Thought I'd give you a good laugh today. Here's comedian Jerry Lewis in The Errand Boy (1961) pretending to be the boss while miming Count Basie's Blues in Hoss' Flat...
One more laugh. Here's a good one from drummer Hal Blaine...
"Arturo Toscanini is conducting the New York Philharmonic, and there is a trumpet part that nobody can cut. The musicians try and try but to no avail. Finally, someone recommends a jazz trumpeter who lives nearby who would be able to execute the part. [Photo: Andre Kertesz, 1937]
"Toscanini has a fit and says he will never hire any jazz musician, since they are undependable, dress badly and have terrible attitudes. Finally, after numerous failed attempts at the part, he is forced to call the guy.
"The trumpeter walks in, sits down, pulls his axe out of a
brown paper bag and looks up at Toscanini. The musician nods and says, 'How ya doin', my man?' He then proceeds to blow the part perfectly, to everyone's amazement.
"The next day is the dress rehearsal and the same thing
happens. The musician shows up, pulls his horn out of a brown paper bag, looks up at Toscanini and says, 'How ya' doin', my man?' [Pictured: Stefan Wewerka, Classroom Chair, Berlin, 1970]
"The first time through he nails the part again. Finally, after the rehearsal, Toscanini approaches the guy and says he wants to apologize for the negative attitude he has had toward jazz musicians.
"'I've always had terrible experiences with jazz musicians,
as they have been undependable, high or drunk, and bad dressers. But you have changed my opinion on the subject
by being on time and executing the part to perfection, and I thank you for that.' [Pictured: Andre Kertesz, Lost Cloud, New York, 1937]
To which the jazz cat replies, 'Hey man, thanks. I figured it's the least I could do seeing as I can't make the gig tomorrow.'”
Marcos Valle in New York. Bossa nova singer-songwriter legend Marcos Valle will be making a rare appearance at Birdland this Tuesday through Saturday (May 17-21). He will be joined by vocal legend Wanda Sa. Marcos is the composer of more than 600 songs, including Summer Samba (So Nice), The Answer, Crickets Sing for Anamaria, Batucada, The Face I Love and Chup Chup I Got Away. For more information, go here.
The rare BossaBrasil appearance by Marcos and Wanda at Birdland is being presented by Delta Air Lines and is produced by Pat Philips and Ettore Stratta.
Hal McKusick on Lucky Thompson. Saxophone legend Hal McKusick gave me a call last week to chat about tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson following my post on Chris Byars new CD. Hal played with Thompson in Boyd Raeburn's band as well as on many pick-up club and ballroom dates in New York in the '40s and '50s. Here are Hal's recollections:
"I remember Lucky as a very quiet and efficient guy with a beautiful sound. He was great to have in a sax section. He had enormous finesse and caring about everything he played.
"Lucky kind of had his own thing. There was a Ben Webster influence there, and he loved Lester Young. But he played different than Lester, and his sound was more gentle than Ben's. There wasn't a biting kind of attack or the growl.
"Lucky got into a tune deep but without any high emotion. Yet what you heard wasn't vanilla or banal. It was like Don Byas, only softer.
"I worked with Lucky quite a bit at the Savoy Ballroom. He ran a couple of bands in the early '50. We also worked with Erskine Hawkins' band. It was great to watch the dancers from the stand, and the sound of the room was amazing.
"I was so saddened to read of Lucky's final years. He didn’t drink or smoke or do drugs. He was careful about the way he lived. He wasn’t a flamboyant player. Maybe if he had been more of a show-biz type, his name would be better known today. No matter. I loved his sound, and it appears so do many others."
Here's Hal leading the Ross School band in Easthampton, N.Y. Hal arranged four pieces for the reed ensemble: Clifford Brown's Sandu, Thelonious Monk's Ask Me Now, Hal's own When Leaves Fall and Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo's Tin Tin Deo. Man, dig those reed voicings and players. And dig that smooth Hal McKusick sound...
Ahmad Jamal. Pianist Joe Alterman was able to score an interview with pianist Ahmad Jamal. You'll find the interview with Jamal at Joe's blog here. If you're unfamiliar with Joe Alterman, check out his splendid recent CD here.
Uncle Sam's Jukebox. Dig this link to the U.S. government's National Jukebox site. There are lots of recordings in the Library of Congress. You get to listen for free! An article on the National Jukebox is here. For the jukebox itself, go here.
Pops on TV. Joe Lang, past president of the New Jersey Jazz Society, sent along a link to a wonderful clip of Louis Armstrong playing on The Colgate Comedy Hour on June 28, 1952. Go here.
CD discovery of the week. Pianist Bruce Barth is fast becoming the pianist to beat. His new CD, Live at Smalls, has it all—delicate energy and simmering intensity along with swing and heart. Originals build patiently and lyrically, never falling into cliches or predictable patterns. There's also no fat here. Each song is given enormous attention and caring, holding your interest at every turn. Best of all, Bruce has this way of drawing you in by modulating the volume of the piano and sneaking behind and ahead of the beat. Sample his originals, Sunday, Yama and Peaceful Place. And the sound quality of this recording is top-notch. You'd never know it was recorded in a club. Bruce is joined by Vicente Archer on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. You'll find this one at iTunes or here.
Oddball album covers of the week. Women laying in the grass feigning fascination with the record buyer was a common theme in the '50s. Here are two picnic pinups: The album up top is Hey Lover, a 1959 album by pianist Johnny Guarnieri and his Orchestra. The other is Nobody Else But Me from 1955, featuring vocalist Betty Bennett singing the arrangements of Shorty Rogers and Andre Previn. And yep, that's Bennett on the cover, in the grass, wisely wearing dark slacks for the photo shoot. By the way, the Bennett album is quite good, as you might imagine, featuring the usual great Hollywood sidemen of the period.