Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Beautiful Fool.

I came across this poem the other day. I find the imagery so beautiful and wonderfully accurate. It depicts a scene that I love and long to be a part of.

Nightclub - Billy Collins

You are so beautiful and I am a fool
to be in love with you
is a theme that keeps coming up
in songs and poems.
There seems to be no room for variation.
I have never heard anyone sing
I am so beautiful
and you are a fool to be in love with me,
even though this notion has surely
crossed the minds of women and men alike.
You are so beautiful, too bad you are a fool
is another one you don't hear.
Or, you are a fool to consider me beautiful.
That one you will never hear, guaranteed.

For no particular reason this afternoon
I am listening to Johnny Hartman
whose dark voice can curl around
the concepts on love, beauty, and foolishness
like no one else's can.
It feels like smoke curling up from a cigarette
someone left burning on a baby grand piano
around three o'clock in the morning;
smoke that billows up into the bright lights
while out there in the darkness
some of the beautiful fools have gathered
around little tables to listen,
some with their eyes closed,
others leaning forward into the music
as if it were holding them up,
or twirling the loose ice in a glass,
slipping by degrees into a rhythmic dream.

Yes, there is all this foolish beauty,
borne beyond midnight,
that has no desire to go home,
especially now when everyone in the room
is watching the large man with the tenor sax
that hangs from his neck like a golden fish.
He moves forward to the edge of the stage
and hands the instrument down to me
and nods that I should play.
So I put the mouthpiece to my lips
and blow into it with all my living breath.
We are all so foolish,
my long bebop solo begins by saying,
so damn foolish
we have become beautiful without even knowing it.

If you have never listened to Johnny Hartman sing I highly recommend you check him out. His voice is a gorgeous baritone swimming with emotion.
Back to work.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

How much do Morticians make?

It's been a long weekend. On Friday I neglected to post anything because I got a little distracted researching Okeh records. Interesting, but I don't feel like writing about it. I forgot to mention that last Tuesday I went to Smoke for the first time. I like it. Not at all what I was expecting. I was with two friends sitting in the back corner with a bottle of wine. The place is cozy and very small. I'll have to write a post all about this venue at some point. It's got some history.

This weekend I saw an early evening cabaret. I had not intended to go and was invited last minute to the Metropolitan Room. I'm so glad that happened! The name of the singer was Suzanne Fiore and she performed with percussion, piano, and bass. Everyone was incredible. The music director was the pianist and some of the music transitions were so seamless and beautifully written I actually gasped. Suzanne has a very expressive face and a lovely voice with a Joni Mitchell quality about it. I absolutely loved the room and the show. The whole thing was uplifting and inspiring.
Now that I am inspired again I'm researching Marion Harris who is considered to be the first female Jazz singer ever recorded. She was a white jazz and blues singer that supposedly sang so well people sometimes thought she was colored. This obviously only happened through recording because the tiny blonde seemed to be the epitome of a flapper.
She started singing around 1910 and was brought to New York by a Broadway producer to star in the show "Stop! Look! Listen!" She did many films through the 20's and moved to London in the 30's where she performed cabarets and radio shows.
It's time for what is now my favorite thing to learn about Jazz artists. How they died. Marion returned to the United States after her house was destroyed in World War II. This amazing woman with an incredible career covering all spectrums died in her Marquise Hotel bed from burns. She had fallen asleep with a lit cigarette in her mouth.
Yep. I'm going to be that freak that knows how everyone died. I don't know why that fascinates me so much. Maybe I should have pursued a career as a mortician.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

This Dreary City

New York isn't looking so pretty today. The view from my cubicle is slightly obstructed because of the florescent lights bouncing off the window. I can see dark dreary sky and big clouds of smoke or smog. Sometimes this sort of weather is exciting to me but not now. Now it feels more like a horrible foreshadowing. I don't want to know whats to come. I'm not ready to handle it. Does anyone know where the silver lining is located? I guess nobody knows where to find it until the story unfolds. Okay story... keep collapsing in on me. It could always be worse.

Today I studied up on Cliff Edwards "Ukulele Ike". That's right he played the Ukulele. Mostly because it was the cheapest instrument to purchase and the pianos at all his saloon gigs sucked. Cliff was popular in the 1920's and 30's for his Jazzy renditions of pop and novelty tunes. Apparently he made the "ukes" really popular in the 20's so the Tin Pan Alley folks started writing chords for ukulele in standard sheet music. Who knew? He had a huge career which included early jazz scat in 1922 followed by a big career of hits. He starred in several movies, as well as tv and radio. Most notably he was the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio. Sounds like this guy had a lot going on but I don't think he took good care of himself. He declared bankruptcy several times and owed alimony to several wives. Nice reminder to keep your act together. Walt Disney Studios actually had to buy back his unclaimed corpse from a medical school so that they could give him a proper burial. Why do I always focus in on the morbid part? I didn't have a clue who Cliff Edwards was until today but his beautiful tenor voice will always be in my memory as Jiminy. I can't wait to find out more about the many other hits he recorded in his time. Seriously.... Disney bought his corpse!

Already getting lazy...

I intended to post this yesterday and never quite made it. I'm already behind since I have not been at work. I really suck at this blogging thing. Here is what I wrote:

I've done the research but I just don't feel like posting today. Maybe it's the Meds making me all sleepy. It's so hard to keep my eyes open because they hurt. They seriously ache.
Enough about that. What I really need to talk about is Bessie Smith. She was a bad choice for today because I can't devote enough of myself to really study her and the doesn't seem fair for the "Empress of the Blues". Here is just a bit on why she is so amazing.
Bessie's parents died when she was still very young. Her older sister became head of house taking care of her and her siblings. She wanted to help bring in money so her and her brother would perform in the street. Then one of her brothers joined a traveling theater company. He eventually convinced her to join the group. The most amazing part of this story is that her start was in a group with none other than Ma Rainey who very likely helped her develop her stage presence. When she started recording she became a big hit immediately. She was the highest paid black entertainer of her day. Wow. Bessie made 160 recordings from 1923 to 1933. She sang until the day she died in 1937. She died from a car accident where they amputated her arm and she never regained consciousness. I couldn't find any quotes of Smith but Janis Joplin says of her influence "She showed me the air and taught me how to fill it."
I can't keep writing. I don't have the heart right now. I'm sorry Bessie Smith. I owe you one.

Friday, February 16, 2007

A New Start. A New Blog.

Disclaimer: I'm not a writer so please don't expect much.
Due to a recent break up and a brief falling into extreme depression regarding my lack of goals, I have finally pulled together some ideas on what to do with myself. When thinking about how miserable it is to waste the very little space my mind has for learning something new each day on something that doesn't interest me and actually drains society, I become angry. So, I'm trying to fix that.
There are so many subjects that I would love to get involved in and learn thoroughly but one stands out far beyond the others. Let's start with the fact that I am a singer or at least I claim to be. I have not done any actual singing in front of an audience for over a year. I push back my creative longings out of fear of failure and disappointment. I no longer have much interest in musical theater but a strong passion for Jazz and Blues. So here I am saying this is my style when everything I have been taught is classical and musical theater. Who in the hell do I think I am? Well, that is the point.
I want to know everything about this music and how it changed and impacted new artists through the years. I want to know about all the artists and how they influenced each other. It's such a broad scope I could never possibly learn everything but I finally have a starting place.
My new plan starts today. I am writing a name on each day of my calendar. Each day I make sure to use at least a few minutes of time researching that artist. I take all the interesting bits I found and save a full page of information about them. All of these saved pages will eventually become my research book based on the information I found interesting and would like to research further. Once a month I will be going to the performing arts library with this book and spending the full day there listening, learning, and enjoying myself. That sounds even better than vacation to me.
Today I decided to research Sophie Tucker. I didn't know a thing about her. What an impressive woman! A Jewish Russian immigrant that started out doing blackface because the theater managers told her she was too fat and ugly not to. She was working for Ziegfield by 1909. Songs I'm excited to listen to are her hits "Some of these days" and Nobody loves a fat girl, but oh how a fat girl can love." She was singing from 1903 to 1966. Damn that's a career! If anyone wants to share info about Sophie I would love to hear it.
This is the beginning. I'm going to hold on for as long as possible because I believe I can do it this time. You may be wondering why in the hell I started a blog. It now exists because if I don't have anything out there, I have nothing holding me to it. I also need a place to sort out my thoughts. They are an even bigger mess in my head than in cyber world. Now that this has all been rambled about I won't have to write so much next time.
I would like to close with a quote:
· "I've been rich and I've been poor. Believe me, honey, rich is better." Sophie Tucker