Wednesday, February 26, 2014

VIsiting the Abel Meeropol Archive

Abel Meeropol, under the pen name of Lewis Allan, was the composer of the song "Strange Fruit." I'm producing an animation about the amazing story of the song's creation and its linkage to Billie Holliday, so it was a natural to pay a visit to the Howard Gottlieb Archival Center at Boston University, where his papers are stored. 

An internet search will easily get you biographical details of Meeropol's life, but in this post, my aim is to give you a sense of how these documents brought me closer to the person.


Read and see more.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Edge of Schmaltz

Schmaltz-easy to say, but how do we really define it? Where does it lay along the slippery border between cheese, camp, marginal taste, pathos, bathos and emotional catharsis?  Is the very use of the word cringe-inducing? Not to me. One era's hip is often another era's schmaltz. Sometimes there's great musicianship involved. Is that enough to rescue the song or not? Sometimes the musicians are amateurish, but through sheer dint of sincerely, a hoary tune or corny lyric works. In one mood, a song sets your teeth on edge and in another mood, you reach for the handkerchief. 

Some of the folks in this playlist will be no surprise, some may bemuse and some annoy, but that's my job. 

Here's The Show.

Blue Stars "Hernando´s Hideaway" from "Jazz in Paris" (1955) on Barclay 
Ziggy Elman and His Orchestra "With a Song in My Heart" from "Dancing With Zig" (1950) on MGM 
Sarah Vaughn "Jim" from "w. Clifford Brown" (Jazz, 1954) on EmArcy  
Andre Previn "Mad About The Boy" from "Previn at the Piano" (1958) on RCA 
Cannonball Adderly "Shake a Lady" from "Domination" (1965) on Capital 
Chet Baker "Time After Time" from "Time After Time" (2002) on GFS 
Sam The Man Taylor "Tara's Theme" from "Blue Mist" (1955) on MGM 
Johnny Hartman "I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart" from "Sings" (1947) on Savoy 
Lena Horne "Beale St Blues" from "Swinging Lena Horne" (1962) on Coronet 
Matt Dennis "A Trout No Doubt" from "Saturday Date" (1957) on Tops 
Errol Garner "April In Paris" from "Concert By the Sea" (1956) on Philips 
Frank Sinatra "Autumn in New York" from "That Old Feeling" (1956) on Columbia 
Earl Hines "Why Must We Part" from ". . . And His Orchestra" (1933) on Jazz Archives 
Esperanza Spaulding "Precious" from "Esperanza Spaulding" (2008) on Heads Up 
Freddie Hubbard "I Got It Bad (And That ain't Good)" from "The Body and The Soul" (1963) on Impulse 
Bobby Hackett "Stairway to The Stars" from "Dream Awhile" (1961) on Columbia 



Friday, February 7, 2014

Jazz and Poetry Show

Poets like Pound, Cummings and Eliot began experimenting with form, rhythm and meter in the 1920's. At the same time, poetic practitioners in the Harlem Renaissance opened up to the influence of jazz. Weary Blues, written by Langston Hughes in 1925 was both an imitation of the music and a description of the environment where one watched and listened to the music. In a broad sense, it tried to bring a sense of improvisation to the poetry.

Jazz and poetry hunkered down for a while but re-energized with the coming of the Beats in the 1950's, which is the era wherein most of my playlist derives. Practitioners from that era are scarce, but the tradition maintains itself. There are also later experiments, using electronics and recording techniques, a couple of examples which I include.

Here's the Show.

Here's the Playlist:
Langston Hughes "Weary Blues" 1958 
Bob Dorough "Night and Morn" from "Jazz Canto" (Jazz, 1958) on World Pacific 
Bob Dorough "Daybreak in Alabama" from "Jazz Canto" (Jazz, 1958) on World Pacific 
Jack Kerouac "Blues and Haikus" (Jazz, 1959) on EMI 
Mark Murphy "Parker's Mood" from "Bop for Kerouac" (Jazz, 1981) on muse 
Christopher Logue "Red Bird" from "Red Bird" (Jazz, 1959) on Parlophone 
Kenneth Patchen "As I Opened The WIndow" (Jazz, 1959) on Folkways 
Bob Dorough "Dog" from "Jazz Canto" (Jazz, 1958) on World Pacific 
John Carradine "Poets to Come" from "Jazz Canto" (Jazz, 1958) on World Pacific 
Ben Wright "Sullen Art" from "jazz Canto" (Jazz, 1958) on World Pacific


Ben Wright "Lament" from "jazz Canto" (Jazz, 1958) on World Pacific 
United Future Organization "Poetry And All That Jazz" from "UNITED FUTURE ORGANIZATION" (Jazz, 1993) on Talkin' Loud 

 Mark Murphy "Kool Down" from "Tenth and Parker" (Jazz, 2000)