“Here ’tis, Mama’s Favorite 285 lbs of Jam, Jive and Everything!”ūüé∂

Fats suffer

Fats Waller 

(May 21, 1904 – December 15, 1943)

The title sums it up. “Jam, Jive and Everything!.” ¬†Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller is one of the most charming, talented and prolific artists to ever tickle the ivories of a¬†stride piano.

We share a birthday РMay 21st.  His last recording session was in Detroit, Michigan Рhome of my birth. I guess it was destiny that his music and spirit would come to bring me such joy!

What excites me about Fats?

When I was a kid and first saw the groundbreaking musical Stormy Weather (1943) I was familiar with its star Lena Horne because my father loved him some Miss Lena. But for me, the wonderful surprise of the film was Fats Waller.

Fats Waller and Lena Horne

When you see him you’re totally invested. ¬†His personality jumps off the screen. ¬†People talk about presence. ¬†Fats created “presence!”

Fats is credited with advancing the musical style – stride piano. ¬†Although known for his two most famous compositions: ¬†“Ain’t Misbehavin'” and “Honeysuckle Rose”, he penned many more uncredited hits such as “I Can’t Give You Anything but love, Baby” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street”.

Waller copyrighted over 400 songs and began his professional career as a pianist at the age of 15, working in cabarets and theaters.

His life and artistry became the Broadway musical revue “Ain’t Misbehavin‘ produced in 1978. ¬†(The show and star Nell Carter won Tony Awards.)

Aintmisbehavin

Recordings of Fats Waller were inducted into the¬†Grammy Hall of Fame¬†which is a special¬†Grammy Award¬†established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least 25 years old and that have “qualitative or historical significance”.

 

Here ’tis, a tribute to Fats’ brilliance¬†and charm:

 

Fats Waller – Ain’t Misbehavin’ – Stormy Weather (1943)

 

This song cracks me up!

Fats Waller – Your Feet’s Too Big! (1936)

 

Fats Waller – Honeysuckle Rose (1929)

 

Thanks, Fats for the jam, jive, and everything!

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It was the Jazz age. It was an age of Elegance and Violence.

¬†¬†“The Cotton Club” (1984)

Image result for cotton club movie

 

“The Cotton Club” is a 1984 American crime-drama film centered on a Harlem jazz club of the 1930s, the Cotton Club.

The film was co-written by Francis Ford Coppola with William Kennedy, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and produced by Robert Evans. Choreographed by Henry LeTang, the movie starred Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, and Lonette McKee. The supporting cast included Bob Hoskins, James Remar, Nicolas Cage, Allen Garfield, Laurence Fishburne, Gwen Verdon and Fred Gwynne.

Despite performing poorly at the box office, the film was nominated for several awards, including Golden Globes for Best Director and Best Picture (Drama) and Oscars for Best Art Direction (Richard Sylbert, George Gaines) and Film Editing. (Wikipedia)

 

 

I remember looking forward to screening this film. ¬†I understood the significance of The Cotton Club¬†during the Harlem¬†Renaissance¬†of the 20’s and 30’s and wanted the 1980’s audience to be curious about the history of the real club and incredible level of talent that appeared there between 1923 – 1940.

Some of the original performers at The Cotton Club included:

Lena Horne

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Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington

 

Image result for cotton club 1920

Count Basie, Billie Holiday,

Image result for billie holiday

Cab Calloway, The Nicholas Brothers

Image result for nicholas brothers

cotton club 1920

Cab Calloway

 

Among many others.

Image result for cotton club 1920

 

 

The movie is intense. Producer Robert Evans originally wanted to direct the project but later asked Coppola. ¬†There are definite similarities to “The Godfather” in the film due to its violent nature and also the fact that Mario Puzo (author of The Godfather) wrote the original story and screenplay.

Gangsters, racism and love, this film exposes them all.  I do, however, wish more of the movie focus was on The Cotton Club itself and the lives of those characters.

 

Image result for cotton club 1920

 

The story centers around the dangerous love affair of Dixie Dwyer (Richard Gere) and Vera Cicero (Diane Lane). ¬†She “belongs” to mobster Dutch Schultz (James Remar). ¬†Dutch is a straight up¬†psychopath¬† ¬†We also follow the budding romance between Sandman Williams (Gregory Hines) and Lila Rose Oliver (Lonette McKee). ¬†He wants to get married. ¬†She wants to be a “Star.” ¬†(She’s also hiding a secret about her “other life.”)

Watch and listen as Lonette McKee, also from the movie (“Sparkle”), delivers a taste of the film’s 1930’s Harlem.

The song: “Ill Wind (You’re Blowing Me No Good)” ¬†Composed by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Ted Koehler. ¬†It was written for their last show at The Cotton Club in 1934.

 

 

 

One of the most memorable scenes is between the real life and onscreen brothers РMaurice and Gregory Hines.  Clay (Maurice Hines) and Sandman (Gregory Hines) have had a major falling out and at this moment we get to share in their reunion.

 

Growing up, this old school tap dancing duo was compared to The Nicholas Brothers. Gregory Hines remarked in an interview that after seeing The Nicholas Brothers perform that “nobody was going to be the next Nicholas Brothers, least of all my brother and I.”

 

 

Explore the 1984 film but more importantly explore the controversial history of The Cotton Club and the entertainers and music that fueled the Jazz generation.

 

 

“Lady Sings the Blues” ūüé§ūüé¨

lady-sings-the-blues-(1972)

“Lady Sings the Blues” (1972) is the biopic of the troubled life and career of the legendary Jazz singer, Billie Holiday. Loosely based on her 1956 autobiography which, in turn, took its title from one of Holiday’s most popular songs. It was produced by Motown Productions for Paramount Pictures and directed by¬†Sidney J. Furie.

When I first heard Diana Ross¬†had been cast as Billie Holiday I thought, she can’t act and will never pull it off. I wasn’t a big Diana Ross fan but when I saw the movie I had to give her credit for her phenomenal, Oscar-nominated performance. She lost to Liza Minnelli in “Cabaret”, but I thought Ross deserved the award.

The opening sequence (which was shot in black and white in still pictures) made me sit up and go, whoa, she’s serious. Diana Ross, the glamorous diva wore no makeup and looked the part of a heroin addict. The movie overall was a triumph not only for Ross but the incredible cast including –¬†Billy Dee Williams¬†as Holiday’s boyfriend Louis McKay, and¬†Richard Pryor¬†as Piano Man.

ladysingsthebluesopeningscene

(In 1936, New York City, Billie Holiday (Diana Ross) is arrested on a drugs charge.)

The story takes us from Billie’s tumultuous youth when in 1928 she is raped in the Baltimore brothel where she works as a housekeeper. She runs away to her mother who proceeds to get her a job in another brothel in the Harlem section of New York where she becomes a prostitute. Seeing that her life is going nowhere, she quits and heads to a local nightclub to become a showgirl. Billie has always had a love of music and has a remarkable voice. After “Piano Man” (Richard Pryor) accompanies Billie on the song”All of Me“, Jerry, the club owner, books her as a singer in the show.

Billie Holiday

billie-holiday

Eleanora Fagan (April 7, 1915 ‚Äď July 17, 1959), professionally known as Billie Holiday lived a life that was an American tragedy full of turmoil, racism, and drug abuse. Despite all this we are left with her incredible song catalog and heartfelt performances.

Holiday had a tremendous influence on jazz music and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. “God Bless the Child” became Holiday’s most popular and covered record. It reached number 25 on the charts in 1941 and was third in Billboard’s songs of the year, selling over a million records.¬†In 1976, the song was added to the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Billie Holiday died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1959 when she was 44. The biggest triumph of her career was her sold-out, standing ovation performance at Carnegie Hall.

Awards and Honors

“Lady Sings the Blues” was nominated for five Academy Awards.¬†The nominations were for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Diana Ross), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Carl Anderson and Reg Allen), Best Costume Design (Norma Koch), Best Music, Original Song Score and Adaptation (Gil Askey & Michel Legrand) and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced.The film was also screened at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival¬†but was not entered into the main competition.

Soundtrack

Motown released a hugely successful soundtrack double-album of Ross’ recordings of Billie Holiday songs from the film, also titled Lady Sings the Blues. The album went to¬†number one on the Billboard Hot 200 Album Charts,¬†for the week-ending dates of April 7 and 14, 1973.

 

 

“Here ’tis, little Fats Waller. Mama’s favorite 285 lbs of jam, jive and everything!”

Fats suffer

  May 21, 1904 РDecember 15, 1943

Title sums it up. “Jam, Jive and Everything!.” ¬†Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller is one of the most charming, talented and prolific artists to ever tickle the ivories of a¬†stride piano.

We share a birthday РMay 21st.  His last recording session was in Detroit, Michigan Рhome of my birth. I guess it was destiny that his music and spirit would come to bring me such joy!

What excites me about Fats?

When I was a kid and first saw the ground breaking musical Stormy Weather (1943) I was familiar with its star Lena Horne because my father loved him some Miss Lena.  But for me, the wonderful surprise of the film was Fats Waller.

Fats Waller and Lena Horne

When you see him you’re totally invested. ¬†His personality jumps off the screen. ¬†People talk about presence. ¬†Fats created “presence!”

Fats is credited with advancing the musical style – stride piano. ¬†Although known for his two most famous compositions: ¬†“Ain’t Misbehavin'” and “Honeysuckle Rose”, he penned many more uncredited hits such as “I Can’t Give you Anything but love, Baby” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street”.

Waller copyrighted over 400 songs and began his professional career as a pianist at the age of 15, working in cabarets and theaters.

His life and artistry became the Broadway musical revue “Ain’t Misbehavin‘ produced in 1978. ¬†(The show and star Nell Carter won Tony Awards.)

Aintmisbehavin

Recordings of Fats Waller were inducted into the¬†Grammy Hall of Fame¬†which is a special¬†Grammy Award¬†established in 1973 to honour recordings that are at least 25 years old and that have “qualitative or historical significance”.

 

Here ’tis, a tribute to Fats’ brilliance¬†and charm:

 

Fats Waller – Ain’t Misbehavin’ – Stormy Weather (1943)

 

This song cracks me up!

Fats Waller – Your Feet’s Too Big! (1936)

 

Fats Waller – Honeysuckle Rose (1929)

 

Thanks Fats for the jam, jive and everything!

It was the Jazz age. It was an age of Elegance and Violence.

¬†¬†“The Cotton Club” (1984)

Cotton Club poster

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Produced by Robert Evans
Screenplay by William Kennedy
Francis Ford Coppola

I remember looking forward to screening this film. ¬†I understood the significance of The Cotton Club¬†during the Harlem¬†Renaissance¬†of the 20’s and 30’s and wanted the 1980’s audience to be curious about the history of the real club and incredible level of talent that appeared there between 1923 – 1940.

Some of the original performers at The Cotton Club included:

Among many others.

The movie is intense. Producer Robert Evans originally wanted to direct the project but later asked Coppola. ¬†There are definite similarities to “The Godfather” in the film due to it’s violent nature and also the fact that Mario Puzo (author of The Godfather) wrote the original story and screenplay.

Gangsters, racism and love, this film exposes them all.  I do, however, wish more of the movie focus was on The Cotton Club itself and the lives of those characters.

The story centers around the dangerous love affair of Dixie Dwyer (Richard Gere) and Vera Cicero (Diane Lane). ¬†She “belongs” to mobster Dutch Schultz (James Remar). ¬†Dutch is a straight up¬†psychopath¬† ¬†We also follow the budding romance between Sandman Williams (Gregory Hines) and Lila Rose Oliver (Lonette McKee). ¬†He wants to get married. ¬†She wants to be a “Star.” ¬†(She’s also hiding a secret about her other life.)

Watch and listen as Lonette McKee, also from the movie (“Sparkle”), delivers a taste of the film’s 1930’s Harlem.

The song: “Ill Wind (You’re Blowing Me No Good)” ¬†Composed by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Ted Koehler. ¬†It was written for their last show at The Cotton Club in 1934.

 

One of the most memorable scenes is between the real life and onscreen brothers – Maurice and Gregory Hines. ¬†Clay (Maurice Hines) and Sandman (Gregory Hines) have had a major falling out and at this moment we get to share their reunion. ¬†Growing up, this old school tap dancing duo was compared to The Nicholas Brothers. ¬†Gregory Hines remarked in an interview that after seeing The Nicholas Brothers perform that “nobody was going to be the next Nicholas Brothers, least of all my brother and I.”

 

Starring Richard Gere
Gregory Hines
Diane Lane
Lonette McKee
Music by John Barry

 

Explore the 1984 film but more importantly explore the controversial history of The Cotton Club and the entertainers and music that fueled the Jazz generation.