Amoeblog

Happy Birthday Arthur Tatum Jr., October 13th, 1909

Posted by Whitmore, October 13, 2009 12:25pm | Post a Comment
 
Art Tatum is acknowledged by anyone who knows anything as one of the greatest and most influential jazz pianists of all time. A child prodigy born with perfect pitch, Tatum was picking up church hymns and tunes off the radio by ear at the age of three. As a teenager, the nearly blind Tatum started at the Columbus School for the Blind where he studied music and learned Braille. His first musical heroes were his contemporaries like the stride pianists James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, and Earl Hines. Within a few years he was playing in New York settling at the Onyx Club where he recorded his first sides for Brunswick. Tatum developed an incredibly fast improvisational style, and though he rarely ventured far from the original melodic lines of a song, his technique and ideas are a direct line to the bebop revolution of the late 1940’s. One of Tatum’s great quotes was “There is no such thing as a wrong note.”
 
Though I’m often dubious of many opinions laid out by jazz critic Leonard Feather, I have to more or less agree with him when he called Tatum "the greatest soloist in jazz history, regardless of instrument." Legendary French writer and artist Jean Cocteau called Tatum "a crazed Chopin." Count Basie called him the eighth wonder of the world. Classical composer Sergei Rachmaninoff once said, "he has better technique than any other living pianist, and may be the greatest ever." Dizzy Gillespie said, "First you speak of Art Tatum, then take a long deep breath, and you speak of the other pianists." Charlie Parker, who briefly worked as a dishwasher at Jimmie's Chicken Shack in Manhattan, where Tatum regularly performed, once said, “I wish I could play like Tatum’s right hand!” One of the most famous quotes about Art Tatum was by Fats Waller, whose introduction one night announced, "I only play the piano, but tonight God is in the house." Waller also once said, "When that man turns on the powerhouse, don't no one play him down. He sounds like a brass band."
 
Art Tatum died in Los Angeles on March 12, 1955 at Queen of Angels Medical Center from the complications of kidney failure. He was originally interred at Angelus Rosedale Cemetery, but in 1991 he was moved to the Great Mausoleum of Glendale's Forest Lawn Cemetery.



Happy Birthday Sheriff John!

Posted by Whitmore, October 2, 2009 05:57pm | Post a Comment

If you were a kid growing up here in Southern Californian and your family owned a television set in the 1950’s or 60’s, inevitably you watched Sheriff John's Lunch Brigade, which aired on KTTV-TV Channel 11 from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm, and a late afternoon show, Sheriff John's Cartoon Time. I spent many a day as a sickly child watching Sheriff John and cartoons like Crusader Rabbit, Tennessee Tuxedo (voiced by Get Smart’s Don Adams) and Underdog.
 
Today the host of those shows and one of the true originators and unsung pioneers in early kids television, John Rovick, is 90 years old. Born in Dayton, Ohio, October 2nd, 1919, he served in the U.S. Army Air Corp in the Second World War, trained as radio operator and gunner on a B25 Bomber -- he survived some 50 combat missions, even a mission when the plane had to ditch at night off the coast of Italy. He started as a staff announcer on KTTV when the station first went on the air in 1949. Starting in 1952 Rovick began portraying the Sheriff for Cartoon Time and in 1953 John Rovick won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Program.
 
Sheriff John started each show singing as he walked through the door of his Sheriff's office, "Come on now, laugh and be happy, and the world will laugh with you." He then said the Pledge of Allegiance, read a daily safety bulletin, and for good measure threw in some health tips for the youngsters.
 
But the highlight of the show was always the birthday celebration. Sheriff John would read dozens of kids' names, roll out a cake, and sing the classic kids song "The Birthday Cake Polka." For a certain age group, a telltale sign of a native Angelino is the ability to sing the song, word for word. In 1970 both shows were cancelled, but Rovick continued to work as an announcer for KTTV until his retirement in 1981. For decades he was also a favorite in the Hollywood’s Santa Claus Lane Christmas parade. After retirement he moved to Boise, Idaho where he still resides. In 1998 Sheriff John made one last special appearance on the Emmy’s, being introduced by longtime fan and Culver City native Michael Richards.
 
Happy birthday, Sheriff John! Now everybody sing along!
 
Put another candle on my birthday cake
We're gonna bake a birthday cake
Put another candle on my birthday cake
I'm another year old today

Noir Nites At The New Bev

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, September 6, 2009 08:55pm | Post a Comment

This month the New Beverly has put together a couple of impeccable noir nights for September. First up is a Sam Fuller pairing, The Crimson Kimono & Underworld U.S.A. Kimono features great Little Tokyo location shots as well as the trailblazing James Shigeta. His Detective Kojaku character is a true rarity-- an Asian American hero / romantic lead character played by an Asian American!! The following week the New Bev is showing an atomic scare double, featuring the infamous KIss Me Deadly as well as the little known gem City of Fear. KIss Me Deadly is absolute must see; it stars the totally underrated Ralph Meeker in a Mike Hammer role that puts all other attempts to shame. Amazing bachelor pad gagetry & awesome location shots keep the bizarre plot moving at a great pace. City of Fear is yet another Vince Edwards masterpiece featuring more LA location shots, Cobalt, shoe stores and a whole lot of sweat...   



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Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue

Posted by Whitmore, August 17, 2009 11:27pm | Post a Comment

So I use to run this illegal bar, a speakeasy, and the specialty of the house was your traditional Vodka or Gin martini -- straight up, a couple of olives or a tiny pickled onion or a sliver of a lemon peel, no frills but a damn, damn good martini and never, ever a frigging apple pomegranate fusion monstrosity.
 
(H. L. Mencken once said the martini was "the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet," and I’d like to keep it that way. And since I’m on the subject... a martini should be stirred not shaken. Sorry Mr. Bond, but all you are ordering up is some weakass drink, watered down by melting shards of ice. Once and for all, a martini should be stirred, never shaken and served in a painfully cold glass.)
 
Anyway, the best part of the night was always after hours, around 4 or 4:30 in the morning. At that hour it was always quiet, I was relaxed, the patrons were relaxed, folks just sat around -- the trouble of the day or week was behind them, the stress of trying to get laid had more or less strayed, at least momentarily, though sex springs eternal and with the new dawn you knew at least one fresh scheme would soon ascend, prospectively. The soul, body and mind, conceivably worn to the bone, inevitably found a re-energized oomph in a good drunken conversation over one last martini. I loved the pretension almost as much as I loved that time of the day. And the perfect music to play at that hour was always, always Miles DavisKind of Blue.
 
Well, 50 years ago today, August 17, 1959, Kind of Blue was released on Columbia Records, in both mono and stereo, catalogue number CL-1355. The recording sessions took place earlier in the year in New York City, on March 2 and April 22, and featured soon to be legends all: Miles Davis on trumpet, pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, and John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley on saxophones, with drummer Jimmy Cobb and bassist Paul Chambers.
 
So cool, so beautiful, so perfect, contemplative, sleek and sophisticated. Kind of Blue soars into uncharted space; five decades ago it stretched the boundaries and the very definition of jazz. Davis’, along with arranger Gil Evans’ modal experimentations abandoned the traditional song concept of chord changes to support a melody in favor of musical scales, re-inventing improvisation and a sound that would dominate the form of jazz for rest of the century. And though exact numbers have never quite been formulated, Kind of Blue has been cited as the best-selling jazz record of all time. On October 7, 2008, it was certified quadruple platinum. But beyond numbers, Kind of Blue is regarded by many critics as the greatest jazz album of all time and Miles Davis's masterpiece.


SHOUT!

Posted by Whitmore, July 29, 2009 09:59pm | Post a Comment

50 years ago today, one of the most ass kicking songs ever laid down on wax, the classic, seminal “Shout” was recorded by the Isley Brothers for RCA Records. Written by the brothers themselves, the lead vocals were handled by Ronald Isley with brothers O’Kelly and Rudolph singing back up. Even though the song never reached any higher than #47 on the Billboard Hot 100 and never did much on the R&B charts, “Shout” eventually became their first gold single simply on the basis of its lingering popularity. In 1999 “Shout” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
 
The Isleys originally sang gospel, but by 1957 they had switched to doo-wop, left Cincinnati, and moved to New York City where they first recorded for Teenage Records. In 1959, RCA signed the group after catching them as an opening act for R&B legend Jackie Wilson.
 
“Shout” was their second release for the RCA; their first, “I’m Gonna Knock on Your Door” failed to chart. Initially “Shout” didn’t make much of a dent on the national stage, but after being covered by other artists, like a 15 year old Lulu, and the king of the Peppermint Twist -- Joey Dee and the Starlighters -- the song found an audience. RCA re-released the Isley’s original version in 1961 but once again the single didn’t catch on, peaking at #92. With that failure, the Isleys were released from their RCA contract. No problem, they would chart dozens of singles for the next 5 decades for labels like Wand, Tamla, T-Neck and Warner Brothers.
 
As for “Shout,” it has been recorded by a wide range of artists like Johnny O'Keefe (his version reached #3 on Australian charts in November 1959), The Shangri-Las, The Beatles, Question Mark and the Mysterians, Alvin and the Chipmunks (Simon sang lead), Tom Petty, Billy Joel, Joan Jett, and the Temptations used to do it live, as did The Who, Panic At The Disco and Green Day. Of course, the most famous version is by Otis Day and the Knights from the 1978 movie Animal House.

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