Wednesday, February 08, 2006


The rate of musical literacy is just so much higher in Japan than almost anywhere else in the world (Holland is good, too). That's because in that nation there remains music education at every public school grade level. I know a ten-year-old boy (not a prodigy) in Japan who can play an entire John Williams film score on his little electric keyboard. It is my sense that almost any Japanese can navigate their way around at least one musical instrument to one degree of profiency or another. My favorite quote of recent years is from Max Roach. When a reporter asked him what he thought of rap, he replied: "People who voted for defunding of music education in public schools are getting what they paid for." I have a friend, pianist John ("Drum Machines Have No Soul") Wood who holds an interesting theory that the dumbing down of music truly began with the invention of multi-track recording---but that's ANOTHER story.......I lived in New York for a long time and the very first job I had when I landed there in the early Sixties was as an apprentice recording engineer. Something I knew nothing about then, and precious little more about now. I was employed, during its dying days, by a once-great outfit, Empire Recording. That is where I cut the acetate for singer Bill Black that 43 years later has just now been released in Japan (bringing new meaning to the phrase "In the can."). Even then---back in the early 1960s---we did those, as my friend Lincoln calls them, ad agency Creative Freakout recordings. I still have a few of them. One is a gay cowboy (plus ca change) Marlboro cig commercial. Another is for Blooper Soap ("Blooper Soap is reallllll good.") When I was going through my collection the day I uncovered the Bill Black acetate a couple of years ago, I also came across a session that I engineered for jazz pianist Steve Kuhn. Probably the only real session I ever engineered in my life, so you gotta admit that though my ouevre is not just slim but damn near non-existent, it's cherce. Mostly I just transferred comml's (Robert Hall Clothes, etc.) onto acetate for ad agencies, etc, and one time at Empire I did one of the voices for a version of the infamous Farting Contest for a novelty record company. Like I say. . ."cherce".......Speaking of ad agencies, there used to be a famous one known as Batton, Barton, Durston and Osborne (sic?). Jack Benny once said that the name sounded like a garbage can falling down the stairs.......I received Pinky Winters and Lou Levy's The Shadow of Your Smile a few days ago. I was the "Release Producer." As alluded to in a previous blog entry, until you hear applause after the first track, there is absolutely no indication that it is a live album. It sounds just like a studio album. Not a cough in a carload. The second half of the concert will be forthcoming on CD later soon. Here's what Pinky, Lou and Bill Takas play on part two: The Piccolino (Instrumental), If I Were a Bell, I Am in Love, You Say You Care/Dance Only With Me, The Dolphin (instrumental), Never Let Me Go, The Trolley Song, Lady Be Good, Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, I'm Old-Fashioned, No More Blues. I hope pt. 1 is a Big Hit!, the faster to release pt. 2.......a friend of mine went to Frank Sinatra, Senior longtime pianist Bill Miller's birthday party yesterday He is 91 and is still touring with FS, Junior. I wonder how many more Sinatras he'll run through before retiring.......singer Jackie Paris was just about IT for me. Jackie was kind of big in Japan and even won a major Swing Journal award in that country around 1990. I once saw a double bill of Chris Connor and Jackie Paris at L.A.'s Jazz Bakery!!!!! There is a new big screen docu about him that premiered last month at Sundance.......Got an update on Vic Damone today: He is fine, plays golf every day, just doesn't seem to have the drive to work anymore. Whenever anyone parrot's that old cliche to me, "Vic Damone is a good singer, but he can't swing, I take off myglasses and spoil for a fight (Shirley I jest)........There has just been a street in "Vegas' renamed "Mel Torme Way.......Pinky Winters sang Jobim's Useless Landscape to me on the phone today (don't ask why) w/o sheet music in front of her AND perfectly. Unbelieveable. Hard song to sing, especially w/o the music. She can read music by the way and plays decent piano. I was at a party with her recently where she played for herself for the first time in public... ever! Forks poised in mid-air throughout the entirety of the first song. She has a gig coming up the 14th of March and now says that she will always henceforth pull a Sarah/Carmen and accompany herself on one number.