Daily Archives: July 3, 2011


Lee Wiley and Jess Stacy, by Gjon Mili

never knew that Lee was so overbearing [as described in CHICAGO JAZZ AND THEN SOME, the recent book of Jess Stacy’s memories] but was not surprised.  After all, she had been a star in the late 20’s and early 30’s.  She had had her own radio program and had been a headliner at the best supper clubs in New York but by the late 30’s she was considered a has-been.  The only people in the business whose admiration for her singing never wavered were the Condon group.  Her Rogers & Hart session with Bushkin, Freeman,etc. was for the Liberty Music Shop, not exactly a major label.  She probably visualized Stacy as her ticket back to stardom. 

I only saw her with the Stacy orchestra once, in the fall of 1945 at the Panther Room of the Hotel Sherman in Chicago.  My only memory of that evening is that she sang IT’S ONLY A PAPER MOON better than anyone I have ever heard, before or since.

The comments about her adultery seemed quite disingenuous.  Well before Stacy, she had a reputation of only going to bed with guys she liked and that she didn’t have an enemy in the world.  Her lovers allegedly included Bunny Berigan and Fats Waller.

The only time I met her was at a club in New York in 1952.  She was sitting with a couple of musicians who invited me to their table.  She impressed me as not being very bright but extremely honest.  Her language was exceedingly vulgar, although not at all malicious.

(Postscript: nothing of Lee as overbearing or vulgar comes through in the 1945 recording of IT’S ONLY A PAPER MOON, which has all of her inimitable tenderness, that sweet phrase-ending vibrato, and the improvisatory playfulness, as if she had learned a great deal from Berigan and Hackett in taking risks.)


Short notice: the splendid saxophonist Joel Press is paying a brief visit to New York City.  As always, he will be creating bouncing riffs and casually eloquent, speaking melodic lines.  I think of his metaphysical street address as the corner of Swing and Lyricism.

Joel has three performances planned — with fine musical friends, as always.  Joel will be playing duets with the wonderful pianist Spike Wilner at SMALLS, 183 W 10th Street @ 7th Avenue South on Thursday, July 7th.  Their set begins at 7:30.  They will be followed by the Jeff Williams Quintet.

Sunday, July 3rd, 1:30 AM (if you’re awake) Joel, the cherished pianist Michael Kanan, bassist Tal Ronen, drummer Steve Little, will be playing at FAT CAT, 75 Chistopher Street @ 7th Avenue.

Tuesday, July 5th, at 7PM,  the same quartet will be at FAT CAT, 75 Chistopher Street @ 7th Avenue.

Carpe Press, JAZZ LIVES readers!