Friday, March 31, 2006

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Pinky on the Beeb (3/06)

The BBC host says: "I've never heard of [Pinky Winters] before." (mp3 links for a limited time only)

To which I would reply, "Surely you jest! Just wot sort of culturally-deprived naif might you be, sir?"

And now for something completely different: a re-run of the back story behind the making of Winters and RRB's Rain Sometimes. You won't hear stuff like this on the BBC. (Warning: not for the faint of heart.)

Pinky's web site.

Shameless self promotion from the king of the remainder table:

It was dirty work, but someone had to do it.

How bleak was my puberty!

Get it while it's "Hot."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Sending a rock boy to do a jazz man's job

Pop music, ahem, critic George Varga in the San Diego Union-Tribune (3/27/06) on the subject of singer Michael Bublé:

"But none of these quite matched his inane version of Otis Redding's 'Try a Little Tenderness,' * which Bublé unwisely crooned as an innocuous cocktail ballad."

* Words and music by Harry Woods, Jimmy Campbell and Reg Connelly. Copyright 1932 Campbell-Connelly Co. Ltd., London, England/Robbins Music Corp. Popularized by none other than that old cocktail balladeer herself, Ruth Etting (1897-1978).

All of which reminds me of some comedic wag's riff on the song. Can't remember who just now?:

"She may be weary, women do get weary
Wearing the same shabby dress
But when she's weary
Buy another shabby dress"

But I digress and laugh to keep from crying. . ..

These are dark and final days, I tell you. . . Dark and Final Days. AND, I might add that it's not possible to fully appreciate the great Otis Redding's inspired version of "Tenderness" without being cognizant of the original, um, cocktail "take" on the song.

"Cocktail ballad" indeed! In the immortal words of Calvin Trillin, "I demand to speak with an adult."

And just what might be the name of the editor who signed off on Varga's "review" in the first place? That's what I'd really like to know.

Monday, March 27, 2006


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Today is the birthday of the inarguably great, inarguably legendary---hell!, Legendarily Legendary Sarah Vaughan. I saw her in person about a half-dozen times, including once with Michel Legrand's orchestra at Carnegie Hall. There, snap queens swooned en masse when she launched into her late-period signature number, "Send In the Clowns."

Another time I saw her "live" was at the local 47 AFM union hall. It was an afternoon casual, a memorial service for one of the boys. She'd just thrown on a wig and muumuu, jumped in the limo, motored in from the Valley, and there she was! Accompanying herself on piano and so close you could reach out and touch her. And at UCLA Wadsworth Hall, Hollywood Bowl and other places where I saw her perform live, she always gave 110 per cent. What a pro!

And I don't think she ever failed to get a laugh with her signature punch line where she introduced the members of the band, then added, "And I'm. . .June Carter Cash."

The late music critic and record producer (Shirley Horn) Joel E. Siegel once observed to me that Vaughan, with all the tremendous technique and the, um, instrument at her disposal, sometimes reminded him of a chappie with a foot-long racial tool in his arsenal who didn't always know what to do with the great reward with which the good Lord had gifted him. (How vivid!) But I disagree; to my ears, she never failed to know exactly what to do with...IT.

In a 2000 interview with me, singer Pinky Winters recalled the first time, circa 1950, she ever heard Vaughan sing:

"We would always stop at the trombone player's and he’d have… he said, 'You gotta hear this!' Fred Sherwood. And Fred put this record on. I’ll never forget. We were standing there and this thing came on and it was Sarah Vaughan singing Lover Man. I didn’t know that Bird [Charlie Parker] was on there. I just thought, 'I’ve never heard anything like this in my life.' My god! You can do that! And I just went home walking on stars. It was really uplifting."

Michel Legrand once told me that when he recorded his album with her, accompanied by a phalanx of "hardened" studio veterans, that when she finished her first number there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Another time, on TV, he described her as trafficking in "Music from the stars. . .the heavens."

Sometime in the mid-1980s Vaughan was appearing at New York's Blue Note, when her bass player Andy Simkins collapsed during a set and had to be taken away in ambulance. According to reports, she lit up a cigarette on stage, smoked it furiously, snuffed it out, paused a beat, then crisply called out, "Next song, please." (PS: The next night Simkins was back in action. Mere flu.) What a pro!

Not long before Vaughan died in 1990, she was recording a new album for producer Quincy Jones. She'd been hospitalized but was now back home. Ringing Jones up, Vaughan announced: "Let's get back to work." Jones reminded her that she was seriously ill and perhaps needed her rest. Her reply? "Please Q, lying down I sound just as good as ever." Or words to that effect. Like I say. . .What a pro!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Dr. Chilledair, Tracer of Lost Crooners

Mr. Nick Clooney
c/o The Post
Cincinnati, Ohio

March 26, 2006

Dear Mr. Clooney,

I am wondering whether you might have any knowledge of singer Clay Mundey, who was written about in the enclosed 1958 Dale Stevens column in “the Post.” It only recently came to my attention. I have been able to make contact with pianist Billie Walker, mentioned in the article and who has some recollections of Mundey. But she was unable to tell me a lot. In all likelihood you are familiar with her. Very nice lady. (hear Billie Walker)

Inasmuch as Mundey worked at the Beverly Hills for at least six months and also recorded in your city, he might have made some impression on you as a youth, especially because of your known appreciation for his style of singing.

Mundey, who died in 1989, also sang with Gene Krupa for 18 months under the name of Bill Black (his real name) in the late forties. He had a long and curious career to say the least, topped off by the well-received issue in Japan of a previously-unreleased album in October of last year. I am the release producer of the recording. The source was an acetate that Black/Mundey gave me more than forty years ago (I was a friend).

I have had heartening success with this CD, including ongoing airplay by disc jockey Jonathan Schwartz on XM Satellite Radio. I know that there are more unreleased recordings by Black/Mundey out there somewhere, and I would very much like to get my hands on them. I am under the impression that there was some connection between the Lin (Rochester, NY) and King (of Cincinnati) record labels.

Any information or recollections regarding this matter will be greatly appreciated.


Bill Reed

Friday, March 24, 2006

Cat Blog Friday

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Smokey the Cat

UPDATE ON YESTERDAY'S ENTRY: Unfortunately, I have just learned from a---you should pardon the expression--reliable source that Hugh McPherson's recorded archives and holdings were scattered to the four winds after his death, instead of being donated to the West Virginia Cultural Center, which was his wish. Whether the material even survived is something of a mystery, but what is known is that among the many airchecks were an interview with Billie Holiday at Alderson Prison and an early-on-in-his career radio chat with Elvis Presley. Apparently the culprit---unwitting or otherwise---was a local W.Va. antiques dealer. I am also just now informed that the disappearance of this McPherson material is considered by experts on the subject to be a major loss and not just a "Baroque worry" on my part.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Rehearsin' With McPherson

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Harry Belafonte, Hugh, guitarist Millard Thomas

I hail from Charleston, West Virginia, disc jockey Hugh McPherson's onetime base of radio operations. While most of my 1950s peers might have loitered long and hard at the Strand Poolroom in my hometown, my hangout was WCHS, the station on which Hugh broadcast.

A major part of my youth was spent with my buddies in the 'CHS studio watching Hugh, in the vernacular of the times, "spinning platters." He was so good to us teenagers, making us feel very special and grownup. Every few songs, while the vinyl was being "spun"---can one be said to "spin" CDs?--- he would turn to us and perfuctorily utter: "Jazz will never die." I hope he's right.

I recently wrote my friend Jennie Smith, a singing discovery of Hugh's, of my sense that McPherson did interviews with almost every musician of any significance who came through Charleston to play the local Municipal Auditorium throughout the 1950s and '60s. And there were lots. I can still remember his chats with Stan Kenton, Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Lena Horne, et al., and, most likely, there were even music remotes from the auditorium, which still stands and is as beautiful as I remember it from my mostly---thanks in large part to Hugh---un-misspent youth.

In 1988 the official West Virginia publication, Goldenseal, ran a major career piece on Hugh. It was entitled "The Prince of Highland Swing," which was Hugh's "title" as the leader of a very popular regional swing band of the 1940s. I don't think they ever recorded, but at some point broadcast regularly on CBS on Saturday afternoons from the famous Frank Dailey's Meadowbrook in New Jersey.

Eventually, Hugh became somewhat nationally-known, not because of his jazz-jockeying, but due to his balanced and objective interest in various paranormal phenomena. He even managed to interview most of the major figures in the UFO "field," between jazz tracks on his broadcast. He also garnered a bit of national publicity because of a talking mynah bird, Joe---"I want to go honky-tonk"--- on his show. I seem to recall that they made a guest appearance on NBC's Today.

In my somewhat backwater hometown of Charleston, West Virginia, Hugh McPherson was the personification of a big fish in a small pond. Though he was a "mere" jazz jock, most likely every last one of the town's 78,000 citizens knew who he was. Even diehard country music lovers, who probably constituted the majority of the populace: "Oh, yeah, he’s that fella on the radio that believes in flyin' saucers and has that talkin' bird."

In the Goldenseal article Hugh, who died a few years later, is quoted as saying that he recorded and archived his broadcasts. That's why I was Googling him just now; to ascertain if there might be a central respository of his airchecks and other material. I do that every once in a while. But, alas, still no luck. I just hope who-or-whatever entity that inherited McPherson's stuff is taking good temperature-controlled care of it. That's long been one of my major Baroque worries.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Hanami in Balboa Park, L.A. 3/21//06

You don't necessarily have to go to Japan. . .

Monday, March 20, 2006

Rerun City

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Is David Ehrenstein the only one to've "caught" this?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Only it's not THAT "My Bill"

From the liner notes of Bob Dorough's "This is a Recording of Pop Art Songs":

"Dorough's pop art settings of hitherto unsung lyrics---everything from laundry ticket to traffic tickets from minuet to tango---a zany idea if there ever was one. . ." My Bill (mp3 links for a limited time only)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

On Rehumanizing Music

Whether you agree with jazz pianist John Wood's sentiments or not---I DO--- you'll have to admit that it's a aesthetic position (outlined in the line notes for one of his CDs) that merits serious discussion, i.e.

"One thing I like to talk about is how things in the recordings business have changed. For instance, in the old days of the three-hour session, where three hours rendered you four finished songs, they'd hand the studio owner a check for the time and walk out with their next four sides for release. These days, with mega-multitracking, people find it very hard to say they're finished with what they're doing.

I think this multi-track process makes monsters out of people, because there's no totality. There's no beginning, no middle and no end---just this amorphous thing that goes on and on, and no one can really recognize what it is that they're part of. In looking back, there was as simplicity and a way to comprehend things for everyone, both for the people who rented the studio and for the studio owners. They came and they lived or they died for those three or four hours that they booked the studio. And then they walked away. And the guys who played knew that it was a complete entity. Today, they've all lost control.

I believe that from the beginning of the human race, music has played an important part in the quality of life. So if American music began to lose its humanity, as it did starting in the late '60s, then essentialy there's been no music in America for 25 years.

Sure, there'll always be a live-music niche, and there's a perception and desire to get back to basics, but I think we have a distance to go. In the early days, artists released five or six albums a year. Per year! That is the nature of music and of the days when music drove the music business"

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

More recycled and blogified emails to friends

Mike: I cannot take credit for the repertoire on Pinky Winters' CD. The idea to do the recording was mine, and I rented the "hall," and paid the bills to have it recorded, and acted as a go-fer, but that's about it.

Both Pinky and Richard are such respected musicians that the CD immediately secured my---ha!---reputation as a producer and a whole new world opened up for me. . .with that one single gesture.

I am sending you a copy of Rain Sometimes, my extra Jonathan & Darlene Edwards and a special surprise bonus CD for being a member in good standing of "Bill's Record Club."

You and I appear to still be in Vulcan Mind Meld. That is to say, cell phones also drive me so batty that I can barely leave the house because of them. Last week my next door neighbor's granddaughter was rear-ended by some nitwit on a cell phone. . .in an automobile by the way. Fortunately she was not hurt too badly but her car was totalled. Young woman minding her own business driving to Cal State Long Beach for class. I think that people who use them in cars should have to pay higher insurance rates. Or better yet. . .oh, never mind.

If someone calls me up on a cell phone and I discover they are phoning from a car, I refuse to continue the call.

They are a hedge against organization. Most people used to start out their day with a clear plan of attack, now with cell phones they just follow their noses and if they're overdue, they merely ring you up on their damn cellulars: "I'm running late." Grrrr. Even David Letterman rants against them: "I don't get it," he says. When my grandmother dialed up and got an answering machine for the first time (forty years later I can still recall that she was phoning United Fuel Gas Company) she ripped the phone out of the wall and threw it across the room. Don't get me started.

Am actually checking out your Jonathan and Darlene Edwards (mp3 links for a limited time only) LP before sending. Once one enters that parallel tonal universe it's sometimes hard to get back out. "Hey! I'm a gettin' to where I kinda like it, and everything else sounds off pitch."



Tuesday, March 14, 2006

EBTO Strikes Again

Recent emails to (old) friends recycled and blogified.

Most likely "djbob@____" is none other than you, Bob Turley, with whom I used to work as a deejay at WKAZ, Charleston back in the early 1960s. The "Big K" as it were. I cannot begin to tell you with how much fondness I look back on the time we worked together at that station. Below my signature herein* is something I wrote a few years back on a net site devoted to 'KAZ.

If I have reached the "wrong" Bob Turley, well then in the immortal words of Emily Littella: "Never mind." Otherwise. . .

I was inspired to write you just now while I was surfing around the net listening to old radio jingles (actually with a purpose in mind, but that's another story). Suddenly all the WKAZ jingles came rushing back to me. No doubt cut in Dallas at PAMS or some other similar outfit in that area. A hotbed of such activity

I can still vividly recall the good stuff that you jumped on when it was released, especially Si Zentner's Up a Lazy River. God how you loved that! And Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall.

If you happen to have any airchecks of your work on 'KAZ, I would love to have a chance to hear them someday.

Good luck to you. Hope this finds you with the world in a jug and the stopper in your hand.



* Here's who I remember at 'KAZ: Jim Taylor, Carl Knight, Neil Boggs (news, natch), Gloria Barron (wife of local radio personality Bob Barron) was traffic manager, the night engineer was Doug Browning. But most of all I remember dee-jay Bob Turley. The things I tend to recall from my youth when I go back and double check on them turn out to have been remembered with a fair degree of accuracy. And what I remember about Bob is that he was simply and inarguably GREAT! Case closed. The emphasis between records spun was definitely on comedy, and Bob---I recall---was up there with the best of 'em like Stan Freberg, and Bob and Ray. Again, I am pretty sure I am right about this.

Bob was so far out when he was at the peak of his powers that it was, as they say, "too hip for the house," i.e. Charleston. Or pretty much anywhere else for that matter. And so, eventually, Bob moved more and more behind the scenes and became a program director at 'KAZ and was no longer on the air at all. I think that is the way it played out. I have not lived in Charleston for more than thirty years, but I remember it as being a great radio town.

I can still recall the theme song that Bob used at one time: "The Duke" (mp3 link for a limited time only) from the Miles Davis/Gil Evans album, "Miles Ahead." For a morning drive time radio show, it simply does not get any hipper than that. What a beautiful sound to wake up to!
Then there were all those dozens and dozens of tape cartridges that he manipulated with extraordinary dexterity to punch in all of these outrageous sound effects, and voices. If you "put me under" I could probably remember a lot more, but one I recall was a clip of Tallulah Bankhead from the "Guest Star" LP series: "Do you have a makeup kit on this ship, darling?" Then Bob would jump back in with an ad-libbed response, then would segue into a commercial, or whatever. I do recall that he was very well-liked and pretty much ruled the place, but was forever getting called into the very nice Don Hays' office (he was the station director) for a mild wrist slapping.

Oh, and there was his radio gossip columnist, "Louella O. Louella" and, um. . .like I say, I probably need to be put into a deep sleep before I. . .oh, and there was "Flamin' Mame," a stripper played by Gloria Barron. Sometimes I was given the honor of doing a bit of improv on Bob's show after I was off-duty, but Gloria and Bob were practically a radio comedy team. All of us were sometimes called into service. Just depended on Bob's inspiration of the moment. It was all totally off the cuff. For a kid who practically grew up listening to this stuff, it was quite an honor to actually have become a part of wild and wacky radio show.

Monday, March 13, 2006

"Everything But the Oink" Rides Again

Recent emails to friends recycled and blogified.

Dear James: Thanks for your kind words about Hot From Harlem. It was a very painful process getting the thing into print. It was skedded to be published by Temple University Press in 1995, but was canceled at the last minute before it was to go to press. To reiterate what I told you, en bref, in our recent phone conversation, I learned soon afterward what had happened in a "Deep Throat" phone call from (the late) Dr. Beverly Robinson of UCLA who was one of the manuscript's academic readers. She told me that the press' overwhelmingly white editorial staff had assumed I was black; then, by accident, learned otherwise. I neither masqueraded as black, nor hid the fact that I was white in numerous phone conversations with them (employed my usual "U" mid-Atlantic quasi-Mayfair drawl).

Temple, in fact, reneged on publication out of fear of reprisal from the "Black Athena" set at the school. An aside: the head of the Black Studies Department at Temple, shortly after the time of my debacle, was temporarily suspended for alleged plagiarism.

To cut to the proverbial chase, I refused to give back the advance and used it to publish the book myself. The typos---I set it myself---and occasional grammatical infelicites bother me, still I feel it is a not-bad book. I think of the subject matter as being so rich that it is virtually writerproof. I tried to get first ammendment help from Nat Hentoff when Temple sprang open the trap door, but he never even answered my letters. F**k him and his wife, the lovely Margo, both of whom once waged a war against gays wearing djalabas on Fire Island. Truth to tell, N&M are not all that much different from Midge (Dector) 'n Poddy. Hope the Hentoffs are not very very dear, very very wonderful close friends of yours. Like I say. . ."painful." Grrrrr!

Thanks for the info. However---strange but true---the Lee Wiley in the Woody Herman short is not OUR Lee Wiley.

It is hard to know what singer Bill Black did to rub the "mob" the wrong way. Usually, if you refused their unrefusable offer of management by proxy, they just killed your career, but did not resort to physical violence. I am in touch with his two closest friends and they both say the same thing: he was beaten up, left by the roadside to die, was rescued and spent a year in Palm Springs recuperating. My guess is that he either did not repay a loan, or laughed (that was his snarky style) in the wrong person's face. At age 22, I was just too dumb to realize what an extraordinary "find" Bill Black was. He would go on and on about Judy and Mel and Lana and Lee (Liberace), and Jimmy (Dean) and Dennis (Hopper) et al, and the good old days in a kind of Norma Desmondish soliloquy and I would not even bother to ascertain whether it was false or true. It was all true, I have later come to believe.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

"Words by Beverly Kenney"

. . .and music by Ray Passman, copyright 1963* Kips Bay Music

"I Don't Believe in Love"

Don't tell me that the robins sing any sweeter in Spring than in Fall
I never hear their song at all 'cause I don't believe in love
Don't sell me on the sound of the sea or the pound of waves on the shore,
for my ears are deaf to the roar 'cause I don't believe in love
I've yet to feel the soft caress of a breeze upon my cheek,
the perfume of roses, or the lilacs at their peak
Please don't insist that a lover's kiss can be warm as the hot sun above
'cause I've been deceived, so I don't believe, no, I don't believe in love!

*This was sent to me by Ray Passman, a record producer, songwriter---co-lyricist w. Herb Wasserman on Sonny Rollins' St. Thomas, Haven't We Me. Also, he can be seen reminiscing about the biographical subject of Raymond DeFelitta's new documentary'Tis Autumn: The Seach for Jackie Paris.

"Don't Believe" was published in 1963, three years after Kenney's death in 1960 at age 28. I'm guessing, then, that the music might have been added posthumously. Kenney also wrote or co-wrote at least one other song that I'm aware of, I Hate Rock and Roll, which she is believed to have sung on a Steve Allen Show. Presumably under the influence of a circle of Greenwich Village writers with whom the singer associated, she also was a budding poet. Here's one effort, reprinted from Jonathan Schwartz' 11/92 GQ magazine profile of Kenney:

On Cesarean Birth

I curled my body small
in hiding
to escape the view
of those who sought to start the
of waters long since overdue.
And watched in horror
Cautious silver
part the roof of my Capri,
and heard the cry of anguished
The first of many wrought from

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Song AND thought for the day

My friend Steve Schalchlin's new song isn't meant to be an anti-religious anthem, but if I choose to "read" it that way, that's my business.

All wars are ultimately holy (i.e. religious) wars. So the logical conclusion would seem to be. . .get rid of organized religion (start by taxation of churches in the U.S.), et voila you eradicate war from the face of the planet. Simple as that!

Sure I'll miss all those glitzy high-Anglican outfits (the gold mitres, the silver censers, the jewels, the pearls, the clips, the beads, the gowns) down at Smokey Mary's. Still I think it's a fair tradeoff.

Keep your teleological opinions to yourself!

Look for an interesting post tomorrow re: jazz singer Beverly Kenney.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Soliloquy of a Mad Cat Sitter

SUNDAY: Panic!!! Panic!!! Panic!!! Panic!!! I can't find Frances!!! Where could she be? She's not anywhere to be found! Maybe Erma took her for the day. No! Out of the question. Not here, not there, not anywhere. Maybe Dinah and Baby ate her. Ugh! How horrible! I sure hope I locate that cat. It's been twenty minutes now & no Frances. Well, I'll try feeding the other cats. Maybe she'll reveal her hiding place. (ten minutes later) What's that? I hear Frances. Oh my god she's in the closet on the top shelf. Now how did she get there and how do I get her down? I'll try with my hands. OH! She scratched me. Why would she do that? I'm only trying to help her---stupid cat. I'll try putting a big pillow up there. No good. Oh watch out, that funny case is falling on me. Owww! IT FELL ON MY HEAD. This is extremely dangerous. Let me out of here! continued here

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Nobody asked, but. . .

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. . .here's my single best thrift shop-garage sale find ever: 800 mint jazz 78s, including many album sets by such as Charlie Parker and Lennie Tristano, and dating back to as far as the first Louis Armstrong-King Oliver.

I was driving down a block in the L.A. Melrose area about 15 years ago, and my eye was caught by the vision of all these discs spread out over an entire lawn. A few other traditional garage sale items were peppered throughout, the usual mainstays of such affairs, i.e., the dopey broken blender, Readers' Digest sets, and the inevitable fold out wine rack. A surreal sight if ever there was one. I slammed on my brakes, parked the car and approached the seller.

When I asked the price, I meant "per disc." The woman said, "Six dollars," but I quickly ascertained that she meant for ALL OF THEM, not for one. I scurried to haul them away, starting to hyperventilate as I ran back and forth throwing them into the rear of my old beatup VW bug before she changed her mind. In the process, I threw my back out. Subsequently, I missed three days of work. But I digress.

Treasures amongst the lot included a rare David Allen (Allyn) on the Atomic label; Maxine Sullivan with Teddy Wilson and Benny Carter; Bon Bon Tunnell w/ Jan Savitt; Cleo Brown ("The Stuff is Here and It's Mellow"), an obscure but interesting singer-pianist who ended up winning an NEA grant shortly before she died a while back; singer Teddy Grace (once obscure but not so much so anymore) and lots of others singers, including my own personal discovery in that collection, Laurel Watson. There were also a few Vogue Picture discs, and tons of Tommy Dorsey, and lots of Bob Crosby. All of the discs that weren't part of commercial sets were collected in plainwrap albums with the name of the artist or genre pasted on the side. Whoever originally owned this beautiful collection took loving care of the shellac. Not an unplayable disc in the bunch.

Here's what's in one of the "Modern" albums: a Cal Tjader Savoy, Earle Spencer Orch, "Five Guitars in Flight," w/ Barney Kessel, two Buddy Rich vocal singles, the Dizzy Gillespie Dial where he's billed as "Gabriel," Billie Rogers Orch on Musicraft, 2 x Dave Bartholomew 78s, and The Continental: "My Heart Sings." Now how did that get in there?

After I drove back to my house, I began to feel guilty. So I limped to my car and returned to the site of the sale to lay another fifty bucks or so (all I could afford) on the woman, but already she'd packed up her tent. I decided to leave well enough alone. I went back home and began transferring the lot to tape, the ones I didn't already have in other formats. Thus far, the tapes run to about forty hours. From Larry Adler to Lester Young.

After that score, I realized that I could never hope to top it, and so I began to lose my scouting urge. Today, I can even drive by a Goodwill without so much as a scintilla of an urge to go in and forage. Welll. . .almost.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Ain't MisbehavinG

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Dear L.: Glad you liked the Hutch track. If you dig him, you will probably also appreciate a British vocal duo of the 1920s and '30s, Layton and Johnstone. Ever heard them? Like Hutch, they were black expats to Britain (in the case of L&J, from the U.S.). The two teamed up in 1922 and probably never dreamed that their partnership would last nearly fifteen years; especially ex-Tammany Hall functionary-turned-chiropodist Johnstone. But when they were given the imprimatur of the Prince of Wales when he saw them in a musical revue, the team took off. They ended up recording over a thousand sides in England. Earned millions. Were reigning stars of the day in that country. Layton, co-author of "After You've Gone," "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans," etc, remained a beloved British entertainer until his death in 1978. Johnstone, on the other hand, was more or less run out of the country in 1936 shortly after it was revealed that he was involved in an affair with the wife of a prominent British violinist. He died in obscurity in 1953 as a bellhop in NYC. Director Robert Townsend told me one time that he was going to make a docu about them for the BBC, but I don't think he ever did.

Curious how L&J manage to clip the "G" from "Misbehaving" exactly half the time in this circa 1930 recording (mp3 link for a limited time only).

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Happy Birthday, Hutchie!

Today is the birthday of Leslie " Hutch " Hutchinson. He surely did play, as the the saying goes, "a lot of piano," and sang well, too. He also made love to a lot of well-born Mayfair hostesses who worshipped at his feet, or was it his fingers? I can recall that one of Hutch's most ardent, ahem, champions was that fun, snub-nosed, energetic little minx, Zena Taylor. She once told me that she was related to "Bosie" Douglas. Ha!

Along with several others in our set, Zena was a great chum of Willie Walton's. He was an habitue of her salon.

If Hutch were alive today, he would be 106, but I bet our preternaturally youthful birthday boy wouldn't look a day over ninety. Click here to hear Hutch (mp3 links for a limited time only).

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Post-Oscar Weigh-in

I thought the playing of music DURING the winners' acceptance speeches was the single dumbest thing I have ever seen in the entire history of the event. Even beyond Alan Carr's infamous stint as producer of the affair in '89.

Did this represent the first time in the totality of human history when music was played DURING a speech? Was the idea to strike the fear of the brevity god into the hearts of the winners, or to drown out the banality of most of the "journey"-ridden blurts in the first place? What could the ubiquitous they have been thinking? Whichever. . .I had to turn the sound down during ALL of the acceptances, so apoplectic did these speeches + music make me. Blood pressure, ya know.

I suppose I always thought that longtime Oscar producer Gil Cates must be a marginally intelligent human being for his ability to keep the trains running reasonably on-time during Oscarcasts. But if this was HIS idea, then he is an idiot of the first water. And if others overrode his veto of the background music, then he's a craven coward at best for not resigning on the spot. Like listening to the acceptance speeches whilst in a hotel loo with Muzak playing in the background.

It's a whole new world I tell you, with only dark, dark days ahead. Mercifully, the music didn't saw away during director Robert Altman's valedictory. Otherwise, I would've hurled the TV across the room. Was I viewing a world-class awards ceremony or riding in an elevator?

I kept half expecting some speaker to interrupt by saying, "Would you keep it down. I'm trying to think up here." Perhaps the winners for the redoubtable "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp" might have said, " Wot dat sheeet u whities b playin' while I'm up here representin' fo' MA sheeet?" But no such luck. In the immortal words of me: Gakkkk!

I thought my hero Jon Stewart was just okay (the Bjork-Cheney joke almost singlehandedly redeemed him), and what was the problem with Lauren Bacall? A bad Teleprompter or an ischemic stoke? Whatever the case, it's back to feature-length Tuesday Morning TV commercials for you, dearie.

Oh well, at least BBM, with its gift of false enlightenment for straights and (ultimately poisoned) crumbs tossed in the direction of gays, didn't win Best Picture.

Baroque Birthday Cogitation

Today is the birthday of bassist Bill Takas and of pianist Lou Levy, who just so happen to constitute the entire instrumental contingent of the "new" CD The Shadow of Your Smile: Pinky Winters Sings Johnny Mandel.

"New" because the tapes sat around in obscurity for more than twenty years before being rescued from oblivion. Alas, Levy and Takas are both now deceased, but the vocal star of the CD, Pinky Winters, not only contines to thrive, but is booked, to boot. This includes a three city gig in Japan (Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo) that will commence in that country on November 27th. Exact dates to be announced.

Hmmmm? I wonder what the chances are of the two lone two players on an entire album sharing the same natal date? While I ponder that singular statistical probability, you can listen to part of one of the two instrumental tracks by Levy and Takas on the album (mp3 link for a limited time only). By the way, pardon my funky sound card. The actual recording is absolute perfection.

PS: Today is the birthday of another excellent singer, Carol Sloane, and who also continues to be. . .booked!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Brokeback Bunnies

"Everything But the Oink" [old hillbilly saying] episode 10

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Recently recycled (EBTO) and blogified e-mails to friends:

Dear S: A little bit of background on Nancy Marano. Until she and Eddie Monteiro split up professionally about 13 years ago, their accordion-vocal duo was one of the hottest jazz acts in the U.S. and Europe. Their second CD was voted album of the year by at least one major U.S. jazz publication (I forget which) and they were praised extensively by the U.S. jazz critics Whitney Balliett (who profiled them in the New Yorker and compared them favorably to Joe Mooney), Billy Taylor and Terry Teachout, among others. Their third album guest-starred Gerry Mulligan, Roger Kellaway, and Claudio Roditi.

Last month Nancy was featured singing, and also playing piano duets, on Marion McPartland's "Piano Jazz" radio show. Marano's various solo albums have received lavish priase from Benny Carter, Johnny Mandel, Blossom Dearie, DaveFishberg, Matt Dennis, David Raksin and Dick Hyman, et al. Her 1999 KOCH JAZZ album,with the Netherland Metropole Orchestra, was arranged by Manny Albam.

Nancy's father was also a pianist---not a singer, though---and one of Frank Sinatra's first (the first?) accompanists, long before Harry James Years later, Mister Sinatra (as our mutual friend Ruriko always calls him) stopped in his tracks when he heard her singing and piano playing drifting out into the lobby at the Waldorf where she worked, and he lived (when on the east coast). Subsequently, Sinatra, Jilly Rizzo and Steve Lawrence spent a half-dozen hours listening to her singing over a two night period.

Sinatra then said, "I'm gonna do something for ya' kid." But the only thing that he ever DID was to invite her to sing at Jilly Rizzo's funeral. Which she did.

Her brief but intense relationship with Sinatra is hysterically funny, and I will tell you all about it the next time I see you. The first night ends with Sinatra trying to give Nancy his gun for protection on her midnight drive home to New Jersey; a trip she had made hundreds of times from her gig at the Waldorf. "NO! Mister Sinatra! I don't want or need your gun! But, thanks anyway."

This track (mp3 links for a limited time only) is from her newest CD, You're Nearer
Dear J: You ask me who I would I would like to like to have videos of? I only ask for the moon. I would kill a million times for a clip of Beverly Kenney. She did a Steve Allen Sunday night show. So it must exist. And it is said that she can be seen as one of the atmosphere personages on the Playboy TV series. Not singing, though.

I have tracked down the one known Lee Wiley TV appearance. It's supposedly in the Jack Paar archives. According to Paar's archivist, Jack kept everything that he was interested in or that had special meaning, and told NBC to dump the rest. Let's hope that the Wiley meant something to him. I gave the guy the exact date but couldn't get him to check.

I was working on adapting a Japanese NHK special on Wiley for American TV. Barbara Lea is on it. The penultimate scene and the finale of the special finds a Japanese singer going to the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame and, first, informing them that they have overlooked Lee Wiley, and then flash forward a few months later and she returns for Wiley's installation in the HOF. Nobuko Miyamoto, was an actress---the widow of Juzo Itami, the director of Tampopo---who, upon hearing Wiley sing for the first time, did a complete career turnabout. Japanese are kuru kuru pa (i.e.krazzzeeee!).

And, hey, howzabout any Dick and Kiz Harp footage? Doubtful. (I have a Johnny Hartman clip from a Loonis McGlohan TV special.) Irene Kral! Are there any clips of her? There must be. I saw Kral's next to last "live" (not to put too fine a point on it) performance and she was just wonderful.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


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Earlier today, I got an advance look at 'Tis Autumn - The Search for Jackie Paris, the new documentary about the great jazz singer. It was one of the most moving cinematic experiences I've had in quite some time. In anticipation of viewing the film, I first wrote about it here last October.

I was especially touched by footage of the last public performance of Jackie just before he died in 2004. In his late seventies at the time, he was never better. The film also contains a handful of rare archival footage of Jackie in action. . .just about all that there is.

Lest I over-indulge myself in my penchant for Handelian roulades of adjectival overkill, I would just like to say I totally agree with the rave accorded the film in Variety when it premiered at Sundance in Janaury. And let it go at that.

Until recently, it was hard for me to grasp that Jackie Paris was "famous" only with myself and a relative handful of other jazz vocal devotees aroound the world. After viewing 'Tis Autumn, that appears to be the case.

To paraphrase something I wrote here recently about singer Bill Black: on the slim offchance there might something resembling an afterlife, then Jackie Paris, finally getting his propers, must be having a ball right now. Doubtful though.

Prior to official release, 'Tis Autumn will be shown at several other major film festivals.

Mister Mystery

Though we were un-inundated with entries, not one person guessed yesterday's Mystery Singer. It was---drumroll--- click here for answer

Despite his. . .slender ouevre, one of my favorite singers.