Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Birthday felicitations to. . .

. . .the terrific Chicago singer, Dick Noel. His 80th!

And even though it's not your birthday (is it?), here's a present to you from Dick: a track from his truly great 1985 album, A Time for Love. Which I am happy to report, SSJ Records of Japan will be re-releasing later this year as part of its One Shot Wonders series. Hard to believe that despite Noel's extensive industry experience (thousands of commercials, numerous 45s, part ownership of Fraternity Records, Don McNeil's Breakfast Club, Tennessee Ernie, etc.), this is Dick's only album.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Mrs. Parker

A reading by the woman who---in the spirit of concision, symmetry and social consciousness---bequeathed her entire estate to the NAACP and the ASPCA. (windows media player required)

Monday, May 28, 2007

I couldn't agree more

"The Hate Song" (Dion McGregor-Michael Barr) from Julius Monk's Dressed to the Nines.

Kurt at myspace

Monday, May 21, 2007

Chairman of the (Key)board

Page Cavanaugh and singer Pinky Winters (photo: David Ehrenstein)
by Bill Reed
One of show business's legendary talent managers was the late George "Bullets" Durgom, who, through the years, oversaw the careers of Jackie Gleason, Sammy Davis Jr., and Marilyn Monroe, to name but a few. “And,” says 85-year-old, seemingly unstoppable singer-pianist Page Cavanaugh, “I got Bullets at the front end. He took on my trio in ‘45 and did fine by us.”continued here

Sunday, May 20, 2007

PROLOGUE to my 2000 memoir, "Early Plastic"

Recent years have seen the publication of a wide variety of memoirs in the form of everything from self-help manuals to 12-step recovery sagas; standard show biz bios like Lauren Bacall's, to the writings of disgruntled ex-mates of the rich and famous, etc. Early Plastic isn't like any of these. I have no "raised consciousness" axe to grind and there is not one ounce of self-pity or trendy disfunctionalese contained herein; still, if the odds stacked against me in childhood had toppled over, you could have heard the crash from here to Zaire. I lost my father when I was four, my mother had a serious drinking problem, I was sadistically beaten up by a grown family member on a fairly regular basis, and I could barely pass a test in school. I was poor and for the better part of my life have managed to stay that way. (Ah! la vie de la Boheme.)

Before biting the reaility bullet in my mid-thirties my life was out of control; I was even reduced to sleeping in my car on occasion. But with the exception of a couple of bad drug episodes, I have pretty much remained my usual sunny self---Candide incarnate. As to why I sat down to write this book? There's no simple answer. My life hasn't been all that exceptional, but it's been far from ordinary. The thing that did occur to me as I began trying to put the pieces of it together on paper is that, either by accident or design of the fates, I've been witness to some of the most interesting social phenomena of the last half-century: particularly the 1950s, growing up, and the 1960s, during which I reached adulthood. One reason increasing numbers are writing and reading memoirs nowadays is because the official histories of certain periods and events are so inadequate and misleading. I find this especially true of the Fifties and Sixties in which fads, fashions and important social movements tend to be collapsed into one another to form a kind of nostalgic stew. As if liking the Beatles and opposing the war inVietnam were exactly the same thing. The end of the so-called "Summer of Love" and the rise of Charles Manson were not as radically opposed to one another as some of us might have been led to believe. I was there from beginning to end, and the Sixties weren't the way they've usually been represented in print up to now. It was much less I romantic, far scarier and not nearly as ingenuous as some are prone to remember it.

Nearly three decades ago an urban morality fable appeared in the New York Times about a woman awaiting her turn on free appraisal day at Sotheby's. Ahead of her stood dozens of others also queued up and clutching the requisite mooseheads, kitschy paintings and antique snuff cans, etc. from grandma's attic. Unlike most of the others' wouldbe treasures, however, hers was a small one in the form of an unassuming piece of jewelry. Upon reaching the front of the line which stretched out the door and part of the way down New York's Fifth Avenue-she proffered the item to the auction house official seated at the table in front of her. He examined it for a second or two, then gasped: "But madame, this is plastic!"

Without missing so much as a beat (and as if any further proof were needed that hope does indeed spring eternal in the human breast) the undaunted woman immediately, ingenuously, and hopefully replied:

"Early plastic?"

I know the feeling.


Page Walk-of-Fame campaign

Saturday, May 19, 2007


Dear Ted:
I got my copy of Idiocracy for five bucks plus post on ebay. It's also available on for three times as much. David E. and I just finished watching it and both of us loved it (me a bit more than him). Firesign Theater, Brazil, Wizard of Oz (i.e. innocence abroad) , and at least a half-dozen other fairly obvious antecedents (Orwell, etc.) all smooshed together. The final result is a film wayyyy too hip for the house. The paradox of a smart film full of dumb (i.e. fart, etc.) jokes. Must've caused the brains of the teenybopper test audiences to explode.
After you brought it to my attention, I asked a number of the most informed cinephiles of my acquaintance, including a member of the board of directors of the Saturn (Sci-Fi) Awards, a Mike Judge fan, AND David, whose job it is to stay up-to-date on such matters. And none had heard of it. Really a first in my set, in which I am ususally the last to know, but in this instance the first. The special effects of a futuristic Costco was a most amazing thing. Finally. . . a reason for CGI.
BTW: A far cry from the movie we watched last night, a very serious and sad Japanese film about Alzheimer's, Memories of Tomorrow, starring the wonderful Ken Watanabe. In the world of Idiocracy, Alzheimers is most likely rampant but, paradoxically, no longer a problem.
Thanks for the heads up on Idiocracy.



Friday, May 18, 2007

Flash! Ex-clu-sive!

I've just learned how the final season of The Sopranos ends. Or should I say begins? (I have my sauces, I mean sources.)

For, in the final episode of the series, Tony, Carmela and Uncle Junior go into the Federal Witness Protection Program, move to Phoenix, learn to scuffle, and begin life all over as. . .The Bevelaquas, which also just happens to be the name of the new half-hour sitcom that The Sopranos evolves into.

A running gag in the new series finds "Phil" (i.e. Tony) constantly forgetting to call Carm by her new name, "Briana." Each time Tony, I mean Phil, slips up, it's signalled by a long Boingggggg! heard on the soundtrack and then an inevitable close-up of a pointedly miffed Carm---Boingggggg!----I mean Briana.

Much of the humor in the new series involves situations that arise out of the now totally gaga Uncle Junior (called "Uncle Mike" here) wandering off and getting into scrapes at Early Bird Specials and church Bingo parlours, with Carm and Tony (oops) Briana and Phil finding him just in the nick time before he blows the whistle on their new identities. Uncle "Mike's" new love interest is played by Charlotte Rae, best remembered as the house mother in the series, Who's Your Sister?

The FBI agent saddled with keeping things on track is played by Leslie Jordan. You'll probably remember him from Will and Grace as Beverly Leslie and the movie Sordid Lives as Tammy Wynette. Somewhat ironically, his character's name IS Tony, which results in further hilarity, i.e., "I wasn't talking to you!"

A occasional parallel storyline finds TJ (Justin Timberlake) and Meadow (Ashley Simpson) and those few other survivors of the old series still back east attempting to figure out what's happened to Tony and Carm. An especially hilarious entry in the series finds the kids believing that their folks have been abducted by aliens. What follows is a hilarious fantasy sequence reminiscent of the old TV series Mr. T and Tina, in which we find Tony and Carm-----Boingggg!---I mean Phil and Briana, outfitted with antennae and bug eyes, acting out a scene from The Sopranos as it might be done on Mars: "Take me to your godfather."

The Bevelaquas will not be seen on HBO, though they had first refusal rights, but on NBC. In the new series, the roles of Tony and Carm/Phil and Briana (Gandolfini and Falco passed on reprising their roles) will be played by Dom DeLouise and Cloris Leachman.

The Bevelaquas will air Wednesday nights right after the new sitcom, Captain Ahab: "Two distant cousins---a naive Southern girl (Tori Spelling) and a streetwise Vegas showgirl (Parker Posey) inherit their uncle's New York townhouse, a lot of money, and Capt. Ahab, a ninety-year-old talking parrot. To keep the money, the two cousins have to live together and care for the smart-mouth parrot (the voice of Michael Richards)."

Not since The Ugilies!

Hope I don't get whacked for disclosing this. Bada-Bing!

Barbara Lea on SSJ Records

The last, but not least, SSJ June release is facsimile reissue of Barbara Lea's 1955 10" Riverside LP, A Woman in Love. What's that you say, you already have a copy? Not like this one! For the SSJ reissue will come with two bonus tracks of Barbara's second from the beginning (1954) recording:

Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home (Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer) Cadillac 78: 149 b/w I'll Bet You A Kiss (Ben Jaffe, Lou Shelly) Cadillac 78: 149

I've just now listened to the transfers from 78 rpm, and they sound terrific.

Here's a clip on of Barbara Lea coaching Japanese singer Nobuko Miyamoto from the Japanese documentary about the latter's "search" for her Lee Wiley.

SSJ Records

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Another new SSJ release - due in June

The Fabulous Claude Williamson Trio. This is Williamson's Sinatra salute that only appeared briefly in the early sixties before the label it was released on, Contract Records, folded almost as quickly as it started up. I'm grateful for all the help that singer Johnny Holiday has given me on this. There's a nice write-up about the CD and a pre-order page at To wit:
"Claude was a great little piano player back in the day -- an important, but lesser-known, part of the LA scene of the 50s and 60s -- with a rare few albums to his name! We've only recently begun to appreciate Claude's style on the keys -- a fluid blend of a number of different popular styles, done with a swinging and light touch -- all of which you'll hear very nicely on this obscure trio session from 1961. The rhythm section includes the great Chuck Flores on drums, plus bass by Duke Morgan [Jaye P's bro]-- and titles include "Nancy", "Anything Goes", "Witchcraft", "A Foggy Day", "The Lady Is A Tramp", and "They Can't Take That Away From Me".
Tomorrow: A Woman in Love - Barbara Lea

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cellphone-a-holics Anonymous

I stopped drinking on 12/15 after a very scary vertical blackout in Tokyo. But I have been thinking, as of late, about hitting the bottle again. Tonight, I started for the liquor store, but came back home and found an AA meeting on the net. My first ever. Went there---in realtime---instead. Talk about changing horses mid-stream! But what happened at the meeting just seemed like the ultimate bad joke.

All the way through various sharings, a woman continued to text message with her Blackberry (i.e. cell phone) which kept going off and loudly beeping at intervals of (I swear) every couple of minutes or so. Clearly these calls and/or messages were not of an emergency nature. It did not seem to bother anyone else, I must confess. After all it is L.A. But it drove me from the meeting at the midway point. Even worse than that "higher power" nonsense.

Maybe the others' seeming indifference was just an extreme example of well-known AA tolerance. But it's doubtful I could ever get used to it. It's a miracle I didn't stop for a bottle on the way home. Not funny, but true.

I suppose that it's a new world out there. Still it strikes me that the line has to be drawn SOMEWHERE. It would seem that there should be an overall AA policy against what I consider this extreme form of rudeness. A mad scientist could not have devised a more efficient way of alienating me from AA. . .right out of the starting gate.

Maybe the woman should be in a support group for cell phone addicts instead.

All of which reminds me of one of my all-time favorite jokes.

L.A. comic #1: I'm sorry I can't have lunch with you tomorrow. I have an AA meeting.

L.A. comic #2: But you're not an alcoholic.

L.A. comic #1: I know, but I need the floor time.


More new SSJ releases

Dick Haymes -- Oh, Look At Me Now! A freshly remastered version of Haymes' fine post-Capitol LP. Recorded shortly thereafter in 1958, this was independently financed and produced by Haymes himself. At first, he had his sights set on major label release, but finally could only find a taker in a small West Coast budget-priced outfit. Due to its initial low profile release, the fine recording never did receive the kind of attention it deserved. This first-rate reissue might help remedy that situation.

Here is the section in the new and noteworthy bio on Haymes, by Ruth Prigozy, detailing the events surrounding the making of the recording.

"In 1956, Dick Haymes was back in New York City, where he teamed with Cy Coleman (who would become famous for the scores of such Broadway musicals as Sweet Charity and City of Angels) and his trio of drums, bass, and bongo drums, with Coleman on the piano. They opened at the Versailles club, and Gene Knight, in the New York Journal American, described it as a "highlight of the winter season"; Dick "delivered like the real pro he is. . . . Very good was the way Haymes sang 'Two Different Worlds: 'Our Love Is Here to Stay' and 'Rain or Shine: When Dick whispers these songs, there's no sweeter voice in the supper clubs. And when he hits the high notes, they're round, full and on pitch. . . . [H]ere is a real good singer. Best. I think, was his 'Hollywood Love: the words of which had a special meaning for Dick and those who know his colorful career." His appearance at the Versailles was greeted by sustained applause, a clear indication that he was on the road back.

Cy Coleman liked Dick and remembered that they were good friends. He believed that Dick had the best range of any singer; and in the remarkable "On a Slow Boat to China," where Dick takes a bass low note at the very end, Coleman remembered that it was Dick's idea---increasing the jazz effect on the recording. Coleman believed that Haymes just adapted to his jazz trio and could do jazz singing as well as any of his contemporaries. Dick asked Coleman to record with him; and, as with [Ian] Bernard, he was sober during the sessions, even though he was drinking heavily during this period. Their recordings, which included several numbers with Maury Laws's orchestra, are distinctive in that the tempo is much faster than in Haymes's standard recordings, and he reveals how skilled he is as a jazz singer. Unfortunately, these recordings came at a time in his career when it was difficult to re-establish his persona in popular music, as Sinatra had done some years earlier; although, in a recording he would make a few years later, he would again demonstrate the same skill with a jazz beat."

Tomorrow: Claude Williamson

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Be on the lookout. . .

As much as I like Late Night With David Letterman---which is a whole bunch---if I learned that deli owner Rupert Jee had been unceremoniously dumped from the "family" (as seemingly as co-regular "Stephanie Brickett" has also been), I could probably never watch the show with as much pleasure ever again. There's been nary hide nor hair seen of him in the past couple of months.

I've always felt that Rupert was---as the great Frank Tashlin once described Tony Randall---"a comedy machine." Nearly every movement of Rupert's body, almost every facial expression and utterance had me spitting out my liver with laughter. The ultimate in being funny without even seeming to try. Ever so much funnier than the overdone, and now long gone and unlamented Late Show Bear (my least favorite Letterman bit everrrrr).

It's as if a bomb went off and destroyed nearly everyone who dwelt in "Allen's Alley" (vide Fred Allen). Or a fictional bus took the entire population of a soap opera town and drove them off a cliff, which IS actually what happened one time on a certain daytime soaper that was dropping in the ratings.


Kurt Reichenbach alert


Page Cavanaugh alert


SSJ Records

Bev Kelly "Live at the Jazz Safari." Another new SSJ Records (Japan)

On this this previously un-issued seventies date by singer Bev Kelly, she is backed by the wonderful likes of Al Williams, Dwight Dickerson, Leroy Vinnegar and others. It's been a -- what else can I say? --total blast, in the capacity of "release producer," working with Bev on the forthcoming issue of this terrific session.

Perched atop a rapidly escalating career in the early 1960s, nonetheless Kelly could espie the wave of rock and roll fast approaching to eventually wash away almost everything non-big beat in its path. Thus, she had the good sense to get a "day job." Make that "Dr. Bev Kelly, PHD," for she attended university, received her degree and has been practicing as a psychologist ever since. But she has continued to sing, notably on her 2002 CD Portrait of Nine Dreams. And, as she explains in the liner notes for her "new" CD:

"I started working with [drummer] Al Williams and his quintet in 1976. We often had conversations about how we would love to have jazz clubs of our own. In late 1977, an opportunity was presented to Al to fulfill his longtime dream, and the Jazz Safari was conceived."

Bev made a financial investment in the operation, began working there when it opened, and in the Spring of '79 cut an album at the Safari. Some of the tracks are: "Lonesome Road," "New York State of Mind," "Drinking Again," "Bein' Green," and "Alice in Wonderland." Until now, however, the results of those two nights of recording have gone unreleased. Now, nearly three decades later, this fine recording is finally seeing the light of day on SSJ Records (to be released July 2007).

Tomorrow: Dick Haymes: Look at Me Now!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Man bites dog. . .so to speak

And to think. . .I didn't even know about the new CD by the wonderful opera baritone Thomas Quasthoff until a couple of hours ago and already I have an instant opinion! After reading about it on the net, I downloaded his "The Jazz Album" from Napster.

It's odd that there has been so little Lady-Highbrow-lets-down-her-hair type of publicity about this recent album, especially taking into account Grammy-winning Quasthoff's popularity. When opera star Eileen Farrell effected a similar stylistic turnabout a near-half-century ago---in the "before time"---it was practically front page news.

I have some minor quibbles after an initial listening. A couple of the songs are questionable choices, i.e, "There's a Boat. . .," "Ac-cent-Tchu-ate. . .." And occasionally the German Quasthoff's pronunciation of English verges on the daft. But what a joy it is to hear an entire program of Great American Songbook entries rendered entirely devoid of intonation problems. Plus, he assiduously avoids even a hint of creeping Jim Nabors-Robert Gouletisms. Not too butch, not too femme, but just right! And, mercifully, he doesn't scat even once on the album, though he does in the youtube clip promoting it.

Some will phyrrically argue ad infinitum as to whether this is a jazz album or not, But I can only pre-emptively observe that with the participation throughout of arranger-trumpeter Till Bronner and pianist Alan Broadbent et al, it sure ain't polka. And he sure do swing. I think this is a terrific album.

My Day "Job"

I've been almost entirely neglectful about posting here in recent days.The distraction has come about as a result of the work I do for the Japanese label, SSJ Records. Helping to release what amounts to only a couple of CDs a month doesn't seem like a lot of work, but -- trust me -- it is! And it's not only these releases I've been working on, but issues well into 2008. However, we've just about put the July releases to bed and so... now it can be told. Especially since word about the quintet of issues is already all over the place in cyber commerce-land. The brains behind the outfit is SSJ's owner, Mister Yasuo Sangu, formerly of the Concord Fujitsu Jazz Festival. I am but a mere minion. (beat) Over the next few days I'll write about what SSJ has coming out next:
Frances Lynne -- Remember. This is a fairly recent, and for all intents and purposes, previously-unreleased recording by Gene Krupa's last (1950) "girl singer." The album is produced and arranged by Mike Abene and spotlights the playing of such as the late Johnny Coles, Herbie Steward, John Handy, and Lynne's husband John Coppola. I was introduced to the Coppolas (AND this recording) when I was doing research on my SSJ release of Krupa singer, Bill Black.
Frances Lynne holds the dubious distinction of being the last female singer in the great Krupa band, which she joined for the last few months of its existence in 1949-50 season. Lynne was quite young at the time, but already was a seasoned professional having begun singing at age six on the radio in her hometown of Austin, Texas. She recalls, "My mentors wanted me to go in the direction of Deanna Durbin. I had this 'beautiful' voice that was very high and sweet. But then I fell in love with popular music and jazz."
During WWII Lynne was a vocalist in 156th Army Band, and also toured with the USO. Arriving in San Francisco, California in 1946 after the war, her first serious affiliation was with a small group, The Three D's," whose pianist was none other than Dave Brubeck. Their musical "home" was the now-legendary Geary Cellar in SF. When Paul Desmond joined the group, it became even more popular. "We worked jobs all up and down the peninsula," says Lynne. Next stop for the singer was the Charlie Barnet band. Following that, Lynne went with Jerry Wald and then, finally, Krupa, where she sang alongside Bill Black, whose Down in the Depths was one of SSJ's first releases, in 2005.
It was in the late 40s that Lynne met her husband, trumpet star with Woody Herman, John Coppola. They married in 1952. After that, she began to wind down her music career, although she still continued to work occasionally, including singing with Alvino Rey's orchestra. But homelife and marriage finally took precedence over music and Lynne more or less retired.
But in the early 90s, Lynne felt she still had more songs to sing (such as th rarified likes of "The Touch of Your Hand," "Blue Prelude," and "Can I Forget You?"). And with the terrific Mike Abene arranging and producing, and a band of who's-who musicians behind her, including John Coppola, Herb Steward, John Handy, and Johnny Coles, Lynne recorded Remember, the liner notes for which were co-written by her band mate of nearly fifty years earlier, Dave Brubeck. Remember had only very limited distribution. It is a testament to the vision (and ears) of Sangu San, that this is finally being released to gain the wider exposure it so clearly deserves. He heard the recording initially when I played a couple of tracks from it at a meeting of the Tokyo Vocal Jazz Appreciation Society last December. His first words to me when I had finished my presentation were: "I want to release that." A far cry from the apathy shown by U.S. labels when they were approached to issue the album in the early 1990s.
Tomorrow: Bev Kelly: Live at the Jazz Safari

Friday, May 11, 2007

Happy Birthday. . .Man!

Today is the birthday (b. 1929) of leader-trumpet player-arranger John Coppola. John has been such a pleasure to work on the release of he and wife Frances Lynne's CD Remember that will be issued by SSJ Records (Japan) in July.
A former Woody Herman trumpet star, John has remained consistently active up to the present as a leader, arranger and player in the San Francisco area (and elsewhere).
At least several hours' worth of phone calls with Frances, but mostly John, have gone into the June release of their terrific album. Discussions about cover art, liner notes, etc. And in the process John has kept me up to date on his ongoing professional activities; one day a Chinese funeral, the next working with a local big band, conventions, etc.
I always love when he calls me, "Man," because it's really coming from the lips of the first generation of those who took up that interjection as a regular part of their ongoing daily vocabulary. No one says, "Hey, man!" (OR plays the trumpet) quite like John Coppola. What a nice guy! Happy birthday, John!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A more-than-worthy "cause"

I am strapped to think of anyone more deserving of receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame than Page Cavanaugh. (Certainly NOT Donald Trump, he of the earthquake-proof comb-over.) Fortunately, this oversight is now in the process of being rectified, as can seen at the following website.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Dr Chilledair and The Case of the Phantom Singer

In recent months, fifties jazz singer Carole Creveling has become an obsession for me; a “Rosebud“; a conundrum wrapped in a riddle. A post-bop Dark Lady of the Sonnets, if you will. (See my previous on-the-track-of CC picture post.) Let me explain.
In December 2006 I gave a talk before the Tokyo Vocal Jazz Appreciation Society dealing with the subject of (for the most part) perfectly fine U.S. jazz and jazz-oriented singers who cut one album (circa 1955-1965) and then more-or-less fell through the cracks of phonographic history never to be heard from again. The complicating factor being, of course, the tsunami of rock and roll that, beginning in the mid-1950s, roared across the landscape of popular music sweeping away almost everything non-rock in its path. The “victims” included some 265 (and still counting) singers that I have thus far isolated on my master list of “One Shot Wonders,” the title---by the way---of my TVJAS presentation. (And thanks to Mister Frederick Stack of Boston, Mass.)
If my list were not strictly alphabetical, there’s no question that Carole Creveling would be at the very top. If not by dint of talent (although she’s quite good), then by virtue of the relatively large sums of money that her lone LP, Here Comes Carole Creveling!, from 1956, have fetched in recent times on the collectors’ market. Even for copies that appear as though they might have been run over by a Mack truck and then left out in the sun all day for thermal reconfiguration. The album jacket bore the legend “Volume One,” implying that a sequel was forthcoming. But there was never, to the best of my knowledge, a volume two. If there was, I'd love to have a copy, not only for its intrinsic musical value, but also for the nice addition to my retirement fund its eventual sale would unquestionably provide.
Even if Carole Creveling but dipped her toe in the waters of show biz (did she ever appear “live” anywhere?), decided that it wasn't for her after all, got married, moved to the midwest and taught high school music for the rest of her professional life?, still I am interested in her story. It can’t help but shed a bit more light on the subject of the jazz life of the late fifties and early sixties.
Carole Creveling would at least be in her mid-seventies today. I hope I can find her. Talk about falling below radar!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Dr Chilledair Comes Calling. . .

. . .on the home of jazz singer Carole Creveling.