Sandie Shaw chimes in. After my post on the British female pop singers of the early 1960s, I received an email from Sandie Shaw, who had three hits in the U.S. and was hugely popular in the U.K. and Europe. We exchanged messages, and Sandie agreed to an email interview:
JazzWax: For those who weren't there, what was London pop scene like in the 1960s?
Sandie Shaw: It was a time of political and sexual awareness where music played a part in the exchange and sharing of new and young ideas. The youth demographic was huge because of the post war baby boom. Never has there been such a large influence on society by a young generation. Previously, the establishment had been created and controlled by the middle-aged and well-heeled. In the 1960s, the young and disenfranchised were able to have their say.
JW: Why were so many solo "girl" singers able to rise so fast in the U.K.?
SS: In the 1960s, the American scene was still stuck in the 1950s. The U.K. had an amazing free creative environment and a huge establishment to kick against. We had a class war to fight and sexual equality to define within the new liberalism over here. Our male and female audiences [pictured] directly related to all the musical output and were really ready for change.
JW: Was the competition fierce among pop singers, or was there plenty of room for everyone?
SS: Plenty of room. But there were only three main “girl” singers in Britain during this period: Dusty [Springfield], Cilla [Black] and me [pictured].
JW: You made singing look so easy. Was it?
SS: Yes. It came as second nature to me.
JW: In the video clips, you look a little scared. Were you?
SS: No. What you see is me “feeling” the song! Remember, I was only 17 years old when I started. Perhaps I was just being coooool. We Brits are not as full-on as you lot.
JW: What distinguished you from other female pop singers of the time?
SS: I like to think I was a style leader and perhaps a bit more creative and innovative. Unlike most of the other singers, I produced much of my own material.
JW: What factors do you think kept you from becoming more popular in the U.S.?
SS: Well don't forget I had three Top Pop hits in the U.S. on Warner Reprise in 1964 and 1965: (There's) Always Something There to Remind Me, Girl Don’t Come and Long Live Love. I was prevented from coming over to the States because I was denied a visa. I think I was viewed as the dangerous creative one that young people related to most. I don’t think the powers in the U.S. at the time wanted me influencing their teens with all those young, free, let's-change-the-world ideas. Today I suppose I’m undiscovered territory eh? Not a lot of that left in the world. I think it is great being a cult artist.
JW: Did you sing jazz and listen to jazz singers?
SS: Oh yes, I love listening to and singing jazz.
JW: What are you doing now?
SS: Building a store on my website, SandieShaw.com. I’m also thinking about returning to the Caribbean, where I have some land. And I’m developing new ideas for my back catalog of songs.
JW: Anything you would have done different back in the 1960s regarding the U.S. market?
SS: I would have liked to have made movies. I don't know why I didn't push. I suppose I was too busy in Europe at the time.
More Shaw: You'll find Sandie Shaw's bio, recordings and audio clips at SandieShaw.com. Be sure to click on "newsletter." Sandie has a wicked sense of humor. There's also a solid compilation of her recordings called The Collection at iTunes, though it's missing two of her three biggest hits. And you'll find many of her CDs and box sets at Amazon.
Here's a clip of Sandie on British TV in the early 1960s. She performed barefoot on many of her early TV appearances, earning her a reputation as a liberated free-spirit...
Freddie Hubbard. Following my post on the legendary trumpet player who died last week, I received quite a few emails. [Photo: Philippe Levy-Stab]
From reader and artist Max Frazee:
"Very sad news about Freddie Hubbard. I grew up listening to him. I sold all my rock albums at that time and was bent on collecting all CTI artists. And then of course I started listening to his earlier work! Even at that time most people my age did not care about him nor even knew who he was. Of course, when the news came over the wire of his death, there wasn't much in tribute to him, even the major papers. That is the saddest thing of all.
"I think you hit your point in a recent post about the Kennedy Center not honoring jazz artists appropriately. Sometimes this country befuddles me concerning the vast desert when it comes to it’s own artists and culture. Our artists—be it dance, music, visual arts, and theater—have so much to offer. And yet...
"I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of your blog. 99% of the music that you write about is to my taste. I have not bought a bad jazz CD out of the bunch. Your recommendations mean a lot to many people whom I have turned on to your page and now are subscribers. Thanks for all the history that you give us. It is truly a great thing. This the jazz magazines cannot provide. Keep up the great work and best for the new year."
From reader Ted Steinberg:
"I hate to be a dissenter when a good guy and journeyman musician dies, but Freddie Hubbard gets no statues in my park. "He plays like someone is standing on his foot," Miles Davis said referring to Hubbard. When I read that, I knew why it was that in almost all the albums you mentioned, which I owned at the time, I was waiting for something that never happened. His sound, technique, improvisational abilities were AOK, but that's all. If I didn't know I was listening to Hubbard, I would have had to ask or look at the liner notes. [Photo: Frank Schindelbeck]
"The Blues and the Abstract Truth is one of my favorite albums, but not because of Hubbard. It's because of the arrangements and the overall musicianship of the group. In terms of Hubbard's contribution to jazz, he was a journeyman, and a good one. But way over spun by the critics."
Howard Mandel, jazz author and president of the Jazz Journalists Association, shared his appreciation of Hubbard's career last week on NPR. To hear the interview and Howard's recollections, go here.
Billy Taylor in HD. This week, jazz video blog pioneer Bret Primack posts a clip from his interview with Billy Taylor on the pianist's encounter with New Orleans piano legend Jelly Roll Morton. The clip also features Billy playing Tiger Rag in Jelly Roll's inimitable style on the CBS TV show See It Now. Go here for the high-definition version of Bret's clip.
Russ Garcia's misplaced Oscar. Back in September I interviewed legendary arranger Russ Garcia. During the interview, I asked Russ about a puzzling photo I had in my possession of him and Charlie Chaplin. Ever humble, Russ reluctantly revealed that he had arranged all of the music for Chaplin's Limelight (1952) and that the Oscar awarded in 1972 for best score was mistakenly given to someone else with a name similar to his. Russ by then was living with his wife in New Zealand.
Ted Gioia of Jazz.com then picked up the torch and argued forcefully for a Russ Garcia Oscar here and here. To date, Ted and I remain the sole U.S. jazz journalists who have expressed outrage. Both of us have urged the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to right a wrong and award Russ his statue.
Despite leaving several messages with the Academy, the venerated institution has yet to return my calls or emails. Nor have I heard a peep about the Academy taking steps to correct its error of 37 years ago. For shame.
Last week I received a gratifying email from Steve Marshall in New Zealand, where Russ lives with his wife, Gina:
"I stayed with Russ and Gina Garcia some 35 years ago, when they lived in an isolated bay of their own in New Zealand's Bay of Islands. They really have been bringing music to young people for 37 years, and fully deserve the national honours they've just received."
To see the video clip of the news report, go here.
Max Roach. New York radio station WKCR-FM will present its
annual Max Roach Birthday Broadcast next Saturday, January 10. The
station will feature his music around the clock for 24 hours. You can
listen live to the show from anywhere in the world on your computer here.
Thelonious Monk. Jan Stevens of the Bill Evans Webpages here brought to my attention last week a document that appears to be pages from Thelonious Monk's notebook. Go here to view them. Jan says he came across the pages at Popurls.com and noted that there was nothing at the site to corroborate their authenticity. Hopefully someone will come forward to establish the document's bona fides or verify its origins. If the pages are indeed from Monk's hand, it's one of the most interesting and enlightening jazz documents I've seen in some time.
Daniel Smith. From time to time, a fabulous CD arrives unannounced, like a baby left in basket. In most cases, I pass on the recordings, since my allegiance is to you and your wallet, not record company executives or publicists. If I like an album, I write about it. If I don't, I focus on something else.
Last week, an advance promo copy of Daniel Smith's forthcoming Blue Bassoon arrived. Bassoonist Smith is most often found soloing on classical CDs, many of them featuring the works of baroque composers. Daniel also has released two jazz albums: Bebop Bassoon and Swingin' Bassoon. But on this new album, Daniel shows off his jazz chops, and frankly I was floored by the results.
First a word about the bassoon. Like the French horn and oboe, the bassoon is a character actor. Most musicians who play the instrument are anonymous folk who are more comfortable in the background rather than the limelight. The same is true for those who play the oboe and French horn, though both instruments have had jazz champions in Mitch Miller and Bob Cooper (oboe) and David Amram and Julius Watkins (French horn).
The bassoon is a different story. The instrument's only real jazz exposure has been in large orchestral ensembles and small-group dates arranged by texturists like Gil Evans. Bassoonists on jazz dates include Mannie Thaler, Dave Kurtzer, Jack Knitzer, Bob Tricarico, Garvin Bushell, Fred Dutton, Bob Richards, Harvey Saltzman and Wally Kane. When you listen to the bassoon play a jazz solo, you realize its register isn't too far afield from the tenor or baritone saxophone. This familiarity makes the instrument sound like a saxophone after a few years of finishing school.
Daniel's Vivaldi Bassoon Concertos at iTunes are rigorous, bold recordings. But Blue Bassoon will knock you out. There are 13 tracks, and all of them are ambitious interpretations of well-known compositions by Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, George Shearing, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and others. It's refreshing to hear the bassoon strut its stuff. Finally, the instrument that for years has been in classical lockdown is running free in Daniel's hands—and loving it. You'll find your spirit chasing after the long tall instrument as Daniel aggressively weaves and bobs through bold choices that are both familiar and challenging. I'm talking about tracks like Wayne Shorter's Footprints, John Coltrane's Equinox and Sonny Rollins' Solid.
Blue Bassoon is due in the coming months once Daniel and his management team settle on a willing label. For now, Daniel is offering three edited tracks as downloads for free at his site here (click on the "latest news" tab). The earlier two jazz bassoon CDs are available as downloads here.