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Friday, April 1, 2022

Well, did not venture out yesterday trying to still shake a horrible cold, but I did get dressed in workout clothes and tried to walk a lot. I walked much better than I did yesterday when I struggled to the store and back, but get my quart of fresh squeezed orange juice which cost 5 euros 6.11 less than what most restaurants charge for a small glass of juice not nearly as good.


Most important, I now felt well enough to focus on listening to some of the great music I have collected literally over 75 years.

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I started with “Dinah Sings—-Previn Plays. Dinah was a better singer than many give her credit for and Andre Previn, before he became one of the great conductors, was a world-class jazz pianist. He was not just phenomenal playing solo, he was one of the greatest accompanists of all time. Accompaning another artist is a talent all its own. This album, in my view, is the quintessential masterclass in that art.


The listener really has to pay careful attention because there are so many nuances as these two people talk to one another with one voice and one piano.


The songs are each in their own way great. Some are among my very favorites, like “That Old Feeling” and “Sleepy Time Gal”. One of my top ten favorite songs of all time is “It Had To Be You”. It must be sung with its very great verse, and the only other version that touches the on Shore and Previn version is Tony Bennett’s version with Bobby Hackett playing what may be the best coronet obligato in history.


And for my close friend Daryl Sherman, a wonderful entertainer and a truly wonderful person, “If I Had You” will go in your Hall of Fame. This song was Daryl’s song with her Father, himself a great trombone player. Daryl recently headlined at Birdland.

The thing about this album is that even if you do not like every song, these two artists explain why, if sung and played the right way, they are great.


The album starts and ends with “The Man I Love”. There is not a clinker on this album. This album was made in 1959 and 1960. I met Barbara in 1958 but following up with this work a year later made the beginning of my relationship with Barbara even more of a pleasure.

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Not wanting to concentrate so hard, l listened to albums that are great, but I know them so well, I do not have to actually play them. I can hear virtually every note in my head so I do not even bother anyone or interrupt their doing other things.


The album is “Bing and 'Satchmo'”. If I had to pick my two heroes of American music, they would be Crosby and Armstrong. Crosby was not just a crooner. He was a great jazz singer. To me, Armstrong could do no wrong. I still sit in my car until he finishes before turning off the radio. When he died, I knew, for sure, no one could be immortal. If God took him, no one else had a chance.


This is a collection of Dixieland standards and is just plain fun from beginning to end. I appreciate “Sugar”. In my view, the best duet ever done was Louis and Bing doing “Gone Fishin’”. Both artists were not just great solo artists but also did duets as well as anyone. Listen to Bing and Clooney. Listen to Louis with anyone but start with Ella after Bing.

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Next came “Stritch’. I loved Elaine Stritch, still do. She was a true “Broadway Baby”. She starred in both straight plays and musicals. Hal Prince significantly changed his last production of my favorite musical “Showboat” to accommodate her special talents. I saw that single production eight times.


However, as great as Stritch was on the stage, she was even greater in cabaret with 150 or less patrons, whom she held enthralled from the moment she walked out to entertain, so close to the customers at ringside they could easily touch her just by reaching out. Working “on the floor” is its own separate talent and even seasoned live performers get stage fright when nothing separates the audience but a foot.


Stritch had her own style and very eclectic taste. I wrote over a year ago about what I think is a great song, seldom done, and not recognized as being as good as it is -- "That’s The Beginning Of The End”. And I always had a sentimental spot for “I Don’t Want To Walk Without You”.


I love this album. It is not for everyone, but neither was Elaine Stritch. It is for people who love the way a true cabaret star interprets a song. This is not a live performance, but what made her great live makes this album great. The great cabaret performers love their audience. The rapport is hard to establish and not that many can really do it. Stritch could, big time!

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My last musical that is a live album -- “Darin At The Copa”. I saw this show as a kid. I loved Darin. I loved the show and I love his version of “Some of These Days”. That was my Father’s favorite song and I own over a 100 recordings of it. One day, I will write extensively about that song, which was Sophie Tucker’s theme song.


Darin was a truly great performer. Had he not died so prematurely, he could well have been a Vegas superstar in the Sinatra class. He had great charisma, a great arranger, used the same high quality musicians as Sinatra, Martin and a very few others. He could sing everything.

That he could slay a New York audience in a tiny venue like the Copa at such a young age is something very few other performers have ever done. Remember, there are no “takes”. Out walks the performer with a live big band behind him, the toughest, most sophisticated crowd in front of him, many who could have you rubbed out by snapping their fingers, and thinking “okay kid, show us what you got” -- Darin showed them in spades.


The Copacabana also had its own dancers. The Copacabana Girls danced before the headliner went on. They also served very good Chinese food. There is a story of the husband who confessed to his wife that he had a girlfriend and that she danced at the Copa. The Wife insisted on being taken to the show, and when the dancers came out, she said “okay, which one is she?” Husband replied “third one from the left”. After a few minutes, the wife turned to her husband and said “ you know of all of them, I like ours the best”.

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There are an unbelievable number of serious problems in the world including but not limited to any unprovoked war by a war criminal who is bombing schools and hospitals, killing civilians including children. We have the worst conflict of interest one can imagine in our highest court and are helpless to do anything about it. We have an immediate former President asking the war criminal for help, damaging our parent President and Commander in Chief. We have elected politicians voting against an anti-lynching bill, and virtually an entire half of a Senate treating a great jurist nominated for the Supreme Court as if she were dirt.


Our scruples, our decencies, the values that made this country great are being destroyed and we are either too stupid and/or evil and/or lazy to even object. So, I figure “why should I knock my head against a wall trying to change things? I will talk about some of the things people seem to be interested in -- how about basketball and barbecue?"

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This weekend Duke plays North Carolina in the Final Four. These two schools are about ten miles apart in North Carolina, one (Duke) being an elite private school, the other (North Carolina) a great public institution. Duke’s coach K is retiring. He is, arguably, the greatest college coach in history. The two teams have played hundreds of times but never on this stage. I am told that tickets for the games these two teams play are priceless. I have never tried to get tickets and would not have the balls to ask.


I do not pretend to be a huge expert on college basketball, but I cannot think of a rivalry that can even approach this matchup in this sport. I have learned more than a little about North Carolina, not because I have a home up there as many Floridians do, or vacation there. I know about North Carolina because I, this Jewish person from New Jersey, am a barbecue nut, and for many years was part of a group of guys who annually picked a State and spent four or five days eating at as many barbecues as we could.


Keep in mind that, in the South, barbecue is not meat, it is not chicken, it is not even pork ribs, it is pig. It can be in all forms, and cooked over hickory or oak or both. Lunch for 20 costs less than the tax on a moderate hotel in New York. Traveling across North Carolina, whether it is tomato-based sauce, vinegar-based or tomato-based, the barbecue is great. Our group became real aficionados, sometimes rating the various barbecues (one to five oinks) for magazines. We rated the meat, the sauce, the hush puppies, even the tea. We were given VIP tours of the pits and learned about the various parts of the pig and learned why one preferred sliced, others diced, others the butt, others the whole pig, or just the shoulder. The combinations of Carolina barbecue are virtually endless. And on more thing: nothing was kosher.


So, I learned about a good part of North Carolina culture, not from hanging out in million- dollar homes on the water or playing golf. I learned from the people who loved sitting around enjoying great barbecue. It was hard to have more fun with my clothes on, and once I ended up even losing my clothes getting so drenched at a Florida vs Tennessee football game that we traveled to from North Carolina that I was reclothed in Tennessee orange. I looked like a huge drenched orange from another planet, but I was not going to miss a football game, and that great Southern tradition to stay warm and dry and watch the game on television.


I cannot be sure, but I think that particular trip made a big difference as to how I was treated by the good old Southern boys because I was anything but that. I do believe some barriers were broken for me that day. By the way, I could always hold my own eating the barbecue.

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Go Ukraine

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