Last week, Living Blues magazine announced the results of its 18th annual Living Blues Awards. In its Reader's Poll category, the Best Blues Album of 2010 (Historical Recording) went to Dinah Washington: The Fabulous Miss D! The Keystone, Decca, & Mercury Singles 1943-1953 (Hip-OSelect/UMe). I wrote the liner notes. Hats off to Universal producer and vice president of A&R Harry Weinger. It's a terrific set. For the full list of winners, go here. For the box set, go here.
"Frank and I wrote a song in the late '80s when I co-produced an album for Diane Schuur and the Basie Band. GRP Records' Larry Rosen had asked me to write a song for Diane that would have the effect of It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)—but not be that song.
"I immediately got a headache. The whole project was a classic last-minute rush. Before I knew it, we were all on our way to Japan to tour the CD's songs, all of which I had chosen or written with Diane's input—just days or weeks beforehand. The idea was to introduce the songs on the road and then record in the studio and tape live for video at the end. [Pictured: Morgan Ames]
"I had most of the freshly copied, not-yet-played band charts on the plane with me. To meet Larry's challenge, I came up with You Can Have It at the start of the flight. Then I walked over to Frank's seat and gave him the lyrics, telling him about Larry's suggestion, and went back to my seat to sleep.
"Halfway through the Japan tour, Frank brought in the song one night and sang it down for Diane. It must have been a hair-raising assignment, even for Frank, considering the model had already been written and arranged by Duke Ellington. As Larry had said, 'Do it like that but don't do it like that.' Now I understand why it took Frank half the tour to write and arrange it.
"Besides the lyric, all I said to Frank was that it had to be fast. His chart still blows me away. It was all that and a bag of chips. The CD, Diane Schuur and the Count Basie Orchestra, remained at No. 1 on the Billboard jazz chart for 32 weeks, Diane won a Grammy for Jazz Vocalist of the Year, and Frank won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocals. And we got to keep our publishing, too!"
You can hear You Can Have It here.
Pops on stage. Terry Teachout is a busy guy. In addition to serving as the Wall Street Journal's drama critic, he also writes arts criticism for a variety of publications and recently authored Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong. And then there were the two opera librettos (he's working on a third). And he's currently writing a Duke Ellington biography. In the remaining minutes of each day, Terry [pictured] managed to write a play, Satchmo at the Waldorf. It opens on September 15 in Orlando, Fla., starring Dennis Neal, centering on Armstrong's last performance in 1971 before his death. For more information, go here.
Fran Landesman (1927-2011), who is best known for writing the lyrics to Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most and Ballad of the Sad Young Men, died last week. Rather than say more, let me quote from my interview with Jackie Cain, who with husband Roy Kral, put Landesman [pictured] on the map.
JazzWax: In 1955 you were the first to record Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most. Did you know the song's composer?
Jackie Cain: Actually we did. We had met Tommy Wolf in St. Louis in 1954. Tommy had come to hear us at a local club. After we finished, he came up and introduced himself to us. He was very ecstatic about what we had done, and he told us we were great and how much he loved our work. He made us feel real good. He pointed out parts of the song that he liked best. Some things we did were contrapuntal, and we used a lot of harmony and we went in and out of harmony. So there was a lot to listen to. Tommy got it all.
JW: What happened next?
JC: Tommy asked us to come see him at the Crystal Palace nearby, where he was the house pianist. The Crystal Palace was co-owned by the husband of lyricist Fran Landesman. Fran would write lovely lyrics and Tommy would put them to music. So we went over to hear him at the Crystal Palace on our night off. [Photo of Fran Landesman seated atop the piano and Tommy Wolf at the keyboard]
JW: How was Tommy?
JC: Seeing him perform was an eye-opener. He was doing all these wonderful original tunes he had written with Fran. Tommy played and sang at the piano. His songs written with Fran included Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most, You Inspire Me and I Love You Real. Their songs were very clever and sounded as if they had been written for us. After the set, Tommy told us about Fran.
JW: What did you tell him?
JC: We asked Tommy to send us a copy of Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most. He said many people had wanted to record it since he and Fran wrote it [in 1952] but that no one ever did.
JC: Tommy said it was too avant-garde for some audiences. Which is true. It's not an easy song. It has become an underground hit and standard just by being done by so many artists who do it love it. The lyrics don’t circle back and repeat. It’s not like a true pop song. It’s poignant, beautiful and one big, long story.
For more infromation on Landesman, go here.
Dizzy Gillespie and James Moody. Another superb mini-doc from Jazz Journalists Association award winner Bret Primack...
Still hungry for Helen? Last week, I forgot to share with you my favorite Helen Shapiro hit, Stop and You'll Become Aware. By the way, a Comment that was posted during the week about a rock concert performance in the '80s was spam and has been removed. Dig the jazz bass opener here...
The World of the Teenager. Back in 1966, Frank De Felitta, director Raymond De Felitta's father, filmed a documentary on the restless teenage youth culture in Lexington, Mass., for NBC. For more about the documentary, go here. You'll find the documentary here...
Cool. Dig this funny clip that past president of the New Jersey Jazz Society Joe Lang sent along. It's a jape on today's digital social networking world, set to the music of West Side Story...
CD discovery of the week. Pianist Junior Mance's Letter From Home (Jun Glo Music) was recorded live at Cafe Loup in New York this past March. The album features Junior, 82, in a robust funky-gospel mood. He's joined by Hide Tanaka on bass, Kim Garey on drums, Ryan Anselmi on tenor sax and Andrew Hadro on baritone sax. Junior gives Home on the Range a deep, soulful treatment, recasting it as a prairie companion to John Brown's Body. Junior also adds fire to Ellington-Strayhorn's Sunset and the Mocking Bird and A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing. You'll find this one here.
Oddball album cover of the week. Last week, Julie London was under covers asking for the record-buyer's phone number. This week, a tarty party model is shown in a house of blue lights reposing for a Dick Garcia album from 1956. And quite a superb album by the guitarist at that. Unclear is whether our model is returning Garcia's call or leaving him a message. Either way, that pre-cordless receiver looks like it weighs a ton. I'll leave it to the shrinks to figure out why photographing a woman in bed with a phone sold records.