Archive for the ‘News’ Category Winter News

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Philadelphia has been suffering
through its worst winter in history. Right now, I’m looking out at about five
feet of snow, and given the size
of this property, I’ll likely be holed
up here for several more days.
That’s but one of the reason for
delays in orders. But remember,
we do specify two-to-four weeks’
delivery, as each item is custom
duplicated in real time.

Those of you who haven’t ordered
the Krupa at Newport CD
should get it as soon as possible.
Though there are a bunch of airshots
of this quartet–Gene, Ronnie Ball,
Jimmy Gannon and Eddie Wasserman–mainly emanating from the London
House, none are as good as this.
Gene was really “on,” perhaps
because this was a large and
appreciative crowd, and the
locale was not a saloon (as much
as Gene did love The London

Those few of you who continue
to order via mail-order, please be
aware that two crucial factors
have changed: We can no longer
accept checks, only cash or
money orders. Secondly, our
mailing address has changed. It
is now 8500 Henry Avenue / PMB
116, Philadelphia, PA 19128.

I have received no further word
about what will hopefully be the
commercial release of the 1985
documentary on Artie Shaw, “Time
is all You’ve Got.” It certainly
does deserve a wide release,
if only to help fill in the gaps of
what we don’t know–or only
heard about–this enigmatic
genius. He may bave been an
eccentric, but boy, he sure
could play that clarinet. Likely
better than anyone. We have
mentioned this before, but it
bears repeating:
will NOT be making this title
available at any time, but we will
be happy to let you know when
it is released and where you can
purchase a copy.

Those of you who read Jazz Times
magazine may have noticed that
I am now contributing reviews
and features. This is something
I’ve wanted to do for some
years. JT’s legacy of contributors–Martin Williams, Leonard Feather, Nat
Hentoff and many more–constitute
exalted company. Be sure to
log on to their superb website,, for plenty of
reviews, interviews, news and
profiles that you won’t see
in print.

Those of you who pay attention
to such things may have heard
some noise about
being up for sale. The truth is,
I am seriously considering selling
the domain name. The sale would
not include the vintage audio and
video collection, which would
still be offered to the industry.
If anyone out there is interested or
knows someone who is, please
email me at

The Philaelphia / Atlantic City
area has lost a wonderful saxophonist
and entertainer. Jackie Jordan died
in Atlantic City at the age of 71
not long ago, and personally and
professionally, he will be missed.

Jack was one of legion of Atlantic
City-based players who was more
R&B and Louis Prima than pure
jazz–Michael Pedicin, Sr. was
another–but man, he swung.

I spent many hours playing with
Jackie and his wonderful groups,
many times at “after hour’s”
spots (do they still have those?)
until 4 a.m.

I did a piece on Jackie once for
the late and lamented Atlantic
City Magazine, and I asked him
to describe his style.

“I play happy music, Bruce,” was
his reply.

Indeed he did.

New Discoveries

Thursday, November 19th, 2009


Greg Caputo is a talented, versatile and swinging drummer with credits that include everyone from Basie and James to Goodman and Shaw. His academic credentials are impeccable as well. He’s a Hartford Conservatory of Music graduate and studied privately with Alan Dawson, Joe Morello and Jim Chapin.

Caputo even sat in for an ailing Gene Krupa a concert in the early 1970s. Above all, he uses his experience, credits and talents to preserve and perpetuate the big band jazz tradition.

“Classic Swing with a Modern Drive” is a brand new CD by Caputo’s big band, with altoist Phi Woods and vocalist Viv Murray as special guests. Recording a straight-ahead, 16-piece big band CD in 2009? Talk about dedication.

As a whole, it works beautifully. The band swings, and peerlessly tackles vintage stuff like “Sing Sing Sing” and “We’ll Git It,” as well as the complexity of Buddy Rich charts like “Nutville” and “Mexicali Nose.” Ensemble-wise, there’s not a note out of place, but under Caputo’s leadership from the drum chair, there’s nothing stiff about this. The venerable “Shiny Stockings” is the essence of relaxed swing. Certainly, the Basie feel sounds easy, and that is as it should be. It is not, however, easy to play.

Solo-wise, everyone involved is a champ. Phil Woods? He’s still got it.

Congratulations to Gregory Caputo for his tireless work as an educator, percussionist, bandleader, and now, recording artist.

If Basie were around, he might say something like “The Gregory Caputo Big Band is the last word in big bands today.”

For ordering information and other details about Caputo, visit his web site at:


Unless one was prone to do a lot of digging, few knew that the Gene Krupa quartet made an appearance at the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival. In fact, until very recently, it was understood that Gene made only two, Newport appearances, one at the inaugural 1954 bash, and again in 1972 at what was called Newport in New York.

Courtesy of an online music company named Wolfgang’s Vault, owned and operated by Bill Sagan, a good deal of previously undiscovered Newport material is coming to light, including Krupa’s 1959 appearance. Others at the fest, by the way, included the likes of Herbie Mann, Thelonious Monk, Basie and many others, and the recordings were made in pristine stereo direct from Newport stage mikes. Not all sets are complete, though we should be thrilled to have what we have.

No one knows exactly who recorded this material, says a recent New York TImes piece by Ben Ratcliff, and although Voice of America’s Willis J. Conover introduces some of the acts, Ratcliff maintains that VOA could not have taped the shows, as Voice of America’s various Newport tapes were done in mono.

It was suggested that record companies did the recording, but that’s hard to believe, in that around 10 different companies would have had to be involved.

Krupa may have been invited that year in conjunction with the upcoming release of the film about his life, and/or to hype the release of his “Big Noise From WInnetka” LP, as well as the Krupa story soundtrack album.

This version of the quartet, with pianist Ronnie Ball, bassist Jimmy Gannon and reedman Eddie Wasserman, was said to be amongst Gene’s favorites of all his small groups. Fans have had mixed opinons.

The classically trained Wasserman–also one of the biggest contractors on the New York scene in the 1950s and 1960s–was fluent on flute, clarinet and tenor, and brought quite the cool sound into the band. Ronnie Ball, who studied for quite some time with Lennie Tristano, was also quite the modernist. Gene made good use of Wasserman’s versatility, featuring him often on all three horns. What Wasserman didn’t have, say some fans, was the free wheeling swing of a Ventura or Eddie Shu.
But it was a good group, and lasted for a good five or so years before Charlie Ventura returned to the fold circa 1963.

The Krupa Newport tapes, which we hope to make available on CD at some juncture, include versions of “World on a String,” “Lover Man” (one would think Krupa would come on with stronger material) and “Sweet Georgia Brown.”

Who knows what else will surface in the future?

Jazz V.I.E.W.

Bob Karcy may not have “invented” the concept of the jazz video, but then again, when he founded V.I.E.W. Video in 1980, he was certainly the first to issue jazz concerts and other jazz-oriented filmed material on home video.

Almost 10 years later, Karcy is very much at it, with an expansive catalog of jazz on DVD, as well as classical music, opera, documentaries, pop, educational films, and rare television shows. In the jazz realm, featured artists include everyone from Freddie Hubbard and Louie Bellson to Billy Cobham and a newly-discovered opus from the underrated songstress, Damita Jo.

Karcy also presides over the critically acclaimed and award-winning Arkadia jazz C label. V.I.E.W. is not resting on its considerable laurels and impressive list of products. New and rare material surfaces regularly, and I urge all visitors to visit and see what this innovative, creative outfit is up to these days.

Louis Prima: Life After Keely Smith

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Singer/trumpeter and master entertainer Louis Prima may have died 31 years ago, but from an entertainment industry standpoint, he’s now bigger than ever.

His music graces dozens of film and television soundtracks and commercials, repackages of his recordings sell briskly, rockers cover his material, the DVD issue of Disney’s “Jungle Book,” where Prima played an animated version of himself, has endeared him to yet another generation.

And Gia Maione deserves the most of the credit. Married to Prima from 1963 until his death in 1978–and singing alongside him and Sam Butera and The Witnesses until Louis lapsed into a coma in 1975, she has almost single-handedly perpetuated and preserved the Louis Prima legend and legacy.

Before Gia there was vocalist Keely Smith, the forth Mrs. Prima. Louis and Keely were certifiable stars, beginning in 1954, when they first took Las Vegas by storm, until their personal and professional split in 1961. Prima, however, remained as popular than ever, and in 1962, after a nationwide talent search, he hired Maione as Smith’s replacement. A year later, they married.

One of the myths that Maione works hard to dispel is the oft-repeated story that her husband’s career was virtually over after the divorce from Smith. That inaccuracy is just one of the mythical and erroneous story lines that play a part in a tribute show called “Louis and Keely Live at the Sahara,” which has been running in the Los Angeles area for a time.

“His life after Keely was great,” Maione recently said in a prepared statement. “His career was moving full speed ahead and in some new directions. He was not rejected and alone as depicted in this musical. He continued to play to packed, standing room only crowds. He worked the finest places America had to offer, and he appeared on every top television show of the 1960s and 1970s.”

And a good deal of these dates–plus a number of marvelous recordings–featured the singing of Gia Maione. “The young singer’s rich voice was an ideal match for Prima’s rugged jazz riffs,” wrote one music critic. It is,

By the time the Gia and Louis met, Louis Prima had already reinvented himself a number of times. In the 1920s and 1930s, he was at the forefront of Dixieland jazz, led a wildly popular big band in the 1940s with a number of chart-topping Italian novelties (“Angelina” was the first), successfully combined elements of jazz, rhythm and blues and comedy in the 1950s and 1960s; and by the 1970s, even introduced elements of hard rock into his shows.

He was also quite the savvy businessman, having started one of the first, artist-run record labels in music history.

Things have been challenging for Gia Maione. Replacing one-half of one of the most popular attractions in show business was a major achievement, as has running the business of Louis Prima. Indeed, it was not until l994 that she assumed control of the rich Prima archives, after years of litigation. “The struggle took 17 years out of my life,” she says.

But she’s proven to be a master business person, operating Prima Music, LLC,, and entertaining lots of book and movie offers. Maione is particularly proud of the two children she had with Prima, Louis Jr. and Lena, both performing in their own, critically acclaimed musical tributes to their father.

Above all, Gia Maione is dedicated to setting the record straight.

“I am so tired of the lies and inaccurate information that I see and read almost daily about my husband, that I must finally speak out,” she said in her statement. “There are inaccurate Prima biographies all over the Internet. There is one book on Louis, riddled with untruths and false, historically incorrect material.”

Maione’s mission is a refreshing one, especially in an industry as complex and as difficult as showbusiness. “Give truth, credit and respect where it is due,” she says. “Truth matters.”


Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Drummers of a certain age have their lists of undiscovered, video “holy grails,” which usually include Buddy Rich playing two bass drums at the Paramount Theater in 1949, Gene Krupa’s performance with the Benny Goodman band at Carnegie Hall in 1938, and the Buddy Rich/Gene Krupa drum battle at Jazz at the Philharmonic in 1952.

While these legendary moments have long been available on audio, no filmed images have surfaced, save for some newsreel footage of the Goodman band shot at Carnegie Hall during the actual concert.

These days, however, more and more “never thought to have existed” pieces of video have come to light, so it’s entirely possible that Buddy’s two bass drum bit and the Krupa/Rich duel may be out there somewhere. It is very, very doubtful that any more footage of the 1938 Carnegie Hall concert exists.

There are two meetings of Gene and Buddy on film–from television shows broadcast in 1966 and 1971–but the “original drum battle,” which first took place at Carnegie Hall on September 13, 1952, is considered to be “the real thing.”

In the course of researching a recently published piece on the two great drummers for Jazz Times magazine, and an essay on Gene and Buddy prepared in conjunction for a reissue of some of their material, some very curious pieces of information have come to light.

This info may perhaps lead the way to discovering another Krupa/Rich pairing, whether on film or audio.

“The Original Drum Battle, as it came to be known, took place at the kick off of what was the 12th National Tour of Norman Granz’ Jazz at the Philharmonic. Most of the JATP dates had early and late shows, and Granz, as was his wont in those days, likely recorded them all.

In fact, Billie Holiday actually appeared as a guest star during the early show, singing “Lover Man.” Some 57 years after this happened, a professional recording of it has just come to light. Certainly, there was another drum battle in performed that evening, and at JATP dates in Long Beach, CA and Hawaii, where Krupa and Rich were on the bill.

There’s another possibility: The January, 1953, opening of Broadway’s newest jazz club of the time, the Bandbox, was quite the gala, with a bill that included the trios of Krupa, Buddy Rich, and according to some reports, the Oscar Peterson Trio as well.

Since the demise of his big band in 1951, Krupa re-formed his famed Jazz Trio with pianist Teddy Napoleon and saxophonist Charlie Ventura. It proved to be quite the attraction, and Krupa traveled regularly with that unit when not on a JATP tour. And yes, Gene played without a bass until English bassist John Drew joined Krupa in 1954 at the insistance of Eddie Shu, making the trio into a quartet.

For whatever reason, Buddy Rich was using the same, bass-less format around 1953, with additional trio members being pianist Hank Jones, who sometimes doubled on organ; and star JATP tenor man Flip Phillips. This unit recorded for Granz’ Clef label in December of 1952, and a month earlier, with pianist Lou Levy in for Hank Jones, “The JATP Trio,” as it was called, worked a week at a Denver Club called Rossonian’s.

Was Buddy Rich one-third of a tenor/piano/drums trio without a bass because of the popularity of Gene’s bass-less trio? Or was it a matter of economics? Or at the Bandbox, maybe a simple matter of space? Who knows?

What we do know is that both units broadcast regularly from the club, and that two of these broadcasts were issued on obscure record labels. The Japanese Ozone label released the Krupa set (with pianist Teddy Napoleon identified as his brother Marty on the album’s cover), and the Joyce Music company released something called “One Night Stand with the Flip Phillips/Buddy Rich Trio.” Charlie Shavers, part of the recent JATP tour, was on hand to sit in on “Bugle Call Rag.”

Rich spent a good time at the Bandbox after this date, playing with his own group and sitting in with other acts on the bill like Harry James. Indeed, as a result of the James/Rich get together at the club in March of 1953, Buddy joined the James big band. He would be in and out of the James group until Rich formed his own unit in 1966.

As for Krupa, life after the Bandbox was pretty much the same as it was before, which included regular tours with JATP, recordings in various combinations for Norman Granz, and many gigs in the JATP off-season with a trio that by then included multi-instrumentalist Eddie Shu.

Although there is no recorded documentation on hand thus far, there is evidence that Buddy and Gene continued their battles from time to time through 1957. At joint, 1956 radio interview with the Voice of America’s Willis J. Conover, the two drummers spoke of how they felt about the battles, as well as an upcoming JATP show where they were both set to appear.

On November 1, 1956, they went into the studio with a group of JATP All-Stars, recording an LP called “Krupa and Rich.” Strangely, Gene and Buddy only play together on one tune, with the rest of the tracks featuring one drummer or the other.

Their last in-studio meeting did not come off as well as they could have, and was also something of an oddity, recording-wise. In the 1962 LP, “Burnin’ Beat,” Rich and Krupa were not actually in the studio together. Rich dubbed his parts in, a situation clearly heard in two, unreleased tracks, “Flyin’ Home” and “Wham.” It’s a shame these two greats didn’t take an occasion like this more seriously.b

Sammy Davis, Jr. played host to the mighty two on a 1966 broadcast of his ABC television program. Sadly, Gene was clearly not well that night. Buddy Rich took that opportunity to wipe the floor with him.

The last, on-camera meeting that we know of took place on Oceober 12, 1971. The occasion was a Canadian television special hosted by Lionel Hampton. Buddy Rich came out at the very end of the program to participate in a four-way drum duel featuring Hamp, Krupa, Rich and Mel Torme’. Gene Krupa came off very well in his brief exchanges.

WIth the death of Gene Krupa in 1973 and Buddy Rich in 1987, the battles were over forever.

Al Martino: Last of the Italian Troubadors

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Singer Al Martino, probably the last of still-working, Italian troubadours with wide, hit-making appeal, died on October 13 at his home in suburban Philadelphia. Martino’s death, at the age of 82, was a shock to his family and friends, as there was no inkling of illness. Indeed, he was still working and sounding great and booked well into the next year.

The only living, Italian-American singers of a similar, stylistic mode who could rival Martino in terms of numbers of records sold—Martino recorded chart-toppers from the early 1950s through the 1970s—are Jimmy Roselli, now 84; Jerry Vale, now 79; and Vic Damone, now 81. All are retired.

Born Alfred Cini in South Philadelphia, he first worked as bricklayer in his father’s masonry business. Young Al loved listening to singers like Perry Como, Al Jolson, and especially his neighborhood pal, Mario Lanza. After World War II service—he was wounded in the Iwo Jima invasion—he decided on a singing career, changed his name to Al Martino, moved to New York city, and in 1948, garnered a television appearance on tremendously influential “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” television show.

As a result of his first place win on the Godfrey show, he recorded a song entitled “Here in my Heart” for small Philadelphia record label. Despite the size of the record company, that single ultimately became a number one hit, first in England and then stateside. He signed with Capital Records in 1953. Although he had many hits through the years, including “I Love You Because,” “Volare,” “Spanish Eyes” and the famed “Love Theme from the Godfather” (“Speak Softly Love”), Martino’s career floundered several times over the years, rumored to be a result of mob ties.

His first reported “problem,” repeated in the official Martino biography, was in the mid-1950s, when his contract was said to have been taken over by a “connected” manager, and the singer was ordered to pay $75,000 in “protection” money. Martino high-tailed it to England, where he appeared regularly, but he had next to no visibility in the states until 1958, when a friend intervened on Martino’s behalf. The friend, never named, must have been quite influential.

Then there was the controversy involving Martino’s role as singer Johnny Fontane in all three “Godfather” films. Writer Mario Puzo’s Johnny Fontane character was said to be loosely based on that of Frank Sinatra during the early 1950s period when Sinatra was down on his luck and needed a break. Old Blue Eyes got his break, according to the “Godfather” novel, with mob help. It was said that Sinatra was not thrilled with the character of Johnny Fontane. Other “insiders” claim the book and the films were among Sinatra’s favorites.

Several non-acting singers, including Vic Damone, who was ready to take the role and actually secured Sinatra’s blessing, were offered the Fontane role—even Sinatra himself was said to have been approached—but Martino ultimately got the part. It is not known for certain whether or not Martino went to Mr. S. for his “official sanction,” but the singing career of Al Martino and the quality of the dates he was offered mysteriously suffered after the release of “The Godfather.” There aren’t many in showbiz still around who know exactly what happened. Those who do know have nothing to say.

Martino again turned to overseas audiences. Until the end, he was particularly beloved in England and Germany. His final date was on October 3, at a Staten Island tribute to his boyhood friend and inspiration, Mario Lanza.

Like Jerry Vale and Jimmy Roselli, Martino received some early, classical training, though Martino’s voice could be termed the most “operatic.” All three, in their heyday, had substantial lung power. More importantly, they were true stylists with a passion and, yes, schmaltz, that died with Frank Sinatra.

No matter what their ethnic background, millions of listeners became misty-eyed listening to Martino sing “Here in my Heart” or Vale crooning “Al Di La” through the years. Perhaps those songs and those artists reminded all of us of a simpler and happier time.

Al Martino did, successfully and sincerely, for six decades.

Weighing in on Letterman: Already Yesterday’s News?

Monday, October 5th, 2009

David Letterman has two responsibilities: To be funny and to bring in ratings.

He’s doing both.

Since the television talk show host’s October 1st admission of a $2 million blackmail attempt against him, and, shall we say, details of workplace complications, there have been calls for his resignation, allegations of sexual harassment, sordid details involving alleged extortionist Robert Halderman and plenty of amateur, armchair analysis.

Even the right-wing, radio talk show Napoleons are calling for Letterman’s head, obviously still stung by the host’s less-than-tasteful recent jokes about Sarah Palin at the ball game.

But as often happens in scenarios like these, those covering the events–whether personalities on “Extra,” “Entertainment Tonight”and their many clones–will probably become more famous than the folks involved in the actual events.

Ultimately, in this sound-bite media world, as yet another would-be scandal erupts in Lotus-Land, all will untimately be forgotten. And soon.

Scandal-wise, how much talk do we hear about Pee Wee Herman and Hugh Grant these days? And does anyone remember that talk show host Bill Maher was slapped with a $9 million palimony suit in 2004? Or sportscaster Marv Albert’s 1997 conviction for sexual assault? Albert, fired by NBC in 1997, was rehired two years later and has since been all over the airwaves. Does anyone remember or care about Woody Allen’s 1997 marriage Soon-Yi Previn, the adapted daughter of his former lover, Mia Farrow? Career damage? Allen has participated in the making of almost two dozen films since that scandal.

Such is the nature of today’s celebrity, the blur between fiction and reality, the increasingly disposable, “that was yesterday” idea of contemporary journalism, and, truth be told, the pervading attitude of “who really gives a darn anyway?”

Regarding justice and the Letterman issue, only blackmailer Halderman has stepped forward thus far. No one in the work place has yet to make a complaint against Letterman. So why should Letterman be fired?

However, in today’ wacky world, it may be too soon to speak of such things, as one gets the sense that others may magically appear in pursuit of their 15 minutes of fame.

Other than Letterman himself, in a brilliant, audience-manipulation move–indeed, most the audience who heard his live, October 1st admission thought it was just another Letterman “bit”–no one has said he’s done anything wrong.

This is not to say the comic is guilt-free. It’s just that no one has accused him of anything. Yet.

If one operates under the presumption that something inappropriate did take place, it is important–if only to place these alleged actions in the proper perspective–that none of this is really “news,” other than the blackmail attempt.

The concept of the Hollywood “casting couch,” i.e., trading sexual favors for parts in films, television, etc., has been around since the invention of the movie camera, and has extended to wherever power is involved.

Think politics.

And if anyone thinks this idea is a new one and that what Letterman supposedly did is unique, one only has to comb the public library and read the biographies of celebs like Jerry Lewis, Milton Berle, Elvis,Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and dozens of others, past, present and future. That list would also include one John F. Kennedy.

No, none of this is “right” or politically correct. It’s just that it’s nothing new and not really news. Well, it may be today, but tomorrow is another matter.

And yes, over the past several years, given the fact that more females than ever are in power in the Hollywood workplace, there’s a lot of talk about the idea of a “reverse” casting couch. That’s another story for another time.

Some have said, given contemporary attitudes, the casting couch, as we knew it, no longer exists. Others maintain that as long as someone wants to be on television or in the movies–to say nothing of politics–the couch stands.

I have a call into Sid Caesar, Joan Rivers, and various others, for comments about this. I’d bet they have a lot to say.George Gobel is unavailable.

But if anyone is in contact with Woody Allen, feel free to get a quote from him as well.

The point is, all of this will play out and will go away.

In some unfortunate cases in entertainment history, things didn’t go away.

On January 18, 1943, legendary jazz drummer Gene Krupa finished his show at the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco. Waiting for him offstage were two, Federal narco agents, ready to frame the jazz great on a trumped-up marijuana possession charge.

Though the details are unimportant, Krupa served less than 90 days in jail on charges–all eventually dropped–that had nothing to do with drug use or possession.

But for some reason, the image and the stigma stuck, and as sucessful as Krupa was for the duration of his career–he remained the “world’s most famous drummer” until his death in 1973–there would always be whispers of Gene being “on the stuff.”

On December 8, 1963, Frank Sinatra, Jr.was kidnapped and held for $240,000 ransom. After being held hostage for two days, Sinatra was released, his kidnappers were captured and arrested. The defense, at trial, was that Frankie staged his own kidnapping to publicize his singing career and to get the attention of his father. While those allegations were disproven and the kidnappers sentenced to prision, this “staging” idea stayed in minds of the public at large for years and ultimately helped destroy whatever chance Frankie might have had at a major show biz career. It dogged him for years and still does.

The Letterman brohaha, however, will fade quickly and become, like so many other similar stories, yesterday’s news.

The story, like an MTV clip or a bite from “Extra” will, deservedly, become yesterday’s news.

And if Letterman goes anywhere–and don’t count on it–it won’t be long before he’ll be back. We hear Jay Leno’s slot may be available soon.

“JO AT JATP”: Advance copies of this rare and incredible recording are now available

Thursday, October 1st, 2009 is pleased to announce the discovery of an incredibly rare and musically astounding Jazz at the Philharmonic show, recorded live in absolutely superb fidelity, in Stockholm on April 28, 1957. The principals–Roy Eldridge, Stuff Smith, Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown, the one and only “Papa”Jo Jones, and Ella Fitzgerald (backed by Don Abeny, Ray Brown and Papa Jo)–are all in unbelievable form. Truth be told, in terms of playing and actual sound quality, this is the best I’ve ever heard Roy, Ella and Papa Jo. Before hearing this show, I can tell you that I never really heard what these giants must have really sounded like in person. And yes, Jo takes a rare and fabulous extended outing. Stuff Smith? What can you say?

Eldridge plays “Undecided,” “Embraceable You,” sings and plays “School Days,” “Lester Leaps In” featuring Jo on drums, and is joined by Smith on fiddle on “Moonlight in Vermont” and “Bugle Call Rag.”

Songs on the full-length Fitzgerald set are “You’ve Got Me Singing the Blues,” “Angel Eyes,” “Lullaby of Birdland,” “Tenderly,” “April in Paris,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “Love for Sale” and a finale of “It Don’t Mean a Thing.”

I’ve heard mostly all the released–and a few unreleased–JATP shows through the years. This is one of the best. And audio-wise, you would think you were there. Announcements by Norman Granz.

Almost 75 minutes of rare and marvelous music. “Jo at JATP” is not yet posted on the site, but you can get an advance copy now by ordering any other item we have, and in the “messages” section, indicate “Jo at JATP.”

“Papa” Jo is one of the site’s more popular artists. He should be. Be aware that this is the best title there is.

Mitch Miller: The Kitch of Mitch

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

The name of Mitch Miller came up the other day quite by coincidence. The conversation was about Louis Prima’s difficult, early-1950s, pre-Vegas days when decent gigs and recording deals were, for him and new wife Keely Smith, hard to come by.

The conversation turned to a song titled “Come On-A My House,” produced by Mitch Miller for singer Rosemary Clooney in June of 1951. Though it was a tremendous hit for Clooney, Prima–deservedly–felt it would have been a perfect Prima tune and may have helped resurrect the singer/trumpeter’s flagging career.

Prima never spoke to Mitch Miller again. He wasn’t the only one.

If anyone still wants to sing along with Mitch, by the way, they still can. The bearded conductor, classical oboist, record producer and television personality is still very much with us at the age 98, living in New York City and doing guest symphony conductor dates from time to time.

Few in the history of the music business have had as varied a career as Miller, and even fewer have been as popular and beloved by the general public. What some industry people thought of him was sometimes another matter.

The invention of a Mitch Miller couldn’t happen today, if only because his was a career that included stints as a classically trained symphonic oboist (jazz fans recognize his work as oboe soloist on the legendary “Charlie Parker with Strings” recordings of 1949), to producer of some of the most God awful recorded novelties in music history (from Frankie Laine’s “Mule Train” to Johnnie Ray’s “Cry”), and ultimately as host of the hit sing-along television program, “Sing Along with Mitch.”

For one artist to have started his career as an oboe soloist with the Budapest String Quartet, only to ultimately gain fame as host of what would be described today as a karaoke TV show, is almost impossible to fathom.

As a record producer in the 1950s and 1960s, first at Mercury and later at Columbia, “the bearded one,” as he was known, was a schlockmeister all the way. Some artists, like Guy Mitchell and Patti Page, weren’t particularly quality conscious when it came to material. Others, such as Tony Bennett and Rosemary Clooney, went along with some of Miller’s suggestions reluctantly.

Then there was the case of Frank Sinatra. For any number of reasons, Sinatra’s career was pretty much down the tubes by the late 1940s, as were his record sales at Columbia. Mitch Miller thought he could make Mr. S. a star again via his proven formula for novelty songs, and strongly suggested that Sinatra record dreck like “Bim Bam Baby,” and the truly embarrassing “Mama Will Bark” from 1951. The latter was duet between Sinatra and a then-popular, pinup television star named Dagmar. And yes, there was actual barking on the track, though not by Sinatra as is widely thought, but by a dog impressionist by the name of Donald Bain.

A few years later, when Sinatra’s career was reborn as an Academy Award-winning film star and hit-maker at Capital Records, Sinatra sent telegrams to judiciary and senate committees, accusing Miller of presenting him with inferior songs, and of accepting money from writers whose songs he (Miller) had used.

Miller always said that Sinatra and other Columbia artists could not be forced to perform anything they didn’t want to. Mr.S.wouldn’t hear of any of it. Years later, it is said, the two physically crossed paths in a Las Vegas casino. Whomever was with Sinatra or Miller on the scene that night tried to affect a reconciliation.

“F–k y–, keep walking,” was Sinatra’s reply.

Interestingly, for a music man with the tastes of MItch Miller, he couldn’t stand rock and roll, and is said to have passed on the likes of Elvis and Buddy Holly. Indeed, Columbia’s small share of the rock market was due to Miller’s distaste of it. Miller was much more interested in producing and recording dreck like “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”

After the demise of his “SIng Along with Mitch” television show, and with the advent of the Beatles, Mitch MIller fell pretty much out of fashion and off the radar. No matter. He made his mark, and at the age of 98 is likely still following that elusive bouncing ball.

Maynard! Master of the Trumpet Stratosphere

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Maynard Ferguson, the dynamic, musically stratospheric and charismatic bandleader/trumpter who died in August of 2006, is the subject of a new book.
Not surprisingly, the work was not able to find a traditional book publisher.
Maynard! was written and assembled by Grammy Award-winning record producer Ralph Jungheim, is a collection of interviews with many of Maynard’s personal and professional colleagues through the years, including reedman Lanny Morgan, Don Menza and Bud Shank; drummers Rufus Jones, Shelly Manne and Peter Erskine’ singer Irene Kral; guitarist Mundell Lowe; trumpeter Lew Tabackin; and various others.
Maynard! is self-published and the good news is that it was published at all, in a day and age when traditional book retailers are going under, and the only works that seem to get traditional book deals these days are works by politicians, conservative and otherwise.
Lee Mergner, Editor of Jazz Times magazine, who first wrote about this on the site, is optimistic when it comes to print publishing and jazz. He should know, as Jazz Times ceased publishing recently until, thankfully, it found another buyer and is back in business.
“Print is most assuredly not dead,” Mergner said. “Nor is the oral history. If anything, the difficulties of bookstores have created a do-it-yourself submarket, in which projects heretofore viewed as commercial risks become unabashed labors of love, published via print-upon-demand or eBook or no-frills self-publishing.”
Ferguson’s life and music are worthly of a full-fledged bio. Dr. William Lee did write an authorized biography of Maynard about ten years ago, but its scope was surprisingly limited.
Born in Quebec in 1928, Ferguson was a child trumpet prodigy who quit school at 15, performed with, and eventually led a bunch of bands there. He came to the United States circa 1949, and spent road time with the likes of Jimmy Dorsey, Boyd Raeburn, and the leader who really groomed Maynard Ferguson to be a star, the equally charasmatic Stan Kenton, with whom he spent the years 1950 to 1953. Leaving Kenton, he was a Paramount studio player until 1956. In 1957, he led his first, U.S. band, known as “The Birdland Dream Band.”
It lasted, in various incarnations, until the bottom dropped out of the jazz business around 1967. But MF’s band was astounding, and those a part of it during those salad days likened it to what it must have been like to be a member of The Rolling Stones.
The array of talent that passed through that 12-piece group was incredible, and included artists such as Joe Zawinul, Don Ellis, Bill Chase, Slide Hampton, Jimmy Ford, Don Menza, Jake Hanna, Rufus Jones, Jaki Byard, John Bunch; and an equally wonderful array of arrangers and composers. The band recorded prolifically for Roulette. Volume-wise, they could blow groups twice the size off he stage. Subtle, it wasn’t. Swinging, it was.
Call Maynard Ferguson the “Buddy Rich of the trumpet,” if you will. No one has yet been able to equal his trumpet range and the clarity of his range—no one, quite simply, could play higher—and the energy, feeling, and enthusiasm he brought to the stage was consistently infectious and exciting. By God, it’s even been said that Miles Davis liked his playing.
Ferguson had become, like Harry James before him and Doc Severinson afer him, as much of a personality as a musician, though he never, ever compromised his musical vision.
Times were tough in the latter 1960s for everything that was jazz, and were at a particularly low ebb for big bands. Woody was scuffling, Basie was recording Beatles’ tunes, and Ellington was surviving. Buddy Rich, however, did begin to make something of a splash on the scene around 1967, but Maynard couldn’t ignore increasing audience disinterest. He first cut down to a small group, spent some time studying and teaching in India, and ended up living in Manchester, England, circa 1969.
He has no idea that a second, very successful career was in the offing, via his signing with CBS Records in England in 1969, and later forming an all-British band, with the accent on more contemporary material with a contemporary beat.
Maynard came back to the states permanently in 1973 and resumed a hectic touring schedule, with the emphasis on high school and college bookings, and in-residence teaching “clinics,” a concept pioneered by Stan Kenton. The band became a favorite of younger music fans via their choice of material, and in fact, made it to the coveted “top 40” with “Gonna Fly Now,” the theme from the film, “Rocky,” in 1977.
Demand for the band—as well as its prices—went up, and Maynard Ferguson was able to maintain the group, through several names and musical configurations, until just days before his death on August 23, 2006.
As a person? There are only two musicians in the history of jazz that no one—no one—has ever heard a negative word about. Louie Bellson. And Maynard.
The source material for Maynard! was a series of interviews recorded by author in 1978, when Ferguson and the band were playing in Santa Monica, CA. His wife transcribed the many hours of interviews.
“Jungheim had hopes of getting a book deal based on the interviews,” Lee Mergner explained, but there were no takers” from the major publishing houses.
“So I put it in a box and pretty much forgot about it,” said Jungheim. “Every once in a while I’d take it out and read it, but then I’d forget about it. I had a bout with cancer about two and a half years ago, and my son suggested that I make it an eBook and finally get the thing out.”
Ultimately, Maynard! was released as a print-on-demand project. The 240-page paperback is now available via, and the author’s own
Matt Keller, who has reviewed the work for the Ferguson web site, describes it “as an absolutely compelling read for Maynard fans… from the musicians who played with him in the first 30 years of his career.” Though this work is incomplete as well, in that Ferguson performed for almost 30 more years after these interviews were done, Keller says that the book “ provides a fascinating verbal accounting of the first half of Maynard’s recording and performing career.”
Perhaps the entire story will someday be told.

The Missing Artie Shaw: Update and Retraction

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Sometimes enthusiasm gets the better of me. I’m one of the multitudes out there–and I’m presuming there are multitudes–who have wanted to view the 1987 Academy Award-winner for Best Documentary film, “TIme is All You’ve Got,” the project that focused on that enigmatic jazz genius, Artie Shaw.

A lot of material, said not to exist, said to be lost or said to be pulled from distribution, has surfaced over the years, including the Krupa./Rich drum battle on the Sammy Davis, Jr. television program of 1966, the meeting of Rich and no less than Jerry Lewis on The Colgate Comedy Hour of 1955, and other gems.

Imagine my glee when I thought I might actually see a copy of “Time is All You’ve Got.” Because it seemingly disappeared from view so long ago, I figured it had been hung up in litigation, fallen into the public domain, was never copyrighted and/or simply vanished. On top of everything, I had the audacity to say that if I got a copy of it, I would do everything possible to make it available to visitors.

The fact is, I cannot, and will not, and never will.

Bottom line is, producer/director Brigitte Berman owns the copyright and all rights to the documentary. I hereby acknowledge that I hold no rights whatsoever to the film, and that I had no
right to post an article today on my various blogs, offering to make available the film to third parties.

My goal, as most of you know, was, is and always will be, to make these discoveries available to the general public. Sad to say, “Time is All You’ve Got” is one item you won’t be able to get from Ever.

However, and I have nothing definitive to report at this juncture, but I’m getting the sense that the film may be available in the not-too-distant future via standard, legal commercial channels.

When and if that happens, I’ll be first in line to purchase a copy and report on what I know is a remarkable work.

I am still, at heart, a fan, but I failed to realize the ramifications of my enthusiasm. Again, my apologies to Ms. Berman and all involved in this matter.