Saturday, May 28, 2011

More raves for Sue's new one

Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters..
May 27, 2011

[Sue] Raney is an interpreter of classic popular song whose creative gift and technical skill are matched by few singers in any category. Her empathy with Alan Broadbent was on display in their last collaboration four years ago. In that instance, her accompaniment was an orchestra that Broadbent arranged and conducted. This time, the orchestra is Broadbent at the piano, providing support and full partnership. After years of mutual admiration and occasional gigs, they have come forth with the duo album their admirers yearned for. It is a collection of ballads, but that by no means indicates that it lacks rhythmic interest. These two can swing at any tempo. That gift is striking in the medium bounce of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.” “Aren’t You Glad You’re You” and “It Might As Well Be Spring” with Broadbent’s “Joy Spring” introduction. In slow tunes, Raney can break hearts and moisten eyes. She finds the pathos in “He Was Too Good To Me;” uncloying sentiment in “My Melancholy Baby;” the poetry of longing in “Skylark,” “The Bad and the Beautiful” and “Listen Here,” the inspired title song with words and music by Dave Frishberg.
When Raney enters a note, it is never by a side door. When she bends one, it is to enhance mood or feeling. Broadbent comps and solos with chord voicings that enrich not just a song’s harmonies but its meaning. Their version of “There Used to be a Ballpark” could almost make you forget Sinatra’s. This collection of 14 songs is bound to become a classic, if it reaches an audience. That could be a problem for an expensive album on the label of the Sinatra Society of Japan, which has limited distribution.

A little elaboration on the last line of the above review is called for. It is not just SSJ CDs that are "expensive. I remain shocked, at this late date, at how few U.S. record buyers (not Doug Ramsey, of course) are familiar with the traditional high prices of Japanese import CDs and, before that, LPs. These items are also comparatively pricey in their country of origin. There was a time when vinyl in Japan was so expensive that co-operative record listening groups sprung up, with alternating members deputized each week to purchase a certain title which would then be brought to the next week’s meeting and spun whilst members listened attentitively to this precious acquisition. We’re talking about a time even before the era of common home recording (i.e. copying) devices.
Some such listening clubs continue on in Japan to this day, but mostly for reasons of fraternity rather than parsimony. The groups now tend to follow a lecture format, interspersed with spun tracks. I, myself, belong to one such group, The Tokyo Vocal Jazz Appreciation Society, and have even given a talk in broken Japanese on One Shot Wonders, i.e. fine, deserving jazz singers who ended up, circa 1950s, ’60s, recording exactly ONE album and then disappearing from sight, due mainly to the oncoming tsunami of rock and roll sweeping the land. There were hundreds of them, from which I chose twelve to talk about. I think that the TVJAS has been in operation approaching forty years now.
The priceiness of these CDs has something to do with some sort of Japanese entertainment tax coupled with a law that prevents competitive pricing in that country. And at the present yen vs. $ exchange rate, the costs are even higher, eventuating in such current high prices that even an artist’s hardest core of fans find themselves reluctant to ransom their first born in order to secure said artist’s latest wares. That being said, there is a reliable Japanese vendor, CDJapan, sellingListen Here at 2667 yen, which translates to $32.43 (the lowest price I can find on the net). Shipping is not so daunting if you choose to have it sent around the cape, i.e. surface. But that can take a while…as long as (ulp) twelve weeks. OR. . .
.. . .one can wait until the first of 2012 at which point a much more budget-friendly version of Listen Here will be released in the U.S

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

If this is Wednesday, it must be Yokohama

photo: David Ehrenstein

Singer Pinky Winters' upcoming Japanese schedule

June 2 Thursday 6:00 pm - Cafe Albert - Tokyo
June 3 Friday 6:00 pm - All of Me Club - Tokyo
June 4 Saturday 5:00 pm - G Face Cafe - Maebashi
June 5 Sunday 3pm - Three Arrow Club - Tokyo
June 6 Monday 7:30 pm Ishimori Kangakki - Tokyo
June 7 Tuesday 7:30 pm Interplay - Fujisawa
June 8 Wednesday 7:00 pm - Farout - Yokohama
June 9 Thursday 7:00 pm - New York Papa - Toyota
June 10 Friday 7:30 pm - Lovely - Nagoya
June 11 Saturday 7:45pm  - Jazz on Top - Osaka
June 12 Sunday 7:30 pm - Adirondack Cafe - Tokyo

More Pentoniana

"Kay Penton was one of the greatest singers I ever heard. She didn't appreciate her great talent but Benny [Goodman] did." ---Teddy Wilson 


I've unearthed a bit more info about singer Kay Penton, who I first wrote about herein last November 29.

She was born in New Orleans in 1924 and began singing publicly at the age of five. There are a couple of articles about her in the New Orleans Times Picayune (4/15/40 & 3/4/42). The first is an ad for Penton's appearance with N'awlins'  famous Pinky's (Vidacovich) Orchestra (aka The Dawnbusters); the second concerns her role in a 1941 George White's Scandals and finds the legendary producer quoted as saying the singer will become a "great name" in show business. He should know!

Her first big time gig as a band singer was with Guy Lombardo (Louis Armstrong's favorite big band. . .seriously) in 1943, and by 1944 she already had her own Friday night radio show on CBS. One article about her at this time deemed her the "prettiest girl in radio" (radio. . .did it really matter?) and stated that three movie studios were courting her for a screen test. There is, however, no info on the net that these ever came to pass. In 1947, in Miami, FL, she married "textile magnate" Lou Bolton; the marriage, though, was annulled less than a month later. Somewhere along the way, she also dated John Hertz, the ex-spouse of Myrna Loy. Yes! John Hertz of the Rent-a-Car operation. Factor in her relationship with Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo along with this romantic factoid and you have to admit the gal really got around. 

Has anyone who had so high a public profile for so many years ever fallen so far below radar? Thirty years old. . .over and out. There's still not even a single photo of her on the internet. There is now. At least, there's a caricature. If Penton's alive today, she'd be 87.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

From California With Love

FCW/L website

Bob Flanigan R.I.P.

The Four Freshmen in Tokyo 1964. The entire broadcast is available on youtube in increments. Video quality leaves more than a lot to be desired. But the audio, as can be heard from this clip, is good. From the sidelines, FF co-founder Flanigan continued to oversee the group, now in its 22nd configuration, right up to the very end. You'd probably never guess it from today's dumbed down musical U.S. landscape, but the Freshmen continue to be one of the most popular touring acts in the world. Can still draw thousands in locales that retain the capacity to comprehend melody, rhythm, harmony AND musical intelligence.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Two perfect musical minutes!

Anita O'Day "Live" in Tokyo 1963

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It's Fred Astaire's birthday

In case you've never seen this, parts 2 & 3 are available on youtube ("Astaire" "Levant") And don't tell Robin. It's Astaire's first time on TV. The main reason for the appearance was that wanted to see how "telegenic" he was. Apparently he wasn't too disappointed. Not long after that, he did the first of three award-winning "Evenings With" specials. 
According to Hollywood folklore, a screen test report on Astaire for RKO Pictures, now lost along with the test, is reported to have read: "Can't sing. Can't act. Balding. Can dance a little."                                                          
Which leads us other possibly apocryphal true stories. Telegram spotted on a H'wood studio desk by Cary Grant: "How old Cary Grant?" Grant wires back, "Old Cary Grant just fine. How you?"

Monday, May 09, 2011

"God's gift to musicians."

Advance reviews for my friend Tad Hershorn's long-awaited authorized bio of Norman Granz to be published Oct. 1 by Univ. of Calif Press:

"The JAZZ AT THE PHILHARMONIC concerts were a turning point in my life. My fellow Californian Norman Granz figured it out. This biography lays out, in impressive detail and insight, the incredible contribution of Mr. Granz to the world of music and art. The deed of the vast recordings of ART TATUM says it all."

--Clint Eastwood

"Norman Granz was one of the most important people in the world of jazz. He did more to escalate respect for jazz and raise our salaries than anybody else. He absolutely loved jazz and jazz musicians. I'm honored to have shared a beautiful friendship with Norman for many, many years. Hopefully, with this incredible book by Tad Hershorn, the world will have a chance to learn about Norman, and his phenomenal contribution to our beloved music--jazz."

--Clark Terry, author of Clark: The Autobiography of Clark Terry

"Tad Hershorn's Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice is a relentlessly readable, rigorously researched, deeply empathic portrait of the complex and heroic man who was arguably the greatest champion of this great American art form--and its great artists. Essential reading for anyone who loves jazz."

--James Kaplan, author of Frank: The Voice

"Norman Granz was renowned as a vivid force in jazz history, both as a producer of invaluable classic recordings by many of the music's most original performers and also for his world-wide, all-star Jazz at the Philharmonic tours. Moreover, he broke the color line dividing jazz audiences by mandating the end of segregated seating his continually popular concerts. Yet until this magisterial, deeply researched biography of Granz by Tad Hershorn, there has been no full-scale inside account of the achievement and combats of this often larger-than-life personality who, without playing an instrument, was so swingingly instrumental in making jazz an international language."

--Nat Hentoff, author of At the Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years on the Jazz Scene

"Norman Granz, one of the most significant non-musicians in jazz history, took gutsy public stands but remained a private person. Tad Hershorn's years of dedicated research reveal the man behind the lasting legacy, on which he sheds new light as well.. This great American story is a must read--and not just for jazz fans!"

--Dan Morgenstern, author of Living with Jazz

"Norman Granz was an institution in jazz. He was loved by some, hated by others, often controversial, and always fearless. But Granz was also elusive and, until now, sometimes came across as more symbol than man. Tad Hershorn has changed all that in this stunning, beautiful biography of the music's most relentless advocate of social justice."

--Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

"Norman Granz was an important man, and Tad Hershorn tells his story with a fearless compassion grounded in yeoman research. Imperious, vain, and rude, Granz was also generous, inventive, and brave. He fought valiantly for jazz and civil rights, made pots of money, and never failed to bet it on his passions and beliefs. If you do not know him, you couldn't ask for a better introduction than Hershorn's judicious portrait; if you think you do know him, you are in for more than a few surprises."

--Gary Giddins, author of Visions of Jazz


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Mike's other hat

photo: James Harrod

A couple of months back, I went to Vitello's in Studio City, CA to catch singer Michael Dees, a big favorite of mine. I had only seen him "live" one other time, late last year in a terrific big band blowout with Frankie's Capp Juggernaut. Afterward, I posted a somewhat crude video that I captured with my IPod camera. Kinda got the job done, though. For those who missed it first time around, here's a link to my initial youtube post. But I digress. . . as is my wont. Instead, we are gathered around the campfire to discuss Michael Dees, the songwriter. And until my aforementioned Vitello's experience, I had only heard rumors about that aspect of Michael's artistry. I liked what I heard that night, so much so that I wanted to hear more. So I rang him up out of the blue and asked if there was a Dees demo, and indeed-y there was. He sent me one and, his permission secured, I'd like to share a couple of tracks with you. In fact, the first cut was actually recorded that night at Vitello's and just now added to his demo. And who better to sing them than Michael Dees, the King of the Demo Singers himself?

Here is Michael singing his songs "A Kiss" and "Back in New Orleans" , which has recently been recorded by Houston Person.

FYI: Michael's publisher is Terri Fricon Entertainment , located in Hendersonville, TN  615 626 2288

Dithyrambia Personified

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The  (truly) legendary Earl "Snakehips" Tucker

Monday, May 02, 2011

Thees ees a talk-king peekture

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Sunday, May 01, 2011

Vid o' the Day

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Betty Be-bop gives Mary Martin a lesson in how to scat.