The salvation of Frank Sinatra

Published in the Asbury Park Press 3/23/03

50 years ago, 'From Here to Eternity' put crooner back on career track

Special to the Press

It remains, nearly a half-century later, one of the most phenomenal comebacks in the history of show business, and in the history of popular song.

Starring Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Ernest Borgnine and Frank Sinatra
Directed by Fred Zinnemann


Fifty years ago this month, Frank Sinatra -- a one-time crooner and movie-musical idol of the nation's young women and teens who had tumbled to has-been status --  went to work on the film "From Here to Eternity."

For his surprisingly moving portrayal of the feisty Army private Angelo Maggio, the Hoboken-born entertainer -- who did not sing in the picture -- ultimately would win the Academy Award for best supporting actor.

The achievement would restore Sinatra to the pinnacle in Hollywood and all of show business; it would transform him from song-and-dance man to serious actor.

But most of all, it would pave the way for Sinatra to remake himself from a wartime crooner, written off by just about everybody as old-fashioned and washed up, to a swinging song stylist who is still regarded as the greatest pop singer in history, even nearly five years after his death in May 1998.

"The greatest change in my life began the night they gave me the Oscar," Sinatra once said.

"It's funny about that statue -- I don't think any actor can experience something like that and not change.'

Sinatra's fall and rise had its roots in the lean years that dogged his career after World War II ended.

During the war, the spindly crooner with jug ears, bow tie and blue eyes bewitched millions of lonely women who had husbands and boyfriends in the service by offering fantasy romance via such songs as "Night and Day," "I Fall in Love Too Easily" and "These Foolish Things."

(A punctured eardrum suffered at birth kept Sinatra out of the service.)

No GI Joe

Sinatra's arranger of the day, Axel Stordahl, wrapped the singer in an acre of strings, the perfect showcase for Sinatra's slowly sung vocals -- which featured his extraordinary breath control -- and suggested slow, sensual lovemaking.

The combination of his long, seamless phrases, and his fragile appearance literally made millions of women swoon.

As the war ended and the GIs returned, women no longer needed Sinatra to provide imitation romance.

His popularity skidded. To make matters worse, Sinatra seemed to be hurting his own cause.

He blamed music publishers and record companies for his slipping record sales, saying they preferred commercial mediocrity over quality.

Irate over New York Daily Mirror columnist Lee Mortimer's continuous assaults on Sinatra's life, career and politics, the skinny singer slugged Mortimer in a club, antagonizing the press.

In yet another act of defiance, he posed for photographs with the major chieftains of America's underworld.

As if that weren't enough, the father of three alienated family-minded fans with his very public affair with screen beauty Ava Gardner, while he was still married to his wife, Nancy.

Sinatra also thumbed his nose at Hollywood, refusing to show up on time for work, refusing to do multiple takes of a shot.

"I wasn't paying enough attention to my job at the time," Sinatra recalled in a 1965 television interview with Walter Cronkite.

"I think I was tired. It's not an excuse, it's a fact. I had worked tremendously for the years preceding that period, 300 dates a year or more, and I was traveling constantly -- and I had a personal problem (Gardner)."

To add to his woes, the public's musical taste was changing: country singers like Hank Williams and belters like Frankie Laine were gaining the upper hand on the pop charts.

As if it weren't enough that his record sales had virtually died -- in spite of his condescending to make silly novelty records like "Mama Will Bark" (a duet as barking dogs with the actress Dagmar) which were in vogue at the time -- movie offers started to vanish.

The stress of overwork and the depressing turn of his personal and professional fortunes finally took its toll on Sinatra's famed vocal cords.

He was doing three shows a night at the Copacabana, one of the legendary New York nightspots, in the spring of 1950. At the same time, he was continuing to sing nightly on NBC's "Light Up Time" radio program.

"I went out to do the third show at the Copa at about half-past-two or quarter-to-three in the morning, and I went for a note, and nothing came out," Sinatra later told Arlene Francis.

"And I merely said to the audience, as best as I could (whispering), 'Good night.' "

He canceled the rest of the engagement and spent the next few months recuperating.

By 1952 he had been dropped by his talent agency, Music Corporation of America, his movie studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and his record company, Columbia.

Desperate to save his career, Sinatra refocused on Hollywood.

Role made in heaven

He believed he was born to play the part of Maggio, the tough little soldier in James Jones' novel "From Here to Eternity," which portrays Army life in Hawaii just before Japan's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

Driven by violent pride, the hard-nosed Italian-American GI would rather die than allow the brutality of the stockade to dash his spirit.

"I knew that if a picture was ever made, I was the only actor to play Private Maggio," Sinatra said.

"I knew Maggio. I went to school with him in Hoboken. I was beaten up with him. I might have been Maggio."

When Sinatra heard Columbia Pictures had optioned the book for a movie, he implored an old acquaintance, studio boss Harry Cohn, to give him the role.

By all accounts, Sinatra gave a spellbinding screen test, but Cohn -- still not convinced Sinatra was more than just a song-and-dance man -- had his mind set on the Broadway actor, Eli Wallach, as Maggio.

When scheduling problems prevented Wallach from accepting the role, Sinatra was given the part.

Helping to sway the vote in his favor were his screen test, his Italian-American background and his thin physique (he was meager compared to the well-built Wallach -- more Maggio-like).

Also helping Sinatra's cause was his fee: he cost the studio only $8,000, rather than the $150,000 a picture he had pulled down in his heyday.

Shooting on "Eternity" began in Hollywood on March 2, 1953.Sinatra was galvanized to be in the company of seasoned actors like Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed and Ernest Borgnine.

During shooting, Sinatra and Clift became drinking buddies and close friends.

"Monty really coached Sinatra in the part of Maggio," recalled Clift's friend, Jack Larson, the actor who played Jimmy Olsen on the "Adventures of Superman" TV series in the 1950s. "He spelled out every beat, every moment, and Sinatra was grateful."

Production on "Eternity" concluded in June 1953.

The picture opened Aug. 5, 1953 in New York. Audiences saw a scrappy little Army private named Angelo Maggio die (he is mortally injured, trying to escape the cruelty of sadistic stockade sergeant, Fatso Judson (Ernest Borgnine)); but they witnessed the birth of Frank Sinatra, the icon.

The film garnered rave reviews. But the most enthusiastic accolades were for Sinatra.

"He does Private Maggio like nothing he has ever done before," Time magazine said.

The New York Post rhapsodized: "(Sinatra) proves he is an actor by playing the luckless Maggio with a kind of doomed gaiety that is both real and immensely touching."

Nervous jitters

Nearly eight months later, on March 25, 1954, Sinatra sat nervously in Hollywood's Pantages Theater, site of the 26th Academy Awards ceremonies.

He had been nominated for the award for best supporting actor. But the competition was formidable: Eddie Albert (who had been nominated for "Roman Holiday"), Brandon de Wilde ("Shane"), Jack Palance ("Shane"), and Robert Strauss ("Stalag 17').

The audience cheered wildly when Mercedes McCambridge announced that the coveted Oscar would go to Sinatra. Sinatra's daughter, Nancy, seated next to him, burst into tears.

Humbly, and even shyly, Sinatra told the audience he was "deeply thrilled and very moved." He apologized for his lack of a formal thank-you speech "because this (dramatic acting) is a whole new kind of thing."

"I just want to say, however, that they're doing a lot of songs here tonight, but nobody asked me (to sing)," he quipped.

The movie took eight Oscars in all, including Best Picture, Director (Fred Zinnemann), Screenplay (Daniel Taradash), Cinematography (Burnett Guffey), and Supporting Actors (Sinatra and Reed).

After more than five years in purgatory, Frank Sinatra was back.

He would go on to make a total of 60 movies, including acclaimed dramatic films such as "The Man With the Golden Arm" and musicals including "Pal Joey."

More importantly, with his new arranger Nelson Riddle, he would churn out a series of standard-setting singles ("I've Got the World on a String," "Young At Heart") and landmark albums ("In The Wee Small Hours," "Songs for Swingin' Lovers") for his new label, Capitol Records.

The Riddle-Sinatra sound -- much lighter than the Stordahl-Sinatra sound of the 1940s -- would become the definitive Sinatra sound, even as he continued to work with other talented arrangers.

Sinatra's travails had deepened his art. He used his genius for phrasing to expose the emotional content of a song with a grace and panache that has never been matched.

A more carefree, confident singer, he became the best-known advocate of standards, saving the music of Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Harold Arlen and others from obscurity, thus ensuring the preservation of the Great American Songbook.

As the years pass, he remains "The Voice," the greatest singer in the history of popular music.

And it all happened because of the comeback that began 50 years ago this month.

Mike Barris, Elberon, is a guitarist and music journalist who teaches "Perfectly Frank: An Appreciation of the Music of Frank Sinatra" at Brookdale Community College in Middletown.


BEST PICTURE: "From Here to Eternity"

BEST DIRECTOR: Fred Zinnemann, "From Here to Eternity"

BEST ACTOR: William Holden, "Stalag 17"

BEST ACTRESS: Audrey Hepburn, "Roman Holiday"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Frank Sinatra, "From Here to Eternity"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Donna Reed, "From Here to Eternity"

Source: "The Complete History of Oscar"

A master of essentials, a giant of jazz
Published in the Asbury Park Press 01/25/04

Special to the Press

RED BANK -- He never used two notes when one would do. But William "Count" Basie's mastery of essentials made him a jazz giant.

"They called Benny Goodman the 'King of Swing,' " says Dan Morgenstern, director of the Institute for Jazz Studies at Rutgers University in Newark. "But really, Basie is the king of swing, because nothing swung more than the Basie band."

This is Count Basie's centennial year. Throughout 2004, jazz fans around the world will celebrate the vibrant music of the pianist and bandleader who was born in Red Bank 100 years ago this Aug. 21.

His longevity alone -- leading a big band almost continuously for 48 years -- makes him an icon. The record holder is Duke Ellington, who directed a band for 50 years.

Basie also held the patent on the feeling known as "swing."

Again, only Ellington, also one of the greatest composers in history, has had a broader influence on jazz and on popular music.

Count Basie died from cancer in 1984 at age 79.

His association with Kansas City -- he formed his band there -- has led many jazz fans to mistakenly assume that he was a native of the Midwestern city.

But Basie, who left the Red Bank area for New York in 1924, was always "The Kid From Red Bank." That was how he titled a 1959 tune. He also called a 1945 number "Red Bank Boogie."

On the road, he always booked a few gigs close to his hometown so he could visit relatives and friends.

"He was one of the boys around town," recalls Dr. James Parker, 84, a retired Red Bank physician who was friends with Basie. "Whenever he'd come to town, he'd come to my house," to noodle at the piano. "He was a wonderful guy.'

A short, stocky, self-effacing man who was nicknamed "Count" by a Kansas City radio announcer in the 1930s, Basie burst on to the national scene just as big-band music was seemingly about to hit a creative wall.

Benny Goodman, the Chicago-born clarinetist and bandleader, had signaled the start of America's obsession with swing music in the summer of 1935, sending dancers at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles into a frenzy with his new type of hot swing music.

But in a short time, the music would become increasingly stylized and predictable. The individual expression at the heart of jazz was compromised.

Starting with its breakthrough at New York's Famous Door nightclub in the summer of 1938, the wondrously loose Basie band returned swing music to its roots.

With its blues-based simplicity and directness, it captivated both dancers and listeners without sacrificing the spontaneity that was vital to jazz.

Count Basie, his piano, band, and particularly his "All-American Rhythm Section," made propulsive, flowing four-four time (four beats per measure) the standard pulse for swinging. They finally freed jazz from the stiff two-beat rhythm clinging to it since the 1920s.

The band's sleek, exhilarating swing perfectly matched the arrival of the age of smoothly streamlined machines such as the diesel locomotive.


Legendary rhythm

Basie's 1938 anthem, "Jumpin' at the Woodside," is a classic example of the band in action. He starts things off by tapping out an eight-note blues bass run, which he repeats. Then the rhythm section enters, setting the groove. The saxophones repeat and develop the famous four-note blues riff while the brasses jump in and out with more riffs of their own.

The legendary rhythm team -- Basie, piano; Freddie Green, guitar; Walter Page, bass; and, most importantly, Jo Jones, drums -- purrs like the engine of a Chrysler Airflow car.

Jones transfers the beat from the bass drum to the hi-hat and ride cymbals, giving the band an instantly recognizable, lightly swinging sound. His sensitive touch points the way for drummers of the bebop era of the future.

Lester Young's tenor saxophone solo is heavenly, his round, airy tone and phrasing -- so odd in this 1930s context -- also presaging Charlie Parker and bebop.

Basie was among the least introspective figures in jazz. Even his 400-page "autobiography," "Good Morning Blues," written with Albert Murray, does not illuminate his creative process.

But it's clear that he lived by one principle -- simplicity.

A master of essentials, he whittled down a busy style inspired by Harlem stride pianist Fats Waller to what often was no more than a couple of plinks."A band can really swing when it swings easy," he once said. "Even a single note can swing."

Indeed, the band's first hits, such as "Jumpin' at the Woodside" and "One O'Clock Jump" (its theme song), were worked out from simple musical ideas involving no written music.

Whenever he did commission an arrangement -- especially during the early 1950s when the Basie band became more of an arranger's band -- Basie took out everything he saw as non-essential to the matter at hand - swing.

The result were hits such as "Every Day I Have The Blues," featuring vocalist Joe Williams, "April In Paris," "Li'l Darlin" and "Shiny Stockings."

His stage manner as a leader was minimalism personified. It only took a glance, a raised eyebrow, a nod of the head from him to inspire extraordinary performances. His low-key style helped him to attract -- and keep -- many of the greatest jazzmen in history.

"Basie was just one of the guys," saxophonist Buddy Tate once said. "He wasn't like a leader, but yet everybody loved him. He got all the respect in the world."


From Asbury to Harlem

William Basie was a struggling musician in Asbury Park when a chef from Harlem who was working at a local hotel suggested the young pianist might find work in the north Manhattan district.

The Harlem of the 1920s was a mecca for black musicians, boasting a vibrant club scene. So Basie moved to Harlem. Once there, he began to absorb the Harlem stride-piano style, which emphasized the beat and a rapid, "striding" left hand.

He paid attention to masters such as Waller, a major influence who also gave him basic instruction in jazz organ; James P. Johnson; and Willie "The Lion" Smith.

In 1927, Basie was touring with a vaudeville act when the show folded, leaving him stranded in Kansas City.

It was the era of Prohibition, but Kansas City was wide open, filled with brothels, speakeasies and bars. Basie -- drawn to the blues-drenched atmosphere and the plethora of jobs for musicians -- played piano in the city's clubs and silent-movie theaters.

The city's unique music traditions would ultimately shape the Basie band's sound. It emphasized the blues played with a four-four beat, saxophone solos, and interplay between the reed and brass sections.

It also championed creating tunes out of basic ideas or "head arrangements" rather than a formal score, which permitted endless improvisation.

In 1928, Basie joined Walter Page's Kansas City-based Blue Devils. When the Page band broke up in 1929, Page, the bassist, Jimmy Rushing, the vocalist, and Basie all joined Bennie Moten's orchestra, the leading band in the territory.

In 1935, the Moten orchestra dissolved after Moten's death. Basie then formed a nine-piece combo, "The Barons of Rhythm," which would become the core of his first band.

During one of the band's late-night radio broadcasts from the Reno Club in Kansas City, an announcer noted that Basie lacked an aristocratic nickname like Duke Ellington or Earl Hines. He dubbed him "Count."

"That was the last time I was ever introduced as Bill Basie," Basie later recalled.


Getting noticed

One of the broadcasts was picked up by John Hammond, the wealthy, Chicago-based jazz enthusiast who had discovered Billie Holiday and helped Benny Goodman start his band. Thrilled by the sound pouring from his car radio, Hammond was able to get the Basie band a date at the Grand Terrace in Chicago.

The band still struggled for a year.

In early 1937, at its New York debut at the Roseland Ballroom, listeners complained that the band, now known as the Count Basie Orchestra and expanded to 13 pieces, was out of tune. They didn't know many of Basie's sidemen were playing patched-up horns held together by rubber bands because they couldn't afford quality instruments.

Basie's breakthrough at The Famous Door, a small club on 52nd Street, New York's jazz center, started with a heat wave -- and a brain wave.

The club was having difficulty functioning in the summer because it had no air-conditioning. Enterprising booking agent Willard Alexander agreed to lend the club $2,500 to install an air-conditioner if it would book the Basie band. When the band -- now smoothed out with a few personnel changes -- opened at the club, it rocked 52nd Street. Its pulsating music astounded a huge audience via a national radio wire.

Listeners dropped their jaws at the solos of Young and fellow tenor saxophonist Herschel Evans. They gushed over the performances of trumpeters Harry "Sweets" Edison and Buck Clayton; trombonists Benny Morton and Ed Durham (soon to be replaced by Dickie Wells); blues shouter Jimmy Rushing; and Basie himself.

The triumph at The Famous Door came just as the band's first great recordings for the Decca label were appearing. Besides "Jumpin' at the Woodside" and "One O'Clock Jump," the stream of hits included "Sent for You Yesterday," "Every Tub" and "John's Idea," dedicated to Hammond.

Basie's Decca record deal was, in business terms, a disaster. It netted the band less than $1,000 over three years. But the records the band cut from 1937 to 1939 were among the most exciting of Basie's career, and helped to define jazz's Swing Era.


Color divide

Though its blues-based sound appealed to both black and white audiences, the band was not immune to racism. It rarely received top booking when a white band was also on the bill, and it was almost always paid less than a white band.

"Basie wasn't the kind of person to complain openly about it, or fight it in any obvious manner," jazz historian Morgenstern told the Press in 1999. "He inevitably ran into racism on the road, but he was more consumed with the music than anything else."

As the Basie rhythm section was yanking jazz firmly into a new world of four-four time, Basie's drummer, Jones, was the most visible timekeeper. Guitarist Green, the only Basie bandsman to stay with the founder through all of the band's incarnations, was the heartbeat.

In an era of little or no amplification, Green's lightly propulsive guitar chords were often more felt than heard.

Page slapped out piercing bass lines; and Basie plunked out light yet swinging piano that inspired his horn players to ascend dizzy heights.

During the 1940s, the band's roster of stars included tenormen Illinois Jacquet and Wardell Gray, trombonist J.J. Johnson, and trumpeter Clark Terry. However, since it was impossible to replace Young, Clayton and other unique voices of the 1930s band, Basie began to increasingly rely on arrangers to take their place.


Scaling up and down

In 1950, hit hard economically by the end of the Swing Era, Basie broke up the big band. He scaled down to eight musicians. But the small group was a less ambitious undertaking than its predecessor and Basie was an ambitious person. By 1952, defying the trends, he was leading a big band once again.

Now orchestrators such as Neal Hefti ("Li'l Darlin"), Ernie Wilkins ("Every Day I Have the Blues") and Frank Foster ("Shiny Stockings") gave the second-generation "New Testament" Basie band a smooth, polished swing style.

Hefti's "Li'l Darlin" shows how adeptly the band could swing, even at a slow tempo, and why it continued to please both dancers and listening audiences. The new Basie band also was renowned for its togetherness and attention to dynamics; it could go from a whisper to a roar, as one voice, in one second.

"Basie liked that, as long as it was simple and not too complicated," recalls Foster, the "Shiny Stockings" arranger and a tenor saxophonist who joined the Basie band in 1953. He led the band for nine years after Basie's death.

"Basie was an excellent teacher, without being a pedagogic type," Foster, 75, says. "People ask me where I got my degree. I graduated from the Count Basie academy of rhythm."

Soloists were less prominent in the reconstituted band. But it still included such major names as trumpeters Thad Jones and Joe Newman, saxophonists Eddie (Lockjaw) Davis, and the blues singer Joe Williams.

By the mid-1960s, despite the overwhelming impact of Beatlemania and rock 'n' roll, Basie and his band had attained an acceptance that exceeded the boundaries of the jazz world. The band was a regular attraction in Las Vegas, played for Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, and toured and recorded with Frank Sinatra.

Yet Basie had another renaissance in the 1970s. He made a series of records in trio, combo and big-band settings for Pablo, a label owned by Jazz at the Philharmonic impresario Norman Granz, to critical acclaim.

In the early 1980s, Basie was diagnosed with cancer. Able to move only with great pain, he eventually was forced to use a motorized wheelchair to get on and off the stage during his concerts. He still had his wry sense of humor: as his motorcart disappeared into the wings, he'd bid farewell with a "toot toot" of his horn.

He died in a Hollywood, Fla., hospital on April 26, 1984.

"He certainly made a notch in musical history," Benny Goodman said at the time of Basie's death. "He was a wonderful man. He was a big force in music."

Basie, who had been living in Freeport, the Bahamas, left all of his $1.5 million estate to his daughter, Diane. His wife, Catherine, whom he married in 1942, had died in 1983.


Band plays on

His band has continued under different leaders. The first successor was trumpeter Thad Jones. After Jones died in 1986, Foster took charge. He resigned in 1995 to go out on his own. Trombonist Grover Mitchell took over next.

The band recorded two Grammy award-winning albums under Mitchell: "Count Basie Orchestra with the New York Voices" (1996) and "Count Plays Duke" (1998).

Following Mitchell's death last August, trombonist Bill Hughes was named acting leader.

It hasn't been the same without Basie. Yet, one hopes his joyful spirit continues to drive the band through his centennial year.



Scholars, fans to convene at Monmouth University symposium                          

By Mike Barris

Special to the Press

4 September 2005

Asbury Park Press                                   

In the Garden State, when people on the street talk about "Bruce," it's understood they mean Bruce Springsteen. The rock superstar hails from Freehold and came of age musically more than three decades ago playing clubs in Asbury Park.

But the Boss is worshipped here for more than his birth certificate. There's his music, of course — a blend of energy, thoughtfulness (including one of the great rock albums, "Born to Run," about small-town Jerseyans in search of a better life) and legendary live performances that take on a near-religious resonance. There's also the fact that Springsteen is seen as a regular guy and a Monmouth County booster. He dines at local eateries; he drops by local clubs to jam with the bands. He's wed to a Jersey girl — Patti Scialfa, his E Street Band mate, an Asbury Park High School graduate who grew up in Ocean Township and Deal — and has homes in Colts Neck and Rumson.

Now, some 32 years after his seminal album, "Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ," was released, comes the latest signal of the completion of Springsteen's journey from working-class crooner to Jersey icon: For three days, starting Friday at Monmouth University in West Long Branch and the Sheraton Eatontown, Springsteen's music and career will be the focus of an academic conference titled "Glory Days: A Bruce Springsteen Symposium."

The conference will attract more than 300 educators, music historians and Springsteen enthusiasts. On tap will be a mix of keynote speakers, breakout sessions and special events as well as optional events, such as historical tours of Springsteen's old stomping grounds in Asbury Park and Freehold and concerts at The Stone Pony by such longtime Springsteen friends and fellow musicians as Joe Grushecky and Gary U.S. Bonds.

On the agenda are such weighty topics as the influence of Springsteen's music on Catholicism and the Vietnam veterans movement and a panel discussion on the rock star's storytelling techniques. One paper is called "Shedding Light on the Darkness: Springsteen and the Art of Psychotherapy." Others strive to compare Springsteen's lyrical gifts to such literary giants as William Shakespeare, Walt Whitman and Samuel Beckett.

Though it is unusual for a rock 'n' roll musician to receive this kind of intense academic scrutiny, Springsteen has had the eye of scholars ever since he came out with his 1984 hit "Born in the U.S.A," a bitter diatribe from the viewpoint of a Vietnam War vet whose country forgot him, according to music historian Robert Santelli, who will speak at the symposium.

Santelli, a former Asbury Park Press reporter who was the original director of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland and is now artistic director for the Experience Music Project in Seattle, places Springsteen within the tradition of great American singer/songwriters that includes Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. "What Springsteen says is often tied to the American psyche, and (that is) more the reason to look at his music and career," Santelli said. "To think seriously about music is always a good thing. If nothing else, it makes us more sophisticated listeners. It helps us to understand who we are as Americans."

Springsteen not involved

The Boss himself is not expected to attend. Springsteen, who has been touring Europe and North America as a solo act this summer in support of his new album, "Devils & Dust," officially declined an invitation to attend the conference, organizer Mark Bernhard said.

Springsteen also has refrained from endorsing the event. The singer's representatives "will not come out one way or another to say they're opposed or they're in favor," said Bernhard, a Penn State University conference planner and self-described Springsteen "nut" who brought the symposium to Monmouth because of its proximity to Asbury Park, the incubator for Springsteen's music.

"My sense is that his management team is pretty excited," Bernhard said. "That being said, I have not heard anything about his reaction."

Through his publicist, Springsteen declined to comment. But it's fair to say that Springsteen, 55, a graduate of Freehold High School who briefly attended Toms River's Ocean County Community College in the 1960s, would be impressed by the effort being made by the academic community to regard rock music as a highly literate art form on a par with the works of Shakespeare.

"American rock is such a complex form that it is able to accomplish many things," observed Santelli, who first saw Springsteen perform in 1968 as a solo singer/guitarist at a Red Bank coffeehouse.

Santelli, a former Point Pleasant Beach resident, worked with Springsteen on "Bruce Springsteen: Songs" and with E Street Bank drummer Max Weinberg on his book, "The Big Beat: Conversations with Rock's Greatest Drummers."

"There's plenty of room for songwriters to say something politically or socially in their music," Santelli said. "Rock 'n' roll never stands still. Great artists are always exploring: Great ideas keep them relevant."

Besides Santelli, the speakers include Dave Marsh, author of "Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story"; Dave Stefanko, author of "Days of Hope and Dreams: An Intimate Portrait of Bruce Springsteen"; Barbara Hall, creator of the Emmy-nominated "Joan of Arcadia" CBS TV series, and songwriter Gretchen Peters.

Conference registration is pricey: $245 for all three days, or $175 per day; $195 for students. Tickets for The Stone Pony concerts are $25 each. Tour tickets range from $20 to $40. Complete symposium details, including the schedule, are available at

More than 200 papers were proposed for the conference, according to Bernhard. In the end, 150 were chosen. Springsteen, Bernhard says, has "had a special impact on our culture and he's made a lot of people happy through his music by being a mesmerizing live performer as well as a prolific writer and storyteller." Bernhard, a Philadelphia native, says he has seen Springsteen perform live 32 times since 1985.

REVIEW -- Palmieri turns up the heat at Red Bank fest

By Mike Barris/Correspondent

7 June 2005

 Asbury Park Press

More than 40 years ago, Eddie Palmieri became a hero to Latino music fans for the way he fused the rhythms of his Puerto Rican heritage with the jazz influences of pianists Thelonious Monk and McCoy Tyner.

Like any good revolutionary, Palmieri doesn't stand still. As his headlining set Sunday the CD101.9 Red Bank Jazz & Blues Festival showed, the pianist, bandleader and seven-time Grammy winner is still restlessly seeking out stylistic innovations.

From the opening number, "Palo Pa' Rumba" (a 1984 album title track that won a Grammy as best Tropical Latin Performance), Palmieri's septet was full of musical surprises and syncopated passion, coaxing listeners down from their seats on the hills in Red Bank's Marine Park to dance uninhibitedly in front of the stage.

Before his set, the Jersey Shore & Blues Foundation, which organizes the free festival, presented the 68-year-old native of the Spanish Harlem section of New York with a lifetime achievement award. The honor was bundled together with the surprising announcement that the diminutive Latin-jazz star would not be appearing with La Perfecta II, a revival of the noted 10- to 12-piece band he first formed in 1961, as advertised, but rather a seven-man group dubbed the Eddie Palmieri Jazz Ensemble.

No matter. What listeners got was a mighty band indeed, powered by what was essentially La Perfecta II's rhythm section.

As the heavy-handed Palmieri hammered out the complex lines that underpinned the tunes, he received tremendous rhythmic support from Jose Claussell on timbales; Joe Santiago on bass guitar; Little Johnny Rivero on congas and Orlando Vega on bongos.

That set the stage for spectacular, fiery solos by trumpeter Brian Lynch and trombonist Conrad Herwig.

Near the end of the 90-minute set, singer Herman Oliveras, another La Perfecta II member, joined the band, bringing things to a pitch on the closer, "Azucar," from the 1965 album "Azucar Pa'ti (Sugar for You)."

Palmieri no doubt benefited from having the table set for him by the preceding act, Ray Rodriguez Y Swing Saboroso, a Latin-jazz orchestra which works the tri-state area. Saboroso's infectious salsa beat had people dancing in heat that exceeded 80 degrees.

Acoustic Guitar

January 2000

Troubleshooting Your Show

Mike Barris

You’re playing your first folk festival. You stride onto the stage, eager to raise a few eyebrows with your guitar artistry, but the crowd is still under the spell of the preceding act, who turned the place into a church with her tranquil love songs. You launch into an upbeat tune; a number of people, put off by you, collect their lawn chairs and leave (heading for the nearby barn dance). In a bid to stop the exodus, you rachet up the energy level, but you snap an E string. What’s going on?

As anyone who plays out regularly can tell you, making a performance go smoothly is no cinch. Once you’ve experienced the incredible high that comes with clicking with an audience, you’re hooked; every outing becomes a quest to have the crowd eating out of your hand. But even the world’s best performers can have their hands full navigating the stormy ocean of variables that make it hard, if not impossible, for things to go right. The character of the performance space, the mood of the audience, the temperament of the performer--these are just a few of the tangible and intangible elements you have to deal with to make your show go off with as few hitches as possible. OK, so you can’t control every problem, but here are a few suggestions to help along the way.


An amazing number of performers think nothing of subjecting an audience to an on-stage rehearsal. “I just learned this song this afternoon, so excuse me for using the sheet music,” they say.  That’s unfair, when you consider that people in the audience have gone to the trouble to shower, change clothes, and drive down to a club to see you play. The fact is, audiences who have paid good money for entertainment will write you off quickly if you don’t deliver the goods right away. So before you apply for your first job at the local folk club, identify the technical issues, chords, or lyrics that are giving you trouble. Set goals for addressing these things, and be systematic--don’t practice with the TV on. Then try out your material in a low-risk environment such as an open stage. Observe what does/doesn’t work. Tape yourself (audio and video). Review the tape: Do you look comfortable? Do your wardrobe and your haircut look up to date? Do you speak smoothly and succinctly? Do you display good technical chops? Do you have interesting arrangements? Do you pace the show well? Do you impress people as someone special? Also, learn from watching other performers work live. Note how he/she makes an entrance, weaves the set, raps with the crowd. In addition, pay attention to the stage-craft ideas contained in other performers’ live cassettes, CDs, and videos. Record your observations in a journal.

             Staying in contact with your instrument through regular practice will keep your chops sharp; you’ll always be warmed up. That will help you avoid hand injuries and give you a much-needed technical edge once you get down to playing for paying customers, who will show a nervous, inexperienced prey no mercy.


Don’t scrimp where gear is concerned. You’ll only increase your chances of having something break down in the middle of a gig. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for. On big-ticket items, comparison shop; after you get a price quote from one store, see if a rival store can beat it. Pack two good instrument cords, a direct box, a good microphone, two microphone cords, extra strings, a string winder, picks, tuner, batteries, wire cutters, solder and soldering iron (for emergency cord repair). Change strings frequently so they don’t break. Roll up cords using the “roadie twirl”--one loop in one direction followed by a loop in the opposite direction--to extend their life.


The larger your book, the greater your chances of coping with changing dynamics in the room, the hallmark of an accomplished performer. Some singer-guitarists know as many as 600 songs. Categorize your songs by tempos and tape the list to the back of the guitar. Be sure to include several crowd-pleasing tunes that you can play fairly easily while you’re getting your bearings on stage.

             Try to gauge in advance which songs will work best in the show. Having a rough idea of the tunes you’re going to pitch to the audience will make you feel more serene at the start of the performance, giving you another edge. Try to visit the venue before the show, but if you can’t, use what you already know about the club to help you sketch a set list. Does it feature original music or covers? Are you background or foreground? An opening act or a headliner? Another trick is to try to size up the space as you enter it for the first time. Do people sit far from the stage? Lie on a lawn and relax? Stroll amid food and craft booths? What songs would seem to fit the mood?

             Be prepared to scrap the list if the show takes off in an unexpected direction. This list is just a guideline, anyway; the real “list” should emerge from your reading of the audience’s mood as the evening progresses.


Audiences will lavish you with love if you convince them that you are worth liking.  Do this by using a range of tempos to stretch and warm up their so-called approval muscles. There will be times when a slow opening tune will be in order (depending on the combined atmosphere of the room, the makeup of the people in the room, and your emotional, spiritual, and physical state), but generally, it’s a good idea to open with a medium-up tune. After that, welcome them to your show; now you could play a slightly more up tune, followed by a radically different medium tune. If you’re not getting through to them, scan the house for someone who is patting his foot or bobbing his head in time to the music. Play to him; feed off his energy. Smile. Give back that energy to the audience. Perhaps you could play a slow tune. By now, you should be relying less on a prepared set list and trusting the tone of the applause to tell you which songs to choose next from your master list.

You’ll help your cause by allowing the performance to become easy and natural. Audiences seek entertainment to escape reality; thus the more you look and sound at home, the easier it will be to pull them into your world. Keep song intros short, but if your forte is storytelling, spin a yarn or two. If the audience’s attention flags, now’s the time to trot out any special instruments, sing-a-longs, or gimmicks you were saving for later. Above all, don’t panic. You need to stay within yourself to use your music intelligently. Once you’ve established control, lay back. Enjoy yourself. Challenge them. Pushing them past their emotional limits will make them remember you.


Audiences are people, and when you’re dealing with people, anything can happen. Unfortunately, how well you handle paying customers in particular will surely affect whether management asks you back. Generally, if trouble breaks, take a deep breath and go with the flow. If a three-year-old kid wanders onto the stage and starts dancing, play off his dance steps. Ask the audience to give it up for your “special guest.” They’ll eat it up. (Expect his people eventually to show up to take him off your hands.) If some clown starts blowing harp from his seat three feet from you, burst his bubble. Say, nicely, “I don’t remember giving you a part in my show. You must really be desperate.” If some wise guy starts calling out tunes you obviously don’t play, say, “Whoops, you must have come to the wrong show tonight. How unfortunate.” If a regular customer asks you to play a Beatles song but you don’t do Beatles music, tell him or her you’ll learn it and do it the next time you’re at the club. Then do just that. If a goofy drunk comes up to the stage while you’re on break and starts fooling with your microphone to address his pals, either tell him to buzz off or call the bartender or manager to remove him. But if a nasty drunk starts dissing you, just ignore him. He wants to get you into a confrontation, which would send the wrong message to the club owner.


Don’t allow yourself to be bullied by impatient sound men, club owners, or emcees. Let nothing prevent you from doing the best show you can. If you break a string on stage, either stop the show and change it quickly off stage, or change it in front of the audience while you amuse them with a story. Don’t try to struggle on with impaired equipment, unless you’re about to end the show. As well, keep personal business personal. Above all, don’t be late.


Be honest about what doesn’t work with your show. Develop a healthy sense of yourself as a performer and a person. For the most part, don’t expect truthful criticism from your friends or family--they would rather lie to you than hurt your feelings. If you’re truly open to change and willing to learn from your mistakes, you will definitely have a smooth performance.


Come fly with him

Radio City Music Hall hosts multimedia Sinatra extravaganza

Published in the Asbury Park Press 10/05/03

Special to the Press

Maybe tributes weren't his scene, but Frank Sinatra would have liked the complex show about his life and music that opens this week at New York's Radio City Music Hall.

Just ask Sinatra's granddaughter, A.J. Azzarto.

"He would have gotten a kick out of it because it's so unique," says Azzarto, a production assistant with "Sinatra: His Voice. His World. His Way," which runs Wednesday through Oct. 19. "It's not just somebody singing to him. We're using things he had the foresight to create."

Back in the late 1950s, when he was hosting his own ABC-TV weekly network television series -- and at the peak of his vocal powers -- Sinatra did something  virtually unheard of: He set up a 35mm film camera to capture his performances as he stared right into the lens, at his own expense.

He filmed himself singing either with the accompaniment of long-time pianist Bill Miller, or a cappella. Pre-recorded orchestra tracks conducted by Nelson Riddle, Sinatra's seminal arranger and a Rumson High School grad, were inserted later, for the broadcast.

Sinatra's motive was to have a high-quality record of his work. He was apparently skeptical that kinescope, the reigning medium for recording a TV picture on film in the era before videotape, would be up to the job. He was right: Kinescope, a low-grade process, produced washed-out, out-of-focus images. Sinatra realized that movie-quality 35mm film would let him preserve his performances in sharp high-resolution detail.

The films lay forgotten in the Sinatra family archives for nearly half a century. They were recently discovered by a technician searching for footage he could use in the Radio City tribute sanctioned by the Sinatra family. Now they're the centerpiece of the production that will run for 15 performances at the venerable concert hall. The show, directed by two-time Tony award-winning director Des McAnuff, fuses never-before-seen film footage of Sinatra performing on television in the 1950s; a live 40-piece orchestra; the hosting talents of New Jersey-born jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli; a gospel choir; home movies; still photographs; celebrity testimonials; backdrops of Hoboken (Sinatra's birthplace), the Paramount Theatre (scene of Sinatra's 1942 breakout as a bobbysox idol) and Las Vegas (where he and the Rat Pack ruled); and the high kicks of the Radio City Rockettes in an unprecedented, multimedia visual and aural celebration of Sinatra's art and career.

A co-production of Sinatra Enterprises -- the family-run entity that scrupulously oversees the use of Sinatra's name, image and music -- and Radio City Entertainment, the show promises to be a flashy, high-tech spectacle. The set designer is Broadway veteran Robert Brill. But the allure of the newly produced, crystal-clear images of the classic Sinatra, in vintage voice, promises to elevate the extravaganza into one of the hottest pop-music events of the year.

For the production, thousands of frames of forgotten film were rotoscoped - a process that was used to remove dated background elements from the screen. The preserved images were digitally colored and set against a black background. When the images are projected on 40-foot-high movable panels and blocks, the blue-eyed wonder will become a three-dimensional, moving image on the stage of Radio City once again.

Sinatra, who died in May 1998 at the age of 82, last performed at Radio City in 1994. By that time, he was an elderly icon, forgetting lyrics to signature songs (even with the help of a TelePrompter), struggling to sustain notes. He had collapsed onstage during a concert in Richmond, Va. A few months later, he would collapse again -- offstage -- in Atlantic City. Soon afterward, he stopped performing publicly.

Top of his game

Thanks to the discovery of the forgotten films, the Radio City show is built around the Sinatra of the "hat years" -- the urban, confident man about town -- Sinatra's greatest era as a performer and recording artist. Between 1953 and 1960, he recorded such landmark albums for Capitol Records as "Songs for Swingin' Lovers," "In the Wee Small Hours," "Come Fly with Me" and "Only the Lonely."

"What you've got," says show writer Colman deKay, "is Frank Sinatra looking the way you want him to look, and singing the songs you want him to be singing, at the top of his game."

"I'm sure collectors have pirated tapes (of Sinatra's TV shows) but they are probably bad quality. We're working from the original, which is great," deKay says.

Sinatra's late-'50s self is loose and swinging hard in the show, deKay observes.

'Fresh and hot'

He is supported by a live orchestra conducted by Radio City Musical Director Ron Melrose. The orchestra plays Sinatra's original arrangements (except for transitional music by Don Sebesky).

"These (clips) are fresh and hot. You will see some really, really amazing performances," deKay says. "Even though he is performing for the camera, he comes across every inch a live performer."

That was apparent on Sept. 24, when "60 Minutes II," the CBS newsmagazine show, broadcast snippets of the newly discovered films on TV for the first time. Viewers saw a trim and poised-looking Sinatra, singing confidently, his voice flexible, on portions of "I've Got You Under My Skin," "From This Moment On," "I Won't Dance," "Pennies From Heaven," "All the Way," "I've Got the World on a String," "One for My Baby" and "(Love is) the Tender Trap."

For some songs, Sinatra sported his trademark snap-brim hat; he snapped his fingers; he played with the lyrics as only he could -- impishly inserting a "boom!" into the middle of the line in "Pennies From Heaven" that goes "and when you hear it thunder." He sang way behind the beat on "I've Got You Under My Skin," in the manner of his greatest influence, Billie Holiday.

Notwithstanding his brilliance as a song stylist, Sinatra didn't care to be the recipient of the kind of tributes that icons inevitably inspire. He particularly disliked being forced to sit and listen to others singing his songs for him.

"My father would willingly sit down and be sung to by very few people in this world, and a fair number of them were dead," Sinatra's youngest daughter, Tina, wrote in a 2000 memoir of the pop patriarch, called 'My Father's Daughter."

However, the Radio City show would have intrigued him since he's the sole singer and "it was his idea to create the 35mm versions of these(performances)," says Azzarto, Sinatra's granddaughter.

A new generation

For those who never saw Sinatra perform, the show is "a moving and loving way" of providing a taste of the entertainer at his best,says Azzarto, who is the daughter of Sinatra's eldest offspring, Nancy, and Nancy's late husband, the choreographer Hugh Lambert.

So strong is Azzarto's connection to the spirit of her grandfather that four years ago she moved to Hoboken, Sinatra's birthplace, leaving behind her hometown of Los Angeles. And recently Azzarto, who is a musician and the wife of guitarist Matt Azzarto, of the Sinatra tribute band, Skanatra, started performing standards in the tradition of her grandpa, and her uncle, Frank Jr.

Besides its visual appeal, the show also is sonically outstanding, says John Pizzarelli, the Paterson-born guitarist who will play with the Radio City orchestra and "guide" the audience as Sinatra's story unfolds in song. "The vocal sound is unbelievable," says Pizzarelli, whose trio was Sinatra's opening act for a 1993 tour.

Sinatra's rendition in the show of "One For My Baby," in which a tipsy barfly relates his sad love story to a bartender, shows that the Hoboken native -- a fellow Jersey guy -- is still the most believable popular singer of all time, Pizzarelli says.

"He's such a brilliant actor," Pizzarelli says. "You'd think it was 4 o'clock in the morning and he was really telling you that story."

In his songs, Pizzarelli says, Sinatra "always knows what he's talking about."

Previews Wednesday and Thursday; opens Friday
Performances through Oct. 19
Radio City Music Hall
Box office at Avenue of the Americas between 50th and 51st streets, New York
(212) 307-7171


Corporate News

CBS agrees to buy CNET in deal to widen Web reach

By Mike Barris

498 words

16 May 2008

The Wall Street Journal Europe



(Copyright (c) 2008, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)

CBS Corp. agreed to acquire CNET Networks Inc. for about $1.8 billion, a 45% premium, just as a proxy battle with dissident shareholders was heating up at the technology-focused online news provider.

The deal adds another property to CBS's Internet stable, which the media company has suggested it is looking to expand. CNET, however, is facing increased competition for users and online-advertising dollars. Its revenue rose 10% to $405.9 million last year, but profit was helped by a big tax benefit. CNET posted a loss of $6.1 million in the first quarter as revenue rose slightly.

San Francisco-based CNET owns such Internet entertainment, news and information sites as CNET, ZDNet and The company has "a large international footprint, particularly in China," CBS said.

CNET's sites will be combined with CBS's news and sports sites as well as CBS Radio's and CBS Television Stations's digital-media platforms and the distribution network of the CBS Audience Network, which is made up of more than 300 partner Web sites and reaches 82% of all U.S. online users.

"There are very few opportunities to acquire a profitable, growing, well-managed Internet company like CNET Networks," said CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves. He added the move would expand New York-based CBS's content "to a whole new global audience."

CNET shareholders will get $11.50 a share, a 45% premium to Wednesday's $7.95 closing price and more than any price at which the stock has traded in about two years. CNET Shares CNET rose 43% to $11.38 in Nasdaq Stock Market trading Thursday afternoon, while CBS's stock fell 2.4% to $24.24 on the New York Stock Exchange. CNET's board has approved the agreement.

CNET has been engaged in a four-month proxy fight led by New York hedge fund Jana Partners LLC, which has been seeking to elect seven new members to CNET's board. It wasn't clear how those funds might react to the deal, which will be executed via a tender offer and is expected to close in the third quarter. Jana is reviewing the transaction, a spokesman for the fund said. Jana got into the stock at less than $8 a share.

The fund is the largest shareholder in CNET, with more than 10% of the shares outstanding as of March 31. Overall, hedge funds own more than 38% of the company's stock, according to FactSet Research. Jana has been pushing for CNET to undertake "fundamental strategic and operational change."

The group led by Jana has nominated a slate of seven directors who would replace two directors and fill five new seats, expanding the board to 13 members from eight and giving the dissidents a majority.


George Stahl contributed to this article.

License this article from Dow Jones Reprint Service

Document WSJE000020080516e45g0000v

Put your glad rags on
Published in the Asbury Park Press 4/11/04

Special to the Press

One, two, three o'clock, four o'clock ROCK!
Five, six, seven o'clock, eight o'clock ROCK!
Nine, 10, 11 o'clock, 12 o' clock ROCK!
We're gonna rock! Around! The clock tonight!

It was a frustrated Bill Haley who left an epic recording session with his band the Comets 50 years ago tomorrow.

A series of mishaps made Haley feel the session was a failure.

Little did he know he had created the anthem for a teenage rebellion, a song so deliciously wild and exciting that the seemingly disappointing session at Pythian Temple Studio in New York would come to be seen as the moment the rock 'n' roll era officially began.

The song was "Rock Around the Clock."

Written in 1953 by Max C. Freedman and Jimmy DeKnight (real name James Myers), "Rock Around the Clock' is one of the 'signature songs of the postwar American music legacy," says Bob Santelli, director of museum programs for the Experience Music Project in Seattle.

"If you named the 10 most influential songs, 'Rock Around the Clock,' because of its impact as well as because of its quality, would have to be included,' says Santelli, a former Asbury Park Press music correspondent who also spent five years as an educational-programs director at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.

"It's the song that enabled lots and lots of kids to associate rock 'n' roll with teenaged rebellion."

Put your glad rags on and join me hon',
We'll have some fun when the clock strikes one.
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,
We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'till broad daylight,
We're gonna rock, gonna rock around the clock tonight.

Indeed, "Rock Around the Clock" was an amazing record.

With a furious backbeat, jazzy guitar solo and well-orchestrated build-up, the song, despite its elements of swing and rockabilly, bears little resemblance to anything the commercial record industry had served up before then.

Despite a slow start (it sold 75,000 records upon its initial release, as the "B" side of a bizarre novelty single, "Thirteen Women and Only One Man Around,") "Rock Around the Clock" ultimately became:

  • The first rock 'n' roll hit to reach No.1 on the Billboard pop chart. Its appeal to young people soared, months after its initial appearance, after its use on the soundtrack for the 1955 film "Blackboard Jungle."
  • One of the top-selling hits of all time and the biggest-selling rock 'n' roll record in history, with unit sales to date estimated at around 25 million.

    The song, which sparked riots and hysteria at Bill Haley and His Comets concerts in the United States and in Britain, also would become the flashpoint in the raging controversy between fans and foes over the alleged immorality of rock 'n' roll music.

    Parents, political conservatives and religious groups opposed the suggestive lyrics, rhythmic pulse and stage gyrations of rock 'n' roll, which seemed to imply, if not directly ooze, sex.

    (Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed is said to have named the style in 1952 when he used the words "rock and roll" -- slang for sexual intercourse -- on the air, to describe a Haley song, "Rock This Joint.")

    As "Rock Around the Clock" continued to elicit a tremendous emotional response, it polarized society and the music industry itself. Against the bland backdrop of the Eisenhower years, it helped to bring rock 'n' roll into popular culture, ushering in a new way of life for millions.

    It also did music lovers a favor. Without "Rock Around the Clock," our listening choices might still be narrowed to Patti Page's 1953 novelty hit, "How Much is that Doggie in the Window?"

    When the clock strikes two, three and four,
    If the band slows down we'll yell for more.
    We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,
    We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'till broad daylight,
    We're gonna rock, gonna rock around the clock tonight.

    Although "Rock Around the Clock" is the most influential rock 'n' roll song in history, it is not necessarily the first.

    That honor, depending on who you ask, belongs to any one of a number of tunes. For some, it is "Rock Around the Clock." For others, it's Elvis Presley's "That's All Right, Mama," recorded in July 1954, a full three months after Haley's hit was pressed.

    For others, it's Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner's "Rocket 88," recorded in 1951.

    Still others point to numerous other black rhythm-and-blues artists, such as Big Joe Turner, Louis Jordan, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, and Wynonie Harris, who featured, in the 1940s, a style that seems linked to 1950s rock 'n' roll music. Some music archaeologists have even identified strains of rock 'n' roll in the blues records of the 1930s and earlier.

    But there is no questioning the importance of "Rock Around the Clock" in launching the rock 'n' roll era.

    Before Bill Haley entered the studio that April in 1954 to cut his signature record, the hit parade was dominated by the likes of Rosemary Clooney, Perry Como and Doris Day -- easy-going crooners who harkened back to the big-band era of the 1930s and '40s. Novelty songs, like "Doggie in the Window," were in vogue. Once in a while, a rhythm-and-blues act would break through with a hit.

    In the months and years following the "Rock Around the Clock" session, an increasing number of rock 'n' roll artists would emerge from the shadows to take their place in the larger musical universe.

    Haley himself would score with "Shake, Rattle & Roll," later in 1954.

    In 1955, Little Richard would achieve his first million-selling single with "Tutti' Frutti." The following year, 1956, would see huge hits by Chuck Berry ("Roll Over Beethoven"), Haley again ("See You Later Alligator"), Little Richard again ("Long Tall Sally" and "Rip It Up"), Carl Perkins ("Blue Suede Shoes"), Elvis Presley ("Heartbreak Hotel," "Don't Be Cruel," "Love Me Tender") and Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps ("Be-Bop-A-Lula").

    It took a worldwide No. 1 hit to push rock 'n' roll beyond the fringe.

    When the chimes ring five, six, and seven,
    We'll be right in seventh heaven.
    We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,
    We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'till broad daylight,
    We're gonna rock, gonna rock around the clock tonight.

    Bill Haley seemed an unlikely symbol for rock 'n' roll.

    The native of Highland Park, Mich., was moon-faced, portly, not very sexy (compared to, say, Presley, whose gyrating hips would send audiences into a frenzy).

    Though he had musical parents (his father played banjo and mandolin, his mother the piano and organ), his singing was good but not great. He had a receding hairline. At the time he recorded his landmark song, he was pushing 30 - positively geriatric by 1954 standards. He was married with five kids.

    He got into rock 'n' roll as a singing cowboy, joining a professional country-and-western troupe at age 13.

    One of his jobs was musical director for a group called the Saddlemen, which had a regular radio show on a station in Chester, Pa.

    Haley infused different sounds into the Saddlemen's repertoire. His goal, he once said, was to blend "country and western, Dixieland and the old-style rhythm and blues," into one form.

    In 1951, Haley made his first record, with the Saddlemen, for the small Essex label. His version of "Rocket 88" and "Rock This Joint" sold about 75,000 copies, a modest success.

    By 1953, Haley had switched from western music to the R&B idiom. The group was renamed Bill Haley and His Comets.

    Its recording of "Crazy, Man, Crazy," an original song, became the first rock 'n' roll record to make the Billboard pop chart.As their Essex deal was expiring, Haley and His Comets signed with Decca Records.


    When it's eight, nine, ten, eleven too,
    I'll be goin' strong and so will you.
    We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,
    We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'till broad daylight,
    We're gonna rock, gonna rock around the clock tonight.

    The day of the "Rock Around the Clock" recording session got off to a horrible start.

    A ferry that was taking Haley and His Comets to New York ran aground. By the time the boat was freed, the band's carefully planned schedule was in smithereens.

    They were two hours late for the recording session.

    They were scheduled to record two songs: "Rock Around the Clock," a regular part of the Comets' stage show, originally cut in 1952 by Sunny Dae, and the novelty song, "Thirteen Women."

    Haley saw the potential commercial value of "Rock Around the Clock." He hoped a good recording of the song would boost the band's profile beyond its Philadelphia-New Jersey fan base.

    According to "Sound and Glory: The Incredible Story of Bill Haley, the Father of Rock 'n' Roll and the Music that Shook the World," by John W. Haley and John Von Hoelle, session producer Milt Gabler owned an interest in "Thirteen Women."

    Nearly all of the remaining studio time was given over to recording "Thirteen Women." Since the tune was new to Haley, it took six takes to perfect it.

    That left just 30 minutes for the recording of "Rock Around the Clock."

    In an effort to create a punchier version of the song than the one recorded earlier by Sunny Dae, the Comets added staccato horn and guitar phrases to the arrangement. The changes energized the song.

    In the studio, guitarist Danny Cedrone -- a session musician employed for this recording date -- provided a high-octane, jazz-tinged solo that turned "Rock Around the Clock" into a masterpiece.

    Unfortunately, he never lived to see his performance hailed as one of the great moments in rock 'n' roll history. That summer, he fell down a flight of stairs to his death.

    In the control room, Haley's engineers had their hands full trying to capture the Comets' sound. On the first take, the robust arrangement drowned out the singer.

    With time running out, Haley made another pass at the vocal, singing to the barest of backup. The finished record would eventually be an edited version of the combined takes.

    Disappointed with the day's effort, Haley left the session frustrated, according to an article written for the Rockabilly Hall of Fame Web site by Alex Frazer-Harrison. The Comets' leader reportedly wrote off the whole stressful experience as a failure.

    It's not clear why "Rock Around the Clock" initially was the "B" side of the disc. ('Thirteen Women' ran out of gas soon after its release as the "A" side.) After "Clock's" decidedly disappointing debut, it was relocated to the "A" side, but sales remained weak.

    When the clock strikes twelve we'll cool off then,
    Start rockin' 'round the clock again.
    We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,
    We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'till broad daylight,
    We're gonna rock, gonna rock around the clock tonight.

    "Rock Around the Clock" rose from the near-dead after being chosen as the title song for "Blackboard Jungle," a controversial 1955 movie about high-school delinquency.

    "It had a great beat, a great sound to it," Santelli says of the record. "It was connected to this idea that this music and this new generation were going to be different from anything that happened in the past.

    "This song was the official coming-out of rock 'n' roll. Having the movie behind it, it was as if 'Blackboard Jungle' was a video for the song."

    Thus, "Rock Around the Clock" became an anthem for rebellious youths eager to put their own stamp on the staid 1950s.

    In 1956, a movie named after the song featured nine lip-synched performances by Haley and the Comets. This pushed the singer and his sidemen into stardom in the United States and abroad.

    In Britain, Haley continued to be hailed as rock royalty into the 1970s.

    Haley performed on the revival circuit through the 1960s and 1970s. He saw "Rock Around the Clock" become a U.S. hit again when the song was featured on the soundtrack for the 1974 film, "American Graffiti."

    He died of a heart attack in 1981, at age 55, long enough to see his song change history.

    As he might have said: Crazy, man, crazy.

  • Gettin' down with Diana Krall
    Switch to blues crooner from jazz stylist works for singer-pianist

    Published in the Asbury Park Press 7/06/04


    HOLMDEL -- Faced with personal setbacks, singer-pianist Diana Krall

    recently took a bold step. She set aside the standards repertoire that had

    made her the most successful jazz vocalist of the decade and started

    including something that had been absent from her career: original


    The results were on display Friday in a 90-minute concert at the PNC Bank
    Arts Center. The 39-year-old Canadian was more piano-playing blues crooner

    and songwriter than Great American Songbook stylist. Nevertheless, Krall

    and her backup trio of guitar, drums and bass were eminently entertaining.

    The native of British Columbia, whose singing is usually cold and

    detached, displayed more fire in the live outing than she typically does

    in her recordings. The concert included songs by herself and husband Elvis

    Costello as well as covers of compositions by edgier pop artists such as

    Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits and swing-blues pianist Mose Allison. Most of

    the songs are featured on Krall's latest album, "The Girl in the Other


    Krall didn't turn her back completely on her past. There were a few
    numbers from her earlier albums, such as "Let's Face the Music and Dance"

    and "East of the Sun (and West of the Moon") from the blockbuster album

    "When I Look In Your Eyes," and "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You," from "All

    for You."

    Affecting the hip sound of a 1950s singer such as Ernestine Anderson, the
    young, photogenic Krall became popular with the conventional jazz set. Her

    career kicked into high gear with her 1999 album, "When I Look in Your

    Eyes," which became an international best-seller and earned her a Grammy

    for best jazz vocal performance. The first jazz album to be nominated for

    album of the year in 25 years, it spent 52 straight weeks atop the

    Billboard jazz chart. Its follow-ups, "The Look of Love" and "Live in

    Paris," had similar success. But with the death of her mother from cancer

    in May 2002, followed by the deaths a month later of two of her mentors,

    the singer Rosemary Clooney and the bassist Ray Brown, Krall sought a

    directional shift. When she encountered Costello, whom she had first met

    in 1996, at the 2002 Grammy awards, she was already beginning to explore

    his repertoire. They began to collaborate as songwriters and were married

    late last year.

    Most of the songs Krall presented Friday, such as "The Girl in the Other
    Room," which she co-wrote with Costello, Allison's "Stop This World," and

    Waits' "Temptation," seemed to suit her spare vocal style and naturally

    husky voice more authentically than the supper-club repertoire of old.

    When she dipped too deeply into straight-ahead jazz, her vocal and

    pianistic limitations were exposed. Early in the show, when she attempted

    an uptempo version of the classic torch song "All or Nothing at All," from

    her 1997 album, "Love Scenes," she had problems controlling her voice.

    Instrumentally, she tended to be more even. Favoring the piano’s bottom

    range and serving up all the rolls, bluesy trills and chord blocks that

    can be counted on to wow audiences, she conjured up a sound reminiscent of

    Ramsey Lewis, the pianist who attracted a large non-jazz following with

    his 1965 hit, "The In Crowd." But when challenged to play something

    requiring real technique, such as the fast boogie-woogie of "Love Me Like

    a Man," a Chris Smither song also covered by Bonnie Raitt, she was

    hard-pressed to keep up.

    Fortunately, where Krall was limited, her backing trio was expansive. The
    adventurous guitarist Anthony Wilson set the parameters with his solos,

    stretching each song well beyond the confines of straight-ahead swing or

    blues. Drummer Peter Erskine and bassist Robert Hurst also soloed, but

    performed a more valuable service by keeping things on a solid footing.

    Krall, radiating wholesome good energy in a black, beaded, bell-sleeved

    top and blue jeans, took notice of the crowd’s enthusiastic response.

    "This is freaking me out," she said. "I just got back from Canada. They're

    very reserved up there."

    Corporate News: Wal-Mart eases DRM-free music

    By Mike Barris

    348 words

    22 August 2007

    The Wall Street Journal Asia



    (c) 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. To see the edition in which this article appeared, click here

    Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has begun selling some of its online music catalog without anticopying software, becoming one of the first major retailers to do so.

    Wal-Mart, of Bentonville, Arkansas, will sell songs without the software -- known as digital rights management, or DRM -- through its Wal-Mart Web site for 94 cents a track, or $9.22 per album.

    "As we consistently strive to help our customers shop smart at Wal-Mart, our new 'DRM-free' MP3 digital tracks give them the ease and flexibility to play music on virtually any device at a great value," said Kevin Swint, Wal-Mart's senior director and divisional manager for digital media.

    DRM has been a contentious issue in the world of online music sales. Record companies have so far insisted that digital retailers employ the software to prevent rampant copying. In April, in a major reversal of the music industry's longstanding antipiracy strategy, EMI Group PLC announced it would sell significant amounts of its catalog without anticopying software.

    Universal Music Group said two weeks ago it will allow digital tracks from thousands of albums to be sold online without copy-protection technology for a limited time.

    Apple Inc. uses its own DRM software, which doesn't work with services or devices made by competitors, resulting in locking owners of its popular iPod music players into buying the most popular mainstream music from Apple's iTunes store, and not from its competitors.

    Record companies have blamed this lock-in for limiting digital-music sales, which account for about 15% of all recorded music sales in the U.S.

    Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs has contended that DRM software has been ineffective at solving digital piracy of music. That is in large part, he argued, because the vast majority of music is sold today on CDs, which generally don't contain copy protection, making them easily sharable over the Internet through file-sharing technologies.

    License this article from Dow Jones Reprint Service

    Document AWSJ000020070821e38m0001u



    2126 words

    6 August 2006

    Asbury Park Press



    (c) Copyright 2006, Asbury Park Press. All Rights Reserved.

    NEW YORK — The baby-faced dude with the hip buzz cut is on PBS Channel 13 this Saturday night, gushing. "This is music about lu-u-u-v-v-ve!" TJ Lubinsky exclaims. "This is music about what was happening in our lives. This is when music was — music!"

    Balling his hands into fists, wiggling his eyebrows and flashing a shy little smile, the nervy but sincere kid from Evergreen Avenue in Bradley Beach seems determined to touch the hearts of viewers, transporting them to "a place that is very special to them." The TV camera — a magnifier of intimate details — picks up Lubinsky's passion and his deep commitment to his cause, which is bringing "honor and respect" to the legacies of forgotten pop stars.

    "That feeling in your heart and that feeling of love — that's what this is about," Lubinsky says. The 34-year-old pitchman in the dark suit and T-shirt, who brings to mind a rounder Tom Hanks, knows time is running out — not only for this public-television station pledge break, but for the aging artists he is striving to immortalize with his nostalgic pop-music specials.

    "If you love the fact we can share this music with your kids," Lubinsky says, "we need your support."

    TJ Lubinsky (the TJ stands for Terry James, although he's always been known just as TJ) is the mastermind behind the "My Music" extravaganzas that frequently are shown during pledge drives on PBS, the nonprofit public broadcaster. Even if you don't watch PBS regularly but channel surf just a little, chances are you've stumbled across a Lubinsky-produced show at one time. His latest program, a "best-of" compilation, premieres this week on PBS and NJN stations.

    From "Doo Wop Calvacade" to "Motown: The Early Years" to "Magic Moments: The Best of '50s Pop" to "Straight from the Heart: Timeless Music of the '60s and '70s," the formula is as familiar as an old pair of disco shoes: Stars from different musical genres return to a concert hall to sing their famous hits before a live audience. The taped performances are interspersed with sonically restored archival footage. The stylish production always includes plenty of shots of the folks in the auditorium seats, most of whom are graying or white-haired, mouthing the lyrics to the music of their lives, remembering "when."

    {dcdc}32 specials since '99

    The 32 concert specials Lubinsky has produced for the Public Broadcasting Service since 1999 have raised an estimated $200 million. The young man who used to wait tables at a half-dozen Shore restaurants every summer to feed his prodigious record-buying habit has become the most successful fundraiser in the nonprofit network's history.

    But don't try to give this grandson of the Savoy Jazz record-label founder Herman Lubinsky the star treatment. TJ Lubinsky, who now resides in Pittsburgh but still returns to Bradley with his wife and daughter every summer, likes to remind his audience that he's just a "Jersey guy from Exit 7A, 100B" (his respective Turnpike and Parkway exits).

    He's certainly a Garden State booster. He swells with Jersey pride at the sight of that alleged state delicacy, the pork-roll-and-cheese sandwich. He still dreams about such childhood aromas as ocean tar and French-fry grease. He has used Asbury Park's Convention Hall and Atlantic City's Trump Taj Mahal hotel-casino as backdrops for his TV concerts, and he even hosts a Sunday night oldies-requests radio show on Manahawkin's WJRZ-FM (100.1), doing the program remotely from his Pittsburgh home when he isn't at his summer house in Bradley Beach.

    "The minute you make yourself the star, the minute you allow your ego to get in the way of what you're here to do, the minute you say, "Well! I did this,' is the first minute it all stops," Lubinsky says in an interview. "It is so not about me. It's trying to reach and touch people's hearts and take them to a place that's very special to them."

    That insistence on being "just a vehicle" for the spirit that informs him — connecting songs, performers and audiences through his encyclopedic knowledge of recordings and artists (his first language at times seems to be the titles of old 45s), has taken him well on his way toward realizing his dream of creating a "complete video archive" of American popular music.

    For example, since 1997, he says, he has filmed nearly 300 doo-wop groups in concert. Before then, he says, footage existed of just 20 such acts, who specialized in a style of street-corner rhythm-and-blues singing that was in its heyday between the mid-1950s and the early 1960s but was deemed unsuitable for network TV. "They weren't allowed to be on TV back then," Lubinsky says. "You didn't do that. You didn't have "race music' — that was the devil's music. On television? On a national show? It certainly wasn't on Ed Sullivan, or "Hollywood Palace.' " Consequently, he says, no footage exists of the Drifters (of "Under the Boardwalk" fame), one of the pre-eminent vocal groups of the period.

    Despite his adoration of R&B-flavored pop, however, Lubinsky isn't content to be "just a doo-wop guy." With an estimated 5,000 CDs and 5,000 45s in his personal music collection, he is immersed in a considerably wider part of the American music spectrum. Much of it is music he listened to growing up in Bradley, whether he was hitting the timber at a nightclub (he stayed out on the dance floor for hours to keep staff from discovering he was underage and had sneaked in), congregrating with pals on the boardwalk, cruising around town in his Toyota Corolla or grabbing a late-night snack of eggs and hot chocolate at a diner.

    While his peers were rocking to such bands as Men at Work, Tears for Fears and Wham, he was utterly knocked out by the Miracles' 1966 hit "Going to a Go-Go"; by the Marcels' '61 record of "Blue Moon." With the help of his uncle, Buzzy Lubinsky, a popular Shore nightclub disc jockey, and Ron-Na-Na (Ron Meyer), the house DJ he befriended at the Yakety Yak Cafe in Seaside Heights, he had a pipeline to every new sound that touched his heart. He was a regular at Belmar's Galaxy Records, pestering the owner each day after Bradley Beach Grammar School for help in finding the tunes that were catching his ear on New York or Philadelphia oldies-radio stations.

    {dcdc}From Florida to Pittsburgh

    Before TJ was of legal age, his dad, Herman Lubinsky Jr., who worked in the industry, was sneaking him into clubs to hear such R&B artists as Fats Domino. At 16, a high school dropout (he got a diploma by passing the General Educational Development, or GED, exam), he apprenticed at Monmouth Cable Channel 34, producing news and studio programs. He was just 22 when he landed at a PBS affiliate in West Palm Beach, Fla., and started bringing in doo-wop groups during fund drives. With the groups, the station would raise $30,000 in a day — an "unheard of" achievement at the time, Lubinsky says.

    Knowing his projects needed a stage with a higher profile to reach a truly big audience, he moved to Pittsburgh and its PBS outlet, WQED, renowned as the home of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." After years of unsuccessfully attempting to take his vision to a national audience, one fundraiser finally caught the attention of PBS. With the $325,000 the network gave him, he produced "Doo-Wop 50," which became the single most successful piece of fundraising programming in PBS history.

    "I've got to hit a home run every time, 'cause you're only as good as your last show in this business," Lubinsky observes. Even with PBS kicking in a third of his costs and the distributor of the home-video versions of his shows another third, he puts "some of my own risk" into every show, he says.

    "And so, if these things don't work, I lose my house."

    {dcdc}Formed own production company

    In 2002, he left WQED to form his own production company, TJL Productions, from which he continues to churn out specials for PBS. The stars he's brought back to the small screen include '60s folkies Judy Collins and the Kingston Trio; Motown singers Mary Wilson and Martha Reeves; soul superstars Isaac Hayes and Percy Sledge; disco heavyweight Leo Sayer; '50s pop luminaries Pat Boone and Patti Page; '60s and '70s poppers Lou Rawls (who died early this year) and Frankie Valli; '50s rock icons Jerry Lee Lewis and Bo Diddley; '60s rockers Gary U.S. Bonds and Manfred Mann; and many more.

    Although he seems merely to be taping concerts for TV, his job involves a much larger set of skills than that. He's also a detective, a social worker and a magician; that's what it takes to find and reunite performers who may not have sung, let alone performed together, in many years, and whose voices may be in tatters due to disuse, abuse or neglect.

    A lot of personal coaching and nurturing — in addition to studio overdubbing and aggressive editing — often is called for, he says.

    "We give them help. We put them up on a pedestal because we're dealing with people's legacies," Lubinsky says.

    Over time, he's seen America's commercial TV networks and radio stations, eager to attract the 18-to-49 demographic that advertisers lust after, gradually tune out the music he loves; music he knows other people love; music he knows new listeners could still love. His indignation comes through loud and clear this chilly early March night at the midtown Manhattan studios of Thirteen/WNET, where he is co-hosting pledge breaks for the premiere of his "My Music" special "Moments to Remember," a salute to the stars of 1950s and early 1960s pop taped in California last year.

    The lineup includes such Eisenhower-era luminaries as Frankie Laine, the aforementioned Page and Julius LaRosa, as well as former Asbury Park resident Lenny Welch and the Duprees of Jersey City. The late Rosemary Clooney, Perry Como and Nat "King" Cole appear in vintage film clips.

    "I am angry because I come home to New Jersey where I'm from, and you can't hear Patti Page on the radio in New York City," Lubinsky tells viewers. "If someone had said, "I'm not going to hear Patti Page on the radio anymore; I'm not going to hear the great Rosemary Clooney on the radio anymore,' you'd think this was a foreign country or something," he says.

    "The commercial stations are worried, well, you're too old, you're too old for our advertisers, you're too old for our ratings.

    "You know what, we don't have to worry about the advertisers, we don't have to worry about the commercial pressure if we have this connection with you," Lubinsky says. "If we're making the connections tonight, allow us to preserve the history."


    Lubinsky's heartfelt plea energizes the pledge break, which otherwise can be a tedious exercise in which viewers (those who haven't changed the channel, that is) are asked to support the local station and its commercial-free programs with a pledge of cash. When Lubinsky speaks, what issues from his lips is no mere spiel, but a genuine expression of concern deepened by his belief in his calling.

    "I have to wonder if we're coming to an end," he confides to co-host Denise Richardson. "You're not hearing the songs on the radio, people aren't remembering. You've got younger people re-recording the songs; that's great, that the songs can continue, but we can not forget the memory and feeling of this era. Can we preserve that?"

    Maybe. But "time is not our friend," he says, adding that the youngest performers he has yet to preserve on film are in their mid-70s.

    "We're not going to be here after this broadcast asking your support," Lubinsky reminds his audience, who, though they might like to get up and get a soda from the refrigerator, can't take their eyes off this baby face. Not now.

    "Now's the moment."


    Premieres this week on PBS and NJN

    Document ASPK000020060816e28600013



    952 words

    6 August 2006

    Asbury Park Press



    (c) Copyright 2006, Asbury Park Press. All Rights Reserved.

    About six years ago, TJ Lubinsky launched an international search for Betty Everett, a soul singer from Mississippi best known for the 1964 hit "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss)." The television impresario wanted to team Everett up again with Jerry Butler so the pair could reprise their '64 duet "Let It Be Me" in Lubinsky's PBS special "Doo Wop 51."

    But everyone Lubinsky or his staff talked to said that Everett had died at least 30 years earlier.

    "There was no contact information for her, nothing at the union, nothing at her old record labels. There was no way to reach her," the Bradley Beach native recalls.

    But the doo-wop addict persevered. Receiving an anonymous 3 a.m. call at his apartment one day, he found "someone who knew a Betty who used to be a singer," and ultimately that led him to Everett. She was living in "a Minnesota trailer park, desperate, poor and penniless," Lubinsky says.

    And so, in February 2000, Everett and Butler once again were "onstage, singing that song together, in the same key," Lubinsky says. The show premiered on PBS that December. It would go on to become one of the nonprofit network's most successful fundraising programs. By the following August, Everett was dead at age 61, the victim of an apparent heart attack.

    "She was nervous before the show because she hadn't performed in quite a while," Everett's lawyer, Jay B. Ross, recalled in her published obituary. "But once she got into it and saw how much the audience loved her, she just blossomed, and the audience just went nuts."

    "I felt something was driving me to do this," Lubinsky recalls. "I looked at this as a wonderful gift. This woman needs that closure. People who felt the same way I felt about that song need to be reminded of that again.”


    MIKE BARRIS/Special to the Press

    1519 words

    20 February 2005

    Asbury Park Press



    (c) Copyright 2005, Asbury Park Press. All Rights Reserved.

    DICK HYMAN USED TO be the jazz-piano legend most people had never heard of. Then along came Woody Allen.

    The 77-year-old keyboard master, who duets with vibraphonist Peter Appleyard in a free concert at the Manalapan branch of the Monmouth County Library on Sunday, has gained renown as the composer, arranger, conductor and pianist for a slew of Allen films, among them "Zelig," "The Purple Rose of Cairo," "Broadway Danny Rose," "Stardust Memories," "Hannah and Her Sisters," `Radio Days," "Everyone Says I Love You," and "Sweet and Lowdown."

    Before Hyman started working on the comic icon's soundtracks in the 1970s, however, he was an institution on the New York recording-studio scene, the ultimate musical chameleon. His rare ability to conjure any style, from Jelly Roll Morton to Lennie Tristano, found him in demand (and out of the public's eye) through most of the 1950s and '60s on innumerable record dates (including the rock 'n' roll classic "At The Hop"), Broadway shows, jingles, television and radio broadcasts (he served as Arthur Godfrey's musical director at one point), and soundtracks.

    Since the 1970s, the classically-trained Hyman, who won lessons with the legendary Teddy Wilson in a radio contest, has focused on pre-bop swing and stride piano styles. In 2004, he stepped down after 20 years as artistic director for the acclaimed Jazz in July series at New York's 92nd Street Y.

    Today's show with Canadian vibraphonist Appleyard reunites two Benny Goodman alumni (Appleyard worked with the great clarinetist during the '70s.) Vibes and piano are "very compatible and we like to see where it leads us," Hyman says.

    Q: What is it like, working with Woody Allen, since he's a musician as well as a filmmaker?

    A: Well, he's very knowledgeable about music, and that serves him very well when he's dealing with the music that ought to be in a film. Some films require a lot of music, some very little, some are completely about music and each of them is a different game. I have always worked very amicably with Woody. He knows what he wants and if he doesn't quite know what he wants, he's perfectly willing to listen to suggestions. And it's not just in music that he works this way, but in every other department from costuming and casting and what have you. He relies a great deal on the expertise of the people he chooses to work with.

    Q: Of all the things you've done, what was your most memorable job or engagement?

    A: There were two. One of them was, at a pretty young age, being tapped by Benny Goodman to play with his group on a three-week tour of Europe. That was 1950. And the other one was, probably, working with Woody, particularly on two films which required a great deal of music. One of them was "Zelig," and the other one was "Everyone Says I Love You." (With "Zelig,") there was quite a bit of original music involved, in the style of the '20s. And there was a lot of re-creation of that old sound, which I enjoy doing. And with "Everyone Says," that was an even bigger project. It was a musical. Sort of a parody of a musical, in some ways. But what it amounted to was an awful lot of organizing and arranging and composing and recording - many sessions.

    Q: How did your ability to play in so many different styles figure in the development of your own style? Did you tend to imitate a lot of people before you found your own style?

    A: Yes. I'd learned a lot about the history of jazz piano and also pop piano. My records back then were distinctly pop, non-jazz style. I just thought I should know everything about those things. In time all of that becomes merged and you come out of that with something that is recognizably your own. You take little bits of this and bits of that. After time, you're doing your own thing.

    Q: Do you have a favorite song or composition?

    A: Any of the old standards that I can always find new things to improvise on (such as) "All the Things You Are" and "The Man I Love." They're good vehicles because of their harmonic progression and because the melodies can be embellished so nicely and because it's common knowledge of what they are. Your listeners have a certain built-in knowledge of the tunes so your variations are not in a foreign language to them. It's more difficult to take a tune to improvise on (when) the audience really doesn't know what the basic premise is. When you get into some of the more involved contemporary things, the audience has to be pretty hip to know what your premise is.

    Q: Your versatility is extraordinary. You even played with the leaders of the swing era (Goodman) and the bebop movement (Parker and Dizzy Gillespie) when fans of those two styles feuding over which form of jazz was superior. Is that ability to play anything just part of the era in which you came of age - a thing you had to know how to do to get work, or is it also your personality, which allows you to adapt to different situations?

    A: My personality helped, but I found I could play with a great many different people and play in a lot of different ways whatever was needed. One could make a living much more by being versatile than by being a single note kind of player. We were a group of people who in New York were professionally offering our services in as many ways as possible and there isn't anything quite like that era from the '50s, I would say, into the '80s.

    Q: You were one of the first people to transcribe the recordings of Fats Waller and James P. Johnson. Do you feel it's essential to study the old masters to learn how to play jazz?

    A: I don't think it's essential (although) I think you should know something about it. I mean, there are plenty of individual pianists who have contributed wonderful things to jazz piano, and some of them seem to come out of nowhere. Erroll Garner, for one. Absolutely unique style-That's one case of somebody who didn't seem to need to go back to anything before him.

    Q: When you're not working, what do you do for relaxation? Do you play the piano?

    A: Well, I'm always working, even if I'm at home - I have been composing chamber music pieces that I have been playing in various classical festivals. I can hang out at a television set as well as anybody, but usually I'm under some kind of a deadline for writing, if it's a week when I'm not doing much playing.

    Q: What's your practice schedule like?

    A: It varies according to what I'm required to play and how often I have to play. I put in a considerable number of hours at the keyboard one way or another during a week - if you play a lot of gigs you don't have to practice - but if you do not play every day, you better do the exercises.

    Q: What keeps you fresh and the work interesting for you after all these years?

    A: It's always a bit different. Playing with different people, different songs. Discovering what can be done with familiar songs. Simply to play in various places. I've never stopped doing this. This is what I've been doing all my life. Only I chose to move to Florida (15 years ago) where I can do it in more sunshine.


    2 p.m. Sunday

    * Monmouth County LibraryHeadquarters

    * 125 Symmes Drive,Manalapan

    * Admission free; limited to the first 500 people

    * (732) 431-7222

    * /

    Document ASPK000020050224e12k0002t


    Open Mike

    By Mike Barris

    Music and politics

    You’re the leader of a trio – let’s say guitar, bass and drums. You find the gigs, haggle with club owners over fees, and make sure every show goes off without a hitch. But the bass player’s cousin runs a catering business, which promises to give the group some well-paying wedding work. For weeks, you’ve been thinking about replacing the bass player, given his propensity for stumbling through songs, blurting out tasteless remarks to patrons and skipping rehearsals. Up to now, the drummer has backed your growing dissatisfaction with the bass player; but the drummer himself now is going through a messy divorce and is hungry for any gig that will help pay his mounting legal bills. So he aligns himself behind the bass player because of the promise of work. You’re outnumbered 2-1. Now you can’t get rid of the bass player, because you can’t afford to lose both the bass player and the drummer, who would surely quit if you fired the bass player. Your choice: go with the flow or quit and start over with a new band. You’re licked.

    That’s one example of politics manifesting itself in a music career. By definition, politics is the use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control. That applies to business, academia, government, or any place where gaining power is the issue – making this a timely discussion in the wake of a historic presidential-election year. In our example, though the bass player’s position seemed precarious because of his musical incompetence, un-businesslike attitude and his penchant for making idiotic comments to paying customers, he was able to seize power because he had something the drummer desperately needed. In a three-person group, the bass player only needed the support of one member of the group to grab power away from the guitarist, the hard-working leader of the band.

    Here’s another example of politics in the band: Say you join a duo that has already rehearsed and knows a complete show, but rehearsals are held at your house and you own a beautiful new PA the trio plans to use. Whose band is it? Who holds the aces and makes the decisions?

    If you’re thinking of starting a band, it’s important that you understand how band politics works. Your ability to make the most of political situations may determine how long the band survives. Politics and music regularly mix, regardless of the level in which you’re occupied. These suggestions are from “Making Money Making Music,” by James W. Dearing, published by Writer’s Digest Books:

    -If you start a band, you are assuming a leadership role. But if your band is to survive for a long time, it must be evenly weighted and not wholly dependent on one person. When a bandleader tries to control everything, animosity between band members is usually the result. Divide the power in your band by distributing ownership, duties and responsibilities as evenly as possible. Much of the success of small businesses results from one person not trying to do everything and learning how to delegate authority.

    -Decide together on goals. Career direction is often ignored. It’s just never discussed. The group never formally comes to a consensus as to what this business hopes to accomplish. Hold a career-direction meeting to agree on band direction and goals and to draw up band timetables detailing how you will pursue those goals. What type of act are you forming? What equipment do you need? How will you rehearse the act? What image will the act have?   

    -Long-term goal direction should be re-evaluated periodically to make sure everyone still wants to pursue the same direction and understands how the group is trying to attain goals. Short-term goal accomplishments should be reviewed so everyone can sense progress. Upcoming goals should be planned and tasks delegated.

    Even if your goal is having fun making music, be assured that politics will eventually crop up. Being prepared can only help you keep it enjoyable.

    -Mike Barris is an Elberon guitarist and writer.