Jazz 88.3 Blog
Helen Merrill's first recording was with the Earl Hines band in 1952 and would be the start of a busy recording and performing career lasting six decades. She signed with the EmArcy label (an offshoot of Mercury Records) in 1954, becoming the first artist to release a single on the newly-formed imprint, "Alone Together" with the B-side "This Is My Night To Cry." Her self-titled first album for EmArcy included trumpeter Clifford Brown and bassist Oscar Pettiford.
Merrill's debut found such success that EmArcy signed her for additional albums, including one produced and arranged by Gil Evans. It was expressive, emotional approach to songs that made her such a sought-after singer. Listening to her sing is almost like watching a film; her often heart-broken character coming alive through the song. She could swing just as comfortably as she caressed a ballad. She would work with the cream of the instrumentalist crop throughout her career...Frank Wess, Marian McPartland, Bill Evans, Quincy Jones, Hal Mooney, Gil Evans, Milt Hinton, and Osie Johnson. One of her most notable projects was "Duets" released in 1989 with bassist Ron Carter.
Throughout her lifetime, Helen Merrill has taken her music worldwide, even co-hosting a radio program while she lived in Japan. She is a first generation American and her 1999 release "Jelena Ana Milcetic" paid tribute to her Croatian heritage and blended jazz, pop, folk, and traditional Croatian music. Merrill was inducted as a Living Legend into ASCAP's Jazz Hall of Fame in 2014.
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Her legend includes being Miles Davis' favorite singer, worthy praise from a master musician who didn't offer such things lightly. Shirley Horn had an exquisite voice...a dusty, warm sound of her own, with plenty of swing and soul. Her style utilized the space that Davis sought in much of his own music. Horn was one of those rare musicians who was both master of her internal instrument, her voice, and master of her external instrument, the piano.
Her piano sensibility for jazz grew on top of her foundation in classical music. At one point in her early life, she was accepted to The Julliard School of Music, but her mother put the brakes on her daughter going off alone to New York City. Her ears turned to jazz and she said, "Oscar Peterson became my Rachmaninov, and Ahmad Jamal became my Debussy." She would record her first jazz album in 1960, "Embers And Ashes" for a small label in New York City. That was the album that caught the attention of Miles Davis. His invitation to play between sets during his stints at the famed Village Vanguard raised her profile significantly and she was signed by Quincy Jones to Mercury Records in 1962.
Shirley Horn would go on to record 25 albums as a leader, including collaborations with Miles Davis, earning nine Grammy Award nominations. In 1999, her tribute album to her friend Davis earned her the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance. In 2005, months before her death, she was honored by the National Endowment for The Arts as an NEA Jazz Master.
With one of the most distinct and recognizable voices in jazz, singer and pianist Blossom Dearie entertained audiences for nearly 55 years. She hit the scene just after high school singing with the Woody Herman Orchestra's Blue Flames and Alvin Rey's Blue Reys.
Dearie embarked on a solo career and, after some time in Paris, came back to the United States to record a half dozen albums for Verve Records from 1957 to 1960. These included her self-titled debut, as well as the classics "Give Him the Ooh-La-La" and "My Gentleman Friend." Her wispy, almost child-like voice set her apart from other singers and she worked with vocalist King Pleasure and longtime friend Bob Dorough. She even shared the bill with Miles Davis at The Village Vanguard. The 1970s would see a whole new generation introduced to her through the children's television program "Schoolhouse Rock." Dorough was doing much of the music for the series and Dearie would appear on several songs, among them "Unpack Your Adjectives" and "Figure Eight." The project "Multiplication Rock" with Dorough and other earned a Grammy nomination in 1973 for Best Recording for Children.
Not only was she a successful player and singer, she was also a pioneer in the record industry, by launching her record label Daffodil Records in 1973...she was the first woman to do so. Her early love of performing in intimate nightclubs continued through the remainder of her life. Dearie performed her last live show at the age of 82. Her voice continues to be one of a kind.
Julie London was one of the most versatile and talented women of her generation. Her more than forty-year career showcased her gifts not only as a singer, but also as an actress. Her film career spanned 35 years and included starring roles alongside Robert Mitchum and John Cassavetes. A later generation would know her by her role in the television show "Emergency." The show ran for six years and London's lead character, nurse Dixie McCall, appeared in every episode.
As a singer, London began in nightclubs in Los Angeles while still a teenager. Her vocal style has often been described as sultry and low-key...that was the style that lead to her first hit in 1955, the classic "Cry Me A River." The song went to #9 on the U.S. record charts and the album it was on, her debut recording "Julie Is Her Name," peaked at #2 on the charts. London had firmly made her mark and was named Billboard magazine's Most Popular Female Vocalist in 1955, 1956, and 1957. Throughout the late 1950s and 1960s, she balanced a busy schedule of singing, appearing in multiple films, and guest starring on popular television shows. During this time, she recorded 29 studio albums for Liberty Records, as well as live recordings.
When considering the breadth of her career, it's somewhat surprising that she was also noted as an introverted and very private person. But, when viewing the list of artistic endeavors and her success in each of them, Julie London's legacy speaks for itself.
#On the Wednesday, March 11 2020 installment of Jazz In The Night Wednesday (Weekly, Midnight to 2 AM PT...you figure which day), we dig into some of the new releases in the library including the latest from ; preview upcoming concert performances by ; celebrate birthdays and On This Day In Jazz Milestones from ... and MORE! LISTEN LIVE or Replay Jazz In The Night Wednesday any day of the week from the Jazz 88.3 Speakeasy!
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Vocalist and pianist Diana Krall is one of the most successful jazz women of her generation. Born in Canada, her talents earned her a scholarship to Berklee College of Music, where she studied until 1983. After moving west to Los Angeles, she worked locally as a jazz pianist and singer before heading back to Canada to record her first album, "Stepping Out" featuring bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton. When celebrated music producer Tommy LiPuma heard the record, he signed on to be her producer for Impulse Records.
Her third album, "All For You: A Dedication to the Nat King Cole Trio" was released in 1996 and sent her to the top of the list of contemporary jazz singers.The album earned her what would become the first of many Grammy nominations and spent 70 weeks on the Billboard charts. Over her career she's released 17 albums and has appeared on projects with Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, and Paul McCartney. Krall has toured the world, produced an album for Barbra Streisand, recorded music for television and film, become a songwriter, and entertained live audiences worldwide throughout her career. Her body of work as earned her (so far) 10 Grammy nominations and 2 Grammy wins.
Her most recent project is a duet album with the legendary Tony Bennett, "Our Love Is Here To Stay."
Listening to recordings of Chris Connor takes you back to the cool school of jazz. She began singing with the Claude Thornhill Orchestra in 1940 and would later join Stan Kenton's band. It was with Kenton's band that she recorded what would become her biggest hit single "All About Ronnie." In 1953 she went solo and saw early success with recordings on the Bethlehem label, including Sings Lullabys of Birdland and Sings Lullabys for Lovers. These first two releases reached #1 and #2 on the Billboard jazz charts in 1955.
After a few years with Bethlehem, she signed with Atlantic Records in 1956, a partnership that would yield more accolades and hits. While the 1950s recordings have become classics, she continued recording until her final release on HighNote Records in 2003. Connor's dusty sound and choice of material have secured her place as one of jazz music's most distinctive vocalists.
While her name may not be as well-known as some others, Carol Sloane has enjoyed a career spanning more than sixty years. She began singing at an early age, but hit the jazz scene when she was offered an audition with bandleader Larry Elgart. She landed the job and spent a few years touring and singing with the Larry Elgart Band. By 1960, she was done with the road and had started working temporary secretarial jobs, still singing when the gigs came along. It was when Sloane was singing at a festival in Pittsburgh that her break really happened: Jon Hendricks was there and, after hearing her sing, asked Sloane if she could learn the Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross songbook just in case Annie Ross needed a fill-in. While checking out the group one night at The Village Vanguard, Hendricks invited her to come up and sing. The club owner immediately offered her a gig...alongside pianist Oscar Peterson. According to Sloane, "I stammered an acceptance, and walked five feet off the ground on the way home".
It was Hendricks who suggested her to the Newport Jazz Festival and in 1961, she made her debut on the Newport Festival stage. That gig led to a record deal with Columbia Records and her first albums "Live at 30th Street" and "Out of The Blue" with arrangements by Bill Finigan and Bob Brookmeyer were released in 1962. After success with Columbia, Sloane continue to tour and later signed with Concord Records. She found a particularly receptive audience in Japan, where she would release several more albums. With over 25 albums as a leader, her career having stops and re-starts, she continued recording through 2010 when "We'll Meet Again" was issued on Arbors records. A native of Providence, she was inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame in 2016.
|Dianne Reeves was born with the gift of music in her blood. Her father was a singer, her mother played the trumpet, bassist Charles Burrell is her uncle, and her cousin is George Duke. While playing with her high school band, she was heard at a convention by Clark Terry, who then invited her to sing with his band. In addition to finding her jazz voice, Reeves studied classical voice at the University of Colorado. Both areas of study are clearly heard in her pure, versatile, commanding voice. Her recording career has seen her win five Grammy Awards, including her soundtrack for the 2005 film "Good Night, and Good Luck" in which she played the singer in the studio band. Watch for scenes with her in the studio laying down music with Peter Martin, Christoph Luty, Jeff Hamilton, and Matt Catingub. |
With over twenty albums to her credit, Reeves has shared her gift of song interpretation, by swinging through the classics of the 1950s, by melding the Latin, R&B, and Pop elements into fresh sounding jazz, and by feeling at home with just a piano accompaniment or stepping out to front a full orchestra. Her music, the warmth and depth of her voice honor the legends who sang before her and pave the way for the young singers seeking their own mentors and idols.
Dianne Reeves has no doubt made her place in jazz vocal history. In 2003, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music, as well as an honorary doctorate from The Juilliard School in 2015. In 2018, Reeves was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master
. She continues to tour with dates
this month in Canada, Sweden, and France.
Pat Launer's Center Stage
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