Have you missed me? I've missed you, and, yes, it's been a while, but you know I'm constitutionally opposed to willy-nilly,
How many celebrated female jazz pianists are there, anyway? Just the one, that I know of. And she's probably the only pianist, male or female, who can ricochet like a rocket from bop to blues to swing to classical to ragtime - and sometimes within the same piece. Yes, she's that jaw-dropping (and exciting and wowza and any other adjective you can think of).
But get this. Despite bursting onto the scene at age fourteen, she was largely ignored by all the top critics - for the next fifty years of her career. Sexism, anyone? (if you know of another reason, I'm open to it, but from what I can tell, it's the only one which makes sense.) Finally, in the late 1980s, when it became clear that she simply couldn't be ignored any longer, the jazz press begrudgingly declared that she was "potentially the greatest jazz pianist playing today." Note the qualifying "potentially" and "today." Jeez-louise, can't a girl get a break?
Her peers knew better, like Dizzy Gillespie, who joins her on "The Incredible Dorothy Donegan Trio, Live At The 1991 Floating Jazz Festival," where her giddy responsiveness to the crowd only adds to the fun. And, really, if her take on "Tea For Two" doesn't send you reeling over the edge, then I'll (cheerfully) apply a defibrillator to your chest (at no extra charge).
Speaking of gals who aren't celebrated as much as they should be, let's revisit the always sublime Ann Richards.
Before Ann left us, as you know, she posed oh-so demurely within the pages of "Playboy" (pictured below, sans staples), and while that tends to overshadow her accomplishments as a vocalist (understandably, to certain degree) (yet here I am posting the shots, right?), there's lately been renewed interest in her life and recordings given a salacious 2010 book about Stan Kenton, whom she was married to. Amongst the details: their son Lance was arrested in 1978 for attempted murder after putting a rattlesnake in his lawyer's mailbox (you can't make this stuff up).
But let's put all that messy violence, incest, suicide, nudity and attempted murder aside, shall we? True, it's difficult, because who doesn't want to pull up a chair and grab a snack for a good soap-opera?
Ann may not be the first vocalist people think of when they think of jazz singers - but she was, and she was mighty fine. Along with Anita O'Day, she was also one of the few white female jazz singers during her heyday. That alone isn't enough to distinguish her, of course, but once you give a listen to her 1961 LP "Ann, Man!", you'll understand why all that tragedy and violence is easily forgotten. Smooth doesn't even begin to describe her technical prowess. Again, like Anita O'Day, she was a first-rate vocal stylist, surpassing, I think, a lot of her more popular contemporaries, male or female.
Oh, and did I mention that she posed for "Playboy?" I did? Apparently, Stan Kenton was "scandalized" after seeing the pics (when, really, he should have thanked his lucky stars, the dumb cluck).
As far as I know, Judy Garland never went nudie, though she once considered doing so at her Carnegie Hall concert - just to liven things up. "Naw, I can't," she quipped. "It's not that kind of show."
It's a shame that Garland never exhibited her bawdy, triple-X sense of humor in her movies - friends claim they were doubled-over laughing by what came out of her mouth - but then the public would have been stunned silent (at best). They were much more comfortable watching her as a tearful tragedienne, especially in the latter stage of her career.
Her final film "I Could Go On Singing" is a whopper of a weepie, and though it was made in the early 60s, the best way to appreciate it, I think, is to pretend that it was made in the early 40s. It's not one of my favorite Judy flicks, but the soundtrack is. This is Judy in superb voice; powerful, vulnerable - pure show-biz hot-cha! to the core. Almost matching her razzmatazz is Mort Lindsay & His Orchestra, making this a total must for Judyheads of all stripes. And newbies, too.
It's summer. It's hot. So it's the perfect time for Jeri Southern to give a lift and air out her pits.
Meanwhile, it's been a crapola summer for new music and movies (don't argue, you know I'm right). Example: do you really want to go see the new 3-hour-long "Transformers" movie? The mind reels. Although, wait, scratch that. "Snowpiercer" is a good summer movie - and it's not a sequel and it's not based on a comic book or even a toy. The mind reels again.
If you're stumped for summer music, George Gershwin is always an excellent choice. The compilation below is delicious with cocktails, and includes some very familiar participants, like Ann Richards, Liza, Jeri Southern, and, yes, even Dorothy Donegan.
Times change. Sometimes for the better. Why? Because a certain mass-market blues singer with a top-ten CD (the "male Adele," they're calling him) only recently came out as gay - and no one thought anything of it. I'd give you more hints, but the Secret Song File says, "Don't do it! Jesus Christ, I've shown them my muffin, what else to they want? A handjob? Behind the Slurpee machine? Even I'm not that ghetto."
And yet one person's ghetto is another's casa du swanky, amirite?
I'm nosy. Tell me how you stay cool in the comments, if you like.