Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Older Man

      I am pleased to offer this helpful bit of information to help you sparkle at the next cocktail party.  Just drop a casual: "Gee, that Carol Sloane is a really fine jazz singer, isn't she?".  This will no doubt produce the predictable response: "WHO?"  Well, now you can refer him or her to the Carol Sloane web site which is fully restored thanks to designer Steve Albin.  New York photographer Eric Stephen Jacobs took that really flattering picture which is also the cover of "Dearest Duke" on the Arbors Label, a CD devoted to Ellington's music with the fine musicians Brad Hatfield on piano and Ken Peplowski on reeds.  It's available at Amazon.  


I don't know about you, but I hope not to see another tennis ball flying across the net until next year when it
will start all over again.  This year, I watched every televised match, beginning with the Australian in January, through to The French, and on to Wimbledon, only to finish on Monday, September 10 at the US Open with a five-setter which gave Andy Murray his much-coveted Grand Slam title.  If only Federer and Nadal had been in the hunt.  Like many of the athletes, I'm exhausted. 


 I received a telephone call over the weekend from a West Coast acquaintance who said he'd heard a recording of mine on satellite radio while driving along Santa Monica Boulevard.  He liked the song so much, he asked me to describe its genesis and to provide the lyric. 

     The song is titled "An Older Man Is Like An Elegant Wine", and was written by a woman named Lee Wing.  I met her when I lived in North Carolina during the 1970's.  She was the wife of a faculty professor at Duke University, lived in a lovely home in Durham, raised two handsome sons, was active in Democratic politics, and wrote songs.

     I was a frequent dinner guest (her husband was a gourmet chef), and after feasting, we'd gather around the piano, sipping night-caps and singing songs.  On one occasion, I met her father, a courtly, attractive Southern gentleman in his late 70's who beguiled us all, especially the ladies.  I told Lee that he'd made a strong impression on me since I've always been partial to older men . Several weeks later, Lee told me that my reaction inspired her to write the song. 

     Here is the lyric:


     Some things are worth waiting for
     Some things improve with age
     Like a vintage wine
     Growing mellow and fine
     As you let it reach the proper stage

     Well, wine is not alone in getting better with the years
     A man is at his greatest
     When he's graying 'round the ears


     Yes, an older man is like an elegant wine
     He's had the time to mellow and refine
     A youth I'd say is a Beaujolais:
     Attractive but light
     While a man who's mature
     Has the powerful allure
     Of a robust Bordeaux
     With a sumptuous glow

     So that's why the man whom
             I would like to call mine
     Will be an older man who's like an elegant wine

     He'll be strong but smooth
     Just right to soothe my troubles away
     And he'll be warm like the glow
     That you feel head to toe
     When you savor the sock
     Of a grand Armagnac

     And so that's why the man
            With whom I'd like to combine
     Will be an older man who's like an elegant wine

     And when I meet him
     I'll enchant him
     Hug him, kiss him
     Then I'll decant him

     And every night when we're home
    And it's time for us to dine
    There'll be that beautiful older man
    Who's like an elegant wine

Lee and I debated whether a man could actually be "beautiful", but decided in the end that older men we'd known were indeed beautiful in mind and body.

My recorded version of "An Older Man Is Like An Elegant Wine" is included on "Sweet & Slow", Concord Records CCD-4564, available at Amazon. 


I do not know why your comments are not visible at the touch of your pointer, but I assure you, I have published them.  Click on "Comments".  Google Blogger assures me it is addressing the problem. 



Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Phyllis Diller R.I.P.

The over-the-top and then some comedienne Phyllis Diller died yesterday (August 20, 2012) having reached the age of 95 years.  I didn't really get to know her although I opened for her in the mid-1960's when we appeared at the super-glossy Manhattan cabaret room called The Blue Angel.  It was here that Bobby Short honed his craft, playing sprightly music in the bar, seducing the audience leaving the Main Show Room to linger a wee bit longer to enjoy a night-cap and a shot of Cole Porter.

Phyllis was serious about her work (not a lot of jokes flying around the dressing room), and she once confided that she had a Master Plan for her life, emphatically certain of the upward trajectory her career would take.  As I observed during subsequent years, she most certainly achieved her goals.

As was often the case in the '60's and '70's, many musicians and singers (the famous and/or hopeful) enjoyed the after-hours atmosphere of a club in Greenwich Village called Bradley's, where they could sit in with Tommy Flanagan or Kenny Barron or Jimmy Rowles.  Superb bass players had the gig too: George Mraz, Red Mitchell, Sam Jones, and Ron Carter were magnets for jazz purists.  So it was no surprise when Jimmy told me Phyllis Diller had walked in one night, carrying her C melody sax, hoping for an invitation to improvise with the best of the best.  Unfortunately, I can't remember if Jimmy told me the names of the songs they played, but he did say she enjoyed every minute of it.  I knew that Phyllis played the piano with a more than passable skill, but this saxophone business was news to me. 

For those like myself who need a little primer regarding the C melody sax, here is some basic information found at this web site.

The C melody saxophone is a saxophone pitched in the key of C, one whole step above the tenor saxophone. 

A major selling point for the C melody saxophone was the fact that in contrast to other saxophones, it was not a transposing instrument. As a result, the player could read regular printed music (e.g. for flute, oboe, violin, piano, or voice) without having to transpose or read music parts that have been transposed into B♭ or E ♭which most other saxophones would require.  This enabled amateur musicians to play along with a friend or family member by reading from the same sheet of music—so long as the music fell within the pitch range of the C melody saxophone itself i.e. was not too high or low.


My friend Nancy Barrell hosts a successful internet jazz program. She's been broadcasting for more than 6-1/2 years all over the world and her site is ranked 26 out of over 400 jazz stations on She plays lots of Frank Sinatra's recordings, and jazz singers and instrumentalists who have recorded the great standards. The program is 6 1/2 hours long and is changed regularly. Listeners can listen without charge. However if you want to hear the program sans commercials, the fee is a very reasonable $6.00 a month. I have listed Nancy Barrell's web broadcast site in the Links' column on the right. Click on her name and feast your ears. 

Another cyber jazz program is hosted by the amiable New Englander John Birchard.  You can click his site in the Links' column.  I very much enjoy John's dry wit and intelligent commentary.  The following biographical information is from his site:

Born and raised in Vermont, John Birchard followed high school by joining the U-S Air Force. It was in the Air Force, in Fairbanks, Alaska, that he found his career. He began broadcasting with Armed Forced Radio. After his discharge, he attended the University of Alabama, earning a bachelor’s degree in Radio & TV. Following graduation, a radio job took him to Hartford, CT and a full-time role as a jazz disc jockey. He worked at WCCC-FM for five years, then moved across town to WTIC where he was a producer (and host of a weekly jazz show) for two more years. The next seven were spent in New Haven, CT as a talk show host and emcee of the annual Quinnipiac Intercollegiate Jazz Festival.

Wherever he went, John maintained his love of jazz. He served as emcee for jazz concerts and festivals at Yale University (the Gil Evans Orchestra, The CTI All-Stars, Ella Fitzgerald) and other venues – and was master of ceremonies for the Hartford (CT) Jazz Society’s 20th birthday festival (Dizzy Gillespie, Marian McPartland, Jaki Byard, Herb Ellis/Barney Kessel). The Voice of America in Washington, DC was home for the final fifteen years of his half-century in broadcasting. And at VOA, he hosted a combined salute to the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. State Department international tour featuring Dizzy Gillespie’s band and to the memory of VOA’s beloved jazz voice Willis Conover. In retirement, he has written and published a book, Jock Around the Clock. Now, he hosts CYBERJAZZTODAY.  Click Vermont Jazz in the Links' column on the right. 

To ease myself through the remaining dog days of summer, I am reading more than usual, enjoying nights with the windows wide open, the sweet sound of crickets cricketing a perfectly peaceful background for this most cherished of pleasures.  I cannot bear to think of a life without books.

Please don't hesitate to tell me the titles on your reading list.  There is a little envelope at Comments below.  Just click that and write me.