Now on tour, Tony Bennett was interviewed by The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash. yesterday. At one point during the Q&A with writer Rosemary Ponnekanti, Tony was asked about his down time when not performing:
Q: What music do you like listening to?
A: Jazz is definitely my first love, but I also like to listen to classical music, especially when I paint.
Q: What are you reading at the moment?
A: I just started a book called Why Jazz Happened by a very talented jazz journalist named Marc Myers.
Thoroughly humbled and honored.
Follow me on Twitter. Don't know much about Twitter? It's easy. Go here, sign up and search for me at Marc Myers@JazzWax. Then just click "follow." You'll be able to track all of my bite-sized thoughts on music throughout the day. I'm also at Facebook at Marc JazzWax Myers.
Vanna on Diana. For my "Playlist" column in this weekend's Wall Street Journal (go here—or pick up the paper), I interview Wheel of Fortune's Vanna White on the song that has meant the most to her and why. Vanna's pick was Diana Ross's I'm Coming Out. Vanna is a throwback to a time when TV personalities were sweet, easy-going and positive. And what you see on TV is what I got on the phone—a smart, polite and gentle soul. Here's Vanna recently on Katie Couric's daytime show...
Naima plays Ruby My Dear. I'm not big on child jazz prodigies. For me, a jazz musician really has to know a song's history and meaning for a performance to be credible. But I'm making an exception in the case of my friend's daughter Naima. Here's Naima playing Thelonious Monk's Ruby My Dear four years ago when she was 10. Trust me on this...
Impulse! Producer and Impulse Records-founder Creed Taylor called last week to alert me to a Macy's ad in The New York Times (above). We had good a laugh over the interpretation of his label's logo by the department store.
Buzz and Dolby. Last week, moonwalker Buzz Aldrin hipped me to his duet with tech-popster Thomas Dolby. They performed She Blinded Me with Science at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C....
Time Out. Let's say you love Dave Brubeck and vinyl but you're too busy to pull out your LP version of Time Out or get up to turn it over. Stay where you are and let me do it for you (courtesy of reader John Cooper)...
Bud Powell. On Friday, reader Michael Simonetti sent along the following note in the wake of my post on Bud Powell...
"I saw Bud at a Carnegie Hall concert promoted by Oscar Goodstein shortly before he died in '66. He literally had to be walked to the piano, and it was obvious that he was not well. I was aware of his history and felt at the time his future was in doubt. Bud did two or three tunes for an abbreviated set and was then accompanied off the stage, offering a wave to the audience. Bud's playing was a shadow of his best work, but it really didn't matter, since I felt that simply seeing him perform was a privilege.
"I saw him again at Birdland in New York during the same period and sat in the 'bullpen' with other 'kiddies,' as Pres [Lester Young] referred to the school-age listeners sipping Cokes. I sat close enough to the piano to watch Bud's hands on the keyboard.
"Bud would pause for long periods, staring off somewhere or go into a different tune at the bridge, leaving his bassist and drummer to deal with the tempo changes. Bud hummed, rocked back and forth, and often grunted freely. Sometimes he threw his head back and laughed or shouted. I never saw him speak.
"I have all the recordings you mentioned and many more. Bud's later work, as you know, is often criticized for inconsistency. All one has to do is listen to his 1947 Roost trio recordings like Back Home Again in Indiana or Bud's Bubble to be reminded of his genius.
"Bud changed the way the piano was played for an entire generation of pianists. He also was a strong influence on numerous artists including Chick Corea and Barry Harris. Bud remains one of a handful of jazz musicians who can deservedly be called a true original."
CD discoveries of the week. Writer/editor Todd Selbert turned me on to the Roland Vazquez Band's The Visitor. Vazquez's 19-piece Afro-Cuban orchestra has chops but never overplays the music. All but one of the album's songs are by Vazquez, and the arrangements are superb. The band dates back to 1991, and this CD is Vazquez's 10th album as a composer/leader. Originally from California, Vazquez has studied at several major music schools. You'll find his bio here. What I love about this album is the way the band flexes its muscle tersely. It doesn't rely on long-winded solos or cascades of rhythm but instead moves archly along the melody lines, with the sections coming and going with harmony. The band is a big, mighty machine that is able to operate tenderly and with funky sass. Sample the title track and Whirlpool.
If you like soul served the old fashioned way—romantic and riff-smart—dig vocalist Sonny Charles' Let's Do It. Songs are about love and dreams, have catchy melodies and move logically from beginning to end. Sonny was the lead singer of the Checkmates Ltd. and now sings with the Steve Miller Band. Twelve of the 13 tracks are catchy originals. Not only does Sonny have fabulous phrasing as a singer but he's also a solid songwriter—as Never Had a Dream, Let's Do It and Wait on Me Baby demonstrate. This is an album of newly crafted soul classics that will take you back to the late '60s and early '70s.
If you only have a few of Sarah Vaughan's mid'50s jazz albums on EmArcy and Mercury, Verve has released Divine: the Jazz Albums 1954-58—a box that features seven remastered albums on four CDs: Images (1954), Sarah Vaughan (1954), Land of Hi-Fi (1955), Swing Easy (1957), At Mister Kelly's (1957), After Hours at the London House (1957) and No Count Sarah (1958), which includes her nonpareil rendition of Moonlight in Vermont. Sassy never sounded so good, especially backed by Ronnell Bright on the London House recording. The book-like box includes original covers and liners by Will Friedwald.
When Marvin Gaye's Trouble Man movie soundtrack album came out in 1972, it was a bit of a departure for the Motown singer, who had previously released the socio-political opus What's Going On. And while the cop-movie music wasn't about the ecology or Vietnam war, it had a cool energy similar to soundtracks for Shaft and Superfly. In 2010, saxophonist Robert Aaron took on the music on Robert Aaron: Trouble Man (Heavenly Sweetness). The result is a perfect blend of jazzy soul and funk. Best of all, there's no sampling or computerized beats here. If this album has an older relative, it would have to be Grover Washington Jr.'s Inner City Blues for CTI in '72. Aaron is a studio musician who tends to keep a low profile. Fortunately, this album gives us a glimpse of his rich bag.
Oddball album cover of the week.
It's bad enough Claude Thornhill's music was thought of as Easy Listening in the LP era. Here, on this cover, he's cast as the guy who will put you to sleep. Hard to tell if our model is in ecstasy over Thornhill's strains or conking out and using the tree behind her to remain upright. And how she wound up in the woods in the first place is anyone's guess.