote the entire melody and the main lyric to 'That Face' as a tribute to her beauty."

Yet. . .when the song was published, and subsequently recorded by Fred Astaire, Alan Bergman took full credit for the lyric. But Lew kept his own council, apparently (sweetheart that he was) not wanting to destroy the illusion of Alan's "engagement gift."

Perhaps he should have quit while still ahead. For just a few short years later, the same thing happened with the song "Nice 'n Easy." Only this time BOTH Bergmans took sole credit for the lyric, while---again---Lew was accorded only a "music" credit. Finally, that ripped it. Not long afterward, Lew severed ALL ties with the couple. Spence and the Bergmans became, in Winchell-ese, "don'tinvitems."

Of course, there are always three sides to every story---yours, mine and the truth. Don't ask me why, but somehow I tend to believe Spence's "side" in regard to both of these occurences.

The schism between Lew Spence and the Bergmans is well-known in the songwriting community. It's too bad that the L.A. Times sent a writer to profile the Bergmans who was so unfamiliar with the subject matter being written about that she could only traffic in the received wisdom of Marilyn and Alan Bergman. Lew's "side" of the story should have at least been alluded to. In the immortal words of Calvin Trillan, "I demand to speak with an adult." And while I'm at it, "Hey, you kids! Get off my lawn!"

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Happy Birthday to. . .

. . .jazzmen Wilbur Sweatman and Eubie Blake, born one year apart on this day in, respectively, 1882 and '83. Eubie famously lived to be exactly 100 years old. Two facts I recall about Eubie is that he was his mother's seventh born child, but all six previous "siblings" had died in childbirth. It was left to Eubie to compensate, and that he did! Also Blake made no secret of the fact that he was a near-lifelong drinker and smoker. And his diet consisted almost exclusively of 7-Up, meat and chocolate. Take that, Adele Davis. Put it in your pipe and smoke it.

Sweatman is, unquestionably far less famous than Blake, but he should be remembered, if for no other reason than being, arguably, the first jazz musician to have recorded. Way back in ought three. . .19, that is. Many other distinguished accomplishments, including a long and lively recording career lasting for nearly 35 years. Famous for playing three clarinets simultaneously (take that, Roland Kirk!). He died in '61. Here's a track from 1918, "Indianola." Not exactly the highest of fi, but I think you'll get the idea.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Snark Attack

Last evening I received an email encomium re: my recent post about songwriter Lew Spence. The missive closed with "Thanks for spewing out a little vitriol about Ms. B. I'm sure Lew would have appreciated it."

I must confess that I especially liked the correspondent's past tense, "would have appreciated," as opposed to the implication that even as we speak, "Lew's up there looking down" sort of nonsense. For when it comes to the subject of an afterlife, I'm afraid I'm in total accord with the late, great Kate Hepburn who believed that "They just stick you in the ground, shovel dirt over you and there's nothing to worry about anymore." (But I digress.)

Lew came up with the title for "Nice 'n' Easy." According to him, he then asked Alan B. for 1/3 lyric credit (the phrase was heard throughout the song) but was unaware that his creative partners had denied him this until he saw the actual Sinatra disc. He only received "music" credit. Not only are there no royalty checks in heaven, there is no heaven. But I, again, digress.

I suppose Lew must've actually invented the phrase Nice 'n' Easy. I always meant to ask him. If he did, then that realllly makes him one historic cat. A veritable wordsmithing Paul Bunyan. It's the twilight of the gods, I tell you once more, the twilight of the gods.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Diva Detective Strikes Again

I was watching the Benny Program last night and caught Pretty, Perky Peggy King (Rudofker) singing a song I'd never heard before. Not that I've heard every song ever written. But this one, "This is Where Love Walks Out, Brother" was slightly better than average---I esp. liked the "Brother" part) and I decided to do a bit of research on it. Here's what I learned.

Curiously, King seems to have never recorded the song, or if she did, it went unreleased. There was one recording, however, by the fine Miss Fran Warren on RCA in the mid-fifties. . .about the time King appeared on the aforementioned Benny Program. Another anomoly. . .Note that Jack always called it a "Program" and not a "Show" unlike just about all others on TV at the time.

Pre-Google, it woulda probably taken me at least a trip downtown to the li-bare-y to unlock the riddle of the writer, listed on the net simply as "Burns." But a bit more creative Google-ry (these are my little secrets) and I discovered her to be one Jeanne Burns, who has a lot of songs to her her credit, the only one of which is familiar to me, though, is "The Lady With the Fan," sung by Cab Calloway. I wonder if she's the same Jeanne Burns who sang with Adrian Rollini's group in the 1930s? That's one I wasn't able to crack even with the help of Google. For that, I just might need to journey down to Bladerunner-ville.

Friday, February 01, 2008