Steve-Tyrell-ThatLovinFeelin-mediumI have to admit to a bit of trepidation…

At first I was jazzed to learn that Steve’s visit to Austin was timed with the release of That Lovin’ Feeling —  his new LP. There’s nothing like catching an artist performing new material he’s really jazzed about.

But when I saw the album promo materials emphasizing Tyrell singing “standards of another kind”… I have to admit I was concerned.

“Hound Dog”… Really?

After delivering 10 albums over nearly twice that many years that are spectacular exhibitions of mostly classic Tin Pan Alley standards, Steve moved uptown to 49th and Broadway on his 11th LP release … delivering 15  tracks of next generation ’50s and early ’60s era pop/R&B classics —  the Brill Building sound. [Read more…]


Deana Martin w Music…or at least that’s what it seems when it comes to pushing out fresh LPs.

I’ve been laying low for the last couple of … years (yikes!) but Deana’s Facebook post seeking song recommendations for her upcoming album shook me out of my work-a-day malaise. I just had to re-enter the fray to continue the “Where the hell is the music?” lament that I started back during the holidays of 2012.

The point I made then is even more painful today — very few Vocal Standards albums are getting made and marketed. Other than Deana Martin’s fabulous Destination Moon LP and Steve Tyrell’s absolutely awesome It’s Magic – The Songs of Sammy Cahn offering, there’s been a dearth of standards vocal work published.

This with such promising announced or at least expected CDs supposedly on the way from some of the greats. Robert Davi and Joseph Leo Bwarie were supposedly in the studio working to deliver followup LPs to their excellent debut albums. That was two years ago …what happened?

I was and remain SO ready for the next iteration of the amazing team up of Joe Leo’s vocals and Charlie Calello’s arrangements/conducting; not to mention another traverse of Sinatra’s canon by Mr. Davi. If history is any indicator, we should get the talented Mr. Calello’s handiwork with Deana’s next LP but it kills me to think that some great studio work from JLB and RD is sitting on a shelf somewhere when it could be bouncing off my walls every Saturday night!

To be fair, some interesting LPs have popped out of late …Elaine Elias made a very nice Chet Baker tribute album, Curtis Stigers tossed out the cool and jazzy Hooray for Love, even Gloria Estefan gave it a shot, but where are the goods from Nikki Yanofsky, Peter Cincotti, Bublé, Torme, Davi, Bwarie, Blu, Krall (that ragtime offering just didn’t count), Connick Jr. (every man should avoid the 2013 Every Man LP)?

I think there's a studio in here that might work! ;-)

So Mr. Record Label guy(s) …where the hell is the music?

Like I’ve said before, if you can’t make it work with the old school record marketing/distribution model, then figure something else out. I know the age of an LP per year has gone the way of bell bottom pants (I think Nancy Wilson produced 10 LPs one year back in the ’60s), but there’s a big bad digital world out there that you can either embrace, or let it eat you.

Love it, live it and SHIP SOME DAMN STANDARDS LPS!


Nelson RiddleHad he not died way too young…

…(in 1985 at age 64), Nelson Riddle would be celebrating his 92nd birthday today.

There are many, fabulous arrangers and conductors strewn throughout the pages of the Great American Songbook … Marty Paich, Paul Weston, Billy May, André Previn — far too many to do justice to the trade here. Though they all brought beautiful music to life in their unique styles, there are few that can truly be tagged with the over used and oft misplaced tag of “iconic”.

Mr. Riddle can carry that moniker without reproach. For me, Nelson’s charts (especially his string charts) and style were fundamental to the music that underwrote the “vocal artist era” from the mid ’50’s through the early ’70’s. [Read more…]


Frank SinatraNo one wore a fedora better…

…but more than just being a dapper dresser, Frank Sinatra really believed that clothes very much made the man.

He was even willing to fight over proper dress as Frank’s “encounter” with Harlan Ellison in a Hollywood pool hall was recounted by Gay Talese in his classic Esquire article.

Indeed there are many anecdotes related to Sinatra and his “dress for success” orientation … a new one popped out of the aether earlier this week.

This time it comes from one of the kingpins of mens fashion — Richard Press — who worked the family business (J. Press) “back in the day” and became Frank’s goto clothier … for awhile anyway.

Richard contributes to Ivy Style — a website that chronicles men’s fashions since the 1920’s. I’m not much of a fashion guy but some of Ivy Style pieces focused on the 50’s and 60’s are very cool and capture an interesting slice of mid-century America and the Rat Pack/”Mad Men” era.

Mr. Press’s article on his relationship with Mr. S (Golden Years: My Brief Bromance With Frank Sinatra) is a light hearted, quick, and fun read but it also leaves us with a bit more insight into Frank Sinatra the man.

It’s worth the click through … check it out (here).


Shirley B  095Sorry for being MIA…

…the last couple of weeks. What started out as a well deserved rest between Christmas and New Year’s turned into an extended hiatus with a couple of major infrastructure breakdowns around VS Manor, and an unexpected contractor gig (a good thing, but still unexpected).

I continue to dig out of the morass but wanted to send brief birthday shouts out to a couple of my favorite performers that tripped over another year last week.

First up…

…the absolute best “Bond singer” (sorry Adele) — Shirley Bassey celebrated her 76th on Jan 8.

Shirley’s rendition of “Goldfinger” remains the best Bond song of all time (she also did the theme songs for Moonraker and Diamonds are Forever) but the brassy, classy lady from Wales delivered a solid array of chart numbers and near hits — the most notable for me being “History Repeating”, “As Long as He Needs Me” and “Big Spender”.

“Main Theme – Goldfinger” – Shirley Bassey*


As you know from my review of Frankie Randall Sings and Swings, I adore Frankie R.

One of several outstanding vocal contemporaries of Frank Sinatra Frankie Randall(and a close friend of Mr. S) that seemed to get lost in the shuffle (another Frank … D’Rone this time being another); Frankie Randall may not have made it to the big stage Sinatra commanded, but Mr R was a popular and talented vocal artist in his own right and had a long and successful career in the music business. [Read more…]

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The New Year was off to such a great start…

…until last night.

First, my new exercise regime played the muscle spasms card to let me know that I need to take things slower … and then came the sad news of Patti Page’s passing on New Years day.

Patti and her rendition of “Old Cape Cod” have always been special to me, and it was just a few weeks back that we wished Patti a happy 85th birthday … (sigh).

For a great remembrance piece on Ms. Page, check out Emily Langer’s Washington Post article (here). Nicely done Emily.

Coming on the heels…

…of losing Andy Williams, Hal David, Etta James… geez, 2012 was a tough year for classic era vocal standards artists and writers.

We are certainly much the worse for their passing … but the club scene in heaven just keeps getting better. I’m in no particular hurry to see for myself quite yet, but just imagine the acts that are getting booked up there!?

Thank goodness we can continue to dip into the recordings of these wonderful artists and immerse ourselves in the great music of the era.

It’s not close to summer time…

…but I’ll be listening to “Old Cape Cod” this evening, and thinking of “lobster stew with an ocean view” … with a tear in my eye to be sure.

Godspeed Patti Page.


thin-manIt’s become a tradition…

… around VS Central to ring in the New Year by juxtaposing the consumption of a decadent meal with a midnight viewing of William Powell and Myrna Loy in “The Thin Man”.

Hey, nobody party’s harder than Nick and Nora (even getting shot is just the right occasion for a quick martini!) so we’ve taken to celebrating the New Year while trying to “keep up with the Charles’ “; a drinking game ONLY to be played at home, and one that we NEVER win!

This year Austin was draped in a nasty fog that made going out to play bumper cars with the rookies even more tenuous than normal so the tradition continued.

With …

…providing the soundtrack for the evening we whipped up a great meal featuring prime steaks that were accompanied by sautéed mushrooms, peppery watercress and my rendition of a Jacque Pepin classic — Gratin Dauphinoise.

Normally a simple dish of potatoes cooked in a garlic cream (whole milk) sauce, depending on the occasion I will tweak the Dauphinoise with a bit with cheese or herbs … last night I hit it with light touches of three different cheeses and the result was incredible. [Read more…]

© Louis Armstrong House

© Louis Armstrong House

Louis Armstrong loved Christmas…

Coming from profound poverty, Louis didn’t experience much Christmas spirit as a kid. His amazing talent raised him and his family out of the “battle zone” in New Orleans, and with that new view of the “Wonderful World” LA developed a great love for Christmas.

Louis’ popularity and massive success allowed him to share his love for the spirit of the holiday with the world over his life; he displayed a zest for sharing the Christmas spirit through out his long career.

Robin Young and the fine folks at the Here & Now studio of NPR rolled up a wonderful 18 minute Louis/Christmas biopic — “Louis Armstrong Recordings Evoke Jazz Great At Christmas” — that highlights the Louis Armstrong at Christmastime.

The show is driven by an interview thread with the archivist/curators of the Louis Armstrong House in Queens and includes music snippets, personal recording and some interesting personal anecdotes.

Louis’s view of success…

I won’t steal the thunder form the Here & Now piece, but the most LA insightful portion of the biopic for me was how Louis Armstrong — at the peak of his career — defined success:

Ricky Riccardi (Archivist, Louis Armstrong House) on Louis’ definition of success:

“I’ll tell you one of my favorite stories. In August of 1967 Louis did two weeks in Framingham, Massachusetts, and his good buddy Jack Bradley was there and Jack tells a story that they’re in Louis’ motel room, and this is not a suite. It’s a little rundown motel on the side of the road. And Louis tells Jack, “You know, Jack? I’ve really made it.” And Jack says, “Uh, what do you mean?” And Louis says, “Anytime I’m hungry, I could walk over to the refrigerator, get an egg, and make myself something to eat. I’ve really made it.” And Jack said he had tears in his eyes. And he told him, “You know, you should have filet mignon three times a day,” and Louis just brushed him off. That was the height of his success. By this point, he had “Hello Dolly”, 35 movies, TV every week, but the fact that he can make an egg sandwich anytime he wanted, that was it. He had really made it.”

Take 18 minutes out of your Christmas day to stop over to Here & Now and listen to “Christmas with Louis” …

And Merry Christmas!