Sunday, November 30, 2008

Feliz Natale/Natal

Today is the birthday of trumpet player/singer Jack Sheldon. AND a perfect excuse to post one of my fav-o-reet Xmas records.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New from SSJ

Three new CDs from SSJ Records, Japan


Liner notes for "Introducing. . .Sue Childs" by Bill Reed

"For playing on the [1964] ‘Introducing Sue Childs’ album, I received sixty dollars, a pair of pants [?] and a box of Sue’s album,” guitarist Bill Pasquale told me. “At the time, I said to one of the producers, Jim Sotos: ‘What do you expect me to do with all of these records?’ Sotos said, ‘Give ‘em to your friends, I guess.’ Which is exactly what the musician proceeded to do, hanging on to only a couple of them in the process. Too bad he didn’t keep more of them, for today the original vinyl of the recording goes for $300-$400 on the collectors‘ market. Not bad for a recording that certainly didn’t sell out its original pressing of 1,000 copies.

The reason for the extreme bump in the original price has to do not only with the fact that the LP is by a good but obscure singer (whose only recording this was), but also by virtue of an appearance on the release by tenor sax player J.R. Monterose. And just how, exactly, did the legendary (and highly collectable) musician end up on not only this recording but another one as well on the small, fledgling Rock Island, Illinois Studio 4 label, operated by musician brothers Jim and Tony Sotos? It’s something I’ve long wondered about, and finally, in my conversation with guitarist Pasquale from his home in Brookfield, Illinois I was told the following story: “J.R. Monterose was traveling as a sax player in the band of, of all people, the rock group Jay and the Americans. Somehow Monterose stayed behind when the band left town and he stuck around.“ Pasquale laughed, then added, “I guess you could have called the group ‘J.R. and the Americans.

J.R. Monterose was thus taken up by the local Rock Island, Illinois jazz community and for a while became a very big fish in that locale’s somewhat small jazz pond. Significantly, he was rushed by the Sotos brothers, and took part in two recording sessions for their label, the Childs release and a complete album as a leader. (Monterose died in Utica, NY on September 26, 1993.)

Only one other LP ever appeared on Studio 4, a live session of the Sotos Brothers band, recorded while they were appearing at Flint, Michigan’ Mr. C’s Supper Club. It was there that they first met Sue Childs who was also performing at the spot. Not long afterward they asked her to record for them.

Only a few weeks after the date resulting in this recording in early 1965, the singer was scheduled to give birth to a son, her second. The Childs date should probably not have taken place when it did, for as almost every surviving musician on the date has recalled to me, the singer was having a very difficult time getting the “job” done. Breathing problems plagued her, still she insisted on pressing onward. Ordinarily she was not known to have intonation problems, but they do arise here from time-to-time out of the fact that Childs was “singing for two,” so to speak. According to Pasquale, this accounts for Monterose’s relatively brief appearance on the album. Due to the relative chaos surrounding the session, which started late at night and ran until sun-up the next day, Monterose stormed off the date after completing only two cuts.

One track that actually benefited from the time-is-money disorder is the duet between Pasquale and Childs on “Lollipops and Roses.“ It was rehearsed and recorded within a quarter-hour break taken by the rest of the band while arranger (and Kenton alumni) Gerry LaFurn completed an arrangement. “I had never even heard the song before,” the guitarist told me. “Sue hummed it to me and we then nailed it in a single take.” Then it was back to recording with the full group. Ironically, it might well represent the single best work by Childs on the album.

A measure of how good the playing is by all the musicians on the date is that afterward, nearly every one of them went on to greater jazz world acclaim. This is especially true of saxophonist Tony Sotos, trombonist Sherm Mitchell, and Bill Pasquale. As for bassist Bruce Anderson, shortly after the recording of this session he turned down a full-time gig with Sarah Vaughan to, instead, go into the ministry, a vocation he still practices to this day. In addition to his playing on the album, Mitchell arranged two of the numbers, “Lonesome Road” and “Honeysuckle Rose.”

In the preparation of this reissue I contacted most of the five of six surviving players. I did so, as much as anything, to uncover whatever happened to the star of the show, Childs. There are no other references to her on the net beyond those relating to “Introducing.“ But no one could tell me much, not even Mitchell, who Childs considered her musical mentor. No one retained much beyond the most superficial of recollections. The trombonist recalled that Childs’ favorite singer was June Christy. On the other hand, her personal style was strongly informed by, says Pasquale, Anita O’Day: “Dressed like her, talked like her, moved like her.” In other words, a rough spiky demeanor. The guitarist adds, “Once I saw Sue go through her purse looking for a lipstick and in the process, she laid a 38 revolver on the table. I asked her why in the world she was carrying a 38 in her purse and she muttered something about once being run off to the side of a freeway in Detroit.” (To the best of my knowledge, O’Day never packed a rod.)

In my search for Childs I eventually came across enough information to enable me to solve the riddle of the missing in-action performer. This included an late 1964 interview with the singer appearing in a Flint, Michigan newspaper about the recording of “Introducing Sue Childs,” originally to be entitled “Out of Nowhere,” “because,” she told Flint writer Lawrence Gustin, “that’s where I’m from. We started with 125 song possibilities---now it‘s down to 55. I want to record them in a variety of jazz styles, and nothing too far out.” The date was scheduled for early 1965, but finally did not take place (for reasons that have since fallen through the cracks of history) until summer, nearing the end of Childs’ pregnancy.

The write-up informed that the singer’s last name was not Childs but rather Childers; the article also included the last name of her drummer husband, Joseph. So instead of my searching for the essentially non-existent “Sue Childs,” I was now looking for Donna Sue Childers Rosanova. Armed with this new information it was a fairly easy task for me get to the bottom of things. And while I was finally unable to learn much about the singer after the making of “Introducing” (and before her death on January 10, 1993 at age 55), prior to the recording of her lone LP it was a different story.

Even while still a student at Flint’s Northern High School the singer had her sights set on a career in show business. She appeared multiple times on the popular nationwide TV show, “Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour,” which over the years had helped launch the career of the diverse likes of Frank Sinatra and comedian Lenny Bruce. After the Mack appearances, a recording company wanted to channel her talents her talents into country music. But after making a few test recordings she returned her contract to the record outfit unsigned. She just couldn’t take country music as a steady diet, she told the Flint reporter. The news article also alludes to the singer’s appearances with the bands of Jimmy Dorsey, Buddy Morrow and Ralph Flanagan, and on bills with Chris Connor and Al Hibbler. Most likely, these were one-shot guest appearances on bills of shows traveling through the Flint, Michigan area.
Donna Sue Childers wanted to make her mark in the world as a singer, and was insistent that this now-or-never recording be made when it was. It is a tribute to the singer‘s “stubborness“ (as described by her friend and mentor Sherm Mitchell) that more that four decades after it was made, and fifteen years beyond her death, “Introducing Sue Childs” lives on. A promising start for a singer we should have heard more from.

Be there or be square. . .or both

Nino Tempo is also an excellent singer.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ronnie Deauville Society (of sorts)


In a recent post, I suggested that, perhaps, fans of singer Ronnie Deauville (1925-1990) could assemble a not-for-profit CD of uncollected, out-of-print RD tracks. After giving this some thought, it seems to me that Deuville mp3s could be sent to this blog for anyone to download and burn to a CD (or whatever) at their own discretion. Here are my first six contributions; all future additions by myself and others can be added to this particular page. Send all Deauville mp3 tracks to .

"Be My Love" (w/ Ray Anthony)

"Day In Day Out " and flip side:

"April Sings"

note: "Day In, Day Out" appears to have been recorded in 1961. As such, it might have been Deauville's last recording. The flip, "April Sings," was co-written by multiple Oscar-winning songwriter Ned Washington.

"Young at Heart"

"Three Coins in the Fountain"



"It Wasn't Much of a Town" re-upload of much cleaner copy, along with the flip side of "A Special Message From Jerry Lewis." Contributed by Busterooni of the blog, Big 10-inch Record


"As Children Do" b/w "I Concentrate on You"
(courtesy of Busterooni)

"Haji Baba (Persian Lament"
(contributed by Lee Hartsfeld)

"Comme Ci, Comme Ca" Hi-Tone Records 117-A

"Gloria" Signature single w/ Ray Anthony

"The Night is Young (and You's So Beautiful)" Capitol single w/ Ray Anthony

Opening segment of "This is Your Life: Ronnie Deauville"

Link to selected Ronnie Deauville discography

CHECK BACK FROM TIME-TO-TIME FOR PERIODIC UPDATES added 12/5/08 - "When April Sings"; 12/7/08 "Haji Baba (Persian Lament"; 12/12 - "As Children Do" b/w "I Concentrate on You"; 12/13 - "I Only have Eyes for You"

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tim Hardin: Close Enough

Tim Hardin in Colorado with Karen Dalton________

It was 1962, I was that decade's equivalent of a teen runaway, and had just washed up on the shores of New York City. Through peregrinations long since slipped through the dim recesses of time, I found myself living at 417 E. 9th Street in New York City. "417" has since taken on a kind of historic notoriety as ground zero for the nascent hippie movement. It was a basement apartment, chockablock with guitars, autoharps and dulcimers. This late 19th century five story walkup served as a kind of dormitory for performers appearing at Gerdes Folk City, located to the west in Greenwich Village.

At the time I was strictly a jazz guy---MJQ, si, Weavers, nyet! I should have kept my eyes open. It took author David Hajdu and his 2001 book on the Village folk music scene of the 1960s, "Positively 4th Street," to fully open them to the fact that I had been plunked down square in the middle of one of the major cultural and political movements of the century.

Gerdes Folk City was where: Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel first tried out their post-Tom and Jerry act; Mary Travers tested her mettle long before there was a Peter or Paul; Joan Baez, while a student in Boston, made her first New York, appearance; and it was where John Hammond first heard Bob Dylan and signed him to a recording contract. It was Gerdes that drove one chronicler of the era to write of: "Young artists. . . strumming their guitars, singing old folk, new folk, old blues, and new blues [who] would become the immortals of the pop music world of the 1960s, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement; their words and music would be the tender conscience of a generation, daring to question the nation's political drift between Hiroshima and the Vietnam debauchery." (Whew!)

All of which might have been true, but most of the Gerdes regulars I knew were at least equally as intent if not more so, on scoring their next kilo of grass. Most Gerdes folk who hung at "417" are long-forgotten, such as Karen (Dalton] and Richard Tucker. One among them, however, became very famous, very fast. A complete unknown when he was living there in the mid-sixties, five years later singer-guitarist-songwriter Tim Hardin, if not quite an international pop star, was famous enough.

"With his sobbing voice and introspective, almost reticent compositions," so goes one internet bio, "Tim Hardin was one of the more memorable singer-songwriters of his day. A cult figure who never really broke through to a wide following, he is now chiefly remembered via cover versions of his best songs, especially "If I Were A Carpenter" and "Reason To Believe."

By the early 1970s, however, his life and career were reduced to rubble due to a daily intake of a substance abuse cocktail of heroin, booze,cocaine and pills. Someone once calculated---factoring in Hendrix, Lennon, Joplin, et al--- that the median age of death of rock and roll musicians was thirty-nine and that is exactly how old Tim Hardin was when he died in 1980.

Tim Hardin never won a Grammy, but if they ever gave a prize for service above and beyond the call of duty to drugs, he would have won the equivalent of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. One night in '62, someone at the local Lower East Side hangout, Stanley's (which has also since come to have taken on some amount of hippie historical resonance) had tried to turn me on to my first grass. But I didn't even get a buzz. Later that night, Tim, recently blown in from Boston heard my tale of woe that I Couldn't Get High, and insisted that he could get me high.

He then proceeded to reach over the requisite Lower East Side tub in the kitchen to the ledge between that room and the kitchen from which he plucked an empty Scott towel roll. This!," he said, "is called a bong." If he had been Mister Rogers, he would have added, "Can you say 'bong"'? He stuck a joint he had just lit up into a hole in the device and proceeded to demonstrate its proper use. Which, as at least two generations of savvy, substance abusing American teens since then are aware of, calls for placing your hand over one end of the roll and then drawing in the smoking that has begun building up in the chamber. Thus, causing the narcotic to blast into the lungs, and speed to the brain. . . well, you know.

After he had taken a toke, Tim handed it to me, and with all the country mouse sincerity I could muster up I said, "Oh, no, Tim, don't waste your drugs on me. There is apparently some sort of chemical imbalance. . ."

Still holding in the precious smoke he had just inhaled, he shook his head negatively, withdrew the bong, and forcefully thrust it at me, miming that I should copy his actions. "Well, if you insist, but it's just a waste of . ..." And with that, I put the crude but highly effective homemade device to my lips, puckered up, drew in the smoke, held it in just like my sensamilla sensei had just demonstrated, and before I had even had a chance to take it away from my lips, ker-blam, I was flat on my ass on the floor. That was the first time I laid eyes on Tim.

Tim Hardin was always very generous with his drugs. Shortly before he died 1980, in a fine example of his ability to varnish the truth to a high gloss, he told a reporter that his management team had stolen 22 million dollars from him during his fast and furious flirtation with fame, circa 1965-1970. The truth was, that the amount he had earned was probably far less than this, and in all likelihood most of the money didn't go into the pockets of his management but into the lungs and veins of himself and various friends and hangers-on.
Tim Hardin was born in Eugene, Oregon on December 3, the same year as me, 1941. When asked about his family, of his father, Hal, he said, "He was a fool," and let it go at that. His mother Molly, was musically literate and had pursued a career in classical music at one time. His father was also musically inclined, but mostly worked at the lumber mill owned by Molly's family. Tim once boasted that he himself had taught musicology at Harvard. Well, ummm. Not bad for someone with just a high school diploma. No doubt about it, Tim marched to his own inner autobiographer.

Perhaps the most well known of Tim's embellishments on factuality, was the one about how he was descended from John Wesley Hardin, the wild west "friend to the poor," celebrated in Bob Dylan's song of nearly the same name, "John Wesley Harding" In fact, Tim was no more related to Robin Hood figure Hardin than the man in the moon.

He oft-averred that he was a "better singer than Ray Charles," and that Brother Ray himself had told him so. More mythomania? Tim once asked me, before he had even gone into a recording studio for the first time, who I thought was a good jazz singer. "Mel Torme," I rather unimaginatively replied, at which point Tim became positively apoplectic; "Mel Torme is not a jazz singer, I am a jazz singer." No question about it, for whatever reason, Tim HATED being called a "folk singer." Blues singer. . .maybe. Today he is still stocked in CD bins as a "folk" artist. In keeping with Tim's wishes, I prefer to remember him as a jazz artist. A perusal of the credits on nearly all of his albums, consisting of a great number of solid jazz musicians ---Joe Zawinul, Warren Bernhardt, Mike Manieri, Gary Burton et al---would lead one to the conclusion that if Tim's albums weren't the real thing, they were as they saying goes, Close Enough for Jazz.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ronnie Deauville CD?

I would be interested in hearing from readers of this blog regarding the possibility of compiling a private issue CD of the best of the numerous non-collected sides recorded by singer Ronnie Deauville (as has already been suggested by one correspondent). I would be happy to help co-ordinate such an undertaking. It is also possible that I might be able to help secure a commercial CD release of Ronnie's "Smoke Dreams" album. In all likelihood the master tape of this LP would be difficult to come by. If the CD had to be mastered from existing LP copies, as a rule of thumb, are the red vinyl issues of the album better? Contact me privately with any thoughts or info at:

Whither Corky?

Does any regular reader of this blog---and you know who you are---or any Googler who might have stumbled upon this page, have any information regarding 1950s Chicago singer Corky Shayne? I recently contacted musician Johnny Pate who arranged her lone album, "In the Mood for a Song?" But he remembers nothing. Nor does Mort Hillman, who owned the label, Salem, and produced the album. I'm a bit younger than both of these chaps, but quite frankly the 50s are a bit of a blur to me as well. That being the case, I'm turning to you, dear reader, to ask if you might have any recollection or info regarding Shayne

Monday, November 17, 2008

All About Ronnie


RONNIE DEAUVILLE DISCOGRAPHY (work in progress, any corrections or additions are appreciated)
Singles (including 31 non-album tracks)
My Happiness / You Can’t Be True Dear- Bullet 1032
I Only Have Eyes For You/ Brush Those Tears From Your Eyes - Mercury 5203
Here I’ll Stay / Portrait of Jennie - Mercury 5229
Is It Too Late / I’ll String Along With You Mercury 5267
Hajii Baba / R.D. ? - Tops 78 rpm R 248-249
With All My Love / I Keep Telling My Heart - Hollywood 105
Mirror of Love / The Fields of Love - American 113
As Children Do / I Concentrate on You - Era 1055 (Era LP tracks)
Laura / It Wasn’t Much of a Town (and Jerry Lewis message) - Era 1056
Hong Kong Affair / Crazy, Wonderful - Era 1067
Around the Corner / Unfaithful Diane - Era 1071
Blame Your Eyes / King of Fools (Imperial album tracks)
Honey Hill / Heaven in Hawaii - Dot 16011
Can It Be You / Brother Beware - Forecast 104
Who But You / Mahubay - Forecast 301
Bring Back My Heart/She Acts Like a Woman Should Do ACAMA x - 107
Deep in a Dream / Mad About You (w/ Ram Ramirez) - Super Disc 1049
Someday / With Every Breath I Take - Signature 5279

Comme Ci Comme Ca / not R.D - Hi-Tone 117-A
Single tracks as featured vocalist (partial listing) All of a Sudden, Sentimental Me, Harbor Lights, Be My Love, I’m Getting Tired of Dreaming, Man in the Moon, Sitting By the Window, Nevertheless, Blue Moon, Autumn Leaves, Marshmallow World, Why, My Heart is Out of Town, Can Anyone Explain, The Night is Young and You're So Beautiful (all with Ray Anthony on Capitol) Passing Fancy, Bye Bye Blues, London Bridge is Falling Down, Peace of Mind, Gloria (all with Ray Anthony on Signature)
Smoke Dreams - Era 20002
Smoke Dreams/Something To Remember You By/Wonderful One/Say It Isn't So/I Had The Craziest Dream/Soft Lights And Sweet Music/I Concentrate On You/Love Is Here To Stay/So In Love/I'll Close My Eyes/As Children Do/Easy To Remember/I Kiss Your Hand Madame

"Even if he should never sing again, this record could bring him musical fame. Time Magazine 12/31/56

Romance With Ronnie - Imperial 9060
Deep In Love/King Of Fools/Glory Of Love/Blame Your Eyes/Tormented/The Wedding Has Started/Dream Girl/The Secret Of Love/I Couldn't Sleep A Wink Last Night/Back In Your Own Back Yard/Nice Work If You Can Get It/Unchained Melody

Compilation album tracks I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love With Me (& Paul Horn Quintet) - Callliope 3018
White Christmas - Tops (?)
Answer Me My Love - Tops
Hajii Baba - Tops Parade of Hits
Young at Heart - Tops
Three Coins in the Fountain - Tops

A Girl, A Girl - Tops (?)

Air checks (partial listing) Appearances do not necessarily mean that audio and/or video exist
La Mer, East of the Sun, Encore Cherie (Tex Beneke)
All of Me, Ocean Room, Plaything , Thirsty for Your Kisses, It's You I Like Best of All, Jean, More Than I Care to Remember, I Still Miss You, Goodnight Irene, Can Anyone Explain (Ray Anthony)
TV appearances
Steve Allen (5/18/1958): sings Someone to Watch Over Me

Stars of Jazz (1957) sings Nice Work if You Can Get It & All the Way
Stars of Jazz (1958): sings I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love With Me (see compilation albums)

This is Your Life (11/6/57) Deauville’s life recounted on this popular NBC-TVseries Florian Zabach Show: sings “Aloha Oe”

MiscellaneousAudio/Visual materials related to Linus & Ava Helen Pauling, 1974. "Ronnie Deauville to Dr. Pauling." Standard audiocassette.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ronnie Deauville Rarities

A couple of rare tracks by Ronnie Deauville from one of those 1950s budget label collection of songs from the movies.
And here is the title track from Deauville's above-pictured 1956 LP along with "Laura," an Era single.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Janet Brace R.I.P.?

Every once in a while I set off on a cyber search for jazz singer Janet Brace. It's been a source of major annoyance to me that I cannot uncover her earthly denouement, especially because she is from my home town of Charleston, West Virginia. This good ol' Charleston girl's major claim to fame ("I'm sooooo prouddddd") is that, in 1953, she recorded and introduced the standard-ish "Teach Me Tonight" several months before Jo Stafford's eventual hit version.
The last time I was buycomb (i.e. "back home") I even made a visit to the West Virgina Cultural Center (no wise cracks please) to see if they had a file on her, but to no avail. And even noted Charleston-born singer Jennie Smith, and a fine one at that, had never heard of Brace, which seems strange because we're not exactly talkin' ---must be the Sarah Palin influence creepin' in---about a throbbin' megalopolis here.

And then tonight---with too much time on my hands---I thought I'd give it another shot, and thus, for what it’s worth, I came across this recent post on

"I am seeing [regionalese for "dating"] a woman whos [sic] mother was Janets [sic] first cousin and she [the cousin or Janet?] grew up knowing her as a young child. Janet moved to Florida in later years and then ended up in Costa Rica later in life, ultimately returning to Florida to live with her daughter before she passed away."

Does the West Virginia-based writer mean that the daughter passed away instead of Janet? Inasmuch as concision when it comes to the English language is perhaps not that state's educational system's strongest suit. . .alas, probably not.

I Remember. . .

. . .I once went to see Chris Connor at Birdland (I "date" myself, and YES I'm having fun!) and I can still recall that the legendary "little person" (I'm sooooo pc) mc Pee Wee Marquette announced her as "Chris ConnorS." Years later I learned that it was tradition at Birdland that if one didn't ante up with a bribe, Marquette, who Lester Young once described as "half-a-mother fucker," would intentionally screw up the pronunciation of your name in his intro. I guess Chris wouldn't come across.

I also remember that: the other act on the bill was (I think) Gil Evans (George Russell?), the film of Sweet Bird of Youth was playing in Times Square, and some time during the proceedings I lost a contact lens and I had prrrractically the entire place crawling around on its hands and knees, including Chris, trying to help me find it.

Now how hip is that? I mean. . .there I was at Birdland and I LOST a contact lens and Chris Connor helped me look for it. I mean.. .can you imagine? Birdland. . .lost a contact lens. . .Chris Connor. . .. (I just couldn't wait to get back to school and tell Muriel Puce and Bunny Bixler alllll about it.)

Now if I could only remember what I had for breakfast.

PS: And we finally DID find the lens! (I eventually had it bronzed.)

And then there was the time that. . ..)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Kuro's Kitty Kat Kondo

designed by frank lloyd rat

Monday, November 03, 2008

Yma n' Al

In 2001 I wrote a long career article in Japan's "Record Collectors" magazine about former Capitol Records head Alan Livingston. Here is some of what he told me about his association, beginning in 1950, with singer Yma Sumac, who died this week:

"I can tell you a story. I had a man who was head of the New York office. He said somebody brought me in this woman, a Peruvian Indian, who had a 4 l/2 octave range. She has an amazing voice quality. She doesn't speak any English. I don't know what to do with her. He sent me some tapes. There was no music on them, nothing that you could put your finger on. Somebody tired to do something with her on another label, but nothing had happened. She came to California and I met with her and her husband, Moises Vivanco who was a musician and a guitar player. He spoke English. I said, I'd like to try something with her and we made a deal. I hired the composer/arranger Les Baxter. And I said, 'I want you to work with me and her and see if we can come up with something that will be appealing.' She couldn't read music, we didn't know where to start. We had her sing all the various things she did which had no form of any kind. Les sat down and wrote a score based on what she was singing. Then I went into the studio with them and an orchestra and we began recording the whole thing live and literally we were dealing with pieces of tape that were [hold out his hands one foot from each other] this long. We'd get something, then say okay, then go from there. We sat and worked and worked and it was driving me crazy. I thought we would never get finished. But we did finish and had come up with an unusual album of effects and sounds. Now what to we call this. I asked Moises. What is this music known as? Tell me about her background. Well, she came from the hills of Peru. She's an Indian and they called it the music of Xtabay. What does that mean? Well, it has a significant meaning to them. I don't know exactly. Well I said, 'We're going to call it Voice of the Xtabay.' And we put it out and promoted it as something unusual. And it caught on."
A typical Livingston understatement if there ever was one: Sumac went on to become perhaps the most successful offbeat act in Pop history. Left out of the article, for purposes of space, were his fascinating comments about how the subsequent "sell" of Sumac was instrumental in helping to launch the newly aborning 1950s Hi-Fi (remember HI-FI?) craze. Suddenly, post-war Americans felt it incumbent upon themselves to go out and buy the best woofers and tweeters that money could buy in order to experience Sumac in the lowest lo's and highest hi's that money could buy.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Thinking about Ray Ellis

The death this week of arranger Ray Ellis, who was equally at home in the worlds of jazz and pop ("Splish Splash" and "Lady in Satin"), caused me to also think about my friend, still alive and well musician Nino Tempo. He also, at one time, "worked both sides of the (musical ) street." On the one hand, he functioned as Phil Spector's number two (after Jack Nitzsche) arranger of choice. Including playing down n' dirty Joe Houston-style sax on some of the sides. And then there are all those pop and rock recordings ("Deep Purple," etc.) he produced on his own. But he was also arranger Don Costa's first chair tenor sax player. And he even co-wrote a song that Sinatra recorded.

Today, he plays strictly jazz on his horn and sometimes naturally sounds so much like Stan Getz that there was once a (now-removed) Wikipedia entry that Nino Tempo was a pseudonym for Getz. These days his music activities are strictly related to jazz. And then there is that beautiful 1993 bossa album by Nino that was co-produced and arranged by . . .RAY ELLIS.

Only this week, this blog featured a couple of songs, by singer Jennie Smith, that were arranged by Ellis. The tracks heard herein are from Jennie's 1957 album with him (it is being reissued in Japan next month BTW). The following year Smith recorded with Ellis, once more, on an album that featured a far more commercial sound. i.e. lots of echo and slapback bass, in other words one can easily detect the "fine touch" of Mitch Miller in the mix. But both, in their own way, are quite wonderful and demonstrate just how versatile an arranger Ray Ellis was. They simply don't make those turn-around-on-a-dime studio guys the way they used to! (Back to two-track!) The twilight of the gods, I tell you, the twilight of the gods.