In the Wall Street Journal this week, I interviewed Sonia Manzano, who played Maria on TV's Sesame Street for 44 years and retired last year (go here). When Sonia began on the show, she found the urban set similar to her neighborhood in the Bronx—only nicer. She had survived battling parents, a tenement and a range of struggles by stepping out of herself and viewing everything as theatrical drama. She talked about she landed the part and how she learned to be herself. Sonia's memoir, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx, can be found here. [Photo of Juliana Sohn for The Wall Street Journal]
Also in the WSJ this weekend, I write on Milan's Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, an architectural wonder and one of the first indoor shopping malls completed in 1878 with vaulted glass roof and stone building facades (go here). It's larger than life in every sense—a snow-globe retail and restaurant environment that Mark Twain visited in 1879 and didn't want to leave. I was there in November and I'm looking forward to going back. Here's why...
And finally, I interview Frank Deford on Ella Fitzgerald's Someone to Watch Over Me and why the famed sportswriter and his wife laugh about the song every time they hear it. Frank's new book, I'd Know That Voice Anywhere: My Favorite NPR Commentaries, can be found here
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Happy birthday, Bill Holman! Saxophonist-arranger Bill Holman turns 89 today. Happy birthday, Bill!! Here's Stella By Starlight, one of his favorite arrangements for the Stan Kenton Orcheestra, featuring Charlie Mariano on alto saxophone...
Tony Barrow (1936-2016), the Beatles first publicist who coined the term "Fab Four," died at his home in Morecambe, England, on May 14. He was 80. I had the pleasure of interviewing Tony at length on the rise of Beatlemania in 2013. His recall was terrific and he was as charming as can be. To read my WSJ article on the event that triggered the crowd-surging phenomenon in 1963 and dangers that linger to this day, go here. [Photo above of Tony Barrow, seated in the center, with the Beatles]
Why Coleman Hawkins is known as "Bean." Following my post last weekend on a photo of Coleman Hawkins and Lou Donaldson, Bob Porter wrote that Hawkins' nickname "was a reduction of 'Best And Only'—or Bean. Hawkins was called this starting in the late 1920s and it had nothing to do with his intellect or shape of his head, as many have assumed."
Oliver Nelson. Following my post last weekend on a photo of Oliver Nelson and other musicians in a car on Rudy Van Gelder's driveway, Tony Archbold points out that the photo was likely taken at the Screamin' the Blues session on May 27, 1960.
Free Art Pepper. Art's widow, Laurie Pepper, is offering another track by the late alto saxophonist for free. This month it's Diane from 1979. Go here.
Books worth checking out. Here are a handful of new music books that are worth a look for their narrative and details...
Rich Cohen's The Sun & the Moon & the Rolling Stones (Spiegel & Grau). While at Rolling Stone magazine in 1994, Rich went on the road with the Stones and grew close enough with the band that he wound up working with Mick Jagger on HBO's Vinyl. An inside, Through the Looking Glass assessment of America's best-known rock band by a writer who never leaves the reader in the parking lot. Go here.
Ted Gioia's How to Listen to Jazz (Basic). Aimed at the novice, Ted's book serves as a literary cove that allows the curious reader to ease into jazz's daunting waters. While the book fully expects the reader to do the listening and loving, Ted helps decode the music by offering an inventive process that lets the uninitiated absorb jazz's beauty and reap its emotional rewards. Go here.
Cecil Welch's Two for the Road: The Trumpet and Me (Outskirts). Welch spent 18 years as Henry Mancini's solo and lead trumpeter. In this book, you'll find insights into what life was like playing inside the proverbial martini glass of soundtrack music and what the maestro of orchestral cool was like in the studio and on stage. Go here.
Benny Golson's Whisper Not (Temple University). Co-written with Jim Merod, this autobiography covers the life of one of jazz's prettiest composers and saxophonists. Stories about Clifford Brown, Tadd Dameron, Quincy Jones and many more who added a feline touch to jazz in the early 1950s. Go here.
Frank R. Hayde's Stan Levey: Jazz Heavyweight (Santa Monica). Stan Levey is largely forgotten today, but he began as a drummer who was among the first to grasp the complexity and art of the bebop movement in the mid-1940s and went on to be a force in West Coast jazz. In the beginning, Levey was the time-keeper behind Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie during performances in the spring of 1945 and with Gillespie in '46. Levey then played in Stan Kenton's band and other modern orchestras and small groups. A book that provides the blow-by-blow with insights from the late drummer and others. Go here.
What the heck. Larry Clinton broke up his pre-war orchestra in 1942, the year he joined the military. After being discharged in 1946, Clinton went to work as the musical director for Cosmo, a small label in New York with a Hollywood office and plant. Clinton recorded several sides during his brief time there don't appear in his discography. I found two of them.
The first is a smart arrangement of Where Or When. I have no clue who wrote the score but its a smart chart with band and strings. (The label credits "Roger and Hart"—no proofreaders at the plant, it seems, before the presses began to roll)...
Here's the flip side, Stardust...
Oddball album cover of the week.
Not sure if the cover image is interpreting the album title as gratitude ("You're such a good guy, I can't believe my good luck") or resignation ("I know it's impossible for you to be faithful, dear, but that's OK. I forgive you."). Either way, nice earrings.