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A Song For The PG's New Production Plant

Monday, 22 September 2014 05:45 PM Written by

There aren't a lot of songs out there about printing presses, and that's been a major topic in the Post-Gazette, who I congratulate for their newly-opened high-tech production plant, It reinforces their longterm commitment to local journalism both in  print and for the web in features like this, plus their video and audio presentations.   Which brings me back to music.

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Polly Bergen: Singer

Monday, 22 September 2014 06:20 AM Written by

Actress-singer-entrepreneur Polly Bergen, who died yesterday at age 84, got her start in movies during the late 1940's. Her acting career in films like the original Cape Fear is for others to discuss.  but she was also a powerful vocalist who could handle torch songs quite well. Indeed, the Knoxville, Tennessee native got her professional start as a singer around Los Angeles after World War II.

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At 80, Jim Ed Brown has made country music well over 60 years, first with sisters Maxine and Bonnie in the vocal trio the Browns, known for their early hit singles like "Looking Back To See" but known best for their timeless 1959 pop-country hit "The Three Bells." After the trio dissolved, Brown became a successful solo artist through the 60's and 70's. Alan Jackson covered his 1967 honky-tonk hit "Pop A Top." His sole # 1 single was "I Don't Want To Have To Marry You," a 1976 duet with Helen Cornelius.

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This week's "Believe Your Ears" music podcast remembers New Orleans studio owner and recording engineer Cosimo Matassa and Bob Crewe, the songwriter-producer who worked on many of the Four Seasons' best-known hits. Both died on September 11. 

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A Bandleader To The End-Gerald Wilson: 1928-2014

Wednesday, 17 September 2014 06:32 AM Written by

Only a handful of bandleader-arrangers who successfully transitioned from the Big Band Era of the 30's and 40's to the late 20th and early 21st Century. Many are now gone: Duke Ellington, Nelson Riddle, Billy Strayhorn, Pete Rugolo, Tadd Dameron, Benny Carter, Billy Strayhorn and Gil Evans come to mind. While Quincy Jones remains, last week, on September 8, just four days after his 96th birthday, another giant who straddled those eras passed on: Gerald Wilson: trumpeter, bandleader, composer and arranger extraordinaire. 

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Half a century ago, Aretha Franklin was a vital new voice in jazz.  Her R&B days were looming ahead. 

These three clips show her about 1964 in appearances she did on on the now-legendary Steve Allen "Westinghouse Show," a late night syndicated show that competed with Johnny Carson for a few seasons (seen locally on KDKA at 11:30).  Allen's madcap, anarchic nature on the show influenced among others, Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Harry Shearer and David Letterman, who adapted some of Allen's stunts to his NBC show.

Aretha had been discovered a few years earlier by John Hammond, the Columbia Records executive and producer responsible for discovering Billie Holiday, Count Basie, jazz guitar innovator Charlie Christian and Bob Dylan (he'd later discover Springsteen and Stevie Ray Vaughan). He saw her as primarily a jazz artist at the time. Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records, would take her in a funkier direction a couple of years later. 

Allen, a so-so jazz pianist, gave jazz mainstream TV exposure it didn't otherwise receive at the time. Accordingly, he had a terrific band on his show, led by Donn Trenner. One of its better known members was guitarist Herb Ellis, seen behind Aretha chonking rhythm on his Gibson ES-175.  "Won't Be Long" demonstrates her powerful blues delivery, and she does well on the others, both pop standards.

"Won't Be Long."

"Lover Come Back To Me."  Her Columbia Dinah Washington tribute album Allen displays before the song confirms this was '64.

"Rock A Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody" Herb Ellis again playing hot in the background.


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PG Music Podcast Review: Chick Corea Trio's 'Trilogy'

Thursday, 11 September 2014 03:30 PM Written by


On this week's "Believe Your Ears" music podcast, we look at the Chick Corea Trio's new 3-CD set titled Trilogy, recorded live at various concerts between 2010 and 2012, with drummer Brian Blade and bassist extraordinaire Christian McBride playing Corea standards, some well known, others by Joe Henderson and Thelonious Monk along with a few standards from the Great American Songbook like "My Foolish Heart" and "How Deep Is The Ocean?"

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Hank Williams Sr. Biopic Controversy: Who Sings Hank Best?

Wednesday, 10 September 2014 07:23 AM Written by

The announcement that British actor Tom Hiddleston would be starring in the Hank Williams Senior biopic I Saw The Light, about to begin shooting in Louisiana, brought considerable surprise as well as controversy. It was announced Hiddleston would be doing some of his own singing in the film, which would also utilize Hank's original recordings.  Naturally, I have some opinions of my own.

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