Daily Archives: August 16, 2009

LES RED HOT REEDWARMERS, OH MY! (July 11, 2009)

By popular demand, here are five more hot numbers from Les Red Hot Reedwarmers, the band that lives up to its name, caught live at the 2009 Whitley Bay International Jazz festival, featuring Aurelie Tropez, Stephane Gillot, Martin Seck, and an enthusiastic rhythm section.  (I’ve posted a few performances from this set where Bent Persson joined them — see RED HOT AND BENT. . . ) 

From the book of their idol, Jimmie Noone, they perform IT’S TIGHT LIKE THAT (a phrase of enthusiastic celebration that has nothing to with Manhattan parking spaces or constricting waistbands):

And a rhetorical question anyone can answer in the affirmative, even if you’re an only child: OH, SISTER!  AIN’T THAT HOT?:

I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS is now sometimes used to signal that the evening’s entertainment is over and that it’s time for well-behaved listeners to go to bed.  But in the Twenties, it was a brisk dance tune (think of the Henderson version with Louis), so the RHR weren’t ready to stop, as you’ll hear:

SAN was recorded not only by Noone, but by the Mound City Blue Blowers, and by a small band out of the Paul Whiteman organization featuring Bix Beiderbecke.  The RHR live up to their heroic antecendents with style:

And, finally, MY DADDY ROCKS ME — where the reference is neither to hammocks or to Pilates.  “With one steady roll,” say the lyrics.  You’ll figure it out once you’ve heard this rocking performance.  And that trumpet man?  None other than our hero, Mr. Persson:

The RHR’s two Stomp Off CDs are also splendid: the band comes through whole on every performance.  I admire the band tremendously for the fervency and beauty of their solo improvisations, but would call your attention to their exact, swinging ensemble playing — those unison passages are suely difficult to execute at any speed, and the band adores racing tempos! 

This post is for M. “Stompy” Jones, President and Treasurer of the Mlle. Aurelie Tropez Fan Club, Canadian Division.

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FINDING MISS WILEY

Readers will have noticed my fascination with used bookstores.  When it’s hot, they offer the promise, sometimes illusory, of being dark and cool.  “Fine” books means everything is clean but costly; “old” books sometimes means 1846 town registers, intriguing but irrelevant.  What we require is a large stock of gardening books and cooking pamphlets for the Beloved, who is very selective, and sheet music mixed liberally with old records for your correspondent.  We found both yesterday at Owl Pen Books, 166 Riddle Road, Greenwich, New York. 

Here are my latest treasures, both 10″ long-playing microgroove records, to call them by their proper name:

Lee Wiley 003

You might not recognize Miss Wiley, especially if you have in your mind’s eye the late Thirties picture of her, her hair long, straight, and dark, wearing a while blouse and a dark vest.  Fashion photographer Peter Marshall gave her the full VOGUE treatment: a low-cut ruffled strapless dress, a necklet, a formal hairdo, and what look like false or mascara-ed eyelashes.  The music inside has been issued on Mosaic, I believe, and the idea of putting Miss Wiley alongside Stan Freeman and Cy Walter doesn’t entirely work — too much piano-busyness in the background.  But the picture is worth a great deal, and I wonder if Miss Wiley approved of her temporary makeover.

Lee Wiley 001

Lee Wiley 002

The caricatures on the cover are by John DeVries, who wrote the lyrics for WHEREVER THERE’S LOVE, and on this issue Miss Wiley is surrounded by Bunny Berigan, Joe Bushkin, Sid Weiss, and George Wettling for four selections, and a small group with Bushkin, Berigan, and members of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, arranged by Paul Weston. 

Should you wonder, the other records for sale — at a pittance — at Owl Pen — were classical and Broadway show music.  I bought these and two more (a bootleg collection of Bert Lahr on stage, screen, television, and radio) and a UK compilation, annotated by Brian Rust, of early Irving Berlin songs recorded before 1922 — for a modest amount.  It made me quite happy to acquire these, but also to imagine someone who loved Miss Wiley as much as I and others do.  I saw her only once, at her last public performance in 1972, but she was a magical presence.  And she remains so.

For another perspective on Lee Wiley — one I find quite touching — here is an excerpt from a documentary about the Japanese actress, Nobuko Miyamoto, who starred in the film A TAXING WOMAN, and her visit to the United States in search of “her” Lee Wiley.  She was fortunate enough to meet — and sing with — the memorable vocalist Barbara Lea, who knew Miss Wiley well.  There is a good deal of untranslated Japanese in this clip, but it’s all understandable:

And here are two YouTube clips, posted by “leewileyandfriends,” who generously offer 78 videos of Miss Wiley — looking lovely — and her gorgeous sound.  The first comes from the Irving Berlin sessions, a jaunty RISE AND SHINE; the second is the wistful LOOKING AT YOU, from her Cole Porter recordings:

“LULU’S BACK IN TOWN” (1935)

It’s fashionable to make fun of Dick Powell’s singing.  As you will see, he did overact and flail his hands, and his occasional operatic forays into the tenor register have a penetrating intensity.  But this clip from the 1935 musical film BROADWAY GONDOLIER is priceless. 

In his singing, I hear Crosby dips and turns (although Bing was much more relaxed) and then — luckiest of men — Powell gets to sing with the Mills Brothers, who are in pearly form.  Steadied and enhanced by their musical comraderie, Powell draws on Fats Waller, with his air of amusement-just-barely-contained, although he doesn’t pop his eyes or dramatize anything by lifting an eyebrow.  (Did Powell remember his days as a dance-band guitar player who knew what hot was?)  Cab Calloway is in Powell’s consciousness as well, and the enterprise has the approving presence of a certain Mr. Armstrong standing in back of it.  The dialogue-in-contrasting-speeds between Powell and the Brothers at the end of the performance is wonderful, and for those of us who are snsitive to these things, note how beautifully the Brothers are attired.  They aren’t smuggled into the shot as porters or shoe shine boys who happen to sing: they are radio stars!  As they deserved and deserve to be . . . .

A deep and fervent “Yeah, man!” is the only appropriate tribute.  And a deep bow to Harry Warren for his bouncing, riff-based melody (even though the opening of the verse derives from SWEET GEORGIA BROWN)  and Al Dubin’s jovial, natty lyrics, which either take a poke at Cole Porter’s MISS OTIS REGRETS or nod to it — Miss Otis is going to be hanged; Lulu’s fellow is getting ready for the time of his life!