Friday, January 29, 2010

Jane H. gets her propers

Check out this lovely review that my friend, singer Jane Harvey, just received from jazz crit Will Friedwald:

"When I first heard the original edition of Jane Harvey's THE OTHER SIDE OF SONDHEIM in 1988, it was one of the original things that got to me love Sondheim's music to begin with. Jane was the first to show that even the songs from FOLLIES, SWEENEY TODD, NIGHT MUSIC and his other mature masterpieces could actually swing in the same tradition as the great theater songs of Richard Rodgers or Jule Styne, and that even though the songs are seamlessly woven into the narrative fabric of these shows, that they can still stand on their own in highly intimate, jazz-inspired interpretations. The new edition of this album - one of my favorites of the last 25 years - adds songs, improves on mixes, offers a whole new vocal on "Send in the Clowns" and in general makes a good thing even better."

I couldn't agree more.

available at

Beverly Kenney natal salutations

Today is Beverly Kenney's birthday.

Friday, January 22, 2010

On March 10, 2010 at 7 pm, author Bill Reed will be reading from and signing copies of his new publication, Hot from Harlem, at Los Angeles' premier literary centre, Book Soup, 8818 Sunset BL W., West Hollywood, CA 90069 - 310 659 3110
From the early days of minstrelsy to Black Broadway, author Bill Reed's Hot from Harlem: Twelve African American Entertainers, 1890-1960, is the story of African American entertainment as seen through the eyes of some of its most famous as well as others of its practitioners. The book moves from the beginning of African American participation in show business up through the present age. Musician Will Marion Cook ("The master of all masters of our people" --- Duke Ellington) and showman Billy McClain are discovered in action at the very dawn of black parity in the entertainment field; six chapters later, the young Sammy Davis, Jr., breaks through the invisible ceiling that has kept those before him “in their place.” In between, the likes of Valaida Snow, Nora Holt, Billy Strayhorn, Hazel Scott, Dinah Washington, and others are found making contributions to the fight against racism both in and out of “the business.” Containing much heretofore previously unknown information --- including a chapter on the fabulous performing Whitman Sisters, written in cooperation with their family---Hot From Harlem turns the spotlight on this unjustly neglected aspect of U.S. entertainment history.

The final chapter, entitled "Subjects for Further Research," contains information about numerous once famous African-American stars of stage, screen, and recordings who have since fallen through the cracks of time.

About the Author

Bill Reed is a journalist and writer whose articles on show business, the arts and popular music have appeared in such publications as Rolling Stone, the San Francisco Examiner and International Documentary. In 1992 he curated two shows at the California Afro-American [now "African-American"] Museum: "Hollywood Days Harlem Nights," a history of Los Angeles' fabled Central Avenue, and "Midnight Ramble," an exhibit of poster art from black cast motion pictures. Reed wrote for the hit TV series One Day at a Time, and is also the co-author of Rock on Film (Putnam's). He is currently a record producer of jazz recordings for SSJ Records (Japan).

ISBN 978-0-7864-4467-0

20 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
271pp. softcover 2010

Will Marion Cook

                                                                   The Whitman Sisters

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jimmy Wyble R.I.P.

My good friend guitarist Jimmy Wyble died Saturday a.m. after a short run of bad health. He was 87. The above photo of Jimmy, with another friend, singer Kurt Reichenbach, was taken a couple of years back at the Great Day in L.A. jazz photo op at UCLA.

I met Jimmy a few ago when I was researching the SSJ Records (Japan) release of singer Carole Creveling's  1955 LP Here Comes C.C. My first act was to ring up one-off Creveling sideman Wyble, Surely, he could help me crack the case of the "phantom" singer's identity (I eventually did). But with a career stretching back over hundreds of studio sessions over more than half-a-century, Wyble could remember next-to-nothing. Only that---underscoring the oftentimes ironic aspect of selective memory---“She wore glasses, came to the recording session with her mother, and hailed originally---I think---from Louisiana.” (Oklahoma, actually, I found out later). Considering that much studio time had passed under the bridge since he worked with the singer in ‘55, it was an understandable long term memory lapse. After that, we became fast phone friends, and soon I met Jimmy in-person when he was playing afternoon gigs at a tea room in Pasadena, CA.

What an interesting man he was. What can you say about a musician who began his career with western swing icon Bob Wills in 1942 and, come 1959, could be found touring with Frank Sinatra? Along the way, he also worked with the vaunted likes of Benny Goodman and Red Norvo.

Sometime around the mid-1980s, his wife contracted muscular dystrophy and Jimmy entirely gave up his professional career to take care of her. But when she died around 2005, Jimmy came back with a vengeance and the L.A. musical community was all over him (in the immortal words of Raymond Chandler) "like a cheap suit." He began playing publically again, and teaching and touring (all the way to Argentina and back a few years ago).

In 2007, guitarist (and Wyble protege) Larry Koonse produced a CD of Wyble compositions (actually exercises from a famed guitar instruction book by Jimmy) entitled What's in the Box? Also heard on the CD, in addition to Koonse, are such musicians as (pere) Daved Koonse, Gary Foster, and Joe La Barbera. IMHO it was the album of the year, but I fear that it never received much mainstream attention.

The album's title came from a sparrow adopted and domesticated (!) after Jimmy and his wife, Lily, rescued the baby bird when it fell from it's nest. Writes Koonse in the liner notes for the CD: Chicken (the bird's name) "would sit on Jimmy's lap as he practiced the guitar looking inside to seemingly ask the question 'What's in the box?'" That story should give you some idea of just how sweet and gentle Jimmy was. I don't think I ever met a kinder, lovelier guy.

There are lots of interesting recent clips of Jimmy on Youtube playing and anecdotalizing. Here's one of them:

Here's the main link to the other clips.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

More Jane in Japan

The photo is of real singer Jane Harvey trying her hand, for the first time, at karaoke, with Japansese film and TV  actor Ken Teraizumi. At Again Karaoke Bar in Tokyo.

Here is a translation of the January Swing Journal (Japan) interview with Jane, translated by J. The interview and Jane's maiden karaoke venture took place last November during her visit to Japan to promote two recent Jane Harvey SSJ Records releases.

Jane Harvey (vocalist)

by Nobushige Takai

"I was deeply moved. . . .It was such a wonderful sound. . . I started dancing at the restaurant."

The legendary jazz singer Jane Harvey is releasing I've Been There on SSJ Records in December 2009 after her issue of Stephen Sondheim works, which came out in October 2009 (also from SSJ). The Sondheim CD, by Jane's request, finds the string orchestra of the first [1988] release eliminated; therefore, it is now heard in its original piano trio format. It makes its world premiere in this version in Japan. During her recent visit to this country, she heard the Sondheim album [in its new edition] for the first time.

"I was deeply moved. I was not able to listen to the music on my husband's pc, so we took the CD to the Apple store in the Ginza and listened to it. It was such a wonderful sound. We moved on to a resaurant after that. I started dancing at the restaurant."

The other album, I've Been There, features Ray Ellis as arranger-conductor. On the first day of the recording, Jane recalls, "It was a somewhat troubled session." Nevertheless her singing on this ballads album was eventually received very well. "Just like a saxophonist plays his sax, I sang long lines without taking breaths. It was very difficult."
"When this album was reissued, it was at the same time that Linda Ronstadt's first standards album came out. And Gary Giddins of the Village Voice wrote that my album was even better than Linda's."

The energy of the interview increased as Harvey began to recall her time with Benny Goodman:

"When I was singing at Cafe Society, John Hammond brought Benny Goodman in to hear me. Afterward, without any warning, Goodman said, ""I would like to have you sing with my band. Are you available for rehearsal tomorrow?"" ""Of course,"" I said. I wasn't with the band for a long period of time. One day there was some commotion over whether or not I would sing, "She's [He's] Funny That Way." Another time, when I had throat problems, the band used some other singer instead of me. Nevertheless, despite whatever happened, in my heart, the fact that I was with Benny Goodman is something of which I am very proud."

Harvey recalls that Goodman never demanded anything technically of her singing: "All he ever instructed me to do was," she said, " ""Keep up with the tempo."" I personally like to sing a bit more freely."

After that, she married four times, including Bob Thiele. Even today, she has a youthful and playful way about herself. She remains a fascinating woman. She stopped singing live eight years ago, yet, during this visit to Japan, she had a gig and showed no hint of fading.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Joyce Collins R.I.P.

The wonderful singer-pianist Joyce Collins died yesterday in North Hollywood, CA after a long illness. Here is a re-post of my entries about a fund-raising event for Joyce early last year. The cause of death was pulmonary fibrosis, the cause of which is quite often cigaratte smoking. Sadly and ironically, Joyce was a dedicated life-long non-smoker. No details for services or a memorial have yet to be announced.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008
A Night for Joycie

Here's a rundown of the musicians and singers who performed Monday night at the L.A. Jazz Bakery benefit for pianist-singer Joyce Collins. (The stalwart rhythm section throughout conisisted of Roy McCurdy, drums and Jim Hughart, bass.) Each featured performer did two numbers.

Singer-pianist Dave McKay; singer Marilyn Lovell Matz, widow of arranger Peter Matz; comedian Steve Landesberg; comic-singer-pianist Jack Riley; actor-singer Wilford Brimley; singer (and I might add "the legendary") Sue Raney; singer Effie Joy; singer-pianist Mike Melvoin; comedian Steve White; singer Bill Henderson!; singer-pianist-songwriter (and I might add "the great") Dave Frishberg; and. . .singer-trumpet man Jack Sheldon. Here's one Sheldon aside (of several) that brought down the house: "I'm dating a homeless woman now. That's great, 'cause after a date, I can just drop her off anywhere."

The night was produced by comedian-actor-etc. Howard Storm.

The evening lasted for almost three hours sans intermission, but I didn't feel my ass twitch even once (welllll, maybe once). High praise, indeed. More later!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Here (courtesy of James G.) in a video are three of the participants in last Monday night's L.A. benefit for singer-pianist Joyce Collins (Joyce Collins was there in spirit). She is seen here with two jazz greats: singer, Bill Henderson and singer-pianist Dave McKay. From 1981.

The entire 2008 benefit came off beautifully. I was really knocked out by Henderson and McKay, the latter who is a much under-rated singer in addition to his piano work. And Bill simply sounds---if at all possible---better than ever. YES. . .better than ever. At least half of the performers who were heard last Monday deserve Kennedy Center Honors. Or at least a postage stamp featuring their likeness. Also participating was Jack Sheldon who, at age 76, is playing trumpet at the peak of his powers and still singing wonderfully. And funneeeee! Just this side of OUT-OF-CONTROL. Singer Sue Raney, there too, sounds and LOOKS as great as ever.

Knowing what I know now, I'd have ponied up the fifty bucks to get in even if all the proceeds hadn't gone to Joyce Collins. Which they did! A night to remember.