Thursday, December 31, 2009


I couldn't have sung it any better myself: Chris Connor

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jane Harvey update

Has any singer ever covered such a diverse range of songwriter songbooks than my friend, Jane Harvey!? Take a look at her CDBaby page and you'll see what I mean, i.e. Jane sings Fats Waller. . .and Stephen Sondheim!

NOW AVAILABLE: Hot from Harlem: Twelve African American Entertainers, 1890–1960

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

All I want for Christmas is. . .

. . .The Phil Spector Chia Pet.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Stop the presses!

That perfectly reliable CD cyber seller, Dusty Groove, actually has not only Jane Harvey's SSJ Stephen Sondheim CD in stock (they are almost always out of stock on SSJ items) but also---get this!!---Jane's even newer SSJ CD, I've Been There, also currently available. The nice thing about Dusty Groove, in addition to being dependable, is that their prices on Japanese import SSJ discs (unlike most other sites) don't exactly neccessate mortgaging one's first born. High-ish but, in most cases, worth it! Here are the links:

And the ship must have arrived from around the cape, for they seem to have an unprecedented number of other SSJ titles in stock, including those by Jennie Smith, Kurt Reichenbach, David Allyn, Mal Fitch, Dick & Kiz Harp, Bev Kelly, Beverly Kenney, Leslie Lewis, Perry Como, Linda Merrill, Frankie Randall, Frances Lynne, Carol Fredette, Corky Shayne, Jackie Paris, Richie Kamuca, Carole Simpson and Carol Sloane. If you are interested in ordering any of these titles, better act fast. Based on Dusty Groove past history, most of these are unlikely to last out the day.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Japanese Jazz Opera


update: This "jazz opera" isn't meant to be serious. It is based on an ancient Japanese fable, The Peach Boy (Momotaro), and all the jazz bop standards included herein contain written or re-written lyrics pertaining to that story. Think Saturday Night Live. I just meant it was "hip" because it was so funny and silly due to its drawing upon source materials from such widely divergent centuries. This video came to me via Bill Holman to Tamori Taguchi to Yasuo Sangu. . .

Saturday, December 12, 2009

We wish you a KURO Christmas

note: "Kuro" = "black" in Japanese.
AND---natch---Kuro is the name of our black cat.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Full Circle


I've just finished reading the wonderful (I'm leaning toward unqualifiedly GREAT) Hound Dog, an autobio (of sorts) of Jewish-verging-on-black songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, written in conjunction with amanuensis David Ritz. And "of sorts" because of its rather Wild Palms-ish construction, with Jerry and Mike trading anecdotal "fives" in an only slightly sequential fashion. Not just a book for lovers of rock and roll and r n' b, but for fanciers of any kind of musique (and that includes concrète).

Much of the early part of Hound Dog deals with the duo's childhood exposure---and immediate love at first sound---to the music of Black America. More than a little ironically I, in turn, was introduced to these sounds by the early work of Jewish "crossover" artists Leiber and Stoller, an experience that I dealt with in MY autbio, Early Plastic. To whit:

"After my father died, my mother, sister and I moved into a Charleston WV housing project: Washington Manor (almost universally pronounced by those who lived there, "May-nor"), a place I remember most especially for its racial lunacy. The apartment windows where whites lived faced out on the black section and, conversely, windows in the black section exclusively looked out on the outside white world. In the five years that we lived there, I never saw a single black face except from my window. The idea was to reinforce racism. On me it had just the opposite effect. I became deeply wrapped up in the notion of the "other."
Making matters even stranger was the official management policy of immediate expulsion from the projects at the merest hint of racial fraternization. One night when I could countenance the madness no longer, I awoke at two in the morning, slipped out of my pajamas and into my jeans, climbed over the fence dividing the two halves and defiantly stood, quaking, in the black part of the projects for several minutes before scurrying back home. The next day I spent half-waiting for some sort of axe to fall over my furtive symbolic gesture, but nothing ever came of my somnambulist experiment in, quite literally, crossing the color line.

But there was an Edenic side of living in the projects: music from the black block parties right outside my window. Strange, new (to me) sounds---radically different from anything played on white radio in the south or near south up until that time--- blaring out of the loudspeakers so deafeningly it rattled the pictures on the walls. I sometimes think I must have been the first white person, except for the records' producers, to have ever heard the likes of these songs sung by the likes of the Big Mama Thornton, The Clovers and The Coasters, et al. I immediately became an aficionado of this new music from, if not exactly another planet, another world; to the extent that I began patronizing Race Records---actually called that---located in the black Ferguson Hotel. What a figure I must have cut in the early-to-mid 1950s; a not­ quite-teenaged white kid in a black record shop, earnings from his paper route clutched in his hand, humming songs to an accommodating African-American clerk who spun the various 45's and 78's until we found the one for which I was looking.

Before long I also stumbled on the 50,000 watt clear channel station out of Nashville, WLAC, featuring deejays Gene Nobles and John R. Enacted after-hours and away from parental scrutiny, auditing WLAC was so clandestine and forbidden, that it operated like a vicarious trial run for sex---something that few teens in the 50s had partaken. Not in my set, anyway. In between their pitches for mail order rhythm and blues packages from Randy's Record Shop in Gallatin, Tennessee and salacious paeans to the lubricating properties of White Rose Petroleum Jelly, this powerhouse outlet blanketed almost the entire country with the real deal in black music instead of the pale white simulacrum coming to be known as rock and roll. Years later I learned that the jockeys on "LAC" ("a service of the Tennessee Life and Casualty Company") weren't actually black, but only "sounded that way." And I wasn't the only who got misled. Legend has it that no less than the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown, showed up at the station late one summer evening with his first recording tucked under his arm hoping to get a break from men whom he had presumed for years were "Negro," until being led into the studio and learning otherwise. When the secret history of rock and roll is writ large, it will probably be made apparent that it wasn't really Dick Clark who turned on teenage America to black music, but instead, this seldom acknowledged radio phenomenon out of the heartland of America---WLAC.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

This Weekend in L.A.

DECEMBER 13, 2009
Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel
5855 W. Century Blvd.

The Los Angeles Jazz Institute is moving to a new location and throwing a big day-long jazz party to help raise the needed funds. The Institute is an important organization with the centerpiece being a huge jazz archive that includes 130,000 records, thousands of CDs, books, tapes, magazines, music, films and numerous musician collections. Moving all of this is a huge undertaking and will cost thousands of dollars.

Singers Pinky Winters and Kurt Reichenbach will be performing from 12:40 pm till 1:30 pm at this worthy benefit.There will be plenty of great music all day. In addition, 16 bands will be performing continuously on two stages. They include:

Bill Holman Band
Terry Gibbs
Carl Saunders Be Bop Big Band
The Cannonball/Coltrane Project
Tall and Small - Pete Christlieb/Linda Small
Steve Huffsteter Big Band
Gary Urwin Jazz Orchestra featuring Bill Watrous
Kim Richmond Concert Jazz Orchestra
Med Flory Big Band featuring Supersax
Fred Selden plays Art Pepper + 11
Ron King Big Band
Dave Pell
Florescope - Chuck Flores Octet
Gerry Gibbs Quartet
Bill Reichenbach
Dewey Erney/Ron Eschete
Frank Capp
Bob Summers
Ron Stout,
Scott Whitfield
and more...

There are two specific donation levels to attend this special event:
The $150 Platinum level includes priority seating
The $75 Gold Circle level provides open seating.
Both ticket levels provide full access to all venues.
The L.A. Jazz Institute is a non-profit organization and your donation is tax deductible.

To reserve your seats or make a donation please call (562)985-7065
For more details

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Annals of audioiana


Yesterday, I was a guest of my friends Hajime and Han at a meeting of the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society. While there, I began to relate the following audiophile fable to Hajime, but we were somehow interrupted, and so when I arrived back home, I sent him the following followup email. I reprint it here because IMHO it is not without its somewhat amusing overtones (after all, this IS alleged to be a blog of mirth and music).
Hajime san:

To make a long story short (which I seldom do), after I finished all the weeks and weeks of soldering my Eico stereo amplifier kit in high school in 1960---building amps from kits was all the rage that season--- I had all these parts left over. (I have trouble even reading an instruction manual for a ballpoint pen.) And so. . .

I plugged the amp into a long extension cord which I ran the length of the house. Thus, the amp was at one end of the house and I was at the far end. I crouched behind a couch and plugged it in. At the other end of the house, there was immediately a rumble, a flash of light, and a sort of explosion replete with acrid-smelling smoke. I waited a few minutes, then tentatively plugged in the turntable to the (80 watts) amp, hooked up the speakers and, by crackies, the damned thing worked absolutely perfectly. I threw all those extraneous diodes, transistors etc. away (fie!), and kept the amp for at least ten years, during all of which time it performed absolutely perfectly. (I'm not exactly certain that I know what the moral of this story is supposed to be [?].)

I finally abondoned it for one of those classic suitcase KLH Model 11's, perfect for my then-hippie lifestyle and which I used for at least a couple of decades.

Not that you asked, but. . .. Today, I have a Nikko amp and pre-amp (with mega-wattage), KLH model 24 speakers that I bought at a garage sale aeons ago for ten dollars apiece, and which I could very easily blow out with the Nikkos if I'm not careful, and a nice Technics turntable.

Well I guess I didn't EXACTLY make my long story short, but when I start writing OR talking it often takes me a while to get to the verb......

Here is a link to Eico amplifier kit info.

Thanks to you and Han again for a lovely afternnoon.

(Not exactly) Keigu,


Jennie Smith CD liner notes by Jennie herself!

SSJ Records (Japan) has just released, on CD, singer Jennie Smith's Canadian-American Records album from 1963. I had a lot of fun working on the reissue with Jennie, and, in fact, she even wrote the liner notes, included in the CD package in Japanese translation. I was very proud and happy that she took time out of her busy schedule to do this for SSJ. Here is her original English language text.

"I was born in a coal mining hollow in Burnwell, West Virginia in 1938. At an early age when my mother took me to movie musicals, I'd go right home and sing all the songs. Singing was what I wanted to do more than anything. My stepfather, John Kristof, was a newscaster at radio station WMON in Montgomery, WV. Eventually we moved from Montgomery to Charleston where my stepdad signed on with WCHS - doing news, weather, etc.

After graduating high school at age 17, I went to N.Y.C. Hugh McPherson (WCHS late night) put me in touch with the right person, Ray Ellis. I auditioned for RCA Records and got a contract. Steve Allen, who had an NBC Sunday night television show, heard one of the tracks on my album and invited me to do a guest shot on his show. This was my first national television performance.

I started working nightclubs around the country (with a chaperone, as I was under 21). My first nightclub date was at the Black Orchid in Chicago with Jonathan Winters, one of the funniest comedians ever. Later, I again worked the Black Orchid with a comedian who was doing his first nightclub performance - Bill Cosby. He talked a lot about a beautiful girl named Camille, that he wanted to marry. A few years later, Biil and I worked together again - this time at Harrah's in Lake Tahoe. By now, he had married Camille and they were expecting their first child. Bill had zoomed to stardom and I felt so lucky to be performing with him. I'm uncertain as to when it was, but for a few months I was a regular on Arthur Godfrey's radio show on CBS.

Steve Allen moved his telelvision show from N.Y. to Los Angeles, and was syndicated five nights a week. His show kept asking me out to L.A. to perform and finally he hired me to work on his show as a regular. I moved from New York to L.A. and this was one of the happiest periods of my life. It was exciting meeting all the stars that guested on the show, and the musicians on the show were absolutely top notch, a pleasure to work with. Sometimes the entire entire show worked other places around the country doing concert dates.

After being on Steve's show for about two years, I started doing more nightclub dates. I worked with Red Skelton at the Sands in Vegas, Joey Bishop at Harrahs in Tahoe, the Smothers Brothers at the Flamingo in Vegas, Mickey Rooney at the Fairmont in Vegas, then toured with Buddy Hackett. Pat Boone, his musicians and I toured in Japan. Also, around 1968, I was lucky enough to land the national Chevy TV and radio commericals on which Frankie Randall and I sang together. It was exciting and fun.

Eventually, however, traveling began to lose its excitement for me. I longed to be in one place with my friends and my little pet dog. I didn't work for nearly a year and finally decided to live a more stable life by getting a secretarial job.

I worked for General Reinsurance Corporation for 31 years (I retired about ten years ago). During the time I was at General Re I met my husband, Arthur Brown, and we've been together since 1978.

Steve Allen and I collaborated on two songs - I wrote the music and he did the lyrics. To this day I have jazz artists calling to ask for a lead sheet on one of the songs, "After You." I recorded both the tunes on an album for Dot Records.

A while back, I collaborated with a gifted lyricist, Ruth Feeley and the fabulous writer, Jack Segal, who's written some of the world's treasured songs like "When Sunny Gets Blue" and "Scarlet Ribbons." Nearly every top artist has recorded his material. The song we collaborated on is called "The Best of Love", on which I wrote the melody, and Frankie Laine recorded it."

--- Jennie Smith Brown - 2009

Here's a link to my Jennie Smith discography.
And a link to a Life Magazine article about Jennie.
AND a link to a 1968 "Frankie and Jennie" Chevy radio commercial.