Saturday, September 18, 2010

There's no business like. . .

(To appreciate the full import of the tale I am about to tell, it should be noted that the great Peggy Lee was an absolute stickler for choreographing every last physical move and facial expression of her "live" performances. . .all-the-while still retaining her crown as one of the hardest-swinging practitioners of the art of jazz singing.)

This youtube clip brings to mind an incident that guitarist Dennis Budimir recounted at the 2001 memorial service for jazz musician Lou Levy. (That's "Silver Fox" Levy in the clip with Peggy Lee.) During the mid-1960s, the latter was musical director and pianist for Lee, and Budimir was a member of the singer's band. This was really the high water mark of Lee's night club career. And although there was great musical respect between Levy and Lee, it seems that there was also a fair degree of aesthetic contentiousness between the two which, from time to time, could escalate into rather heated shouting matches. One time, in fact, the backstage verbal battle royale became so heated, according to Budimir, that here is what the audience at (I believe it happened at Basin Street East) witnessed as a result

Per usual, Levy and the musicians came on stage, took their places, and the announcer on the p.a. system intoned those immortal words, "Ladies and Gentlemen, MISS Peggy Lee," at which point the singer began to move into the spotlight from the wings.

The only problem was that, Budimir recalled, instead of playing the opening bars of her play-on music, "I Love Being Hearing With You," Levy was instead giving out with her play-off, final bows accompaniment. It was an act of extreme payback for the contretemps he'd just had with Lee.

Lee, according to Budimir, just stood there for a moment, unable to spontaneously react to this sudden unexpected change in the proceedings---stunned like the proverbial deer in the headlights. Next, the lights faded to black, dialogue between Lee and Levy could then be heard in the pitch black darkness. Albeit a few db's lower than a full bore argument. Then after a few seconds of silence, once again it was: "Ladies and Gentlemen, MISS Peggy Lee." And it was business as usual for the remainder of the evening, as if this amazing choregraphis interruptus had never happened.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Peggy is right up there with that very small circle of the greatest singers of all time. Thanks.