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Monday, October 22, 2012


STARS OF JAZZ - AUGUST 27, 1956 - SHOW #10

COMMENTARY © James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected; All Rights Reserved

The TV Guide listing for the August 27, 1956  Stars of Jazz program did not mention that Red Norvo’s group included seven members or that the guest vocalist was Ann Weldon.  Red Norvo had recently recorded an album for the Liberty label.  John Tynan’s NITERY NOTES in the September 5, 1956 issue of Down Beat noted that Norvo’s trio had been engaged at the Harbor Inn in Santa Monica:

NITERY NOTES: Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars welcomed back Conte Candoli to the stand .at the Hermosa jazz bastion . . . Anita O'Day is back in town at Jazz City ... The facile Dave Pell octet alternates on-stand at the Hollywood & Western spot . . . Up the street at Vine, "Queen Dee" Dinah Washington, aided by the Buddy DeFranco quintet, sheds some of that unique warmth in Zardi's Jazzland . . . Teddy Buckner's horn is skedded for an airing soon on KABC-TV's Stars of Jazz show dishing out a sample of what he's putting down every night at the 400 club . . . Shelly Manne & Men continue unabashed at the Tiffany . . . At Santa Monica's Harbor inn, the jumping Red Norvo trio prevails. Buddy Clark, bass, and Jim Wyble, guitar, complete Red's triangle.

VIBE-RATIONS - RED NORVO IN HI-FI (Liberty LJH 3012 was the twelfth and next to last release in Liberty’s “Jazz In Hollywood” series that had been launched by Harry Babasin when Liberty bought the defunct Nocturne label and hired Babasin to integrate some of the Nocturne masters into the Liberty catalogue.  The septet members appearing on Stars of Jazz were the same except for Bill Dillard, the guitarist, who had perished in a fire weeks after the Liberty album was recorded and Buddy Clark who replaced Gene Wright on bass.  The septet opens the program with a slow blues while Troup delivers his introduction and sets the stage for Norvo’s first number, SWEET GEORGIA BROWN.  The septet next performs IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU followed by Ann Weldon performing YOU MAKE ME FEEL SO YOUNG and WHATEVER LOLA WANTS. The Norvo septet closes the show with FASCINATING RHYTHM and then they return to the slow blues as Troup winds down the program with closing credits and announcements.  The Norvo septet backs Ann Weldon on her numbers.

The liner notes for the Liberty album supply some of Norvo’s background:

That Red Norvo now wears a beard (which makes him look somewhat like one of Saul Steinberg's cats) has nothing whatever to do with his having been born Kenneth Norville about forty-seven years ago in Beardstown, Illinois, but it is symbolic of his standing as one of the evergreen geniuses of jazz.

Red was in Chicago in the late twenties when Eddie Condon and that bunch were, and although it was difficult for him to wheel his instrument, then the xylophone (Red says "zillaphone"), to the sessions at which they drank bad gin and played much music that was probably almost as bad but sounded great partly because it was fresh and exciting (and partly because of the gin), he nevertheless won the respect of all, even that of the staid Goodman, who later hired him when he was between combinations of his own; and at the risk of challenging the Times' Gilbert Millstein's title of World's Longest-Opening-Paragraph Writer, I must add that Red continued to grow and grow until the kids who play progressive began to pay strict awestruck attention to his work on the vibes (which replaced the "zillaphone"), a continuing homage which he has acknowledged by uttering the beard.

Few other musicians can make that claim, let alone that transition. Dave Tough tried; in Leonard Feather's sensitive view, he became so confused that his dilemma was one of the causes of his death. 

Red Norvo, on the other hand, the man whose name sounds like a handy household rat poison ("I've got to put some Red Norvo in those holes in the barn," one can imagine a farmer saying), has made the transition, as these sides adequately prove. I don't want to talk about the music except to say that it is strikingly representative of the personality of its creator: I am no musician, and it speaks for itself, swinging with lightness of touch beautifully fitting for the profound and humorous imagination that conceives it. I have spent the happiest times I've ever had with jazz listening to Red Norvo play, and I have had some of the happiest times I've ever had with another human being listening to Red Norvo talk. I want to talk about Red the human being.

Two stories catch him. In the summer of 1956, when I was in Hollywood on some magazine jobs, I went to hear him every night I could make it at Ken Brown's place in Santa Monica. I would sit there marveling as he played "Rhee! Oh Rhee!" (my favorite) and the rest, and between sets we would sit around and talk about the days seven or eight years ago when he was playing at the Embers in New York and after hours he and I and Eddi

Condon would go to a Chinese restaurant where the proprietor would bring us a teapot full of what Condon always called "slant-eyed whiskey." After the playing and reminiscing were over-I'm talking about the Hollywood visit again—Red and I would go out somewhere and eat. One night I noticed that he was strangely quiet. I didn't want to ask what was wrong. He is sometimes shy, I thought this was one of his shy nights, and he couldn't bring himself to say much (in that Embers period, he often thought

of more to say than some of us felt was necessary; but he had not yet gone on the wagon, then). We ate, said good night, and he went over to his house in Santa Monica and I went back to my hotel. The next evening he apologized. He said, "I'm sorry for being so quiet last night. We had to take our little boy to the hospital yesterday. It was sort of serious. I started to tell you about it but then I knew you'd worry and I didn't want to spoil your evening."

That is one side of him. Adjectives may now be filled in at random, and all the noble ones will do.

The other side falls into focus, like a stereopticon slide, in a story he told me about a youngster of seventeen or eighteen who—well, let me attempt to approximate Red's speech:

"This kid's been after me to teach him. He's like apple-cheeked, he's so young. He went to the Newport Jazz Festival, and when he got back I asked him whom he'd heard there that he liked. He said, well, nobody much, but yes, there was this old guy there, this old bopster. He couldn't think of his name. I thought, old bopster? Who could that be? Come on, think of his name, I told the kid. Gee. I can't, he said. Oh, he was fine this old bopster. Then he told me who it was. Miles Davis!" Red nearly fell off his chair laughing. So did I.

The best way to kick a story apart is to explain it, but for the exclusive benefit of Evan Hunter and Stanford Whatever-his-name is, author of Solo, it perhaps should be explained here that no bopster is an old one (except perhaps Red), and that Miles Davis is ... well, let it go, let it go.

That's Red. Here, on these selections, is the man's music. He has augmented his trio with Jack Montrose, who plays tenor, second flute and clarinet; Bob Drasnin, first flute: Bill Kosinski, English horn; and Bill Douglass, drums. Eugene Wright plays bass, and Bill Dillard, who was burned to death a few weeks after these sides were recorded, is the guitarist and composer, with Red, of "Rhee! Oh Rhee!" and "Porsche." The sides were made May 28, 1956. Like everything else about Norvo, they are remarkable, and it is my great pleasure to commend them to everyone who loves jazz.

RICHARD GEHMAN - Liner notes from Liberty LJH 6012.
(Novelist and magazine article writer, Richard Gehman is co-editor, with Eddie Condon, of the book EDDIE CONDON'S TREASURY OF JAZZ.)

The vocalist on the August 29, 1956 program, Ann Weldon, made a single appearance on Stars of Jazz. She continued her acreer as a vocalist as noted in her biography at her website:

Ann Weldon was born on a farm in Holdenville, Oklahoma where she watched her father milk their own cows to make butter; her mother took feathers from their ducks and chickens to make mattresses for their beds, she made quilts from their old clothes and fruit from their trees to can for the winter months; her father made syrup from the sugar cane he grew, and gathered honey from their own bee hives. These childhood memories have left fond impressions on Ann Weldon. However, it was the move to Bakersfield, CA at the age of nine that would open up her mind to another kind of world: an invitation from her new school to participate in the performing arts introduced her to the world of singing. Upon her first few performances around the age of 15, the audience's responses convinced her that singing was an undeniable career choice. Her first professional job started in the Mo Mo Club in Sacramento, and from there she went to the Moulin Rouge in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ann remembers that it was her mother who subtly pushed her career while her father enjoyed it. Though her sister Maxine and brother Charles proved to be musical as well and are now both active in show business, it was truly Ann that blazed the trail. 

Ann grew up admiring Dinah Washington, Rosemary Clooney and Sarah Vaughn. She knew quite early on what she wanted to do and her talent was quickly recognized by critics. To quote the late John Wasserman: "Ann Weldon has an exquisite, smokey alto voice, as lush as sable, excellent taste, and is one of the finest interpreters of lyrics I've ever heard." Time Magazine has written, " The tall cinnamon-skinned girl has a voice like velvet- soft, rich and shimmering; her tunes chosen with care and treated with respect." She has dazzled audiences in Australia, Hawaii, Japan, Manila, Germany, Amsterdam, Las Vegas, Reno, Los Angeles, New York, and at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.

It was Ann's intensely personal and dramatic way with performing a song that marked her as an actress long before she ever stepped onto a legitimate stage. In fact, this quality brought her to the attention of Bill Ball, artistic director of The American Theatre, where she has the distinction of being their first black leading lady. There, she starred as Dorine in "Tartuffe," Charmian in " Anthony and Cleopatra," Nerissa in "The Merchant of Venice," and Serafina in "The Rose Tattoo." Under the direction of Gower Champian, Ann played Serrita in Feydau's "Flea in Her Ear" at the Anta Theatre on Broadway and Bloody Mary in "South Pacific" at the Brundage Theatre in Arizona. Afterward, she returned to A.C.T. and L.A.T.C. to star as "Ma" in August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize winning play "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." More recently, Ann was nominated for NAACP's Best Actress Award for her starring role in Cheryl West's "Jar The Floor" and Regina Taylor's "Crowns.”

Her television credits are many, including: "9 to 5," produced by Jane Fonda, "Roots," "Days of our Lives," "Woman Called Moses," starring Cicely Tyson; "Different Worlds," the "Robert Guillaume Show," "Hunter," "Franks Place," "Roc," "ER," "Martin," "High Incident," "In The House" and "Columbo." Her most rewarding experience came when she played Diana Ross's mother in "Out of Darkness", and the mother-in-law to Alfre Woodard in "What's Cooking." Other movie credits include: "Panthers" Mario Van Peebles and Clint Eastwood's "Bird." She has also done commercial voice overs for: Nissan, Pacific Bell, Borghese, Boeing and McDonalds.

An avid reader and researcher, Ann finds fulfillment in speaking at schools on topics of the contributions made by women and African Americans to science. When not working, she enjoys walking in the woods, educating herself, and watching Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. She feels that A.C.T. gave her a new direction, a new career, a new life. Her success as a singer and actress has proven to her that there are opportunities in the arts for anyone with ambition and talent, regardless of their background or training.

Jack Montrose, Bill Kosinski, Bob Drasnin, Red Norvo

Show #10
AUGUST 27, 1956
The Red Norvo Septet: Jack Montrose, Robert Drasnin, reeds; Bill Kosinski, French horn; Red Norvo, vibraphone; Jimmy Wyble, guitar; Buddy Clark bass; Bill Douglass, drums. Ann Weldon, vocal.

Production credits:
Host: Bobby Troup
Executive Producer: Pete Robinson
Producer: Jimmie Baker
Director: Don Whitman
Technical Director: Al Haywood
Lighting Director: Vincent Cilurzo
Audio Engineer: Chuck Lewis
Video Engineer: Tom Sumner
Cameramen: Sal Folino, Jack Denton

The production script of show #10 in the Jimmie Baker archive was a copy of a copy and the did not photocopy very well.

The ABC network granted permission to the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service to distribute the Stars of Jazz shows to armed forces overseas via their transcription service. The AFRTS guidelines stipulated that all commercial content had to be removed from the program.  Thus the commercial spots for Budweiser Beer and Schweppes Quinine Water were removed by the transcription service.  The August 27, 1956 program was Show #5 in the AFRTS series, transcription master #AF-6867 dated August 16, 1957.

The photos that greatly enhance this presentation have been provided courtesy of the Ray Avery Estate.  The author would like to extend a most heartfelt thanks to Cynthia Sesso, Licensing Administrator of the Ray Avery Photo Archives.  Please note that these photos remain the property of the Ray Avery Estate and are used here with permission.  Any inquiries regarding their use, commercial or otherwise, should be directed to:  Cynthia Sesso at CTSIMAGES.

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