Last month I was in London for a week of relaxation and a Wall Street Journal writing assignment. As friends know, I always like to look my very best and I've long been intrigued by London's men's grooming shops—wet shaves, shave brushes, superb shave creams, high-end razors, luxury shampoos, exotic soaps and so on. Woman may have won the first floors of department stores worldwide, but guys still have London, where the beard was first tamed. [Photo above of shaving products at D.R. Harris & Co. by Dylan Thomas for The Wall Street Journal]
At any rate, while on the prowl for apothecary shops, I took a turn too soon during a walk along Piccadilly and wound up in a posh district known as St. James's, which surely hosts the most shops for guys per square block in the world. Everything from stores devoted to cuff links, custom-made shoes, shirts, hats, cigars—you name it. There was even a store just for medieval armor—with windows that really make a guy feel eager to protect, rescue and impress. [Above, a fraction of the stuff I brought home; photo by F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal; styling by Barbara Eisen]
But the St. James's stores that knocked me out were the grooming establishments. The five I found were jammed to the ceilings with everything guys could want for showering, scrubbing, shaving and trimming—along with fatherly advice from knowledgeable clerks. I walked out with bags of stuff, feeling like a cross between Cary Grant and Sean Connery. Floris, for example, first opened for business at its location two years before George Washington was born. Yep, the same address. Ian Fleming bought his splash-on there (it's called No. 89). At any rate, my article on London's St. James's—just up the block from Prince Charles's flat at St. James's Palace—appears this weekend in the paper's Off Duty section (he go here). If you go, just be sure you bring a bag you can check before boarding your flight home.
Playlist. Also this weekend in The Wall Street Journal, my chat with actress and songwriter Taryn Manning on her favorite song and why she often has to pull over to the side of the road while driving in Los Angeles when she hears it (go here).
Congrats, JAZZ.FM91. The Toronto jazz station's Identities: The Documentary Series has reached the finalist level in the 2014 New York Festivals International Radio Program Awards. The series was selected in the Arts & Culture category among entries from over 30 countries. The results will be known in late May. Congrats to Ross Porter, the station's CEO. For more information, go here. Also, Ross's recent Quincy Jones interview was covered by the Huffington Post here. [Pictured above, Quincy Jones, left, and Ross Porter]
Bob Dylan. By now, you've probably read that Bob Dylan covered Full Moon and Empty Arms, made famous by Frank Sinatra in 1945 at Columbia. If you want to hear it, dig Wall Street Journal pop and rock critic Jim Fusilli's Re:New Music site (go here and scroll down until you see the Dylan entry).
Rio, New York and Florida, 1965. There I go again. I was messing around at YouTube again yesterday and an odd clip jumped into my arms. I have no idea what this footage is from, but it seems to be a Brazilian film about an impervious, ice-veined stuntman. But forget about the plot. Dig the neat color footage of Rio, New York and Florida in 1965 (watch for the incredible copter stunt through the tunnel)...
Mike Barone is one of the mightiest big band arrangers around today. Mike swings hard, and his band is all muscle. His latest CD is Birdland and it's a killer (go here). Here's Mike's arrangement of Grand Central...
Looking for live jazz in New York? On Monday, check out the Sidney Bechet Society's "All-Star Tribute to Mat Domber & Arbors Records." Mat, the founder and president of Arbors Records, died in 2012. Performing will be Randy Sandke, Anat Cohen, Wycliffe Gordon, Dick Hyman, Bucky Pizzarelli, Warren Vache, Joel Forbes, Rebecca Kilgore, Ed Metz, Rossano Sportiello, Harry Allen, John Allred, Rajiv Jayaweera and soprano sax legend Bob Wilber. Monday's concert starts at 7:15 p.m. Tickets are $35 ($10 for students). The concert will be held at Peter Norton Symphony Space on Broadway and 95th Street in New York. For more information: (212) 864-5400—or go here or here.
Sun Ra radio. WKCR-New York will celebrate the centennial of Sun Ra (above) by playing his music for a week—starting on Monday, May 19 and running through Sunday, May 25. You can access the show from anywhere in the world on your computer by going here.
Billy Hart radio. Jazz saxophonist and educator Bill Kirchner will host an hour-long show on drummer Billy Hart (above), who has worked with Jimmy Smith, Wes Montgomery, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Lee Konitz and Dave Liebman among others. In recent years, Hart has led his own quartet with tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, pianist Ethan Iverson and bassist Ben Street. Bill will feature selections from two albums by the quartet. You can access the show from anywhere in the world on your computer this Sunday, May 18, from 11 p.m. to midnight (EDT) here.
"Good Grief!" Following my post on Vince Guaraldi and Charlie Brown, David Brent Johnson alerted me that back in 2009 he hosted a Night Lights show called "It's Jazz, Charlie Brown," featuring the music of Guaraldi. David's show features interviews with Lee Mendelson; Doug Ramsey; David Guaraldi; Eddie Duran (Guaraldi's guitarist in the 1950s when he was playing clubs around the Bay Area); and jazz pianist Luke Gillespie, who explains the Guaraldi style. Go here for a free listen to a podcast of the show.
Kickstarter alert. Director Neil Creque Williams (above) is hoping to raise funds for a short film called David's Reverie, which stars Brandon Fobbs (The Wire, HBO's Getting On) and tells the story of a jazz musician who struggles to prevent his epilepsy diagnosis from derailing his emerging jazz career. Actually, director Williams was diagnosed with epilepsy as a teenager, and the film is a dramatization of his experience dealing with the disorder. To learn more about the film via a video clip and make a contribution, go here. Williams is just $500 short of his modest goal. To hear one of the film's four original compositions by Williams (it got me excited!), go here.
The Civilized Cinema. Most people think of Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett, the possum-poaching patriarch of TV's Beverly Hillbillies. But Ebsen started out in films of the 1930s, often cast as a lanky bumpkin hoofer. One of those roles was in My Lucky Star (1938), a comedy showcase for Olympic skater Sonja Henie, the rink version of pool pollyanna Esther Williams. Watch the film—or catch Ebsen with Joan Davis in Could You Pass in Love at 48:32, followed by a spectacular skating number by Henie. Directed by Roy Del Ruth, the second highest paid Hollywood director from 1932 to 1941. Here's My Lucky Star...
Oddball album cover of the week.