Tag Archives: West Coast

“SANDRA”: FOR ADULTS ONLY, 1944

I don’t know how seriously anyone is going to take my gentle warning in this title, for by 2012 standards, this short burlesque film of “Sandra” is tame.  But it must have been seriously arousing then — produced by “Quality Pictures” for audiovisual jukeboxes . . . placed in taverns, I assume.

Lest you worry that JAZZ LIVES has all of a sudden sunk to slavering over antiquarian naughtiness, let me reassure you.  First, the source of this film is the very knowledgeable jazz-film scholar Mark Cantor, and it appears on his YouTube channel, CantorJazzOnFilm.

Our interest, for the moment, is twofold — for those who can concern themselves with subjects aside from the lithe and nimble “Sandra.”  (I put her name in quotation marks because I assume that it might well be a pseudonym.)

Not seen on camera is a reasonably swinging jazz sextet, directed by the pianist / composer David Rose.  In one of the sweet ironies of this film and of history, perhaps twenty years later, Rose’s big hit — aside from HOLIDAY FOR STRINGS — was a single on the MGM label called THE STRIPPER, which later became the music for a television commercial for shave cream (Noxema?) with a breathy woman encouraging the lathered-up male to “Take it off.  Take it ALL off.”  Pop culture — an anthropologist’s dream!

But I digress.  What piece of light classical music is the sextet offering, and are any of the players immediately evident?  I think I hear trombone, clarinet, vibraphone, piano, string bass . . . but aside from that, it’s somewhat murky.

And here’s “Sandra,” doing her lowdown dance:

I am not good at estimating women’s ages, but if Sandra was legally of age when she performed her dance, she would be — at least — eight-nine now.  Is she with us still, or are there any grandchildren, cousins, or nieces who recognize her?  “Research!”

May your happiness increase.

DAWN LAMBETH

Dawn Lambeth, the quiet West Coast sensation, has just released her second CD, in the fine tradition of Maxine Sullivan and Mildred Bailey. She is an understated but compelling singer who fits wonderfully into small jazz groups — there’s no letdown when the soloists give way to the vocal — and the results are charming without ever being self-consciously nostalgic. Dawn isn’t one of those girl singers who found a Billie Holiday record a life-changing experience, not that there’s anything wrong with that — but then went off to imitate Lady Day. Dawn sounds like herself, which is a fine thing. You won’t think of her voice first — she doesn’t strive for coloratura effects — but she swings and can tell a story. What more could anyone wish for? She has a dark-toned alto and an easy, conversational way of addressing lyrics as if she believed in the words and the sentiment. She finds new notes to sing that seem just right, and her time (crucial for this lilting variety of jazz) is both right-on and flexible: she plays with the beat, pushing forward here and hesitating there, elongating a syllable you wouldn’t expect or cutting one short that another singer would have drawn out for melodrama. She fits right in with the instrumental soloists, stays at their level, and inspires them. But you’ll hear this for yourself. And hear this you should! Both of her CDs are available through Worlds Records and CD Baby (see the blogroll to visit their sites) and they are rare pleasures.