Corky Hale called yesterday to chat. Most jazz fans know Corky as Los Angeles' first-call harpist in the '50s and '60s. If a harp was needed on pop and jazz recordings, Corky was likely on the session. Her harp appears on many of Ella Fitzgerald's songbook albums as well as recordings by Anita O'Day, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee and so many others. Corky also plays a range of woodwind instruments and sang with Harry James, Ray Anthony and a bunch of other bands. And then there are the jazz albums she was on in the '50s with Bud Shank, Chet Baker and Herbie Harper.
But what may come as a surprise to many people is that Corky is first and foremost a fabulous jazz pianist. She accompanied Billie Holiday in 1957 in Las Vegas and at Jazz City in Los Angeles and backed dozens of other singers. These days Corky performs solo on piano and with a trio at Hollywood clubs. I've always wished more jazz fans were familiar with the confident elegance of her chord voicings. [Photo above of Billie Holiday and Corky Hale in 1957 by Ray Avery/CTSImages.com]
As we spoke yesterday, Marian McPartland's name came up. Corky mentioned that back in December 1993, Marian had her on Piano Jazz. I was stunned, since I had never seen a CD or a listing of their get-together in the Piano Jazz series. So Corky sent along an mp3 of the show. I gave it a listen and was just as blown away as Marian was by Corky's playing.
Naturally I asked Corky if I could share it with you. She said, "Of course." Below is Corky on Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland in 1993 (just hover over the left side of the bar and click the "play" triangle). Having heard Corky peform recently, I can tell you she's playing better than ever. And if you want to reach Corky, email her at Corky Hale Productions: CorkyHale@aol.com