Uan Rasey (1921-2011) Trumpeter Uan Rasey and I were supposed to talk a week ago. Sadly, Uan died on the very day I was to interview him. When I called him a week earlier and asked if we could chat, he was gratified and said sure. He asked me to call him Uan (pronounced YOU-in). He mentioned he was legally blind and made a point to tell me he wasn't a jazz musician.
"I was a big band player who recorded in the studios," he said. This wasn't a boast on Uan's part or a way to tell me that he was less of a musician than I thought he was. It was simply a distinction he wanted to make. Trumpeters are like that.
When we spoke initially, Uan touched briefly on Billy May and his many recordings for the bandleader and arranger. When I asked him about my favorite recording of his—the theme to the movie Chinatown—Uan didn't recall it specifically. "You have to understand," he said, "I recorded on thousands of records and movies, often several a day."
I'm certainly sorry I didn't push to interview him on the spot. But in such cases, musicians like a little time to gather their thoughts so they're prepared. In most cases, that gap produces a better, more memorable conversation. In this case, I gave him that period of time. In retrospect, it was a mistake. [Photo below—front row, from left: Jack Sheldon, Uan Rasey and Mark Lewis. Back row, from left: Bob Bain, Chuck Berghofer, Rick Baptist, Gary Halopoff, Jeff Bunnell, Chuck Findley, Wayne Bergeron, Bill Peterson, Carl Saunders, Charlie Davis, Bob O'Donnell, Rob Schaer and Arturo Sandoval. Courtesy of Rick Baptist and Gary Anderson]
When I was just out of high school in 1974, I spent a summer working at a movie theater before college began that fall. As a ticket-ripper and usher, I had the pleasure of seeing a single movie upward of 25 times. One of those was Chinatown.
When the General Cinema theater was quiet on afternoons during the week, the ushers and candy salespeople (guys and gals) would sit in the theater in the same row. We all had seen the same movie over and over. As the movie unfolded on the screen, we'd say the lines out loud, just before the actors did. For Chinatown, I was land baron Noah Cross (John Huston), and the great moment for me was bellowing, "The future, Mr. Gittes, the future."
Naturally, after watching a film or parts of it over and over again, you fall in love with the music. That was true with Chinatown, a score arranged by Jerry Goldsmith [pictured]. In the early 80s, when I had a chance to visit a friend who lived in Huntington Beach, Calif., I took a cassette of the Chinatown music and drove around old Los Angeles with the theme playing on my Walkman. You really feel the intent and mood when you do stuff like that.
At any rate, I digress. Uan Rasey was a gorgeous player and brilliant technician. I'm truly sad we didn't get to know each other better. Here's Uan Rasey's robust and steamy noir solo on the Chinatown theme...
Finding Carlton screening. Jazz in India has a rich history. Clubs in Bombay's major hotels were centers of jazz activity from the 1920s on and American records and American jazz musicians had a major impact on local musicians. In the years after World War I, American black jazz musicians began to spread the music to cultures throughout the world. When work dried up for musicians who had moved to Paris in the '20s, many shipped off to Shanghai, stopping off in India. [Photo of a tribute to Glenn Miller in the 1950s in Bombay]
Now director/producer Susheel Kurien has completed a documentary on India's jazz musicians and singers. His film, Finding Carlton, will be screened in New York this Tuesday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m.—at DCTV, which is located at 87 Lafayette St. (at Walker St.). For more information about Finding Carlton, go here. For information about the screening, go here. To reach the director, go here.
Here's the trailer...
Jo Jones radio. My boy "Symphony" Sid Gribetz tells me that today, Sunday, at 2 p.m., WKCR will kick off a week-long marathon broadcast celebrating drummer Jo Jones. A week of Jo Jones and authoritative radio hosting!! You can access this marathon on your computer from anywhere in the world by going here.
Miles Davis—two points! Here's an artsy home movie of Miles Davis and John Lennon shooting hoops, circa early '70s. Further proof that all great music interconnects and that most high-end creators operate on the same frequency. Hats off to Jim Eigo for sending it along. And for more on the film, go here.
Carol Sloane. Here's Carol Sloane—one of the great jazz vocal stylists—singing It's Easy to Remember in 1990. The woman fully understands how to launch a lyric like a kite and tell a story without ever over-selling or over-acting. It's a confidential, deeply felt delivery, which is Carol's hallmark. Pure perfection! For my multi-part interview with Carol, go here. Carol's blog can be found here.
Hal Blaine. When an email pops in from the famed Wrecking Crew drummer, I always know there's going to be something fun going on. Here's one he sent along last week.
CD discoveries of the week. Vocalist Shirley Crabbe has a big, wide-open optimistic style that's reminiscent of a young, excited Sarah Vaughan. Crabbe's honest, swinging attack is fully evident on Home (MaiSong). Backed on select tracks by tenor saxophonist Houston Person, Crabbe runs through songs that are perfectly tailored to her barefoot-in-the-grass style—Lucky to Be Me, You Taught My Heart to Sing, Roland Hanna's Seasons, Detour Ahead, Not While I'm Around, Oscar Brown's Strong Man and Carole King's So Far Away. This is a gorgeous album from a lovely singer—proving that vocalists can indeed choose lesser-known gems rather than adhering to glue-factory Songbook fare. You'll find this one here. More on Shirley Crabbe here.
Jackie DeShannon is back—with When You Walk in the Room (Rockbeat). You probably know Jackie best as the voice of Put a Little Love in Your Heart and What the World Needs Now Is Love. What you may not know is that she was one of the first and most prolific female singer-songwriters in Los Angeles in the very early 1960s. She wrote Put a Little Love in Your Heart, co-wrote Bette Davis Eyes and composed dozens of other songs for others and herself. Jackie opened for the Beatles in 1964 and sang gospel with Elvis Presley. Her new album of originals and collaborative songs is superb. It's just Jackie, an acoustic guitar and strings. It's tender and honest, a folk-country album that will take you back to a purposeful age. You'll find this one at iTunes or here. More on Jackie DeShannon here.
Johnny Winter is still at it, and he's swinging quite an axe. The rock-blues guitarist has just released Roots (Megaforce), an album produced by guitarist Paul Nelson that pays tribute to blues legends. On each track, Johnny's high-voltage guitar is teamed with a different rock and country heavy. Blues rippers include Muddy Waters' Got My Mojo Workin', Lightnin' Hopkins' Last Night and Jimmy Reed's Bright Lights Big City. And dig Vince Gill singing Maybellene. I caught Johnny at B.B. King's a week ago, and his electrifying guitarwork brought the house down. I'd go see him and his band again in a heartbeat. I also tested this CD on the highway; it's great driving music. You'll find this one at iTunes or here. More on Johnny Winter here.
Oddball album cover of the week. Here's one that JazzWax reader Rick Dobrydney sent along. Recorded in 1967, the Count's album for Brunswick featured pop-rock hits of the day (Hang on Sloopy, Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying, etc.). Our cover features Basie seemingly happy to be depicted as a sack of cats or today's mail delivery. Hard to imagine Benny Goodman or Woody Herman being portrayed this way in '67. Or why being "in the bag" is a good thing for anyone.