Jan 13, 2013

Etta's Hollarin', Barry's Orchestrating, B'Way's Gettin' Nudie, Plus A Secret Song From Maya's Godmother!

Etta Jones is not Etta James (let's clear that up right away). Have you heard of her? I hadn't until several years ago when my Cuban Luvuh introduced me to her - and I've been hooked ever since. She's another one of those singers who was popular with mass-market audiences for a bit, forgotten, then rediscovered, to a certain extent, through YouTube and blog sites (see, we're good for something). She was never forgotten by jazz aficionados, though. They've been devoted all along.

Born in the 1920's and coming into her own professionally in the 40's and 50's, Etta endured grim years of struggle - performing at night with a 'who's who' of jazz performers, then toiling at factory and store jobs during the day. Later, she partnered with sax legend Houston Person for nearly thirty years on the road, primarily for black audiences, with a non-stop schedule that took her all over the world until a mere two weeks before her death. Never the diva, she was just as devoted to her fans as they to her. Yet mass-market fame eluded her. She had just one hit, "Don't Go To Strangers," though she did earn three Grammy Awards.

So what do all those jazz aficionados know that we don't? You'll find out big-time in 1962's "Hollar," my absolute favorite LP of hers. She's sometimes compared to Billie Holiday, but I've always found her smoother (something Holiday wasn't interested in) and more outwardly joyful, too (the first track, "And The Angels Sing," never fails to bring a huge smile to my face). She had her own way with tone and phrasing, too, and found herself likened in her heyday not other singers, but horn players. You can hear that clearly in her take on "They Can't Take That Away From Me," in which she slides up and down the notes instead of hitting them straight on. It's just gorgeous.

The original Bond, in the form of Sean Connery, arrived on the scene with a striking soundtrack from a movie music master.

Mary, Queen of Scots, in the form of Glenda Jackson, ruled with music from this master, too (and, yes, Jackson was a much fiercer Queen than Cate Blanchett).

What could a Queen and a spy have in common? John Barry, of course, who gave Bond his memorable theme and sound. In "The Concert John Barry" - a Barry-Barry-Wonderful Cheerful Exclusive! - the Bond theme has more power and bombast than it's ever had before, and that's just for starters. Included also are gorgeous renditions of "The Day Of The Locust," "Mary, Queen Of Scots" and "The Deep," to name just a few. Better still, they're all conducted by Barry himself.

Years ago, I was an eager little sprite in NYC and "Oh, Calcutta," an allegedly "sexy," "controversial" Broadway show (nude actors!), was on its last legs. You could always get half-price tickets for it at TKTS, yet even for half-price, I didn't want to go, or even for free (by way of "second-acting" it, or sneaking in during intermission, mingling with the crowd and unobtrusively taking a seat) (I don't think you can do that anymore) (which is a real shame) (it was the best way to see "Cats"). I had been warned by everyone: "Oh, Calcutta" was terrible.

But little did I know, a much better sex show had opened just after "Oh, Calcutta." It was called (ahem) "Let My People Come."

Like its more popular counterpart, "Let My People Come" had lots of nudity, but it also had original songs, with titles like "Come In My Mouth," "Take Me Home With You," "I'm Gay," and "The Cunnilingus Champion Of Company C." And here's the kicker: the show actually received good reviews during its original run Off-Broadway (though the producer never officially opened the show in order to avoid getting bad ones) and a nearly sold-out run. But a later move to Broadway killed it. Unfortunately.

Strangely, the show is about to be revived in NYC (with "much with less nudity," says the producer) (talk about a buzz-kill). And really, why revive the show? As you'll realize when you listen to the original cast LP, most of the charm comes from the fact that it sounds very much of its time. It's naughty, yes, but surprisingly innocent, too, in a shaggy-cool, early-70's sort of way. and I doubt that can be recaptured in a ("less nude") revival.

The Secret Song File likes to get nudie, too, but not in public. That's just tacky (and you know how the Secret Song File just hates tackiness). Besides, I doubt Lady Tee, as she was known to her fans, would have walked the ho stroll naked, either (but if anyone has a picture of this, I'd love to see it). What she would have done is sashay through crowds like the Secret Song File is doing below; blowing a kiss, and with this week's date du jour:

"Lady Tee," you say? "Um, isn't she dead?" Yes, she is. She left us just last year, in fact. But that hasn't stopped the upcoming release of her new album, and yes, she's still a sucker for your love - and still white, too, though her audiences never minded (nor did Maya Rudolph; Lady Tee was her godmother). Oh, and did you know? One of her hobbies was archery.

Enjoy the Golden Globes tonight! 

Perfect Globes Game: Spot the celebrity drug-dealer. Let me know in the comments below who you think it is (in years past, it was Darryl Hannah) (but there must be someone new). 


RayKay said...


Thanks for your great uploads. Any chance of a re-up ot Etta Jones? I've just discovered her.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Etta's ready for you now!

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