The Rat Pack Captured

For those with the time (and a strong nostalgic gene), you may enjoy viewing the 90-minute performance of a 1965 benefit entitled The Rat Pack Captured. This benefit – billed originally as a “Frank Sinatra Spectacular” benefiting “Father Dismas Clark’s Halfway House for Excons” – took place in St. Louis and was broadcast via closed circuit television in theaters all over the country.  (Father Charles Dismas Clark was known around the country as “The Hoodlum Priest,” and his ministry included the successful rehabilitation of felons).

A youthful Johnny Carson hosts (in place of an ailing Joey Bishop who, Carson jokes, “slipped a disc backing out of Frank’s presence”), Dean Martin is at his

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February 20th, 2018

A Moment in Time — Capitol Records’ Studio A, 1956

In 1956, shortly after recording Songs for Swingin’ Lovers — which included the ultimate Frank Sinatra tune, Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” — Sinatra’s career was white-hot. His record contract with Capitol was up for renegotiation, which posed a financial challenge for Capitol, who competed with other labels, particularly RCA, for Sinatra’s services. “When we took him on two and half years ago, Frank couldn’t get a record,” Capitol executive Alan Livingston told Downbeat. “Now, every company in the business is after him.”

After signing Sinatra to a seven-year contract that carried an annual guarantee of $200,000, Sinatra biographer James Kaplan writes that he had a “virtual carte blanche to record whatever he pleased. The suits were happy enough with their star to grant him an indulgence or two, and the first was

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January 21st, 2016

“My Funny Valentine”

So many great songs to choose from for marking Valentine’s Day…The standard that most immediately comes to mind is an obvious choice, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s “My Funny Valentine.” Written for their 1937 Broadway musical Babes in Arms, the piece was overshadowed on Broadway (and in the film version starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland) by “Where or When,” “I Wish I Were in Love Again,” and “The Lady is a Tramp,” and was not made relevant until Frank Sinatra’s recording of it in 1953. It was eventually recorded by more than 600 artists on countless albums, and became synonymous with Chet Baker, who recorded it over 100 times. Will Friedwald, author of Stardust Melodies: The Biography of Twelve of America’s Most Popular Songs — an entertaining and essential work of popular music history — wrote that “the tune could be said to follow Baker from the grave, since it’s usually included in memorial tributes to him.”

Friedwald writes, “What makes the whole [song] so remarkable is the happy/sad nature of the lyric, brilliantly mirroring the major/minor nature of the music. It’s a love song, but far from those ‘I love you and everything’s rosy’ tunes so popular in the twenties (vis-a-vis Iriving Berlin’s ‘Blue Skies’). It’s vaguely optimistic, but it couldn’t

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February 14th, 2014

Great Encounters #21: The influence of Tommy Dorsey on Frank Sinatra

Excerpted from Tommy Dorsey: Livin’ in a Great Big Way, by Peter Levinson.

With young men being drafted in profusion and some even volunteering for military service, big bands found new venues to work: Army and Air Force bases and Naval stations. With the pre-war and war period having nothing but a favorable effect on the band business, by 1940, dance bands were still big business. Altogether, big bands of every stripe earned one hundred ten million dollars that year.

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September 29th, 2005

Peter Levinson, author of September in the Rain: The Life of Nelson Riddle

Nelson Riddle will forever be linked with the music and recordings of such unforgettable vocalists as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Rosemary Clooney, Linda Ronstadt, and dozens of others. Riddle not only helped to establish Nat “King” Cole’s career in the 1950s, but was also a major participant in reviving Sinatra’s career. He served as arranger of many classic Sinatra albums, including Only the Lonely and In the Wee Small Hours.

September in the Rain is the first biography of the most highly-respected arranger in the history of American popular music.

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April 19th, 2002

In This Issue

This issue features a roundtable discussion about how the world of religion may have impacted the creative lives of Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison. Also, previous winners of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest reflect on their winning story; three new podcasts from Bob Hecht; new collection of poetry; recommendations of recently released jazz recordings, and lots more.

Short Fiction

"The Wailing Wall" -- a short story by Justin Short

Interviews

Three prominent religious scholars -- Wallace Best, Tracy Fessenden and M. Cooper Harriss -- join us in a conversation about how the world of religion during the life and times of Langston Hughes (pictured), Billie Holiday and Ralph Ellison helps us better comprehend the meaning of their work.

Poetry

Nine poets contribute ten poems celebrating jazz in poems as unique as the music itself

Short Fiction

In celebration of our upcoming 50th Short Fiction Contest, previous contest winners (dating to 2002) reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

The Joys of Jazz

In this edition, award winning radio producer Bob Hecht tells three stories; 1) on Charlie Christian, the first superstar of jazz guitar; 2) the poet Langston Hughes’ love of jazz music, and 3) a profile of the song “Strange Fruit”

On the Turntable

25 recently released jazz tunes that are worth listening to…including Bobo Stenson; Medeski, Martin and Wood; Muriel Grossman and Rudy Royston

Features

Chick Corea, Rickie Lee Jones, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Randy Brecker and Tom Piazza are among those responding to our question, "What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940's?"

Poetry

"Billie Holiday" -- a poem (with collage) by Steve Dalachinsky

Coming Soon

Thomas Brothers, Duke University professor of music and author of two essential biographies of Louis Armstrong, is interviewed about his new book, HELP! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration; also, Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell, author of An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden, in a conversation about the brilliant 20th Century artist

In the previous issue

This issue features an interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins; a collection of poetry devoted to the World War II era; and a new edition of “Reminiscing in Tempo,” in which the question “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940’s” is posed to Rickie Lee Jones, Chick Corea, Tom Piazza and others.

Contributing writers

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