Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hang in there

If I were able to write a song this sick I could die happy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Harska who?











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Here are the 107 singers selected by critics and journalists [update: I am mistaken in this notion. In fact, most of the participants are merely hard core vocal fans, or---if you will---maniacs] in the current Jazz Critique (Japan) mag (see previous post) as being the best post-1980 jazz singers:
Karrin Allyson, Eden Atwood x 2, Patricia Barber, Emilie-Claire Barlow, Margaret Bengston, Cheryl Bentyne, Mario Biondi, Erin Bode, Jimmer Bolden, Richard Bona, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Karlie Bruce, Michael Buble, Ann Hampton Calloway, Mike Campbell, Eva Cassidy, Catia, Natalie Cole, Eric Comstock, Dee Daniels, Dena DeRose, Diana, Sally Doherty, Donald Douglass, Eliane Elias x 2, Kurt Elling x 2, Jenny Evans, Michael Feinstein, Fleurine, Laura Fygi, Danielle Gaha x 2, Roberta Gambarini x 2, Sara Gazarek, Natalie Gardiner, Siri Gjaere, Arthur H, Bruce Bruce Hamada, Jennifer Hanson, Mary Cleere Haran, Stephanie Haynes, Nicole Henry x 2, Diane Hubka x 2, Sanae Ishikawa, Jose James, Masaki Kanamaru, Stacey Kent x 2, Rebecca Kilgore, Carol Kidd, Diana Krall x 2, Carolyn Leonhart, Leslie Lewis, Josefine Lindstrand, Lisa Lombardo, Lyambiko, Katrine Madsen, Kevin Mahogany x 2, Monica Mancini, Claire Martin x 2, Carolyn Martin, Rebecca Martin, Greta Matassa x 2, MAYA x 2, Robin McKelle, Chris McNulty, Naoko Mizuki, Sophie Millman, Yvonne Monnett, Jane Monheit x 2, Yasuko Nakatani x 2, Silje Nergaard, Patricia, Sofia Pettersson, Madeleine Peyroux, John Pizzarelli, Polly Podewell, Rachel Price, John Proulx, Diane Reeves, Kurt Reichenbach, Rene Marie, Terrie Richards, Hanna Richardson, Judy Roberts, Jackie Ryan, Miranda Sage, Kozue Saito, Spider Saloff, Ann Sally, Janet Seidel, Kendra Shank, Ian Shaw, Janet Seidel, Daryl Sherman, Beverly Staunton, Zara Tellander, Asako Toki, Junko Tosaka, A Tres, Sachal Vasandani, Harska Veronika, Joan Vishkant, Roseanna Vitro, Carol Welsman, Weslia Whitfield, Hiroko Williams, Edna Zari.
In separate sections of the mag, some other newer singers also received favorable mention. They are:
Akiko, Karen Aoki, Takako Afuso, Jackie Allen, Hilde Louise Asbjornsen, Chie Ayado, Joyce Breach, Jeri Brown, Donna Byrne, Ann Hampton Callaway, Amanda Carr, Claire Chevalier, Fay Claassen, Holy Cole, Jamie Cullum, Dee Daniels, Melanie de Biasio, Lisa Ekdahl, Connie Evingson, Calabria Foti, Carol Fredette, Crystal Gayle, Rigmor Gustafsson, Kelly Harland, Joe Henry, Marika Hiraga, Yasuko Hirata, Robin Holcomb, Norah Jones, Rebecca Kilgore, Kei Kobayashi, Keiko Lee, Lovisa, Janice Mann, Kate McGarry, Robin McKelle, Olivia, Rachel Price, Leon Redbone (?), Kate Reid, Alice Ricciardi, Linda Ronstadt, Rosey, Kaori Saiki, Woong San, June Tabor, Laura Taylor, Tiffany, Asako Toki, Viktoria Tolstoy, Haresa Veronika, Cleveland Watkiss, Phillip Weiss, Cassandra Wilson, Sumiko Yoseyama, Keico Yoshida
I'LL do the math: the grand total of singers mentioned is 163 (107 + 56), nearly all of whom only showed up ONCE on the lists of these thirty-three (mostly) Japanese jazz critics and journalists. Some of the choices are dubious as to their being post-1980, most namely Leon Redbone, who surely goes back to the mid-1960s.
It's curious that the most successful young singer of the past decade, Michael Buble, received only one nod. And not much more for the high profile Diana Krall. And zip, nada for the popular U.S. singer, Tierney Sutton.
The bottom line is. . .it was a bad year for singers whose last names begin with Q & U. That's just about the only conclusion I can come to, except that all the advert hustling and PR shilling in the world is for naught when it comes to trying to mold a consensus among serious Japanese devotees of jazz singing.
I try to stay on top of things, but as I noted in my previous post, I am unfamiliar with most of the singers cited. Harska who?

Year-end listmaking. . .



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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.

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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

Pages and Pages. . ..





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I just received this in the mail today, from my friend Larry Canova. How did I ever live without it? Almost couldn't resist taking it into the tub with me this a.m., but better sense prevailed.
The first thing that caught my eye about this 91-page (!)circa 2001 labor of love was just how many great and near-great singers Page Cavanaugh backed during his career (in addition to all the recordings where he also accompanied his own terrific singing) either on recordings or "live" / film / radio / tv. But a partial list (*'d where "live," etc. only) of those fortunate many includes the likes of:
Beryl Davis, Doris Day, DeCastro Sisters, Johnny Desmond, Michael Feinstein, Betty Garrett, Connie Haines, Jane Harvey, Dick Haymes *, Peggy Lee, Helen O'Connell, Sue Raney, Mavis Rivers, Bobby Sherwood *, Mel Torme, Frank Sinatra, Kay Starr.
Probably the only recordings missing from the discography are a few post-publication releases, including four more vocal-backing albums, by singers Mark Miller, Lauren Koval, Tony London, produced by (yes, THAT) Marsha Hunt, & (yes, THAT) Stefanie Powers. There was also the last great studio effort under his own name, "Return to Elegance."
At the time, last year, when Page's career was finally interupted by health issues, he was working on an (only partially completed and as-yet-unreleased) album with Nancy Sinatra.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Flashback: The Bestest Christmases Ever!

I've had a special request from---no names puh-leese---to re-run my last year's Christmas post, and so. . .
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The following Christmas memory is from my memoir, Early Plastic, a terrific stocking stuffer and guaranteed to freak out everyone on your Christmas list.
“Fade in; time, Christmas Eve - 1963; location, the corner of 6th Avenue and Eighth Street in New York’s Greenwich Village; place, the Women's House of Detention, an ominous dark fortress (alas, no longer there) out of the Middle Ages.
One time, I happened by the "House of D," as nearly everyone called it, and heard an inmate bellowing down to someone gazing ten stories upward: "Big Ruby is Dead." Who was this Big Ruby person anyway, I wondered? How did she die? Whacked by another prisoner in a love triangle, iced by a guard? Was she even an inmate? Exactly how large was this Big Ruby person anyway? Nearly forty years later I still want to know the answer to these and many more questions.
Anytime of the day or night you could catch prisoners, and those down below on the sidewalk, shouting messages to each other.
One Christmas Eve I remember, dozens of prisoners from various floors serenaded busy shoppers and passersby with Irving Berlin's "White Christmas." We stopped and looked up at living Capra. Until! Reaching the final stanza, they rang out:
"And may all your Christmases be. . .
"BLAAAACKKKKK."
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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.
Ker-blam! “Up on the rooftop, click click click. . ..” A South Central Christmas. I turned to David and Dondi-esquely enthused:
“Goshers, this is the bestest Christmas everrrr!

Thinking about Page C.

Mainstream press obituaries have begun appearing for our friend (we are a hardy cult) musician Page Cavanaugh who died Sunday. There was one in Daily Variety yesterday, and another in the L.A. Times today. Both are fairly lengthy as befitting the artistic importance of their subject. Also both strike me as well-wrought. (Though I suppose, if I wanted to get into heavy nit-picking, I COULD find omissions and errors.)

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






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"The Christmas Song"
sung by Julius LaRosa

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Frances Lynne R.I.P.






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Two RIPs in one week. I guess it comes with the territory of one's aging, and let's face I ain't zackly no spring chicken. Page Cavanaugh and also, last Sunday, singer Frances Lynne.

I met singer Frances Lynne and her husband, master jazz trumpeter John Coppola, in a most interesting and roundabout fashion. A few years ago I was researching the release of the Bill Black CD, Down in the Depths, for which I was the release producer for SSJ Records. When I learned that a singer by the name of Frances Lynne had been in the '49 Krupa band with Black, I thought I might try to "Google" her. But I had little hope of striking paydirt; her name was such a fairly commonplace one that I feared I would get thousands of "hits." But, fortunately, hers was the very first "Frances Lynne" that popped up because of a recent radio interview she and John had given. I then looked up the Coppolas in the Yahoo phone directory, found them living in San Francisco, rang the them up and lo and behold who should answer the phone but Frances. Instead of the year it later took me track down singer Carole Creveling, finding Frances was quick as a flash.

It was love with the Coppolas "at first sound." She was very helpful with my Bill Black research. Then John got on the line and in the course of my conversation with him (he was in the Woody Herman band at the same time as my friend Lou Levy), he happened to mention that, a few years earlier, he had produced an album, Remembering, for now long-retired Frances. A couple of days later, John sent me a copy and I was astonished at the overall professionalism of this mom n' pop effort. First off, it was just about the best selection of repertoire I had ever seen on a single album, i.e "Last Night When We Were Young," "Blue Prelude," "Can I Forget You?," "Spring Isn't Everything" and. . .well. you get the idea. And the sidemen on the album were just as jaw-droppingly impressive: Johnny Coles, John Handy, Herb Steward and. . .well, again, you catch my drift. And Frances sounded wonderful, even after all these years of professional inactivity!

Then, the following December I played a couple of the tracks at a presentation I made before the Tokyo Vocal Jazz Appreciation Society. Immediately after the conclusion of my talk, Mister Yasuo Sangu of Japan's SSJ Records approached me and said that he would like to reissue the record in that country. I should add that, up to that point, there was not a single Google hit for the undeservedly sub rosa album, so SSJ's eventual reissue of the CD finally and unquestionably helped bring deserved attention to this little gem of vocal jazz mastery.
And I'm happy to note that long after the reissue of Frances' CD was effected, John, Frances and I became ongoing inveterate phone pals.
My unbounding and sincere sympathies go out to John Coppola and his family.

Illegal music download sites

Earlier today I sent the following post to Songbirds, a Yahoo list of which I've been a member almost since the era of the steam-driven pc.

"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

Page Cavanaugh R.I.P.





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Sorry to report that the great pianist-whisper vocalist (he loved being called that) Page Cavanaugh died this morning at a San Fernando Valley hospice after a brief bout with cancer, complicated by kidney failure. He would have been 87 in January.

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.
Recently there was movement afoot to get Page a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Now it can be told, that when the sponsors approached Page's old friend Doris Day for a recommendation to the H'wood Chamber of Commerce, she acted with whiplash-inducing alacrity. I can't remember the exact wording of what she wrote back, but it was something to the efect that no one was more deserving of such an honor. As usual, she was only right.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Meli...maki. . .kelee. . .







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. . .oh hell, Poncie Ponce can sing it better than I could ever hope to say it.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The C-Notes












































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Top to bottom: 78 rpm acetate label, Mort Hillman as a young man with a horn, on the road, Mort with Eydie Gorme, C-Notes clipping, promotional photo of The C-Notes.
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I produce reissues for the Japanese record label, SSJ. One album that I licensed recently, from 1955, has a highly interesting story behind it, especially when it came to its producer, Mort Hillman. I tracked him down living in retirement in Florida. "Retirement" from a long and interesting professional life in which he wore a number of disparate "hats."
He started out as a trumpet player in 1947 with the Tommy Dorsey band, and ended up in 1980 as a NY State assemblyman. In between those two temporal poles, among other things, he sang in a highly-active and forward-thinking vocal group (The C-Notes), owned a record label in Chicago, and was an exec with Jubilee, Audio Fidelity and Music Minus One Records. (Today, Mort remains active in Democratic Party politics in Florida.)
The other day he sent me some acetates of The C-Notes and I was highly impressed by what was in the grooves. Or should I say what little music remained on these 1952 78 rpm recordings. For acetates were usually made for audition purposes and were expected to be played only a couple of times. After that, the grooves became increasingly distressed with each additional spin. Clearly the acetates Mort sent me have been played many many times. And then, some of what little that managed to survive had evaporated off into the ether. Nevertheless, from listening to what remains, one can still get a sense of just how good these four guys + one gal were.
This particular vocal group "sound," as exemplified by The C-Notes, was clearly in the air that season and is a pluperfect example of what the fabulous 40s outfit, The Merry Macs, along with Kay Thompson, hath wrought. The recordings also demonstrate just how full the woods were, in those times, of wonderful talented musicians and of the great music they made. Even though they never broke through to the big time, The C-Notes were just about as good as anyone else around at the time. And there were probably hundreds, if not in fact thousands of other semi-annonymous traveling and strolling musical players who were just as talented as the members of The C-Notes.
Not having a turntable (I never leave home without mine), much less one that spins at 78, Mort had not heard these sides for many years, and so a few nights ago---just like being back in junior high school---I played one of the tracks to him over the phone, and he simply could not believe how good the group was. He was as knocked out as I was. And he couldn't even recall recording the track!
The C-Notes did commercially record. I have found a couple of tracks on Columbia, but there might be more. Mort cannot recall. I also unearthed a 45 rpm of two sides that The C-Notes recorded with the very fine singer Dolly Dawn, but Mort had no recollection of these either until I also played them for him over the phone: "Oh god, yes, now I remember. Of course!" He also was in the vocal outit that backed Eydie Gorme on her very first recording, "Tea for Two."
Coming across someone like Mort Hillman, for me, is like dying and going to heaven.
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Listen to The C-Notes singing "Great Day." (Please note that at the present time one can only download this track from Box.net, but not stream (i.e. play) it.

(Thanks to Busterooni for helping make the sound on "Great Day" a little better.)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like. . .










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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!


Monday, December 01, 2008

Ronnie Deauville Society UPDATE

Please note that there is now a much cleaner copy of Ronnie Deauville singing "It Wasn't Much of a Town," AVAILABLE HERE. The file also includes the Jerry Lewis message flip side.

Ohhhhh, Hutchie!

Read all about the Greatly Gifted---in more ways than one, if you catch my drift---singer-pianist Hutch (Leslie Hutchinson) at the blog of my good friend and constant traveling companion David Ehrenstein.