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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Perfect music for the pleasant winter blues!

Boy here is an album that never gets talked about. This by all accounts was Lester Young's last recording. This album was recorded March 4, 1959 in Paris. Lester returned to New York very soon after and died March 19. How come this album gets nary a mention on the web? This album has been reissued as part of a Jazz in Paris series or some such under the title "Le dernier mesage du Lester Young" (Pardonez moi mon francais!). However, I could not find one review of the recording itself. I do remember after buying it I read a mini review maybe in the all music guide book which said Lester sounded really weak on this session. But when I went to the all music guide this morning (and say while i am on it whats up with the malware on that site!) I could not find a real review or the same review. This album features Kenny Clarke on drums (Klook!), and some european musicians: Jamil Nasser (bass), Jimmy Gourley (guitar) and Rene Urtreger (piano). This is real late night music or perfect music to watch the snow falling outside (as is the case here today). Its almost like Lester's final revisiting of many old friends. The tempos are real slow but Lester's sound is all beauty (wistful though it may be..).. These are all classic American songs: Oh, Lady be good!, Almost like being in love, I cover the waterfront (Billie Holiday), I can't get started (Billie Holiday did this one too I think), Pennies from Heaven, etc..... The liner notes consist largely of an interview of Lester around the time he was performing at the Blue Note in Paris. The interview is by Francois Postif who writes that Lester used to hang out after playing until 5 am having a drink and in fact the interview was held at 6 am at his house with Lester asking if he could talk jive which he does. Its a very interesting interview particularly keeping in mind that its probably the last.... Its also interesting because it made me think a bit about the movie Round Midnight with Dexter Gordon... I wonder if the movie was at least loosely based on Lester Young..Lester does not have nice things to say about Verve record label head Norman Granz not letting him record an album with strings..And he really gets mad when asked about Billie Holiday.. gets mad not about being asked but about how generally people want to get into people's private business about the drugs they do.. Say by the way why did Billie and Lester want so much to record an album with strings? Was it some sort of status thing or they just were really into the idea.. its well known Billie Holiday was happiest with her own album with strings ("Lady in Satin"). Anyways the music is extremely mellow but nice.. The accompaniment is very tasteful....It does remind one of Billie Holiday's latter recordings. Did Lester have the strength of his earlier recordings? perhaps not- but the expressiveness is all there and to this ears this is a wonderful listen. Originally released on Verve MGV-8378 (mine is not trumpter label but is deep groove- I know MGV 8375 Buddy Defranco is trumpeter so there may be a trumpeter pressing around too but this would seem to be early pressing).

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

On a Blue Note kick yet again- Grant Green

So finally after a few years of wanting to get my hand on the Blue Note Grant Green "1961-1966 Retrospective" box set I finally found it for a reasonable price. Curiously enough my set was made in Europe and shipped from Germany. Not sure why this is the case. Anyways, I feel like a kid in a candy store again. I mean this set has is jam packed with great jazz and incredible musicians over 38 tracks on 4 cds. I love vinyl but it has just become imposible to get all these records without having to fork over a few kidneys. Of course I have heard a ton of these tracks but not all.. not all.. I would calculate I may not have heard 14 of the 38 tracks compiled although I probably have a bunch of them on mp3 format somewhere..The pictures in the booklet, inserts etc (some should be in the picture immediately above this blurb) are the typical wonderful Francis Wolff photography. Its always interesting to me that these jazz cats always look so sharp in all the pictures. I mean they are perfectly groomed, manicured, dressed, styling gentlemen. All of them. For all the stuff you hear about who was doing what drug or having what problem when you look at the pictures Francis Wolff took they are all dressed to the nine's and styling.

Of course after taking a probably forced leave of absence from the label Green was back at Blue Note in 1969 and cut some incredible yet more on the funky/popular spectrum of things. Bob Blumenthal, like most critics, sort of dismisses the later Green and I feel thats very misguided but having said that the music on this box cannot be argued with or dismissed. Its great jazz. I am not a fan of compilations but for $20 this is a very worthwhile look at my favorite guitarist. Right now I'm listening to Jimmy Smith jamming with Green on their only collaboration now one of my favorite tracks I can tell its Lou Donaldson from the Natural One- Funky Mama- just came on.. This stuff is very hot....Of course Grant Green begins the song... One thing I found interesting is how young Green looks in the pictures be they from his arrival to New York City in 1961 or from later sessions in 1965.. and to add something to the discourse Gran Green apparently smoked Kool cigarretes by the way...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Sean Taylor

So Sean Taylor is dead. Listening to music as much as I do I couldn't
help but be struck by how many violent deaths relatively young black
men suffer. Sam Cooke and King Curtis came to mind.

Rene Bloch: Rene and his pachanga orchestra LP

SO I picked this up yesterday. I was struck by the really cool album cover... there is no credit for the album cover.. anyways the LP is on Capitol Records T-1530 .. must have come out around 1962... Capitol- as I recall- did not have much in the way of latin music.. the full title for the band is "rene and his pachanga orchestra" and the album itself "la pachanga"... the album features a song by johnny pacheco who i guess was just beginning to make his mark.. also some participation from paul lopez on trumpet who co wrote two tracks.. paul lopez has his own website here 
I wonder if Willie Bobo or Mongo Santamaria who at times played in Rene Bloch's orchestra played on this? i doubt it as it would seem to be too late for them to be on it.. anyways the music is pretty good and with capitol's normally good standards on packaging and sound...too bad there are no credits for the band! i note bloch played for perez prado and the album was produced by curly fact right now i'm listening to paul lopez jamming on his solo on "lola catuna"!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dean Martin's "A Winter Wonderland"

Listening to the Capitol LP on T-1285 and on a few of these tracks such as Let It Snow, I've got my love to keep me warm and Baby its cold outside I think Dean Martin really hits home runs..

I mean where any of these songs Christmas standards before Dean Martin sang them? I listen to a lot of Christmas music around this time of year and no one does the holidays better than Dino. Oh yah Rudolph ain't nothing to sneeze at..The album cover is a hoot too... Dean is up to his usual no good ways..presumably hugging his girl while exchanging flirtatious glances with a beautiful snow bunny..I guess Christmas is just more fun with Dean Martin than without..without we seem to be left with too much Adestes and White Christmas type stuff...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Here is a quote purported to be from Hank Mobley towards the end of his life.. I found it on the internet and it was part of a pretty good bio but unattributed:

"The doctor told me not to play it, or I might blow one of my lungs out. It's hard for me to think of what could be and what should have been. I lived with Charlie Parker, Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk; I walked with them up and down the street. I did not know what it meant when I listened to them cry--until it happened to me."

Hank Mobley Obituary

I had often wondered if he got an obit in Philadelphia where he died and he did... see below:

Hank Mobley, International Jazz Figure

Hank Mobley, a jazz saxophonist of international stature who played with the leading musicians of the day and made his greatest impact as a member of the Miles Davis group in the 1960s, died Friday. He was 55 and had lived in Philadephia since 1972.

Born Henry Mobley in Eastman, Ga., he moved to the Newark-Elizabeth, N.J., area in childhood and studied music privately. Early in his career he played with the Paul Gayton orchestra and other regional bands.

As a tenor saxophonist, his most important associations in jazz were with the Horace Silver and Art Blakey groups in the 1950s and the Davis aggregation the following decade.

Later he was the co-leader of combos with Lee Morgan, Kenny Dorham and Cedar Walton. In 1967-68, he toured Europe, making appearances in London, Paris, Munich, Rome and other cities in Poland, Hungary and Yugoslavia.

Among the many musicians in his ken over the years were Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Slide Hampton, Wilbur Ware and Philly Joe Jones. He played recently at the Angry Square on New York’s 7th Avenue.

He was the composer of a number of jazz tunes, including "Breakthrough," "The Morning After," A Caddy for Daddy," "The Dip" and "Straight Ahead."

Survivors include his father, Otis Rogers; his stepmother, Lillian O. Rogers; and two aunts, Jenethel Cooney and Rosa Boyer. Friends may call from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Johnson Funeral Home, 46th Street and Woodland Avenue. Burial will be Saturday at Mount Lawn Cemetery, 84th Street and Hook Road, Sharon Hill, Delaware County.
-Philadelphia Daily News, June 4, 1986. Used by permission.

January 11, 1986: Mobley's curtain call?

Interesting.. from the New York Times archives available on the internet we see that Mobley was still perhaps ocasionally playing the sax even a few months before he died..

Hank Mobley Quartet
The saxophonist Hank Mobley will lead a quartet, with Lodi Carr as guest singer, tonight at the Angry Squire, 216 Seventh Avenue, below 23d Street (242-9066). Sets begin at 9 and 11 P.M. and 1 A.M. There is a $7 cover and a two-drink minimum.
January 11, 1986 - Arts - 41 words

Did the revaluation of Hank Mobley begin here?

Interesting article from the New York Times November 3, 1990. Given that when Mobley died in 1986 the Times didn't even publish an obituary it is interesting to see this article. So what happened between 1986 and 1990? Perhaps the 1987 reissue of Soul Station on CD?

Review/ Jazz; Hard-Bop Solos of 1950's By PETER WATROUS Published: November 3, 1990

The small-group hard-bop compositions of the 1950's and 60's are some of the least explored territories in jazz. The music's composers have been seen as improvisers who wrote pieces as vehicles for soloing; the tunes, difficult to play, dropped out of the standard repertory. The sold-out show at Weill Recital Hall on Monday night featured the music of the tenor saxophonist and composer Hank Mobley, who died in 1986. The concert was meant to prove a point about his music's brilliance, and did a good job of it.

Of all the composers of the Blue Note Record label school, Mr. Mobley, who recorded with the label between 1954 and 1970 -- he was anoriginal member of the Jazz Messengers -- clearly loved ambiguity. His compositions, verging on melancholy, usually right themselves with a blue undercurrent that stiffens them; switching emotions as quickly as they switch strains, the compositions unfold logically, piece by piece. And as played by an exceptional group, including Don Sickler on trumpet, Clifford Jordan on tenor saxophone, Cedar Walton on piano, Buster Williams on bass and Billy Higgins on drums, the tunes resonated with emotional power that in no way seemed dated.

But the show was making other points as well. As arranged by Mr. Sickler (who is behind a good deal of the small-band repertory movement) the pieces took on complexity, with riffs, short drum solos and stop-time sections breaking up the traditional string-of-solos form. In addition, Mr. Sickler put together medleys of similar tunes; not all the musicians soloed on each piece, putting the compositions in the foreground and making for an audience-friendly concert. And with the chronology of the tunes ranging from 1955 to 1972, Mr. Sickler brought some light on Mr. Mobley's lesser-known, later compositions.

All of this floated on a perfect rhythm section that locked into grooves with the finesse of a well-tuned sports car. Mr. Higgins and Mr. Walton have a rhythmic affinity, and they would catch the structural changes of a tune with rhythmic cadences that framed the improvisers' statements. And the soloists picked apart the tunes as well; Mr. Jordan, typically, turned modal sections of Mr. Mobley's later tunes into a playground, moving from belly honks to high-pitched pleas to be-bop lines, before being reined in by a tune's sudden harmonic movement. And Mr. Sickler eased his way through the changes gracefully, capturing the bluesy wistfulness and ease Mr. Mobley left as his legacy.

Also check out

I've decided to concentrate my little efforts on this blog but there is some other interesting Mobley stuff I posted on there a while back... Not sure why the google or yahoo searches don't pick up the blog...

More on Mobley's dissapearances from the studio

I had written in my post of a few days ago but the large gaps in Mobley's recording output and ascribed this to problems with drugs but it simply never ocurred to me that perhaps he was jailed for periods. Steve Huey in his bio on the All Music Guide mentions that after the Peckin' Time session "...a worsening drug problem resulted in an arrest that took him off the scene for a year.." and that after 1963's No Room for Squares "...drug and legal problems again put him out of commission during 1964." I look at the pictures of Mobley on the various album covers and its hard to imagine him being arrested. He is about as well dressed and clean cut as one can imagine but then again these pictures often look like they all come from the same session photographed by Francis Wolff so who knows... Its remarkable how little is known about Mobley's life considering he is a pretty big seller currently. Someone ought to do a bio of him before all the primary sources are gone!

Monday, November 12, 2007


So I was wrong....the phrase "Middleweight champion of the tenor.." is to be found in the liner notes to Blue Note 4080.. I just received the Workout album in the mail (a liberty pressing with New York labels)- a record I'd wanted for a long time- and the liner notes by Leonard Feather begin "Henry Mobley is the middleweight champion of the tenor saxophone." This is the statement that we so often read consigned Mobley to ignominity because supposedly people read this and thought it was some sort of insult meaning he was not a heavyweight like Coltrane or a lightweight like Lester Young/Getz.. his sound was in the middle... boring...etc... We read things over and over again and we start to believe they must be true but its hard for me to believe that anyone who bought this album or even just read the liner notes would only have read the first sentence! And the next paragraph qualifies the statement "That is to say, he is not to be compared (and this judgment is made in terms of size of sound as well as fame, fortune and poll victories) with such heavyweights as Coleman Hawkins or John Coltrane, both of whom, in their respective eras, can be considered the most consistently unvanquished. Nor is there any necessity to relate Hank to the lightweights, headed by Stan Getz...." I mean is it possible that this phrase "Middleweight champion of the tenor" could have consigned him to obscurity? I really think this is a case of music critics trying to make themselves important. The review is laudatory and anyone with a passing knowledge of jazz would have recognized Mobley's sidemen on the album, Kelly. Chambers and Philly Joe Jones, as all having played with Miles Davis. Its hard to believe that anyone that enjoyed jazz in 1961 would have dismissed this record because of Feather's phrase. More than likely Mobley's type of jazz- in 1961 - just wasn't "in" and for whatever reason didn't connect with people.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Whatever happened to Hank Mobley? (via Dizzy Reece)

I'd always wanted this one but have found it impossible to find. There seem to have been very few copies printed of the original LP and I never see it on later pressings (i.e., liberty, new york, united artists, etc.). I do think it might be available on a scorpio pressing for 9.99.. not sure about that... but I found a Classic Records pressing and thought it would be cool to have one having heard all the hype.. Well I am impressed with the quality... The platter is heavy and really looks and feels like the original but of course no RVG or ear in the wax..sigh.... The LP cover is not as hard or thick as the original and is shinier ...on the back there is a telling "Courtesy of Blue Note Records.." I am not an audiophile but this one sounds great to me.. Now why was I interested in this one? Well , Hank Mobley firstly.... HE is the tenor man here playing with Wynton Kelly and Paul Chambers and Art Taylor... .... but the main reason I was interested in this one is because the recording date on November 19, 1959 predates the one and only great Soul Station session by but a few weeks (February 7, 1960). Save for a live session with Blakey for Blue Note 4015 Meet you at the Jazz Corner in APril 1959 this was the first Blue Note Mobley date since Peckin' Time a session co-led with Lee Morgan dating back to February 1958 and also featuring Chambers and Kelly. And that was his first session since June 1957 on the classic Mobley Blue Note 1568. Its telling that he would go on to record his greatest LPs with both Chambers and Kelly. Leonard Feather who tragically called Mobley the "..middleweight champion of the tenor saxophone" (I believe in the liner notes to soul station) here also contributes the notes with the following reference to Hank; "Mobley's sound, on this track and throughout the album, has more assurance and warmth than ever"(referring to "The Rake") and later on referring to him with "Hank's time is conspicuously cool.." (re: I wishes on the moon). I have to agree with Feather that Mobley does sound different on this LP than he did in his mid 50s to 57 sides. Basically since mid 57 until Soul Station he only co-led Peckin time and played on the live Blakey date (in so far as Blue Note goes...). Ergo, Mobley's recording session work had decreased markedly. 1958 was a very fallow year taking into account that between 1956-1957 he'd been in on something like 38 sessions. He would never recover. He simply would not be recorded as often again. I suppose the reasons must either be that he fell into heavy drug use or that since he was not selling records there was not much desire to record him. The truth probably lies somewhere in between with these two factors reinforcing each other. Its truly a pity because I find his playing on the 1959-1961 period to be more enjoyable than his golden years recordingwise which must be considered 1956-1957. In fact we see that between Peckin Time in February 58 he did participate in the live at birdland twin dates for Roulette (which are not on the level of anything else he was doing) and a private basement jam session (Joe Brazil's) until in March 59 he participated on a rejected Blue Note session and played tenor on a few other rejected sessions -including one led by Sonny Clark- before Blakey took him to Birdland and the Meet you at the Jazz Corner..then it would take until the Dizzy Reece date to get him going again. So what we have is that basically Mobley between the last quarter of 1957 and the end of 1959 had barely been recorded at all! This is an amazing gap. Between Soul Station and Going Up with Hubbard (November 1960) there would be another 9 month gap. SO: 1958, 1959 and 1960 Mobley was recording infrequently. He would join Miles Davis in 1961 (perhaps March) stick around til May (includign the live at the blackhawk stuff) and be out of the Miles circle by May. At this point he would have a failed session in December for Blue Note , Another Workout (great stuff!), which would not be released and there is no record of him having played any music the entire year of 1962! What am I saying? I guess that Mobley really did fall on some hard times.. It remains for biographers to try to piece this all together... What is clear is that after failing to cut it in Miles' eyes Mobley pretty much did not play for 18 months!!!!!! Sad for someone that had cut Soul Station only the year before... mind boggling actually...

Ron Paul

SO Ron Paul raised over $4 million in a single day. The media continues to ignore him at best and at worse put him down as some kook but his message of a return to a more limited government will always play well with Americans because that IS what this country is founded and built on. The revolution back in 1776 was nothing more than a reaction to a British government which had become overly intrusive. The Federalist papers are evidence that the founders wished to construct a limited government. Unfortunately in the present day we have a government- democratic and republican- which has forgotten who is the master and has become all powerful and all present. Living in Washington DC one is struck by their gall and intrusiveness even with simple things such as presidential inagurations, street closings, closing of the capitol steps.. all justified in the name of national security but one suspects responding to ulterior motives.

It is true that Ron Paul is not scoring much in the polls, yet, but I think his message will play well in New Hampshire and I don't expect him to do any worse than second. In a way, and it has been written in other places, Paul is the new Howard Dean filling a vacumn that neither of the major parties wants to look at...

John Coltrane Blue Train

Listening to the 1997 reissue catalog number ST-46095 and I have to say I think it sounds great. In fact all LPs I have from this 1997 series sound great to me. Can't recall which other ones I have specifically but I know Mobley's Soul Station is one of them. Anyways I know there are other reissues by say Classic Records but if I had to have a reissue I'd go with this one I think....Interestingly though the catalog number has the prefix "ST" it is glorious mono. This reissue by the way is on heavy vinyl 180 gram.

Friday, September 14, 2007


so i been on blog hiatus.. i hope blog is not dead.............

i leave you with this: will rick rubin produce new bob dylan album in 2008? thats the word on the street.........i'd like to see that...

nice to see manu chao's new album "la radiolina" will have a vinyl release....though at only 51 minutes 2 lps seems much.... hate to have to get up that many times

tomorrow i'm going to see willie colon!!!!!!!!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Its official: John Edwards loses plot!

Its been coming for a long time... now John Edwards is asking americans to protest the Irak war on memorial day! take a sign reading "bring them home" to your memorial day parade!!!!!!

i am afraid john edwards has lost it completely... he's acting increasingly desperate..

Thursday, May 24, 2007

andrew sullivan's take on obama..

is very positive! the reagan of the left!

when a guy like obama has both andrew sullivan and arianna huffington in his back pocket he must be doing something right!

check it here

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

more on ron paul

i think ron paul doesn't scare regular scares the republican and democratic establishment.. because what ron paul says makes sense and is perfectly in harmony with the constitution or rather the principles which guided the founding fathers... the main principle is of course that of LIMITED government..a non intrusive govt which does not get in people's business and a foreign policy that is extremely cautious about the foreign entanglements washington warned us about in his farewell address....

where ron paul's common sense ideas ever to get out there to the people there could be trouble because the american people are all about the common sense..

what we are witnessing in america today is the democratic party becoming much more like the leftist parties of the rest of the world.. people like hugo chavez (an absolute joke.. he is now using $18 million of state money to fund a movie danny glover will direct on slave uprising in haiti! is that being for people?? wasting their money like that??!?!) are looked at as great.. free trade? thats a bad thing! globalization is bad too! for some democrats higher taxes are now a good thing (john edwards has talked not only of repealing bush's tax cuts but actually raising taxes on the wealthy)

so the democratic party is slowly undoing itself.. it has no chance of ever winning anything much less governing if it moves in this direction..

i don't know if you check out the mydd blog??? its a real eye opener..some real wack jobs on it... the main guy, matt stoller keeps posting anti- free trade stuff.. i thought we had left that in the dust in the 1970s??!? you see people on mydd now bandying the "neoliberal" tag as some sort of insult much like people did in argentina ten years ago!!!! thats right: we are borrowing our words and terminology from words/phrases latin america was using a decade ago! and the democrat progressives much like the left in latin america are intent on destroying neoliberalism.... who knew liberals were down on neoliberalism?

which raises the question of what is an american liberal???

this same issue came up in regard to the french election where the progressive community came down very hard on sarkozy whose ideas have a lot in common with the traditional ideas that both democrats and republican have had some sort of consensus on... what we saw was the democrat progressives trying hard to identify themselves with a socialist! this is of course utter rubbish and i had trouble explaining it to french people much like i had trouble understanding it myself..

Saturday, May 05, 2007

47west63rd endorses in French Presidential election!

47west63rd is endorsing Nikolas Sarkozy for tomorrow's French presidential election...

truth be told we may be undergoing a bit of a political conversion/minor shift when it comes to domestic politics but we feel that with respect to international politics when presented with a right of center vs. left of center old school socialist party we have always and will continue to opt for the right of center..

sarkozy also impressed the times we viewed him on television and in the presidential debate were an obviously slightly desperate segolene was more bluster and rudeness than substance (although she performed better than expectations).. oh that only we had the political debate the french have had these past few months in the United States.... our politics seems so devalued in relation to the french when we compare, for example, our presidential debate to the one held between segolene and sarkozy this past week...

Who the hell is Ron Paul?

so there's a guy running for the republican nomination for president, ron paul, who is apparently a libertarian..

the little i've found on him i like..

he seems to be a common sense guy.. and yes he voted against the Iraq war and against the patriot act.. how many democrats can say that?

his campaign site is here

Friday, May 04, 2007

Unsung scattered musings on Chet Baker Sings

i have to say.. chet baker sings which was originally released in 1956 or 1957 has really got to be one of the greatest jazz vocal albums nay JAZZ nay ALBUMS of all time.. absolutely wondrous....bewitching... so simple but so gorgeous and affecting... but enough with the platitudes.. i'm listening to a heavily banged up second pressing or first pressing on world pacific (the real first pressing was on pacific jazz THANKS orpheus records for nothing!)... this is one of those records that is just SO tough to get in the original...

remember the talented mr ripley? this album was laying on a table in a scene meant to show just how "cool" the guy who gets killed by damon was...

chet baker what to say bout him? seems like a real hard luck would you like to be the biggest thing since rice a roonie when you are just entering your 20s .. selected best jazz trumpeter or vocalist etc.. and then as the years went by .. and very quickly.. he just wasn't "in" anymore.... heroin takes over your life.. next thing you know you throw yourself out your hotel window.. anybody who's seen pictures of chet in the 1970s can attest to just how much heroin consumed him.his face in those pictures is horrifying gaunt.. david wilcox wrote a great song called "chet baker's unsung swan song" and introduced it on a live version i had on a radio station live comp cd "..this is what i imagine chet baker must have been feeling /thiking as he contemplated throwing himself out the balcony" ..or some such..i paraphrase and the memory gets a bit hazey.... but anyways i guess people loved the chet baker boy or very young man..but he wasn't the greatest singer or the greatest trumpet player by all accounts... but on chet baker sings there is this incredibly affecting-you cannot help but me moved- vulnerability of a very young passionate person who is feeling love the way you can only feel it those few times if you're lucky...

and what to say about russ freeman who plays piano on all these tracks and i think had a lot to do with the music.. great just great playing behind chet.. he really underpins the songs... and what songs! chet really picked some great stuff here.. there are songs by Hoagy Carmichael (I get along without you very well), Sinatra's songwriting team of Sammy Cahn and J(ules?) Styne (Time after time... songs by jimmy van huesen...gershwin (but not for me)

but perhaps whats most striking about chet baker is that in a world where there was a Frank Sinatra and there were many incredible singers its Chet Baker's versions of these songs which will stick in your least thats the way i hear it...and Chet Baker was not a singer per se.. you get the sense he's a guy just like you and me that got up in front of the mike on a lark... now maybe thats putting it a bit strongly... and Chet Baker was a great singer.. just not in a classical sort of way.. he gets by on his personality or his person...if that hopefully makes any sense...he doesn't have the greatest singing chops but the way he sings is what makes it so great..and its his way..

i always thought it was so cool how elvis costello who had covered my funny valentine (a song forever associated with chet who , again had the definitive version though its not on this album) recruited chet to play the trumpet on his wonderful shipbuilding....i think he pretty much wrote that song so he could get chet to play on it.... because i'm sure like me he heard chet baker singing and thought "gold"... this stuff just sticks in your head..its that good....

its always striking to me that the young chet baker on these sides just looks to be a completely different man from the gaunt heroin addict on the later album jackets..that guy is scary looking... but such is life.. it ain't always the american dream.....still the joy chet brings people year after year with these performances is reason enough for him to smile wherever he may be tonight regardless of whatever

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

interesting vote match

answer a few questions and you can determine where you stand on the political political philosophy is that of a liberal libertarian...which makes sense to me!

check it here

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Dick Haymes

The first time I heard about a singer named Dick Haymes was August of the just ended year when I purchased a used copy of a wonderful book- the most enjoyable book I read all year- by Gene Lees: “Singers & the Song”. The book consists of essays about some singers and songwriters Gene Lees, known to me for having written the English lyrics to some Jobim songs, had come across in his years in the music business. After reading “The Last Comeback- Dick Haymes” I made a mental note to give him a listen although I suspected his style of singing would be more like Bing Crosby, pre-Frank, or not my cup of tea.

Now I do a lot of shopping for used LPs and had yet to notice any Dick Haymes- why would only later become clear to me- but recently came across a rather beat up copy of Haymes’ “Rain or Shine” LP with a strange red label. Since it was offered for the princely sum of $1 and I have been getting much pleasure from Capitol Records early LPs (things like Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, June Christy….they really were the jackpot for 1950s vocalists) I picked it up. It was a Japanese LP issue, hence the red label, which is of interest in itself as who would have thought Capitol was pressing LPs in Japan in the late 1950s? I brought home the LP and a bit of research on the internet tell me it’s a Japanese issue of Capitol LP T-713 recorded December 20-23, 1955 and put out shortly after in early 1956 or just about 50 years ago to the day I write these words.

Well I think I know my vocalists and this “Rain or Shine” is very good stuff! Great American after hours type ballads. Sort of like Sinatra’s “In the Wee Small Hours” but a little stodgier…Haymes possesses a gorgeous baritone and his singing reminds me most of Johnny Hartman. In any case, this LP is worthy of sharing shelf space with Frank, Nat and the upper echelon of American singers. I can’t put it better than Nick Dedina’s review for All Music Guide:

The first of two albums that Dick Haymes cut for Capitol Records, Rain or Shine also happens to be one of the finest works of the vocalist's long career. Haymes was always a great singer (especially on ballads and torch songs) and it's a real shame his association with Capitol was so brief, since this album and its follow-up, Moondreams, are two of the best vocal jazz/traditional pop albums ever released. On Rain or Shine, Haymes brings his laid-back, deeply nuanced vocal style to a great set of romantic standards. Most often likened to his peer, Frank Sinatra, Haymes possessed a masculine baritone akin to Johnny Hartman, while his spare, introspective phrasing was closer to Chet Baker. Haymes started out as a big band singer and since jazz was in his blood, Rain or Shine finds him beautifully backed by a lightly swinging small jazz group and a small string section. Arranger Ian Bernard was part of the West Coast cool jazz movement and though the musicians aren't listed, they have to be culled from the finest Los Angeles had to offer (the set features the hippest drum work imaginable; it has got to be Shelly Manne orMel Lewis sitting behind the skins). The intelligent charts allow plenty of room for short, tasty instrumental solos and they merge deftly with Haymes' jazz-inflected phrasing. Nobody was better than Haymes at this kind of romantic "after-hours" material and Rain or Shine equals Sinatra'sNice 'n' Easy as the finest slow-dance album of all time. Songs from this session often make their way to new Capitol and Blue Note samplers, so it's a mystery as to why this superb album hasn't made it to CD yet.

Listening to this LP one wonders whatever happened to Dick Haymes? The commonly passed along bio leads like a cautionary tale of what not to do. I have yet to read a recently published biography of Dick Haymes by Ruth Prizogy(“The Life of Dick Haymes: No More Little White Lies”). Dick Haymes was born in Argentina to a British couple that was visiting there or briefly settled there depending on the story, his mother and family were abandoned by their father, moved to Europe and Dick Haymes ended up in New York City becoming a successful big band vocalist for the likes of Harry James and Tommy Dorsey in the 1940s replacing Frank Sinatra as featured singer in both big bands. He also became a movie star in pictures such as One Touch of Venus and State Fair. However, he was unable to make the transition to the 1950s, a transition that was also difficult for Frank Sinatra who nevertheless prevailed, albeit with a little bit of luck. Had Frank not been cast in From Here to Eternity would his career have fizzled like that of Dick Haymes? In his essay Lees writes:

Haymes was very much the figure of his age, the consummate singer of the best romantic ballads produced by the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. He was also, like almost every other major singer of that era, a product and alumnus of the big bands. By the late 1940s, the careers of all of them were faltering. Perry Como found a home in the new medium of television. Sinatra established a second career, bigger even than the first. Haymes did not.

Haymes’ career spiraled downwards, by all accounts, owing to a combination of alcoholism, a decision to claim legal resident status during World War II so as to not have to serve, multiple marriages including one to Rita Hayworth at just about the same time Sinatra married Ava Gardner, and most importantly perhaps changes in popular taste. It seems the US government came down hard on him for his failure to march in line during the War and in the 1950s he was almost not allowed back to the United States following a trip overseas while the hammer of the IRS fell on him and his two LPs for Capitol Records stiffed. Haymes moved to Europe in the 1960s and by all accounts straightened out.

Gene Lees in his essay writes of driving up to visit Dick Haymes in Malibu when Haymes was undertaking his last comeback, at the suggestion of friends, to interview him for High Fidelity magazine and thereby perhaps provide a boost:

He had returned after ten years in Europe to open in 1975 at the Cocoanut Grove in Hollywood to a house that was packed with his friends. Those who liked him liked him a lot, and one of them prevailed upon me to write something about him for High Fidelity magazine to give him a lift, a leg up. I said I’d do it, but I didn’t like doing it. It cost me nothing to give him some space in a magazine. But I disliked the fact that he needed the help. I am not one of those who take pleasure in seeing the mighty fallen, and Dick Haymes had been a very big star. He was also a very great singer, which is another thing. I have had uncountable conversations with singers about singers, and Dick Haymes’ name would be on the most-admired list of almost every one of them.

In fairness, the “Rain or Shine” LP does lack a bit of the swing or pizzazz / flair Sinatra brought to his 1950s Capitol Recordings (or should I say Nelson Riddle brought?) but be that as it may “Rain or Shine” is a classic and deserved far better.

Most of the pictures one sees of Dick Haymes are from the period of his greatest success so he is far younger than on the “Rain or Shine” cover which features him sitting pensive with a cigarette in his hand. Interesting to note that like Nat King Cole, who also was featured on numerous LP covers smoking such as “Just one of those things” holding a cigarette in a similar pose, Haymes would go on to die from lung cancer. The LP’s back cover notes I think evidence that by the time of “Rain or Shine”’s release Haymes had long ago ceased to be in the spotlight:

These performances also show notable skill because Dick Haymes has been singing love songs for quite some time- in fact, since he joined Harry James and his Music Makers at the beginning of that band’s fame. Then, he was a song writer who turned singer because he couldn’t sell his own songs. But, singing other people’s in his thoughtful, caressing fashion, he did famously well- with James, with Tommy Dorsey’s band, and, later, in smart supper clubs and on some phenomenally successful records.

The attempt to reintroduce Haymes to the market and lay the groundwork for a comeback like that of another washed up Capitol Records reclamation project, Frank Sinatra, ultimately failed.

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