Friday, February 28, 2014

Miles to go. . .

This coming Sunday marks the 55th anniversary of the first session for the largest selling jazz album of all time, Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. Which kinda got me to thinking about the few times my path crossed his.

One time was when I was hanging with Jean (Great Day in Harlem) Bach of a Sunday afternoon back in the before-time when Davis was at the Vanguard on a double bill with Blossom. (If you have to ask "Blossom, who,?" then you really don't belong here.) Unlike his public rep which depicted him as being quite the grouch, he was amiable and chatty when he sat down at the table with us. Even when some nitwit came up, intruded and told Miles he thought it would be a great idea for him to cut an album called "Live at Carnegie Hall," when, in fact, he had released just such an album the week before, not even then did Davis lose it.

Another encounter with Davis is contained in my memoir, Early Plastic. This, too, occurred at the Vanguard. To whit:

"It's not just the bitchy world of opera that has its divas: Shortly after we met, I went to see jazz pianist Cecil Taylor opening night of an engagement at the popular and long-running Village Vanguard. In the middle of his first set, who should walk in---looking very unlike his late period Electoid From Planet Ten self---but a natty, dapper and Saville Rowed Miles Davis. All eyes left Cecil on stage and turned to focus as Miles and his still somewhat socially taboo, blonde date as the two made their way to one of the club's postage stamp-size tables. They sat down in front of the bandstand, downed one drink apiece, stayed for all of five minutes, then---when Miles gave the signal---split. I was there again the next night when, at nearly the same time, Davis came in once more, this time with a different, but equally stunning Aryan number, and proceeded to do exactly the same thing: five minutes, and gone! Cecil later told me that this jazz equivalent of a head-on clash between Godzilla and Rodan took place for several more nights running. Davis' rancor probably stemmed from feeling Cecil's improperly uncloseted homosexuality, unlike his own more discreet gay ways (including a rather torrid affair with a North American reggae singer), reflected badly on the macho image of jazz. Or. . .maybe he just hated Cecil's off the charts AND walls musicality."

Miles and Me Three:

So there I am seated in the customs waiting room at Kennedy after a flight back from Paris waiting for customs to open and WHO should be seated next to me but my old buddy Miles (who couldn't remember me from Adam Who). He, natch, had flown first class and I, steerage. But customs lounges can oft be quite the democratic leverlers. And I just happened to be carrying a copy of a Buddy Bolden bio (if you have to ask who Buddy Bolden is, then. . .oh, never mind). "Well," I thought to myself, "if THIS isn't THE conversation starter of all time." And so I sez something along the lines of:

ME: Can you believe this? Here I am seated next to Miles Davis and have in my hands a biography of  Buddy Bolden.

MILES: Who's that?

The autodidact in me rears its ugly head and propounds. . .

ME: Well, not only was he the very first jazz trumpet player but is often considered to be the inventor of jazz itself.

MILES: Never heard of him.

ME: I just finished reading it when we landed. Let me give it to you.

He thanked me and graciously accepted my lagniape. But if you think for one minute that I ever honestly believed he had never heard of Buddy Bolden, then. . .. It's not for nothing that Miles Davis was the single biggest stockholder in New Jersey Light and Power!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Beast of Drchilledair

Today is the birthday of the late, great jazz cellist Fred Katz. See here.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Brushes with Greatness

Today is film producer/songwriter Saul Chaplin's 102nd birthday. Some time ago, I was a runner between une certaine soundtrack composer and Chaplin's respective domiciles. The latter would always make me wait outside while he fetched the package for the former. Sometimes it took him ten or fifteen minutes. One day it was unbearably hot in Beverly Hills and I discreetly asked if I might wait in the air-cooled hallway, instead. To underscore my trustworthiness, I added that I was actually a personal friend of the film guy. "I know that, but I don't care who you are. You'll still wait outside," he growled. Guess he was afraid I'd rip off his Oscars. I also know of at least two songs that he claims to have co-written, but didn't. Bought them outright for a few shekels (that's Italian) from a couple of hard-up songwriters. A common enough practice back in the before-time; however, in the final analysis, the world is probably a .  .  .oh, never mind.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Thought for the Day

"Always be nice to the producer; if you aren't, the next day he could be the gate guard and not let you in." Lash LaRue - - -1984

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Republished from 2005

Last night at the Motion Picture Academy in LaLaWood, a centenary salute to songwriter Harold Arlen, hosted by Michael Feinstein. If you'd dropped a bomb on the place---heaven forefend---you'd have wiped out half of what's left of Old Hollywood. Competing with the opening of Attack of the Blinth, thus not a single teenage boy was in evidence (not even a budding show music queen), but still there was a nearly full house. Among those in attendance, spotted during the pre-show buffet: Betty Garrett, and all in the same "shot": Mitzi Gaynor, June Foray AND---beeeestillmyheart---Cyd Charisse, the latter looking not a day over half her real age. She must realllly work out. Songwriter Ray Evans. Patricia Morison, famous for exactly ONE THING. But what a thing! Kiss Me Kate, yet. Also one-half of the songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller. I aluz get them confuzed (which one almost went down on the Andrea-Doria?). "Who's that actress in pink?," my neighbor at table asked me. "Why, that's Miss Marsha Hunt," I knowledgeably replied. Marsha was chatting up my old friend Fayard Nicholas. Ninety and still dancing. At least with his hands. As for the program itself. Like dying and going to Film Clip Heaven. Clips from Wizard of Oz, Country Girl (featured performer Jacqueline Fontaine shoulda won the Oscar. who she?), (that old nyc channel nine mdm standby) Casbah, Stormy Weather, I Love to Singa, Summer Stock, At the Circus ("Lydia"), Cabin in the Sky, Bugsy, Star Spangled Rhythm, Sky's the Limit, Here Come the Waves, Star is Born and...well, you get the picture. Also home movies of Arlen, the Gershwins, Dorothy Fields, Levant et al on Roxbury Drive. Songwriter Alan Bergman sang the original Johnny Mercer lyrics to "The Man That Got Away." Feinstein also warbled, to no noticeable effect, BUT was a terrific emcee; quoted someone as once saying, "Harold Arlen sings like his fly is open." Lyricist Martin Charnin talking on videotape, Jet-Blued in, about his, ultimately, mostly fruitless six years of collaborating with Arlen. Libretto problems on their aborted show Softly ("You have an emergency 'book' meeting the costume designer.") Also Charnin had a great bit about Arlen's cantor father trying out his son's melodies on his congregation. There, too, Tony Martin---husband of Cyd Charisse and a somewhat talented gent himself---who's 93 and still has the speaking voice of a young man. Judging from the rave reviews he still receives, his singing voice is also in fine fettle. I guess the Tony Martins must have a couple of proverbial portraits in the attic that look like hell. Free food. Great night!

2014 update
And speaking of Arlen, who was discovered and mentored by legendary musician Will Marion Cook, here is a link to an interesting article about the current activities surrounding Cook's landmark home (20s-40s) on New York's Striver's Row in Harlem.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Thursday, February 13, 2014

News and I DO mean NEWS


News of major L.A. sociological/historical import. The newsstand at Pico and Robertson that has been there for as long as I can remember (at least 35-years) is no more. It holds precious memories for me because that's where I once espied Soupy Sales--- ahem---many years ago and he was kind enough to do "The Mouse" for me. We also sang the state song of WV (he grew up there as did I) together acapella, "Oh, the West Virginia hills, how majestic and how grand". . . and so on and so forth. It was only a matter of time: "Daddy, what's a magazine?"

Monday, February 10, 2014

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today

It might be arguable as to whether I was earliest in Manhattan to buy a copy of the epochal "Meet the Beatles," but I was unquestionably the first to plunk down my money for their February 12, 1964 Carnegie Hall concert. I had surmised they might be appearing there sometime between their two Ed Sullivan TV dates on the February 9th and 16th. I was right. The only one in line the morning the Carnegie box office opened, I bought two tickets for a ridiculously low $ 15. Duckets in hand, I left the box office, and already police lines were in place to control the hundreds of Beatlemaniacs suddenly descended upon Carnegie mere minutes after the first radio announcement of the event. If only I could have channeled my talents along more societally productive lines than outguessing masses of crazed Beatle fans. In honor of the occasion, when "B" day arrived, I got ripped on something called 20 mg biphetamines to become the most stoned I had ever been in my life up to that time. I was accompanied by an equally crazed and stoned friend, now a tenured U. Mass lit prof. Liz Taylor stood in front of me in line, as did Happy Rockefeller, wife of New York state's governor. Which caused me to think that maybe there was something to the egalitarian message being propounded by the Beatles after all. The thing I remember most about that 1964 night is the screaming---like all the tape loops in hell going off at once. They wore identical mod gray suits, and were still not too proud or hip to do the crowd-pleasing bit where they put their heads together, shook their mop tops and sang "Ooooh" on "She Loves You." Then the crowd really went wild. At one point, I looked down from my perch in the second balcony to espy someone in the first tier having to be restrained from leaping headfirst to the main floor. (Maybe we're not so far removed from the Mayans after all.) In response to a reporter's remark that the audience was so loud you couldn't hear the music, one teenaged female fan Zenfully (and immortally) replied: "But I already know the words."

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Mort Hillman R.I.P.

I received the following this a.m. from Bill Hillman
"Morton C. Hillman, a veteran of the music industry and former member of the New York State Assembly passed away peacefully February 3, 2014, in Delray Beach, Florida. Born in 1926, he grew up in Norwood and Cincinnati, Ohio. As a musician playing cornet and trumpet, he served in the USO during World War Two. He later became a member of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra as a trumpet player. His vocal group, the “C-notes” made an appearance on the “Arthur Godfrey” show, placing second to Steve and Eydie Gormé. As advertising director of “Record World Magazine” he was known throughout the music and entertainment industry. Settling in the Beechhurst/Whitestone section of Queens, NY, in the early 1960’s, he continued his activities as a community leader and activist. In 1986, he was elected to the New York State Assembly to serve three terms for the 26th Assembly District, and later was appointed to the Bi-State Commission on Long Island Sound.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in his honor can be made to the Jewish War Veterans, The American Diabetes Association or the National Breast Cancer Foundation."
That is not even the tip of the iceberg. You'll see what I mean if you check out the following: Here is a post  I wrote about Mort in 2008. A true lily of the musical field.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

It must be in the genes. . .

I came across this video clip when I was archiving Page Cavanaugh's video collection recently. Lots of work, but worth it if for no other reason than its resulting in my first-time awarness of singer-pianist Randy Carmichael. Which then led to my subsequent coming across his first-rate CD entitled, natch, Carmichael Sings Carmichael. Clip is from a 1995 Larry King show. He is accompanied here by Page C.

Carmichael continues to play jazz clubs around the U.S. and also performs at charity events.


"My dear, it was so gay that. . .."

"How gay was it?"
"Gayer than Ikea on Superbowl Sunday."

And here's an interesting SB "fun" fact. . .
The highest rate of spousal male-to-female abuse in the U.S. traditionally occurs immediately after the Superbowl Game. Check it out if you don't believe me.

I wonder what would happen if all the teams switched uniforms just before they ran out on the field?

Yurs veri truley,

O.J. Simpson