Friday, March 21, 2008

The Florida Tour

****** Tampa, Avon Park, Venice and Coral Gables, Florida, March 13-18: Arbors Records assembled a splendid group of musicians called The Statesmen Of Jazz for these concerts at which I sang some songs I like. These are the excellent musicians I had the pleasure to work with: Butch Miles, Nicki Parrott, Randy Sandke, Howard Alden, Bucky Pizzarelli, Ken Peplowski, Harry Allen, Wycliffe Gordon, Derek Smith, Jon-Erik Kellso, John Allred, Aaron Weinstein. A special tribute to legendary bass player Bob Haggart was the theme of the Venice concert, and the proceedings were guided by another legend, the exceptional Dick Hyman.

****** The Venice Tribute to Bob Haggart provided a rare but truly sensational chance for us to hear the remarkable Danish violinist Sven Asmussen, a most charming man and brilliant musician. His performance brought the house down.

****** On Monday, March 17, I welcomed about 25 gifted jazz vocal students to an informal workshop on the campus of The Frost School of Music, University of Miami at Coral Gables. It wasn't on the schedule and I certainly had no way of knowing in advance, but my good friend, powerful singer Tierney Sutton was not only in town too, but came along with Shelly Berg, the School's Director. I insisted she join me for the workshop. The students were thrilled by her presence, and she offered much insight and solid advice. The two and half hours sped by, each student demonstrated fledgling ability and technique, but each possessed a good sense of time and pitch. Tierney and I enjoyed ourselves immensely, so thanks to all of you who worked with us. Please let me know when and if you produce a cd.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On living seventy-one years ...

****** I love birthday celebrations, no matter who they honor. I host a birthday party every January 27th and April 8th, and a very exclusive bash on October 16th. (Correctly identify those three honorees and I will send you an autographed copy of "Dearest Duke").

****** I particularly enjoy my own birthdays. One of the most memorable took place at least twenty years ago when a group of close friends hosted an intimate gathering at The Jockey Club in Manhattan (Park Avenue South at the time). They had asked me months before the fact to describe a fantastic birthday. They then proceeded to make my fantasy come true: A snow-white cake of lightest texture with thick, white icing upon which sat a notably incorrect number of dainty candles; endless glasses of chilled champagne flowing without restraint, congratulatory messages from the great and the near-great (they even went to the trouble of making up a number of old-fashioned-looking telegrams, signed by luminaries such as the President, Frank Sinatra, Helen Keller and The Pope). I also received an extravagant, beautifully wrapped gift (a gorgeous Rolex Immy) presented with appropriate fanfare (not to mention the singing of a robust chorus of "Happy Birthday"). Very much a perfect anniversary.

****** Thursday, March 6: It's a pleasure to delay my birthday celebration this year to the day after the fact since my friend Bill Charlap, Peter Washington (b) and Kenny Washington (dr) are playing at The Regatta Bar in the Charles Hotel, Cambridge, just a few miles from my home. Buck and I were enjoying dinner in one of the hotel's fine restaurants when Bill joined us. His birthday present to me? He'd play any and all songs I requested. He also invited me to sing a song at the end of the set. One accepts such a splendid invitation without hesitation. I chose "Sophisticated Lady" and savoured every note we four produced. These musicians blend delicacy, precision, passion and incomparable intelligence that is always thrilling to hear but even more exhilerating when one actually participates. Thank you Bill, Kenny and Peter for such a lovely birthday.




Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Meet John Brady

My friend John Brady, otherwise known as The Man In Black (hereinafter referred to as TMIB) maintains a Blog worthy of your perusal. As an editor, author and teacher and friend, I rely on him to offer guidance and encouragement.

I met Brady at least ten years ago when he and several concerned listeners organized a significant protest aimed at one of Boston's NPR affiliates, the great and powerful WGBH-FM. The station's decision to terminate a program called Music America, an eclectic five-hour mix of jazz and popular music hosted by Ron Della Chiesa, one of Boston's most beloved djs, caused consternation and a ground-swell of support. John Brady was among the founding members of The Committee To Save Music America", and that's when I met him.

John Brady ... I mean TMIB .... is currently Visiting Professional at the Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, where he has taught magazine editing and writing since 2003. He has also taught at Boston University, Indiana State University, Tufts University, Emerson College, and in 1996 he was Hearst Visiting Professor at the University of Missouri Journalism School.

He writes a monthly column on magazine editing for Folio:, the magazine for magazine management. For the past 25 years he has led magazine editing workshops at annual and regional Folio: conferences. Since 1976 over thirty-five thousand publishing professionals have attended his presentations.

Visit John Brady's Blog by clicking his name in the right-hand column.

Birthday Memories

I love this photograph. It's a moment at the 1962 Newport Jazz Festival. Yes, that is Coleman Hawkins. I'm still transfixed at the mere thought of standing beside the great man. I was all of twenty-five years old at the time. And since I will reluctantly acknowledge another birthday tomorrow, I find myself reminiscing a bit.

Fortunately for me, I have lived during a time when jazz was respected and enormously popular in this country, not to mention in Europe and Japan, thanks in large measure to Norman Granz and George Wein. The "Jazz At The Philharmonic" and "Newport Jazz Festival" programs provided jazz fans abundant opportunities to hear and see legendary musicians and singers. Ella was riding high, as was Sarah Vaughan. And I not only saw all of the people listed below, but on some occasions, worked with them. Many I called friends. They are not listed in any particular order, but they were alive and well when I knew them, and I'm just sitting here thinking about them all.

The Ellington and Basie bands were swinging, Oscar Peterson, Louis Armstrong, Anita O'Day, Gerry Mulligan, Al and Zoot, Dave Lambert, Ben Webster, Al Grey, Erroll Garner, Wes Montgomery, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Cannonball and Nat Adderly, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, Stan Kenton, Mary Lou Williams (who asked me to demonstrate my remarkably inadequate scat singing ability when I met her in North Carolina); Art Pepper, Art Blakey and Charlie Mingus, Benny Carter, Pepper Adams; Sir Roland Hanna, Woody Herman, Art Farmer, Dexter Gordon, Tommy Flanagan, Al Hibler, Clifford Jordan, Hazel Scott and Dorothy Donegan, Arthur Prysock, Joe Turner and Jimmy Rushing, Barney Kessell, Carmen McRae, Shirley Horn, Billie Holiday and Betty Carter, Maynard Ferguson, Bill Potts and Benny Goodman, PeeWee Russell, PeeWee Erwin and Jack Teagarden. (I'll give you a break here so you can read the following treasured memory of Mr. T):

********* I was only fourteen and singing two nights a week with a popular dance band in Providence, Rhode Island, my home town. The gig was Wednesday and Saturday nights at a ballroom called Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet, a summer-light structure facing the cool breezes of the river. One night on a break, the guys in the band insisted I accompany them to a smaller building on the grounds where a private party was being held. The room was crowded and noisy, nobody listening to the music. I found a small patch of stage where I could just fit, gazing up into the face of the bandleader. He smiled down at me as I was clearly mesmerized by his playing and perhaps because I seemed the only one listening. Later I was told that my experience was one I might want to tell my grandchildren: I'd been sitting at the feet of Jack Teagarden.

**********
Now back to the scheduled listing, still in progress:

Artie Shaw, Scott LaFaro, Jo Jones, Teri Thornton, Red Mitchell, Jerome Richardson, Jimmy Rowles, Panama Francis, Eddie Barefield, John Lewis, Percy Heath and Connie Kaye; Teddi King, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Mooney and Stan Getz, Charlie Byrd, Teddy Wilson, Paul Montgomery and Thelonious Monk; Lurlean Hunter and Alberta Hunter; Cal Collins, Frank Rosalino, Gary McFarland and Steve Jordan; Illinois Jacquet and Milt Hinton; Ray Charles, Harry Edison, Keter Betts, Grover Mitchell and Milt Jackson; Mel Torme, Ray Brown, Paul Quinichete, June Christy and Chet Baker, and Gil Evans too.

Thanks to Jimmy Rowles, I met Gil Evans and Chet Baker, ever so briefly, when each visited Jimmy in the apartment we shared at the time in New York's Greenwich Village.

Bill Charlap is my birthday present this year. He's appearing in this area on Thursday and Friday night, March 6 and 7, at The Regatta Bar in the Charles Hotel, Cambridge, MA. His colleagues Kenny Washington, drums and Peter Washington, bass will be along, and I can't wait to hear them, my favorites now and forever.

PS ... Remind me to tell you about the time Mortimer Snerd put the make on me.