Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Nan Wynn-Is Everybody Happy? (1943)

One of my favorite vocalists of the Big Band era was the lovely Nan Wynn (1915-71).
Nan not only sang for name Bands such as Hal Kemp,Raymond Scott and Hudson-DeLange but
she acted in films and had a busy career as a "ghost singer" for     Rita Hayworth in some of her musical films of the 40s.She was very lovely herself and got some lead roles in various musicals and comedies of the late 30s-40s. One of her best showcases is in Columbia's Is Everybody Happy?,a flashback film that
follows aspects of Ted Lewis' life while linking Ted's story with the two romantic leads. (Ted plays himself and sings a couple numbers at the start of the film).

Nan certainly had movie star looks- A Beautiful brunette with a curvy figure, she gets plenty of singing numbers playing" Kitty ",the girlfriend of Larry Park's character.
Nan could belt when she wanted to, but was most at home singing in a intimate voice-sort of a female Skinnay Ennis. One can hear the best of this style on Hal Kemp's Time on my Hands or her sides with Teddy Wilson in '39 and her own series of 8 sides for Vocalion (more on that later).

The story takes place in the pre WW1 days when Ted was starting his band. Kitty meets Ted and pianist Larry Parks and starts a romance with him. She gets to sing many wonderful standards-several with the verse. We hear Tell Me, Light of Silvery Moon ,I'm Just Wild about Harry, Am I Blue?,Cuddle up a little Closer, It had to be you, Long way to Tipperary and Pretty Baby.
 Nan also sings a Ruth Lowe composition,More than Anyone else in the World with Parks and gives a great rendition of St. Louis Blues in a corny but effective scene serenading a dying black friend accompanied by a choir.

Ted solves the problem of young lovers Bob Haymes(brother of Dick) and Lynn Merrick, and Nan and Larry appear at the end of the film as older characters.
Nan also had a good part in Warner Bros.' Shot in the Dark (1941) singing three songs. She has an excellent production number of Brazil in Columbia's Jam Session (1944) and has a plum role in Abbott and Costello's Pardon my Sarong (1943) playing a South Sea Island princess and singing two songs. Also check out her "Soundie" of Ain't Misbehavin' on Youtube. She never sounded or looked better. She overcame some medical issues to make a "Pop" comeback in the 50s then dissapeared from the music scene. More to come.

Monday, June 15, 2015

BIX- MCMLIX: Dick Cathcart

This Warner Bros. Lp has always been a Personal Favorite.
The album showcases the mellow and fluent trumpet of Dick Cathcart playing a program of Bix Beiderbecke-associated tunes. Warren Barker did the arranging and the instrumentation ranges from string and brass section backup to rhythm section.
Dick was the subject of an earlier post. His trumpet is best known for the various Pete Kelly's Blues
shows and movie and his 6 years on the Lawrence Welk show. He also did much studio work and graced the Bands of Ben Pollack,Ray McKinley and Bob Crosby.

The nice thing about the album is that it doesn't try to do note-for-note Bix recreations,although several Bix phrases are heard thruout the program by Dick and/or the orchestra.
Dick had a bit of Hackett,Butterfield and Bix to his playing but it was mostly Cathcart. He had great command of the horn but never showed off too much and his tone was pretty pure and mellow.
Here's a look at the tunes played:

Jazz Me Blues- The album gets off to a Brassy start with this classic introduced by Bix and the Wolverines in 1924,then reprieved by Bix and his Gang in '27.
Dick's horn is backed by a full brass section and there are some arranged Bix phrases by the brass.
Dick uses Bix's rolling break from '27 but it's mostly his pretty, darting horn in solo and playing off the brass.
Paul Smith also gets in a nice piano solo.

Ida- Not recorded by Bix but associated with Bix's colleague Red Nichols.
We open with a tasty intro with Dick dropping octaves followed by his flowing statement of the melody, complete with a few boppish touches.
After a Smith piano solo, Dick has a brief foray into the low register followed by some impressive chromatic runs before returning to the opening phrase as a coda.
A Beautiful piece of Trumpet work.

Mississipi Mud -Recorded by Bix in 1928 with Paul Whiteman and Frank Trumbauer.
The strings make their first appearance and the tempo is slow and pensive,not like the usual rollicking renditions.
Dick opens backed by Bobby Gibbon's guitar and then caresses the melody in a very Pete Kelly mood. There's a nice modulation to the final chorus with Dick's flowing lines leading to a coda with Dick quoting Bix's I'm Comin' Virginia coda.

In a Mist- Bix recorded his impressionistic piano piece in 1927 and Warren Barker combines the Brass, Dick's trumpet and the piano of Paul Smith in an excellent arrangement.
Dick weaves in and out of the ensemble ably playing parts written for piano. The Brass ensemble also coveres some of Bix's strains and Paul plays Bix's original coda.

Louisiana-Back to the rhythm section for a standard recorded by Bix in 1928 with Whiteman and his Gang.
Dick takes a solo intro backed by Gibbon's guitar before settling into a pleasant medium tempo.
Dick's horn is Bix-like but has nice fresh touches of his own. Smith and Gibbons have tasty spots before Dick does some pretty noodling home with a nice modulation on the coda.
Tasty Stuff.

Riverboat Shuffle-Hoagy Carmichael's classic was introduced by Bix and the Wolverines in 1924 and Bix reprieved it with Trumbauer in '27.
The brass take the verse intro followed by the trombones on the chorus. Dick playfully swings thru the theme and the bones take over.
A bopppish solo by Smith ,another great player who did much studio work.
Dick trades phrases with the brass and takes a winding coda ending on a half valve .

At the Jazz Band Ball-Recorded by Bix and his Gang in '27. Back to the rhythm section with Paul's intro and Dick on the verse and chorus with witty almost boppish lines.
Smith solos,folowed by Gibbons' tasty guitar-he was a very underated studio man. Dick's back on the verse with some neat tongueing and a tasty unison riff with piano and guitar.
The last chorus has a busy,flowing Cathcart trading with the rhythm. All in 2'21!

Singin' the Blues- This Jazz Classic was recorded by Bix with Trubauer in '27. The strings are back.
Dick gives a pretty melody reading with a bit of Bix's chorus. There's a nice Pete Kelly like coda over sustained chords.

Sweet Sue-Recorded by Bix with Whiteman in '28.Rhythm Section. Slow trumpet opening backed by celesta moving into a medium swing tempo. Paul plays a unison solo on piano and celesta.
Dick winds along from low to middle register and there's a nice trade with celesta before  the coda.

Way Down Yonder in New Orleans-. Another Bix-Tram classic from '27. The Strings open with a transcribed soli of Bix's chorus. Dick picks up the last few bars into his pretty chorus in a bit of a Harry James mood.

Ja-Da- Not recorded by Bix,but another Red Nichols favorite. Dick has another slow intro with celesta then brass pick up to swing tempo. Dick has a nice Bix-like firry. Guest pianist Ernie Hughes has a chorus then the Brass return with Dick blowing some tasty,slightly modern lines with a nifty unaccompanied break on the end.
There's a pretty original coda by Dick.

I'm Comin' Virginia- From the Bix-Tram classics of '27. Lovely theme chorus by Dick a la Pete Kelly.
The strings again play Bix's chorus answered by Dick, before his closing statement over chords with Bix's coda.

Also recorded at the session was Bix's piano composition,Candlelights. The celesta takes the intro with Dick playing the tricky melody. Like In a Mist, Paul Smith is featured. The 2nd strain is very jazzy with nice Cathcart horn backed by Gibbon's guitar. Bix's piano coda is used and Dick gets in his own pretty coda.
This track popped up on a Warner Bros. sampler called Jazz Festival-Near Far and Far Out.

Both albums have been out of print for years and never reissued on CD. You can find the LPs on ebay.
Let's hope some company out there will put out a CD of the material.
Not only is it a Fresh,Sincere tribute to Bix,but a great showcase of the marvelous Cathcart horn.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Piano and Vocal Stylings of Una Mae Carlisle-Part One

Although not a household name, Una Mae Carlisle left a rich legacy of music as a student of Fats Waller;s stride piano school and accomplished vocalist and entertainer in the States and Europe.
She was born in Xenia,Ohio on Dec. 26.1915 and worked in the Cincinatti area in her teens as a pianist/vocalist. Fats Waller heard her while working on his WLW Radio show in Cincinatti.
He mentored teenage Una Mae and she guested on his show.

Una Mae contunued working around Cincinatti and worked in Paris in 1937. Her successful run there earned her an English tour in the spring of 1938. While there she made her first records with a fine local band. The sides made for English Vocalion as Una Mae Carlisle and her Jam Band, contain most of the players who had recorded earlier with Fats during his tour abroad. Trumpeter Dave Wilkins was working with the top London band of Ken "Snakehips" Johnson as was reedman Bertie King.
The band is a good one and has a lot of the same feel as the British Waller band. Una Mae is solid in her piano work and vocals. Although not as strong a player as Fats,she had a lot of the classic Waller stride style in her playing. Una's vocals were husky and well phrased and swung,she also sang a pretty ballad. As photos will attest, she was a very beautiful girl to boot.

Don't try your Jive on Me-A Leonard Feather composition (he may have produced the session). This was also recorded by Fats on his earlier British sesion-it has a "Hold Tight" quality to it. The two hornmen stand out-Wilkins reminds one a bit of Bill Coleman and King has a Chu Berry/Ben Webster feel to his tenor.
Una contributes a fine stride solo showing her debt to Fats.

I Would do Anything for You- The Claude Hopkins favorite gets a nice medium tempo with Una's piano getting solid support from Len Harrison's bass.Una's vocal has nice backup by Wilkins,reminding one of Fats' Herman Autrey. Along with some nice stride, Una throws in some cute asides a la Fats.

Hangover Blues- A Traditional Blues credited to Una and Feather. Una gives us a nice piano chorus before singing her blues lyrics backed by Wilkins' growl horn. King gets in a clarinet spot and some gutty tenor.

Love Walked In- The Gershwin standard is taken at a medium swing tempo with Una's piano up front. Her vocal is nice but  it sounds like her key is a bit low. Her closing vocal swings nice with a cute "Walked Right In" aside a la Fats.

Mean to Me- Another uptempo version with Una using some of her own lyrics. King and Wilkins' shine on solos with some comments by Una. Her piano solo is very Fats like with her own touches,this lady could play! Her vocal rideout swings with a Yes Yes! at the coda.

I'm Crazy bout my Baby- Composed by Una's mentor Fats,we get an approriate stride opening. The horns get in nice spots before Una swings it home.
All in all a very nice session and great introduction to Miss Carlisle.

Una returned to Europe in early 1939 and recorded two sides with clarinetist Danny Polo's Swing Stars.
The band included continental stars Phillipe Brun (trumpet),Alix Combelle (tenor) and Oscar Aleman(guitar).
On Montparnasse Jump,a medium blues ,Una contributes two excellent stride choruses. She also gets in a nice spot on China Boy. Garland Wilson plays piano on the other band sides.

Una was back in the states in 1939 and worked clubs in the New York area. On November 6 she joined Fats' Rhythm for a classic version of I Can't give you Anything but Love. Una sings the first chorus with Fats making his classic asides followed by Fats' vocal. The recording has become a standard in the various Waller reissue sides and became very popular with the public.

Fats may have helped Una get her own series for Bluebird. On 8/2/40 she recorded four sides with John Hamilton,trumpet (see our earlier post), Al Casey,guitar,Cedric Wallace,bass and Slick Jones on drums from Fats' group. Una played piano and despite the absence of Gene Sedric, the session has a real Waller feel

Papa's in Bed with his Britches On is a fun blues novelty. The other sides, Now I Lay me Down to Dream, If I Had You and You Made me Love You are on the mellow side with Hamilton's trumpet in a muted Charlie Shavers mood. Una's piano and vocal work on these sides is exceptional.

On 11/13/40 she was backed by Benny Carter,trumpet,Everett Barksdale,guitar,Slam Stewart,bass and Zutty Singleton,drums.
Walkin' by the River composed by Una became a hit record and her version is lovely backed by Benny's tasty trumpet.This became one of her signature songs. The other side I Met you Then is another pleasant Una composition.

Una's next Bluebird date on 3/10/41 became a classic and memorable session in jazz history as she was backed by Lester Young's band. Lester had recently left Count Basie and had put together this combo with fellow Basie-ite Shad Collins,trumpet-Clyde Hart,piano-John Collins,guitar-Nick Fenton,bass and Doc West on drums. I first heard these sides on an old RCA Vintage lp devoted to various small group swing sessions.
Lester and the band play beautifully and Una's vocals never sounded better in such wonderful company.

Blitzkrieg Baby- A topical wartime blues with a bridge similar to Shoo Shoo Baby. Una swings nicely on the bluesy wartime lyrics. Lester shines with a cool solo spot shared with Hart, a very underated swing pianist.

Beautiful Eyes- A lovely,forgotten Richard Whiting ballad. Una sings the pretty verse and chorus with Lester's soulful fills. Lester has a lovely,haunting chorus Una returns to the verse and lightly swings the out chorus with Shad getting in a nice muted spot.

There'll be some Changes Made- Again Una with the verse and chorus-swinging nicely. John Collins gets a fine solo spot (he worked many years with Nat Cole). Una swings us home. No Lester solo but nice fills.

It's Sad,but True- An obscure pop of the day with a short verse up front followed by Una nicely navigating the rather unorthodox melody line. Lester blows his lovely fills and Shad sounds a lot like his Basie buddy, Buck Clayton. Una returns for a half chorus.
A Lovely Session.

Una's next Bluebird session(5/1/41) utilized the wonderful John Kirby Band as accompanists.
Charlie Shavers,trumpet-Billy Kyle,piano and Russell Procope,alto all have solo spots with kudos to the always tasty Kyle and shavers.
I See a Million People- composed by Una was her second hit composition getting much play by other bands and singers. Una's vocal is very warm and the KIrby band gives her delightful backup.

Oh,I'm Evil- A cute,swinging blues with a bridge,Una's vocal is a standout.

You Mean so Much to Me- Another pretty,but obscure ballad composed by trumpeter/arranger Edgar Battle. Una's phrasing sells the song as does Charlie's trumpet.

Boogie Woogie Piggly-This was a popular swing novelty of '41,even recorded by Glenn Miller. Una sings a verse up front then swings the boogie theme. Charlie gets in some growls and Una has fun with the "oink oink" lyrics.

7/22/41-The Kirby band is back starting with a nice rendering of the Kern standard, Can't help Lovin' dat Man. Una's phrasing compensates for her range and we have a nice band interlude led by Charlie's trumpet.

It Ain't Like That- A Una composition. A Bluesy Riff with a swinging Una vocal. Good spots for Billy and Charlie and a riffing last chorus by Una.

Anything- A pretty Phil Napolean-Frank Signoreli comp. also recorded by Dorsey-Sinatra that year. Una gives us the verse and again gets thru a tricky melody by dropping some notes. A tasty band interlude before Una gives us a pretty wrapup. A lovely side.

City called Heaven- Another obscure pop saved by Una's tasty vocal and a nice Procope alto spot.

10/3/41-I'm the One who Loves You- Another undistinguised pop but with a pleasant vocal and spots for Billy and Procope.

My Wish- Another pretty Una comp. A sweet vocal by Una, the tune sounds a bit like the Ink Spots' "Do I Worry?" The always tasty Kyle has a piano spot.

Coffee and Cakes- A rather average Una comp. with nice Shavers and Kyle.

Moonlight Masquerade- Comp. by Tutti Camarata. A pretty ballad with a warm Una vocal .Procope and Kyle solo.

Una's final Bluebird session was on 2/13/42 with the Kirby Band back.
Don't Tech It (touch)-Is a Cute novelty ala Tisket a Tasket with some nice Shavers.

So Long,Shorty- A Una comp. Riff tune with Wartime theme. Nicely swung by Una with Shavers and Kyle soloing.

I'm Tryin' -A pleasant ballad performance with graceful singing and spots for Kyle and Procope.

Sweet Talk- Una comp. A pretty ballad with Una's nice light touch and sweet Procope alto.
These Kirby sides all have their moments and show Una maturing as a performer with the bonus of one of the tastiest and classiest combos of the Swing Era.

In Part Two we'll survey Una's mid 40s recordings and continue to her untimely passing in 1954.