6 years ago

Volume 13 - Issue 2 - October 2007

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24Back to Ad IndexTwENTy•REuNI0NpIAN0•Jazz Notesby Jim GallowayAutumn LeavesUse it, or lose it. It's a common truism applicable to many aspectsof human endeavour - remain active in mind and body or there willbe a steady decline in your "ratings". Why am I on this topic?Well, over Labour Day weekend this year I was at the "Sweet &Hot" festival in L.A. where one of the featured artists was singerHerb Jeffries. He has several claims to fame and one of them isthat in 1941 he had a hit recording with Duke Ellington. The songwas "Flamingo" . He began his singing career as a teenager in Detroitand caught the attention of Louis Armstrong in a speakeasy .Armstrong wrote him a note of recommendation to give to bandleader Erskine Tate who was playing at the Savoy Ballroom in Chicago.After only two nights with Tate, Jeffries was hired away byfamed jazz musician Earl "Fatha" Hines.But there is a lot more to this man. Jeffries was from a mixedmarriage with Irish, Sicilian and Ethiopian roots and could havepassed for white but chose to be identified as black. He is also oneof the original singing cowboys from the early days of HollywoodWesterns, remembered for his role as the Bronze Buckaroo-thepistol-packing singing hero of four all-black musical Westerns fromthe late 1930s, and this at a time when Hollywood only cast blackactors in menial roles such as servants or railway porters. While hewas with the Hines band on one of their tours in the SouthernStates, he realised that there were hundreds of segregated cinemasfor blacks only, but if they showed a western, it starred only whitecowboys simply because there were no black cowboys in Hollywood. As Herb explains it, "People don't realise that in the OldWest, one out of every three cowboys was a black, and as well,many of them were Mexican."In an attempt to correct the stereotype, Jeffries was instrumentalin the production of the first western with an African-Americancast, "Harlem on the Prairie", released in 1937. As well as starring,Jeffries sang and performed his own stunts as the cowboycharacter "Bob Blake." This was followed by Two-Gun Man fromHarlem (1938), Harlem Rides the Range (1939) and The BronzeBuckaroo (1939). In the days of American racial segregation, thesemovies played only in theatres catering to African Americans. Jeffriesremained at that time a virtual unknown with white audiences.Then in 1939, Duke Ellington heard Jeffries and invited himsing with the band. He remained with the orchestra until 1943 andin 1941 was cast in the Ellington musical "Jump For Joy" . Thefinancial backer of the show was John Garfield, who thought Herblooked too white and asked him to wear makeup. As soon as DukeEllington saw it, he told him to take it off. Jeffries is the sole survivingoriginal member of thatgreat 1940s Duke Ellington Orchestraand still has a rich singingvoice . We spent quite sometime together and I found him tobe not only a sharp dresser,"Everything I know aboutclothes, I learned from DukeEllington " , but mentally as sharpas a tack and with a gentle natureand philosophy towards life thatwould be the envy of a lot ofpeople I know.On September 24th he celebratedhis 96th birthday and hestill sounds great singing "Flamingo"!"Most people come to thisworld by stork, " he says. " Icame by Flamingo, and DukeEllington delivered me ."THE RICK WILKINSQUARTETRICK WILKINS - Tenor SaxJOHN SHERWOOD - PianoNEIL SWAINSON - BassBARRY ELMES - DrumsSun. Nov. 4 • 2pmRoyal York RoadUnited Church, EtobicokeTICKETS: ; Sr.INFO: 416-231-1207WWW, THEWHOLENOTE,COM O CTOBER 1 - N OVEMBE R 7 2007

Remembering DougNot all the good guys live to aripe old age and the musicalcommunity was shocked recentlyby the sudden death from heartfailure of Doug Riley.He was born in Toronto onApril 24th 1945, had polio as achild but found his creative outletin the piano. He came to beloved and respected as a composer,arranger, pianist and organist,but most of all as a warm, lovingand generous human being. Histalents covered every aspect ofthe music business: his earlydays as a teenager playing Rhythm and Blues; a prolific career in the"jingle" business; television production; leader of his 16 piece "Dr.Music" (a name which became synonymous with him); and performingwith countless artists in the classical, jazz and commercialgenres.But Doug's real love was jazz. The family collection of 78s washis childhood introduction to some of the early piano giants such asJames P. Johnson and Fats Waller and he learned from thoserecords before going on to earn a Bachelor of Music in compositionfrom the University of Toronto, at the same time playing R &Baround Toronto with a group called the Silhouettes. He was open toall kinds of music. I don't know who said it first - it has been attributedto a lot of people including Richard Strauss and Duke Ellington- but it certainly held true for Doug. "There are only twokinds of music - good music and the other kind."As with many of us, a great part of his life was spent travellingand it was on August 27th on his way back from an engagement inCalgary to Little Pond in P.E.I. where he and his wife Jan hadmade their home that Doug suffered a fatal heart attack while sittingon the plane. It's hard to imagine that he is no longer with us.For the last few years of Toronto's Montreal Bistro, Doug and Ihad an annual gig there and it was always one of my favourite andmost enjoyable engagements. He leaves a wonderful legacy and thescene will not be the same without him.Jan and his sons Ben and Jesse have been in the thoughts of allof us. It was the poet Laurence Binyon who wrote, "They shall notgrow old, as we that are left grow old."Goodbye Doug. I'll miss you, your music and that lovely twinklein your eyes.WholeNote's live jazz listings can be found on page 48.Fri. Oct. 5Sat. Oct. 6Fri. Oct. 12Sat. Oct. 13Fri. Oct. 19Sat. Oct. 20Fri. Oct. 26Sat. Oct. 27Taylor, Leather &Carruthers TrioJasmin Bailey DuoKory Livingstone DuoPat LaBarbera TrioThe Beat BoysChase Sanborn TrioHeather Bambrick TrioStevie Vallance TrioFridays & SaturdaysJazz Sets begin8:30 pm - 11 :30 pmLimited Seating availableNo reservationsCove r: .00 per personLight menu availableFree onsite pa rkingFeaturing some of Toronto's best jazz musicianswith a brief reflection by Jazz Vespers ClergySunday, October 7th - 4:30 p.m.THE ROBI BOTOS TRIOcelebrates Thelonius MonkSunday, October 21st • 4:30 p.m.THE BRIAN O'KANE QUINTETCome relax and unwind inthe intimate surroundings ofThe Home Smith Bar. Enjoy themellow and soulful soundsthat emanate from theWWW.THEWHOLENOTE. COM25Back to Ad Index

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