JazzWax Insider. My free monthly e-newsletter will be sent out to email boxes early next week. The JazzWax Insider is a bonus for JazzWax readers. The e-newsletter features insights and behind-the-scenes reportage that didn't fit into my daily JazzWax posts. There's only so much room, of course. The good news is the JazzWax Insider is free and fast to read.
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Thank you from Toni Harper. In the wake of my series of posts on retired singer Toni Harper, I received the following email from Toni last week that I thought I'd share with you—not so much for nice things that she said but for the graceful way in which she said it:
"I owe you a boatload of thanks. As a result of our meeting online and our relationship progressing to the point that it has, I have been able to see pictures of myself when I was performing as an adult. Until now I've only witnessed me singing as a kid. [Photo of Toni Harper, far right, at age 11 with her family in 1948 by John Florea for Life]
The pictures on your blog blew me away, having never seen them before.
Today I received the DVD you mentioned in your post. I purchased it from Amazon, and it includes me singing in Japan, probably from the television show we did there.
I noticed that the Cannonball Adderley's rhythm section did in fact play for me, despite the friction. John Levy's account had me wondering if they did or did not. And there they were on the DVD, all of them. Even Sam Jones, who for whatever reason did not like me. [Photo of Toni Harper at age 11 in Hollywood in 1948 by John Florea for Life]
Viewing that DVD gave me a sense of fulfillment and cured my curiosity. In this life, I cannot get over it. To see what I have wondered about for so long is a blessing. It is wonderful to leave a legacy as that. I am proud of what I saw and heard.
I had no idea how beautiful I was and how great I could sing. I cracked up watching it and could hardly wait to write and tell you that. If not for you, I might not have ever seen it. I also just finished writing to John Levy and his wife. I had to thank them for the joy they brought to my door.
It is all such wonderful music, Marc. What a great sextet indeed. Out of sight!"
Jerry Fuller. Curious about clarinetist Jerry Fuller, whose excellent 1959 album Clarinet Portrait I mentioned as part of my Hidden Downloads on Friday? Reader Roger Wade sent along a link to the following YouTube clip. As of a few years ago, Roger said, Jerry was still playing and living north of Boston. With any luck he'll send along an email to me, and we'll learn more about his career.
Participants will include Phil Woods, Andy Bey and Frank Kimbrough along with the Eastman School of Music Chamber Jazz Ensemble conducted by Ryan Truesdell. Other participants include Helen Merrill, Maria Schneider, Steve Wilson, Howard Johnson and Stephanie Crease. Location: 619 Lexington (at 54th Street). Advance tickets are $20 ($25 at the door and $10 with student ID). For event times and more information, go here (and scroll down).
Cool site. Jim Raposa, former national program director for Georgia's vast network of Music of Your Life radio stations, hosts the Standards Channel, a terrific site that includes a radio station playing American Songbook standards. Go here.
CD discoveries of the week: Dig the Singers Unlimited and other vocal groups that adore harmony? Take a listen to Inner Voices' Valentine. Produced and arranged by Morgan Ames, a composer and lyricist who began singing and playing piano in Los Angeles clubs at age 16, this album features 17 tracks, each displaying a tight tapestry of vocal purity. Morgan learned the business from Quincy Jones, for whom she worked for three years, and she has spent her career producing and singing in Hollywood recording and movie studios. Jazz fans may know her best as the co-writer with Johnny Mandel of Quietly There, which she sings accompanying herself on piano on this album.
Valentine is a choral masterclass and a reminder that some artists out there still love the sound of a cappella voices pressed together. More on the five-member Inner Voices vocal group here. More on Morgan Ames here. You'll find this album at iTunes or here.
40 Acres and a Burro, from Arturo O'Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, roars out of the gate and never quits. Founded in 2003, the ALJO under Arturo's direction has consistently turned out solid albums, and this one is no exception. What makes this CD more special is greater cohesion and the patient blending of old and new. Sample Almendra, a cha-cha-cha, or the simmering A Night in Tunisia. Arturo's A Wise Latina demonstrates instantly why he is so important as a Duke Ellington- and Chico O'Farrill-inspired arranger and composer. You'll find this one at iTunes or here.
Bassist Matthew Rybicki's new album, Driven, is his first. The album harkens back to hard bop of the late '60s, when tightly arranged horns embraced modal scales and flirted with free jazz. All of the tracks are determined and strong. Smart horn work by trumpeter Freddie Hendrix and saxophonist Ron Blake. You'll find this at iTunes or here.
Ozay is a captivating vocalist—a Marlene Dietrich-ian offspring of sorts with a mysterious air about her. She's featured on a newly issued and equally mysterious album that doesn't appear to have a name and was recorded in 1994 and 1995. The album features saxophonists David Murray and Chico Freeman, but Ozay clearly is the standout here. To see what I mean, sample Antiquated Love and Intuitively. And catch how she steams up I Thought About You. You'll find this one at iTunes or here.
If you want to hear some refreshing post hard-bop, dig Anthony Branker & Ascent's Dance Music. Branker is the composer and arranger of the album's tracks, and each packs power and instrumental discovery. In particular, tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen has a big strong sound that's enhanced by trombonist Clifford Adams Jr. and alto saxophonist Tia Fuller. Pianist Johnny King brings everything together neatly. Sample A Smile Awaits and Truth. What's more, the album has been crisply recorded with enormous sonic depth and dimension. You'll find this one at iTunes or here.
Saxophonist Ric Cunningham's Adventures in the Modern Lounge is a tad on the soundscape side, but it's sufficiently textured to qualify as a breather from heavier fare. Many of the tracks sound like air conditioning feels on its highest speed—cool and frantic. Cunningham plays alto, tenor and a vintage Conn baritone sax, which can be heard on Les Amis. Most of the tracks, like Powerhouse, mash his reeds with electronica, creating a cunning collage. NaNa La ChaCha and Jazzed may not be heavy-duty stuff but they are fun. You'll find this at iTunes or here.
Oddball album covers of the week: Here's another one of those strange covers issued by the Fontana label from the Netherlands, casting jazz musicians as leering perverts. This time around, the victim is Cannonball Adderley. The art department even did a bit of ham-handed retouching to make Adderley look as though he's giving the lass a wink. Can't quite tell whether she's encouraging or chastising the great alto saxophonist—or why she's yelling.