Rich Kienzle

Rich Kienzle

 

In this week's "Believe Your Ears" music podcast, I review Dr. John's just-released album Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit Of Satch. The idea for this Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong tribute album, according to the Doctor himself, came to him in a dream when Satch himself materialized, telling him to record a bunch of his songs but to do them Dr. John's way.

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A couple years ago, I blogged here about Taylor Swift, contending while she could not be considered a country performer in the conventional sense, she had succeeded in doing something Nashville had tried to do for decades and failed: bring a younger audience to country with a totally different sound.  I said at the time that I doubted Music Row would jump on the bandwagon. 

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This past Monday, Heinz Endowments President Grant Oliphant offered a strongly worded op-ed regarding the future of the August Wilson Center for African-American Culture. With lofty, pie-in-the sky rhetoric, he articulated the views of the three foundations, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and local politicians supporting them.  The need to celebrate the region's African-American culture is certainly a given.  But let's set that aside for just a moment.

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Anyone who knows even a little about George Clooney is probably aware of his dad, Nick and his aunt Rosmary (1928-2002). She emerged as of the biggest pop music stars of the early 50's in the days just before rock and roll exploded.  Her early solo hits, "Come On-A My House," * (1951), "Hey There" (1954), "Tenderly"  (1952),  the country ballad "Half As Much" (1952) and "Mambo Italiano" (1954) were a mix of quality material and gimmicky numbers selected for her by Columbia Records pop producer Mitch Miller (later responsible for the unlistenable "Sing Along With Mitch" albums and TV show). 

Clooney's admirers included everyone from her buddy Bing Crosby, who became her professional mentor (they co-starred in the 1954 film White Christmas), to Linda Ronstadt.  She was the former wife of actor-director Jose Ferrer and the mother of Miguel Ferrer, known for many TV roles including his current role of Assistant Director Owen Granger on NCIS Los Angeles. 

Her journey, despite a mansion in Beverly Hills, wasn't always easy. She had drug problems and a total emotional breakdown in the 60's that took her years to overcome.  When she did, however, she  rededicated herself to jazz and made a powerful comeback on records and stage that continued until just before her death.

From 1955-1961, Clooney did another set of recordings for CBS, not with orchestras, but with a small Hollywood studio band, recorded for radio broadcast only.  A handful of songs ended up on an LP but most haven't been heard since they were broadcast.  Mosaic Records, known for detailed and exhaustive jazz collections, recently released all 104 songs in five CD's as The Rosemary Clooney CBS Radio Recordings 1955-61.  The set comes complete with a booklet including rare photos, complete recording session info (dates, musicians, songs, etc.) and notes by James Gavin.  The music sticks mostly to pop standards, but the performances have the kind of intimacy that wasn't always there when she worked with full pop orchestration. 

More information and audio clips on the Mosaic collection can be found here.

 

This 1960 TV appearance gives an idea of the Bing-Rosie rapport:

 

* written by novelist William Saroyan and his cousin, Ross Bagdasarian, better known as "David Seville," creator of the Chipmunks.

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On today's "Believe Your Ears" music podcast, I look at Texas country outlaw Billy Joe Shaver's album Long In The Tooth, released Tuesday on Lightning Rod Records. 

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The Mick Jagger-produced James Brown biopic Get On Up starring Chadwick Bozeman hits theaters today. I haven't seen it, but the PG's Barb Vancheri offers one of her usual  incisive reviews today. What follows are a few supplemental points.

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Country Drinking Songs: Before Bro-Country

Wednesday, 30 July 2014 06:35

 On this week's Believe Your Ears music podcast, in light of parallel controversies over drunkenness at country concerts (here and elsewhere) and the current glut of sound-alike songs about beer, spring breaks and partying, we look at select country songs of the past, some not all that lighthearted about boozing.

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If one solo singer helped the Cajun style establish a beachhead in country that's grown and deepened, it was Jimmy "C." Newman (the "C" stood for Cajun). Newman, a Grand Ole Opry veteran, died June 21 in Nashville at age 86. Cajun music was considered by many as something apart from country, though that wasn't quite true. Louisiana sounds had been insinuating their way into the music and broke through in 1946 when fiddler Harry Choates had a national hit with the Bayou favorite "Jole Blon." Hank Williams followed in 1952 with "Jambalaya."

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Sean Jones-Paul Thompson

Lake Fong/Post-Gazette

Trumpet virtuoso and educator Sean Jones, another luminary in Pittsburgh's century-long tradition of internationally famous jazz players, is the incoming Chair of Brass at the Berklee College of Music. He announced his appointment on May 23rd at the International Trumpet Guild Conference in Philadelphia.

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James Garner, who died yesterday in Hollywood at 86, was a native of Norman, Oklahoma, a hotbed of honky tonk and western swing of the Bob Wills variety. And he loved it all, especially the singers—from nearby Texas—who went against the grain, namely Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. A good friend to both during their lifetimes, Garner made no secret of the friendships or his love for the music.

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