“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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Nicholas Brothers – Flash! (So You Think You Can Dance?)

In honor of Black History Month, I’ll be featuring films either starring or representing African American themes.

Nicholas Brothers

This repost and film duo for the month is the incomparable Nicholas Brothers. Their energy and dynamic dance routines are legendary and unmatched by any other artist then or now. Born during an era when African American entertainers were restricted in film appearances and even cut out for southern audiences, the Nicholas Brothers rose above and beyond the sensibilities of the times.

Nicholas Brothers

The¬†Nicholas Brothers¬†were a famous African American team of dancing brothers, Fayard (1914‚Äď2006) and¬†Harold¬†(1921‚Äď2000). Their highly acrobatic technique (“flash dancing“), demonstrated such a high level of artistry and daring innovations that they were considered by many to be the greatest¬†tap dancers¬†of their day.

Growing up with musician parents (mother played piano and father drums) who had their own band, the brothers were surrounded by some of the best Vaudeville acts of the time and became stars of the jazz circuit during the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance . Fayard and Harold went on to have successful careers performing on stage, film, and television well into the 1990s.

 

Their signature move was to leapfrog¬†down a long, broad flight of stairs, while completing each step with a split. This move was performed to perfection in the finale of the movie,¬†Stormy Weather¬†.¬†In my humble opinion, the “Jumpin’ Jive” dance number in¬†Stormy Weather¬†was the greatest movie musical sequence of all time!

Nicholas Brothers - Jump!

Nicholas Brothers – Jump!

Another signature move was to arise from a split without using their hands. Gregory Hines (with brother Maurice Рtap dancing brother and father team Hines, Hines and Dad) declared that if the Nicholas Brothers biography were ever filmed, their dance numbers would have to be computer generated because no one now could emulate them. Ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov once called them the most amazing dancers he had ever seen in his life.

 

The Nicholas Brothers influenced every dancer that came after. Including Michael Jackson. Here they are together on the Jackson’s TV Show.

Legends of dance that should always be remembered!

“Stormy Weather” – An African American Showcase ūüé• ūüé∂

¬†In honor of Black History Month, I’ll be featuring films either starring or representing African American themes.

My next film for the month is “Stormy Weather (1943). An¬†American musical film produced and released by 20th Century Fox. Considered one of the best Hollywood musicals with an all African-American cast, the other being MGM’s Cabin in the Sky. “Stormy Weather” is considered a brilliant showcase of some of the top African-American performers of the time, during an era when African-American actors and singers rarely appeared in lead roles in mainstream Hollywood productions, especially those of the musical genre.

Stormy Weather cast

This movie blew my mind! ¬†I saw it as a kid in the early sixties having no idea that there had ever been an all Black cast in a Hollywood production. Most of the premier entertainers of the 1940’s appeared in this tour de force that still stands as one of the best musicals of all time!

Classic Cab Calloway – “Zoot Suiting” it!

 

Directed by Andrew L. Stone
Produced by William LeBaron
Written by Jerry Horwin, Seymour B. Robinson (story)
H.S. Kraft (adaptation)
Starring Lena Horne
Bill Robinson
Cab Calloway
Katherine Dunham
Fats Waller
Fayard Nicholas
Harold Nicholas
Ada Brown
Dooley Wilson
Music by Harold Arlen
Cinematography Leon Shamroy
Editing by James B. Clark
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • July¬†21,¬†1943
Running time 78 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Lena’s rendition of “Stormy Weather”, featuring ¬†African-American modern dance innovator Katherine Dunham and dancers.

Katherine Dunham and troupe’s “Stormy Weather” full dance sequence.

“Stormy Weather” was the 2nd all Black cast film made by a major studio in the 1940’s. “Cabin in the Sky” (1943) was the 1st, produced by MGM. Lena Horne starred in both and became famous for her rendition of “Stormy Weather” although Ethel Waters first performed the classic at The Cotton Club Nightclub in Harlem in 1933.

Ethel Waters was a famous blues, jazz, gospel vocalist and actress. ¬†Her best-known recordings include “Dinah”, “Stormy Weather”, “Taking a Chance on Love” and “Cabin in the Sky” (She also starred in the film) Let’s enjoy her interpretation of the classic tune by Arlen and Koehler:

The song was written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler who worked as music composers at the renowned Cotton Club from 1930-1934. They wrote many of the jazz revue songs that were performed at the club and are still classics today. Harold Arlen wrote the music and Ted Koehler the lyrics.

Awards

“Stormy Weather” was selected in 2001 to The Library of Congress National Film Registry.

 

Stormy Weather 1

Get ready to have your “mind blown”! ¬†This dance sequence by the Nicholas Brothers is unreal. ¬†Check it out. ¬†Holy crap!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nicholas Brothers – Flash! (So You Think You Can Dance?)

The¬†Nicholas Brothers¬†were a famous African American team of dancing brothers, Fayard (1914‚Äď2006) and¬†Harold¬†(1921‚Äď2000). Their highly acrobatic technique (“flash dancing“), demonstrated such a high level of artistry and daring innovations that they were considered by many to be the greatest¬†tap dancers¬†of their day.

Growing up with musician parents (mother played piano and father drums) who had their own band, the brothers were surrounded by some of the best Vaudeville acts of the time and became stars of the jazz circuit during the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance . Fayard and Harold went on to have successful careers performing on stage, film, and television well into the 1990s.

 

Their signature move was to leapfrog¬†down a long, broad flight of stairs, while completing each step with a split. This move was performed to perfection in the finale of the movie,¬†Stormy Weather¬†.¬†In my humble opinion, the “Jumpin’ Jive” dance number in¬†Stormy Weather¬†was the greatest movie musical sequence of all time!

Nicholas Brothers - Jump!

Nicholas Brothers – Jump!

Another signature move was to arise from a split without using their hands. Gregory Hines (with brother Maurice Рtap dancing brother and father team Hines, Hines and Dad) declared that if their biography were ever filmed, their dance numbers would have to be computer generated because no one now could emulate them. Ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov once called them the most amazing dancers he had ever seen in his life.

 

The Nicholas Brothers influenced every dancer that came after. Including Michael Jackson. Here they are together on the Jackson’s TV Show.

Happy Birthday, Ms. Lena Horne!

Lena Mary Calhoun Horne was a singer, dancer, actress, and activist whose 1957 live album entitled, Lena Horne at the Waldorf-Astoria, became the biggest-selling record by a female artist in the history of the RCA-Victor label. In 1958, this timeless beauty became the first African-American woman to be nominated for a Tony Award for “Best Actress in a Musical” (for her part in the “Calypso” musical Jamaica).

Lena Horne

Lena Horne

I’m proud to say that Lena and I are sisters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. which in the summer of 1980 sponsored a 2-month series of benefit concerts for Soror Horne. Sixty-three years old and intent on retiring from show business, these concerts were represented as Soror Horne’s farewell tour, although her retirement lasted less than a year.

In May 1981, her one-woman show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music became an instant success garnering Horne a special Tony award, and two Grammy Awards for the cast recording. The 333-performance Broadway run closed on her 65th birthday, June 30, 1982.

 

Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music

Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music

 

In 1995, a “live” album capturing her Supper Club performance was released (winning a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album). In 1998, Horne released another studio album, entitled Being Myself. Thereafter, Horne essentially retired from performing and largely retreated from public view.

 

In her personal life, Lena Horne married twice,¬†Louis Jordan Jones in January 1937 (divorced in 1944). There were 2 children from that union –¬†daughter, Gail (later known as Gail Lumet Buckley, a writer) and son, Edwin Jones (born February 7, 1940 ‚Äď September 12, 1970)¬†who died of kidney disease. Lena’s second husband,¬† Lennie Hayton, was Music Director and one of the premier musical conductors and arrangers at MGM. They married in December 1947 in Paris and separated in the early 1960’s but never divorced. Hayton died in 1971.

Lena’s grandchildren include screenwriter Jenny Lumet, daughter of Horne’s daughter Gail and husband filmmaker, Sidney Lumet.¬†Her other grandchildren include Gail’s other daughter, Amy Lumet, and her son’s three children, Thomas, William, and Lena. Horne also has a great-grandson,¬†actor Jake Cannavale.

Lena was an activist in the Civil Rights Movement. During World War II she refused to perform before segregated audiences and at The March on Washington, she performed and spoke in association with the NAACP, SNCC, and the National Association of Negro Women. Ms. Horne also worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to help pass anti-lynching laws. In 1983, she was awarded the Spingarn Medal for outstanding achievement from the NAACP.

 

From her beginnings at The Cotton Club at age sixteen through her appearances in films, television, and on Broadway, Lena Horne’s career spanned over 70 years. Back in 2012 there were¬†rumors about singer Alicia Keys portraying Lena in a biopic. Sounds interesting. What do you think? Guess we’ll just have to wait and see if it ever happens.

 

Lena Alicia 2

 

In honor of what would be Lena’s 98th birthday, I’m featuring her most notable film:

Lena Horne  June 30, 1917‚Äď May 9, 2010

Lena Horne
June 30, 1917‚Äď May 9, 2010

“Stormy Weather”¬†(1943) American musical film produced and released by 20th Century Fox

This movie blew my mind! ¬†I saw it as a kid in the early sixties having no idea that there had ever been an all Black cast in a Hollywood production. Most of the premier entertainers of the 1940’s appeared in this tour de force that still stands as one of the best musicals of all time!

 

Stormy Weather poster

Directed by Andrew L. Stone
Produced by William LeBaron
Written by Jerry Horwin, Seymour B. Robinson (story)
H.S. Kraft (adaptation)
Starring Lena Horne
Bill Robinson
Cab Calloway
Katherine Dunham
Fats Waller
Fayard Nicholas
Harold Nicholas
Ada Brown
Dooley Wilson
Music by Harold Arlen
Cinematography Leon Shamroy
Editing by James B. Clark
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • July¬†21,¬†1943
Running time 78 minutes
Country United States
Language English

“Stormy Weather” was the 2nd all Black cast film made by a major studio in the 1940’s. “Cabin in the Sky” was the 1st, produced by MGM. Lena Horne starred in both and became famous for her rendition of “Stormy Weather” although Ethel Waters first performed the classic at The Cotton Club Nightclub in Harlem in 1933.

The song was written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler who worked as music composers at the renowned Cotton Club from 1930-1934. They wrote many of the jazz revue songs that were performed at the club and are still classics today. Harold Arlen wrote the music and Ted Koehler the lyrics.

Awards

“Stormy Weather” was selected in 2001 to The Library of Congress National Film Registry.

 

Stormy Weather 1

Get ready to have your “mind blown”! ¬†This dance sequence by the Nicholas Brothers is unreal. ¬†Check it out. ¬†Holy crap!!

 

Ethel Waters was a famous blues, jazz, gospel vocalist and actress. ¬†Her best-known recordings include “Dinah”, “Stormy Weather”, “Taking a Chance on Love” and “Cabin in the Sky” (She also starred in the film) Let’s enjoy her interpretation of the classic tune by Arlen and Koehler:

“Stormy Weather”

 

Happy Birthday, Ms. Lena!

Lena Horne 2

 

 

 

 

 

“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!