Frank D'Rone (1932-2013), a Chicago club singer and guitarist with superb intonation and a highly optimistic vocal style who recorded several superb albums for Mercury in the late 1950s and early 1960s, died on October 3. He was 81.
Discovered by Nat King Cole, Frank was a regular at Dante's in Chicago and attracted celebrities ranging from Hugh Hefner to Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett. Frank continued to perform until this past August, accompanying himself on guitar in clubs and on cruises. I'll miss his sunny voice on the phone and caring e-mails. Frank was first-rate and all class.
Frank is survived by his wife Joan and his sons Christopher and David Caldarone.
To read my three-part JazzWax interview with Frank, go here.
For those in Chicago, a service will be held on October 13 from 4 to 9 p.m. at Rago Brothers Funeral Home, 7751 W. Irving Park Road. For directions: (773) 276-7800. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that all donations be made to the following: Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, 8459 N. Shermer Road, Niles, Illinois 60714.
Here's Frank singing Everything Happens to Me in 1958, with Bud Shank (saxes,fl), Barney Kessel (g), Jimmy Rowles (p), Red Mitchell (b) and Shelly Manne (d). You'll find it on the rare Frank D'Rone Sings (Mercury), which is available at his site here.
JazzWax in Barcelona. For those expecting to be in Spain the week of November 25, I'll be giving a series of talks on the history of jazz based on my book, Why Jazz Happened, during the Barcelona International Jazz Festival—one of the most extensive and intensive jazz get-togethers on the Continent. I'm also looking forward to seeing old friends, hearing terrific music and eating at the city's most exciting restaurants. And yes, I plan to post from there, so you won't miss a thing. For more information about the festival, go here (click on the "programa" button).
Jeri Southern. Following my post on singers Jeri Southern and Mavis Rivers, reader Jon Jackson sent along the following...
"I did a couple of NPR radio shows on Jeri in Montana and got in the habit of talking to her on the phone in Los Angeles. What a sweet woman—she was very sharp, humorous and rather philosophical.
"She told me, among other things, that the reason she bailed on her singing career was that she couldn't stand being paraded on stage in evening gowns. She found it especially irksome, not to say maddening, that promoters would send out a band with a pianist when she was a superior pianist herself. But, as she said, they didn't want her sitting down behind a piano.
"But I suspected that another reason she quit the business, although she never said so, was that she found it more and more difficult to maintain pitch. She said Anita O'Day, a good friend of hers, was pushing her to revive her career—not very long before she died unexpectedly in 1991. But she told me, 'It's all very well for Anita, she was always such a belter and pitch wasn't a problem for her.'
In retirement, Jeri taught piano—but not to kids. One time she told me that she was working with Steve Allen, to help him with his intonation—I think that was the term she used. But that was the kind of piano teaching she was doing. At one point, my daughter, who was at UCLA, went over to interview her and they went out to lunch. She said Jeri was really great. I noticed that Alec Wilder, in his book, American Popular Song, said that at least two of Jeri's recordings were definitive versions of songs. He didn't often say that about singers."
Thelonious Monk radio. On Thursday, October 10, WKCR-New York will present its annual 24-hour Thelonious Monk Birthday Broadcast. You can access the show on your computer from anywhere in the world by going here. [Photo above of Thelonious Monk by Herb Snitzer]
Lead sheets. Looking for lead sheets to hundreds of jazz songs? By digging deep into the jazz catalogs of Second Floor Music (BMI), Twenty-Eighth Street Music (ASCAP) and Minor Second Music (SESAC), trumpeter Don Sickler has been able to gather and offer lead sheets by musicians as diverse as Elmo Hope, Gene Ammons, Roland Kirk, Philly Joe Jones, Dexter Gordon, Bobby Watson and Hank Mobley. Go here or email by clicking on the following link: [email protected].CD discoveries of the week. Fans of the John Coltrane Quartet—with McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums—can't get enough of this group. Concord has just reissued a remastered and expanded edition of Afro Blue Impressions, a two-CD set that features the group recorded live in Berlin and Stockholm in 1963. The album was originally released in 1977 on Norman Granz's Pablo label, and it still sizzles from start to finish. If you dig Coltrane's Impulse years, this is a must. The album features one of the prettiest live versions of Naima and a 12-cylinder Impressions.
Last year, former members of the Brecker Brothers funk-fusion band performed live at New York's Blue Note. The stay was recorded and a CD/DVD set is out now: The Brecker Brothers Band Reunion (Piloo). Randy Brecker soars here with clear, firm solos. Each track features a slightly altered lineup, but Ada Rovatti steps in for the late Michael Brecker and bandmembers include Mike Stern on guitar, George Whitty on keyboards and Dave Weckl on drums. Punchy jazz-rock from an era when hair was long, clothes were tapered and shoes had elevation.
Tired Pony is a country band from Ireland with a dynamic sound. On The Ghost of the Mountain (Heaneyville), the band delivers an authentic rural feel with a big pop punch. Tired Pony clearly has a passion for country but isn't satisfied to simply sound like they're another Nashville experience. The music has a big synth undertow that catches your ear. The band is a technically a supergroup—Gary Lightbody, Richard Colburn, Iain Archer, Jacknife Lee, Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey and Troy Stewart—are formerly from established bands like Belle & Sebastian and R.E.M. But this album isn't slick stuff. It's a country outing with all sorts of vocal and instrumental hooks. A tough one to take off once you put it on.
Vibraphonist Warren Wolf's new album Wolfgang (Mack Ave.) gains traction from the first track. Wolf clearly has a fondness for Bobby Hutcherson, but this isn't a tribute album. Six of the eight tracks are originals, and Wolf brings a novel flavor to each one. He also swings and insists on strong percussive power. The gang here features different musicians on different tracks, including pianists Benny Green, Aaron Goldberg and Aaron Diehl; bassists Christian McBride and Kris Funn, drummers Lewis Nash and Billy Williams Jr. and vocalist Darryl Tookes. Songs pulsate with intensity. Sample Grand Central to hear for yourself.
Another artist experimenting in the still emerging "black radio" genre is bassist Derrick Hodge. Like Robert Glasper, Jose James, Esperanza Spalding and others, Hodge on Live Today (Blue Note) layers spoken word, '70s and World references, complex percussion, sampling and jazz instrumentaion. I love this approach to jazz, as musicians try to widen the music's scope without slipping into R&B or other commercial forms. A fascinating collage that hits your feet, mind and heart. Bold stuff.
Oddball album covers of the week.