Can you guess who's pictured above? If you guessed Peggy Lee, then you're quicker than me. It's a very young Peggy, of course; the picture was likely taken in the mid-1930s when she was singing at The Buttery Room in Chicago (still a decade away from releasing her first record). What I don't know is when she sang her first Cole Porter song, but I'm glad she's included on "The Very Best Of Cole Porter" - a De-Lovely Cheerful Exclusive! - a compilation where she performs "My Heart Belongs To Daddy" like a perfect (semi) virgin.
This is one of the better Porter compilations. Every singer is at the top of their game, like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Anita O'Day, Fred Astaire and more. Despite a cover picture which looks like Porter was playing piano in a David Lynch-ian nightmare sequence (where's the dwarf?), this really is a must.
I have a love/hate relationship with Dustin Hoffman. I loved him in "Tootsie," because I totally believed he would be fired from a commercial in which he portrayed a tomato. "Aw, but nobody does vegetables like me!" he cried. "I did an evening of vegetables Off-Broadway! I did an endive salad that knocked the critics on their ass!"
Yet I wanted to throw my popcorn bucket at the screen when I saw "Rain Man," which was, as Pauline Kael observed, little more than "Dustin Hoffmann humping one note on a piano for two hours and eleven minutes. It's his dream role. Hoffman doesn't have to play off anyone; he gets to act all by himself."
But something else was at work when he played Lenny Bruce in Fosse's 1974 movie "Lenny." If you look at clips of Hoffmann, then Bruce, it almost seems as if Bruce took full possession of Hoffman's entire face and body. And yet it's not a stunt (like his "Rain Man" was ); even if you're unfamiliar with Bruce, the performance is vividly alive.
Unfortunately, "Lenny" was way ahead of its time. Critics were lukewarm, to put it mildly. They couldn't accept Fosse's bold mix of invented documentary footage with stand-up performances and disjunctive dramatic sequences (they would have if it were a foreign film and had subtitles, but that's another discussion) (somehow, it garnered a handful of Oscar nominations). It's definitely worth checking out, and so is the soundtrack, a hugely enjoyable mix of composer Ralph Burns' swingin' Vegas jazz, along with cuts from Miles Davis, Anne Marie Moss, plus brief, punchy dialogue snippets from Hoffman and Valerie Perine. You'll love it.
The holidays are coming, which means it's time for all jazz lovers to pull out their Vince Guaraldi.
Luckily, today brings a Cheerfully Vinnie Exclusive! just for you - and I swear, it's one of his best. Dubbed "Dr. Funk" by his San Francisco jazz comrades, Guaraldi rarely gets his due from the jazz establishment, maybe because he's the most optimistic of jazz composers. And yet, it's this radical hopefulness which sets him apart. His lightness is his gift. In this 2006 compilation - comprised of unreleased live tracks from the 1960s and 70s - there's some familiar tunes, like "Linus & Lucy," but also several electrifying and lengthy sets, my favorite two being "Autumn Leaves" and "Cabaret," which are downright thrilling. Fittingly, the collection is named after Guaraldi's neighborhood birthplace in San Francisco where his Uncles, Muzzy and Joe, both of them musicians, first introduced him to the world of professional jazz.
Regrettably, the Secret Song File didn't have Uncles to show her the way of the world. If she had, she might have avoided dating a certain someone, pictured below, who one day called her from a payphone ("What the hell is that?" says you) to tell her a wee little secret. Meh. You live, you learn. If Adele Dazeem can get over it, so can we all.
Still, she couldn't help but think of her old boyfriend the other day, because a certain female-comedian-who-sings has a new CD out, and years ago, she began her career performing at the Continental Baths in the Ansonia Hotel. Are you following? Okay, so early one morning back then, the Secret Song File was striding down 74th street, minding her own beeswax, when she spotted her ex-BF sashaying out of the Ansonia with a loopy smile and a bit of a hitch in his git-a-long, if you know what I mean. You don't? Never mind (maybe your Uncle can explain it to you).
But ask that 'bachelor' Uncle, the one with a 'roommate.'
Tell your wee secrets in the comments, if you like!