Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Along with other critics and writers, I was accorded the honor of choosing, for the venerable Japanese publication Jazz Critique, my "Best Five" new singers to have arrived on the scene since 1980. Here are my choices, along with my intro, that appear in the current issue of the publication:
If I might be allowed a slight departure: None of the singers on my list are exactly household names. . .yet. And all are rather new on the scene. In fact, only two of them have more than one CD in release. . .yet. But I am as enthused by what I’ve heard from these five as any singer who’s come along since 1980 . . .or any year. I’m convinced that all of them will be written about for years to come.
1. Kurt Reichenbach’s first CD, “The Night Was Blue,” features the playing of his illustrious brother, trombonist Bill Reichenbach, Jr., and his father, bossa nova pioneer drummer, Bill, Sr. Also heard, among others, are star players, sax man Ernie Watts and pianist Mike Laing. The wondrous liberties Kurt takes with melodies are so sublimely subtle that you can barely hear them unless you pay extra-careful attention.
2. The stellar musicians----Gary Foster, Larry Koonse, Ron Stout et al---should give you some idea of the quality of Leslie Lewis' singing on her new (and first) CD, “Of Two Minds.” She bears a natural slight resemblance to Carmen McRae, but mostly in the timbre of her voice. Otherwise, Ms. Lewis totally original all the way. She doesn't fall into the scat trap (too much), is just far out enough, has a genial "sound," with good taste in repertoire (“In Walked Bud,” “Well You Needn't,” etc.), sings in tune, and. . . swings. And the placement of the vocals into the ensemble playing is worthy of the best of Betty Carter. Who could ask for anything more in a singer?
3. Hawaiian-born bassist-singer Bruce Hamada is the only artist on my list with two CDs (thus far), and I can hardly wait for the third one. Like the above-noted two singers, the company that Hamada keeps is formidable (the drummer on his second CD outing, “Two for the Road,” is the great Jeff Hamilton, the engineer is the legendary Al Schmitt). It’s well- deserved companionship. Hamada has a great no-nonsense approach: he just sings (and swings) the song and goes home.
4. Jimmer Bolden can sing it all. He is perfectly at home holding his own on the musical theatre stage, with gospel (his 2000 2nd CD was a religious one) and with jazz. And it’s the jazzy Jimmer I’m dealing with here. He’s just released his third CD, “I’m Glad I Thought About You,“ and it’s a worthy follow-up to his 1998 “The Hippest Cat in Hollywood.” Long before Tony Bennett revived Nat Cole’s “The Best Man,” Bolden had taken it up on that CD. . .along with songs by Eddie Jefferson, Horace Silver and even. . .Sting. Bolden cites Wynton Marsalis as a major booster and one can see why.
5. John Proulx is the best of the new generation of singers strongly influenced by Chet Baker (even scats a bit like him). In fact, a forthcoming CD, "Baker's Dozen" is a tribute to Chet. John also plays first rate piano, and writes songs that the likes of Nancy Wilson and Mary Stallings have recorded. The common thread among those on my list seems to be the impressive company they keep. Proulx’s MaxJazz CD, “Moon and Sand,” with Chuck Berghofer on bass and Joe Labarbera, is no exception.
In my intro, I noted that my choices might be considered just a tad recherche, but in fact---happily and much to my amazement---nearly all of the several dozen contributors approached their task similarly. I must confess that, self-styled vocalist maven that I consider myself to be, I was unfamiliar with the overwhelming majority of the many singers who made the communal cut. (Boy, is my face red!) I will attempt to list them all in my next post. Jazz singing lives!
Friday, December 26, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
The warm and fuzzy mood of the crowd below quickly shifted 180 degrees. I, on the other hand, found it mildly hilarious. And almost as memorable as the time a few Christmases ago when a (I found out later) suicide gunshot down the block here in L.A. triggered our coffee table, sound-activated singing Xmas tree.
There is also an obit for Page at a site, The Big Cartoon Forum that mentions a 15-minute Disney cartoon he did the soundtrack for, "The Truth About Mother Goose." I just found it on youtube. Here is the link to pt 1. The link to pt. 2 is on the same, um, PAGE. I'd never seen it before, and found it quite charming.
The obituary in the L.A. Times correctly alludes to the fact that in the late 40s and 1950s Page Cavanaugh, if not exactly a household name, was close enough for jazz. He is quoted in the obit as blaming his somewhat precipitous fall from fame in the ensuing decades to the tsunami of rock and roll. But---and this is meant as praise, not criticism---the truth also is that, like his old friend Frank Sinatra, Page simply did not suffer fools gladly and, as a consequence, burned a lot of professional bridges behind himself in the process. One of the last steady gigs he had was in the lounge at a toney hotel on L.A's Sunset Strip. He walked away from that job because the owner of the place wouldn't let him discreetly sell copies of his new (2006) release, "Return to Elegance," there. And really, it wasn't about making money for himself, but more out of loyalty to the producers of the album---er, I date myself, I mean "CD."
All Page wanted to do was make music and skip a majority of the vicissitudes of playing the game of show biz, which, as Mort Sahl once observed, is the only animal that eats its young. But between this seeming rock and a hard place, ironically Page probably had a better career than if he'd fought to hang on to his considerable former celebrity. To wit, he was fairly much his own man, didn't have to play politics and a lot of games, was never at a real loss for the opportunity to work at what he liked to do best, i.e. making music, thus always managing to at least keep food on the table, AND probably recorded at least as much or maybe more than if he'd remained in the big leagues of the business. True, the sides are more often than not on little mom n' pop outfits like Leeds and Vaya, etc. Still the body of work is nearly all first cabin and of considerable volume. So it was more like having his cake and eating it too, rather than rock and a hard place.
Right up until the day he died, his employers at Newport Beach's Balboa Bay Club were keeping his long-running Thursday night gig open for him. That's the kind of loyalty and affection Page Cavanaugh engendered.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
"There have been several Songbirds posts recently that direct readers to Blogspot music download sites. (There are such music sites on other blog services as well.)
These free, hydra-headed download sites are being closed down -- and rightly so-- by Blogspot at a fairly vertiginous rate. But, in my opinion, still not fast enough! One that was recently shut down had a fair number of recordings that myself, Pinky Winters, Denise Donatelli, Carol Sloane and others (known by most members of this list) SHOULD be receiving royalties from, or as my grandmother woulda said, they're "taking the bread from our mouths." (And yes, the record label that I'm associated with DOES pay royalties. Will wonders never cease?)
The sites usually contain a proviso in their mission statements to the effect that the recordings in question are out-of-print, but that is just so much legal shucking and jiving. (Oh, you mean it ISN'T out-of-print? I FORGOT!) This is usually followed by a phrase, something to the effect that if the rightful owner of the copyright contacts the site and confirms that the recording in question is in print, then it will be removed from the site. But that is usually a flatout lie. Recently I tried unsuccessfully to get several BRAND NEW releases that I am associated with removed from one of these music download blogs -- but to no avail. Jeez! I have enough on my plate already without having to deal with such nonsense.
Frankly, I don't expect that most who read this post will have much sympathy with my dilemma. I suppose it's just too much of a temptation to save $15.00 or whatever with a couple of keystrokes of one's pc... and too much of a temptation to the latent anarchist that lurks within most of us. But for every day that these sites are allowed to continue to proliferate, that's just one more nail driven into the coffin of the music we all love, and hope would prosper and prevail. Plus -- small matter -- they're illegal and immoral!
In addition, these sites are as responsible as anything or anybody for the death of that once venerable institution... the record store. A cultural calamity of incalculable proportions.
I have a blog, and occasionally upload a truly long out-of-print or public domain track, but NOTHING LIKE THIS. I would humbly suggest to OFL that he go so far as to -- if you will -- CENSOR these posts. They really are a classic case of the questionable first amendment right to shout "fire" in a crowded theater.
If Songbirds readers want to seek this stuff out, let them undertake the net search themselves."
Friday, December 19, 2008
Until quite recently Page gave a series of Sunday afternoon concerts at the Seasons assisted living facility in Northridge, CA. He went out musically at the top of his game.
Page was among a handful of pioneers who strongly overhauled the sound of American jazz in the 1940s, turning it into a much softer, less aggressive sound and surely paving the way for the West Coast school of jazz that would come a few years later. Among that rank, also, were Joe Mooney, Matt Dennis, Nat King Cole and Bobby Troup. Joao Gilberto is on record as citing Page as having a major influence on his art. So one could regard Page, also, as a Bossa Nova progenitor.
I came to know Page fairly well over the past few years. Surely also one of the wittiest persons I ever encountered. One of my favorite Page moments happened at a performance of his at the S.F. Valley club, Charlie-O's. He had just finished a rather un-Page-like overly flashy run on the keys, more in keeping with the style of, say, oh Liberace. He shut down playing for an instant, turned to the audience and offered the observation that. . ."A little whorehouse piano never hurt anyone." Then commenced playing again.
I had the honor of cobbling together a little video tribute that was shown at his 85th birthday party a couple of years ago. Here's a link.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Kurt Reichenbach's Christmas Show will be at the Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill, 6122 Sunset Blvd. (in Gower Gulch), Hollywood, Saturday, December 13, 2008, 8-11 p.m. Kurt's 3-track Christmas CD FREE for each audience member!