Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bring them back for the GM Volt automobile campaign


Do you think either Jennie or Frankie ever dreamed that they would (alas and perhaps) outlive the Chevy?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Michael Barr R.I.P.

Sorry to note the recent passing of Michael Barr. David Ehrenstein says that Barr and Dion McGregor's "Hate Song" (from Julius Monk's Dressed to the Nines) will definitely be included---if and when---in his CD compilation, Songs That Made Me Gay.

I like to think of this little ditty as "The Curmudgeon National Anthem."

Note: Originally performed Upstairs At The Downstairs nightclub in New York City, by Ceil Cabot and Bill Hinnant with William Roy at the piano. OC lp on MGM

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Synchronicity in Everyday American Life

Today I received my copy of the gloriously expanded (10 additional tracks) of Angel Eyes: Irene Kral Live in Tokyo from Eastwind Imports, which reminded me that I hadn't checked youtube lately to see if my major Jones of Irene Kral footage had been satisfied yet. Over the years I've only checked a gazillion times. I was even beginning to think that maybe such a thing didn't exist. But---well---what do you know, there IS finally a Kral clip uploaded there. And here it is!
My original CD copy of the album was given to me as a gift by my friend, the fine Japanese jazz critic Keizo Takada who, as further synchronicity would have it, penned the liner notes for this glorious new version of the album. And so, I think it is only fitting that (in Takada san's honor) I pass along the original 11 track version to the first blog reader who contacts me at

Monday, May 18, 2009

Linda Merrill Sings


Here is the English language text---that has been translated into Japanese---for the new (5/15/09) SSJ Records release, Linda Merrill Sings.
Compared to this writer’s attempt to uncover information about singer Linda Merrill, my long search regarding singer Carole Creveling (SSJ Records XQAM 1021) was a piece of cake. Finally, however, I was able to uncover the whereabouts of the mysterious Ms. Creveling; eventually I even received a Christmas card from her. No such luck so far, though, with the Mysterious Miss Merrill.
When late last year SSJ Records began to contemplate issuing a CD of Merrill’s 1961 “Sings” LP, the release was presumed to fall into that category of a One Shot Wonder; one of those many albums recorded----especially circa 1955-1965----by jazz-oriented singers that were never followed up by a second release. Albums that were, for the most part, perfectly respectable outings by performers, most all of whom at one time held out hope of becoming the next Frank or Ella. But such was no to come to pass for Merrill, or Creveling---or, for that matter, for Helene de lys, Helen Carroll, Betty Blake, Nikki Price, Dori Howard, Carole Carr, Charlene Bartley, Flo Handy, Janet Brace, Ann Hathaway, Pat Healy, Betty Rhodes, Donna Brooks, Cathy Hayes, Marlene Cord, Lynn Taylor, Sue Evans, Marilyn Moore, Thelma Gracen, Clea Bradford, Paula Greer, Marjorie Lee, Easy Williams---and 250-or-so other singers (mostly One Shot Wonders), all finally blown out of the water by the tsunami of rock and roll that swept across the musical landscape in the 1960s.
It should be noted that Linda Merrill is a OSW + 1. For in 1975, by which time she had presumably relocated to Las Vegas, Merrill self-produced, for her own label, an album entitled In Action, a collection of Neil Diamond songs. But like her ’61 effort, this album too sank without a trace.
Despite the fact that the liner notes for Linda Merrill Sings inform that she is “one of the top acts in show business,” I had never heard of her. And so I sprang into my Diva Detective mode. But when I’d finished Round One of my investigation, it turned out that she was just as much of a mystery to a dozen-or-so other Chicago-based entertainers of my acquaintance who’d been active in the city at the same time as was Merrill, i.e. the 1950s and ‘60s. Those whom I contacted included singers Frank D’Rone, Audrey Morris, Dick Noel, and pianist Larry Novak. Clearly, then, what we had here---not exactly a crime---was a case of typical show over-the-top hyberbole. “Top acts in show business”? I don’t think so.
Eventually I found one lone reference to the singer on the net, performing at a Western rodeo in Oklahoma in 1969--- a far distance if not in actual miles, then in milieu, from her Chicago nite spot stomping grounds of yore. Here too, the press release describing the singer is more than a little undependably breathless; Merrill is touted as a “scintillating entertainer” who had “made guest appearances in such television shows as those of Bob Hope, Dean Martin and Ed Sullivan.” But no such contributions to the TV body of work of that threesome are to be uncovered anywhere, no matter how deeply one digs.
But, on the other hand, there is no question that Merrill deserved to be a “top act” in show business. What she and so many of the aforementioned far-below-radar entertainers demonstrate is that there once was a time not so long ago when, simply put, people used to know how to sing. . . in tune, with feeling, swing, style, and taste, and without ever once resorting to the more recently commonplace approach of chopping nearly every word that is sung into as many syllables as the song will tolerate. (The last time I looked, the word was pronounced “love” not “luh-uh-uhve.”) A technique dating back centuries known as melisma and perhaps best suited to the world baroque and rococo. Although the timbre of their voices are not at all similar, Merrill’s simplicity and purity of approach can’t help but be a bit remindful of Julie London. Both just sing the song and, so to speak, go home. Over and out in 2:30 flat.
Right off, I should confess that I am not exactly enthralled with the unrelenting saxophone obligatos that run parallel to Merrill’s vocalizing almost throughout the entirety of this recording. The player sometimes sounds intent on almost pushing Merrill out of musical spotlight altogether. But that quibble aside, it’s hard to think of another singer than Merrill who any better demonstrates the proposition that people in significant numbers really did, at one time, know how to sing without subjugating the original intentions of the songwriters to overweening stylistic excesses so especially evident on the popular U.S. TV series American Idol. With a couple of exceptions here, Merrill goes out of her way to avoid interpreting oversung material. It’s doubtful, when she recorded "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" in 1961, that more than a handful of other singers had directed their attention to this eventual Sinatra standard. Even on the too-often-recorded “Bill Bailey,” Merrill manages to place a personal stamp on the old warhouse , taking it at an uncommonly largo tempo.
Musicians on the date, all described in the original liner notes as moonlighting jazz players with day jobs, include producer-saxophonist Dean Schaeffer, drummer Arnold Sucherman, and bassist Lowell Ives. Former Will Bradley trumpet man Dick Haas plays an especially lovely harmonic counter line to Merrill’s vocal on “My Romance.” And the piano of stalwart Chicago pianist Ken Harrity (Sarah Vaughan’s Sweet ‘n’ Sassy, etc.) shines throughout the entire proceedings, and especially on “Little Girl Blue.” The inclusion of these two fine interpretations of Rodgers and Hart on Linda Merrill Sings paints the picture of a singer who had diligently studied the Great American Songbook. Too bad she didn’t get a chance to take what she’d learned into the recording studio more often.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Kurt Reichenbach at NYC's Metropolitan Room 5/15

Here's a nice review of my friend Kurt Reichenbach that appeared yesterday on the Yahoo list, Songbirds:

I know that I have been sounding like a bit of a shill lately, but when I see something that I dig, I feel that it is fair to share this feeling while there is still time for any interested parties to catch the performers who have impressed me. This was certainly the case with vocalist Kurt Reichenbach. He did a terrific set at the Metropolitan Room last evening with support from pianist Andy Ezrin, bassist Andy McKee and drummer Mark McLean. Also on hand for occasional contributions was Kurt's brother Bill, a superb trombonist. Kurt is a truly winning performer with a pleasant baritone, wonderful musicality, and a ready wit. His vocal timbre and phrasing, even his appearance, is somewhat reminiscent of Jack Jones, and he is more adventurous with his handling of lyrics. Last evening's program was:

With a Song in My Heart
I Only Have Eyes for You
The More I See You
L.A. Breakdown
Tomorrow (using special, humorous lyrics relating to food and diet)
I Remember You
All the Things You Are
Someone to Watch Over Me
I Can't Get Started
Forever Didn't Last Til Spring
My Heart Stood Still
Lush Life
I Thought About You

Throughout the program, Kurt injected his warm and easy sense of humor.

He has one more set tonight at 9:45 p.m. If you can get there, you will surely enjoy Kurt Reichenbach.

Joe Lang

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bev n' the Beatnik


According to reports of the occasion, Beverly Kenney performed solo and also accompanied Kerouac's readings with low-key vocalese backing. Needless to say, I would pay big bucks to anyone who might have happened to've dragged along a Tandberg recorder and captured the resultant 1957 proceedings for posterity.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ronnie Deauville memories


Received this nice Ronnie Deauville collage from his sister, Sheryl Deauville, this morning. Thought I'd like to share it:

The top right is the first band he sang with under the name of Ronnie Dayton..Deauville came after....The top left is The Paramount Theater in New York (another band and time) the bottom left is Tex Beneke (The Glenn Miller Band) on This is Your Life. (This is the band that Pete Candoli and Ronnie worked together for a year or so) and the last is just a frame from This is Your Life. (Sheryl's annotation)
Here's a link to some Deauville "doughnuts" (as 45 rpm singles are referred to in Japan).

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Before and after

Abandoned hellhole

Peace! Ain't it grand!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Recent blog inactivity. . .

I haven't had a chance to do much of anything for the last month but undertake a major re-location to a new dwelling. Harrassed and intimidated by an evil landlord to the point where I had no choice but to cut and run. All because he wanted me out in order to renovate (and perhaps double the rent), but had no intention of giving me the legal relocation fee---a pitiably small $8,000--- that should have been the result of my vacating the premises. Part of the process involved my deaccessing many thousands of LPs and books.

We all have our "price" I suppose, but I gotta tell ya, mine is a lot more than 8 grand. Inasmuch as he is about 6' 5" tall and in his late 50s, my guess is that the actuarials on such physical types would indicate a rather imminent departure from this mortal coil (short people live somewhat longer than tall-uns). Two recent heart attacks in rapid order. Can a third be far behind? Won't be a great loss IMHO. (Cat really brings out the schadenfreude in me.)

Things have begun to settle down now and perhaps I'll be able to give some thought and attention to my blog AND record production once more.