Tag Archives: Herb Jeffries

JOYOUS PAPER EPHEMERA, 1941

I’d never seen this before — a program for Duke Ellington’s JUMP FOR JOY as presented in 1941 at the Mayan Theatre.  Had it been a different world, we would have color sound footage of this production.  At least we have this program and the few recordings.

J4J one

and

J4J two

and

J4J three

and

J4J four

and finally

J4J five

A piece of history — cultural as well as musical.

May your happiness increase!

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KALLY PRICE’S DEEP SOUL (Red Poppy Art House, June 17, 2012)

I’ve admired the singer / songwriter Kally Price for some time now, and think it’s a very good omen that she was appearing at the very cozily singular Red Poppy Art House in San Francisco (visit it here) three days after we arrived in California.  She was joined by pianist / accordionist / composer Rob Reich (of Gaucho and other groups), string bassist Dan Fabricant, and drummer Beth Goodfellow.  Kally doesn’t shout or scream or gyrate, but it’s clear that her singing and her songs come from deep within her — a powerful private soul that she shares most readily with us.  She doesn’t sing at her songs, or even sing her songs . . . she becomes them.  And the three other musicians on the little stage gave her empathic support and love.

Here are some of the highlights of their two sets.

After a terse, romping I GOT RHYTHM (mixing Fifty-Second Street, Mel Powell, Bud Powell, and Kansas City) that the trio played while I was getting my camera accustomed to the dark, Rob offered his own composition, an unnamed waltz that he said was somewhat spooky.  For the moment, then, it’s SPOOKY WALTZ:

Kally shared one of her songs — simple yet intense, apparently plain but full of oblique twists and turns.  She calls it MY JOB:

She is very fond of the great singers of the Thirties, and here’s a medley that connects Billie Holiday and Ivie Anderson, in LET’S CALL A HEART A HEART and LOVE IS LIKE A CIGARETTE:

Tampa Red’s ROCK IT IN RHTYHM, which everyone on the stand was more than able to enact with style:

Rob, Dan, and Beth offer a spirited GLADIOLUS RAG:

I associate FLAMINGO with the 1941 Ellington band and rhapsodic delivery of the lyrics by Herb Jeffries (still with us!); here, Dan Fabricant takes it on himself to reinvent those same lyrics: the effect is mesmerizing, more or less:

Kally returns for a fervent WILLOW WEEP FOR ME:

Her tribute to the late Regina Pontillo, THE HOPEFUL PLACE, a small devout masterpiece:

MELT MY HEART, a song with hymnlike intensity:

And finally her own LOVE FOR THE ASKING:

I hope the world keeps discovering Kally Price and her noble abetters.  I can’t decide if she sings with a powerful delicacy or a delicate power, but it really doesn’t matter.  We are so very lucky to have her.

May your happiness increase.

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING (WILL BE WONDERFUL): SWEET AND HOT, Sept. 2011

The sentiments, slightly modified, come from Mae West (by way of Oscar Wilde, two people who knew the delights of overabundance.  But this post is about jazz, not sex, even though the words SWEET and HOT are in the title.

I have just seen the schedule for the September 2011 Sweet and Hot music extravaganza — to be held at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott over Labor Day weekend.  You, too, can see it here:

http://www.sweethot.org/schedule/2011/SH_Schedule_2011.pdf

These five pages are wonderful.  I see my heroes and heroines and friends — those I’ve met and those I’ve only heard — in profusion.  There’s Chris Dawson, Connie Jones, Rebecca Kilgore, Eddie Erickson, Katie Cavera, Dawn Lambeth, Marc Caparone, Ralf and John Reynolds, Mark Shane, Dan Levinson, Molly Ryan, Hal Smith, Clint Baker, Tim Laughlin, Randy Reinhart, Dan Barrett, John Sheridan, Joel Forbes, Chloe Feoranzo, Corey Gemme, John Allred, Howard Alden, Bob Draga, Sue Kroninger, Richard Simon, Johnny Varro, Dan Levinson, Carl Sonny Leyland, Marty Eggers, Allan Vache, Ed Polcer, Jim Galloway, Banu Gibson, Dave Koonse, Russ Phillips, Herb Jeffries, Jennifer Leitham, Janet Klein and her Parlor Boys . . . . and I know I’m leaving out a dozen more.

This amplitude, this cornucopia isn’t in itself a problem.  Better to have your plate heaped high with deliciousness than have one elderly green bean to gnaw on.  The problem — if you see it as such — is in the choosing.

When scientists experimented on the subject of choice, they found that children asked to decide between three breakfast cereals did fine; children asked to choose among twelve burst into tears.

I’m in slightly better shape, especially because I never eat cold cereal.  But I wish JAZZ LIVES readers would come up with a solution to my jazz dilemma.  There’s only one of me, and when in one room the Rebecca Kilgore Quartet is swinging away, in another the Reynolds Brothers are romping, in a third it’s Jones-Clint Baker-Laughlin-Dawson-Hal Smith, in a fourth Levinson, Ryan, and Shane . . . what’s a fellow to do?

The Beloved, bless her heart, offered to take another video camera to another set . . . and I thank her for it . . . but perhaps my readers have some suggestions.

I know!  Come to Sweet and Hot and help me solve the dilemma of abundance.  By the time Labor Day weekend is over, we’ll have worked something out.  Right?

THE SWEET AND HOT CORNUCOPIA (September 2-5, 2011)

How about spending Labor Day weekend 2011 with these musicians:

Howard Alden, John Allred, Dan Barrett, Chris Calabrese, Marc Caparone, Katie Cavera, Chris Dawson, Bob Draga, Eddie Erickson, Yve Evans, Chloe Feoranzo, Joel Forbes, Jim Galloway, Banu Gibson, Connie Jones,  Rebecca Kilgore, Janet Klein and her Parlor Boys, Dave Koonse, Sue Kroninger, Tim Laughlin, Dan Levinson, Carl Sonny Leyland, Russ Phillips, Randy Reinhart, John Reynolds, Ralf Reynolds, Molly Ryan, Mark Shane, Ed Shaughnessy, John Sheridan, Richard Simon, Hal Smith, Putter Smith, Allan Vache, Johnny Varro, Westy Westenhofer . . . and others to be announced?

It can be done!  (The Beloved and I have made our plans.)

The players and singers above will be appearing at the Sweet and Hot Music Festival, September 3-5, 2011, at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel.  For information about the hotel: http://www.sweethot.org/hotel.html

I am a self-confessed jazz snob, with a happily narow range (although I tell people my immersion is deep).  But many people want much more variety.  They will find it easily at Sweet and Hot, which has a broad range.

There will be The Mills Brothers – not the foursome we knew from 1936, but a group led by John Mills (son, grandson, and nephew of the original Brothers) their descendents, performing their classic hits.

Singers Ernestine Anderson and Barbara Morrison will perform, and perhaps the patriarch of 1940-1 Ellingtonia, Herb Jeffries, will be there.

A Classic Classical piano set will feature Warner Bros recording artist Yolanda Klappert, joined in a four hand-one piano extravaganza by thirteen-year old Lucas Crosby.

Those who can’t get enough of Gypsy swing will revel in the playing of the Argentinian Gonzalo Bergara Quartet.

The Cunninghams will appear for the first time, playing and singing the Great American Songbook — straight from Vegas.  Alicia and Don duet, and he plays the sax and vibes.

The irrepressible Banu Gibson will bring her band as well as an eighteen-year old trumpet player who is that is the city of New Orleans’ Junior Satchmo Ambassador.

Speaking of the future of jazz, there will be the Jazz America of 2011: a group from 11 to 18.

Cajun music from Gator Beat, four dance bands, and many special sets to be announced . . . from boogie woogie to Broadway, Oscar-winning performers and writers including Sean Callery and John Altman, as well as the Hues Corporation of Rock the Boat fame.

All of this sounds expensive, right?  I wouldn’t presume to tell JAZZ LIVES readers how to spend their savings, but I will quietly point out that someone can buy an all-events badge — covering all the music for four days straight — for $100.  Individual day badges are priced accordingly, with discounts for youth:

http://www.sweethot.org/tickets.html

Something for everyone!

THINGS AIN’T WHAT THEY USED TO BE

 Duke 1942My friend and fellow jazz researcher David Weiner sent me this clipping from BILLBOARD (issues of that music business magazine from 1942 to the present are now accessible online).  David is a tireless reader, and he found this review of an Ellington stage show which would make anyone wish for a time machine to ttravel to the RKO-Boston in February 1942, an acetate recorder, a sound movie camera — and a crew to operate them all.  For your reading and listening pleasure.  (Oh, and you can ignore the racist language and you don’t have to stay for the movie itself.)

From Billboard, Feb. 21, 1942:

Duke Ellington has one of the fastest and finest shows seen on a local stage in a long time. The Duke still has the band and he is also a fine showman.  There is no letdown from the moment the Ellington medley intros the stageshow until the final curtain. Ethel Waters is present along with the Ellington band, and it all adds up to the biggest flesh value the Hub has seen in many moons.

Offering opens with a medley of Ellingtonia – Sophisticated Lady, Solitude, etc. The Duke then introduces Marie Bryant, who has one brief number to offer, which clicks very nicely. Ivie Anderson follows and receives a great ovation, singing Rocks In My Bed and I Want A Man Like That. In the latter number she gets some assistance from the boys in the band, notably drummer Sonny Greer, who has some choice repartee.

With the next offering, Concerto for Clinkers, a symphony of offtones, the Duke gets a chance to introduce some of the boys in his band, all of whom were joyously received. Johnny Hodges, who does some very fine sax work, received a great hand.

When the Concerto is finished, the Duke brings out Herb Jeffries, who sings Flamingo, the band’s recent release. Encouraged by the great response, Jeffries comes back with Blues In The Night, highlighted by a good Ellington arrangement. Jeffries has a nice, easy manner and a fine voice and makes an immediate and definite impression.

Ethel Waters follows and starts with Ain’t Gonna Sin No More, Frankie and Johnny and Bread and Gravy. In the last-named piece she is assisted by three dusky maidens proficient in singing Negro spirituals. They demonstrate their ability with Miss Waters aiding them, and get a great hand. Miss Waters then goes into St. Louis Blues, bows off, and returns in response to a great ovation to offer Stormy Weather. Finally had to beg off.

Ellington then introduces Pot, Pan and Skillet, from the cast of Jump For Joy, who do a terrific job with a comedy dance routine. Called back for some more antics, they delight the crowd, finally bowing off to make way for the Ellington finale, which features Ivie and his newest number I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good.

Screen fare is a trifle weak, “North to the Klondike.”

(Mike Kaplan, Billboard Mag.)