Posts Tagged ‘Frank Sinatra’

“BACKSTAGE WITH BRUCE KLAUBER”: January, 2015 edition

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

Happy 2015 to the readers of “Backstage with Bruce Klauber,” celebrating 30 years of continuous publication. Here’s to 30 more. Happy reading!

Things are changing at Atlantic City’s troubled Taj Mahal Hotel/Casino seemingly by the minute. The last “big news” to be reported was this: Though a deal between the Taj investor Carl Icahn and the casino workers union fell apart at the 11th hour, Ichan will ante up $20 million to keep the venue open, at least for awhile. He promises a $100 million in additional investment if he gets the tax breaks he wants from the state of New Jersey. Good luck with that one, Carl. Bet on this: The Taj will close. It’s only a matter of when.

The deal to purchase the shuttered behemoth called Revel is officially off. Seems that high bidder Brookfield Associates didn’t read the fine print about having to pay some of the costs associated with Revel’s utility plant. Evidently, Brookfield wanted out badly, as they didn’t mind losing their $11 million deposit. “Plan B” is that Revel has gone back to investor Glenn Straub, second highest bidder for the facility at $95.4 million. Straub is interested and has talked vaguely of turning Revel into an institution of higher learning/think tank type of operation, but he’s looking for something in the neighborhood of an $8 million break on his bid, claiming he wasn’t treated fairly in the initial bidding war against Brookfield. Additionally, he wants nothing to do with paying outstanding utility bills. This could be a problem for the physical venue itself. The utility company responsible for keeping electric, heating, cooling and water running at the shuttered facility just defaulted on their December payment. If someone doesn’t pay the freight, the utility folk have threatened to literally pull the plug, which would be disastrous for Revel.

There is a ray of hope on the Boardwalk, as the sale of the Caesars’-owned Showboat Hotel and Casino to Richard Stockton College—inferred in this space last month—has been finalized. Price tag is $18 million.

What do you do with a shuttered and abandoned hotel and casino that no one wants to buy? Atlantic City has decided, in the case of the Trump Plaza, to implode the thing. Guess a vacant lot is better than anything.

In the “backing out of deals” sweepstakes closer to home, the on-again, off-again saga for the purchase and renovation of the Boyd Theater is evidently off again. It seems that developer Neil Rodin never followed up on his agreement to buy the Boyd from owner Live Nation. Rodin claims to be negotiating a new lease with Pearl Properties, who bought the Boyd for $4.5 million in October.

The famed Four Seasons Hotel, moving to the top of the new Comcast Tower, circa 2018, will close in early June. However, it has been reported that the current Four Seasons facility was purchased by an outfit affiliated with a company called Sage Hospitality. All that Sage has said thus far is that they will handle the transition into a new “luxury brand,” and that plans are to invest millions in upgrades in order to open in the fall. The legendary Fountain restaurant ceased serving dinner December 27. Breakfasts and lunch, however, will continue. Rest assured that the “new” Four Seasons “brand” won’t be Motel 6.

Also getting a reprieve is the Philadelphia Theatre Company, which was “this close” to shutting down, as TD Bank had foreclosed on the Suzanne Roberts Theater that houses PTC. One savior is Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser, who helped put together a recovery plan. The theater now has a month-to-month lease with TD, $400,000 in donations has been made in he last 90 days, and Ralph and Suzanne Roberts have pledged $2.5 million.

There’s good news at the Curtis Institute of Music as well. Curtis Board Chair Baroness Nina von Malzahn has pledged $10 million and President Robert Diaz pledged an addition $1.5 million. Diaz said the gifts were not for anything specific. Diaz’ mission, he says, is “to raise enough endowment money to keep Curtis tuition-free, and to make ‘Curtis on Tour’ permanent.”

Things are also looking up for Dance USA/Philadelphia, whose funding via The William Penn Foundation was pulled with no notice. William Penn has had the grace to pledge short-term funding in the amount of $89,000 which should keep the company going for a least another few months. Dance USA plans to use some of that time to seek other funding. William Penn, which had been funding the company since 2006, has given no reason why they pulled their support. Perhaps it’s because they don’t have to.

Downright bad news for the Philadelphia Singers. After a concert in May, the 43-year old Singers will be no more. Seems the William Penn Foundation reared its head again and turned down a request for a three-year grant for general support. This time, William Penn did give a reason. Philadelphia Singers is carrying debt in the neighborhood of $125,000, and last year, Penn began focusing on issues of financial health for those organizations they fund. Will there be a “Save-the-Chorus” campaign? Doubtful. “We’ve got to face reality,” said Board VP Michael Martin Mills.

Scheduled to open this summer on the 57th floor of the 61-story One Liberty Place is—get this—an observation deck. Montparnasse 56, a French company, is doing the deck, which it describes as “the city’s first large-scale observatory.”

Though the Rittenhouse Square location of the legendary Famous 4th Sreet Deli at Fourth and Bainbridge has been sold, it will continue to operate under the name of Kaufman’s. Brooklyn’s Rich Kaufman is one of the owners, and plans no change to menu or staff.

Fans of Little Pete’s on 17th and Chancellor—and there are many—were deservedly upset when they heard that their beloved joint was going to close to make way for a massive redevelopment project. While that still may happen, the redevelopment bill itself is stalled in City Council because of union concerns, a Center City civic group’s issues, and the complaints of thousands of Little Pete’s customers.

Our friend Michael Klein of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News has reported that the long-shuttered Old Original Bookbinders in Old city, leased to restaurateur Jose Garces for a bit more than a year, will reopen sometime this month. Garces will call it “The Olde Bar,” which, he says, will be an “interesting interpretation of a classic oyster saloon.”

Smoking has not been permitted in bars since 2007. There are some exceptions, however, as it is possible – if a bar qualifies – to gain an exemption. As of now, 66 bars and clubs do allow smoking. Qualifying for an exemption isn’t easy. As an example, for what the state calls “a drinking establishment” a venue cannot have dancing or any live entertainment and must prove that food sales comprise 20 percent or less of the venue’s combined gross sales. Some cigar bars also may qualify. Four more venues have just applied for indoor smoking permits. They are: The Pyramid Temple No. 1, a fraternal organization on West Girard Avenue. They are applying for the cigar bar exemption. Grumpy’s Bar in South Philly would like to allow smoking, and likewise with two “gentlemen’s clubs,” Club Risque on Tacony Street, and Christine’s Gentlemen’s Club on West Passyunk.

While there was some shock and more than a bit of outrage over the news of Bob Dylan’s upcoming CD of Sinatra songs, “Shadows in the Night,” to be released February 3, it seems there is some validity to the project after all. Our friend at the Philadelphia Daily News, Chuck Darrow, spoke to Frank Sinatra, Jr. recently—Junior was in town for a celebration being held for veteran broadcaster and Sinatra fan Sid Mark—about the Dylan release. Sinatra told Darrow that not only was Dylan a major, major fan of senior’s, but that “the odd couple” actually hung out a few times over the years. To junior’s credit, I’ve rarely heard him put down anyone who he believes is singing good music. But a heads-up to Dylan’s handlers at Columbia Records. One of the songs on “Shadows” is not a Frank Sinatra Song. Song number ten on the ten track project is “That Lucky Old Sun.” That song belonged to Frankie Laine, not Mr. S.

Good colleague Sal Richards has been one of the funniest comics in the business—and a darned good actor as well—for decades. Those of us who hung out with Sal in Atlantic City, Miami Beach and who knows where else had no idea of the pain he was going through over the years. He’s just written a sometimes touching and sometimes hilarious autobiography titled “Behind the Laughter, Hidden Tears,” which tells of his upbringing, his rise in the business, how he dealt with the loss of a son, how he battled his own personal demons, and the show biz greats and not-so-greats he’s met along the way. The Helen Reddy story is worth the price of the book. This is wonderful reading. Keep swingin’, Sal. Available via

Remaining Pretty and Perky: The Return of Legendary Jazz Songstress Peggy King

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

The legendary jazz songstress known as “pretty, perky Peggy King” had an impressive career before and after her mid-fifties tenure on George Gobel’s television program.

Paying dues at the big band era’s end with the ensembles of Charlie Spivak and Ralph Flanagan, King learned her lessons well, parlaying her good looks, fine voice and flair for acting into an impressive showbusiness resume, which included stints as an MGM contract player, television actress, recording artist, and in-demand nightclub performer who figured prominently in the careers—and sometimes personal lives—of Andre Previn, Bobby Hackett, Charlie Barnet, Harry James, Buddy Rich, Mel Torme’, and yes, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Frank Sinatra. She sang at the Oscars and did Carson and everything else.

In the end, it was her voice: Clean, pure, with perfect intonation, with just enough interpretive turn of phrase to make the composer’s message ring true. And the composers—all of them—loved her. She respected the melody and respected the lyric.

In the late 1950s, while guesting on pianist/composer Bobby Troup’s “Stars of Jazz” television program for ABC, she introduced her jazz side. It wasn’t a complete changeover. It didn’t have to be. An inflection here and there, a subtle rhythmic emphasis on a word or a phrase to get the meaning across, coupled with a gentle sense of swing that had you finger popping when you least expected it. It was the same on ballads. She knew the drama was already in there, and that her job was only to bring it out.

The recordings? There were hundreds of them. All glorious.

Then there was nothing. Or at least not much. The slowdown, which began in 1961 with her marriage to After Six formal wear founder Sam Rudofker, was gradual. It was family time, and while there were still songs and plenty of them, they eventually slowed to a trickle. By the 1980s, there was the odd benefit here and there near her Philadelphia home, but not much. Perhaps she was intuitive enough, circa 1961, to see the handwriting that would end up on the wall as it related to singers of popular songs, however jazzy.

None of this escaped the Philadelphia promotional dynamo, Anthony DiFlorio. DiFlorio, known as “Anthony DiFlorio III” by his intimates, learned showbiz at the knee of another area icon, the late Atlantic City broadcaster Sonny Schwartz. In terms of entertainment, DiFlorio discovered what worked and what didn’t, who was good, who was not and why, the
value of pacing, and how to hype the living heck out of everything.

In years since, he has become a respected and dedicated pop culture historian, and world class publicist of all things pre-Lady Gaga. Don’t be fooled. DiFlorio knows plenty.

He loved Peggy King. Always did. When he found out she was still in the Philadelphia area and no longer singing much—coupled with the fact that reissues of her old product were coming fast and furious in Japan and points overseas—he was determined to get her out there again. She did a tune here and there, but nothing lasting.

Until now.

It started innocently and coincidentally. My longtime personal and professional colleague, the pianist/singer/composer/record producer Andy Kahn and I, reunited musically and revived “The All-Star Jazz Trio” not more than a year ago. We have, I will say, been received more than very fondly.

With a great, great assist from the regional arts/music/pop culture magazine ICON, as well as WRTI Radio, Jacobs Music and The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, the All-Stars organized a benefit for the non-profit music ed organization, Musicopia. The event, held earlier this summer, featured the cream of area classical and jazz players, including The All-Stars, and was a sell-out.

Certainly, Anthony DiFlorio was on the press list and invited. He called and asked if he could bring Peggy King as a guest. I had done a benefit with King in the mid-1980s, always admired her, and happily told DiFlorio I looked forward to seeing her and hoped she would enjoy the show.

She showed up, quite pretty and perky. We introduced her from the stage.

The crowd, as they say, “went wild,” and after the hour program, autograph seekers and well-wishers surrounded her for a good 45 minutes. Amidst the excitement and glory, she made time to talk to us, and her words made all the work, sweat and effort that went into putting this show on more than worthwhile. More importantly, what she said made good sense. The words were kind, but they were very intelligent, and they were words that could have only come from a pro.

We left the gig with hugs and kisses and the promise that “we must do something together.” It appears that our music inspired her. And just by way of her presence and what she said to us, Andy Kahn was inspired, and so was I. As for Anthonly DiFlorio III, he just smiled. He knew.

Given that she, like Tony Bennett and most of us, for that matter, are of a certain age these days, the concern was not whether she wanted to sing but whether she could, having admitted that she hadn’t really sung in about a dozen years. After the first of many telephone conversations with her, Kahn—who started in this business as a child actor and can sense such things—said he was certain she could sing.

We had a get together at the Kahn center city compound, and there was Peggy, standing up next to the piano and singing better than anyone one-third her age. The time, intonation, purity, sincerity, interpretive powers, subtle sense of swing, dynamics, and range were all there, and in many ways, better than they were in 1955.

On a personal basis, she regaled us with her knowledge of songs and their writers, and of the business. She let us know how much she appreciated our dedication to what she considers the lost art of “accompanying.”

The All-Stars had an upcoming gig at Chris’ Jazz Café’, Philadelphia’s only “name” jazz club and one of the finest in the nation. Days before the engagement, we let it be known that Peggy King was going to “guest star” with us.

Word travels quickly in Philadelphia. Night of the performance, you would have thought you were at Grauman’s Chinese for a movie premier, what with all the autograph seekers, flashes from still cameras and those holding video rigs.

This woman—this exquisite, graceful, professional artist—sang so, so beautifully. It wasn’t a question of “still having it.” “It,” that indefinable “it” was always there. It had to be. On a professional level, perhaps she didn’t need to sing for all those years. But it was clear that her soul needed it.

We didn’t want to tax her or take advantage, so we only asked her to join us at the end of our first show. She insisted on staying and participating in our second show, which went rather late into the night. She had more energy than all of us. Combined. Her version of “Little Girl Blue,” worked out quickly with Andy Kahn during the break, brought tears to my eyes. And a lot of others. This was Peggy King.

Rather, this is Peggy King.

Since then, we’ve done a concert in Atlantic City, and have plans for a gala, afternoon performance at Philadelphia’s Ethical Society on the afternoon of December 1.

Andy Kahn, our bassist Bruce Kaminsky and yours truly have been blessed with the honor and privilege of backing some of the certifiable instrumental and vocal jazz stars though the years. There have been hundreds of them. But none of them—none of them—were like Peggy King. And we’re just getting started.

See and hear for yourself via this clip: It speaks volumes. .


Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Celebrity biographer Darwin Porter has written several celebrity biographies—including those on Humprhey Bogart, Steve McQueen, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman and now, Frank Sinatra, for a publishing house called Blood Moon Productions, Ltd.

In all of his “works,” if you want to call them that, Porter sets out to prove that all of these dead stars were homosexual, bi-sexual, or at the very least, had homosexual experiences. Usually with each other.

The author also makes sure that a goodly number of pages are devoted to the size and other physical attributes of the celebrity’s genitals, male and female, as well as the frequently and quality of their use.

To be sure, some may be interested in this, but the problem with Porter and his publisher and sometimes collaborator, Danforth Price, is that a very high percentage of their “reporting,” if you want to call it that, is absolutely and totally untrue.

Calling this stuff “fiction” would be to kind. So let’s call it “beyond fantasy.”

If there’s a rating on garbage and slime, these books should get five stars. If there’s a rating on sociopathic sleaze merchants and greedy parasites, Porter and Prince should get the highest rating.

To simplify the issue: Porter and Prince, and a $500 reward if those are their real names, personify the human faces of feces.

They should be dealt with accordingly.

Conveniently, virtually every character who shows up in these “books,” if you want to call them that, is dead. How nice for Porter and Price is that you can’t libel the deceased.

I am appalled that things like this are published, that pieces of diarrhea like Porter are paid to create such things, that companies publish them, and most unbelievably, that libraries carry them. But, as we all know, the First Amendment protects even tripe like this.

The latest Porter/Price Blood Moon Production is called “Frank Sinatra / The Boudoir Singer: All the Gossip Unfit to Print,” which is similar to all of the author’s other works, in that he creates situations, scenarios and dialogue—written as direct quotations, no less—without any proof or any attribution (unless lifted from another celeb bios, and Porter lifts often) whatsoever.

Sexuality is a personal choice and a personal matter that’s not my business or concern. Homosexuality? To quote Seinfeld: “Not that there’s anything wrong with it.”

But to make up degrading, inaccurate and impossible sexual situations out of absolute whole cloth is shameful. I won’t stoop as low as to name all the names and detail situations, except to say that Darwin Porter would not have had the balls to write this waste if Sinatra, Dean Martin and several others within were alive.

Something tells me that if they were, Darwin Porter and Danforth Price would have likely been made an offer they could not refuse.

And no one is immune from Darwin Porter’s fictional, psycho-sexual slime, including someone we know and love as the “world’s greatest drummer.” If Cathy Rich ever reads this filth, I know she’ll do something legally about it.

I never believed there actually was an excuse for a person named Darwin Porter, but I saw him on television with my own eyes, promoting, I think, an upcoming literary effort, if you want to call it that, on Elizabeth Taylor. Given what this less than human being does for a living, showing his face in public wasn’t the brightest move.

Think of it! In the world of Darwin Porter, anyone can say anything about anyone, have it printed and make money from it. Anyone can think of any celebrity—remember, for legal reasons, they have to be dead—construct the wildest sexual scenario imaginable, write it down, get it published, and get paid for it. Think of it! Marilyn having sex in a swimming pool with Elvis just to make Sinatra jealous!

Don’t laugh. That’s one of the milder scenes within these pages.

There’s only one way whereby something like this could even be slightly justified. On the cover, in large letters, print the words: Fictional Pornographic Fantasies Within.

It’s not surprising that the quality of their actual prose is, at best, less than amateurish. Even the “made up” quotes sound horribly phony, and have absolutely nothing to do with how these people spoke publicly or privately.

By the way, as an important note to Mr. Porter and Mr. Price: My Uncle Al had intimate relations with both of your mothers. Your second cousin told me while he was in the sauna with Eddie Fisher. Lucky for me, Uncle Al, your mothers, your cousin and Eddie Fisher are dead. So sue me.

Jerry Blavat: The Geator Heats up the Book World

Monday, May 7th, 2012

A “Jerry Blavat,” a.k.a. the “Geator with the Heater,” could not be invented today. Or any day, for that matter. In his impressive autobiography, as told to Steve Oskie, “You Only Rock Once,” the legendary Philadelphia broadcaster maintains that “the street” was his “classroom.”

What a street–and what a classroom–it was, as the Geator wisely and instinctively utilized those street smarts to fashion a tremendously successful career as entertainer, radio and television host, music visionary, music industry executive, promoter, talent booker, night club owner, deal maker, hit maker, almost-movie star, friend to celebrities, the rich, the powerful and the famous, from Sammy Davis and Frank Sinatra to Walter Annenberg and Sidney Kimmel.

Though an astounding six decades as an entertainment icon–beginning in the 1950s when he danced on television’s American Bandstand–he never lost his feel for his beloved streets of Philadelphia, and the street kids he called the “yon teens.” Today, those fans are the “beyond teens,” and they still love him and everything he does, whether hosting oldies rock shows at the Kimmel Center or doing fund-raising appeals for Public Broadcasting.

This charismatic, human fireball, seemingly had “it,” whatever “it” was, before he even hit 20. The record industry used Jerry Blavat as its ears in the early days and it became common knowledge that he could pick a hit. As head of the committee that picked the recordings to be played on Bandstand, the Geater was a stickler for ensuring that it was the “original” artists that got played, i.e., Little Richard’s version of “Tutti Frutti” rather than Pat Boone’s sanitized cover of it.

Though all of his years, he would never, ever sacrifice the integrity of the music or his love for it. As a consequence, the color-blind Blavat has kept dozens of artists from the golden days working, and he always tried to make sure they were presented properly. Despite lucrative offers, he would never change his innovative and electric, rapid-fire method of on-air delivery. Indeed, it could be argued that what Blavat did over the decades on WCAM and WHAT radio, to name two, foreshadowed rap as a valid musical form.

It wasn’t all “discophonic” for Jerry, and his unflagging loyalty to his friends–including American Bandstand’s first host, the tragic Bob Horn; and reputed Philadelphia crime boss Angelo Bruno—hurt his career and virtually stopped it in its tracks for a while. Because of his friendship with the Bruno family, law enforcement officials showed the Geator no mercy, and investigated—read, hounded him—for years. Ultimately, he came up clean, and they couldn’t even get him for spitting on the sidewalk.

“You Only Rock Once” is fascinating and honest encyclopedia of the world of entertainment and music in Philadelphia and beyond. My hat is off to the Geator for recognizing the likes of Allen Sussell, Bernie Lowe, Kal Mann, Dave Apple, Artie Singer, Harry Chipitz, Sid Mark and many other figures who contributed so much to the evolution of the entertainment industry.

Blavat has good words for almost everyone—only Mike Douglas and Hy Lit are deservedly not cast in the brightest of lights—but one wishes he would have said more about friends like Sinatra and especially, his close association with Sammy Davis, Jr. I don’t doubt that, in the case of Davis, Blavat continues to adhere to the code of privacy. In a tabloid world where everyone is willing to yak it up for a few bucks, Jerry Blavat proves to be the pleasant exception.

One wouldn’t think Jerry Blavat to be a jazz maven, but it’s important to note that, believe it or not, he discovered jazz guitar icon Pat Martino; gave Wes Montgomery his first shot on national television via the Geator’s “Jerry’s Place” television program; and helped the sagging career egendary saxophonist Charlie Ventura, when Chas returned to Philadelphia after he was forced to leave Las Vegas under veiled circumstances.

I met Ventura during his stint co-hosting “Jerry’s Place” and ultimately formed a musical and personal association with Charlie Ventura, my musical idol, which lasted until Chas’ death in 1992.

If “You Only Rock Once” is ever made into a major motion picture, as it should be, there is only one man who could play the title character: Jerry Blavat. After all, while Bruce Springsteen may be “The Boss,” the Geator with the Heater is the Big Boss. With, naturally, the hot sauce.


Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

My sincerest thanks to our loyal customer base who are beginning to return to the bigger and better and now again online And let this serve as a hearty welcome to new visitors as well. We are working hard to tweak things at the site in terms of organization, streamlining and ease of use, dealing with a non-working link or two, etc.

We’ve also begun adding “new discoveries” for the first time in a while, including some great, 1944 and 1946 from the Krupa band (already posted), a 1966 Newport All-Stars date with a spectacular drummer who all know and some of you love (soon to be posted), and early 1960s DVD concerts from the likes of Buck Clayton and Stan Kenton. Look for some stellar additions to the MP3 collection as well.

Good things are happening in Philadelphia music wise. Those who have long claimed that jazz is dead in Philadelphia need only head over to the venerable 23rd Street Cafe’, where the jam session is mobbed every Tuesday…as it’s been for the past 21 years of Tuesdays. Drummer and session producer “Big Jim” Dofton is doing a superlative job of keeping each and everything together. Believe me, it isn’t easy.

Our friend, pianist/singer Andy Kahn, deservedly, keeps getting busier and busier. He continues with regular recitals at Jacobs Music in center city Philadelphia, has returned to the Hedgerow Theater in Media, will return to The World Cafe’ at the end of April, and is not doing sessions at the city’s popular restaurant, The Prime Rib.

My good associate–bassist Bruce Kamsinky–and I recently took a ride down to that city by the ocean that musicians have long called “Beiruit by the Sea.” Atlantic City, New Jersey, that is. A.C. is the scene of the soon-to-open (with Beyonce’ at the headlining opener) Revel Hotel and Casino. The facility is said to have cost in the two billion dollar ranger. And a half-block away from Revel’s massive lobby? The same, decayed and in-pieces “homes” that have been a part of the inlet’s “urban blight” sector for more than 50 years. All the promises of using casino money to remove this decay? No one seems to know what’s happened, and it absolutely amazes me that allegedly intelligent business people who have managed to build a two billion dollar casino, could fix it so, when a customer looks out his pricey window, the view is nothing less than disgusting…for more than one reason. Whats-a-matter? You don’t have a couple of hundred to tear down a house?

AC needs all the help they can get, and starting with an enviornment that’s clean and safe is a good and long overdue beginning.  The struggling resort has now dropped to number three in the “gaming destinations” rank, and has recently lost another seven or so percentage points in terms of gross revenue.

We all know that this business of entertainment is a young person’s game, but don’t tell that to the likes of Pat Boone, Wayne Newtown, Debbie Reynolds and Frank, Jr., who have announced busy, 2012 schedules.

Feel free to email me directly at with suggestions, wants, problems and other info. All good wishes to you and yours for a swingin’ spring, a great holiday season-and beyond.

Keep swingin,


Book Beat and Drum Beatings: March, 2011

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

In between snow storms and my contributions to Modern Drummer, Jazz Times, Fresh Sound Records and, I’ve spent a good part of the winter reading just about every new celebrity biography and autobiography published in recent months.

It is heartening to realize that, despite reports to the contrary and the problem with the Borders book chain, that the publishing business is alive and well, though I continue to register disappointment that Gunter Schuller’s follow-up to The Swing Era, Gary Giddins’ Bing Crosby Volume Two, and an in-print version of The Encyclopedia of Jazz have yet to see the light of day.

Jazz-wise, as always, the pickings have been rather slim book-wise. Last year, there was an under-publicized, semi-privately published work on Maynard Ferguson that almost no one heard of. This season, there is yet another work—and it’s superb– on the still-controversial Stan Kenton; a very disappointing tome on Louis Prima and Keely Smith that relies mainly on previously published material; a landmark “encyclopedia” on jazz and pop singers written by the prolific Will Friedwald; and a hilarious and informative autobio by percussion industry giant Lennie DiMuzio.

In the celebrity sector, it appears that anyone who is—or was—anyone, has written a book or has had a book written about them. Some of those names include Gypsy Rose Lee, Dionne Warwick, Michael Caine, Karen Carpenter, Willie Mays, Roger Maris, Kitty (“The Parasite”) Kelly’s expected hatchet job on Oprah Winfrey, Sal Mineo, Natalie Cole, Pat Cooper (!), Marlo Thomas, Dick Cavett, and two, absolutely ridiculous works on Humphrey Bogart and Merv Griffin that focus more on the principals’ genital size than fact.

I probably missed a few, but I always maintained that the publishing business would enter the realm of the certifiable absurdity when John (“Roland”) Zacherly, Soupy Sales and Joey Bishop had books written about them. Well, check Zacherly, Sales and Bishop, as well as such luminaries as Arthur Godfrey and Jack Webb all have books in release with their names on the cover. At least Webb was a big jazz fan. Actually, so was Soupy, rest his soul.

The legendary Lennie Tristano wrote a letter to Down Beat magazine in the late 1960s, saying, in effect, that he thought Diana Ross was the greatest jazz singer who ever lived. Presumably, he was quite taken with her vocalizing in the ludicrous film based on the life of Billie Holiday, titled “Lady Sings the Blues.” Whatever Tristano played and/or said should never be taken lightly, though it’s sad that Ross never realized her potential as a jazz singer.

To these ears, another vocalist who, tragically, never got the chance to realize her potential was the late Karen Carpenter, subject of one of this year’s most incisive bios. Carpenter, I believe, had it all, and had she lived and gotten away from recording the bubble gum dreck that made her famous, I think she could have been one of the great ones. After all, if Liza Minnelli and Barbra Streisand have recorded what the press describes as “jazz albums,” there’s no reason why Carpenter could not have as well.

There is also yet another bio out on one Frank Sinatra. I’ve only read bits and pieces of it and some reviews. But according to those who have read it, there’s really nothing new to be learned about the man. I don’t know what kinds of dirt these folks are after. It’s all been said before, anyway. As Mr. S. himself once said, “Hell hath no fury like a hustler with a literary agent.

The problem with the Borders book chain is unfortunate but not unexpected. Like Tower Records and several video chains that appear to be on the way out, storefront retails just can’t compete with an internet giant like It’s a matter of retail space. Borders, Tower or Blockbuster cannot stock thousands and thousands of new and used titles. Amazon has, with rare exception, what appears to be virtually every book written in the past 25 years, and practically every CD ever recorded. And the products are delivered to the customers’ door within days. Believe me, Amazon’s shipping charge is much less than what we’re being asked to pay for gas these days.

Certainly, browsing at the book store, record store or video store was and in some cases still is a pleasant pastime, and nothing compares to being able to actually hold the product before it’s purchased. But look how we get a good deal of our information today and look how we communicate with each other today. It is no longer 1995 out there, and it is all together fitting and proper that the way we buy almost everything these days has also changed.

While Amazon’s selection of jazz materials is admirable—and potential buyers often have the opportunity to get a used copy of a book, DVD or CD at a reduced price—few internet retailers can beat the inventory carried by I’ve mentioned them before, but what they have available, whether books, orchestrations, instructional materials, CDs and DVDs is just remarkable. And if you’re seeking stellar, first-class reissues of the great jazz recordings of the 1950s and 1960s, on labels ranging from Verve to Contemporary, a visit to is a must.

In another media event, it has been impossible to ignore the hype surrounding the fact that this is talk show host Oprah Winfrey’s final season. Of course, she won’t be off the scene at all, and has recently launched her own cable television network.

What Winfrey has done for broadcasting, for women and for all types of charitable causes has been nothing short of remarkable. And the skewering she received from author Kitty Kelly is unforgivable. In that realm, at least Winfrey is in good company.

However, those of us in the jazz community would be remiss if we didn’t comment on Winfrey’s relationship to jazz. There is none.
Fawning over Streisand and a bunch of other popsters is great, but couldn’t Winfrey spare a couple of minutes to Wynton Marsalis or any one of thousands of lesser known jazz artists? The only guest on Winfrey’s program through the years who was even remotely associated with jazz was Quincy Jones, and he abandoned his jazz roots years ago.

Incidentally, if Oprah Winfrey has played host to jazz musicians through the years, I must have missed those programs and I stand respectfully corrected. If anyone has such a list, you know how to contact me.

Talk shows haven’t been particularly kind to jazz though the years—let’s face it, jazz has rarely been a television ratings bonanza—but even hosts like Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Dick Cavett, David Frost, Merv Griffin, Johnny Carson and Mike Douglas regularly booked jazz musicians as guests. Some of those players, through the years, included names like Miles Davis, Buddy Rich, Joe Williams, Gene Krupa, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Max Roach Louie Bellson, Billie Holiday, Lester Young, Benny Goodman and many more. Bill Cosby regularly had jazz musicians as guests on his various programs.

Maybe we need an organization today akin to the famed, “Jazz and the People’s Movement,” founded decades ago by the likes of Roland Kirk and Charles Mingus. Remember when they stormed various talk shows—and even The Ed Sullivan Show—demanding exposure for jazz?

I cannot tell you how pleased I am to be associated with Modern Drummer, albeit on a limited basis right now. I think I’m one of the few writers who have contributed to MD since its inception, in my case, from their second issue. Look for my pieces this spring and summer on drumming legends Rufus Jones and Nick Fatool, among others.

Andy Kahn has been a producer and composer of hit records—remember “Hot Shot” from 1978?– recording studio owner and engineer, discoverer of new talent, entrepreneur, philanthropist, recording artist and first-rate jazz pianist, among other things. Above all, we have been friends for close to 50 years. Andy has been working on his memoirs this winter, and it hasn’t surprised me that he’s also quite the writer. I am touched and honored that he has asked me to contribute some of my editing talents to this work. Though still not totally complete—watch this space for updates—I can tell you first-hand that this book will be, like it’s subject, a remarkable work and will be a must-read for anyone interested in the entertainment business and the human spirit.

As always, I invite you to contact me directly at Thank you for your continued support, encouraging words and understanding. Above all, keep swingin! — Bruce Klauber

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. visitors may have heard this story before, but it bears re-telling:

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008 visitors may have heard this story before, but it bears re-telling:

Some seasons ago, we pulled the famed “The Drums By Jones” CD from our list of available products. Hudson Music and I had been in negotiations with the original producers of the project to issue it worldwide in a deluxe edition. Sadly, the folks who claimed to have the rights to the material were asking for more money for the rights than we would have recouped in a lifetime, so the deal fell through.

Shortly after, we received a strongly-worded document from those who said they were legally representing the owners of the material. We were asked, among other things, and in no uncertain terms, to remove “The Drums By Jo Jones” from our website. We did.

Since that time, we have heard absolutely nothing about what was supposed to be planned as a deluxe–there’s that word again–two CD set with booklet, unreleased photographs, and more. Try as we might, we cannot find any existence of this by the company who said they were releasing it (there is an English outfit by the name of Carter International who may or not be offering this, but we have little or no information about the company or the product).

In our quest to make these essential pieces of history available to our visitors, we are again offering “The Drums By Jo Jones” on CD…until we are told to do otherwise. It is essential and a must-have.

Presumably, everyone has already noticed that we have the entire 1948 film, “Smart Politics” available. Thanks to Robert Bierman to letting us offer this gem that features Gene and the crew in “Young Man with a Beat,” sung by the inimitable Freddie Stewart.


Look for two, upcoming magazine features of interest–I hope–by yours truly. One, in the next issue of the eagerly-awaited “Traps” magazine is a piece of major-league length on the history of the drum battles, complete with some graphics that you probably have never seen. We are told that this should be on the news stands on or about April 21st. This, as far as can be determined, is the only feature piece dedicated to the guilty pleasure of percussionists near and far, the drum battle. For subscription info, log onto

“Classic Drummer Magazine” bills itself as “the fastest growing drum magazine on the planet.” It may be, and since their inception, they have devoted themselves to covering players and subjects that the other publications don’t. As just one example, they have recently done a feature on the one and only Donny Osborne, perhaps the only real “Buddy Rich protege who ever existed. I was interviewed recently and extensively about my participation in the “Classic Rock Drum Solos” DVD. Writer Bob Girouard was incredibly knowledgeable about the DVD, about my work, and about the world of rare and vintage film in general, and that’s rare. For more info on this fine publication and for details on how to subscribe, visit


Even those of you who know me personally may not be aware that I’ve been a fan of Frank Sinatra, Jr. since 1967, when I first became aware that there was a Frank Sinatra, Jr. Those who continually try to compare Frankie to anyone are in the wrong ballpark. The fact is, Frankie is out there with a crack, 20-piece orchestra, singing songs and presenting orchestrations that are timeless. I had the great opportunity to interview Frank Sinatra, Jr.–and later review the show–for the “Naples Daily News” (a Scripps-Howard publication). We are reprinting it in its entirety and urge everyone to see Frank, Jr.’s show whenever he’s booked in your area.



Frank Sinatra Jr. could have taken the easy way out and chosen not to sing for a living.
But comparisons to his illustrious father have never stood in the way of his passion for the music of America’s finest composers and orchestrators and his quest to have it heard.
Singing the 45 years before youngsters like Harry Connick and Michael Bublé offered their take on his father, Sinatra Jr. has worked harder than most to carve out a solid career as a vocalist, bandleader, conductor, composer and actor.

(Sinatra played the Philharmonic Center for the Arts on Monday, March 31).
No, there haven’t been any hit records, television or stage shows, but he works quite a bit, even though his “Sinatra Sings Sinatra” show is an expensive one to mount.
Frank Sinatra, Jr., born in 1944, is the middle child of of three and the only boy. Nancy was in the limelight as a hit-making recording artist and film star, “ and Tina did well as a film producer and managing products with the Sinatra name. The younger Sinatra is the only sibling who maintains a constant stage presence. He was married for a while, is single now. A son, Mike, from another relationship, is a student at University of Califorina.

The music seemed to consume him from an early age.

“When I started as a kid I wanted to be a piano player and a songwriter, “ he told Will Haygood of the Washington Post. “I only became a singer by accident. I was in college, playing in a little band. The lead singer got tanked one night. A guy in the band pointed at me and said, ‘You sing.’ I said, ‘Me? Why me?’ He said, ‘You’re a Sinatra aren’t you? Sing!’”
As for his father, he also told the Post, “He was unreachable. He was traveling, or off making some movie. When I began in this business, with Sam Donahue’s band in 1963, “it was only on rare occasions when we saw each other.”

That would change decades later.

It’s taken years, though, for Sinatra to finally be satisfied with the sound of his own voice, he said in a phone interview
“I have become a better singer,” he said, “in the sense that I have gotten closer to the sound that I always wanted to hear my voice make inside my head. … I am now so much more comfortable working. It’s taken a lot of years for me to finally arrive at that attitude, vocally.”

The younger Sinatra studied his father’s style carefully through the years and when and if he wants to, he can sound eerily and uncannily like his dad. A good example of this can be heard on the 1996 album “As I Remember It,” a heartfelt musical and spoken tribute to Frank Sinatra.
“Yes,” he says a bit reluctantly, “that was a good record.”

That recording and his “Sinatra Sings Sinatra” program, where he sings many of the songs made famous by his father, stand as the exceptions through the years. After his father’s death, he says, “the audience wants me to sing those songs.”

Frank Jr. has long had his own eclectic repertoire (some recorded for his recent Reprise release, “That Face”), which dates back to one of his first studio efforts, “Spice.” The title song and a dark number called “Black Night” were written by the younger Sinatra.

“Nelson Riddle knew exactly what he wanted to do with the song ‘Black Night,’ ” Sinatra explained. “On the night that was recorded, that was March 29, 1971 — it was my first album with Nelson Riddle — something very, very difficult happened. We were in the recording studio here in Los Angeles, and Sinatra came walking in, because he heard I was recording that night. He came into the studio that night and he sat there and said, ‘What an arrangement!’ Nelson just blew him away. It was a very exciting evening.”

As hard as it may sometimes have been for the singer to carve out a niche for himself as a performer on his own terms, there have been many, many moments through the decades that he fondly remembers.
“I was the opening act in Vegas for three years for comic Phil Harris and the legendary bandleader trumpeter Harry James,” said Sinatra. “Phil Harris was one of the funniest people I ever knew. He could do more with less than anyone. He was incredible, the consummate stage performer who was also one hell of a musician. He was just brilliant.” (Contemporary audiences will know Harris as the voice of Baloo in the 1967 Walt Disney film, “The Jungle Book.”)

A thoroughly studied musician, Sinatra continues to be fascinated by the orchestrations — many featured in the “Sinatra Sings Sinatra” program — that made the music of Frank Sinatra timeless.
How is it that those arrangements — by craftsmen like Riddle, Gordon Jenkins, Billy May, Don Costa, Billy Byers and the rest — sound as if they were written yesterday?
Sinatra’s explanation is that “they knew how to orchestrate. They knew how to make best use of the musical instruments. They knew how to write counterpoint in music. They knew how to make the instruments sound as they wanted them to sound.”

Listeners at the Phil will hear many of these songs and arrangements as the arrangers wanted them to sound, played by a 20-piece orchestra under the direction of Terry Woodson. And this orchestra is as fine as any group of its kind, past or present.

In 1988, while leading, conducting and singing with his own band at downtown Las Vegas’ Four Queens Casino and Hotel, Frank Sinatra Jr. received a telephone call that would put his years of study, listening, learning and performing to the ultimate test.

“I had been conducting for myself,” he explained. “And the reason why I had been doing that is because we were working on such a small stage that there was no room for a conductor. So I ended up conducting for myself. When Sinatra came in one night, he said, ‘My God, the kid conducts!’ In his eyes, all of a sudden I was Eugene Ormandy, you know what I mean?
“He called me in early 1988. I was in my hotel room in Atlantic City and I was discussing the show that we were doing with my trumpeter, Buddy Childers, and my drummer, Bob Chmel. The phone rang and my father was on the phone, which surprised me, and he said to me, ‘Why don’t you come out and conduct for me?’

“So when my friends revived me with the smelling salts, I said, ‘What in the world is going on?’ He said, ‘I need somebody to conduct for me.’ I said, ‘What’s the matter with the guy you’ve got?’ Then I had to hold the phone away because he was yelling. He said, ‘These people don’t have the slightest idea of what I’m doing!’ Then he said to me, ‘Maybe another singer would understand what a singer is trying to do.’ And that was a pretty revolutionary thing to do. You never go to a show to hear a singer and see that the show is being conducted by another singer.

“He brought me in, and I began to learn him. I knew the music. I had to learn him. I was with him the last seven years that he worked. It was a wonderful experience and I miss it like you can’t imagine. It was a learning experience, and it was probably the greatest compliment that he ever gave me. And he didn’t give out compliments easily.”

After his father’s death in 1998, Frank Sinatra Jr. again hit the road with his own band. And one of the key members of the band was the pianist and sometimes conductor of his father’s orchestra, Bill Miller.
Miller, best known for being the pianist on the elder Sinatra’s famed “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)” was the original lounge pianist at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas in 1951.

“My father was playing at the Desert Inn that year,” Sinatra recalled, “and I believe it was the first year that he ever played Las Vegas. “He met Bill Miller and loved his touch and the way he played. Bill Miller joined Sinatra in 1951. In 1951, I was seven. Bill would come to our home and rehearse with my father. I was taking piano lessons already, but I listened to a professional, and I tried to get the touch on the piano that Bill Miller had.
“As the years went by, whenever there was a Sinatra recording session and I could go to it, I would make it my business to be there and listen to the arrangements. But I would always find myself standing by the piano, listening to what Bill Miller was doing. Without knowing it, he was my teacher.

“Bill was with my father for almost 45 years. After my father died, Bill had been in retirement. In October of 1998, I went to Atlantic City to work and I was surprised to learn that the hotel who had booked us was the final hotel Sinatra performed in when he was still working. So I got an idea in my head.

“I told my people I wanted the big orchestra and that I was going to call Bill Miller to see I could convince him to come out of retirement. Bill Miller came to Atlantic City, and with very low, ethereal music playing, he was sneaked onto the stage and started to play his famous ‘One More For my Baby.’ And when the lights came up on him, people recognized him and they gasped.

“I was sitting there in the darkness, and the older I get, the more I look like Sinatra. When I was sitting there in a dark blue light, in my tuxedo, the resemblance was a little striking. The people were dead silent, and it really moved them, so much so, that they had tears in their eyes. Bill Miller worked with me until July, 2006, when he had a heart attack and died. He played right up until the end. His daughter came up to me after his death, telling me, ‘You gave my father another eight years of life.’ But Bill died never knowing what he taught me about music. I miss him every day.”

Of the new breed of singers who have followed in his father’s footsteps, Sinatra is “just glad they’re doing better music. That also goes for Rod Stewart and Michael Bolton, who are both friends of mine. The fact that they’re singing better music pleases me a great deal. They’re going to educate a generation.”

As for the future, Sinatra will continue to take work, when the gig is right, with nothing less than a full orchestra, playing the great songs and the great arrangements. There may be more film and television roles down the line per his guest spots on “The Sopranos,” and he has just completed a second appearance on “The Family Guy.”

Musically? In a 2001 essay entitled “Frank Sinatra is Alive and Well and Singing in Europe,” poet and Sinatra family friend Rod McKuen, hit the nail on the head when he commented, “Frank Sinatra Jr. is his own man, and while he’s proud to be ‘the keeper of the flame’ at this point in time, there is absolutely no doubt that he will be creating his own standards as a singer and writer in the near — not distant — future.” Or, as no less than the Washington Post put it in 2006, Frank Sinatra Jr. is “uniquely gifted in his own right.”


The following week, Tony Bennett was in town at the same venue, and he absolutely killed. The 82-year-old legend was onstage for an astounding 90 minutes and sounded better than he did 40 years ago. Special credit must be given to pianist Lee Musiker and drummer Harold Jones. Jones, playing a wonderfully sounding DW set of drums, demonstrated why he was, as Bennett said, “Count Basie’s favorite drummer.”


There should be, we hope, some major announcements on the DVD and CD fronts, in terms of getting things out commercially, properly and internationally. Stay tuned.


We are headed up north for a series of shows, but will return to Naples, FL in early June. Not only am I playing at least three nights down here, I am contributing regularly to The “Naples Daily News,” “Naples Sun Times” and “ETC.” I am in the fortunate position of covering the great jazz scene regularly…while getting to–literally–play a part in it as well.

God bless and keep swingin’

— Bruce Klauber, April, 2008.


Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

I like Kenny G. Consider it a guilty pleasure. In our home, the moment the Christmas decorations come out, three seasonal CDs are immediately played. Two are pianist Ramsey Lewis’ famed albums recorded for the Argo label in the late 1950s. The other is Kenny G’s Christmas CD. To me, it evokes the season. No, it isn’t jazz, and Kenny has never really professed to be hard core jazz player. Sure, he’s a “lick” player–aren’t we all?–but Kenny’s licks are his own. The critics, such as they are, have done the same thing to Kenny G. as they did to the late and great trumpeter, Al Hirt. Critics have judged these players by way of their own expectations. In other words, Al Hirt and Kenny G. have sold a zillion records, so in their judgement, if Al didn’t play as well as Dizzy and if Kenny G. doesn’t play as well as Coltrane or Steve Lacy, then they must be shams. I remember a Down Beat magazine cover story from the mid-1960s that focused on Al Hirt who admitted that he indeed was no Miles or Dizzy and that he never said he was.

Still, business is business, and after 25 years and 26 albums with Arista Records–an association that yielded 75 million in record sales–Kenny G. and Arista are separating. Kenny G. will be going to the Concord/Starbucks label because, as he told the Associated Press, Arista wanted another album of standards, while the saxophonist wanted to do his first album of originals since 2002. “Rhythm and Romance,” not to be confused with the legendary Krupa film, “Rhythm Romance,” is the title of the new effort for Concord, which will also feature some Latin tunes.

Truth be told, one doesn’t end an unbelievably lucrative, 25-year association purely because of “artistic differences.” I’d bet the farm that Kenny G.’s sales for Arista have not been what they used to be, which is likely one of the main reasons behind the parting. But don’t worry. I understand that Kenny G. will be doing just fine without Arista, or without anyone, for that matter. Someday, however, I would really love to hear this guy in a straight-ahead quartet setting, swinging the blues, standards and “rhythm” changes. Anthony Braxton did it. Why not Kenny G.?


My main man, Frank Sinatra, Jr., has finally received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is long, long overdue. Before Harry Connick, Michael Buble, Michael Feinstein, Rod Stewart and rest–long, long before, by the way–Sinatra was out there working and singing the finest of songs backed by the finest of arrangements. “This has been quite a sentimental journey,” Sinatra said. “My brother deserves the honor because he is practically, single-handedly, keeping the American songbook alive,” said sister Nancy. And all good wishes go out to “big Nancy,” Nancy Sinatra, Sr., who is said to be recovering quickly from a heart attack.


“Gretsch Drum Night at Birdland,” the live recording from 1960 that featured–in solo and in battle–Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones and Charli Persip–is now available from on CD. This has not been available, to the best of our knowledge, since the early 1990s. It is a must-have for drummers of all ages and styles. The story of this drum battle and all the others throughout drum history will be featured in a cover story in “Traps” magazine, said to be on news stands on or about April 21st. Another recent and rather startling discovery is the fondly-remembered Harry James band television broadcast of 1965 that featured a certain world’s greatest drummer. Our good detectives have found–get this–a full color version of this fabulous show. Stay tuned.


The jazz scene here in Naples, Florida, keeps on cooking and shows no signs of slowing down even as the season draws to an end. Trumpeter Bob Zottola’s Expandable Jazz Band is now working an unprecedented seven nights per week. This fabulous group was recently augmented for a short time by one of Duke Ellington’s greatest bassists, Philadelphia’s own John Lamb. Get your reservations now for The Joy Adams/Bruce Klauber show upcoming at Remy’s in Naples. The last one was sold out–inside and outside–so get your tables now by calling 239-403-9222. We will be joined by pianist Jean Packard, bassist Frank Begonia and tenor saxophonist Lou Califano.

Readers of this space have probably become familiar with the name of “Jebry,” a.k.a. Judy Branch, the ex-Harry James singer who virtually started the jazz scene in Naples years ago. Jebry is fortunate, and deservedly so, to work the same spots, year after year, so “opening nights” at new venues are rarities. The following is the story of a recent one, which will appear in the “Marco Island Eagle” newspaper. Incidentally, I’m happy to announce that I am now contributing semi-regular reviews and features for the “Naples Daily News,” including an interview with Frank SInatra, Jr. that is set to appear March 28th. You can access this fine newspaper from anywhere by logging on to Herewith is the feature on Jebry:


Jazz singer Jebry, a.k.a. Judy Branch, the one-time Harry James Big Band singer who was among the first to bring jazz to Naples when she came here 22 years ago, doesn’t have to look for work. Work comes looking for her. The owners of a relatively new Naples restaurant, Capri: A Taste of Italy, heard about Jebry’s great band and devoted following, came out to hear the group, and hired them immediately.

Jebry doesn’t have many opening nights, in that the majority of her club work, at places like Norm’s and The Island Pub, has been ongoing for many seasons. So last Thursday at Capri: A Taste of Italy was indeed a special evening, and befitting such a singular event, Naples jazz fans and jazz players filled the place to capacity.

Long time Naples music aficionados, who have been following the singer since her appearances at The Witches Brew (a famed, Naples nightspot that was torn down about five years ago), know that an evening with Jebry is not run-of-the-mill entertainment, jazz or otherwise. Actually, “Jebry and Friends,” as it is billed, revives the lost art of the jazz jam session. There’s nothing new about the concept of a jam session, where singers and instrumentalists of all ages and styles guest, or “sit-in” as they say in the vernacular, with the rhythm section (in this case, the bassist, drummer and pianist accompanying Jebry). Jam sessions, in one form or another, have been around since the birth of jazz itself, and there have been some legendary ones throughout jazz history. One that stands out in memory, if only because it was recorded, was an early 1950s meeting of three of the greatest alto saxophonists in jazz, be-bop master Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, multi-instrumentalist/composer Benny Carter, and Duke Ellington star soloist, Johnny Hodges.

Jebry’s sessions through the years have featured just about every player and singer of quality in and around the Naples and Marco Island area, to say nothing of those horn players and vocalists visiting from New York, Philadelphia and points north, south, east and west. On an instrumental basis, just about every pianist and horn player of note in the area has either passed through Jebry’s bands, or has guested with her groups at one time or another. The late, legendary and beloved bop pianist, Kookie Norwood, was one. Others who immediately come to mind are the sublimely lyrical trumpeter Bill Papineau, who was with Jebry for years, and pianist Stu Shelton, a technically astounding artist who leads his own groups and appears often with leader and trumpeter Bob Zottola. Zottola, by the way, appears at Capri with his fine group every Monday night.

The jazz historians will decide whether the Thursday night get-together at Capri: A Taste of Italy belongs in the next book written about jazz history, but it was, without doubt, tremendously entertaining, and that’s what these things are supposed to be. As another great jazz singer, Joy Adams, is fond of saying: “That’s why they call it playing.”

Jebry’s accompanists, who also back all the guests, are as talented as any national or international “name,” past and present. Pianist Jean Packard, a superb player who knows just about every song ever written, and in any key, has for years been a favorite of famed mainstreamers like Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Ruby Braff and Harry Allen. Bassist Richard Lytton is a great swinger with a wonderful ear, whose inventive solos are always a joy to hear. Drummer Bobby Phillips, Jebry’s husband, can–and does–play in any style, with great taste, and with unparalleled technique. No drummer is better at backing up Jebry.

As a vocalist, the star herself is surprisingly versatile, and really transcends categorization as a “jazz” or any other type of singer. She shouts the blues with the best of them and her country singing is as authentic as any singer on the country charts. Obviously, she shines at jazz, with influences that range from Ella Fitzgerald to Anita O’Day. What makes every night with Jebry so special is her generosity with the stage and with the spotlight. That is, of course, what makes a jam session.

And among the great jammers in attendance and on the stage last week were singers Betsy Guy (who always shines in her duets with Jebry), the Billy Eckstine-like stylings of Frank Michota (one fine drummer as well), the always-from the heart singing of Al Reddington, and my colleague of long-standing — which is why I can describe her as “astounding”– Joy Adams. Joining the group instrumentally though the night were that master of traditional jazz, cornetist Dick Cashman, master trumpet bopster Marty Krebs, clarinetist and saxophonist Karl Zihtilla (whose clarinet work startingly echoed that of the clarinet giant Buddy DeFranco), Naples’ pianistic answer to Dave Brubeck, Mel Rosen; and even yours truly, who got in some hot licks on drums and vocals.

It was quite an event, quite a night, quite an opening, and quite a jam session. Right now, the powers-that-be at Capri: A Taste of Italy have wisely booked Jebry and the group every Thursday for the foreseeable future. It’s easy to see why. As for next Thursday? Who knows what jazz star might show up?

Jebry and Friends perform at Capri: A Taste of Italy, every Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. The restaurant is located in the Riverchase Plaza shopping center at the corner of Immokalee Rd. and Route 41. Call 239-594-3500 for information.


Eddie Shu was among the most under-rated and under-appreciated of jazzmen. He may now get the recognition he deserved, though not for his playing. His widow, Carol Shulman, has filed a Civil Suit in Los Angeles Superior Court claiming that the film, “The Lost City,” directed by and starring Andy Garcia, is actually based on the life of Eddie Shu. The film focuses on, among other things, how entertainers and the entertainment business were affected by the Castro takeover in Cuba circa 1959. One of the central characters in the film, an entertainer, is exiled for freedom of expression from Cuba when Castro came in…as was Eddie Shu. To view the actual lawsuit, log on to


In many of the early CD releases, we tended to group various sessions together on one CD. A number of sessions, therefore, have tended to get lost in the shuffle.

I bring your attention this month to “Gene Krupa: 1964 to 1971,” which contains three, very significant sessions. First is a very, very rare session featuring Gene with the Balaban and Cats dixieland crew, recorded in Milford, CT in 1971. Part two is a 1964 radio interview, with William B. Williams speaking to Gene, Hamp, Benny and Teddy, celebrating the release of “Together Again.” Finally, from 1970, just about when Gene came out of retirement, we have GK’s third and final appearance on “Dial M For Music,” with Eddie Shu, Marty Napoleon and Knobby Totah…incredible.


Finally, reports have reached my desk confirming that writer Burt Korall is still dead. I will call his home telephone number just to make sure.

Keep swingin, Bruce Klauber, March, 2008