Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy!
The 64th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony will be held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday.
Back in January the Grammy Awards announced they were postponing the January 31st ceremony due to coronavirus-related concerns. Enough artists and executives voiced reluctance about appearing to convince the organizers to postpone the show.
I won’t watch the Grammy Awards program. It’s a joke.
That’s not to say there aren’t some quality nominees. You just won’t see or hear about them on television. On this week’s feature some of those nominees that deserve recognition, but won’t get it because the broadcast will be focused on a whole bunch of junk.
Let’s begin with what is undoubtedly the sentimental favorite.
Last summer Lada Gaga and Tony Bennett released a studio video for their version of the classic Cole Porter standard, “I Get a Kick Out of You.” The song appeared on the album, “Love for Sale,” an entire collection of Porter songs performed by Gaga and Bennett. The duo announced the album on August 3, 2021, Bennett’s 95th birthday.
“Love for Sale” is Bennett’s last studio recording. He’s been battling Alzheimer’s Disease since 2016. Bennett and Gaga began recording the album after the singer received his diagnosis.
Also last August Bennett played his final two live performances with Lady Gaga at Radio City Music Hall in celebration of his 95th birthday.
“Love for Sale” has been nominated for 6 Grammy Awards: Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Music Video, Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.
“This album happened because it was Tony’s idea and I made him a promise that we would make it and we did. At 95 years old, he has more nominations than ever, I’m so honored to be his companion in music and his friend. Thank you to the public for loving us, we surely love each other, and you,” Gaga said. “Believe in love and partnership, even with 60 years between us, and Alzheimer’s, there is nothing like the magic of music. I love you Tony, and the world loves you too. How could they not?”
Bennett is NOT the oldest nominee overall in Grammy history. He’s the second oldest.
The oldest Grammy nominee and winner is Pinetop Perkins, the Mississippi-born blues pianist and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner. In 2011, at the age of 97, his album “Joined at the Hip” won the Grammy for traditional blues album.
OUR NEXT NOMINEE…
One of the most influential artists in Latin America has more than 50 years in the music business. Ruben Blades was won 8 Latin GRAMMY Awards and 9 GRAMMY Awards and he’s nominated agin for an album that combines jazz and salsa. There are even a few vocals.
Reviewer Jim Trageser says “‘The Way You Look Tonight’ is approached along the lines of Nelson Riddle’s classic arrangement for Frank Sinatra. While Blades hews faithfully to the arrangement in his vocals, his phrasing and tonality are nothing like Sinatra’s—which presents new sides to the song, and the arrangement, giving it a fresh appeal.”
In the category of Best Tropical Latin Album
Salswing! by Rubén Blades y Roberto Delgado & Orquesta.
This track also features the Venezuela Strings Recording Ensemble. It’s impressive.
Last November at the Latin Grammy Awards in Las Vegas Blades was honored as the Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year and won album of the year for “SALSWING!”
Now we get unusual, but also, I think, rather cool.
Before we move on please watch a very short clip from “Batman: The Animated Series.” Just play along. It will all become quite clear. Only need to view about 30 seconds.
Keyboardist, composer, arranger, and bandleader Sun Ra (short for Le Sony’r Ra) was known for his experimental, avant-garde and downright cosmic style.
Last week the Chicago Tribune wrote:
Patrons of South Side jazz clubs in the 1950s might have noticed something a bit different about pianist Sun Ra’s big band — slowly at first, then all at once. Their sounds became more far-out, the synthy buzz of claviolines and Wurlitzers replacing Ra’s usual uprights. Bit by bit, their clothes changed, black coats and ties refracting into a spectrum of headdresses and capes.
Then, Ra — born Herman “Sonny” Blount in Birmingham, Alabama, where he lived before moving to Chicago in 1946 — started telling people he was from Saturn.
As the years went on, it was hard not to take Ra at his word. The original compositions and arrangements he played with his Arkestra, as he called that big band founded in Chicago, didn’t sound like anything else. They still don’t.
Sun Ra died in 1993. His Arkestra is now led by 97 year old Marshall Allen, the last surviving member of the ensemble from its early Chicago formational years.
Nominated for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album:
Swirling by Sun Ra Arkestra
This track is described by one reviewer as “a novelty single from 1974, given a stonking R&B makeover; think Fats Domino’s orchestra romping through the Batman signature theme, perhaps.”
Sun Ra said his entire life changed in 1936 while a student at Alabama A&M.
“My whole body changed into something else,” he told John Szwed, author of “Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra,” a biography on the artist.
“I could see through myself. And I went up… I wasn’t in human form… I landed on a planet that I identified as Saturn… they teleported me and I was down on [a] stage with them. They wanted to talk with me. They had one little antenna on each ear. A little antenna over each eye. They talked to me. They told me to stop [attending college] because there was going to be great trouble in schools… the world was going into complete chaos… I would speak [through music], and the world would listen. That’s what they told me.”
The Arkestra, which has continued to tour and record since Sun Ra’s his death in 1993, is enjoying its first album in over 20 years. Their Grammy nomination is the first for the band in its nearly 60-year history, going back to when it was first started in Chicago in the mid-1950s.
Now we totally switch gears.
If someone mentions Andrew Lloyd Webber what immediately comes to mind?
Phantom of the Opera?
How about Cinderella?
That’s because his new version of the classic story was supposed to open in 2020 at the Gillian Lynne Theatre in London. Covid had other plans.
“We are going to open, come hell or high water. We will say ‘come to the theatre and arrest us,” said Lloyd Webber.
Delays before an opening in June of 2021, quickly followed by a closing in July of 2021. Opened again In August of 2021, then closed in December 2021.
“It was slightly taken out of context, but there comes a point where if the law’s an ass, you just have to say that it’s an ass,” said Lloyd Webber. “You can’t perform a musical of any scale to 50% of your audience because you’re just losing money left, right and center. At the time if you were in an amateur choir, you were not allowed to gather with more than six people. In the meantime, 100,000 football fans were singing their hearts out completely uncontrolled at Wembley Stadium. The inconsistency bothered me.”
But the musical was back in business this past February.
Cinderella is a new, modern spin on the fairytale. The show is set in the fairytale-esque town of BelleVille, which has be named the most beautiful town for 49 years in a row. However this year they’re mourning the loss of Prince Charming who is believed to have died fighting a dragon.
A statue in Prince Charming’s memory is erected – only to be vandalised by Cinderella, a girl who has always struggled to fit in with the rest of the townsfolk but who does have a friend in Prince Sebastian, Charming’s younger brother and now heir to the throne.
With Charming gone, The Queen decides to hold a ball to look for a bride for Sebastian. Keen to impress, Cinderella heads to the Godmother to make herself ‘beautiful’.
Nominated for Best Musical Theater Album:
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella
Andrew Lloyd Webber, Nick Lloyd Webber & Greg Wells, producers; Andrew Lloyd Webber & David Zippel, composers/lyricists (Original Album Cast)
That’s it for this week.
Have a great weekend.
Kansas City. Legendary big band leader Count Basie wasn’t born there but got his musical start there.
Before his launch to stardom a young Basie did chores at a theater in New Jersey. A projectionist taught him to rewind the reels, switch between projectors, and operate the spotlight for the vaudeville shows. When the theater’s house pianist didn’t show for work, Basie suggested he take his spot. The theater said no. So he waited for the film to start, snuck into the orchestra pit, and played piano along with the film anyway. The theater invited him back to play again that night.
After moving to New York City Basie toured as a pianist on the major vaudeville circuits. In 1927, a canceled tour left Basie stranded in Kansas City. He remained there and played in several bands in the area, eventually forming his own orchestra that recorded and performed a string of hits that featured the Kansas City sound.
Basie died in 1984, but his band lives on.
Nominated for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album:
Live At Birdland!
The Count Basie Orchestra Directed By Scotty Barnhart