August 22, 2013. Posted by Michael Bourne.
WBGO's celebration of Marian McPartland continues with these memories shared by host Michael Bourne:
Marian McPartland ought to have been honored as Dame Marian by the Queen. She was instead in 2010 appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. O.B.E. -- one step above Ringo.
She was certainly a great player, a great broadcaster, a great lady, and a great Dame to all of us in the jazz world. Smart, sweet, witty, with two of the most open ears in the jazz world, always curious, always swinging, never suffered fools, said what she meant, always with that enchanting voice and accent, and always with a twinkle -- no, a sparkle -- no, a bright star of light flashing in her eyes.
I knew Marian ever since she called me decades ago. 3:30AM, it was. "Hi," she said. "This is Marian McPartland," she said -- which I already knew immediately when she said hello. "I met a friend of yours," she said with that voice, that accent. "He said you play my records. He said you were up all night and I should call you."
I remembered that call every time Marian called me when I was jocking on WBGO. She was always listening. "Who is that?" she'd ask, and she'd tell me what was remarkable about the musician. "I should have (whoever-it-was) on the show."
One talk with Marian I'll never forget ...
I was working on a feature for DownBeat when Marian was being honored for all her extraordinary work in jazz education. I'd included her birth date, but Marian didn't want the date included. She didn't want anyone to know how old she was -- turning 70 around then. When she celebrated her 75th birthday with a concert at Town Hall, I remembered when she didn't want anyone to know her age. "I didn't," she said, "but now that I'm 75, the hell with it."
When we were talking for the DownBeat story, from something she said I realized that, after living so many decades in America, Marian was nonetheless a citizen of Great Britain. She'd met and married cornetist Jimmy McPartland when they were playing for soldiers around Europe at the end of WWII. Together, they settled first in Chicago, then in New York.
"You didn't become an American when you married Jimmy?" I asked.
And she said the most wonderful thing I've ever heard anyone say about a loved one.
"I didn't marry Jimmy to become an American," she said. "I married Jimmy for love."
I was dumbstruck by the passion in her voice. I could only think to ask about children.
"No," she said. "We didn't have children."
"No," said Marian. "We only had bass players and drummers."
© 2013 WBGO
August 21, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.
Clarinetist Anat Cohen talks With WBGO's Michael Bourne about her "Choro Aventuroso" ensemble with Brazilian musicians, which performs tonight through August 25 at the 54 Below nightclub in New York. The group will be joined by Brazilian singer Leny Andrade on Friday and Saturday night. Enjoy!
© 2013 WBGO
August 20, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.
Members of the band Roomful of Blues talk with WBGO's Michael Bourne about their 45th anniversary, the release of their new CD, 45 Live, and rope Bourne into a singalong. The group performs at B.B. King's Blues Club in New York on Aug. 20 at 8 p.m. Enjoy!
© 2013 WBGO
August 5, 2013. Posted by Michael Bourne.
Saturday August 3rd was the birthday of Tony Bennett. 87 and ageless. He's always been one of my favorite singers, one of everyone's favorite singers.
Here are my favorite songs that he's recorded, or I've heard him sing, through the years: I'll celebrate Tony's birthday belatedly and spotlight these songs on my next edition of Singers Unlimited on Sunday, August 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Happy birthday, Tony!
"Being Alive" on The Art of Romance
Great song from the Sondheim musical Company. Phil Woods solos, Tony's great friend Candido plays congas, and it feels so good that his singing is nonetheless so "alive"-ly.
"But Beautiful" from his album with Bill Evans
Tony told me that Bill played variation after variation of the songs they were about to record, listening for the right feeling for the songs. Tony asked the engineer if he'd been recording Bill playing, and the engineer said no. Tony said it was some of the most beautiful music he's ever heard, said that Bill's variations alone would've been one of the greatest albums (n)ever recorded.
"If I Could Go Back" from Tell Her It's Snowing on MGM
Bacharach and David song from the infamous flop movie musical of "Lost Horizon," meant to be sung by Peter Finch as he wonders whether to return to Shangri-la -- only, Peter Finch couldn't sing and the song was cut from the soundtrack. Tony's recording is downright operatic and powerful, one of his most dramatic vocals.
Twist is: the song is not among the thousand or so songs of Tony's "Complete Collection" omni-box of CDs, and I don't know why not.
"Reflections" from Life Is Beautiful on Tony's own label Improv
Duke Ellington song. I'd heard it played as an instrumental, "Reflections in D" by Duke, but I'd never heard the lyric. When John Dankworth and Cleo Laine told me they were recording an Ellington album, I said it was a song that Cleo, more than anyone other than Tony, could sing wonderfully. I sent Tony's recording to them, she sings it (wonderfully indeed) on Cleo's album "Solitude."
"Speak Low" by Kurt Weill
Weill is a composer that he's always felt an affinity for. Tony recorded a long medley of Weill songs at his famous Carnegie concert.
I'll never forget another Carnegie performance when Tony came to the great Ogden Nash lyric "Time is so long and love so brief. Love is pure gold and time a THIEF!" Tony shouted the word "thief" with so much ... anger, really. I was awestruck.
I've heard him sing it many times, on record and in concerts. It's the only song I've ever requested from him, and he sang it for me at the jazzfest in Umbria. It's always a highlight for me at every concert -- but I've never again heard him shout the word "thief" like that concert at Carnegie.
"Stranger In Paradise"
Tony recorded the hit song from one of my favorite musicals, Kismet, before the show opened on Broadway, and the show opened with a hit already on the radio.
Tony's own favorite of the more or less 100 albums he's recorded is The Movie Song Album, and he especially likes "The Shadow of Your Smile" as arranged by the composer, Johnny Mandel.
I like this one, which is the theme song from the only movie he's acted in, "The Oscar" -- not a good movie, but Tony is intense.
"Here's That Rainy Day"
Song by composer Jimmy Van Heusen and lyricist Johnny Burke on Tony's Perfectly Frank album, his tribute to his friend and idol Frank Sinatra. Tony sings an exquisite wordless vocal prelude to what I've often said is the greatest of all standards.
"Alright, Okay, You Win" on Playing with My Friends
"The Best Is Yet To Come" on Duets: An American Classic
Both songs are duets with Diana Krall. Really, my favorite is neither of these.
When Diana was becoming a star at the Montreal Jazz Festival, she played a lovely concert in the Maisonneuve hall, second-biggest of Place des Arts. Tony was singing right after at the Wilfrid-Pelletier hall, first-biggest.
In the middle of his concert, Tony called out Diana, said how much he enjoyed her singing, sat her down at the piano, stood by the piano with a mic in his hand, and said "Sing something."
I remember the moment more than what song -- pretty sure it was "They Can't Take That Away From Me." What was truly memorable was the feeling of Diana being anointed as a singer of standards by one of the greatest singers of standards.
"How Do You Keep The Music Playing?"
Before another concert at the jazzfest in Montreal, Tony was honored with the festival's Ella Fitzgerald Award. He was obviously that much happier than he always is when singing in Montreal.
I expected only to hear maybe the first 20 minutes and then go to another gig, but Tony sounded better than I'd ever heard him, and I stayed. I've heard him for years climaxing a concert with "How Do You Keep The Music Playing?"
This night, he was singing so full-throttle that for the first time I heard a little tiredness in his voice. Would he have chops enough or even breath enough for the high notes at the dramatic finale of the song -- when he sings that "the music NEVER, NEVER ends!" I was literally at the edge of my seat, and he nailed it!
© 2013 WBGO