Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie!

Mon 4 Jun 2012 - Filed under: 1990-present,Jazz — Christian
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Charlie Davidson, the legendary 86-year-old proprietor of The Andover Shop, doesn’t often condescend to pose for the camera, but he acquiesced last week for my long-gestating profile in The Rake. Consider the shot above a sneak peek and expect the story sometime this summer.

The headline, for those of you who don’t listen to music written before your time, is a reference to the 1925 popular song “Clap Hands, Here Comes Charley,” which was also a 1961 album by Ella Fitzgerald.

When Charlie finds out you dig jazz, conversation gets pulled magnetically to the topic. So when I visited Charlie in Cambridge, Ella Fitzgerald came up somehow. I remember telling him that she was the first jazz vocalist I discovered at age 18, and I had half a dozen of her records, but that I’d long since lost the taste for her, and these days she frankly annoys me. Not in a Julia Roberts way (for reasons I can’t explain, if I were trapped on a desert island with her for the rest of my life, I think I’d rather have sex with coconuts), but I’d certainly prefer to listen to, say, Anita O’Day.

When Charlie asked who my all-time favorite female vocalist was, I told him it was Ms. Anderson, whose first name, appropriately, was Ivie.

At the mention of Ellington’s famed Blanton-Webster band of ’40-’42, Charlie smiled enthusiastically.

Rather like in the photo above. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

Charlie Davidson of The Andover Shop is photographed by Tasha Bleu.

Miles Away: An Update On Cheadle’s Davis Biopic

Tue 1 May 2012 - Filed under: Film,Jazz — Christian
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Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis film project is apparently climbing slowly but surely through the rings of development hell, though the light of day may be miles away.

According to reports, the music rights have been secured and there’s a script that focuses on one 36-hour period of the jazz great’s life. Perhaps befitting a small budget (which it has yet to secure), the project is not a conventional biopic with an A to B narrative arc.

You can find the latest updates on the state of the project on this Miles Davis website.

Davis and Charlie Davidson of The Andover Shop, who dressed Miles briefly around 1954, were my inspiration for starting — CC


Black History Month: Hampton Hawes

Mon 27 Feb 2012 - Filed under: Jazz — Christian
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In 1977 Hampton Hawes, a woefully underrated pianist, composer and writer, died at the age of 48 from a brain hemorrhage. Known only to the most astute jazz musician and aficionados, Hawes had accomplished a great deal to be considered a bonafide jazz legend. His brief time here included performances with Dexter Gordon, Teddy Edwards (another criminally underrated black artist) and Howard Mcgee in a band that also counted Charlie Parker among its members. After military service, Hawes toured extensively during the mid ’50s and was recognized by Downbeat Magazine as a “New Star of the Year.”

Beset by an all-too-common heroin addiction, Hawes was arrested in a sting operation and sentenced to twice the mandatory minimum sentence for opiate possession. In 1961, while serving time, he wrote a letter to President Kennedy, the result of which was that he was the second-to-last person granted executive clemency by JFK before his assassination.

During the ’70s Hawes wrote an autobigraphy called “Raise Up Off Me” that was heralded by critics as one of the greatest ever literary contributions by a musician. And in 2004 his posthumous reputation continued to grow, as Los Angeles declared November 13th “Hampton Hawes Day” in honor of his birthday.

With lapped shoulder seam, Hawes is pictured above on his 1964 album “The Green Leaves of Summer,” and can be heard below performing “All The Things You Are.” — JASON MARSHALL (Continue)


Black History Month: Stanley Turrentine

Sun 12 Feb 2012 - Filed under: Jazz — Christian
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Stanley Turrentine, the Pittsburgh-born tenor saxophonist known for a big soulful sound, lyrical delivery and erudite harmonic sense, was one of the few jazz instrumentalists to have crossover success as a popular artist.

Known to play his black-lacquered Selmer tenor saxophone while his R&B star was in the ascendant, Turrentine’s sartorial presentation was always elegant while being very much of the times. He’s seen above in that quintessential Ivy staple the pink buttondown, complete with proper old-school collar roll, showing himself at once traditional and current, relaxed and proper.”

Turrentine’s recordings span from leader on the Blue Note imprint to sessions as a sideman with organist and one-time wife, Shirley Scott. Those new to Stanley Turrentine would do well to start with the recordings “Live at Minton’s” and “Joyride,” but with whatever you choose it’s hard to go wrong with Mr. T.

Below he can be heard doing the wistful “Willow Weep For Me.” — JASON MARSHALL (Continue)


Season’s Greetings From Chet

Sat 17 Dec 2011 - Filed under: Jazz — Christian
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To make sure you’re in the proper Christmas spirit, here’s Chet Baker and the Lighthouse All Stars doing “Winter Wonderland” from 1953.

Chet cut one Christmas album, “Silent Nights,” in 1986. He declined to include, however, the Christmas tune that would have best suited him: “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.” — CC


Penthouse Serenade: Hef on Ivy, 1960

Sat 1 Oct 2011 - Filed under: 1960s,Clothes,Film,Jazz,Personae — Christian
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If you’re a sucker for the “Mad Men” vibe of cool dudes, sexy chicks and midcentury style, you should really check out “Playboy’s Penthouse,” Hugh Hefner’s variety show from the early days of his budding Playboy empire. Episodes are available on DVD, including through Netflix.

The episodes were taped in a party atmosphere that brought together a cross section of fashionable society (the kind of crowd seen in our post “A Swellegant, Elegant Party“), and adult music (jazz, vocalists) that’s a far cry from the musical acts featured on today’s late-night shows.

And then there’s everybody smoking, including the singers while they perform. Is smoking glamorous? Don’t be daft: Of course it is.

In a February 1960 episode, a young beauty from Hef’s harem asks him about the turnback cuffs on his dinner jacket. Hefner, who had previously donned the Ivy League Look, proceeds to bore the girl to death with a dissertation on men’s tailoring, pointing with his Dunhill shell briar for effect.

Here’s what he says:

Well, this suit is Continental, Elsa. It’s a new style in America. Look, Tom’s formal is Ivy, which has been very popular. The difference is in the cuff. This has a little more cut to the jacket; it’s a shorter jacket. You’ll notice Tom has flaps on his pockets. These pockets are slanted.

After the war, when everybody was wearing full shoulders and full suits, Ivy came in. Ivy had been with us in the East for a long time, but it became very popular on a national level. Ivy has enjoyed a strong popularity, but just this last season something new has come over from Italy, and it’s Continental. It’s like Ivy in that it’s slim, but it’s a little more trimmed at the waist, a little more padding in the shoulder, the pockets are often slashed, and in addition the jacket is a little shorter, and you get accessories sometimes like the cuff and no belt.

Then Tom (the Ivy-clad fellow pictured above at left), perhaps concerned that the fashionableness of his attire may be nearing its expiration date, asks “Do you think Continental will replace the Ivy League style?”

Hef replies:

Playboy doesn’t think so. We did an article on it a couple of months ago. Ivy is so fundamental that I think it’s going to be with us. It’s basic, good conservative dress, and we think it’ll stay with us always. But Continental has a little more flair, it’s a little more elegant, and we think it fits those occasions when a man wants to dress up. We think there’s a place for both.

Ditching Ivy for Continental may be an error in judgment for us natural shoulder fans, but it’s not as bad as ditching clothing altogether in favor of pajamas.

After Hef’s style speech, he introduces Cal Tjader, who goes on to play the vibes in a gray sack suit and black knit tie (and with his specs and receding hairline, kinda looks like Newton Street Vintage circa 2009).

Here’s Tjader doing the lovely “Shina no yoru,” originally a Japanese propaganda song from the ’30s.

I like to sing it Nihon-go de in the shower. — CC

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