Daily Archives: February 15, 2010

AL DUFFY (1906-2006)

Courtesy of AB Fable Archive

I don’t print the obituary of every worthy jazz musician, singer, writer, record producer . . . simply because I want to celebrate as well as mourn in this blog.  But jazz violin scholar Anthony Barnett’s notice (from the New York musicians’ union, Local 802) of the death of violinist Al Duffy deserves all the attention it can get, I think:

Adolph Daidone – professionally known as Al Duffy – died on Dec. 22. The violinist was 100 years old and had been a member of 802 since 1924.  He was born in Brooklyn and was a resident of Freehold, New Jersey, since 1978.  Mr. Daidone was a nationally renowned violin virtuoso whose career spanned several decades of entertainment in radio, recording, and stage.  He was awarded the Philco Radio Hall of Fame Citation for outstanding artistry.  He played for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, Bell Telephone Orchestra with such luminaries as the Dorsey Brothers, Bobby Hackett, Dinah Shore, JimmyDurante, and many others.  He is survived by four children: Vincent and his wife Barbara, Theresa Kimmel and her husband Monroe, John and his wife Elna, and Louis and his wife Teri; eight grandchildren; and eleven great grandchildren.

Anthony Barnett adds: According to my files he was born Gandolfo Daidone 20 September 1906 which would make him older than 100.

Courtesy of AB Fable Archive

The moral has to be that jazz taps in to the Fountain of Youth for a few lucky people!  Also that originality is a saving grace: Duffy was an accomplished player who took his own route rather than attempting to imitate Joe Venuti.

MILDRED BAILEY by JULIA KEEFE

Mildred Rinker Bailey

“The Rocking Chair Lady”

February 16, 1900 – December 12, 1951

Mildred Rinker was born one hundred and ten years ago today in Tekoa, Washington.  Her mother, Josephine Lee Rinker, was an enrolled member of the Coeur d’Alene Indian Tribe.  Mildred’s early childhood was spent on the family’s tribal allotment near DeSmet, Idaho, where she spent many happy hours riding her pony, Buck.

The Rinker family moved to Spokane’s North Central neighborhood when Mildred was thirteen, and she graduated from St. Joseph’s School. Mildred and her younger brother Al spent many happy hours singing and playing piano under the instruction of their mother, an excellent pianist who could play both classical and ragtime music.

Mildred’s musical talent inspired both her brother Al and one of his band mates, a singing drummer named Bing Crosby, who once said, “I was lucky in knowing the great jazz and blues singer Mildred Bailey so early in life.  I learned a lot from her.  She made records which are still vocal classics, and she taught me much about singing and interpreting popular songs.”

Shortly after her mother’s death from tuberculosis in 1917, Mildred moved to Seattle and found work singing from sheet music at a local music store.  Her career path led her throughout the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada, eventually settling in Los Angeles, where she joined the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and became the first full-time female big band singer in America.  Mildred Bailey’s groundbreaking achievement opened the door of opportunity for later jazz greats including Billie Holiday, Helen Ward, and Ella Fitzgerald.

Mildred Bailey’s earliest recordings were made in 1929, and she recorded nearly three hundred songs over the years, several of which became best-sellers.  Mildred had her own radio show in the 1940s, and was voted either first or second most popular female jazz vocalist in the first three annual Esquire Magazine jazz polls. The most famous artists from the swing era recorded and performed with Mildred, including Benny Goodman, Art Tatum, Mary Lou Williams, Coleman Hawkins, the Dorsey brothers, and Artie Shaw.

In 1944, Time magazine reviewed her show at the Café Society in New York and called her “just about the greatest songbird in the U.S.”  Mildred and her husband, pioneer xylophone and vibes great Red Norvo were known as “Mr. and Mrs. Swing” during this phase of her career.

Mildred Bailey died on December 21, 1951 in Poughkeepsie, New York, where she lived on a farm with her beloved dachshunds, Spotty and Susan.  In 1994, the U.S. Postal Service issued a series of stamps honoring legendary jazz and blues singers, including “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Mildred Bailey.  One jazz historian said of Mildred, “She had a magic. So many people down the line, so many singers, benefited from her, owe debts to her – and they don’t even know it.”

Thank you, Mildred, for the trail you blazed and the beautiful songs you left behind.  You demonstrated that a little girl from an Idaho Indian reservation can dream big dreams, and make those dreams come true.  We’ll never forget you. Thanks for the memory!

Julia Keefe, Nez Perce tribal member

www.juliakeefe.com

(For those of you who haven’t heard of Julia Keefe, I promise that you will.  She’s more than an articulate Mildred Bailey fan; more than a diligent researcher — who provided these pictures of a seventeen-year old Mildred about to leave Spokane for the big time (the pictures came from Mildred’s niece, Julia Rinker Miller, whose father was Al Rinker) . . . she’s also a 20-year old jazz singer with a future.   She reveres Mildred and sings some of her songs, but Julia is wise enough to know that imitation is both impossible and no one’s idea of flattery.  More from and about her in future!)  And Julia went to the same Spokane high school, Gonzaga Prep, as that fellow Crosby . . . it’s a small world after all. 

PROFESSOR EVE WILL TEACH YOU!

I’ve never met Eve Polich although we’ve been at the same event and we’ve corresponded — but I have seen her dance!  So I can recommend her upcoming dance classes with confidence.  Maybe she will encourage me to find my Capezios, get over my previous lack of success as a ballroom dancer, and try once again.

Here’s the information: worth a trip from everywhere!

AVALON JAZZ DANCE LESSONS!

 So many people have approached me asking about dance lessons that I have decided to start some classes starting in March every 2nd and 4th Monday/Tuesday to test the waters. These classes are ridiculously cheap if you are a musician. Just sayin’.  (All classes are $10 for civilians, $5 for musicians.)

Beginner Lindy-Hop! Mondays

Learn traditional partnered swing dancing from the 1920’s and 30’s.  This class will cover the basic steps as well as discuss technique, connection, and musicality.

March 8th and March 22nd: 8-9 PM

Beginner/Intermediate Lindy-Hop! Tuesdays

Learn traditional partnered swing dancing from the 1920’s and 30’s.  This class will be for beginner students who want to take their dancing to the next level.  We will focus on more complex moves, technique, connection, and musicality.

March 9th and 23rd: 6-7 PM

Solo Charleston! Tuesdays

Learn traditional solo jazz movement from the 1920’s and 30’s.  Not only is this awesomely fun, but will also inform your partnered dancing.

March 9th and 23rd

All classes will be held at Chelsea Studios, 151 West 26th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues

If you attend both Tuesday classes, together they will be only $16 or $8 for musicians!

Private lessons available for $40/hour or bartered goods and services.

RSVP to evepolich [at] avalonjazz [dot] com

And if you visit Eve’s site (AVALON) and click on the hyperlinks, she promises you’ll see “examples old and new” of these dances — worth investigating!  Check out http://avalonjazz.blogspot.com/2010/02/avalon-jazz-dance-lessons.html

Here’s the ideal — the collegiate Shag done to Artie Shaw’s DIGA DIGA DOO.  Anything’s possible, right?

JAZZ RELICS

A recent eBay search turned up still more paper delights.  Collectors sometimes call these “ephemera,” suggesting, I think, that they were not meant to last.  But the evidence indicates that these treasured items have a reassuring permanence.  See for yourself:

The most famous of the irreplaceable Misses Boswell — apparently before she began signing her name with two E’s.

Perfectly self-explanatory . . . from Roy’s long run on Fifty-Fourth Street.  And the bar opened at 10 AM!

Again, perfectly self-explanatory.  But I want to know the story behind this unused ticket.  Who got sick or couldn’t go?  That tale needs to be told.

Lucky “Pat,” a Swell Fellow indeed!  And lucky us . . .

This blurry Christmas card looks unimportant, even cheaply produced, until you see the signatures and realize its rarity.  Lee Wiley and Jess Stacy weren’t married for a long time (or happily, for that matter) so they can’t have sent out years of Christmas cards.  Immensely rare and perhaps immensely sad.  (For the precise readers out there, I do know that Jess was happily married, later in life, to Pat Peck, but I am taking the eBay seller at his or her word when the card is presented as from Jess and Lee.  It would have been nice to see their signatures, although they may have been printed, too.)