Dorothy Dorow, Vocal Interpreter of “Fiendish Works”

Des Hafis Liebeslider Op. 24, No. 5 “Der verliebte Ostwind” – Listen on YouTube

As her obituary in The Telegraph points out, Dorothy Dorow took on the most challenging works that “avant-garde composers could throw at her; awkward intervals, high notes, squeaks and squawks.”

Dorow had perfect pitch and a vocal range that could stretch four octaves, from coloratura to mezzo soprano. She performed works by Berg, Schoenberg and Webern and is thought to be the only singer to record three of Schoenberg’s most challenging works.

As if that weren’t enough, she learned to speak six languages and could sing in 13.

Dorothy Dorow, August 22, 1930 – April 15, 2017

“La lune solitaire” on Spotify

Kristine Jepson, Mezzo-Soprano Who Performed Worldwide

As Idamante in Mozart’s Idomeneo – Watch on YouTube

Kristine Jepson was a mezzo-soprano, covering the range between a soprano and contralto.  As a mezzo, Jepson sometimes appeared in male roles (such as Idamante in the above video). As Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier, she played a man playing a woman. Another role that Jepson was particularly known for was The Composer in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. (Some mezzo roles were once performed by castrati, who, for obvious reasons, are no longer in great supply.)

Jepson was a graduate of the University of Indiana Bloomington, which is known for its music department. The violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Jeremy Denk are also Indiana grads.

Jepson performed on opera stages around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, The Royal Opera, Bavarian State Opera, San Francisco Opera and Santa Fe Opera. Her Met debut was in Benjamin Britten’s Death in Venice and appeared as Sister Helen in the worldwide premiere of Dead Man Walking.

Kristine Jepson, July 20, 1962-April 21, 2017

From Ariadne auf Naxos on Spotify

 

Slyvia Moy, Who Co-Wrote Hits With Stevie Wonder

On Recording “My Cherie Amour” – Watch on YouTube

Remember the Stevie Wonder hit “Oh My Marcia”? Of course, you don’t. But you’ve heard it by the name Stevie’s producer Sylvia Moy gave it – “My Cherie Amour.” The first female producer at Motown, Moy is credited with keeping Wonder at the label when it was unsure of how to adjust to the young prodigy’s changing voice. Working with Wonder and frequent song collaborator Hank Crosby, she discovered a new avenue for Wonder’s talent.

If you check out her page on Discogs, you’ll discover that Moy has 926 writing and arrangement credits. In that list (it runs for 38 pages) are included hits like “Uptight (Everything’s Alright),” “I Was Made To Love Her” and “Never Had A Dream Come True.” The list includes songs that earned 20 BMIs and 6 Grammy nominations.

She and Crosby were inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 2006.

Sylvia Moy, September 15, 1938-April 15, 2017

“Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” on Spotify

Follow the LGMR Soul/R&B/Funk 2017 Playlist here.

 

Kurt Moll, Basso Profondo Who Could Hit A Low C

“Da Lieg Ich” from Der Rosenkavalier – Watch on YouTube

A “basso profondo” is an especially low bass voice.  While a typical bass can hit E2 (the second E below Middle C), Kurt Moll (April 11, 1938-March 5, 2017) could drop his voice to a Low C, two full steps lower. (This is what it sounds like on a piano.)

The boorish Baron Ochs from Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier is a role that calls for its singer to hit Low C., and Moll performed it frequently. He made seven complete recordings as Ochs, including a 1984 album with Herbert von Karajan, which Moll was particularly fond of. Through the 1960s, he performed with various German companies and became a regular on European and U.S. stages in the 1970s.

“…an exceptional basso profondo that proved as remarkable for its easy production as for its velvet timbre.” – Opera News

“Mein Lieber, Hippolyte” from Der Rosenkavalier on Spotify

(Listen for the Low C.)

To follow 2017’s complete LGMR Classical/Opera playlist, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Junie Morrison, Funkadelic Hall Of Famer and Ohio Player

Suzie Supergroupie–Listen on YouTube

Walter “Junie” Morrison was one of those guys, like Prince, who could hear the music in his head and then pick up all the instruments, push all the buttons and turn all the knobs and come out with a one-man-band, fully-formed hit. He apprenticed with the Ohio Players, leading them to their first #1 R&B hit, “Funky Worm,” which he gets most of the credit for, as a writer, producer, arranger and keyboardist.

After a few years helping to send the Ohio Players on an upward trajectory, he moved to George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic. Clinton admired the young sideman, noting that Junie “could do it all, and if you weren’t careful, he would.” It was for his work with Parliament-Funkadelic that Junie earned his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame honor. Junie (1954-January 21, 2017) would move on to produce a number of solo albums.

“Funk is an excellent platform for moving or removing the ills that may be present in our lives.” –Junie Morrison

My last post was on David Axelrod, a producer/arranger whose heyday was in the 60s and 70s, and who would become a go-to source for hip-hop samples. So was Junie. Many artists dug into his catalog for sounds. “Funky Worm” alone was sampled by N.W.A., Ice Cube, Kris Kross, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince and De La Soul. Solange recorded a tribute to Junie on her Grammy Award-winning project A Seat At The Table.

I get much of my news on musicians from Google Alerts, The New York Times, Rolling Stone and other mainstream sources. But I do like to branch out for information from other sources. For Junie, I turned to Okayplayer, a site started by ?uestlove of The Roots in 1999. It bills itself as “the original progressive urban music site.”

“Funky Worm” on Spotify

“Junie,” a tribute to Morrison by Solange–on Spotify

Bobby Freeman, Wrote And Sang “Do You Wanna Dance”

“Do You Wanna Dance” on Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show (1958)–Watch on YouTube*

I read Bobby Freeman’s obituary right after this year’s Grammy Awards. It made me wonder: would any of the songs that were up for 2017’s “Song of the Year” endure in the way that Freeman’s 1958 classic “Do You Want To Dance?” has?

Freeman’s song, written and recorded while he was still a teenager, would go on to be covered by The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas, John Lennon, The Ramones and Bette Midler. You can accuse me of Baby Boomer fuddy-duddyism, but it’s hard to imagine Adele, Beyoncé and all the pop machine behind them producing a tune still worth humming 60 years from now.

“Do You Want To Dance” didn’t win at the 1st Annual Grammy Award Show in 1959, the year it would have been eligible. It wasn’t even nominated. The honor that year went to “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)” by Domenico Modugno.

Freeman (June 13, 1940-January 23, 2017) is considered San Francisco’s first rock-and-roll star. His 1964 hit “C’Mon and Swim” was written and produced by then-19-year-old Sylvester Stewart (aka Sly Stone).

*This rather strange video begins with host Dick Clark talking to actor Tony Randall, apparently on leave from the Navy.

“Do You Wanna Dance” Original & Covers–Listen on Spotify

 

Al Jarreau, Won Grammys In 3 Categories

“Spain” at Live Under the Sky, 1990–Watch on YouTube

Al Jarreau is the only vocalist to win a Grammy in the Jazz, R&B and Pop categories. He won Best Jazz Vocal Performance in 1977 and 1978; Best Pop and Jazz Vocal Performance, Male, in 1982; and Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male, in 1993; and Best Traditional Vocal R&B Vocal Performance in 2007. (Oh, and add a Best Recording for Children Grammy in 1981 for work he did with other artists on a Sesame Street album.)

My friend Mark, a saxophonist, credits Jarreau with teaching him the value of circular breathing, a technique used to produce a continuous tone without interruption. Mark’s memories of Jarreau include a concert at Minneapolis’s State Theater in which Jarreau picked out then-Minneapolitan Bobby McFerrin in the crowd. He invited McFerrin on stage and gave him a mic; the two then entered into a “battle of the scat.”

I was amused to learn that Jarreau was a graduate of Ripon College in small Ripon, WI, birthplace of the Republican Party. Seems like an unlikely place for a jazz and R&B artist. Apparently, Jarreau’s singing career really didn’t take off until he’d relocated to California.

“[Round, Round, Round] Blue Rondo a la Turk–on Spotify

John Wetton, Bassist for King Crimson and Asia

“Easy Money” King Crimson Live at Wollman Memorial Rink (1973)–Watch on YouTube

Sadly, I’ve written a lot of posts in the past 12 months for progressive rockers. Greg Lake and Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Chris Squire of Yes. Now, add to the list John Wetton of King Crimson. He joined the band in 1972 and contributed to the albums Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (great title!), Starless and Bible Black and Red. 

When founder Robert Fripp* pulled the plug on the band in 1974, Wetton played with British rockers Wishbone Ash, Brian Eno, Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry, Uriah Heep and U.K. He formed the supergroup Asia with  EL&Per Carl Palmer. While King Crimson never quite hit its stride commercially, Asia came out of the gates strong with its self-titled debut. Powered by the hit “Heat of the Moment,” the album stayed on top of the charts for nine weeks. But it was slowly downhill from there as ensuing albums failed to keep pace.

Wetton (June 12, 1949-January 31, 2017) pursued solo work in the 90s, but reunited with Asia in 2006. He had planned to tour with the group as late as last fall until illness forced him to cancel his plans.

*Robert Fripp was mentioned in a post on Maggie Roche last week, but, alas, the post was lost in a switch to a new web hosting company. Fripp helped the Roches go with their organic, authentic style, which would define their sound for the duration of their career.

“Heat of the Moment”–Watch on YouTube

Buddy Greco, “The Ultimate Lounge Singer”

“The Lady Is A Tramp”–Watch on YouTube

Buddy Greco (August 14, 1926-January 10, 2017) was a jazz singer and pianist, long associated with Las Vegas, lounge acts and a Rat Pack-sensibility. Although he never achieved the fame of Rat Pack stalwarts Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. He recorded over 70 albums and performed relentlessly. “The Lady Is A Tramp” was the closest he had to a hit, and even that did not crack the Top 40.

Reviewers were generally not kind:

“…a strangely empty, unfocused act…” -New York Times critic John S. Wilson (1977)

“Frank Sinatra  Jr. Is Worth Six Buddy Grecos” -GQ (1994)

“…the epitome of a certain kind of saloon performer.” -Chicago Tribune critic Larry Cart (1985)

Greco’s first love was jazz and piano. He played with the Benny Goodman Orchestra for four years beginning in 1948 and can be heard soloing on Goodman’s album Undercurrent Blues, a brief detour for Goodman from swing into bebop.

Greco was inducted into the Las Vegas Entertainers Hall of Fame in November.

“Like Young” on Spotify

Sources: The Washington Post, Billboard, JazzWax

 

Léo Marjane, French Chanteuse During Paris Occupation

Léo Marjane at 100 years–Watch on YouTube (in French)

The artistry of Thèrése Maria Léonie Gendeblen, who performed under the stage name Léo Marjane, is overshadowed by her career choices during the Nazi occupation of Paris. During this period, Marjane, a popular chanteuse, continued to perform in clubs frequented by collaborationists and Nazis and sang on the tainted Radio Paris, which came under German control and was seen as a mouthpiece of the Axis. (Radio Paris was shuttered after the liberation of Paris.)

Marjane (August 26, 1912-December 18, 2016) was not the only French artist to find herself in a no-win situation. Maurice Chevalier worked to salvage his reputation by claiming to leverage his popularity to secure the release of 10 French POWs. (A video of Chevalier’s PR defense can be seen on holocaustmusic.ort.org.) For her part, Marjane claimed to have been naive.

After the war, Marjane’s popularity waned, and she sought audiences elsewhere, in  the U.S., Canada and South America. She gave up performing entirely by 1960. In recent years, she has had a bit of a comeback, appearing on CD anthologies of music from the 1930s and 40s.

Léo Marjane lived to be 104.

“Seule ce soir” on Spotify