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Eric Dolphy

Posted by Whitmore, June 20, 2008 04:04pm | Post a Comment

80 years ago today, in 1928, the legendary jazz musician and groundbreaking force of nature Eric Dolphy was born in Los Angeles. He was one of guiding forces who piloted the "new thing" of jazz though the late fifties and the 1960’s. His unique improvisational style intoned wide intervals, extended techniques, scorching intensity and unexpected sonic explorations on alto sax, clarinets, and flute. Such sounds were seldom heard before and seldom sound as accomplished since.

Educated at Los Angeles City College, he walked the fine line between traditional/mainstream jazz and the avant-garde like few musicians could. Though his work is often classified as simply “free jazz,” Dolphy’s playing was more then just his own idiosyncratic personal voice. He touched on the history of most jazz styles, from New Orleans to bop to third stream; he experimented with various non-Western music and 20th century classical ideology, pioneering extensions as both a soloist and as a jazz composer. His influence is still felt today.

During his short time on the scene Dolphy played with almost every great jazz musician of the day including, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman, Chico Hamilton, Oliver Nelson, Max Roach, Gerald Wilson, Abbey Lincoln, Gunther Schuller, and Andrew Hill. In his own bands Dolphy included the likes of Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock, Bobby Hutcherson, Woody Shaw, Richard Davis, Ron Carter, Jaki Byard, Roy Haynes, Mal Waldron, Booker Little and Freddie Hubbard.

At the age of 36 Eric Dolphy died in a diabetic coma in Berlin on June 29th, 1964. Dolphy was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame shortly after his death.

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Cyd Charisse 1922 - 2008

Posted by Whitmore, June 18, 2008 03:35pm | Post a Comment


There was one thing my Dad and I always agreed on, even when I was a teenager and we were unlikely to find any common ground: we were both awe-struck by Cyd Charisse, the greatest and sexiest of all of the Hollywood Musical dancers. She was gorgeous, strong, and always brought a little extra sizzle and nuance to her work.

Charisse died Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after suffering an apparent heart attack. She was 86.

Cyd Charisse danced in some of the greatest Movie Musicals during the hey-day of Movie Musicals. She first gained attention in 1943 in The Harvey Girls, and went on to appear in The Zeigfield Follies, Till the Clouds Roll In, and Words and Music. But she really hit her stride in the early 1950’s with Singin' in the Rain, where she danced with Gene Kelly in what can only be described as one of the steamiest of all Hollywood ballets. She went onto star in other classic films such as The Band Wagon, Brigadoon, Deep in My Heart, It's Always Fair Weather, and Silk Stockings.

In 1952, at the height of her career, her legs were reportedly insured by Lloyds of London for $5 million dollars. She was even featured in the 2001 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records as the "Most Valuable Legs" in Hollywood history.

Born Tula Ellice Finklea on March 8, 1922, in Amarillo, Texas, her older brother nicknamed her Sid as a variation on Sis. She eventually changed the spelling of her name while at MGM, to “give her an air of mystery.”

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Frank Sinatra

Posted by Whitmore, May 14, 2008 07:34pm | Post a Comment

The Chairman of the Board, ol’ Blue Eyes, the Voice, King of the Rat Pack, King of the Bobby-Sockers, The Pope, The Leader, The Swooner-- there are a lot of nicknames for Frank Sinatra, perhaps the greatest pop star of the 20th century. And ten years ago today, Frankie went to the Big Casino in the sky.

Sinatra had quite a philosophy about life and a set of intricate rules that may seem a bit brash, but hey -- it's Sinatra baby! And like his style, he believed that a living big is in the details. Here are some of the great man’s creeds:

Top your martini with not one, but two olives, and give one to a friend. Yes, a very special friend-- even if you don’t know his/her name.

For flavors in your drink to blend sufficiently, let the ice sink to the bottom of your glass and never, ever drink a drink immediately after its poured-- relax, take your time, enjoy the moment.

Never yawn in front of a lady.
 
Make sure your trousers break just above your shoes.

Tip big and tip quietly-- fold the bills three times into small squares and pass them in a handshake. Nothing further is needed, no acknowledgment, no glance, no wink-- you’ve already said it all.

Cock your hat -- angles show attitude.

Don't wear a brown suit at night, dark gray is better, and better than gray, black. And if black tie is optional, you wear black tie. The only exception to this rule; never wear a tuxedo on Sunday.

“Have fun with everything” was one of his mottoes. Live every moment as it if were your last, and remember, too much thinking isn't necessarily a good thing. “You only live once,'' he liked to say, “and the way I live, once is enough.”

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Bebe Barron 1925 - 2008

Posted by Whitmore, April 29, 2008 12:37pm | Post a Comment

One of the pioneers of electronic music and co-composer of the first all electronic film score, Bebe Barron, died this past April 20th of natural cases at the age of 82. She along with her husband, Louis Barron, who passed away in 1989, composed the sound effects / soundtrack to the 1956 sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet.

Charlotte May Wind (her husband nicknamed her Bebe) was born in Minneapolis in 1925. She earned a degree in music at the University of Minnesota then moved to New York, where she worked as a researcher for Time-Life. Soon after, she met and married Louis Barron in 1947. As a wedding gift the Barrons received a tape recorder and began delving into the world of musique concrete (music created by sounds other than musical instruments, often referred to as “real world” sounds). In 1948 Louis Barron was inspired by the book Cybernetics: Or, Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, by MIT mathematician Norbert Wiener. After studying Wiener’s equations, Louis began building electronic circuits to generate sounds. That combined with recorded tape, created a unique and otherworldly aural experience. After moving to Greenwich Village, the Barrons built a recording studio and became entrenched in New York’s burgeoning avant-garde scene. In their studio they recorded the likes of Aldous Huxley, Anais Nin, Henry Miller and Tennessee Williams reading their work; they also recorded and worked with many like-thinking composers such as John Cage, Morton Feldman, Earle Brown, and David Tudor. In addition, the Barrons scored their first soundtracks to several experimental short films by Ian Hugo, husband of Anais Nin.

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Digging Through the Record Stacks - 2

Posted by Whitmore, April 15, 2008 09:41pm | Post a Comment

Music historians often site The Diablos as the originators and early archetypes to the Motown sound. Formed in Detroit in about 1950 by high school students Nolan Strong and Bob "Chico" Edwards, the Diablos derive their name from, El Nino Diablo, a book Strong was reading for a school report. From the start the group's sound centered on Nolans’s eerily ethereal, lead tenor voice. (Musical talent ran deep in his family: Nolan’s cousin, Barrett Strong, wrote "Money'' and many other R&B standards.) Other original Diablos members included Juan Guiterriez as the second tenor, Willie Hunter singing baritone, Quentin Eubanks as bass with Edwards on guitar, and later on Nolan’s brother, Jimmy, would join the group as the second tenor.

In 1954, the Diablos went into Fortune Records to cut some demos. The owners of Fortune, Jack & Devora Brown, who founded the label in 1947, immediately signed them. Their first single, "Adios My Desert Love" (Fortune 509, 1954), was written by Devora Brown. However, their second single and masterpiece, "The Wind" (Fortune 511, 1954), was written by the group. This ballad has a curiously ghostly quality and takes full advantage of the groups strongest points; a simple guitar line plays with a light vibrato, filling in behind the perfectly sculpted background harmonies singing "blow wind," as Strong's incredibly delicate, smooth as silk lead carries over the top. The atmosphere takes on a rather strange quality during the bridge when, backed by a quirky plate-reverb effect, Strong quietly recites his lines about his missing lover.  All and all, and truthfully, this cut is slightly bizarre but so evocatively captivating.  And, of course, it went nowhere, until some eight years later when "The Wind" was re-released in 1962-- this time it found a national audience, hitting the lower rungs of the Billboard Charts. “The Wind" is now regarded as a doo wop classic and is much sought after by collectors. The Diablos would continue to record for Fortune Records until the mid sixties, though with various lineups, perhaps the reason the last few releases were credited to only Nolan Strong.

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