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Sunday, January 26, 2014


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

The TV Guide listing for the Stars of Jazz broadcast of February 18, 1957, gave top billing to vocalist Toni Harper who would be accompanied by Eddie Beal on piano.  The featured jazz instrumental group scheduled for the show was the Red Mitchell Quartet with James Clay on tenor saxophone and flute, Lorraine Geller on piano, and Frankie Capp on drums.  Bruce Lansbury’s script for the show included a detailed examination of all of the components that make up a string bass, rare woods from exotic locals for back, front and sides, animal guts for the strings, horse tail hair for the bow, etc. 

After learning dance under Maceo Anderson, Harper was cast by the choreographer Nick Castle in Christmas Follies, at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in 1945. She later went on to perform on stage with Herb Jeffries and Cab Calloway.  Harper recorded "Candy Store Blues" in 1946, which became a platinum record, featured vocalist on Gene Norman’s Just Jazz in 1948, appeared twice on Toast of the Town (later The Ed Sullivan Show) in 1949, and made her third and final appearance on the show in 1950. 

Toni Harper was a frequent guest on the pages of JET magazine as seen in the above pages with Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie.

After success as a child singer, Harper recorded her first album, Toni, for Verve Records in 1955, with the Oscar Peterson trio. She made two further albums, arranged by Marty Paich, Lady Lonely (1959) and Night Mood (1960), for RCA Victor.

Toni Harper with Eddie Beal at an RCA recording session.

Keith Moore “Red” Mitchell was born in New York City on September 20, 1927.  His first musical instruments were piano and alto saxophone.  During his military service in Germany he switched to acoustic double bass.  After his discharge from the Army he played bass with Jackie Paris and Mundell Lowe.  Gigging around New York included stints with Tony Fruscella and Joe Roland in 1948.  He played piano with Chubby Jackson during a gig at New York’s Bop City in 1949, and recorded with Charlie Ventura the same year.  Mitchell was with Woody Herman from early 1949 to late 1951.  New York sessions in 1952 found Mitchell with Gil Melle, Helen Merrill  and Tony Fruscella.  Mitchell was also active on the west coast in 1952 and recorded with Jimmy Dorsey, Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Russ Freeman and Red Norvo. Mitchell joined Red Norvo for a European tour in 1954 with Buddy DeFranco, Billie Holiday, Beryl Booker, Sonny Clark, Bobby White, and Leonard Feather.   The European tour offered numerous opportunities to record in Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, France and Belgium where he teamed with leading musicians in those countries as well as his tour mates.  He played bass in Gerry Mulligan’s new quartet with Bob Brookmeyer in Paris.  Upon settling back in the states Mitchell recorded with Mulligan, John Graas, Jimmy Rowles, Bobby Troup, Chet Baker, Milt Bernhart, Barney Kessel, Andre Previn, Herb Geller, Jackie & Roy, Hampton Hawes, Bud Shank & Bill Perkins, and Tal Farlow.  Red Mitchell recorded his first albums as leader for Bethlehem in 1955.

Bobby Troup & Red Mitchell
James Clay, Lorraine Geller & Frankie Capp

SHOW #33
FEBRUARY 18, 1957
The Red Mitchell Quartet: James Clay, reeds; Lorraine Geller, piano; Red Mitchell, acoustic double bass; Frankie Capp, drums. Toni Harper, vocal; Eddie Beal, piano; Curtis Counce, acoustic double bass.

Production credits for this show:
Host: Bobby Troup
Producer: Jimmie Baker
Writer: Bruce Lansbury
Director: "Hap" Leo G. Weyman
Audio: Chuck Lewis
Cameramen: Jack Denton, Sal Folino
Technical Director: Gene Lukowski
Lighting Director: Vince Cilurzo
Video: George Hillas

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