Music collectors troll and stumble through dusty bins on that never ending search for their brand of gold.  The kind of gold that comes in shiny silver compact discs or black vinyl platters.  The eyes scan the jacket or the case and lock onto a long sought title or something familiar that strikes a chord as a smile crosses the face.

I had the recent joy of picking up the Mosaic Records box set of the The Complete Anita O’Day Verve / Clef Sessions.  9 discs and 192 songs of pure artistry by Ms. O’Day.

oday_anita-_completea_101b The Mosaic Box Set

Born Anita Belle Colton, O’Day was known for her impeccable timing and a range of dynamics that has rarely been matched.  She shunned the “girl singer” image and preferred to be known as a jazz musician.  A cool cat indeed, O’Day left the evening gown at home and wore a band jacket (just like the guys) and a skirt.  She changed her name to O’Day as it is pig-Latin for “dough” as in money.

Closely associated with the West Coast “cool” school of jazz and lumped in that way with Mel Torme, she knew some drumming, and while she was known to swing, she developed great improvisational skills in both melody and rhythm.  She was fast to admit that the legendary Martha Raye was her main vocal inspiration but she also gave a nod of respect to Ella and Billie.  In her bio, she maintained that a badly done tonsillectomy as a child marred her ability to sing vibrato causing her to develop better rhythm on shorter, but more percussive, notes.

3696f36dcf1eff2e2c7995da8924bYoung Anita

In the mid-’40s, Anita’s star rose with her work with the Gene Krupa and Stan Kenton orchestras.  She was trying to make her mark as a solo performer but was having a tough time of it.  She was recording on unknown small labels, she was in a lousy marriage, and even went through a prison term in 1953 for heroin possession.  But 1952 turned her around when Norman Granz signed her to Clef Records. (Granz had founded Clef Records in 1946 just after the war.  Ten years later, in 1956, he started Verve and merged the two labels.)


Fast forward to the 1956 and the release of her first 12-inch LP, Anita, on Granz’s new Verve label. (The Japanese release (pictured above) was titled “This Is Anita“.) With full orchestration backing her up, Anita’s talents shone bright.  Her versions of the classic ballads “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” and “Time After Time” absolutely blew me away.

O’Day went on to record 14 more albums for Granz and even included a reunion with her old boss, Krupa.  The albums covered a range of small group collaborations with jazz greats like Oscar Peterson, Barney Kessell, and Cal Tjader.


A Jazz Artist

As much as I admire the use of O’Day’s vocal talents on heavy jazz arrangements like Hammerstein’s “Lover, Come Back to Me” or big-band powerhouses like Porter’s “You’re the Top”, I’m a sucker for the soulful ballad.  The aforementioned “Nightingale”, “Time After Time”, and Sammy Cahn / Jule Styne’s “I Fall In Love Too Easily” make me stop and listen.


There’s a lot of Anita O’Day recordings out there and, for the casual listener, I’d recommend steering clear of some her earlier small label releases on Signature or Coral (although serious students of jazz history will note her development arc here).  The Mosaic box set is pricey at just under $200 – so look for it used.




31734.ngsversion.1422031299027.adapt.768.1 Today marks the 30th Anniversary of the Challenger explosion.  One of those moments when many cam remember where they were when they heard the news.  For me, I was sitting in a car in the parking lot of a supermarket in the Fair Haven section of New Haven, CT.  My wife had run into the store to buy some groceries for her grandfather while I watched our then 10-month old son.

I was listening to the news and they broke in with the news of the explosion. As a NASA and space-fan, I was stunned and we went upstairs to her grandfather’s apartment to watch the news unfold on television.

Where were you?

So here’s to the courageous crew of the Challenger.


I’ve attached a clip of Jonathan King’s ballad “Everyone’s Gone to the Moon“,  A beautiful song, released in 1965 when King was still a student at Cambridge University.






A wonderful piece posted at WBGO, New Jersey’s premier spot on the dial for jazz.

Source: Songs of the Civil Rights Movement – Rhonda Hamilton

The Joby Talbott post set me off on a search for some other new classical music.  I eventually made by way to 30 year old, Sarasota native, Roger Zare.


From Zare’s website….

Roger Zare has been praised for his “enviable grasp of orchestration” (New York Times) and for writing music with “formal clarity and an alluringly mercurial surface.” He was born in Sarasota, FL, and has written for a wide variety of ensembles, from solo instruments to full orchestra. Often inspired by science, mathematics, literature, and mythology, his colorfully descriptive and energetic works have been performed in five continents by such ensembles as the American Composers Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Sarasota Orchestra, the Australian-based Trio Anima Mundi, the Donald Sinta Quartet, and the New York Youth Symphony. An award winning composer, Zare has received the ASCAP Nissim Prize, three BMI Student Composer Awards, an ASCAP Morton Gould award, a New York Youth Symphony First Music Commission, the 2008 American Composers Orchestra Underwood Commission, a 2010 Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Copland House Residency Award, and many other honors. An active pianist, Zare performed his chamber work, Geometries, with Cho-Liang Lin, Jian Wang, and Burt Hara at the 2014 Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival. He has been composer in residence at the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival, the Salt Bay Chamber Music Festival, the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington and currently serves with the SONAR new music ensemble.

Zare holds a DMA (’12) from the University of Michigan, where he studied with Michael Daugherty, Paul Schoenfield, Bright Sheng, and Kristin Kuster. He holds degrees from the Peabody Conservatory (MM ’09) and the University of Southern California (BM ’07), and his previous teachers include Christopher Theofanidis, Derek Bermel, David Smooke, Donald Crockett, Tamar Diesendruck, Fredrick Lesemann, and Morten Lauridsen.




WQXR radio in New York runs a web broadcast called Living Composers / Living Music.  It’s a highly recommended, well-done look into the world of modern classical music.  I’ve been enjoying it and was recently introduced to the music of British composer Joby Talbot (b. 1971).

His newest work, Tide Harmonic, is an instrumental chamber music composition released under the Signum Classics label.

From the Signum press release / website:

“Tide Harmonic is a new work for small ensemble by the contemporary British composer Joby Talbot. With a compositional aesthetic that threads through his classical and concert works, this disc was born out of a collaboration with choreographer Carolyn Carlson originally entitled Eau. A piece for small ensemble of string quartet, percussion, harp and keyboards (celesta, piano and harmonium), Tide Harmonic is described by its composer as: “… a kind of water symphony that, rather than constructing a poetic or narrative programme inspired by man’s relationship with water, instead focuses on the substance itself, the forces that act upon it, and the energy that flows through and from it”. This is Signum’s second disc of Talbot’s work, and comes 5 years after Path of Miracles (SIGCD078) with the professional chamber choir Tenebrae:

“From its opening eerie rising vocal glissando (A Tawainese singing effect called pasiputput) for the gentlemen of Nigel Short’s Tenebrae, to the final distribution of the pilgrims having reached Finisterre … Path of Miracles is little short of a musical miracle in itself. I would go so far as to suggest that this is to the first decade of the 21st century what Arvo Pärt’s Passio was twenty years earlier”

See more at:

Sorry to say that I’m not familiar with Talbot but I do plan to correct that.  I hear strains of Max Richter here, whom I blogged about a few years ago here:


From the Signum bio on Talbot:

Joby Talbot was born in Wimbledon in 1971. He studied composition privately with Brian Elias, and subsequently at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Simon Bainbridge. Talbot’s career comprehends a range of styles and purposes, including concert works as diverse as a trumpet concerto (Desolation Wilderness, 2006) for Alison Balsom and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; a 60-minute a cappella choral journey along the Camino de Santiago for Nigel Short’s Tenebrae (Path of Miracles, 2005); arrangements of songs by Detroit rock duo The White Stripes alongside existing works for acclaimed choreographer Wayne McGregor’s Chroma (2007) at The Royal Ballet; and, also at The Royal and the National Ballet of Canada, the music for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (2011), the first full-length narrative ballet score to be commissioned by The Royal Ballet in almost 20 years. In addition, Talbot has written the madrigal The Wishing Tree (The King’s Singers, 2002); the orchestral Sneaker Wave (BBC National Orchestra of Wales, 2004) and an arrangement of Purcell’s Chacony in G Minor (BBC Symphony Orchestra, 2011) for the BBC Proms. Worlds, Stars, Systems, Infinity was commissioned in 2012 by the Philharmonia Orchestra as an addition to Holst’s The Planets, for the second of their immersive orchestral experiences, ‘Universe of Sound’. Tide Harmonic (2009), a work for large ensemble, began life as the score for Eau by choreographer Carolyn Carlson and CCN Roubaix. Other significant works written or adapted for dance include Fool’s Paradise (2007) for Christopher Wheeldon and Morphoses, an arrangement of Talbot’s 2002 silent film score The Dying Swan; Genus (2007) and Entity (2008) for Wayne McGregor and the Paris Opera Ballet and Random Dance respectively; and Chamber Symphony (2012) for the Residentie Orkest in Nederlands Dans Theater’s Chamber by choreographer Medhi Walerski. Talbot also has considerable experience writing for the screen, including BBC2 comedy series The League of Gentlemen, and feature films The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005), Son of Rambow (2007), Franklyn (2008) and Hunky Dory (2011), for which he developed orchestral arrangements of pop songs with young musicians, alongside writing the largely electronic score.




I love a good used CD bin find. A recent expedition into the Sutter’s Mill of record stores panned a real nugget from one of my favorite group efforts. “On Golden Smog” from the band Golden Smog.  This hard-to-find EP has five cover songs.

Golden Smog was a loose compilation of band members from Soul Asylum, The Replacements, Wilco, The Jayhawks, Run Westy Run, The Honeydogs and Big Star.  I came across Golden Smog from following the Midwest exploits of the The Jayhawks and particularly Gary Louris.

The lineup changes regularly but the most regular participants include guitarists Kraig Johnson (Run Westy Run), Dan Murphy (Soul Asylum) and Gary Louris (The Jayhawks), along with bassist Marc Perlman (The Jayhawks).  I hesitate to use the term “supergroup” as it’s been applied to CSN&Y or Cream but obviously this one talented group of musicians.


The five songs covered on this EP include:

“Son (We’ve Kept the Room Just the Way You Left It)”  – A Michaelangelo cover.

“Easy To Be Hard” – A Hair Cover. (Sung by The Jayhawks’ Gary Louris)

“Shooting Star” – 4:44 – A Bad Company Cover. (Sung by Soul Asylums Dave Pirner).

“Back Street Girl” – 3:55 – A Rolling Stones Cover.

“Cowboy Song” – 5:29 – A Thin Lizzy Cover. (Sung by Soul Asylum roadie, Bill Sullivan).












I recently came across a recording of “What’s the Use of Wonderin'” by Bernadette Peters that just floored me.  Written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for the 1945 play Carousel,  the song is performed by the female lead (Julie) about halfway through the 2nd act.

The Bernadette Peters’ recording isn’t from a soundtrack but is tastefully performed solo with just a guitar for instrumentation.

[Trivia note: For awhile Bernadette was sporting a fake tattoo on her left arm of a heart with the initials “BP + R&H”.]

When he wants your kisses,
You will give them to the lad,
And anywhere he leads you, you will walk.
And anytime he needs you,
You’ll go running there like mad.
You’re his girl and he’s your feller,
And all the rest is talk.



Risa_Hall_-_SoundtrackRisa Hall releases new single, ‘Soundtrack to My Life’, a pop ballad with influences ranging from Dexy’s to The Pretenders.

Risa, great-niece of Estee Lauder and friend of The New York Dolls, was born in New York City where she attended Forest Hills High, the same school as Simon and Garfunkel and The Ramones, who were friends of both her and her brother. The school was immortalised in The Ramones’s ‘Rock and Roll High’.

Following some time working as an actress and musician in London, Risa now resides in Manchester, England. After appearing as Frenchy in the Broadway Cast of Grease, touring as Mae in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, working as a voice over artist and performing in radio plays (Radio 4, Red Dwarf, Emmerdale and Stuart Little 2) Risa was inspired by KT Tunstall and Nerina Pallot to take out her guitar and start writing, tapping into a latent talent for infectious melodies and insightful lyrics.

After the release of her self-produced EP ‘Apple Tarte’, Risa worked with producer, Nigel Stonier (Waterboys, Thea Gilmore, Sandi Thom) resulting in an eclectic collection of ten self-penned songs. Risa has earned coveted support slots with Nerina Pallot, Alice Gold, James Apollo and Jess Klein as well as headlining Bury Met and ‘An Intimate Afternoon with Risa Hall’ at BBC Radio Lancashire. She has also appeared on BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio Nottingham, All FM, BBC Radio Cornwall and BBC Radio Merseyside as well as Radio Verulam and Vixen 101. In the USA she is regularly played on WPKN.

Social Links
Twitter: @risahall
Facebook: /Risahall



   One my favorite music review blogs, Aquarium Drunkard, has posted a  great piece on the album “Cubist Blues”.  The result of Alex Chilton, Alan Vega, and Ben Vaughn basically heading into a NYC recording studio in late 1994 with the intention of playing some blues and just letting the tape roll.

Although improvisational, these guys let their roots show.  Doses of rockabilly, rock, and Vega’s work with the avant-garde group Suicide.  He’s channeling Elvis here too (Presley not Costello).


I like this a lot and it’s very close to my own thoughts about improvisational work (see my older posts on Wayne Krantz and the more recent posts on the death of Ornette Coleman).

Source: Aquarium Drunkard » Alan Vega and Ben Vaughn :: Cubist Blues

Check out the video links.  I like them all but “Candy Man” is the favorite here.



A name you may not recognize but a voice you’ve surely heard, Kitty Kallen passed away this past Thursday at the age of 94 at her home in Cuernavaca, Mexico.  She had a vacation home there but spent most of her adult years in Englewood, NJ.

Kitty was probably best known for the song “It’s Been A Long Long Time”.  A staple of post-WWII playlists, the verse “Kiss me once, then kiss me twice, then kiss me once again. It’s been a long, long time.” was heard by many a returning G.I.

She also had big hits with “Bésame Mucho,” “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” “In the Chapel in the Moonlight” and is most closely associated with “Little Things Mean a Lot”.

Kallen sang with many of the big bands back in the day including legends like Jimmy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, and Harry James.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, her obituary in the New York Times characterized it perfectly… “(she) arrived on the scene as a teenager in the late 1930s. She fit the classic image of that musical era: a gorgeous girl with a big smile, a perfect figure in a strapless gown, a string of pearls, a flower in her hair, swaying to the sound of a muted horn.”



She got her start singing as a kid on a radio show sponsored by the automat chain Horn & Hardart called ““The Children’s Hour,” a radio show sponsored by Horn & Hardart,  She moved on to have her own show and started singing with big bands around the time she was 15.

One unusual note to her biography, during the peak of her popularity, three imposters billed themselves as her. When one of the imposters died (Genevieve Agostinello) passed away in 1978 the media incorrectly reported that Kitty had died.   It even went so far as that when Frank Sinatra called to offer his condolences, Kitty’s “widower” Bud Granoff, told Frank “She’s not dead, she’s sleeping.”.  It wasn’t until Bud woke Kitty and put her on the phone that Frank believed him!




The Holstee Manifesto | HOLSTEE

Posted: January 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

Happy New Year to the readers of The Eclectic Ear.  This is the best inspirational video I’ve seen in years.  I’m looking forward to another year filled with great sounds and great music from artists new and old.  Thank you for sharing the blog and for clicking “Like”.

Click on the link below the manifesto for the “Life Is Short” – Lifecycle video.




Where we began and what keeps us moving forward today. The Holstee Manifesto is a reminder of the values we live and work for.

Source: The Holstee Manifesto | HOLSTEE



Here’s an artifact unearthed from The Animals vault.  “When I Was Young” is a song with a countercultural theme released in early 1967 by Eric Burdon, with The Animals and was

The songwriting credit goes to five of the band members Eric Burdon (vocals), Barry Jenkins (drums), John Weider (guitar/violin), Vic Briggs (guitar) and Danny McCulloch (bass).  One of the all-time classic line-ups in rock history.

This song is noted for its Indian riff, played by an electric guitar as well as a violin. It is also distinctive for its introduction featuring a heavily distorted guitar’s tremolo descent from E to D.

From the Wikipedia entry….This somewhat autobiographical song told about Burdon’s father, who was a soldier during tough times, as well as young Eric’s adventures including his first smoke of a cigarette at 10, to his meeting his first love at 13. The final verse shows his disillusionment with society by saying:  “My faith was so much stronger then,/ I believed in fellow men,/ And I was so much older then./ When I was Young”. 

Ramones - Weird Tales of the Ramones cover.jpg

Later covered by everyone from Blink 182 to Tina Turner, I’ve included versions by the Ramones (1993) and Golden Earring (1995), as well as the original.


A while back I gave a tip o’ the hat to Bob Brainen over at WFMU for turning me on to the music of the late Herbie Nichols.  What an absolute joy to be experiencing Nichols for the first time!   I’ll dive into Nichols all-too short life in a moment but will preface by noting that some his work is out of print and not particularly easy to find.  But as Manfred Mann sang “…but mama that’s where the fun is.”

I was out in San Francisco this past fall and had the opportunity to stop in at Amoeba Records late one afternoon.  A music collectors paradise, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to leave.  Check out this pic of the store interior…but I digress.  The bottom line is that there under “N” was a used copy of Nichols’ final release, “Love, Gloom, Cash, Love” on CD for only $9.00.  Made my day!  In a more recent update, I found the Complete Blue Note Box Set at my favorite record store, Princeton Record Exchange, this past Sunday.  Eureka!








Herbert Nichols (1919 – 1963) was a jazz pianist best known for writing the jazz standard “Lady Sings the Blues”. He was largely unknown during his lifetime but in recent years jazz fans and critics alike have “rediscovered” his music and he has received some long overdue attention.

He was born in the San Juan Hill section of Manhattan in January 1919 to parents from St. Kitts and Trinidad but soon moved to Harlem where he grew up.

[Side note:  The San Juan Hill neighborhood was located where Lincoln Center is now. It was also the home of Thelonious Monk and is the area immortalized by Leonard Bernstein in West Side Story.]

Nichols spent most of his career in small-time bands specializing in Dixieland jazz and playing, as Donald Fagan once penned, a lot of”no-name gigs”.  He’d have preferred to playing free jazz or bop but rarely got the chance.

Nichols first known public gig was with the Royal Barons in 1937 when they took the stage at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem.  He didn’t dig the competitive atmosphere of touring bands and soon left but not before starting a life-long friendship with fellow jazz pianist Thelonious Monk.

He served his time in the army during WWII and, while working various gigs for the decade after the war, had been trying to convince Blue Note Records to sign him to a contract. He finally laid down some tracks for them in 1955 and 1956 but these sat on a Blue Note shelf not being issued until 1980 – some 17 years after his death.

In addition to some of his compositions being recorded by Mary Lou Williams in the early ’50’s, his biggest claim to fame was writing the song “Serenade” which, once lyrics were added, became “Lady Sings the Blues” and the signature song of Billie Holiday.

In 1957 he recorded his last album for Bethlehem Records and just as his career started to see some recognition he was diagnosed with leukemia and died in NYC at the age of 44.

For those wanting to know more about Nichols, Mark Miller published a wonderful (although hard to find) biography “Herbie Nichols – A Jazzist’s Life” in 2009.

Herbie Nichols: A Jazzist's Life (Trade Edition)


In addition to being promoted recently by Bob Brainen at WFMU, Nichols’ music as been kept alive by jazz trombonist Roswell Rudd.   Rudd, a master in his own right, collaborates a lot with Archie Shepp, but also worked with Nichols in the early ’60’s just before his death.  Rudd has recorded three albums of Nichols’ material including “The Unheard Herbie Nichols” in 1996. On a another path, a NYC-based group, the Herbie Nichols Project (part of the Jazz Composers Collective) has recorded three albums largely dedicated to unrecorded Nichols’ compositions,

As leader
1955 The Prophetic Herbie Nichols Vols. 1 and 2 (Blue Note) with Art Blakey (drums), Al McKibbon (bass)

1956 Herbie Nichols Trio (Blue Note) with Max Roach (drums), Teddy Kotick (bass)

1957 Love, Gloom, Cash, Love (Bethlehem) with Dannie Richmond (drums), George Duvivier (bass)

1997 The Complete Blue Note Recordings (3-CD set recorded 1955-56) – as above.




Pop Archaeology has unearthed a copy  of the classic track “Baby Please Don’t Go”.  BPDG  is one of the most played, arranged, and rearranged pieces in the blues canon.

It was first widely popularized by Delta legend  Big Joe Williams, who recorded the song on Halloween in 1935. It has roots in 19th century country blues and following Big Joe’s treatment later became a staple of post-WWII Chicago bluesmen.

It was a hit for Williams and launched his long career. He recorded a second, improved, version titled “Please Don’t Go” in December of 1941 for Bluebird, with a different arrangement and lyrics. It was recast in 1953 by Muddy Waters in true Chi-town style and later developed by everyone from John Lee Hooker and Little Walter to B.B. King.


Now baby please don’t go, now baby please don’t go
Baby please don’t go back to New Orleans, and get your cold ice cream
I believe there’s a man done gone, I believe there’s a man done gone
I believe there’s a man done gone to the county farm, with a long chain on

In 1965, the Irish rock group Them recorded it.   Them, of course, was the seminal group that launched a young (then 19) Van Morrison.Them recorded the song for Decca in October 1964 and released it as the B-side of their hit “Gloria”.  BPDG became a hit a year before “Gloria”.  They chose an arrangement that was closest to John Lee Hooker’s.  In addition to Morrison’s vocals and the members of Them, the session also included Jimmy Page (who was a well-regarded studio musician before his days in Led Zeppelin) although there is some dispute as to whether Page is the soloist here.

I’ve included the Them original version, a cool duet with Muddy Waters and The Stones, and an acoustic version from John Lee Hooker.











As the end of the year approaches it’s time for The Eclectic Ear pick for Artist of the Year.  This was an easy choice as it just doesn’t get better than Wifee and The Huzz Band.   I first heard them last summer on Little Steven’s Underground Garage show on Sirius-FM Podcast and I nearly had to pull over to rewind it a few times to repeat “She Won’t Go”.  When I later learned that Sirius had chosen the tune as “The Coolest Song in the World” I knew I was on to something.

I’ve included a great live version of their hit single “She Won’t Go“, a live clip of “Forever My Dear” and finally a smokin’ cover of the blues classic (Irma Thomas, Koko Taylor) “You Can Have My Husband (But Please Don’t Mess With My Man“.

Ruby James (Wifee) and Stephen Cooper (Huzz) front this 10-piece band of tight soul and bluemen.  Backed by a horn section that accents the Motown driven sound in a modern way.  They formed three years ago and have since gained the attention of soul, R&B, and blues fans everywhere.

In addition to her serious music chops Ruby has it going on (and with a great hairdo) and reminds me a bit of Amy Winehouse meets Darlene Love.


The band includes Ruby on lead vocals, guitar, and percussion; Stephen on lead vocals and tenor saxophone; Greg Roteik on bass; Kipp Wilde on keyboards and backing vocals; Zach Vogel on guitar and backing vocals; Chris Scheer and Michael Underwood on drums; Kurt Shipe, Greg Garcia, and Quentin Volk on trumpet; Tom VandenAvond and Tyler Jennings Henderson on trombone; and Julio Reyes and Jerod Kaszinski on baritone saxophone.

You can find out more at: