Friday, April 27, 2007

Coming Attractions ...

This is yet another momentous baseball weekend starring the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, with confrontations scheduled to be played in the Bronx, weather permitting. Meantime, I am busy writing "Jimmy Rowles At The Opera", a lurid tale in two parts which will begin on Monday. For those who do not know the name, Jimmy Rowles was a most respected West Coast pianist who also found a home in New York City jazz clubs and recording studios in the 1970's. A true jazz "cat", Jimmy was the most unique individual I ever met. He was considered the most sensitive of accompanists, and proved his worth playing for Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae and Ella Fitzgerald. He was also a caricaturist and fanatical lover of animals. In an airport one day, I watched him chase and verbally assault a woman because she was wearing a fox coat. He frightened her half to death, long before the inception of PETA. Jimmy would have been a Charter Member if not Honorary President.

Look for Part One of "Jimmy Rowles At The (Metropolitan) Opera" on Monday.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Recommended Blogs

Links to two Blogs I visit regularly are now posted at SloaneView. Rifftides belongs to prolific journalist Doug Ramsey. Taken directly from his site, the following blurb provides valuable information about the gentleman:

"...Doug Ramsey lives in the Pacific Northwest, where he settled following a career in print and broadcast journalism in cities including New York, New Orleans, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, San Antonio, Cleveland and Washington, DC. His writing about jazz has paralleled his life in journalism.

Doug's most recent book is Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond.He is also the author of Jazz Matters: Reflections on the Music and Some of its Makers. He contributed to The Oxford Companion to Jazz and co-edited Journalism Ethics: Why Change? His next book is a novel that has almost nothing to do with music."

Devra Hall's Blog "DevraDoWrite" is a running commentary on "Music, books, good works and other reasons for living." Devra is the daughter of renowned jazz guitarist Jim Hall, and she is married to legendary musician/talent agent John Levy, the man who successfully guided the careers of many famous jazz artists including Cannonball Adderly, Joe Williams and Nancy Wilson.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Fantasizing With Royalty

A totally incongruous scene came to me the other day while perusing London newspapers online:

HRH The Queen of England and her husband Prince Philip, having enjoyed a quiet dinner for two, are now comfortably seated in the Drawing Room with maybe a brandy for him and decaffeinated demi-tasse for Her Majesty. She needs a good night's sleep for that Walk-About tomorrow in Stoke-on-Trent.

The Queen: "Philip, Darling. Instead of watching the delayed broadcast of today's Parliamentary proceedings, why don't we listen to a few of our old favorites."

"Put on some Basie, will you? There's a dear."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Alone At Last

I was thinking about Peter Jennings the other day, how I miss watching his nightly newscast, and how sorry I am that he died so young. I am especially sad about the cause of his death. Before he stopped smoking, you could see the evidence of a live cigarette smoldering just out of camera range. Swirls of smoke wafted across his face as he relayed the events of the day.

I used to enjoy wonderful dreams in which this intelligent, handsome and from all accounts serious jazz fan and I were the featured players. In mid-1987, I was a substitute radio host for a popular music program broadcast at the NPR affiliate WGBH-FM in Boston. At the same time, Peter was hosting a PBS series emanating from the television studios directly above, which meant that on many days, a mere flight of stairs separated me from the man of my dreams.

The program I produced ran live from Noon to 5 PM, five days a week, and when I'd successfully hit a switch linking to All Things Considerd, I was in need of a quick splash and brush. Heading down the corridor one day, I looked up the stairwell just in time to see Mr. Wonderful making his way to the floor above. A quite audible gasp of recognition escaped my lips. He paused, turned, looked down, flashed a brilliant smile and gave a little wave before continuing upwards. I was rooted to the spot for a full minute. For a few heavenly, golden moments, Peter Jennings and I were blissfully and most emphatically Alone Together.

Many years before that all-too-brief encounter, freshly groomed and ready for the day, I shared a 30-story elevator ride in a New York office building with another famous man, former Republican Presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey. He once (very) briefly celebrated his falsely reported victory over incumbent President Harry Truman in the general election of 1948. Probably still a bit sour about the results even in 1963, Mr. Dewey neither smiled or waved, but he did in gentlemanly fashion remove his hat.

Not surprisingly, the memory of that silent elevator ride will never match the romantic sparkle of Peter and I, together on the Stairway to Paradise.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

An Unforgettable Gig

This would have been in the 1960's when I worked frequently in the San Francisco area. I sang quite often at the hungry i, and at that time, jazz clubs were thriving in that fair city, i.e., The Jazz Workshop, The Purple Onion, El Matador, Sugar Hill and Basin Street West.

It was a customary annual concert concept new to me: Sponsored by the city itself and/or the SF Penal Commission, any and all performers who happened to be working in town on New Year's Day were asked to voluntarily participate in a show for inmates at San Quentin Federal Prison. I was there and so were Sarah Vaughan, legendary blues singer Jimmy Witherspoon, and Louis Armstrong. An accordion band, a group of Hawaiian dancers and a ventriloquist rounded out the cast.

The prisoners were assembled in the huge dining hall, and guards were posted at strategic positions on catwalks above the floor with rifles drawn. Their presence failed to convey a sense of security as far as I was concerned, but I stood in the wings, ready to follow Spoon's set.

At one point, he began to sing a blues containing the words "Did you ever find your woman with another man?" As if on cue, a large man seated down front jumped up and shouted: "Yeah, Spoon! And I killed the M....F'...er!" to which the rest of the audience responded with loud laughter and applause.

There is a photograph of me, now long disappeared, smiling bravely as I cautiously and tremblingly stepped from the wings toward the microphone placed center stage. The men seemed to love my songs and me, but you should have seen their faces when the girls did the hula. Several hundred men became rather quiet. I have always thought it was rather sadistic to allow those women to swing and sway sensuously before those female-companionship-starved men. Their grass skirts alone could have inspired a riot.

As we walked toward the vehicles which would take us back to the city, some hands were viewed waving at us from high above. "Death row" one of the officers informed us, many of the ill-fated calling Jimmy Witherspoon by name.

One of the more memorable afternoons of my life.

SloaneView Introduction

My name is Carol Sloane and I sing jazz.

I knew I'd be involved with jazz from the time I was a teen-ager. The radio was a major influence. No television in those early days. Radio programs filled our days and nights. Mother listened faithfully to "Breakfast Shows", Kate Smith at high noon ("When the moon comes over the mountain ..."), soap operas Stella Dallas, Our Gal Sunday and Helen Trent, and news commentators Lowell Thomas, Gabriel Heater and H.V. Kaltenborn. In the evenings, we heard Jack Benny, Fibber McGee And Molly, Duffy's Tavern, Allen's Alley hosted by Fred Allen, Bob Hope, The Lux Radio Theatre featuring the voices of familair movie stars, The Lone Ranger, Bob & Ray, The Green Hornet, Edger Bergen And Charlie McCarthy and so many others.

Mostly, the radio stayed tuned to music stations. The popular voices of the day, among them Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Vic Damone, Fran Warren, Bing Crosby, The Andrews Sisters, the bands of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw. This was the Swing Era and the music filled the house and the houses of my eight aunts and uncles with all their children. Everyone knew how to jitter-bug, and we all wore socks and saddle shoes.

One day, with idle teenage curiosity, I explored the radio dial, discovering a new station that featured the voices of Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae, Billy Eckstine, the bands of Count Basie, Jimmie Lunceford, Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson. In later years, I'd hear the new sounds of be-bop from my very own radio, a Christmas present I begged for.

The sounds of jazz became the most important entities in my life as I learned the names of the players and singers and the exotic jazz titles such as Ornithology or Straight, No Chaser or Joy Spring; collecting recordings ... these activities filled my days and nights (some disc jockeys broadcast late at night) and my education began. It was thrilling to me. It still is.