Whoopee! There are days when I just want to celebrate, and today is one of them, because an LP that's been out of print for over fifty years has just been gorgeously restored and re-released.
Not only am I celebrating, but Billie Holiday is, too, because 1956's "Velvet Mood" is one of her best studio albums, which she recorded for Clef Records (or Verve, as it later came to be known) when she was a mere forty-one years old. Why did it take so long for "Velvet Moon" to get its due? Likely because her legendary LP "Lady Sings The Blues" was released that same year to universal acclaim, along with her memorable, if somewhat sanitized, autobiography.
Down Beat Magazine had this to say about Billie at this time: "I suppose the nostalgic will repeat automatically that this isn't the Billie of 20 years ago. Of course it isn't. This is a Billie who has experienced a lot of pain and some joy in the years between...she sings more reflectively, and less hopefully, but with no less depth and warmth." Billie was everywhere in 1956. In addition to two LPs and an autobiography, there were two packed concerts at Carnegie Hall, a burgeoning affair with mob enforcer Louis McKay, whom she'd marry the following year, and countless TV performances. Tragically, she died three years later. It was all over much too soon.
Let's move on to a lady who I didn't know much about until recently, the alliteratively-named Rita Reys, who's sparkling like a jewel in a publicity photo from the mid-1950s below:
Known as "Europe's First Lady Of Jazz," the Netherlands-born Rita hit the big-time with her rendition of "My Funny Valentine," which, in turn, caught the attention of Columbia Records executives, who whisked her to the U.S. to record several stellar jazz albums and perform at the Village Vanguard. Returning home, she next married renown jazz pianist Pim Jacobs. "Married in Jazz!" proclaimed the headlines of the day.
That's where we pick up Rita's story in the early 1960s with this Rad Rita Cheerful Exclusive! By now part of Pim's trio - with Pim's brother Ruud on bass - she recorded "Jazz Pictures At An Exhibition," a delectable 1961 live recording with celebrated drummer Kenny Clarke. Rita is in her prime here, slaying on everything from "I Get A Kick Out Of You" to a wonderful rendition of "Autumn Leaves." Unfortunately, in the U.S., at least, time has not been kind to Rita Reys in terms of her enduring reputation (many jazz critics write her off as "Meh") (but then, critics sometimes make me do this) (but that's me).
Why is this? I think they're over-reacting to the straightforward accessibility of her vocals - and they're missing out, too, on her high-class, tough-cookie style, which was certainly in keeping with the swellegant era. Bluntly put, her vocals were much more varied and, yes, exciting, than they give her credit for. So give a listen and let's spread the word: Rita's terrific!
Speaking of swellegant, it doesn't get more fun and klassy than George Shearing. Am'rite?
If you're not familiar with him from this blog or elsewhere, then this 1979 Shearing compilation "Lullaby Of Birdland" - a Jazzy George Cheerful Exclusive! - is just the ticket to get you going. "Why is it?" you ask. Think of this way; it's the perfect music to play while you're sipping a glass of champagne, or wish you were (or if you're partaking of a certain herb or a relaxing pharmaceutical of your choice). Think of it another way; it's like Henry Mancini, but stripped down to its cocktail-shaken essence. How can you not like that? Oh, and if you disagree, I just don't believe you. At all.
And now for something completely different - with a tease.
Remember the electro-lounge duo "Tipsy?" They were an awesome San Francisco-based duo who mixed-and-matched all kinds of sounds in the late 1990s and early 2000s. They took from the 50s, the 60s, added a li'l disco, a li'l funk, shook them up good, then ladled it all nice-like with sparkly electro goodness. If you're hesitant, or think you've heard their sound before from groups like "Sleigh Bells" or "Emperor Penguin," you're wrong. They're much more kooky and witty in their own right, and "Trip Tease," their 1997 debut, is still their best. So put on your most glamorous outfit and party, fool, party!
Just when the Secret Song File thinks there are no more good chocolate cake recipes, she comes across this. And just when she's ready to throw in the towel on "electro jazz" - or whatever the kids are calling it these days - she comes across this spanking new studio album from a groupe francais who initially found each other through this (can you believe it's still around?). It's playful, smart and just plain fun to listen to.
By the way, if you're wondering how on earth the Secret Song File is able to keep her stunning figure and still stuff her face with delicious chocolate cake - and I know you are - just remember that she gets lots of exercise, meditates and eats small portions (but let's be honest, who's she kidding?).
I'll never tell how much cake you eat, I pinky-swear.
Leave a few crumbs in the comments, if you like!