Mercoledi Musicale

Fellow blogger Domani Dave may only post once or twice a month but when he does it’s always of great interest. His only post – unless one suddenly appears today – for June introduced me to a jazz performer previously unknown (to me at least): Célia Kameni. Her rendition of I’m Through with Love sent me in search of other videos of her work.

Since we haven’t had our dose of jazz in over a year – how I miss those Thursday night sessions at Island Jazz – I thought I’d OD a bit on this remarkable singer who seems comfortable in quite a few genres.

I can’t find a biography for Célia but her Facebook page indicates that she is based in Lyon. She appears with several groups including The Amazing Keystone Big Band, the Alfio Origlio Quartet, and Bigre – all well-known performers on the European Jazz scene.

In what little I’ve been able to find out so far she graduated from the conservatory in Lyon in 2017-18 and her career has taken off since then. She professes a great love for the divine Ella and did one cover album of Ella’s standards.

According to one website her range of styles covers classic jazz, blues, reggae, swing, soul, and rock. Quite a variety! It doesn’t include gospel but this next number is pure simple revival.

Thanks Dave – I’m planning to explore more of Célia’s work and perhaps find out a litte bit more about her.

The word for June 30th is:
Gospel /ˈɡäspəl/: [noun]
1. The record of Jesus’ life and teaching in the first four books of the New Testament.
2.1 The teaching or revelation of Christ.
2.2 A thing that is absolutely true.
2.3 A set of principles or beliefs.
3. A fervent style of black American evangelical religious singing, developed from spirituals sung in Southern Baptist and Pentecostal Churches.
Old English gōdspel, from gōd ‘good’ + spel ‘news, a story’, translating ecclesiastical Latin bona annuntiatio or bonus nuntius, used to gloss ecclesiastical Latin evangelium, from Greek euangelion ‘good news’; after the vowel was shortened in Old English, the first syllable was mistaken for god ‘God’.
My mind goes back to those Sunday night gospel services that Eleanor and Frank Pounder would take our Presbyterian youth group to in the worst section of Queen Street in Toronto. They taught me a few things including a love for gospel music.

Mercoledi Musicale

Quand le jazz est là, the jazz programme we listen to most evenings on Radio Canada, follows the lead of so many CBC programmes these days and plays the same material two or three times a month. It still beats the sh stuff played on English radio that time of night so if we get Etta James singing Don’t Cry Baby twice in two weeks I’m not going to complain. However, and you knew there would be a however, three times this month we’ve been “treated” to a bizarre version of Nature Boy by Claudia Acuña, the Chilean jazz vocalist and composer. To begin with she draws it out to Wagnerian lengths – or whatever the equivalent is in jazz terms – and then for the last 2 minutes turns it into a Bossa Nova riff.

As a much needed palate cleanser I turned to YouTube and found that everyone and their nearest and dearest have done a cover since Nat King Cole first recorded it back in 1947. So I thought why not go for the original.

Of the song a reviewer in Los Angeles magazine referred to it as sounding “… like something that, from the minute it was written, existed out of time and place—all thousand and one Arabian Nights compressed into two and a half minutes as mediated by a cracked Mojave Debussy slugging down the last of the absinthe from his canteen.

By all accounts composer eden ahbez was an unusual person and part of the early “hippie” movement in California. When Nat King Cole had him tracked down so he could get the rights to record Nature Boy ahbez was living under the L in the famous HOLLYWOOD sign. He slept outdoors with his family and ate vegetables, fruits, and nuts. He claimed to live on three dollars per week. Lest it be thought he was only that “cracked Mojave Debussy” he went on to write other songs for Nat King Cole and worked with others as composer/arranger and producer. He once told a questioning policeman: “I look crazy but I’m not. And the funny thing is that other people don’t look crazy but they are.”

The word for January 22 is:
Mendacity /menˈdasədē/ /mɛnˈdæsədi/: [noun]
Mid 17th century from ecclesiastical Latin mendacitas, from mendax, mendac- ‘lying’
I’ve loved this word ever since I heard Burl Ives as Big Daddy declaiming it in A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. And a word that seems more appropriate for revival every day.

Mercoledi Musicale

I’m not sure that Blossom was ever quite that glamorous and it may just be a sly wink at the title of her album.

Many years ago I owned a two record vinyl set – yes gentle reader there was a time when records were made of vinyl and had a hole in the middle that you put on a turn… but I digress – of the slender-voiced Blossom Dearie called My New Celebrity Is You. She had recorded some quirky numbers, some sentimental numbers, some wistful numbers but all witty, sophisticated and as I was to discover very Blossom stuff. I became a convert to the cult of Blossom and her records and then CDs became, and remain, standard listening in our household.

I say slender-voiced but behind that little girl whisper was a iron clad technique that made every word audible and a jazz piano style that was with the best of the bred. Some of her live albums, recorded at Ronnie Scott’s club in London, show the ability to hold a room of smoking, drinking, and sometimes partying club goers with a whisper that filled the room.

The title song of that first album was one of those “list songs” updated by songwriter Johnny Mercer for Blossom. Of course many of the “celebrity” names are lost in the mists of time to all but us old folks but the backup group is a “celebrity” list unto itself: Toots Thielemans – Harmonica, Jay Berliner – Guitar, Ron Carter – Bass, Grady Tate – Drums, Hubert Laws – Flute, George Devins – Percussion

One of her many albums included one that is often on our changer: Blossom Dearie Sings Comden and Green. The 60 year partner ship of two of the most creative talents in American musical theatre and cinema is beyond my scope to even start writing about. Let’s just say if you enjoyed Singin’ In the Rain, The Band Wagon, Auntie Mame, or Wonderful Town then you know Betty Comden and Adolph Green. If you’ve ever heard The Party’s Over, Just In Time, or, my own favourite, Some Other Time then you know Comden and Green.

On this day in 1858: The first Hallé concert is given in Manchester, England, marking the official founding of The Hallé orchestra as a full-time, professional orchestra.

Mercoledi Musicale

In the past two months we’ve had the privilege of hearing two of Canada’s premiere jazz vocalists here in Ottawa.

Alexander Shelley, the new music director of the NAC Orchestra.

In mid-October  Alexander Shelley (left) launched his tenure as Music Director of the National Arts Centre Orchestra with Fusion Reactions: Classical Music in the Roaring ’20s – a five concert overview of the classical music scene in the 1920s.  It was programme that started with the late romantics and took us up to the jazz age and its influence on composers such as Ravel and Stravinsky.  Along the way we were treated to Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights with the full orchestra playing his score for this silent classic,  as well as an evening that mixed Mihauld, Ibert, Eisler, Webern and a handful of Cole Porter standards sung by Sophie Milman.  A relative newcomer to the Canadian jazz scene she has made her mark with several very successful albums and numerous club appearances in the past decade.  Her Love for Sale was given a particularly wry little twist as she was very obvious in her last trimester.  She has a powerful voice but uses it with a great deal of style and subtlety.  Hopefully when she starts performing again after her accouchement we’ll be treated to an entire evening of her unique way with a song.

The Lotsa Soap Gang (Jackie Richardson far right) prepare a caper in the revival of The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God.

The revival of Djanet Sears’ The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God in early November included amongst it’s cast of twenty-two actors, singers and dancers the marvellous Jackie Richardson. Richardson is well-known in jazz circles here in Canada and on stage for Big Mama! The Willie Mae Thornton Story. As adroit as her comic timing is – and she is a damned fine actress – it was her powerful delivery of Amazing Grace that gave a much needed emotional thrust to the second act. I am probably one of the few people who find the hymn a piece of overused kitsch but when she launched into it I found myself choking up.

Back in 2012 jazz great Peter Appleyard recorded what was to be his last album; entitled Sophisticated Ladies, it featured thirteen of Canada’s finest  jazz vocalists including, of course, Jackie Richardson and Sophie Milman.  Just after the album’s release CBC broadcast a concert with Appleyard, pianist John Sherwood and several of the very sophisticated ladies who had worked on the album with him.  Richardson’s version of Georgia On My Mind includes some great piano work by Sherwood as well as one of Appleyard’s legendary vibraphone solos.


Unfortunately Sophie Milman, who’s If You Could See Me Now is one of the my favourite tracks on Appleyard’s album, didn’t appear at the CBC concert. However I created a video from the CD track which I’m hoping will not be taken down for copyright reasons.  I find nothing but sheer pleasure of hearing Milman and Appleyard collaborate on this too-little-heard song.


I was rather amused by a comment on one of the YouTube boards that expressed surprised that there were Jazz vocalists in Canada.  All the proof needed of the scope and quality is available on Sophisticated Ladies.

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