Norman Warwick´s journey to hear
the turning of the jazz MOON TO GOLD
photo 1 Cleo Laine, and her husband Johnny Dankworth, were, perhaps, my introduction to jazz, being fairly ubiquitous guests on every light entertainment show on telly in the sixties when me, and my brother and mum and dad would settle on the three piece suite to watch programmes like The Val Doonican Show,
Cleo Laine (left), in full Dame Cleo Laine, original name Clementina Dinah Campbell, (born October 28, 1927, Southall, Middlesex, England), is British singer and actress who mastered a variety of styles but was best known as the “Queen of Jazz.”
Laine was born to a Jamaican father and an English mother. She quit school at age 14 and took a variety of jobs while auditioning for singing jobs. Her first break came in 1951, when she was hired as a vocalist for the Johnny Dankworth Seven, a well-known jazz group. At that point she adopted the simpler name “Cleo Laine.” In her seven years dedicated solely to performing with Dankworth’s band, she gained a large following and also began to record. In 1958, the year she married Dankworth (died 2010), she took her first theatrical role, in Flesh to a Tiger, set in Jamaica. Her success in the part led her to take on a number of other acting roles throughout the years, and she was a regular on the weekly BBC television satire That Was the Week That Was.
In the meantime, Laine continued to stretch herself as a singer, presenting lieder, classic blues, contemporary pop music, and even works by Arnold Schoenberg in her concerts; she was the only singer to receive Grammy Award nominations in jazz, popular, and classical categories. In 1986 she won a Grammy for best female jazz vocal performance (for the album Cleo at Carnegie: The 10th Anniversary Concert; 1985). Laine continued to record and perform into the early 21st century. In addition, she performed in plays by Euripides, William Shakespeare, and Henrik Ibsen and took part in musical theatre, notably (1988–89) in Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. She appeared in several movies, including the comedy The Last of the Blonde Bombshells (2000).
In 1969 Laine and Dankworth founded Wavendon AllMusic Plan, a charity that sought to make music more accessible. She was made Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1977 and was elevated to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 1997 Queen’s Birthday Honours List. She wrote the autobiographies Cleo (1994) and You Can Sing If You Want To (1997).
I can´t pretend that the music of Cleo and Johnny set my future pathways in stone to explore jazz music but they did, at the very least, encourage receptivity to earlier and later music of the genre.
So, I´m pretty sure that when, as a very young, very subjective lover of music, I first heard Ella Fitzgerald my reference point must have been Cleo Laine.
Ella Jane Fitzgerald (right) ( Newport News , Virginia , April 25, 1917 – Beverly Hills , June 15, 1996 ) , nicknamed Lady Ella , the queen of jazz and the First Lady of Song, was an American jazz singer . Despite this basic status as a jazz player, Ella Fitzgerald’s musical repertoire is very broad and includes swing , blues , bossa-nova , samba , gospel ,calypso, pop ,and Christmas songs etc.
Along with Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan , she is considered the most important and influential singer in the entire history of jazz (and, in general, of American popular melodic song ) . She was endowed with a voice with a vocal range of three octaves , highlighting her clear and precise vocalization and her improvisational capacity, especially in the scat , a technique that she developed in the forties and that heralded the rise of the bop . In the fifties she established a chair with her conception of the melodic song, parallel to the work of Frank Sinatra ., with his versions of the themes of the great composers of American popular song (the songbooks of Duke Ellington , Cole Porter , Johnny Mercer , etc.).
She won fourteen Grammy Awards , including the Lifetime Achievement Grammy , and has been awarded the National Medal of Arts and the US Presidential Medal of Freedom
A Tisket A Tasket, I´m sure was, to me, merely a fun pop song the first time I heard it, but it led me out to walk beneath a Paper Moon and listen to scores of other great Ella recordings.
Bessie Smith began forming her own act around 1913, at Atlanta’s “81” Theater. By 1920, she had established a reputation in the South and along the East Coast. At the time, sales of over 100,000 copies of “Crazy Blues”, recorded for Okeh Records by the singer Mamie Smith (no relation), pointed to a new market. The recording industry had not directed its product to black people, but the success of the record led to a search for female blues singers.
Hoping to capitalize on this new market, Smith began her recording career in 1923. Bessie Smith was signed to Columbia Records in 1923 by Frank Walker, a talent agent who had seen her perform years earlier. Her first recording session for Columbia was on February 15, 1923; it was engineered by Dan Hornsby who was recording and discovering many southern music talents of that era. For most of 1923, her records were issued on Columbia’s regular A-series. When the company established a “race records” series, Smith’s “Cemetery Blues” (September 26, 1923) was the first issued. Both sides of her first record, “Downhearted Blues” backed with “Gulf Coast Blues”, were hits (an earlier recording of “Downhearted Blues” by its co-writer Alberta Hunter had previously been released by Paramount Records).
As her popularity increased, Smith became a headliner on the Theatre Owners Booking Association (T.O.B.A.) circuit and rose to become its top attraction in the 1920s. Working a heavy theater schedule during the winter and performing in tent shows the rest of the year, Smith became the highest-paid black entertainer of her day and began traveling in her own 72-foot-long railroad car. Columbia’s publicity department nicknamed her “Queen of the Blues”, but the national press soon upgraded her title to “Empress of the Blues”. Smith’s music stressed independence, fearlessness, and sexual freedom, implicitly arguing that working-class women did not have to alter their behavior to be worthy of respect.
Despite her success, neither she nor her music was accepted in all circles. She once auditioned for Black Swan Records (W. E. B. Du Bois was on its board of directors) and was dismissed because she was considered too rough as she supposedly stopped singing to spit. The businessmen involved with Black Swan Records were surprised when she became the most successful diva because her style was rougher and coarser than Mamie Smith. Even her admirers—white and black—considered her a “rough” woman (i.e., working class or even “low class“).
Smith had a strong contralto voice, which recorded well from her first session, which was conducted when recordings were made acoustically. The advent of electrical recording made the power of her voice even more evident. Her first electrical recording was “Cake Walking Babies [From Home]”, recorded on May 5, 1925. Smith also benefited from the new technology of radio broadcasting, even on stations in the segregated South. For example, after giving a concert to a white-only audience at a theatrer in Memphis, Tennessee, in October 1923, she performed a late-night concert on station WMC, which was well received by the radio audience.] Musicians and composers like Danny Barker and Tommy Dorsey compared her presence and delivery to a preacher because of her ability to enrapture and move her audience.
She made 160 recordings for Columbia, often accompanied by the finest musicians of the day, notably Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Fletcher Henderson, James P. Johnson, Joe Smith, and Charlie Green. A number of Smith’s recordings—such as “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” in 1927—quickly became among the best-selling records of their respective release years.
I first became aware of her in the sixties at an age when I didn´t know what jazz was, what constituted á good voice´ or what was blues, what was soul, or what was jazz. In adulthood, I´ve always looked back on those days before I became caught up in categorisation,…. but I am certain even today, sixty years later that Bessie Smith will always be remembered as one of the greats of jazz, or as ´the belle of the blues´,……. or even as a soul sister.
Eleanora Holiday Fagan ( Philadelphia , April 7, 1915 – New York , July 17, 1959 ) , better known as Billie Holiday (right) and nicknamed Lady Day , was an American jazz singer , considered one of the three most important and influential female voices. of this musical genre, along with Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald .
Critic Robert Christgau considered her “unequaled and possibly the greatest singer of the century”. On the other hand, Frank Sinatra took her as “his biggest influence on her” and “unquestionably the most important influence on American popular song in the last twenty years”. Her song ” Strange Fruit ” was considered the best song of the 20th century by Time magazine in 1999 . The artistic value of Billie Holiday resides as much in her interpretive capacity as in her mastery of her swing .
Likewise, he stood out for the ability to adapt his vocal qualities to the content of the song. Billie Holiday permeated her songs with an unmatched intensity that, in many cases, was the result of the transfer of her own experiences to the lyrics she sang. This very personal tone that characterized her makes her style closely linked to classic blues performers such as Bessie Smith or Ma Rainey (in her autobiography she wrote: “I always wanted the great sound of Bessie and the feeling of Pops”); although her debt is also clear, confirmed by herself, with Louis Armstrong , and, of course, with who would be her main accompanist: the tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Lester Young.
The song Strange Fruit was perhaps the first to demonstrate to me how the right words and ´the strength of strings´ can produce a sound powerful enough to become an agent of positive change..
Sarah Lois Vaughan (left) (March 27, 1924 – April 3, 1990) was an American jazz singer, though that is a term she might have challenged.
Nicknamed “Sassy” and “The Divine One“, she won two Grammy Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, and was nominated for a total of 9 Grammy Awards. She was given an NEA Jazz Masters Award in 1989. Critic Scott Yanow wrote that she had “one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century”.
Parallels have been drawn between Vaughan’s voice and those of opera singers. Jazz singer Betty Carter said that with training Vaughan could have “gone as far as Leontyne Price.” Bob James, Vaughan’s musical director in the 1960s said that “the instrument was there. But the knowledge, the legitimacy of that whole world were not for her … But if the aria were in Sarah’s range she could bring something to it that a classically trained singer could not.”
In a chapter devoted to Vaughan in his book Visions of Jazz (2000), critic Gary Giddins described her as the “ageless voice of modern jazz – of giddy postwar virtuosity, biting wit and fearless caprice”. He concluded by saying that “No matter how closely we dissect the particulars of her talent … we must inevitably end up contemplating in silent awe the most phenomenal of her attributes, the one she was handed at birth, the voice that happens once in a lifetime, perhaps once in several lifetimes.”
Her voice had wings: luscious and tensile, disciplined and nuanced, it was as thick as cognac, yet soared off the beaten path like an instrumental solo … that her voice was a four-octave muscle of infinite flexibility made her disarming shtick all the more ironic.” – Gary Giddins
Her obituary in The New York Times described her as a “singer who brought an operatic splendor to her performances of popular standards and jazz.” Jazz singer Mel Tormé said that she had “the single best vocal instrument of any singer working in the popular field.” Her ability was envied by Frank Sinatra who said, “Sassy is so good now that when I listen to her I want to cut my wrists with a dull razor.” New York Times critic John S. Wilson said in 1957 that she possessed “what may well be the finest voice ever applied to jazz.” It was close to its peak until shortly before her death at the age of 66. Late in life, she retained a “youthful suppleness and remarkably luscious timbre” and was capable of the projection of coloratura passages described as “delicate and ringingly high”.
Vaughan had a large vocal range of soprano through a female baritone, exceptional body, volume, a variety of vocal textures, and superb and highly personal vocal control. Her ear and sense of pitch were almost perfect, and there were no difficult intervals.
In her later years her voice was described as a “burnished contralto” and as her voice deepened with age her lower register was described as having “shades from a gruff baritone into a rich, juicy contralto”. Her use of her contralto register was likened to “dipping into a deep, mysterious well to scoop up a trove of buried riches.” Musicologist Henry Pleasants noted, “Vaughan who sings easily down to a contralto low D, ascends to a pure and accurate [soprano] high C.”
Vaughan’s vibrato was described as “an ornament of uniquely flexible size, shape and duration,” a vibrato described as “voluptuous” and “heavy” Vaughan was accomplished in her ability to “fray” or “bend” notes at the extremities of her vocal range. It was noted in a 1972 performance of Lionel Bart‘s “Where Is Love?” that “In mid-tune she began twisting the song, swinging from the incredible cello tones of her bottom register, skyrocketing to the wispy pianissimos of her top.”
She held a microphone in live performance, using its placement as part of her performance. Her placings of the microphone allowed her to complement her volume and vocal texture, often holding the microphone at arm’s length and moving it to alter her volume.
She frequently used the song “Send in the Clowns” to demonstrate her vocal abilities in live performance. The performance was called a “three-octave tour de force of semi-improvisational pyrotechnics in which the jazz, pop and operatic sides of her musical personality came together and found complete expression” by The New York Times.
Singers influenced by Vaughan include Phoebe Snow, Anita Baker, Sade, and Rickie Lee Jones. Singers Carmen McRae and Dianne Reeves both recorded tribute albums to Vaughan following her death; Sarah: Dedicated to You (1991) and The Calling: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan (2001) respectively.
Though usually considered a jazz singer, Vaughan avoided classifying herself as one. She discussed the term in a 1982 interview for Down Beat:
I don’t know why people call me a jazz singer, though I guess people associate me with jazz because I was raised in it, from way back. I’m not putting jazz down, but I’m not a jazz singer … I’ve recorded all kinds of music, but (to them) I’m either a jazz singer or a blues singer. I can’t sing a blues – just a right-out blues – but I can put the blues in whatever I sing. I might sing ‘Send In the Clowns’ and I might stick a little bluesy part in it, or any song. What I want to do, music-wise, is all kinds of music that I like, and I like all kinds of music.
Julie London (right) (née Peck; September 26, 1926 – October 18, 2000) was an American singer and actress whose career spanned more than 40 years. I was introduced to her by the hit that became her signature tune. I loved the song, (and her !) and that pairing of singer and song has stayed with me ever since although the song has been cut by many others, of course. All I knew at that time, of being around nine or ten if I recall rightly, was that this felt like no other song I was listening to on the radio at that time.
A torch singer noted for her sultry, languid contralto vocals, London recorded over thirty albums of pop and jazz standards between 1955 and 1969. Her recording of “Cry Me a River“, a track she introduced on her debut album, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001. It was also the song that first introduced me to her work.
Born in Santa Rosa, California, to vaudevillian parents, London was discovered while working as an elevator operator in downtown Los Angeles, and she began her career as an actress. London’s 35-year acting career began in film in 1944, and included roles as the female lead in numerous westerns, co-starring with Rock Hudson in The Fat Man (1951), with Robert Taylor and John Cassavetes in Saddle the Wind (1958), with Gary Cooper in Man of the West (1958) and with Robert Mitchum in The Wonderful Country (1959).
In the mid-1950s, she signed a recording contract with Liberty Records, marking the beginning of her professional musical career. She released her final studio album in 1969, but achieved continuing success playing the female starring role of nurse Dixie McCall in the television series Emergency! (1972–1979), in which she acted with her husband Bobby Troup. The show was produced by her ex-husband Jack Webb.
In 1942, ten years before I was born, Peggy Lee (left) had her first number-one hit, “Somebody Else Is Taking My Place”, followed in 1943 by “Why Don’t You Do Right?“, which sold more than one million copies and made her famous. She sang with Goodman’s orchestra in two 1943 films, Stage Door Canteen and The Powers Girl.
In March 1943, Lee married Dave Barbour, a guitarist in Goodman’s band. Lee said:
David joined Benny’s band and there was a ruling that no one should fraternize with the girl singer. But I fell in love with David the first time I heard him play, and so I married him. Benny then fired David, so I quit, too. Benny and I made up, although David didn’t play with him anymore. Benny stuck to his rule. I think that’s not too bad a rule, but you can’t help falling in love with somebody.
…when she left the band that spring , her intention was to quit the footlights altogether and become Mrs. Barbour, fulltime housewife. It’s to Mr. Barbour’s credit that he refused to let his wife’s singing and composing talent lie dormant for too long. “I fell in love with David Barbour,” she recalled. “But ‘Why Don’t You Do Right’ was such a giant hit that I kept getting offers and kept turning them down. And at that time it was a lot of money, but it really didn’t matter to me at all. I was very happy. All I wanted was to have a family and cling to the children [daughter Nicki]. Well, they kept talking to me and finally David joined them and said ‘You really have too much talent to stay at home and someday you might regret it.'”
She drifted back to song-writing and occasional recording sessions for Capitol Records in 1944, for whom she recorded a long string of hits, many of them with lyrics and music by Lee and Barbour, including “I Don’t Know Enough About You” and “It’s a Good Day”. Her recording of “Golden Earrings”, the title song of a 1947 movie, was a hit throughout 1947–1948. “Mañana”, written by Lee and Barbour, was her eleventh solo hit recording, and remained on the charts for twenty-one weeks, nine of which were in the number one position. The song sold over a million copies, and earned the Top Disc Jockey Record of the Year award from Billboard magazine. From 1946 to 1949, Lee also recorded for Capitol’s library of electrical transcriptions for radio stations. An advertisement for Capitol Transcriptions in a trade magazine noted that the transcriptions included “special voice introductions by Peggy”.
In 1948, Lee joined vocalists Perry Como and Jo Stafford as a host of the NBC Radio musical program The Chesterfield Supper Club. She was a regular on The Jimmy Durante Show and appeared frequently on Bing Crosby‘s radio shows during the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Her relationship with Capitol spanned almost three decades aside from a brief detour (1952–1956) at Decca. For that label, she recorded Black Coffee and had hit singles such as “Lover” and “Mister Wonderful”.
In 1958, she recorded her own version of “Fever” by Little Willie John, written by Eddie Cooley and John Davenport,. Lee created a new arrangement for the song, and added lyrics (“Romeo loved Juliet”, “Captain Smith and Pocahontas”), which she neglected to copyright. Her new version of “Fever” was a hit, and was nominated in three categories at the First Annual Grammy Awards in 1959, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
While Lee was in London for a 1970 engagement at Royal Albert Hall, she invited Paul and Linda McCartney to dinner at The Dorchester. At the dinner, the couple gifted Lee with a song they had written entitled, “Let’s Love”. In July 1974, with Paul McCartney producing, Lee recorded the song at the Record Plant in Los Angeles, and it became the title track for her 40th album, her only one on Atlantic Records,
An old man´s memory rarely plays him true, and it is hidden to me behind the mists of time whether I first heard fever on the radio or on the tv,….I think it must have been on tv from The Sunday Palladium (or something like that) but the song when I first heard it, and even today whenever it comes up on my play-lists, is as sexy as Hell.
And so today I remain faithful to the Americana singer writer music I grew up on, but although music categorisations are perceived as unbreakable by some, I always leave the lid open and reach in and take out a piece of music and transfer it elsewhere into other areas where I think the music might belong.
There are current jazz performers I love to listen to including Fiona Ross and Beverley Beirne from the UK and also the sounds of Kirsty Almeidia and Marilyn Middleton Pollock. I love artists such as Diana Krall (right) and Dee Dee Bridgewater, Madeleine Peyroux and Norah Jones.
My dad loved Lena Horne when I was a kid and was entranced by Eartha Kitt and my grandparents loved Kay Starr, although I still find it hard to believe all the names listed above were stamped with that same categorisation of JAZZ.
However, only a few years ago the pop charts were being dominated by a blues (surely) singer called Amy Winehouse who was cemi adopted by jazz too, especially after a successful duet recording with Tony Bennett,
It is far more certain that Moon To Gold is a jazz album. By Karla Harris and the Joe Alterman Trio (left), the album boasts beautiful Nat King Cole or Oscar Peterson sounding trills along the piano by Joe, strolling bass lines by Kevin Smith and exciting but always empathetic drums by Justin Chesarek. However, it also contains songs I consider to be real Americana and Karla delivers a lovely, sad and sultry performance of Blue Moon and her glorious version of Bridge Over Troubled Water, that great sixties folk song, or is it a blues, or a gospel or even a hymnal jazz song in disguise?
For undisguised jazz you can hear on the same album classic numbers like The Nearness O You and You Are There. Songs such as Nature Boy and Blues Skies float along in neighbouring categories and on When Sunny Gets Blue Karla, and Joe´s trio, elevate the song to a height beyond classification.
Also on the album are two exciting jazz numbers, Baltimore Oriole and I´d Rather Drink Muddy Water.
It seems that all sidetracks & detours have led to 2022, a year in which, late as always, I ´discovered´ Karla Harris, an Atlanta based artist, for several years much loved and respected in that part of the world.
I reckon that by the end of 2023 her reputation will have spread further afield.
Remember the singer: Karla Harris
Remember the musicians: the Joe Alterman Trio
Remember the album: Moon To Gold
Remember, too that you can find further articles on Karla in our easy to ramble sidetracks & detours archives of over 800 articles, Just tap her name into our search tap.
Meanwhile, listings agency, Jazz In Reading remind us that there are names to look out for on the UK jazz scene too.
Simon Bates (saxophones) (left)
Backed by the Pangbourne Jazz Club rhythm section:
Terry Hutchins (guitar) | John Deemer (double bass)
Jim Pollard (piano) | Brian Greene (drums)
Sunday 5 February | 7:30pm start
Only £10 entry | Cheap bar | Raffle | Public Car Park
Pay on the door or book online here
Pangbourne RG8 7BS
areally nice venue in a beautiful setting. With club bar prices and ample parking. Pangbourne Jazz Club is delighted to be here. The Club will run every first Sunday in the month. For any further information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Don´t forget that you can also look out for live streaming events on the Jazz In Reading listings.
In fact recorded jazz music is pretty much only the press of a buitton away at any time of day.
Our friend, Steve Bewick, has created another Hot Biscuits jazz programme featuring an interview and music with Jenny Bray while she takes a break from her writing, arranging and teaching. Also on the show are sounds from Alison Rayner Quintet ARQ; a blues from Mat Walklate, Chip Wickham, Jas Kayser and finishing with Dan Reinstein‘ Band. If this looks interesting pass on the word and listen in 24/07 at Steve Bewick’s Shows | Mixcloud