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…]


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.


Christmas at Our House - Dale CornA couple of weeks back…

…while lamenting the dearth of good holiday releases this year, I mentioned Dale Corn’s Christmas at Our House (EP) as one of the exceptions to this season’s underwhelming holiday music rollout.

At just three tracks, we only receive a taste of holiday interpretations under the tree from young Mr. Corn, but it’s well worth snaring if your holiday palate leans toward swing’n, big band fare.

No stranger to the dance halls and jazz club club circuit along the mid Atlantic Seaboard, Dale conducts a very fine 17 piece big band that he also fronts with his dulcet, clarinet-resonant vocals … a voice different from the bromidic crooner style and one I find very agreeable. [Read more…]


photo: John Griffeth

I was lucky enough…

…to catch up with Deana Martin for a phone chat the Sunday before Thanksgiving. This was a VS bucket list event for me, and Deana turned out to be every bit as lovely and charming in person as she appears on stage!

Deana was packing for a trip to LA to visit family and to kick off her holiday tour at the Catalina Jazz Club the day after Thanksgiving; she was nice enough to carve an hour out of her very busy schedule for an interview that was both a great deal of fun and informative.

Did I mention Deana is a busy lady? Following the Catalina gig, Deana whirlwinded her way through tour stops in Florida and Ohio, and this week makes her way to Las Vegas for a guest appearance in The Dennis Bono Show on Thursday (12/13) at South Point Casino followed by two nights headlining at The Smith Center (14th & 15th).

But before she hit the road…

… we talked about: her dad Dean (of course), the holidays, Christmas music and recording “White Christmas” with Andy Williams (sadly what turned out to be Andy’s final recording), Deana’s interesting career path, food, Uncles Frank & Sammy, growing up in a Rat Pack/Hollywood styled  “Camelot”, her exhausting performance schedule … we covered a lot of ground!

With Christmas fast upon us, and the special poignancy of the Christmas holiday in Deana’s life — especially this year — I thought I’d offer up the holiday portion of my conversation with Ms. Martin for your seasonal reading pleasure. So grab something mulled or ‘noggy and join me for my chat with Deana Martin! [Read more…]


© Tard The Grumpy Cat

I set out this week…

…to review a “blast from the past” holiday album from one of my favorite artists (NOT Tony Bennett despite the feature photo … just foreshadowing a bit).

I snagged the early 2000’s released holiday LP from iTunes and anxiously started listening … to make a long story short, it’s not very good; in fact it’s really pretty bad with significant deficits on the vocals, arrangements and some less than stellar production.

Though this artist is a recent find for me, he/she has been around many years and has released some great LPs; this particular album however is not one of them.

If he/she was proffering this LP this year as a new holiday release, it would be fair game; but the album in question was released ~ten years ago and I respect the artist  and their overall body of work too much to dredge up and flail this one anomalous poor recording.

It seems to be the season…

…for interviews, anecdotes, birthdays, holiday releases … I also have questions and notions frittering around in my head on the music industry, upcoming VS interviews and reviews, a Sinatra related DiningwithTheRatPack jewel … and a major new addition I’m considering, and I could use some feedback.

So … with a flaming hole in my content plan for this week, beaucoup newsworthy items in my inbox and a brain racing from too much eggnog, I thought I’d fire off a stream of consciousness piece and get all this stuff out of my head! [Read more…]


© James W. Thompson

Life and Art…

…it’s all the same thing to Luca Ellis.

In Part 1 of  my Conversation with Luca Ellis we focused on where Luca is today and what is coming on the horizon for him in the near future.

We go back to the beginning in Part 2 and discuss how and where Luca got his start in the music business, and how that start influenced his view toward performing for an audience, and and to some degree, his “organic” life philosophy.

During his performances, Luca shows great deference to the artists that precede him, and to the composers and songwriters of the Great American Songbook.

In Part 2 we also discuss in some detail how important it is for Luca to pay tribute to the great talents that paved the way for him to sing the great music that has become his passion.

It’s a fun view inside Luca Ellis and his take on the performing life he’s chosen. [Read more…]


Back in August…

…I went to LA to see Luca Ellis perform.

Dinner that night at Il Pastaio was crazy good; Bar Nineteen 12 at the Beverley Hills Hotel was classy, cool and Luca’s performance was awesome (full VS review here).

All in all it was a great trip … the only thing that didn’t go right was Luca and my plan to sit down for a face-to-face interview.

We rectified that missed opportunity with a phone interview a couple of weeks later. While not as fun as chatting in person, we got on great and actually spent about 90 minutes on the phone covering a wide range of topics.

It was all on the table…

Everything from Luca’s upcoming gig in the Christmas My Way show at the El Portal Theatre next month, to his other stage gigs, his start in the business, deep appreciation for the music and the writers of the Great American Song Book … even how Luca’s life philosophy of taking things as they come impacts his performance planning and execution.

Interesting stuff…

…and lots of it. With that in mind I’m breaking the interview into two (possibly three) topical segments to accommodate a more reasonable web consumption experience.

Part 1 is focused on Luca’s brief but very influential musical stage career that included stints in Louis and Keely: Live at the Sahara, Sandy Hackett’s The Rat Pack Show in Vegas, and ultimately a show Luca conceived, wrote and headlined in — Hoboken to Hollywood … all leading to Christmas My Way which is running the last two weeks of December at the El Portal in North Hollywood.

So without further ado … [Read more…]


With the best of intentions…

…I set out to this week to write a post on the top five American Songbook duet teams.

Over the last twenty or so years of listening, I’ve formed some opinions and settled on a few favorite duet practitioners … I figured, how hard could it be to apply a bit of scientific research to winnow the field down a bit, do a few hours of critical listening and net out a tidy top five list? The answer … real hard; like crazy, stupid hard.

A fools errand…

I waded into the research phase of the effort and realized almost immediately two important things…

First, there are simply too many quality duet teams to realistically net out a top five (or ten) list over the course of a few days research. There are so many great artist pairings, songs, styles, albums … material.

Like the Ella Sings… Songbook albums that I decided to review in serial fashion to accommodate the size and scope of that material, I think any attempt at a comprehensive discussion of duet teams likewise needs to roll out as a series (one that I am indeed tooling into my content plan for the holidays and into the Spring of 2013).

On the other hand…

As my research effort was leading me inexorably to the “this needs to be more than one post” conclusion, I was also struck by another duo truism: though it may be nigh on impossible to cull a top 5 list in a timely fashion, I think it IS possible to call the ball on a clear #1 duet team.

In my opinion, the top duo singing act of all time is Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong … and I don’t think it’s really even close. [Read more…]


© Tina Tyrell

The pantheon of American Song Book writers…

In my recent Complete Ella Fitzgerald Song Books article, I called out Burt Bacharach and Hal David (others) as song writer/composers that belonged in the same conversation with the greats that Ella and Norman Granz targeted with the Verve Records “Ella Sings…” Song Book series.

I want to follow up on that because I think it’s both important and cool to view the corpus of the Great American Song Book as a living, growing thing.

Right on the heels of the generation of foundational standards writers like Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, the Gershwin bros, Duke Ellington, Rodgers and Hart, Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer — the Ella Song Books — came another generation of equally talented composers and lyricists that took their turn with baton and pen.

I can think of few (Henry Mancini maybe?) that experienced greater success in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s than Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

As Steve Tyrell says in the liner notes of his fabulous tribute album — Back to Bacharach — Burt and Hal effectively…

“…created the modern chapter of the Great American Song Book … the new standards of the twentieth century were born.”

[Read more…]