Thursday, September 30, 2010

I wouldn't miss it for the world

Kay Thompson event

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New Michael vid - The Beatle-ization of Bublé

"Can't Buy Me Love" meets "Let's Live for Today"

Monday, September 27, 2010

Nat - It's his birthday!

John Hammond, organist Marlowe Morris, Nat Shapiro (1962)                  

Letter from Nat to me (and David)

Nat's "Times" obit. Note the misspelling of Legrand, and the name of Nat's widow, Vera Miller (Nat woulda had a cow over such---even then---increasingly sloppy news copy editing.)


I've been thinking a lot about Nat Shapiro lately as a result of reading "The Label," Gary Marmorstein's new and evocative history of Columbia Records. Nat was at Columbia at the same time as other old school record men like Goddard Lieberson, Irving Townsend, George Avakian, Mitch Miller and John Hammond. Less impressively from my perspective, although not monetarily so, he'd been the guiding force behind Hair.

Nat and I sometimes had dawn-to dusk conversations in his Central Park West apartment overlooking the park. In the biz for a number of years, he'd been Frank Sinatra's press agent at the lowest point in the singer's career early in the 1950s. One always sensed with Nat that there were some subjects best left un-discussed; clearly his time on the cross in Sinatra's employ was one of them. Once---and I don't know what possessed me to make the remark---I slipped and said, "I think Sinatra would make a really good Norman Maine in a A Star is Born. "Yes, except at the end," Nat said, "Sinatra would have to be walking out of the ocean instead of into it." Then he abruptly changed the subject. That's the only I ever heard him utter the name of his former employer in any context.

I went with him to see Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along, which starts at the conclusion and proceeds backwards to the beginning. At the end of the first act Nat stood up and announced, "Aha! The plot thins!"

Nat produced recordings for Dietrich, Brazilian grande vedette Maysa,and many others, and was deeply amused that he had produced the only album in which Count Basie's rhythm guitar player Freddie Greene's name appeared above the title. All Greene did on the date was his usual elegant 1-2-3-4 chunk-a-chunk accompaniment.

Nat often talked about what he called "singer's disease": the insecurity that arises when intuitive singers (Shirley Horn, Blossom Dearie, et al excepted) clash head-on in the studio or on the bandstand with skilled, trained musicians. As a result, singers are often forced into ridiculous, defensive diva-like positions.

I loved his stories. The first day on the job as Billy Eckstine's press agent, the singer and his wife had been busted in a pot raid with an minor teenaged girl. I wish I could remember all the great stories Nat told me: the details are hazy regarding some dicey Johnnie Ray anecdotes.

Shortly before highly acquisitive Nat died unexpectedly, he began giving away things to friends, including myself. I would tentatively pull something off the shelves, such as the rare ten-inch Billy Strayhorn lp on the Mercer label (I eventually passed it on to legendary recording engineer Al Schmitt, whose first ever studio recording this was.) "Good choice," Nat'd remark and drop it on the pile. I was shocked at this atypical generosity with things.

The last time I saw him, shortly after I moved to L.A., he even hugged me, something he never did, at least not with male friends. The gesture is one of the few things in my life that found me, after his death, pondering the unseen at the expense of the seen. I'm convinced that, unconsciously, Nat knew he was going to die, even though he was in relatively good health. I miss him still.

Nat told me that one time the door bell rang at his upper West Side apartment at two in the morning. He answered it and there stood none other than Marlene Dietrich. Nat was a night owl and a bit of an insomniac as well, Marlene had been wandering the neighborhood and spotting his lights on, thought she'd drop in to say hello. At 2 am. . .without advance word. But then, goddesses seldom phone ahead. Nat's wife Vera, awakened from a sound sleep, peeped through a crack in the door and espied their unexpected visitor. A few minutes later, according to Nat, Vera then made HER entrance into the living room, dressed to the nines, with full makeup, hair out of curlers, her best frock, the works. . .at 2 am! Years later I mentioned to Vera that Nat had told me about the occasion but that I didn't really believe that the ultra-sensible woman that she is was capable of such overweening vanity and feminine competitiveness. . .even in the face of Marlene Dietrich. In so many words, Vera told me to "Believe it, honey, believe it!"

Here's a video clip of Monsieur Legrand singing and playing at the above-noted memorial service.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Audrey Morris Alert

Time Sunday, September 26 · 7:00pm - 10:00pm

Location Club 3160
3160 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL

Club 3160 is proud to present a very special and rare evening of Chicago's treasure, the legendary singer/pianist and recording artist Audrey Morris.

This is a "don't miss" opportunity to hear Audrey in a comfortable and intimate setting, allowing her to do what she does best!

Quotes about Audrey:

"Morris has the ability to wring maximum dramatic impact from every syllable of lyric, all the while providing a lush piano accompaniment..." Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune

“I learned a lot. . .about approaching ballad playing and trying to interpret the meaning of its lyrics through the piano and my group. You may not know it, but you have been held in great esteem by the various members of the jazz world that have appeared with you in the London House [in Chicago] , including yours truly. All I can say is, Chicago be proud, for Audrey is in the house.” World renowned jazz pianist, Oscar Peterson

Saturday, September 18, 2010

There's no business like. . .

(To appreciate the full import of the tale I am about to tell, it should be noted that the great Peggy Lee was an absolute stickler for choreographing every last physical move and facial expression of her "live" performances. . .all-the-while still retaining her crown as one of the hardest-swinging practitioners of the art of jazz singing.)

This youtube clip brings to mind an incident that guitarist Dennis Budimir recounted at the 2001 memorial service for jazz musician Lou Levy. (That's "Silver Fox" Levy in the clip with Peggy Lee.) During the mid-1960s, the latter was musical director and pianist for Lee, and Budimir was a member of the singer's band. This was really the high water mark of Lee's night club career. And although there was great musical respect between Levy and Lee, it seems that there was also a fair degree of aesthetic contentiousness between the two which, from time to time, could escalate into rather heated shouting matches. One time, in fact, the backstage verbal battle royale became so heated, according to Budimir, that here is what the audience at (I believe it happened at Basin Street East) witnessed as a result

Per usual, Levy and the musicians came on stage, took their places, and the announcer on the p.a. system intoned those immortal words, "Ladies and Gentlemen, MISS Peggy Lee," at which point the singer began to move into the spotlight from the wings.

The only problem was that, Budimir recalled, instead of playing the opening bars of her play-on music, "I Love Being Hearing With You," Levy was instead giving out with her play-off, final bows accompaniment. It was an act of extreme payback for the contretemps he'd just had with Lee.

Lee, according to Budimir, just stood there for a moment, unable to spontaneously react to this sudden unexpected change in the proceedings---stunned like the proverbial deer in the headlights. Next, the lights faded to black, dialogue between Lee and Levy could then be heard in the pitch black darkness. Albeit a few db's lower than a full bore argument. Then after a few seconds of silence, once again it was: "Ladies and Gentlemen, MISS Peggy Lee." And it was business as usual for the remainder of the evening, as if this amazing choregraphis interruptus had never happened.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Over the past few days, I've become a staunch devotee of the (seeming) newly burgeoning art form of multi-track acappella as exemplified by the gifted, young Frenchman, Jean-Baptiste Craipeau (see below). And by others (also on youtube) who followed in the wake of my discovery of Craipeau, such as Danny Fong, Andrew Kesler, Vance Perry, Simon Rylander, and Mike Beck. But, in fact, it's not such a new "thing" after all. For in the immortal words of the late, great Mister Liza Minnelli, "Everything Old is New Again," as proved by the great Japanese pop star (my guilty pleasure if there ever was one) Tatsuro Yamashita. (According to my friend Jeremy, I've got rice on the brain.) Yamashita's been mining this multitrakac idiom for quite some time now, as exemplified by the video clip below. This from the third volume (1999) in his "On the Street Corner" series, which he began in 1986.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Dr. Chilledair Seal of Approval this week goes to:

Singer Rebecca Kilgore's new radio show, The Singer's Voice . It streams every Saturday from 1 - 3 pm on Portland's KMHD

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Jean-Baptiste Craipeau


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Sue Raney Alert!

Sue Raney will be appearing with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, conducted by Chris Riddle, as part of the upcoming Los Angeles Jazz Institute's four-day (Oct. 21-24) "A Jazz Tribute to Frank Sinatra." Sue will be taking part in "A Swingin Session," on Saturday, Oct. 23 at 7:30 pm in the Marquis Ballroom at the L.A. Airport Marriott Hotel. Her very first recording for the Capitol record label was conducted and arranged by Riddle, who was also closely associated with the music and artistry of Sinatra. She also made many public appearances with the Riddle organization during its heyday.

For information on single tickets or all-event passes, phone the Institute at: (562) 200-5477. Further details on the fest are also available at its website:

"Early on I sang the hits, tunes the girl singers in the band were performing. While growing up in the 1950s, I first listened to Doris Day, Patti Page, Rosemary Clooney, and Kay Starr. I discovered jazz when I was 16 or 17 and of course soon loved Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan."

After working steadily in New Mexico and taking several trips out to Los Angeles during a couple of summer vacations, Sue Raney joined the Jack Carson radio show in 1954. "That is why the family moved out to Los Angeles. I had auditioned for Frankie Laine and made a couple of demos for his office. It was through him that I ended up on the Jack Carson show. It was one of the last major radio programs on CBS and at 15 I was the teenager on the show for nine or ten months. After Jack Carson I started appearing on Ray Anthony's television program and then became the vocalist with his hand when he played the Palladium. When I was 19, I put an act together and started working on the road."

She was already an established singer when most young girls were making a rather awkward transition from Elvis Presley to Clearasil. It took time to polish her vocal talent. There were ups and downs, good breaks and bad ones. There was the time in Australia when the critics banged nothing but praise out of their typewriters and the crowds came early and stayed and stayed and stayed. For a time, things couldn't be better. She completed her third album for Capitol Records and was swamped with hotel and night club bookings as well as offers for various television appearances.

Then came a down. An auto accident crumbled the classic stairway to stardom. Bedridden for months, Sue faded out of the musical picture. But no one seemed to forget. With the help of crutches, she made an appearance on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show," and became an instant hit.

In the 1960's Sue Raney worked with the Four Freshmen in Las Vegas, toured with her own group, and appeared frequently on television variety shows including those of Red Skelton, Dean Martin and Danny Kaye. During the following decade she became active in the studios where her impressive voice helped sell products. But when asked to name her favorite gig, Sue Raney says "Possibly the highpoint of my life musically was when I toured with Michel Legrand in the 1980's. We worked with symphony orchestras in addition to having a self-contained rhythm section. I had a chance to sing Michel's lovely songs and it was wonderful." Of her own personal recordings she says "I think the trio of records that I made for Albert Marx, on Discovery in the 1980's are the ones that I am most proud of. I also like the Henry Mancini tribute Dreamsville that I did with Alan Broadbent." Sue is also an accomplished songwriter, contributing lyrics to several songs including Statue Of Snow.

These days Sue Raney is quite active as a voice teacher. "I've been teaching since the early 1980's, originally at the Dick Grove school and now privately nearly every afternoon. It is very rewarding. Teaching has allowed me to relearn what I thought I knew and explore new areas. I find that I'm now in better shape vocally than I've ever been. I sing with the L.A. Voices and Supersax, occasionally appear at the Moonlight Tango Cafe in Sherman Oaks near Los Angeles with Bill Watrous' big band and still go on the road when it feels right and it is artistically rewarding." When asked about her future goals, Sue Raney replied "I'd like to record a duet album with Alan Broadbent. But basically I just want to keep on doing what I'm doing, singing the music I love."

Her latest album finds Raney returning to the very same studios at Capitol Records where she cut her first record. Heart's Desire: A Tribute to Doris Day (2007) finds her accompanied by full orchestration (brass, reeds, rhythm and strings) and arranged and conducted by Grammy-winning musician Alan Broadbent.

(This biographical sketch is a compilation of material from various liner notes and reviews by several writers, most notably Scott Yanow. )

Click on image twice for full frame.