Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Ella at 100 years !


     Even though Ella Fitzgerald has been gone from our presence for a little over two decades, her voice and music continue in tribute albums and performances of some of the finest jazz talent around the world! Just a sampling of those are Aretha Franklin, Victoria Wyndham, Jane Monheit, Dianne Reeves and Natalie Cole! Her tribute albums are numerous and contain quite a roster of very talented folk. Ella's talent alone was legendary and her signature sound was so unique that if you heard her on the radio- five notes and three words were enough to identify her. She was purely an original and I remember the first time I heard scat was on a Fitzgerald platter.

     The past week marked the 100th anniversary of her birth on April 25, 1917 at Newport News, Virginia. On the day, a lecture was given by Larry Applebaum on her life and career at the Whittall Pavilion at the Library of Congress. On the same day there was a tribute concert at Birdland in NYC with musical artists recreating her tunes. She began singing in her teens with the Chick Webb Orchestra making her first and most popular early hit A-Tisket, A-Tasket and went on to sing with Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, The Ink Spots and Dizzy Gillespie. It's important to note that her amateur singing debut was officially at the age of seventeen when she took the stage on November 21st of 1934 on Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater. Doing a tribute herself of Connee Boswell, she sang Judy and The Object of My Affection and won first prize ! A few months later she was singing with a band at the Harlem Opera House and met Chick Webb there. Fitzgerald recorded nearly 150 songs with Webb's orchestra between 1935 and its final end in 1942, when she went solo. After that she sang with many different bands but always headlined with popular artists. She made the transition to bebop seamlessly and became an integral part of the Dizzy Gillespie band making it definitive with what today would be called vocal stylings. By 1945 she'd made a record called Flying Home with arranger Vic Schoen and received glowing reviews, amongst them the New York Times said it was "the most influential jazz record of the decade".
     Ella's discography and collaborations are so numerous that I would direct you to visit her web site to get everything you would want to know. There will be a full schedule this year of the tribute performances in and around Washington, D.C. and I urge everyone to get out and attend some of these if you are a true jazz fan. The above mentioned artists have done very well with her work but, of course, there ain't nothing like the real thing baby ! By the 50s Ella was covering just about every jazz song worth listening to in such composers as Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Gershwin, A.C. Jobim and went international with Norman Granz in the 60s. At that time she made Ella in Berlin which became her all-time best selling album for which she won a Grammy with her performance of "Mack the Knife." It vies with Louis Armstrong's version which is also world famous. She even made four albums with Joe Pass in the 70s and 80s which rarely get attention but are quite poignant. A zenith year came in 1975 when Ella and Frank Sinatra appeared on Broadway along with the Count Basie Orchestra in September in which the shows grossed $1,000,000 for a two week run!
     Even though she looked the picture of health through most of her years Ella was diagnosed with diabetes type 2 in her later years and had several hospitalizations because of illnesses brought on by her condition. She passed away in June of 1996 at the age of 79 in Los Angeles and was interred there.
      Her awards are numerous and include thirteen Grammy Awards plus the Lifetime Achievement Award she garnered in 1967. In 1958 she was the first black female to win at the inaugural show. In 1990 she received an honorary doctorate in Music from Harvard University ! 
     If you are blessed to live in the vicinity of her hometown at Newport News, VA you may want to check out a music festival which is celebrated every year (since 1997) to honor her and her music for an entire week. The roster of Jazz musicians and singers who participate have grown exponentially over the years and you'll have a chance to hear what an impact this fantastic singer has had over the years and continues to exert even though her residence is now on high. Please do avail yourself of her musical influence and sound. There is no other like it in the world and there may never be again !
www.ellafitzgerald.com 
The Castle Lady

Monday, December 19, 2016

Bowie's Best Collaboration

David Bowie may have been the most versatile and changeable rock star the world has ever had the chance to experience. I saw this on national T.V. when it first aired in 1977 and it is still a blockbuster to me because I knew he had a great voice, I knew he could act but with Bing Crosby he became another creature. Have a listen: 

This was nearly forty years ago and it still sends chills up and down my spine. What a world this would be if they could only listen well and then decide to change...
                                  Peace on Earth-  can it be ??? 

It's time to have a...


Saturday, July 2, 2016

Great Skate Songs

What's the best type of song to skate to and why are they always repetitious but fun? I think I just asked and answered myself in the same sentence. The best way to illustrate what I just wrote is to show you with a couple of videos:

        
 One of my favs from way back. 

and a new one...

 Watch all the way to the end. I think some other Marilyn lookalike took the skating spill but it says everything right there. This song is just meant to be skated to and that's it ! Go ahead- life's too short not to have some fun !



 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

More on Ivy...

  The following is a brief bio from their official web site. When you get a chance check them out. - The Castle Lady
 "It’s a rebirth," says Ivy singer Dominique Durand about All Hours [Nettwerk], the New York trio’s new album and first release in six years. "We really had no idea where we were going for a long time. But in my mind, I knew I wanted to go back to some kind of innocence, and also a feeling of energy and excitement. I wanted to make a record based on those very basic sensations."

Ivy have certainly journeyed far. The group was formed in 1994 when Andy Chase and Adam Schlesinger convinced Parisian Dominique Durand, who had recently moved to New York and had no aspirations to be a singer, to venture into Chase’s studio and try recording four new songs with them. Those recordings, which showcased Durand’s intimate, distinctive – and at that point, heavily accented – vocals alongside Chase and Schlesinger’s pop melodies and jangly guitars, quickly led to a record deal. Soon Ivy became a real working band, and Durand, who had previously been working as a photographer’s assistant, found herself opening for acts like Oasis, Edwyn Collins, and St. Etienne.

After receiving Melody Maker’s "Single Of The Week" with their debut 7″, "Get Enough", they released their debut EP, Lately, and then their first full-length LP, 1995′s Realistic. However, it was with Apartment Life (1997) that they hit their stride. That album, which combined the simplicity and charm of their earlier work with growing sophistication and confidence in the
recording studio, received glittering reviews and helped Ivy solidify a loyal fanbase. Long Distance (2001) continued on the trajectory established by Apartment Life, and contained the standout single "Edge Of The Ocean", which quickly became one of Ivy’s signature songs and was licensed in numerous films, television shows, and commercials.

The band released a covers record, Guestroom, in 2002, which revealed a mix of influences including Orange Juice, The Go-Betweens, Nick Heyward, and The House Of Love. Then, for 2005′s In The Clear, the band enlisted the help of UK producer/mixer Steve Osborne, who had worked with favorites like New Order, Suede, and Doves.

During the band’s final, sold out New York show in support of In the Clear, in 2006, Durand closed the evening by simply saying "Goodbye," foreshadowing the band’s impending hiatus. "When we did that gig, I had this feeling I wasn’t going to be on stage with Ivy for a long time," she says. "It was an abstract feeling, but it was real. We didn’t intend to, but we did disappear for a while."

They didn’t plan on being away so long. In fact, they initially discussed trying to make a record quickly, and they started working again in the studio soon after finishing that tour. "But when we first started recording, we were grasping for inspiration," says Schlesinger. "We did a lot of work, but honestly we weren’t too excited about any of it."

In fact, over the next few years, the band wrote and subsequently discarded at least an entire album’s worth of songs. But at some point, explains Chase, "we turned a corner and hit on something that felt fresher to us."

That something was a change of working method: they started by building off of rhythms and textures rather than writing primarily on acoustic guitar, which had been Ivy’s traditional approach. Chase and Schlesinger, who each began life as keyboard players, allowed themselves to focus less on being a "guitar" band and more on creating compelling, exciting tracks through any means necessary.

The first breakthrough was "Distant Lights", which was to become the leadoff track on All Hours. A slow-building, shifting soundscape with a relentless, hypnotic beat, the song manages to sound simultaneously like classic Ivy and not quite like anything they’ve ever done before.

"That was a galvanizing moment," says Chase. "We were sent in a direction that we hadn’t explored completely and we became more excited about what we were doing than we’d been in a few records." Durand continues, "It’s an important song because it started All Hours. We chose it as the album opener because it is a departure."

In a burst of new inspiration, the group came up with a batch of songs that felt related to that one, but still with unmistakable Ivy melodies and hooks. "Suspicious" tells a tongue-in-cheek lyrical tale over handclaps and a bouncy, stripped-down groove; "Fascinated" sounds like a lost 80′s synth-pop hit remixed for today. "The Conversation" is a lilting ballad over a jittery beat; the jangly "You Make It So Hard" is reminiscent of early Ivy singles, and yet the keyboard hook and propulsive rhythm ties it to the rest of All Hours.

"Making this album reminded us of how excited we were at the beginning, when we first started writing together," says Schlesinger. Adds Durand, "Returning, there’s a sense of victory. I said goodbye, but we’re back."

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Ivy- special sound- special song

This song is played at the end of the movie Bee Season and I thought it an excellent piece of mood music. A good part of the dynamic of the sound of this band is the singer. Strong or whisper soft there is a special quality to her voice rarely heard these days. Give a listen:


Do check out their web site and iTunes. Every song they do is unique but in this same genre. Treat yourself !


The Castle Lady

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Purple Time: Another Gone Too Soon




     When Prince was found early this morning outside his awesome ( but lifeless) body the LA Times must have been half asleep when they put up the following headline and news item in the paper. Online, it went up at 9:30 as if Prince was very much alive. Minneapolis time aside, it was a mistake to put up the piece without talking to the beautiful one. Maybe they could've saved his life. Steven Scott, 32, of Eden Prairie, said he was at Paisley Park last Saturday for Prince's dance party. He called Prince "a beautiful person" whose message was that people should love one another. "He brought people together for the right reasons," Scott said.
     My surprise in all this is that he had just announced that he was writing a memoir. This is the wording in the LA Times piece:

 Prince is writing a memoir, 'The Beautiful Ones.'
Talk about purple prose. Bertrand Guay / AFP/Getty Images will publish a book about his life (electric word, "life"). He's come a long way from working in that five-and-dime for Mr. McGee. Prince, the pop legend and Minneapolis' favorite son, is writing the story of his life as the publisher announced Monday. The Purple One broke the news Friday at an ad-hoc press conference in a New York nightclub. "The good people of Random House have made me an offer I can't refuse," the singer told the audience, according to the New Yorker. "You all still read books, right?" (Spiegel ; Grau is an imprint of Random House.) The artist formerly known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince told the crowd that his memoir would be called "The Beautiful Ones," which fans will recognize as the title of the third track from his blockbuster album "Purple Rain." Prince, 57, has been known for decades for his unclassifiable music, which blends elements of rock, funk, jazz, pop and rhythm and blues. The musician has sold more than 100 million records globally, and has also starred in four movies, including the hits "Purple Rain" and "Sign o' the Times." 
     "Prince is a towering figure in global culture and his music has been the soundtrack for untold numbers of people including me for more than a generation," executive editor Chris Jackson said in a news release. "Millions of words have been written about Prince" books and articles, essays and criticism but we're thrilled to be publishing Prince's powerful reflections on his own life in his own incandescently vivid, witty, and poetic voice." The news release from Spiegel & Grau said that Prince's memoir "will take readers on an unconventional and poetic journey through his life and creative work from the family that shaped him and the people, places, and ideas that fired his creative imagination, to the stories behind the music that changed the world." Prince is collaborating on the book with Dan Piepenbring, a journalist who works as the Web editor for the Paris Review. The collaboration has the potential to be fraught, reports Prince's hometown newspaper, the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune. "He's never easy to collaborate with," music editor Jon Bream wrote. "Prince is accustomed to being in control and always getting his way." Bream also speculated that the famously private musician would write a "selective" book. "We're more likely to get an episodic memoir like Bob Dylan's 'Chronicles: Volume One,' a nonlinear, incomplete account of select key moments in his life and career," he wrote. Prince's memoir is scheduled for release in the fall of 2017.
     This is probably all up in the air at present. I, for one, hope that it's possible for someone to carry through but I have a distinct feeling that the words, "The Beautiful Ones" may be all we'll get and maybe that's the way it should be. Prince was mostly chic mystique... and great music, of course.

The Castle Lady



Monday, April 4, 2016

Rockabilly's Recent Revivial

Just recently I happened to catch a radio show interviewing two members of The Blasters and it really took me back to my early days in San Diego when I'd go to a club called The Spirit. They were regular players at this club and I heard and saw them several times there. After all these years they are still going strong even with major setbacks and are still writing new tunes which they play along with the old. Have a listen: 

My first and only record of theirs which I happen to own was their very first which was simply The Blasters. I remember that the local San Diego radio station played Marie, Marie a lot. They were the real deal. Right out of the 50s from the 80s ! 

Go cats go !

The Castle Lady 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Vinyl ?


Ever since the advent of alternatives to music on vinyl discs made their various entrances in record stores (i.e. 8-track tapes, cassette tapes, CDs, etc.) the sale of music has been on a roller coaster ride which record stores have had to contend with and overcome. It doesn't surprise me, however, that several times now in our 21st century those 20th century bridges to the MP3 have seemed to all but disappear. It's interesting that vinyl never does but there's a very a good reason why. Back in February I spotted this article in the Denver Post commentary from a Washington Post Writer, Esther J. Cepeda titled The beautiful sound of slowing down which I'd thought I'd share with you:
     Those of a certain age remember the bond forged with music emanating from the intimacy of a needle riding the grooves of a vinyl record. You may recall the accouterments: the 45-rpm adaptor, the velvet cylinder used to clean dust off the record and maybe a penny for rebalancing the stylus head. Unless you had a super-fancy sound system, you sat, like Nipper, the famous RCA record label dog, close to a speaker, head cocked, listening intently for whatever it was that swelled your soul: lyrics, instrumentation, a voice. You had a musical experience.
     Last month, after attending a particularly life-affirming piano concert, I began thinking about the outsized yet inconspicuous role music plays in our lives today.
     Music plays everywhere and is cheap, if not free, in any genre imaginable, at the click of a button. It will stream through your phone, iPad, computer or any other device with access to the Internet and go on without interruption, not caring whether you're paying attention to it or not.
Even those of us who do purchase music find ourselves with a less  than satisfying experience. You go to a website or an interface like iTunes, search for a song, pay a buck or so to download it, then play it through the computer or through your (cell ) phone.
     In the unlikely event that you purchase a full album, you then have to store the thing in such a way that it will play back in order- maybe not an issue for Taylor Swift's latest (snicker! ), but required for, say, Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon" or a multiple-movement symphony composed to be heard in a certain sequence.
     In contrast, I recently found a rack of used vinyl records at my local Goodwill store and not only did I enjoy standing there, combing through the stacks of LPs but there also was the album art to enjoy, the value of buying a whole album of carefully curated pieces of music for $0.99 and the extensive liner notes. Liner notes ! When was the last time you read an album's liner notes ? Does popular music even bother to make them anymore?
     I came home with 15 albums of some of the most important orchestral music ever composed, played by the world's greatest orchestras in their prime- Boston Symphony Orchestra under Pierre Monteux, the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy, the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York under Leonard Bernstein. Gold, in other words. Hours and hours of it for 15 bucks.
     I bought a record player, shined up the vinyl and sat down to listen to Bernstein conduct Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy." You know the one- it's the romantic theme you hear in the kinds of ads where non-dairy butter-flavored spread meets heaving toast in a meadow and they fall in love for your breakfast consumption pleasure.
     The piece- at turns dramatic, savage, syrupy and mournful during its 20-minute length- didn't sound as crystal clear as it does in any of the many digital versions on my phone and computer. But then again, I wasn't making dinner or writing out bills while I listen to it. I savored every crackle-infused silence and bordering-on-distorted crescendo.
     A return visit to vinyl is not regression or nostalgia, it is a willful act of slowing down. If that means reading paper books, spending some time with yourself in silence or really intently listening to whatever music you like without distraction (digitally or otherwise)- do it. You won't regret it.
     You may think that all this is directed to those of a certain age but in actuality it is a call to experience hands-on technology that imparted other esthetics which have been lost besides those great liner notes which told you who inspired the music, who all was involved- directly or indirectly- and more about the artist ( s ) who make the music. Lyrics were right there at your fingertips. You learned more about music because of liner notes. Sometimes full-size posters and signed photos accompanied those albums like The Beatles' White Album (raised letters instead of the title in gray assured you of that original package). How would you know that the design of the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks was made to look like one big ransom note without the album cover? Antiques? Not in this current life time. These 20th century phenoms are like finding vintage wine on an aging rack. If you can't appreciate that you are doomed to sip musical grape juice for the rest of your ungrateful life and never to know the joys that technology has imparted for far longer than you have been alive.
Just sayin. . . .
The Castle Lady 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Lazarus, Come Forth !

I don't particularly like being the messenger of death on this blog but it seems that it is destined for such these days. The recent passing of a great talent in the form of David Bowie is a great loss to the musical and art world and I can truly say that his marvelous voice inspired me many times from youth on up. Most recently he has a play out which will be in its final performance on New York's Theatre Workshop stage by January 20th and should be well attended as most of the proceeds will go to a worthy cause. 

Something memorable comes to mind:
      In 1976, when the germ of the idea for his play Lazarus was taking shape David called his 'look' a cross between Nijinsky and Woolworth's. I'm not sure what he meant but somehow it is apt. He was otherworldly but at the same time so down-to-earth. 

Farewell fair friend !
The Castle Lady



  

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

How about a quick blast from the past ?

Jan and Dean were the quintessential surf music mavens. They knew all about 'across the pond' and liked the rock scene but their heart stayed at home. This is one of my favorites which most people think is the Beach Boys. Here it is:

Proud to be an American, I am !   LOL