Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bobby Tucker R.I.P.

Pianist-arranger-accompanist Bobby Tucker died in Morristown, NJ on April 12, 2007. To the best of my knowledge there has been little or no mention of this in the press. I only learned of his death because a mutual friend of Tucker and myself tried to ring Bobby up this a.m. and was informed of his passing by a family member who answered the phone. Tucker is especially known for having been the musical director for two great jazz artists, Billie Holiday and Billy Eckstine. Both of these stints were lengthy ones, and Tucker can also be heard on multiple recordings made by the two Billie/Billy(s). A common misconception is that he was the Bobby Tucker who conducted the chorus on Frank Sinatra's acappella recordings made during the 1949 musicians' strike.

Tucker was especially sought out as an accompanist for singers and among those others he worked with were Johnny Hartman, Lena Horne, and Antonio Carlos Jobim. He was a musician's musician, so much so that there is next to no biographical information about him on the internet. Even allmusicguide only has a photo and a date of birth. But most music insiders knew Tucker or, at least, of him. To the best of my knowledge, he only made one album under his own name, 1960's "Too Tough." He was 85.

If any reader can add to this skimpy obit (of sorts) it will be greatly appreciated.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Tale of Two Kitzmillers

A petite Madeline triggered while watching a Marty Paich salute at the L.A. Jazz Institute fest Sunday night.

Sitting there, I suddenly flashed back to the 1950s and my misdirected juvenile belief that the John Kitzmiller, who was Marty Paich's tuba player, was also the very selfsame Kitzmiller who was a black American expat actor who'd begun his career appearing in Italian neorealist movies. Now, how hip is THAT?, I thought. Talk about covering the artistic waterfront! I wanted to be at least as versatile as that when I grew up.

Eventually, however, I began to realize that this was merely wishful thinking, when I learned that Kitzmiller, the musician, was married to jazz singer-pianist Jeri Southern. I could imagine her as the wife of a Marty Paich sideman. But married to an expatriate black actor who had shown up in Fellini movies? Nyah! Not even Jeri Southern was THAT hip.

I had a lot of weird misconceptions and scrambled epiphanies like that when I was but mere protplasm in Buster Brown Shoes. I wanted the world to be round, alas it turned out to be terribly square.

Hanging with Helen Merrill

I moderated my panel at the L.A. Jazz Institute Festival Saturday morning, with singers Annie Ross, Tierney Sutton, Helen Merrill and Pinky Winters. With the exception of a 45 minute speech I made in phonetic Japanese in Tokyo a couple of years ago, I don't think I have ever before engaged in any extensive public speaking. Kind of unsettling to me. But when Institute director Ken Poston rang me up and asked me to do it, I answered "YES!" before he had even finished the question. I was especially jazzed by the idea of working (so to speak) with one of my desert island favorites, Helen Merrill. Afterwards, I even got to spend a bit of time with her before she had to catch a plane back to NYC. The panel participants also performed concerts at the Festival, singing, variously, the works of Kern (and his lyricists), Berlin, Porter, the Gershwins, and Lerner and Loewe.

My friend (and I would go so far as to say mentor), the late Nat Shapiro, once told me that Merrill was one of the few truly intelligent singers he had ever met (no other names, please). I can see now why he was so impressed. She was great fun to be with. For much of the time we traded off comments about all the things we love about Japan and its people. In case you arent't aware, Merrill, for a number of years, lived in that country where she very simply is considered the pluperfect personification of a jazz singer. It should also be noted that her 1955 Emarcy album with Clifford Brown is the largest selling jazz album ever in that country.

I had the pleasure of introducing Ms. Merrill to Hajime Sato of Eastwind Imports, a dealer who was selling CDs at the Fest. They began chatting in Japanese and continued to do so for quite some time. The fan in me can die happy now that I, also, have been spoken to in Japanese by Helen Merrill!

Sato san has only lived in the U.S. for eight years (born in Kobe, Japan), but his English strikes me as verging on perfect. He and I developed a running gag over the four days of the Fest. I would pass by his display without breaking stride and throw somewhat muzukashii English words at him as a test, i.e.

ME: "Flabbergasted!"


And so on and so forth. . ..

Here are a couple of quotes I threw at the panel to get the collective juices flowing:



I think I did okay moderating the panel, which was filmed for a documentary about the Great American Songbook, and didn't disgrace myself too much.

Sometime soon, I will post a transcription of some of the remarks and comments made by these four wonderful artists.

A great four days filled with terrific music and wonderful memories.

Here's a photo of the occasion and a review, in both Japanese AND English, by Professor Takahiro Miyao on his Glocom blog.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Right you are re: 5/22 photo quiz; it's Miss Kay Starr.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Who be 3?

Yes, # 2 is, indoubtly, Beverly Kenney!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Guess who 2?

from Down Beat, 1939

I'm mightily impressed. How did you know that?

Another sign of The Final Days

Word is out that there's a new Billie Holiday biopic in pre-production tentatively slated to star Dana Owens, or, as she is better known, Queen L--l-l-l. . . (no, I simply refuse to call her by her stage name). Owens is flat-out the most overrated one-note thesp in all of the biz. And a cold, joyless, unswinging, airless standards singer to boot, on the couple of occasions where she attempted to do so. A feature-length Jenny Craig musical commercial. . .maybe (The Treadmill Follies?). But, she should keep her hands OFF of Lady Day. There oughta be a law protecting such national treasures.

Last Winter, Owens did a concert at UCLA's Wadsworth (or was it Royce?) Hall and the place was half full. . .or empty. Nearly every movie she makes turns out to be a critical and financial bomb. Especially the last one with (the apparently desperate) Diane Keaton.

Her old core audience feels alienated by all of her mid-career shenanigans to grow, expand and develop as an entertainer, but her new, more uptown, upscale, educated target audience can smell a rat a mile away. Owens should go back and reclaim her rap audience before it's too late.

My guess is that biopic will never come to pass, but if it does, God help us all.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Department of Amplification

On a Yahoo list to which I subscribe, one of the other members recently posted the following:

>I've seen one photo [of singer Ann Baker], in which she was stunning, and have one record [recorded under the name of Ann Hathaway]. . .It's a Keynote on gritty recycled shellac, teaming "Come Rain Or Come Shine" with "Between The Devil," from 1946. Under a more aggressive than usual Ellis Larkins is Edmond Hall on clarinet, but what's unusual is the extent to which the bass (Al Hall) and drums (Lunceford alum James Crawford) really drive the record.

To which I replied:

I knew Baker/Hathaway. She was a beautiful, fine singer who gave up the biz to operate, with her husband, a well-regarded barbecue restaurant in my hometown of Charleston, West (by god) Virginia. She also ran an after hours "black and tan" spot where I saw all manner of famed traveling musicians, who would stop in to jam with Ann for old times sake. I was underage and wore sunglasses, a fake moustache, and a hat. I'm sure that I didn't fool anyone, but Ann, no doubt, appreciated the gesture.

Toward the end of her life (she died about eight years ago) she came back as a singer and received a fair degree of national attention. You can catch her at her prime in the Billy Eckstine movie Rhythm in a Riff (1947). Baker was the first singer to record with Miles Davis and there is also an air check of her with Bird and Dizzy.

Hear Ann BAKER (with Miles Davis, Linton Garner, Gene Ammons, Tommy Potter, Art Blakey, C. Wainright) sing "Baby, Won't You Make Up Your Mind" written by Baker

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Another sad musical passing

Bill Reichenbach Sr., a jazz drummer who played on early bossa nova records with Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz, died yesterday in Hollywood, CA. He was the father of West Coast trombonist Bill Reichenbach, Jr. and singer Kurt Reichenbach.

Jazz Samba, with Getz and Byrd, on which Bill, Sr. played drums, is in the Grammy Hall of Fame. Reichenbach, who operated out of the Washington, DC area when he was active, also played and recorded with a wide variety of other musicians and singers, including Tommy Dorsey and Georgia Gibbs. In preparation for recording the Jazz Samba album, Byrd and Reichenbach traveled to Brazil in 1961 and returned home with a wide variety of research materials, including recordings by Antonio Carlos Jobim which had scarcely been heard north of the border at that point in history.

Reichenbach, Sr's last recording was with his sons, Bill, Jr. and Kurt on the latter's recent CD, The Night Was Blue. Reichenbach's wife died last January. Reichenbach, Sr. has been in failing health recently, and recently moved west to be closer to his sons, but at the present time the cause of death is not known.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Twilight of the Gods, or Bob Florence R.I.P.

Arranger-pianist-composer Bob Florence died today in Southern California at 1:04 PM. In the next few days, myriad obits will rightully refer to him in terms of "major figure" and so on and so forth. However, in my occasional conversations and dealings with Bob, I also found him to be sweet, funny, forthcoming, and just flat-out. . .nice. My condolences to his wife Evie and his family.

In mid-summer 2006 Bob backed my friend, singer Pinky Winters, in an evening of Johnny Mandel's music at Hollywood's (long may she wave) Gardenia. I brought along my mp3 recorder to try and capture the procedings. And while what I got was far below the level of Muenster Duhamel Hi-Fi, nonetheless the results should give you a pretty good idea of what it was like whenever Bob even casually sat down at the piano to commune with the instrument. Here is his solo Overture to the evening of Mandel's music.


Answer to Trivia ?

The first artist to record for the Beatles' label Apple (Apple #1),in 1968, even before the Fab Four, was none other than. . .well, take a listen

It came about this way, as described elsewhere on the net: "Ringo Starr's wife, Maureen, had a birthday coming up and someone at Apple Records thought it would be great to work up a version of "The Lady Is A Tramp" to play at her birthday party. One thing led to another and songwriter Sammy Cahn agreed to rewrite the words to the song ("Maureen Is A Champ"), then talked FRANK SINATRA into singing it. Sinatra recorded the song with his longtime accompanist Bill Miller, shipped the tape to London, where it was pressed onto Apple #1. One copy of the record was made and given to Maureen Starr, and the stamping mold was then destroyed afterward."

That's the official version. However, one suspects that Sinatra's gesture might not have been exactly one of altruism, friendship, or love of the Beatles, but rather the part of some larger corporate scheme. Perhaps, the Beatles had not yet signed on the dotted line to have parent company EMI distribute Apple, and since Sinatra was still a stockholder in the Warner-Reprise combine. . .. Or else. . .? Even the Chairman, who despised rock, must've had his price; and George Harrison's "Something," which Sinatra embarrassingly recorded, doesn't really qualify as rock, per se.

Maureen died in 1994 and according to a couple of net sites that I went to, no one seems to know whatever happened to the 45 which no doubt today would fetch a pretty penny at auction. Not since the Dean Benedetti Charlie Parker tapes!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


For fans of the great singer Jackie Paris, know that the fine blog site, Big 10 Inch Record , currently has Paris' first LP available for download.

Note: a bit of amplification on the blogger's comment re: my association with Paris. It's a bit of a stretch to say that I knew him "personally." But I did meet and see Jackie perform once, received a few letters from him, which I cherish, and had a couple of phone calls from the man. A bit remarkably, he even sent me a couple of his Japanese CDs when I was having trouble finding copies of them---pre-cyber shopping---stateside. One hears tales of his imapatience with various record biz functionaries, but he sure was nice to his fans, i.e. me.


Q. Who was rhe first artist to record for the Beatles' Apple record label?

Any of my myriad readers---and you know who you are---care to hazard a guess?

Answer tomorrow

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Marlborough Years

In my highly checkered occupational career, by far the most unexpected and anomalous job I ever had was as an assistant librarian at L.A.'s rightfully famous Marlborough School for Girls. Somewhere around 1993 I had gone to an employment agency seeking a job as a writer-researcher, but for some reason I was sent out to apply for the Marlborough gig. I was more-or-less hired on the spot because the head librarian, a very nice man by the name of Peter Chinichi, told me he just had a gut feeling that I was right for the post. I felt that I really had no choice but to accept. And as it turned out, he was right!

I stayed there for a couple of highly rewarding years, living in a fool's paradise. At least to my eyes, there could not have been a more idyllic place. Five hundred or so students were spread out among grades 7-12, and in the time I was employed by the school I never saw any undue melodrama, or unleashed hidden agendas. I could go on and on; I COULD, in fact, write a book. But Marlborough is not the reason for this post. Instead, this fleeting backward reflection is only meant as introduction to a highly amusing Christmas gift given to me one season by one of "my students," an exceptionally droll and bright, young woman in her mid-teens, Candice Kim.

I misplaced that objet here at Oblivion Towers and only came across it the other day while doing some--what passes for here as---Spring housecleaning. Glad I found it. Pretty witty and TIMELY stuff (below is but one of several "chapters"), but then what would you expect of a 1990s teenager who masqueraded one Halloween as Jack Kerouac?

I lost track of all the students after I left Marlborough over a rather benign salary dispute. But---no surprise---I DO see the names of several in the papers not for robbing liquor stores and some such, but rather for their impressive ongoing achievements in various and sundry fields of the arts, sciences, etc. Which is only to be expected, thanks to the care and feeding accorded the students by the faculty and administration of this remarkable institution.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Mystery (to me) singer?

Anyone have a clue as to to who this singer, heard on the demo recording of the Johnny Mandel - Arthur Hamilton song, I NEVER TOLD YOU, might be?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Thank you, seal!

The unqualiied Dr Chilledair seal of approval (our first EV-ER) goes to the Big 10-inch Record blogspot.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Singer Johnny Prophet


I have now contacted over 50 individuals, who should know, trying to track this guy down (it's Carole Creveling time all over again!), but no luck. You'd think with five LPs plus, and a (at least) 15 year nightclub career, including Vegas-Reno (Sands, Sahara, Harolds) and the Playboy Club circuit, somebody would know something.

It isn't just that they don't know what happened to him, most never even HEARD of him. There is next to nothing on the internet. His real name is John Profeta. He went to Monroe High School in Rochester, NY and graduated from there circa 1940. He also attended that city's famous Eastman School of Music where he studied trumpet. In the mid-forties he sang with the big band of famed violinist Joe Venuti, and also served in the army. Singer Kay Starr also sang with Venuti's band around the same time, but told me she'd never heard of Prophet.

I've owned and enjoyed Prophet's five (known) albums for years, but only recently became curious about him. I wish I hadn't done the latter.

Prophet was signed by Reprise in 1963. His LP with Axel Stordahl was released just prior to the sale of Reprise to Warners, then he was let go in the wake of the Warners deal. The "Harolds" album (see below) was clearly packaged and meant to be his second LP for Reprise but was not released by them. The Don Ralke, Gordon Jenkins and (the other) Ralph Carmichael albums were recorded and released over the next ten years on Prophet's little homegrown label to be sold in clubs. My sense is that the total cost in today's money of these "first cabin" LP outings is in excess of a hundred thousand dollars, pushing two hundred thou maybe. I have the session records (secured from the AFM) for the Ralke album, and the players are simply the best to be had, i.e. Earl Palmer, Plas Johnson, Lincoln Mayorga, Dennis Budimir, et al. My guess is that Prophet signed a five-record deal with Reprise which then paid for the recording of the other LPs after he was let go.

Here is a (partial?) discography:

This Is Johnny Prophet (released on Reprise, eventually re-released by Prophet) arranged by Axel Stordahl (1963)

1. Just Say I Love Her
2. When Sunny Gets Blue
3. I Remember You
4. The Folks Who Live on the Hill
5. I Should Care
6. This is the Night
7. Like Someone in Love
8. My Yiddishe Mama
9. Now it Can Be Told
10. Come Back to Sorento
11. Angel Eyes
12. That's All

This Is My Life (1972)
arranged by Don Ralke
J.J. Records

1. This is My Life
2. Pieces of Dreams
3. Walk Away
4. Mistry Roses
5. Nite Life
6. Lay Lady Lay
7. One at a Time
8. When Joanna Loved Me
9. In Laguna
10. I Didn't Mean to Love You

Good Times (1970?)
arranged by Gordon Jenkins
produced by Reprise's Sonny Burke
engineered by Reprise's Lee Herschberg
J.J. Records
note: Gordon's son Bruce Jenkins
had never heard of this album

1. Good Times
2, A Man Without Love
3. Interlude
4. This is All I Ask
5. Winds of Change
6. Oh How Much I Love You
7. What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life
8. But I Loved You (Her)
9. How Insensitive
10.My Love Forgive Me

"But I Loved Her," called "But I Loved You" on the Prophet album. His version was recorded approximately 11 years before the Sinatra rendition. Also on the LP Jenkin's "This is All I Ask".

I'm Shooting High (1968 or later)
arranged by Ralph Carmichael
J.J. Records

1. I'm Shooting High
2. That Face
3. Cab Driver
4. Crazy
5. The Moment of Truth
6. More
7. Junior and Julie (great Matt Dennis song!)
8. Love Letters
9. The Look of Love
10. Al Di La

I don't mind most of the above Carmichael tracks; they're only a little hokey. But the ones on the following Harolds LP are nearly unlistenable, although the singing is fine. Like a bad commercial Dean Martin album, who is described on the back of the album as Martin "protege" Prophet's discoverer. There's also a pic of them together in front of the Sands marquee.

At Harolds Club , Reno (recorded for Reprise, but released privately) 1963? Not a live album but packaged to look like one.

1. Nevertheless.
2. Take Your Sweet Time.
3. Anytime,
4. I Understand,
5. I'm Sorry I Made You Cry.
6. I Won't Cry Anymore.
7. You Really Know How To Hurt Someone,
8. I Dream Of You,
9. Prisoner Of Love,
10.Be Careful It's My Heart

Reprise Records singles
Buona Notte Bambino /Test Of Time
Just Say I Love Her/When Sunny Gets Blue

Other singles
Love Your Mother/The Key To Her Heart Bee. 101
Sweet Thing / Banana RCA. 477282
The Night Who Sang Off Key/The Twentieth of May. RCA 74-7444
Stop the Music/Beware (both w/ Henri Rene) RCA 20-4587
Evicted From Heaven / I Was Born Last Monday Ditto 108
(I've Got) Two Arms / Find A Penny. Carthay 105

Also three Reprise Repertory Kiss Me Kate tracks (one with Dinah Shore); a radio transcription "The Navy Swings," with Al Viola!, and a single "How to Seduce a Woman," used on a movie soundtrack. Backing track recorded in London with sixty players, according to arranger Stu Phillips (nice guy).

In the early Sixties there was major buzz in the air about Prophet, no doubt because of his Reprise association, but that the big career predicted for him never materialized.

There is clearly a Sinatra connection here. In fact, Nancy Sinatra plays him on the radio and then asks listeners to tell her who he is, but no one has. There are also a few scattered 1950s singles, including one in 1952 arranged by Nelson Riddle on Coral. That's pre-Sinatra! Prophet also sang with Joe Venuti's band in 1945-46. There are three surviving airchecks of him singing with the that outfit: Laura, I'm Always Chasing Rainbows, Personalisty. If alive today, Prophet would be somewhere in his mid-eighties. The Social Security death index does not appear to list his passing.

Thirty years in fairly high profile showbiz, and vanished without a trace. I give up.