The Jazzcat

Archive for April, 2007

Celebrating The First Lady of Song's 90th Birthday

by on Apr.26, 2007, under News

The first time I ever met and interviewed Tony Bennett was in 1989. We

were supposed to be talking about his then-new album and his rapidly

reviving career, but Bennett, as I would learn, was reluctant to keep

the focus on himself. I forget what exactly it was we were discussing

when his mind drifted and landed on a seemingly random point: “Ella

Fitzgerald!” he declared, apparently out of nowhere, “Now that's my

idea of a great pop singer!” Clearly, it wasn't as arbitrary as it

seemed — when you speak of Great American Music, the great songs

and the great musicians, Ella Fitzgerald is never far from anyone's

mind.

Bennett's categorization of Ella Fitzgerald as a “pop singer,” may raise

an eyebrow or two, since Fitzgerald (1917–1996) is most often

described as the greatest jazz singer who ever sang. Yet the phrase is

more than appropriate:


Click Picture above to have Ella singing and swingin' on your cell phone!!!

Fitzgerald was, without question, the woman who

defined what a jazz singer was, a lone woman who could swing with more

energy and drive than any 16-man big band, who could improvise on the

same level as the greatest jazz soloists (including both Louis Armstrong

and Charlie Parker) and who could wail the blues like nobody's business,

even though the traditional 12-bar blues were hardly her specialty. Yet

she was also a pop singer to be compared with, say, Jo Stafford or

Margaret Whiting, who sang the Great American Songbook better than

almost anyone else, who could bring out the meaning of a song and a

lyric so that it was absolutely crystal clear and make you feel it way

down in your bones. She may not have had many hit singles, but she had

wildly successful albums — and to use another phrase borrowed from

Tony Bennett, she had a hit career.

Indeed, it was Duke Ellington who coined the phrase “beyond category” to

describe her. In a 1965 interview with Leonard Feather, Fitzgerald

stressed the importance of variety in her repertoire, the necessity of

continually switching gears: “Each time I [sing a ballad, I] probably

reach certain people who say, 'Now that's the way I dig her, that's the

real Ella.' On another show I might do a little bopping and someone else

will make the same kind of remark. Yet I don't want to feel that

everything must be in any one of those grooves or that any one [of them]

is the 'real' Ella.”

In the beginning of her career, after the young vocalist (who was born

in Virginia but raised in Yonkers, New York) won the amateur contest at

the world famous Apollo Theater, she began working with the band led by

the sensational drummer Chick Webb at the no-less famous Savoy Ballroom.

It took Fitzgerald almost no time to win the hearts of the dancers in

Harlem.

She was known as The Princess of the Savoy well before she

landed her first hit record, her swinging adaptation of the nursery

rhyme “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” probably the song most associated with her.

Although this children's novelty might seem an inauspicious launching

pad for the artist who eventually gave us our definitive songbook albums

of the great theater-based composers, it's wise to remember that

Fitzgerald always had a playful side.


As another of her devotees, the

late jazz singer Mel Tormé once told me, “One of the things we all

loved about Ella is the fact that she had a kind of a little-girl

quality when she sang. When she did 'A-Tisket A-Tasket' she sounded like

a 14-year-old girl, even when she was 50! Then she'd turn around and

sing the Gershwin ballads and Rodgers and Hart with great maturity.”

Fitzgerald's role in Webb's band helped catapult that orchestra to the

top of the Harlem heap. Energized by her presence, the orchestra

constantly recorded and broadcast its work, and wasn't even slowed down

after Webb's death in 1939, at which point Fitzgerald was appointed

titular leader.

Fittingly for an artist who would do more than any other

performer to put the idea of the concert album on the map, live

recordings exist of Fitzgerald from the very start of her career,

including an amazing reading of “St. Louis Blues” from 1939 that is a

brilliant, early example of her remarkable scatting technique as well as

her working within a 12-bar blues format.

After reigning unchallenged as The Princess of the Savoy, someone

realized that the billing was not democratic enough; after the World War

II era, when she became perhaps the most popular exponent of the new

music known as modern jazz, Fitzgerald was rechristened The First Lady

of Jazz. In these years, her scat extravaganzas like “How High the Moon”

and “Flying Home” expanded outward using the modernistic vocabulary of

bebop. She became one of the few singers who could keep a crowd at the

edge of its collective seat for chorus after chorus of wordless

improvisation.

Yet she could and did sing lyrics brilliantly. The composer Matt Dennis

told me that when he wrote his all-time classic saloon song “Angel

Eyes,” he didn't first bring it to Nat King Cole or Frank Sinatra, who

both later sang it; his first choice was Ella Fitzgerald. She got in on

the ground floor of the pop LP in 1950, recording one of the first great

triumphs of that medium, the amazingly intimate Ella Sings Gershwin.

From 1935 to 1955, Fitzgerald recorded for Decca Records (mostly working

with producer Milt Gabler, coincidentally, the uncle of comic actor

Billy Crystal and the man responsible for Lullabies of Birdland,

Fitzgerald's classic scat compilation). In these years, the label

claimed, she sold 22 million records for them.

In 1956, she switched to Verve Records, under the stewardship of her

manager, Norman Granz, and it was there that the two of them perfected

two new forms of the pop album, the live-in-concert recording

(Fitzgerald recorded so many of these that many of them are still

waiting to be issued), which resulted in such classics as Ella in

Berlin: Mack the Knife, and the songbook album, which reached its apogee

in 1957 with her four-LP Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Song

Book.

She upped the stakes still higher with the even more ambitious

George and Ira Gershwin Songbook, her most celebrated collaboration with

Nelson Riddle, one of the greatest popular music orchestrators. By now,

she had moved so far beyond the parameters of what is normally

classified as jazz — appearing in mainstream concert halls all

over the world and regularly on TV — that she was re-rechristened

The First Lady of Song.

The decade she spent at Verve (1956–1966), like colleague Frank

Sinatra's roughly contemporaneous period at Capitol Records, is

generally considered the high point of Fitzgerald's recording career. In

these years, she continued a tradition she had begun earlier of teaming

up with the upper echelon of bandleaders and fellow singers. In the

'40s, she crossed cadenzas with the two greatest musician/singers named

Louis, Armstrong and Jordan (on the rather bloodthirsty mock-calypso hit

“Stone Cold Dead in the Market”).

In 1956 and 1957, collaborating with

Armstrong (one of her own original inspirations), she recorded three of

the most celebrated duet albums, which climaxed in Porgy and Bess and

“Summertime,” another Fitzgerald perennial. Granz also brought her

together with Count Basie and Joe Williams (then Basie's vocalist) and

Duke Ellington (on the Songbook album project and elsewhere).

While most performers of her generation were slowed down by the sea

change in American pop that engulfed the 1960s, Fitzgerald continued

unscathed, even occasionally including songs by The Beatles and other

contemporary groups in her act. She was busier than ever in the 1970s,

continuing to tour and record constantly for Pablo Records, a new label

also run by Granz. Albums like A Classy Pair, one of several later

team-ups with Count Basie, and Fitzgerald & Pass … Again, a

whispery-soft, highly personal meeting with the outstanding guitarist

Joe Pass, show that even in her later years, Fitzgerald was always

inspired by the presence of compatible company.

Fitzgerald was easily the most prolific and incessantly busy of all the

great jazz-and-pop divas, recording consistently until shortly before

her 72th birthday in 1989, and continuing to work on the road until a

few years before her passing in 1996. By then, acolyte Tormé had

taken her traditional billing and added yet another new dimension to it:

Correctly divining that her musical abilities were nothing less than

spiritual, he began referring to Ella Fitzgerald as The High Priestess

of Song.

Brought to you by URGE
http://www.urge.com/launch/?section=stories&page=story&mode=story_90_10&
id=86961&referrer=php&source=efitzgeral

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Listen to an interview with Roberta Gambarini, Hank Jones and LeRoy Downs on "Live with the Jazzcat"

by on Apr.25, 2007, under News, Radio


Click Picture to hear an interview with Roberta Gambarini, Hank Jones and LeRoy Downs

Live with the Jazzcat

Hello all, this is LeRoy Downs and each week I will broadcast a live 15 minute segment every Tuesday at 5:15 PM PST on KRMLradio.com and 1410 AM KRML radio in beautiful Carmel California.

Gary

Hamada ,who is a director at KRML Jazz and Blues station, has taken me

on to do a weekly segment that I am sure your are going to enjoy! He

has one hour show Monday thru Friday called

For Locals Only.

On each Tuesday of the month @ 5:15 for about 15 to 20 minutes, Gary will turn it over to me for a segment of

Live with The Jazzcat

Each week there will be an interview of someone special and wonderful in this beautiful art form we call jazz.

I will see you there!

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Our Blessings to Herman Riley; Another Great Departed Hero of the Music

by on Apr.25, 2007, under News

   image

 

§     

Herman Riley, 73; master saxophonist

 Herman Riley, an unsung virtuoso of the reed instruments,

died April 13 at Brotman Medical Center

in Culver City,

following heart failure.  He was 73.

 

   Not one to toot his own horn, Herman let his

soaring solos do the talking.  Whenever the

top tenors gathered to jam, Herman had them for lunch!  Justo Almario adds, “After hearing Herman one

night, I rushed home to practice!”  Expressing

both anxiety and endearment backstage, another popular player asked, “Can’t you

juggle the lineup — Why do I have to follow Herman?”  Riley was gracious yet daunting as his robust

tone garnered the respect of fellow musicians and fans alike.   

 

     Whether he torched the bandstand, serenaded lovers at dimly lit

tables or navigated charts in the studio, Herman Riley excelled in any

setting.  A seasoned reedman who transcended

boundaries, Riley explored a vast spectrum from Jazz and R&B, to musicals

and motion picture scores. 

 

    This quiet, wind wizard mastered the tenor

saxophone, b-flat and bass clarinets, the oboe, English horn and several

flutes, displaying total command of his arsenal.  Herman weaved engaging, intricate tapestries

while his poignant ballads gently caressed the listener.  

 

      A native of New

Orleans, Riley was born on August 31, 1933.  He attended Landry High School

where he majored in music.  Herman enrolled

at Southern University in Baton Rouge,

proudly high-stepping in its famed Jaguar Marching Band. 

 

   Following a two-year stint in the army, Riley

migrated to California

during the late fifties.  He performed

with Jessie Belvin and Roy Milton. 

Later, while living in New

York, Herman played with Larry Gales, Junior Cook,

Bruno Carr and Bill Hartman.  Mr. Riley’s

distinct approach began to captivate audiences around the world.  In 1962, he was named Outstanding Solo Artist at the Monterey Jazz Festival.

 

     After studying privately with Kirk

Bradford, Riley shared the bill with the likes of Art Hillary, George Morrow,

Bobby Bryant, Phil Upchurch, Benny Carter, Count Basie, Louie Belson, Bill

Holman, Ray Charles, Benny Powell, Oscar Brashear, Duke Pearson, Philly Joe

Jones, Nelson Riddle, Oliver Nelson, Ray Brown, Gene Ammons, Grady Tate, Donald

Byrd, Jerome Richardson, Blue Mitchell and Lionel Hampton.

 

     During Motown’s heyday, Herman played L.A.’s Five-Four Ballroom

with legendary groups like Diana Ross & the Supremes, the Temptations, Smokey

Robinson & the Miracles as well as Martha & the Vandellas.  Riley has also backed Juliet Prowse, Jimmy

Durante, Dionne Warwick, Wayne Newton, Debbie Reynolds, Diane Carroll, Lorez

Alexandria, Aretha Franklin, Ernie Andrews, Jack Carter and Nancy Sinatra.   

    

     Herman toured Japan with Quincy Jones and

performed at the Concord Jazz Festival.  In

2003, he even journeyed to war-ravaged Israel.  While bombs and mortar shells exploded at his

doorstep, Herman remained secluded in his hotel room.  Under severe duress, he bravely ventured out

to the gig, igniting a few sparks of his own. 

 

    

      Mr. Riley is listed in Leonard Feather’s Encyclopedia of Jazz.  Pound for pound, he was a prolific titan

of the tenor.  Away from the spotlight,

Herman modestly lived The Life of Riley.  His dues are paid in full.  Mr. Riley is survived by his wife, Thelma;

daughter, Sheenell Riley and grandson, Ethan Boone.

 

§       

Jeffrey

Winston

 

                             A native of Los Angeles, Mr. Winston is a jazz historian,

producer and free-lance journalist.

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Andrew Hill great composer

by on Apr.20, 2007, under Uncategorized

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Andrew Hill

by on Apr.20, 2007, under Uncategorized

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The Wonderful Creative Talent of Andrew Hill has Taken Flight

by on Apr.20, 2007, under News

image

 

I've been asked by composer and pianist Andrew Hill's family to announce

to 

the press that he died at 4 a.m. today, April 20, 2007,

several years after 

being diagnosed with lung cancer. He was 75 years old and lived in Jersey 

City, NJ. 
 

image

Hill,

born June 30, 1931 in Chicago, Illinois (contrary to some

previously published places and dates) had a lengthy international

career as performer and recording artist, and educator (at Portland

State

University; he also gave master classes at New York University, and

elsewhere; he

leaves a voluminous and highly varied recorded legacy, dating from the

1950s (So In Love) to his 2006 trio album Time Lines (Blue Note), named

to many

critics' top ten lists. Hill is survived by his wife Joanne Robinson

Hill, and a niece, nephew and cousin, besides a devoted coterie of

friends, typically creative artists and perceptive fans.

image

As announced on April 11, Andrew Hill will receive an honorary doctorate

of 

music degree from Berklee College of Music at commencement May 12; other 

honorees “for their achievements in the world of music, and for

their enduring contributions to American and international culture”

this year are Gloria and Emilio Estefan, and The Edge; this distinction

has previously been extended to Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito

Puente, Quincy Jones and Ahmet Ertegun, among a few others. A press

release from Berklee is attached, or can be obtained  from Allen

Bush, Office of Public Information, 617-747-2658. 
 


 image

On April 3, 2007 Boosey & Hawkes music publishers

announced the addition of 

Andrew Hill “to its distinguished roster of composers” whose works

will be 

promulgated through its auspices. For information on that agreement, contact 

Adina Williams, via the B&H (Click Link Above). I have attached their press release, too. 
image 

Andrew was voted Jazz Composer of the Year by the Jazz Journalists 

Association four times, most recently in 2006; he received the 2003

JazzPar 

Award, and was one of the first to receive a Doris Duke Foundation Award for 

jazz composers. His recordings have been on Blue Note, Mosaic, Palmetto

and 

Black Saint/Soul Note, among other labels.

image

Funeral and tribute information has not been determined. For further 

information, call me at (212) 533-9495. I first met Andrew in 1971, we

kept 

in touch and became friendly, I regard him highly and am enriched to have 

known him. ;

imageimageimageimage 

Howard Mandel 

 

 

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Roberta Gambarini on "Live with the Jazzcat" April 24, 2007 @ 5:15pm PST

by on Apr.20, 2007, under Radio

         

                  

LeRoy Downs will be live on the air

with the beautiful tall, tone, timbre talented vocal gift

Roberta Gambarini

KRMLradio.com

Click picture to listen live online!

“Monterey Bay's Jazz and Blues station in Carmel California”

Roberta

has been stunning audiences from a very young age and her impeccable

range along with the prestine quality of her voice is like the HDTV of

jazz vocals

Roberta Gambarini

live on KRMLradio.com or on

1410AM KRML radio in Carmel California

Roberta Gambarini


 Click Picture above for Interview with

Roberta Gambarini

Click here for all archived Interviews

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Click and listen to an interview with Kendrick Scott and LeRoy Downs

by on Apr.18, 2007, under News, Radio


Click Picture to hear an interview with Kendrick Scott and LeRoy Downs

Live with the Jazzcat

Hello all, this is LeRoy Downs and each week I will broadcast a live 15 minute segment every Tuesday at 5:15 PM PST on KRMLradio.com and 1410 AM KRML radio in beautiful Carmel California.

Gary

Hamada ,who is a director at KRML Jazz and Blues station, has taken me

on to do a weekly segment that I am sure your are going to enjoy! He

has one hour show Monday thru Friday called

For Locals Only.

On each Tuesday of the month @ 5:15 for about 15 to 20 minutes, Gary will turn it over to me for a segment of

Live with The Jazzcat

Each week there will be an interview of someone special and wonderful in this beautiful art form we call jazz.

I will see you there!

Leave a Comment : more...

Kendrick Scott Oracle The Source

by on Apr.18, 2007, under Uncategorized

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Kendrick Scott on "Live with the Jazzcat" Tue April 17th @ 5:15pm PST

by on Apr.11, 2007, under Radio

            

LeRoy Downs will be live on the air

with a young ambitious creative drum talent taking the business and creating his own path

Kendrick Scott

KRMLradio.com

Click picture to listen live online!

“Monterey Bay's Jazz and Blues station in Carmel California”

Kendrick

plays with the best and his talent is evident as he emerses his spirit

in devine beautiful sounds on his brand new album

Kendrick Scott

live on KRMLradio.com or on

1410AM KRML radio in Carmel California

Kendrick Scott

Click picture above for Kendrick Scott Interview 


Click here for all archived Interviews

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