Daily Archives: December 29, 2011

A FEW MORE WORDS FOR MISS LEA

On hearing of Barbara Lea’s death, I, too, went back to her recordings. And what strikes me now (and impressed me the first time I heard her) was her clarity and simplicity.  No tricks, nothing to obscure the melody and to place the singer in front of the song.  Barbara had most often been compared to the female singers she so admired — Lee Wiley, then Mildred Bailey and Billie Holiday — but at this distance she sounds much more like a medium-register cornet, on track and sweetly focused.  She was also a great interpreter of the lyrics, without ever seeming to “dramatize,” to deliver certain words or lines in italics. The music flowed through her to us.  She respected the composer’s intentions and offered the song — with a lightness of heart yet a great deal of feeling.

What also remains is the memory of her sharp-edged prose: if you have the vinyl or CD version of the sessions Dick Sudhalter and Connie Jones did first for Stomp Off Records as GET OUT AND GET UNDER THE MOON, read her notes: they have a gentle pungency — serious truths are being told here although without belligerence.

We are lucky to have had her and her music!

Here are two more reminders.  The first is a candid photograph taken by Sonny McGown at the 1983 Manassas Jazz Festival (Barbara’s studio recordings from that time are collected on a CD titled DO IT AGAIN, which pairs her with Vic Dickenson, Billy Butterfield, and Johnny Mince).  Johnny had a headache so Barbara offered a neck massage — and it looks as if she knew exactly what she was doing:

Before I close this post, the person I want to call to your attention is Jeanie Wilson, Barbara’s dear friend from North Carolina.  Jeanie stayed out of the spotlight and does so even now, but the way she and her husband Bill took care of Barbara in Barbara’s last years is a model of loving solicitude and generosity of spirit that we could all try to live up to.  As we are bereft of Barbara, we should send thanks to Jeanie for being the most devoted friend anyone ever had.

And let’s have Barbara and Johnny Windhurst, both young, fill our ears with their golden music. If there are echoes of Wiley and Hackett, that doesn’t bother me:

HOT ANTIC JAZZ BAND at WHITLEY BAY 2011 (thanks to Elin Smith)

I met Elin Smith and her husband Ron at the first Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival I attended in 2009.  Elin is very sociable, so when we noticed we both had video cameras and tripods, and were looking for clear sight lines, we began to talk and very quickly became friends.  And we’ve continued our friendship ever since.  Because of my own video debacle of 2011, I am indebted to Elin and Flemming Thorbye for the videos of Whitley Bay you will see in the next few postings.

Aside from being a deep-dyed videographer and jazz enthusiast, Elin also has her own blog — a wide-ranging one, called elinshouse  — her own amused perceptions of the world and a steady hand on the camera with which she records them.  Thanks, Elin!

The first set of the weekend belonged to the greatly animated Hot Antic Jazz Band, led by cornetist / vocalist / raconteur Michel Bastide, with a guest appearance by trumpeter / vocalist / Festival Director Mike Durham, as well as the young Norwegian trombonist Kristoffer Kompen; Michel Bascont, clarinet; Martin Seck, piano; J-P Dubois.banjo; Bernard Antherieu, tuba; Raymond Grasier, washboard.  The Hot Antics kicked things off most enthusiastically with a program of music associated with Clarence Williams.

SPANISH SHAWL:

SWEET EMMALINA:

CANDY LIPS:

WILDFLOWER RAG (a solo for pianist Martin Seck):

WHAT MAKES ME LOVE YOU SO?:

MY GAL SAL:

More to come!

Tickets for the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party are going fast: click here for details.  Here’s the line-up!

Duke Heitger (USA), Spats Langham (UK), Bent Persson (Sweden), Keith Nichols (UK), Matthias Seuffert Germany), Cecile McLorin Salvant (USA), Michael McQuaid (Australia), Caroline Irwin (UK), Stéphane Gillot (France), Emma Fisk (UK), René Hagmann (Switzerland), Martin Litton (UK), Andy Schumm USA), Rico Tomasso (UK), Jean-François Bonnel (France), Norman Field (UK), Thomas Winteler (Switzerland), Malcolm Sked (UK), Michel Bescont (France), Alistair Allan (UK), Kristoffer Kompen (Norway), Richard Pite (UK), Martin Seck (Germany), Jens Lindgren (Sweden), Martin Wheatley (UK), Josh Duffee (USA), Keith Stephen (UK), Manu Hagmann (Switzerland), Phil Rutherford (UK), Henry Lemaire (France), Frans Sjöström (Sweden), Nick Ward (UK) – and Mike Durham (West Jesmond).

Mike Durham says, “All concerts will take place in the four-star Village Hotel’s Inspiration Suite, with cabaret seating: a new band or solo artist brought to you at the comfort of your table every 60 minutes (or less!) from midday to midnight (with a break for dinner). All properly themed – no disorganised “let’s just get together and blow” sessions….. except for the late-night jam-session in the hotel’s Victory Pub.”