Monday, July 26, 2010

Don and Julie

Last May I interviewed basssist/arranger--and Julie London music director--Don Bagley for a two-fold purpose, i.e. the entire interview, translated into Japanese, was conducted for the Japanese EMI internet site as part of a promo for the mass release of the entirety of London's Liberty Records catalogue (some 30 albums), with portions of the Q & A also serving as the basis for a Swing Journal (Japan) magazine article about the singer, and bassist Bagley.

Both projects quickly came to pass. The Japanese translation of the interview is now available on the EMI site; and with the article appearing in the (alas) final issue of the venerable 63-year-old, legendary music mag. What follows is the original English language interview with Bagley; the English language version of the SJ article is scheduled to appear this Fall in my new collection, A Fine Romance: My Lifelong Affair with Jazz Singing and Singers, to be published by BearManor Media.

My thanks to EMI Japan for their permission to publish this original version of the interview.

Q. How did you first start working with Julie London?

A. I first became involved with Bobby Troup in the late fifties. Troup and Julie had not gotten married yet. He had a TV show, Stars of Jazz, and he was working clubs around L.A. and I started working clubs with him and got to know Julie. I think I first recorded with her on Julie. . .at Home in 1960.

Q. And was that really recorded at her home?

A. Yeah.

Q. After that, your association seemed to have speeded up a lot.

A. Yes, at first I did some dates with Julie where we would just work with a quartet or quintet: me, and whatever drummer, and trumpet player Joe Burnett. We played places like Notre Dame University, Ohio State, and those dates would draw people from hundreds of miles around.

Q. Did you also have Bobby Troup on piano?

A. No, even if he went on the road with us, he wasn’t part of Julie’s group because she featured the guitar.

Q. How about a big band?

A.. There wasn’t a bid band yet. But Julie decided she wanted to start playing more Vegas-type places and so we began planning those kind of shows, which included a big band, a vocal group. She loved the Four Freshmen so she hired Ken Albers, who was one of the Freshmen, to write the vocal charts. The traveled with us. That was leading up to the Americana in 1964. We also worked Vegas, Tahoe, Puerto Rico, Australia, Japan with the big band.

Q. Since this is going to be published in Japan, do you have any special memories of your two tours there?

A. I remember how good the Japanese musicians were. She carried a rhythm section and lead trumpet player. At that time, every hotel had a dynamite band. In Japan we had the band from the new Latin Quarter where we appeared. The day that we went to the TV studio to tape the special we took the Latin Quarter band and they were excellent. Another thing was how great Tats Nagashima, the booker, was. He was the booker for high-priced talent in Japan at the time. He treated everybody just royally. Not only Julie, but the musicians. Took us out to dinner every night for Kobe beef. We had a Mercedes downstairs 24 hours a day with a driver. I was with Julie on both tours.

Q. Who were the members of the band on the Hotel Americana recording?

A. It was the hotel orchestra, but these were the best musicians in New York at the time. Like Jerome Richardson. I think we were the second act to play there. The first was Peggy Lee. And then Julie. They had the absolute top musicians. Quincy Jones was in New York scoring The Pawnbroker and most of the Americana band was doing that during the day. Julie still depended on guitar even with the big band. There were always a few spots in the show that used just guitar, bass accompaniment . She had had all the great players, Barney Kessel, Howard Roberts in L.A. When we got to New York, the Americana guitarist was a disappointment, and it just didn’t work for her. I had been with Sal Salvador on Kenton’s band and he was in New York and I called him and asked him if he would do the job. He agreed to do it and then one time he had a band and had to send a substitute, and it was Bucky Pizzarelli. Julie never got over how great Bucky played for her. But it’s Sal Salvador on the album.

Q. Including step children, there were eight kids. How did she handle that?

A. Kelly, the first child she had with Bobby, was just a baby. She always brought her along on the road. She had a babysitter who traveled with her. Her twins came along later after the touring career was over.

Q. Why did Julie never record with Pete Rugolo?

A. It is surprising. I suppose it might have been label conflict. He was with Mercury, she with Liberty.

Q. You were associated with Julie from At Home right on up to the end of her recording career?

A. I think so. Julie was the one real class act at the label and she sold well.

Q. Some of the time she recorded music that was more commercial and less jazz. How did she feel about doing that material?

A. There was at least one time when she drew the line. She was supposed to do a country album produced by Snuff Garrett. He came up with this list and she hated it from the beginning. I wrote string backgrounds and wrote arrangements with good jazz chord changes. The best I could do considering the material. She went along with it until we got to the first session and at that point she just said ‘I’m not going to do this.’ She hated it. She might have liked it for somebody else but that was not what she was about. The stuff that Snuff had just didn’t work. I think we ran one tune down and she just said: “NO!’ She was established enough with Liberty that she could do that. The musicians were already in the studio. It cost Liberty one session. As far as I know there was never any unreleased material or cancelled albums.

Q. Speaking of commercial material, whose idea was it to record the “Mickey Mouse March”?

A. Julie! Afterward, She got some sort of communication from Walt Disney saying he liked what she did on that. We also did Disney’s “Give a Little Whistle.” Made kind of a sexy, slow tempo version of that. That was my idea and she liked it

Q. When did she like to record.

A. The night time.

Q. She’s famous for her salty tongue. Did you ever hear of that famous recording session outtake, where she really let’s loose?

A. I’ve heard of it. She was always outspoken. She was a strong personality, but along with that there was such gentleness. Her dressing room was always open to the musicians including the musicians in the house band.. . ‘Stop by and have a drink.’ There was no star syndrome. But she was nervous before going on. We went to Miami. It was one of those big hotels run by the mob but with an ostensible front man posing as the owner. This guy sent word to the dressing room, ‘Mister so and so would like to have dinner with Julie after the show.’ And she said, ‘What about my musicians?’ Meaning her four key people. And they said, ‘It’s principals only.’ And she said, “You tell Mister so and so, I will have dinner with the musicians instead.’ She liked to hang out with the guys. When we were still performing with the small group and thinking about a big band, I said to Julie ‘I would just love to write the arrangements.’ She said, ‘Okay,’ and that was that. Each one of those dates would be a week or two week. We did Vegas a number of times. Puerto Rico more than once. I did hundreds of shows with her. I was the arranger, conductor, I rehearsed the band, and playing bass, too. I was the guy who established the tempos, got the band off. I was the musical director.

Q. Who were some of the musicians she liked to record with?

A. She liked Jimmy Rowles a lot, On the sessions we’d have the very best guys. The Condoli brothers, Bud Shank, Bob Copper, Jack Nimitz. She had been a big fan of the Kenton band. Knew all the guys who were with that band when I was.

Q. Could she read music?

A. No. She’d have somebody run it down for her.

Q. Her voice wasn’t really as small as she claimed it was, was it?

A. No. And she really understand mic technique.

Q. She belts on that Japanese TV special.

A. She could definitely do that at the right time. And then there were those quiet moments with just guitar. Sinatra did the same thing. In the middle of his show, he’d do “In the Wee Small Hours.”

Q. You told me in an earlier conversation that she was the best boss you ever worked for. Why is that?

A. She treated the musicians so well. If we gave her a price, she’d go higher. We always got paid up front. We were family when we went to the house. When we recorded Julie. . .at Home, we had a few drinks, dinner, then we recorded. She just loved the musicians.

"New" Beverly Kenney CD

Now available at
. . .and at PM Sounds, Torrance, CA
Also available at

. . .and at Atomic Records, Burbank, CA &
PM Sounds, Torrance, CA
Richie Kamuca - Lee Konitz

Sunday, July 25, 2010

For Hartman completists only

1. Somebody Loves Me
2. Stella by Starlight
3. You Came a Long Way from St. Louis
4. Misty

All other tracks on the album (not heard here) are instrumentals

Download available for next 48 hours only

Friday, July 23, 2010


At last, the wonderful, young (wellll. . .forty-ish) singer-pianist Denzal Sinclaire has a web site worthy of his talents. Slightly longer in coming than the last ice age. Here are parts 1 & 2 of a featured video at his FINALLY! revamped

Sinclaire has three albums on Verve. IMHO all are worth checking out.


Today Would have been the 80th birthday of sax great Richie Kamuca. See immediately preceding post for jazz critic Doug Ramsey's review of Kamuca and Konitz's Live at Donte's. (Pardon the auto-flacking, but---hey!---a guy has gotta eat.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

From Doug Ramsey's 7/19 Rifftides column

Recent Listening: Kamuca and Konitz

Richie Kamuca & Lee Konitz, Live at Donte's 1974 (Cellar Door)

It's a hoot to hear the saxophonists channel their hero Lester Young in this recently discovered session recorded at the lamented Los Angeles club. "Lester Leaps In" begins and ends as a unison duet, complete with stop-time breaks, reproducing Young's 1939 solo on the master take of the piece with Count Basie's Kansas City Seven. In their own solos, Kamuca and Konitz leave no doubt about where they came from. Kamuca, the tenor player, is clearest in his fealty to Young. Konitz, on alto, is more abstract in his Prezcience, but it has always been a major element in his work. The other tunes are standards in the gig books of musicians of Kamuca's (1930-1977) and Konitz's (1927- ) generation—"Just Friends," "Star Eyes," "All The Things You Are" and Bobby Troup's "Baby, Baby All The Time." Solos are long and exploratory; the shortest track is 7:41. The set has the exhilaration, rough edges, chance-taking and surprises that make for satisfying live performance.

Support for the two Ks is by the solid L.A. rhythm section of pianist Dolo Coker, bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Jake Hanna, all of whom solo to great effect. Vinnegar goes beyond his customary walking bass for a couple of bowed solos and a bit of unexpected wildness in his "Lester Leaps In" solo, to the evident amusement of his colleagues and the audience. Coker, an under-recognized high achiever among Bud Powell admirers, has impressive moments throughout. Hanna cooks along, fueling the swing. Toward the end of the last track, "Lester," he finally takes a solo. What he saved up is worth the wait. The sound of this session, exhumed from reel-to-reel tapes, won't turn Rudy Van Gelder green with envy, but it's perfectly acceptable; you can plainly hear what everyone is doing. Unearthing and releasing it is a feather in the cap of Cellar Door's Bill Reed. On the CD box, it says, "Limited Edition." The 300 copies probably won't last long because there is nothing limited about the music.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Marian Bruce

Download available for next 48 hours only

Monday, July 12, 2010

Apocryphal true story?

One simply can't say too many praiseworthy things about musician Eddie Monteiro and his mad scientist synth accordion which can, even "live," credibly approximate not only the sound of big band bop, but even a Blues Stars sounding vocal group. All at the same time!

When I first heard Eddie, circa 1990, he was working in partnership with singer Nancy Marano in a jazz duo that came this close to setting the music world on fire not only with critics but record sales as well. Nevertheless that hoary old and (almost) entirely unwarranted---vide the late Pete Jolly and the very much alive Frank Marocco---bias against the the instrument still obtained despite Monterio and Marano's relative commercial hotness. So much so that on one occasion an agent (I think it was Abby Hoffer)attempting to book the duo ran up against a jazz club owner who adamantly insisted, "I will die before I ever allow an accordion player to set foot in this establishment." To which said agent replied: "It's not an accordion. It's a tiny piano he wears on his chest." Now that's what I call fast thinking!

Here's a link to a track from M&M's first CD, The Real Thing.

. . .and a link to Kamuca and Konitz Live at Donte's

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The GREAT Bobby Cole

1.Dancing In The Dark
2.September Song
3.This Can't Be Love
4.The Lonesome Road
5.Ebb Tide
6.Johnny One Note
7.Lilac Wine
8.The Lady's In Love With You
9.Ain't She Sweet
10.Love for Sale
11.Humpty Dumpty Heart
12.I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles

wish this burn of Bobby Cole were a skosh better, but. . .hey!!!!

Download available for next 48 hours only

Friday, July 09, 2010

Jane Harvey lets loose

corrected post from last week;

Here is an unreleased recording from singer Jane Harvey's archives that she has generously offered to let me share with readers of this blog.

Circa '65, it's Jane like you've never heard her before. Yes! It's the very same Jane who so sensitively rendered the songs of Stephen Sondheim on her tribute recording to him a couple of decades later. Who knew?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Department of Renovation

It has belatedly been brought to my attention that my July 1 birthday tribute to singer Ruth Olay contained an unfortunate error. The link to her "But Beautiful" was incorrect. But this link WILL take you there. In the immortal words of my grandma: Do what you will, do with your might. Things done by half. . ." and blahblahblahblahblahblahblah And then there's "Better late than never."

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

He's Farney that way


1. how deep is the ocean
2. you go to my head
3. embraceable you
4. but beautiful
5. it could happen to you
6. the one i love  belongs to somebody else
7. all the way
8. my funny valentine
9. how deep is the ocean
10. this love of mine
11. the things we did last summer
12. one for my baby
13. how about you
14. copacabana
15. it's alright with me
16. i hear music
17. I concentrate on you
18. just one of those things
19. speak low
20. the lady is a tramp
21. all of me
22. tenderly

Dick Farney. Download available for next 48 hours only.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

r n' b day @ p-v-d-c

1. I'm gonna marry my mother-in-law - james carr
2. Treasure of love - clyde mcphatter
3. Gonzo - james booker
4. Nervous boogie - paul gayton
5. Flatfoot sam - oscar willis
6. 2 a.m. spooner oldham
7. On broadway - jimmy scott
8. Heavy makes you happy - tatsuro yamashita
9. Chicken hop - bobby bland
10. Bon ton roulay - clarence garlow
11. Rescue me - fontella bass
12. Maybe - chantels
13. Cherokee dance - bob "froggy" landers w/
      little willie joe and his unitar

Download available for next 48 hours only

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Anamari who?


Clark Terry (tp, flh) Margaret Ross (harp) Joel Shulman (p) Ben Tucker (b) Osie Johnson (d) Anamari (vo) NYC, November, 1963, Atlantic Records

Download available for the next 48 hours only

Happy birthday! Olay!

Today is the birthday of my friend, singer Ruth Olay. Circa 1955-1975, Ruth was a regular fixture on network TV, especially Paar and Merv. And though she no longer sings professionally, if you look reallll hard, you still might catch a glimpse of Ruth some afternoon on TV news at one anti-war rally or another. And if you go here you can capture more than a fleeting image of her, on a 1959 TV special with Duke Ellington.

Long retired from show business (in the spirit of "been there done that"), she now focuses most of her energies on political and social activism.

Before becoming a singer, Ruth was secretary to the great writer-director Preston Sturges. And she sang with Duke Ellington. Two inarguably legendary figures of the 20th Century. What a life she's led! And Ruth agrees.

Here's a track from But Beautiful, an unreleased album by Ruth that I hope to shepherd to release in the near future. The last time Ruth ever went into the recording studio, and she never sounded better.