THE WINDY CITY REALLY SHOULD BE CALLED “MUSIC CITY” because I’ve found that there’s arguably a more vibrant music scene in Chicago (especially jazz) than in many other cities you’d expect to be at the top of the list – including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Nashville, Atlanta – and, yes, even New Orleans!
CASE IN POINT: ONE OF AMERICA’S GREAT SAX MEN resides and plays weekly at Chicago’s legendary Andy’s Jazz Club – and that’s Mike Smith. Together with the Jordan Baskin Trio, they provide Chicago jazz lovers and visitors with a hearty helping of truly tasty tunes.
A RECENT VISIT had Mike inviting me onstage to croon and swing a few with his stellar group. Well, he didn’t have to ask twice.
CLICK ON THE PHOTO for a very short snippet of our improvised live performance that night. Enjoy! And, if you find yourself in the Chicago area, be sure to drop in to Andy’s Jazz Club. If it happens to be on a Wednesday, you’re in for a special treat when Mike, Jordan and the gang hit the stage.
Well, not really – but, in the wonderful world of broadcasting, anything’s possible… especially when the iconic “Uncle Floyd” Vivino is at the microphone!
Floyd is a New Jersey cult figure and a world-wide show business icon from his long-running kid’s TV show (for adults), “The Uncle Floyd Show” to his being sung about in the legendary 2002 David Bowie song, “Slip Away.”
CLICK ON THE PHOTO to hear Floyd, on his popular radio show, presenting a tune from my album, “If Love Were All”(Kabockie Records KCD-1031 / KLP2-1031) and following it with a classic but seldom-heard tune from Thomas “Fats” Waller, “Florida Flo.”
So — technically, I guess I can say that I was “Fats” Waller’s opening act – at least on Floyd Vivino’s radio show, I was!
I’ve never claimed to be a Sinatra impressionist or “tribute artist” (although he was certainly a tremendous influence on me – and every other singer of The Great American Songbook).
But singing a classic Cole Porter tune like “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” with a big band swinging the Sinatra trademark Nelson Riddle arrangement, I just couldn’t resist paying homage and tribute to “Ol’ Blue Eyes” and “The Chairman of the Board.”
So I hope you enjoy this brief glimpse of my humble but joyous voyage into Sinatra Land with the Shout Section Big Band.
As a jazz vocalist, that’s what a really swingin’ big band is to me. It’s like being backed up by a mighty jet engine – lifting us all off the ground together – and letting me sing like I’m dancing in the sky. There’s simply nothing like it.
IF YOU’RE IN THE CHICAGOLAND AREA (or can get there!)… don’t miss this! We’re gonna have a ball!
Coming up on September 13th, I’ll be singing with Ivan Akansiima, my old friend and “Uganda’s Gift to American Jazz” at the 3rd Annual South Haven Jazz Festival. We’ve got a great quartet lined up with Tom Lockwood on Bass and Josiah Denooyer on Drums. https://foundryhall.org/south-haven-jazz-festival/
Life goes by too quickly. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since I recorded my last CD, “Plain Old Me,” with my “Hoi Polloi” band back in Los Angeles in 1993. But simple math can be unforgiving.
In the intervening quarter century, my life has been full with both the poignant and the joyous – as all lives are.
I’ve been working on getting my vocal “chops” back up for the last few years with the idea of getting back into the studio and giving voice to the last 25 years of life and love – as I’ve lived it and felt it.
The sadness of watching the devastation from Hurricane Harvey on the news was softened somewhat by seeing Good Samaritans come forward to help rescue friends, neighbors and absolute strangers – along with their beloved pets. That’s Texas for you. Nowhere is that inspirational spirit more evident than in Beaumont and Port Arthur. I know it first-hand.
It was just over 30 years ago that I spent some time there on location for a film with longtime friend Paul Sorvino, Abe Vigoda, Lorne Greene, Ina Balin, June Wilkinson, John Moskoff and many others.
I still have such fond memories of the warm hospitality and gracious welcome we received from the good folks of Beaumont while we lived, worked and played there for several weeks.
Frantic and eccentric … Rockin’ and Rollin’ twenty years before Elvis, Harry was a true master of boogie woogie piano — and every other musical style, too!
Julliard trained, he blazed his own musical trail and was popular during the mid-1940’s during the heyday of the “Zoot suit with the drape shape and the reet pleat.” Today, Harry is often remembered for the dubious distinction of being arrested with jazz pal and drug buddy Billie Holiday.