Last week, the Jazz Journalists Association announced the nominees for its 2013 JJA Awards. Winners will be named on June 19 at the Blue Note in New York. I was nominated in three categories—"Writing of the Year," "Blog of the Year" and "Best Book About Jazz" (for Why Jazz Happened). Wow, so honored and humbled. Wish me luck!
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Breakfast at Tiffany's I. After my post last week on the music I felt should have been the movie's pervasive theme (instead, Moon River appears twice in the film and is widely thought to be the theme), many readers wrote in. Some wondered why the song hadn't been covered by other artists. Others felt there wasn't enough melody to cover.
Enter Los Angeles arranger, historian and reader Roy Phillipe. As Roy points out, the song called Breakfast at Tiffany's was melodic enough to be given lyrics by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. It was then re-titled Lovers in New York. Here's Johnny Mathis singing Lovers in New York from Johnny Mathis Sings (1967)...
Breakfast at Tiffany's II. Here's Roy on Moon River...
"On Breakfast at Tiffany's, Paramount went along with Blake Edwards's wish to hire Henry Mancini for the score but didn't think he was much of a songwriter. His hits up to that point were all instrumentals, and Paramount wanted to bring in New York songwriters.
"But Mancini [pictured above] convinced the studio to give him a chance. Knowing that Audrey Hepburn would be singing the song, he researched her films where she actually did the singing. Going through her work, he found Funny Face—where she sang How Long Has This Been Going On, which has a range of a major ninth (an octave and a note).
"Going on this, he wrote the music to Moon River with the same range. Moon River along with Charade are what Mancini called his "white key" songs. But the song was almost cut from the film. After a preview in San Francisco, the studio head was happy with the film but said 'that fuckin' song has got to go.' Hepburn threatened to distance herself from the film if that happened, so it remained.
"At Mancini's 70th birthday celebration at UCLA in 1994, Blake Edwards [pictured above] told that story and then introduced Andy Williams to sing "that fuckin' song." For more on the score, see The Sounds of Commerce: Marketing Popular Film Music (Columbia University Press) by Jeff Smith. It has a chapter titled 'My Huckleberry Friend: Mancini, Moon River and Breakfast at Tiffany's' that goes into detail about the score."
Free Art Pepper. Laurie Pepper, Art Pepper's wife, is offering yet another free download of an Art Pepper track, this time featuring Jack Sheldon. Go here.
Trombonist Clifton Anderson will be appearing in New York on Sunday April 7 at the Iridium. Sets at 8 and 10 p.m. He'll be joined by pianist Donald Vega, saxophonist Frank Fontaine, bassist Essiet Essiet and drummer Steve Williams, with vibraphonist Warren Wolf and bassist Bob Cranshaw. For more information, go here.
Billie Holiday. This Sunday (April 7), WKCR will feature its annual Billie Holiday Birthday Broadcast, presenting her music for 24 hours. The special will start at midnight (EDT) on Saturday and run through Sunday at midnight. You can tune in on your computer from anywhere in the world by going here.
Rob the Mob. I had dinner this week with director Raymond De Felitta. He's rolling up his sleeves to start production in New York in May on his new film Rob the Mob, which focuses on a true story about a couple that targeted the mafia for heists. As you may recall, Raymond's 'Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris remains one of the great jazz documentaries. To follow Raymond's blog on the making of Rob the Mob, go here.
In case you missed it, here's the trailer for 'Tis Autumn...
Oscar Levant. Still pining for more dreadful television featuring pianist-humorist Oscar Levant? Thanks to reader Richard Glazier, here's an episode from his 1958 show...
CD discoveries of the week. Add pianist Gerald Clayton to the growing list of artists who are advancing jazz by stirring in past and present soul elements. Clayton's new album Life Forum (Concord) is a breath of fresh air—a collection of originals that Clayton says were inspired by life events. This concept album is moody and stirring, thick with textures provided by horns, wordless vocals and spoken voice. Sample Some Always and Unhidden. A strong, muscular work that ably resists jazz cliches and gladly moves the form forward with a contemporary spin.
Beata Pater's Red (B&B) is a rousing jazz-dance album that darts and swings. Red is Pater's third album in her color series, and the Polish-born singer and producer deftly leverages funk and her wordless vocalizing style. There's tremendous energy and restless here—no two tracks seem to be alike. Best of all, the music is plenty exciting within the jazz milieu. Of course, there's a fine line between smooth jazz and the real thing, but Pater manages to keep her sound dynamic and smooth without drifting into the elevator. Dig Rany Bombay and her treatment of Freddie Hubbard's Red Clay. Pater uses her voice like a trumpet with wings and will sweep you up along the way.
Oddball album cover of the week.
In the '50s and '60s, vibraphonist and marimba player Arthur Lyman specialized in mood music with a Polynesian touch. Known as exotica, the music genre was supposed to allow bored suburbanites and harried urban dwellers to take a Pacific vacation via the phonograph. The cover appears to show Pele—the goddess banished from Tahiti by her father for her hot temper and who went off to Hawaii where her ire triggered volcanic eruptions. I guess that's one way to look at it.