Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Nothing Is Lost

My very good friend Carp Ferrari sent this to me today from her farm in Natick, MA.:

"Nothing Is Lost"

Deep in our sub-conscious, we are told
Lie all our memories, lie all the notes
Of all the music we have ever heard
And all the phrases those we loved have spoken,
Sorrows and losses time has since consoled,
Family jokes, out-moded anecdotes
Each sentimental souvenir and token
Everything seen, experienced, each word
Addressed to us in infancy, before
Before we could even know or understand
The implications of our wonderland.
There they all are, the legendary lies
The birthday treats, the sights, the sounds, the tears
Forgotten debris of forgotten years
Waiting to be recalled, waiting to rise
Before our world dissolves before our eyes
Waiting for some small, intimate reminder,
A word, a tune, a known familiar scent
An echo from the past when, innocent
We looked upon the present with delight
And doubted not the future would be kinder
And never knew the loneliness of night.
-Noel Coward, from "Noel Coward Collected Verse",
Metheuen Publishing Ltd.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Barcelona World Race

Ahoy Mateys! Since November 11, 2007, I have been receiving and reading with great interest the daily briefings concerning The Barcelona World Race, a new two-handed, non-stop round-the-world yacht race, to be held every four years. For the first time, this race involves the world's best professional sailors from both solo and fully crewed disciplines coming together to compete against each other in teams of two.

The sailors race onboard Open 60 boats [60-foot monohulls], the same boats that are raced in the solo Vendée Globe. There are photographs of these beautifully sleek vessels here. You can sign up for the daily briefings if you wish. Click "Teams" to see photos.

I haven't any real interest in sailing, yachts or yachtsmen (although I admit I don't really know any). I'm not a good sailor: there's much too much mal in the mer. In fact, I can't remember when I heard of this colossal endeavor in the first place, but now I'm hooked. Lately, the boats in the lead have encountered ice bergs the size of Connecticut. They report heavy seas, bone-chilling temperatures, sail damage requiring repairs in spite of towering waves, bumping into unknown objects in the night (it must be comforting to know they are not entirely alone out there), and all the other thoroughly mind-boggling efforts each team is exerting in order to be the first yacht to finish.

Here on day 59, PAPREC VIRBAC 2 with Jean-Pierre (FRA) and Damian Foxall (IRE), is closing in on Cape Horn, and as the leading boat in the Barcelona World Race, has just over 500 more miles to run before reaching the great southern Cape. Cape Horn has great significance to any round-the-world sailor, and it's no different in the Barcelona World Race. In fact, in this race, it also marks the next scoring gate in the race as well. The yacht I'm cheering for just because I really like the name is HUGO BOSS with Alex Thompson (GBR) and Andrew Cape (AUS) sailing 1022 miles behind PV2.

Not surprising, I find reports of these high-seas adventures bracingly refreshing contrasts to anything I will read in today's newspaper.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

"Duke" Best of 2007

"Carol Sloane, "Dearest Duke" (Arbors): The other outstanding vocal album of the year is Ms. Sloane's latest and most heartfelt collection of Ellingtonia. The nod almost went to Andy Bey's new Birdland set, but the presence of the brilliant clarinetist Ken Peplowski on every track puts Ms. Sloane over the top."

The above comment by Will Friedwald appears in the December 28, 2007 edition of THE NEW YORK SUN titled "Jazz To Remember And To Remind: The Best Jazz Of 2007". While my "Dearest Duke" cd is "the other outstanding vocal album", you may be interested to know that he chose one by a favorite singer of mine, LA's much-admired Sue Raney. Wonderful news that a new recording is available:

"Sue Raney, "A Tribute to Doris Day: Heart's Desire" (Fresh Sound): The first recording in 10 years by Los Angeles's greatest vocal treasure is an homage to another underappreciated singer. Ms. Raney makes even Day's children's songs seem like profound life lessons. Here's hoping we don't have to wait another decade for her next album or to see her live in New York."

To read the complete article, go here

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

R.I.P. Oscar

With the sad news this week of Oscar Peterson's passing, I am reprinting my July 31, 2007 entry.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Night I Received The Oscar

I've told this story numerous times, but with this Blog, perhaps it will reach a larger audience. I certainly hope so because Oscar Peterson once gave me an invaluable gift, treasured to this day.

Picture this: August, 1961. I am 24 years old and about to make my New York night club debut: a two-week engagement at The Village Vanguard, opening for Oscar Peterson and his side men, Ray Brown on bass and drummer Ed Thigpen. I had appeared at The Newport Jazz Festival the previous month, where I received a great deal of very positive press. The buzz about that, and the fact that Oscar was making a rare club appearance, assured owner Max Gordon that the joint would be jumpin' every night. And it was. Many other instantly recognizable jazz luminaries were scattered in the audience on any given night, like so many brilliant stars in a clear night's sky.

Such close proximity to world-famous Oscar Peterson intimidated me. Giant of a man: robust, gregarious, full of good humor and charm with an added devilish hint of mischief. I was paralyzed with awesome admiration, practically speechless as well. All I could manage that first week were the humble mumbles: "Good evening, Oscar", "Pardon me, Oscar", and "Goodnight, Oscar", though I was longing to share a real conversation with him. Never mind: I was being paid to sing a brief 20-minute set after which I could sit with every other of his adoring fans to watch and listen to his genius. In heaven? You needn't ask.

One of the songs I sang each night was the Kurt Weill-Ira Gershwin haunting masterpiece "My Ship" from the 1941 Broadway production "Lady In The Dark", starring Gertrude Lawrence, warbling in her delicate, charming British accent. It's a gorgeous melody, deceptively simple but like any other mine field, to be approached at each step of the way with cautionary respect.

I was singing at THE Village Vanguard; I was opening for one of the world's greatest JAZZ pianists. Was I not therefore A JAZZ SINGER??? And what do jazz singers do? They improvise! To hell with a boring, simple melody. It needed some embellishment, some "jazzing up". And so I commenced to work around, above and below the line every time I sang it. After one or two of these seriously flawed attempts to improve on Mr. Weill's melody, Oscar took notice.

He'd say: "Carol. Sing "My Ship", and of course I was flattered that my rendition so impressed the Great Man. He'd sit in the shadows on the banquette just to my left. Each night I sang with my usual abandon, and each night I'd eagerly look toward him, expecting acknowledgement for my inventiveness. Instead, his was a dead-pan expression, PopEye-like biceps firmly fixed across his expansive upper torso. Buddha displeased.

I was baffled (and yes, stupid). He made the same request each night for a week, and each night I'd muck it up. Finally, I became impatient and decided to just sing the damned song without fiddle or flourish. When I finished and looked once again toward Oscar, he was smiling and applauding. Brick falls on young singer's head, a million-watt bulb illuminates the clouded brain. It was an extraordinary lesson I've carried with me ever since.

In the intervening years, I've listened more closely to singers who sing the melody while exploiting to their considerable advantage the highly effective use of space, thereby establishing his or her signature interpretative twist. Shirley Horn mastered this technique, Diana Krall adapts it beautifully, and Billie Holiday paved the way for us all.

Thank you Oscar, and long life to ye!

Labels: The Night I Received The Oscar

I found this in my stocking ...

The Washington Post, December 25, 2007


Carol Sloane

Jazz singer Carol Sloane has been perennially underappreciated during her long, uncompromising career. She sings with a rare maturity and grace and has dozens of excellent recordings, yet she is little known outside a small circle of admirers.

Sloane has often recorded the music of Duke Ellington, including a full album in 1999 ("Romantic Ellington"), but her most recent effort reaches a deeper, more profound level. There are several up-tempo exceptions, but most of the 12 tracks on "Dearest Duke" are ballads that produce a delicate sense of intimacy. Sloane is supported only by Brad Hatfield's understated piano and the gentle fills of Ken Peplowski's clarinet and tenor saxophone. She doesn't scat a single note, yet her nuanced shifts in tempo and harmony -- not to mention her sultry, smoky voice -- possess the unmistakable feeling of jazz.

Sloane brings an almost literary sense of interpretation to a song's lyrics and can make a subtle vocal quaver in "I've Got It Bad and That Ain't Good" convey a plaintive undercurrent of pain. Her poignant phrasing and inflections in "Solitude" and "I Didn't Know About You" draw on such a deep well of experience that we don't hear the words so much as feel them.

At every turn in these familiar tunes, she discovers new colors and seams of meaning that we didn't know were there. This is the finest vocal album I've heard all year, and if Carol Sloane isn't America's greatest living jazz singer, then no one deserves the title.

-- Matt Schudel