This is JD Doyle and welcome to Queer Music Heritage.
Lea DeLaria - All That Jazz (2001)
That was Lea DeLaria and of course the song was her interpretation of "All That Jazz." I'm jokingly calling this show "Some of That Jazz," as I've set up a big challenge for myself. I'm going to share with you jazz music by as many GLBT artists as I can, and on the internet version that will mean several hours worth.
I've also got some special interviews to share with you. On this segment we'll hear from acclaimed pianist Fred Hersch, and on Part 2 I'll share with you a talk I had with jazz vocalist Kellye Gray, and Part 3 will include a short interview with Los Angeles vocalist Mark Winkler. All three of course will mostly focus on their music but we will also touch on the subject of gays in the jazz world.
To describe Fred Hersch as prolific doesn't nearly do him justice. He's been a renown composer, bandleader and soloist for decades and as a leader or co-leader has released over three dozen albums, appearing on several dozen more as a featured soloist or sideman. He's received numerous awards and honors, including five Grammy nominations. And that includes two for this year, for his latest CD. He produced and performed on four benefit recordings for AIDS charities. Vanity Fair magazine has described him as "the most arrestingly innovative pianist in jazz over the last decade or so."
Before we get to the interview I'm going to play a little of the track "Work," by Fred Hersch and written by Thelonious Monk. It has a Grammy nomination this year, from the album "Alone at the Vanguard." And as jazz songs tend to be two or three times longer than the music I usually play, for this segment I'll mostly be giving you clips, so we can include more overall.
Fred Hersch - Work (2011)
JD: Your latest album is called "Alone at the Vanguard," can you tell me about it?
Fred Hersch: Well, it's the last set of twelve sets we recorded that week at the Vanguard, and I was the first pianist to ever play solo there, so this was my second engagement there as a solo pianist, so I decided to record it. And it's the last set of the whole week. Rather than picking takes, you know, from every night and assembling a virtual set, something about the last set in its entirety felt right to me. And there'll probably be a volume two, where I'll go back to the other eleven sets and pick what I think is the best stuff. But it was nice, this is nominated for two Grammys this year, for Best Album and for Best Instrumental Solo, for the track "Work." It's a tune by Thelonious Monk. It's very nice recognition, I mean, there are only two instrumental jazz categories and I basically have two out of the ten slots, so I'm very very happy with that, a very nice surprise.
JD: What do you think your chances are?
FH: I have a chance in the solo section, not for album, probably not. It may turn out to be a popularity contest, in which case I won't win.
JD: There's always politics.
FH: Yeah, well, I've been nominated three times before, and as I said it's particularly sweet for this album, cause it's a little bit different.
JD: From that album, my favorite song is the one Frank Sinatra made famous, "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning," how did you select that one?
FH: Oh, it's a tune I've known for years, and just I felt like playing it that night, really, you know, I choose my sets kind of as I go, and especially the second set of the closing night, and it felt nice to start with a ballad, and sometimes you get people's attention by playing something soft and slow, rather than hitting them over the head, so that's sort of the approach I took. I tried to be evocative of the midnight hour as I could be without being corny about it. Yeah, it's a beautiful tune. I know the lyrics to all those songs that I play and it's a very nice lyric.
Fred Hersch - In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning (2011)
JD: Do you have a favorite track from that CD?
FH: I think "Work" is really good, and I like "Down Home," "Wee Small Hours," those are all nice, "Doxy's" a nice one, I think it's pretty strong track to track.
I want to preface this next question with a bit of info. In 2001 Fred, along with Gary Burton and Andy Bey, took part in a landmark panel discussion, about gays in the jazz world. This was the first public forum I know of where homophobia in jazz was addressed. And also, in his answer he mentions the GLAMA awards. This was the Gay & Lesbian American Music Awards, and that organization was founded to recognize and give exposure to GLBT artists. It presented awards from 1996 to 1999 and Fred received four awards and two nominations during that time.
JD: I think it's interesting that your latest CD was recorded at the Village Vanguard and you participated in a landmark panel discussion there. I know it's been a while, but would you talk about that event?
FH: Well, it was rather unpleasant actually, you know, it's like gays in jazz, it's like women in jazz. I think it was silly and in retrospect I would not have participated, just because, it's like saying guys with glasses in jazz, or women who wear slacks in jazz. I mean, it's kind of dumb. But as the sort of go-to guy for gay jazz musicians. I was one of the first people that came out about it, that felt like it was important to be part of it. And the questions to me were rather obvious, and it further reinforces the idea that there's no such thing as gay music, especially when you're dealing with instrumental music. It's not like I'm singing a song to my same-sex partner.
I mean you might say that's gay music, okay, fine, but music is music, and because Ravel may or may not have been gay doesn't mean that he wrote gay music. And because John Cage was gay doesn't mean that he wrote gay music, and because I'm gay doesn't mean that I play gay music.
I play my music, and people read into it whatever they want to. I don't really believe it should be separated. I know that there were the GLAMA Awards and all that kind of stuff. I think that maybe served a function at a certain time, but at this point I mean, major TV people have come out, there are gay characters on television, and there are highly visible people in politics and in the media in this country, and it's quickly becoming a non-issue, which what it should be.
JD: So if somebody asked you at that discussion, is there homophobia in jazz, you would have a different answer now I think.
FH: I never experienced it anyway. People might have said things behind my back, but nobody said anything to me directly ever. Some people will like what I do, that's great, and some people won't, and it's that simple. And if they're homophobic it gives me another reason not to like me musically. That's really all it is. I've not experienced any direct hatred or vitriol. I don't know what people say behind my back, but certainly when I've been through various illnesses, the response of the jazz community as such as been unfailingly positive, and compassionate, and I think I'm a valued person on the New York jazz scene, and I take a lot of comfort in that. You know, I go out with my partner and people, "oh, it's Fred and Scott," it's not any big deal.
Over the years Fred has produced several benefit albums for AIDS organizations, and they've raised over $250,000. The first one was in 1994 and was called "Last Night When We Were Young," so I asked about that one.
FH: Well, that was a benefit project for Classical Action Performing Arts Against AIDS, and I enlisted a lot of my famous jazz colleagues to each come and play a ballad, to benefit Classical Action, which provides AIDS services and education it's not research services and education. And a lot of very big people donated their talent and the engineering and the studio, and the graphic design, everything was donated. I had hoped to get a major label to pick it up and release it and donate the profits. None of them did, so basically Classical Action put it out themselves, and even with a toll-free number and no internet, this was pre-internet, we sold $125-150 thousand dollars worth of them. And I found myself in Newsweek and CNN and coming out about being a gay jazz musician and having HIV. It was kind of a good impetus for me to do that, and the project I think is a beautiful musical project, so I'm glad that it got some nice attention. But it was definitely an impetus for me, my beginnings as an activist
JD: Could you talk in particular about the title track, the one with Mark Murphy.
FH: We did one take of it, that was it, it was like okay, we have it, I think there's a beautiful fragility he brings to that tune. It's the only time he and I have ever played together. He's gay of course as well. And then I started thinking about the title and how it is evocative of a ballad album, so it just stuck as the title of the CD.
JD: And also kind of people braving the challenges of AIDS growing up fast.
FH: Yes, that's true. My whole generation had we lost a lot of youth, so that was part of it as well.
Here's a bit of the song "Last Night When We Were Young," written by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, and performed by Mark Murphy and Fred Hersch.
Last Night When We Were Young - Mark Murphy & Fred Hersch (1994)
JD: Do you get weary of the terms gay and HIV positive being used so often when describing you?
FH: Well, when somebody's reviewing a CD in a magazine they don't talk about that at all. They may refer to my illness of 2008 but I think I'm just Fred at this point. Obviously if it's a gay publication it's a different story, but it's part of who I am. It's not the most important part of who I am by a long stretch, but it's certainly part of who I am. I don't shy from it, but I think to focus on that all the time kind of misses the whole picture.
JD: As knowledge about you being gay became more known over the years, did you perceive an increase in the amount of gay people in your audience, or did that change?
FH: I don't know, I can't really tell, it's hard to tell. Certainly gay people come out and listen to me, but the audience for jazz and the audience for what I do is small anyway. In terms of a cross section of people who are gay and are jazz and are Fred fans, it's a very small sample. So I don't know if I have any large gay following or not, cause I certainly don't survey people. Usually my audiences are pretty robust and I'm just happy they're there
JD: About a year after Matthew Shepard died you recorded a piece dedicated to him. Could you talk about that one?
FH: That was part of a large piece of music that I composed for the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, which was called "Out Someplace," and it explored different meanings of the phrase "out someplace," you know, "out someplace" like crazy, or "out someplace" like let's go out someplace and have a drink, and this was around the time of Matthew Shepard's murder and I thought of him tied to a fence post in the middle of the Winter, and terrible conditions, and I thought, that's out someplace in a really horrifying way. So that piece sort of entered my repertoire as a stand-alone piece.
This sampling of "Out Someplace (Blues for Matthew Shepard)" I think really evokes the feeling of him being out there all alone.
Fred Hersch - Out Someplace (Blues for Matthew Shepard) (2000)
JD: This next question, I'm asking it from the stand-point of a producer of a show about gay/lesbian music. So, just speaking about people who are out, who are your favorite jazz vocalists or musicians?
FH: Well, Andy Bey, certainly, Gary Burton is certainly a wonderful musician. I can't really off the maybe it's just today and I've been running around like a mad man, but not too many come to mind at the moment.
JD: Well, there seems to be fewer out lesbians in jazz, why do you think that might be so?
FH: Well, there are fewer women in jazz.
JD: I knew that's the first thing you'd say.
FH: Right, so once again it's a percentage game. But I think there's a higher percentage of women jazz musicians who are gay, then there are men, relative to the total number. I'm not a social scientist or whatever, so I can't be sure, but many of the women instrumentalists that I do know are gay not all of them, but a fair amount of them. I'm looking at my list of gay jazz musicians, which I happen to have on my computer, which is by no means complete Cecil Taylor, there's one for you, Theo Bleckmann, Bill Steward is a great drummer, Ann Hampton Callaway is a very fine singer. And then all the deceased ones, Billy Strayhorn and Carmen McRae going back to Bessie Smith, who played both sides of the fence, Stephane Grapelli. There's been a lot of gay musicians historically, but a lot of them obviously had to keep quiet about it, or like Billy Strayhorn chose to lead a sort of double life.
Fred mentioned Ann Hampton Callaway, and she certainly is one of the best vocalists of the current jazz-pop world. She appeared on one of the AIDS benefit albums Fred produced, called "Two Hands Ten Voices," in 2003, singing the Carole King classic song, "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," and this is gorgeous.
Ann Hampton Callaway - Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (2003)
JD: I've read that at one gig you accompanied Chris Connor, what was that like?
FH: Oh, God, that's such ancient history, my God, I haven't thought of that in thirty years. Yeah, that was when I was early on in New York, and I just needed work, basically, I worked with Chris and it was certainly good honest work. She was not that easy to work with, and she was on the back side certainly of her career. She was capable a couple times a set of really sounding great.
Fred said it was about 30 years ago and that was a great guess. In 1981 he was a session player on a recording done by NPR at the Sweet Basil in New York City. It was not released until 1995 and was probably one of his earliest recordings. From it I picked one of Chris Connor's signature songs, "All About Ronnie."
Chris Connor - All About Ronnie (1981)
JD: How has your approach to your music changed over the years, and what is it like now after your coma?
FH: I'm a lot looser, I feel more connected, I feel very good about my playing. It's just different, I can't really you can't say quantitatively what the difference is, but qualitatively my relationship to my music is, I think, better, or healthier not that it was bad before, cause I don't want to discount the first twenty-five years of my career, but I think it's just a little deeper.
JD: Was there a drive before to make sure you produced a body of work?
FH: Absolutely, sure, in the late 80's or 90's I thought, okay, this is the last album I'm going to make. Protease inhibitor drugs hadn't come out, people were dropping like flies, and I thought, okay, at least I want to leave a mark. Now obviously I'm 56, and 60 is looking like a no-brainer, so when I was 30 I thought 40, I'm never going to make it. So it's a different kind of situation. I take a lot of pills and so on and so forth, but I lead a normal life. I tour, I do things that I like to do, I'm happily married, and it's all good.
In 2010 Fred released another of his trio albums, called "Whirl," and this track has the very interesting title of "Mrs. Parker of K.C."
Fred Hersch Trio - Mrs. Parker of K.C. (2010)
JD: I watched your DVD last night, "Let Yourself Go," and I quite liked it. I think my favorite line was when you were teaching a master class and asked how many jazz musicians does it take to play "My Funny Valentine"? you said, all of them.
[ Background song: Fred Hersch Trio - My Funny Valentine (1993) ]
FH: Yes, got to have a little humor in those situations.
JD: But I think there was some truth in there, too.
FH: Yeah, I suppose so, I mean, look, we all learned the meat-and-potatoes songs, and some of them find their way into our repertoires as we get old and some of them we learn when we're young and we forget about them. And I can't tell you how many sing that song and don't even know what it's about, or care. But yeah it is kind of a cliché, I suppose those kind of tunes you know, "Autumn Leaves" and "My Funny Valentine" and those kind of over-played chestnuts.
JD: In the video I also liked where you said that when you were first studying what jazz was, you bought thirteen albums containing the song "Autumn Leaves."
FH: That is very true, I did do that, and it was just very lucky, cause I got to compare and contrast with something that I knew. It was like looking at twelve different still lifes by twelve different painters, or twelve different bowls of fruit. You learn a lot about where someone's coming from. And that was just dumb luck that I happened to do that, but I did do that, and it really, really helped me to understand that it's very important to have one's voice and to do things in a personal way. Since you couldn't say any one of them was the best
JD: Right, well that's irrelevant.
FH: Right, that's irrelevant, exactly.
JD: I know artists and musicians like to talk about their latest release, I'm curious which album has been your biggest seller?
FH: Oh, maybe "Passion Flower," maybe "Passion Flower." My first "Live at the Vanguard Trio" album did very well. "Leaves of Grass" actually sold very well. I don't really keep track of those things, to tell the truth.
From the 1996 album "Passion Flower," is the Billy Strayhorn classic "Lush Life."
Fred Hersch - Lush Life (1996)
has been very good. You're a good interviewee.
JD: I studied quite a bit.
FH: I always know I'm in trouble when somebody says, "so, when did you start playing the piano?" or "who is your biggest influence?" Those are just questions I know I'm in for a rough time if somebody starts there, so thank you for being more imaginative.
This is JD Doyle closing Part 1 of Queer Music Heritage, and this is my Jazz Special. Please check out my website for Part 2, and an interview with jazz vocalist Kellye Gray, and then several more segments, totaling six hours, of just a whole lot of jazz music by GLBT artists. That's at queermusicheritage.com. I'm ending this segment with a track I love from Fred's latest album, "Alone at the Vanguard." It's a tribute to his friend, jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, and is called "Down Home."
Fred Hersch - Down Home (2011)
This is JD Doyle and welcome to Part 2 of my Queer Music Heritage special on Jazz Music. That was Kellye Gray with a bit of the title track from her 1996 album, "Tomato Kiss." Kellye's been sharing her jazz talent for over twenty years, and has released six albums. Before she started singing professionally she was a stand-up comic, which you readily believe if you've seen her live, as her sense of humor warms the room during her act. I started our interview with her most recent recorded project, a video for Marriage Equality, using the song "Everything Must Change," one that Nina Simone and many others have recorded.
JD: I especially want to hear about "Everything Must Change." You've recorded it twice and did a video of that one.
Kellye Gray: "Everything Must Change," I just love the song, I always loved the song the first time I heard it when I was a young girl years ago I thought it was probably one of the most effective lyrics, and emotional melodic pattern tied to a lyric of almost any song. To me that's really what makes a great song. The message in the lyric, as I said, you can't be more essential about what life is really about is that everything must change, everything will change, everything does change, everyday. It's the change of life that teaches us and shows us that if you're too attached you'll trip yourself up, because you can't be, because it's got to flow, it has to move and flow.
I went to San Francisco and my partners and I wanted to make a music video, because I had never done a music video and it just so happened that was when California had decided to legalize gay marriage. And right when we started making the video we thought that would be a beautiful thing. Well, then they pulled it. All these friends of mine went off and got married and then all of a sudden you couldn't get married anymore. So we thought that would be a good opportunity to use the video to make a statement.
Kellye Gray - Everything Must Change (2008)
JD: Have you been out pretty much your whole music career?
KG: Basically, yeah, you know the interesting thing was that I never led with my sexuality, ever, and my mother was very much into me being a woman and looking like a woman and being very feminine. And I was sort of the baby dyke early on, always butch, a little, you know, gruff. But I do love to dress up and I love being very feminine sometimes, and I've sort of embraced that, cause I thought that was the stereotype. And it was it is the stereotype, for my genre, to be a jazz singer, you have to look a certain way, you have to wear the beaded gown. You have to sort of be the feminine side of the very masculine ensemble. So I played that game early on, because I do think it did open more doors for me, which is a horrible statement, but it's a true statement. But at the end of the day I did find that I have had producers that eventually I fought with, or because I am a lesbian and they would say, "well, that's just because you don't understand men, you don't relate to men and therefore we don't meet eye to eye." And I said it has nothing to do with my sexuality. It has to do with the fact that I don't agree with you. It's just as simple as that. But you can go ahead and look at it with the fact that you think it's just that I don't like men.
JD: Do you think being out of the closet has had any effect on your career?
KG: Maybe, I'm sure it has, yeah, I believe that it has, because it's still very old-fashioned in that way, and there's still a lot of people around that are in power, especially growing up, I mean, that probably wouldn't give me a break, because of it because I wouldn't come out and flirt with them. Or that I wouldn't go to bed with them and their wives. I had that proposal many times. Yeah, I could go back in my life and I could probably recount several times where I'm sure I didn't get the recording contract, or that I didn't get the opportunity because of those because of me refusing to play that game. Yes, I do believe, to answer your question in a very concise way, yes, there's been times in my life that I didn't get the opportunity because of prejudice against me, yeah.
JD: In general, for both men and women, I guess you think there's homophobia in jazz, in the genre?
KG: Yeah, I think there's homophobia everywhere in everything. And only because I think that there's a great deal of fear within our society, and that that's been the number one thing that's been promoted. I think it's finally right now, in 2011, almost 2012, I think we're finally at a diminishing return with it, where the old mindset of the conservative 40's and 50's male, that ruled the roost for all those years that old guard is dying off, and a lot of the label heads are young. Most of them are in their early 30's to early 40's max.
JD: Have you seen a change, like an increase in the number of openly lesbian artists or musicians?
KG: Yeah, I do, especially cause I live in San Francisco half the time, and I think that's an estranged society, with its liberalness.
JD: It's kind of a bubble.
KG: It is, it is. I think that's the tip of the iceberg.
JD: I think jazz has two problems. It's been for many, many decades very male dominated, whether it's straight or lesbian women
KG: Always male dominated. Probably I would say if you were to ask me where did I feel more prejudice, in my industry? I felt that some of the straight men, and the musicians who no regard, and little to no respect for any woman, whether they were a singer or a musician within the ensemble more prejudice against the fact that they were women, whether or not the fact that they were gay or straight. Women are as abused with their human rights, in the average, as gay people are in a lot of ways.
JD: To kind of keep it in the jazz realm, it's hard to think of openly lesbian musicians today.
KG: Well, I can name a few there's Dena DeRose, the singer, pianist now I'm going to draw a blank because you've asked me
JD: I probably wouldn't know then unless they've released recordings of their own.
But they don't promote themselves. It's not like Lea DeLaria, okay,
Lea DeLaria was a actress turned jazz singer, right? In the acting world
she was out, and then when she became a jazz singer she just stayed
out. In their world, in their eyes, from the legitimate part of the
jazz industry, there's too much cabaret in her performance
KG: I know, exactly, that's what I'm saying, the prejudices are very loud in the world of jazz
JD: Who would be the most successful lesbian jazz artist right now?
KG: Well, that's a very good question you have Allison Miller, the drummer, in New York, Allison Miller, very out, very gay. She's hugely successful. Her name is highly regarded, she's worked very hard to get herself there
So, let's hear a little Allison Miller. From her 2010 album "Boom Tick Boom," is "Cheyenne." Let there be drums.
Allison Miller - Cheyenne (2010)
JD: Were there lesbian vocalists who were influential to you, say, decades ago?
KY: Oh, absolutely, Chris Connor had a lot to do with allowing me to accept my beautiful contralto tone and open up with it, and even Carmen McRae, these were lesbians, they were in the closet they fought, fought, fought, they had to have managers and people on their behalf that kept them in the studio. Well, good friend of mine, famous songwriter, Carroll Coates, he wrote "London by Night," and a few other songs, that Frank Sinatra recorded, and Carroll Coates and Carmen were really good friends. You know, Carmen never got a break, she never even though, we know her as one of the all-time jazz greats, held up against folks like Ella, and Sarah Vaughan and people like that Carmen never tot a break, and as a lot of the stories go it had to do with the fact that she was a dyke, she was a lesbian but had to be very much in the closet. And when you think about it, when you listen to Chris and you listen to Carmen and what they were doing back then, what they were actually singing and how they were singing, and the way they were phrasing, and like Carmen, the creative choices she was taking, all the way to writing and producing, all of that. There were not a lot of women, very few that were taking those kinds of chances and doing those sorts of things that were more self-identified with a male personality.
And this would be a good time to slip in some Carmen McRae. From 1967 is a song I thought interesting, "I'm Always Drunk in San Francisco."
Carmen McRae - I'm Always Drunk in San Francisco (1967)
JD: I've got kind of a theory question, how would you explain to someone the difference between jazz and cabaret?
KG: Cabaret is more about the performance, the performing of the music, and jazz is more about the musicality what have you done to the melody line, have you done anything to the melody line, and if you have most of the time it's influenced by the chordal structure. Jazz, we deconstruct, mostly we're about reinventing and deconstructing. And cabaret is more about delivering and performing, tying it all together. And more acting, there's more acting in the performance of a cabaret than there is about the technical part of it. And it does become a gray line. Does that make sense?
JD: Yeah, I think a lot of it is the arrangement, too, especially with ballads. That's a grayer area. Like, if you pick "How High the Moon" by Rosemary Clooney or Lea DeLaria, the difference is obvious. If you pick "How Long Has This Been Going On" by a couple different people, it's pretty gray.
KG: That's true, that's right, and there are a lot of times even in ballads where I won't divert or deconstruct the melody at all, because the melody's so perfectly written, you know, it's so pure
JD: Well, if the lyric is so pure, that it needs to be respected, it would be artificial to skat with it.
KG: Absolutely, or divert from the melody at all, to me that is art, that is the essence of making art. And being a great jazz singer to me means being a great artist.
JD: I've got a hard question for you. Is there a track on any of your albums of which you are the most proud?
KG: Oh, wow, um, well of course I love my original you know, I've only put one of my originals I'm actually in the middle of writing, just about done with my first all-original album. I think "Who Am I, Who Are You?" is one of the strongest statements for me, cause at the time I my life that I did compose it, it came up about the time my mother passed away, when I was 25 yeah, it had a great deal of meaning and memory.
From the 1996 CD "Tomato Kiss," here's a bit of "Who Am I, Who Are You?"
Kellye Gray - Who Am I, Who Are You? (1996)
KG: As far as other people's music that I've recorded through the years, I've always loved "The Island," and I've always loved "How Insensitive," off "Standards in Gray"
JD: You're picking early stuff
KG: I know, maybe that's where I'm at today. I love my early stuff, those are all very strong memories for me, as an artist, to remember that time in my life. Of course I love "Standards in Gray" just because it was so pure, it was my first outing, and it was just a lot of really great moments, and I have a lot of wonderful memories when I recorded "Standares in Gray," you know, Dave's on it. There's just a lot of things about that record that were so easy and they ended up being kind of a manifestation of a lot of years of honing my craft and developing myself as an artist. That's really what "Standards in Gray" was.
From Kellye's first album, "Standards in Gray," is the opening track, "The Island."
Kellye Gray - The Island (1990)
I want to thank Kellye for the interview and I think this might be a statement that sums things up.
KG: At least I can't tell you the number of times in my life, since I've been doing this as a career, that I have said these exact words out loud to myself: oh my God, look what I get to do, I'm telling you, that in itself is a win-win, that is a win-win I could be making $3 a day but the fact that I can say, oh my God, look what I get to do, look what I get to do. That's huge. That's huge.
I've got one more question for Kellye, but first I need to provide some information. Dave Catney was a Houston jazz pianist who backed up Kellye Gray on her first two albums, and who also released three albums of his own before his death to AIDS. He died in August of 1994 at age 33. He also contributed a track to the benefit album Fred Hersch produced, "Last Night When We Were Young." From Dave Catney's debut album in 1990, "First Flight," here's the title track.
Dave Catney - First Flight (1990)
JD: I think I have one more question. Could you just talk for a moment about Dave Catney? I know he played on a couple of your albums. What was he like as an artist?
KG: Dave was if Dave had lived, Dave would have gone on to be a huge star. Dave did things on the piano that very few people can do. At his core he was a funny, bright, charming man, intelligent beyond most people's desires to be that smart genuine, generous, always supportive the funny thing about Dave and I and I think this is probably a story that if he were alive today that he would recount as well. And it was always one of our most favorite stories about each other that we always told at a party or in public.
The first time that Dave and I met each other was in Austin, Texas, and it was at a show I was doing at a place called Baxter's, which was a jazz club back in the day, back in the 80's. And he was in town that night and my piano player knew him and said, hey, there's a guy that we should get to sit in. So he sits in and he plays a song with the band, and I'm like "yeah, yeah, he can play, so that's great." So I get up and I sing with him, but we really I wasn't impressed with him when he worked with me, and come to find out, fast forward and I moved to Houston and I end up hiring him because he's one of the few players that I know that lived in Houston. And he came to my shows and started working with me at the Blue Moon. One night we were all hanging out at the house I'm sure we were all getting high and drinking, cause those were the days and Dave looked at me and said, "you know, I have to tell you a funny story." And I said, "what's that?" and he said, "the first night that I ever played with you and you sang with me, when I walked away I thought, ah, I can't take this girl, she doesn't know what she's doing." (laughs) And I said, "you know what, I said the same thing about you." So we both didn't think either one of us were talented. But then we went on to be each other's advocates, and figure out that we both sang and played exactly the same, and we just had to find a neutral ground.
The fact that we were both gay I think was comforting to both of us, that we could be in this world of prejudice and always find solace in each other, always have that underlining friendship that, that we could go places together as a band and we could take our lovers. We could share that openly with each other and not have any fear. As a human being, I think Dave was one of the greatest losses that I'll ever experience in my life, because he was just the guy, he was The guy. He was playing like a New York player, in Houston, and he was world class. And he'll be honored for that throughout time. Thank you for bringing up Dave, by the way, because I do believe that if Dave had lived and Dave and I continued to play together, that we would have gone to probably become more of a politically active statement towards gay jazz musicians.
And, here's another Dave Catney song, "Little Prayer," from his 1994 CD "Reality Road."
Dave Catney - Little Prayer (1994)
Again, that was the late Dave Catney. Another jazz artist who died much too young was Carla White. She died at age 55 in 2007, but left us eight albums, including one recorded in 1991 called "Listen Here," from which I took her version of "Harlem Nocturne."
Carla White - Harlem Nocturne (1991)
Coming up next, I think John Tartaglia would agree he is not a jazz singer. But he did win a Tony for his role in the Broadway hit "Avenue Q." Songs from that show were done in a special benefit concert in 2008 called "Avenue Q Swings," and he got to jazz up the song "If You Were Gay."
John Tartaglia - If You Were Gay (2008)
This is JD Doyle thanking Kellye Gray for the interview and you for checking out this segment of my jazz special. So, what artist do I use to close Part 2? Well, how about some experimental jazz from Germany. Michael Schiefel has released about a dozen albums and it was easy for me to spot the one I found. It's called "Gay," and I couldn't resist his take on a song that dates back to 1928. Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington had perhaps the best known versions, but that's sure not the way Michael Schiefel does the song "I Must Have That Man."
Michael Schiefel - I Must Have That Man (2003)
Mark Winkler: "Till I Get It Right" is an album of original songs, by me, I'm a lyricist, and I've been making albums now since 1982, so hopefully I've gotten it right. It has a whole variety of songs, and a couple of standards.
Mark Winkler - Til I Get It Right (2009)
That was the title track from the 2009 CD by Los Angeles jazz artist Mark Winkler, and you heard him introduce his album, "Till I Get It Right." This is JD Doyle and this is Part 3 of my special on jazz music, and we start off with a short interview with Mark. I love the album and my first exposure to his music was seeing a video from it on youtube, and it's a wonderful video, celebrating the sissyness of Truman Capote. The song is called "Sissies," and I had to ask Mark about it.
MW: Well, I started writing it after I saw "Intimate," the movie, the second movie about Truman Capote. I had seen "Capote" and loved it, loved the story. It's wonderful. It's every bit as good as the "Capote" movie, and in a way it's a little bit better because well, first of all, Daniel Craig is Perry Smith, the killer, and the scenes between him and Capote are very sensual. And they don't shy away from it quite as much as the first movie. And I started just writing the lyrics, just for myself, not knowing if it was going to be anything, and then I realized that Truman Capote was really sort of a forerunner you know, he was himself, he didn't try to be anything other than what he wanted to me, and he was sort of a brave guy, in his own way. And then when I finished the lyric I thought, who the hell am I going to get to write this. And there was this guy named Louis Durra. He's sort of a little bit off the beaten track, and he just loved the lyric straight guy. And we wrote the song, and I put it in my act, and it got a really good response. People really liked it.
Mark Winkler - Sissies (2009)
MW: I love the Truman Capote song, and I'll tell you an interesting thing, I'm going to be playing in I'm not going to mention the city and the publicist who's handling getting me booked in this city, who is gay, said to me, "oh, I love your album but you can't sing that sissy song, in this city." So I was just amazed, and I said really? And he said, "Yeah, I don't think the audience is going to get that song or like it."
JD: Give the audience a chance
MW: Well, of course I'm going to sing the song. I'm just not going to tell him. You know, as a gay artist I'm always sort of looking for ways to talk about it, but in a way that's not hitting you over the head. So when I came up with this "Sissies" song I thought it was a beautiful way to talk about being gay.
JD: And it's not like the clichés, you're not singing "The Man I Love."
MW: Right, right, I'm just not changing a couple of words here and there. I want to actually do more. I have another song that is from my play. I have a musical out I also write musicals called "Play It Cool," and it's called "Jazz Is a Special Taste," and it's about using jazz as a metaphor for being gay because jazz and gay have a lot of things in common, actually. You're going to ask me what they are
JD: Okay, name seven things they have in common.
MW: Oh, God, there's at least well, first of all, they're a chosen few, it's sort of hip and cool, not everybody likes it, it's sort of underground. You know, jazz when it started out was sort of the devil's music; I mean, a lot of people said you would go to hell if you played jazz, so it's sophisticated.
JD: Well, how come more jazz artists aren't out of the closet?
MW: Because, as a I'm a jazz artist it's a pretty homophobic biz, I think. You know, I was talking about it with this interviewer in New York and we could only think of Gary Burton, Mark Murphy there's just not a lot. Of course there are Jennifer Leitham, you know, she was a
JD: I have interviewed her
MW: Yeah, it's a very macho thing. A lot of the jazz musicians I know live like it's 1947 they smoke, they drink, they eat red meat it's a very sort of a retro kind of thing.
Mark mentioned his musical, "Play It Cool." He wrote all the lyrics and collaborated with several people for the music on various songs. The show is sort of a film noir style visit to a 1953 Hollywood jazz club, and you'll hear the song Mark mentioned, "Jazz Is a Special Taste," and also one called "Welcome to Hollywood."
It Cool - Jazz Is a Special Taste (2006)
By the way "Play It Cool" is not the only musical under Mark's belt. He also wrote several songs for "Naked Boys Singing," including my favorites, "Robert Mitchum," and "Nothing But the Radio On." His latest CD, which is his eleventh, is called "Sweet Spot," and here's the song "After Hours."
Mark Winkler - After Hours (2011)
"After Hours," by Mark Winkler. I'm one of those who devour liner notes, so I could not help but notice Mark Murphy wrote the notes for Mark Winkler's CD "Till I Get It Right." As he's such a fan I asked him to tell me about Mark Murphy.
MW: Well, Mark Murphy is my favorite singer. He wrote the liner notes for my new album. I picked up on Mark Murphy in 1982, when I actually started getting into jazz singing, and he's sort of like a singer's singer like, people in the know know him. And there's so many people that I say "Mark Murphy is my favorite singer," and they say, "who is he?" But he's fantastic and one of my favorite albums of his is "Once to Every Heart," which is on Verve. It was a couple of years ago. It's sort of like "the Wee Small Hours of the Morning." It's one of those moody late night albums, got these beautiful string arrangements, some beautiful trumpet in it. He does this great version of "I'm Through With Love," and he's just an inspiration, and honestly, having him do the liner notes for my record made my year. And having him like the record, because up to that point he really didn't know who Mark Winkler was.
Then there's another song which is on his next album, "Love Stays," that he does this whole little monologue about seeing "Brokeback Mountain," and he dedicates the song to Ennis, and it's great. The song you should listen to I can't remember it offhand "Too Late Now."
JD: That's it? Great, cause that would be interesting. That's kind of long for me to play on a show
MW: But maybe you could just play the intro, going into the song?
Well, after hearing the whole song, no, I want to share all of it. From Mark Murphy's CD "Love Is What Stays," from 2007, is the song "Too Late Now."
Mark Murphy - Too Late Now (2007)
Of the next three acts, the first two are from Australia and the last is from Italy, and their songs are out of the closet. The first is a duo calling themselves Mettaphor. From their 2009 CD "Sweet Jazzy Funk, Volume 1" is "Pride."
- Pride (2009)
And in the middle was Jo Jo Smith, with the title track from her 1999 album "Miss Del Rey." Closing that set was Sandra Cartolari, and from her 1999 album "Twolips" was the song "Gui Gui."
Up next are two songs that during the 50s held special meanings for gay and lesbian people. When we could not be out about being gay these were two of the songs that were sort of adopted by our culture. First, Theo Bleckmann, from his 2006 album "Las Vegas Rhapsody" does a song from the 1951 musical "The King & I," called "We Kiss in a Shadow."
Bleckmann - We Kiss in a Shadow (2006)
And "Secret Love" was a huge hit by Doris Day, in the 1953 movie "Calamity Jane." Josh Klipp included it in his latest CD "Live at Enrico's." This next track is from 1957 and will introduce itself.
Cecil Taylor Quartet - Johnny Come Lately (1957)
Again, that was "Johnny Come Lately" by the Cecil Taylor Quartet. This is J.D. Doyle and I'm at the end of Part 3. Closing this segment is a young artist who is already doing quite well in his career. I've got his latest album, from 2009, called "Vagabond," and this track from it was a hit on the Billboard jazz charts in 2010. Here's Spencer Day and "Till You Come to Me."
Spencer Day - Till You Come to Me (2009)
Alive! - Call It Jazz (1981)
Yes, "Call It Jazz," which was the title track from the 1981 album by the band Alive, with vocals by Rhiannon, and this is JD Doyle for Queer Music Heritage. I think that's a great song to start off this particular segment of this show. It's my show on GLBT jazz artists and musicians, and on this segment I've very loosely grouped together those folks who could be associated with the Women's Music Movement. Now, I don't know if they all would consider themselves in that description, and I certainly didn't find or have room to include everyone who would. But, it's a starting point.
So I'm moving right along with three acts from the late 1970's and early 1980's. Mary Watkins was one of the earliest artists on the Olivia Records label, and the album "Something's Moving," like much of her work, cannot be classified in a single genre as she crosses over many of them, including pop and classical. I've picked one of the jazzier tracks from that album, "Witches Revenge."
Watkins - Witches' Revenge (1978)
That was the San Francisco Bay Area band Swingshift. I got the track "You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Here" from a 4-song demo cassette, which I bet not many people have heard. The band then featured original members Bonnie Lockhart, Naomi Schapiro and Susan Colson. And Colson earlier was also in an acclaimed band called Baba Yaga. I've seen their album "On the Edge," these days go for big bucks on eBay, as many DJ/mixers like to use it for sampling. From it is "Charlotte's Web."
Yaga - Charlotte's Web (1978)
I love the name of that act, the Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet. And if you don't know the history of jazz musician Billy Tipton, I've got lots of info on my site well worth digging into, and I'll be playing a track by him in the next segment. As for the band I played, I took the song "Tri-Monk" from their 1996 CD called "Box."
These next two tracks are from the late 1980's, and I'll comment that like with many of the artists you'll hear, most have other releases, newer or older than the one I happened to pick. In 1989 Mimi Baczewska released an album called "Turning Tide," and for this show it was natural for me to pick the track named "Jazsong."
Baczewska - Jazsong (1989)
After Mimi Baczewska you heard jazz guitarist Mimi Fox with the title track from her 1987 release, "Against the Grain," and then another guitarist, KJ Denhert gave us her take on "She Loves You," from her CD "Girl Like Me," from 2003.
Now these next two acts have a huge connection. The band Deuce was Jean Fineberg and Ellen Seeling, and they released two albums, in 1986 and 1996. If you want to back even further they were also in the all-female rock band Isis. I chose a song by Deuce from their second album, "Windjammer," for which I admit I have sentimental attachment. My very first guest radio segment was on KPFT, on the show After Hours, produced by Jimmy Carper, and this was in late 1999, a few months before I began Queer Music Heritage. After Hours loved to use the Deuce song called "The Whole Enchilada" as bed music for news, meaning you could hear it underneath the talking. I can't hear the song without remembering all that, so thanks for indulging me in that story. Here's "The Whole Enchilada."
- The Whole Enchilada (1996)
And I said there was a connection. That was the Montclair Women's Big Band, led by Ellen Seeling, with Jean Fineberg in the band, and that guest vocalist was Women's Music icon Linda Tillery.
Sadly, this next jazz vocalist died in 2003, but she left behind two fine albums. From "Ginger Comes to Stay," from 2002, is the title track. The artist is Mary Lofstrom.
Lofstrom - Ginger Comes to Stay (2002)
I love that last artist. Suede will never disappoint you, and she has a number of releases and a DVD to prove it. I took the song "I Like to Lead When I Dance," from her 2008 CD "Dangerous Mood."
This is JD Doyle and closing this segment of my Jazz Special is a wonderful duo from Ireland calling themselves Zrazy. I've seen them perform many times so I admit to being a bit biased. My favorite of their CDs is called "Private Wars," and my favorite track is the very sexy "Remember That You Did It First With Me."
- Remember That You Did It First With Me (1999)
Jennifer Leitham - Studio City Stomp (2006)
That was Jennifer Leitham and "Studio City Stomp," from her 2006 album "The Real Me," and this is JD Doyle and Queer Music Heritage, with another segment to my special show on jazz by GLBT artists. And Jennifer represents the T in GLBT, as will the next several artists.
This next track goes back to 1956 and an album called "Billy Tipton Plays Hi-Fi on Piano." Billy Tipton had a decent career in the 40's and 50's, but the world found out about him upon his death, in 1989, when it was discovered that he was a woman. The album I mentioned was his second, and from it is "Blue Skies."
Tipton - Blue Skies (1956)
After Billy Tipton you heard a favorite of mine, Veronica Klaus, and she sang the old Nina Simone song "Tomorrow Is My Turn." Then Stephanie Crawford gave us "I Have the Feeling I've Been Here Before," from her 2008 CD, "The Real Thing."
Up next are two female impersonators who do jazz, and quite well. Mabel Dawn Davis is the stage name of an artist doing a dash of female impersonation. From the CD "Peel Me a Grape" is "Woman on the Stage."
Dawn Davis - Woman on the Stage (2003)
Of course that song was "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," and it was by Trinity, the alter ego of Provincetown entertainer Jamie Grace. It was the title track of her first album, from 1998, and she's had three more since.
Now this next song is refreshing, it's lyrically gay and was written and sung by Ron Mesa. It's from his album from 2000 called "A New Set of Standards," and is called "I'm Waitin' for the Song to Come to Me."
Mesa - I'm Waitin' for the Song to Come to Me (2000)
Ah, I like that a lot. "I Keep Going Back to Joe's" is from British artist Ian Shaw's 2001 album "Soho Stories," just one of the dozen CDs he's released. In the middle was Julian Yeo, and "Love for Sale," from his album "Deep Purple Dreams."
Kowalczyk - Who Do You Do (1995)
That first track was "Who Do You Do," and you just heard tracks by Steven Kowalczyk and Steven Santoro, and if you thought they sounded similar you're right, same person. Steven Kowalczyk released his CD "Moods and Grooves" in 1995, and then decided to adopt his grandfather's surname, and the next two albums were by Steven Santoro. From his latest, from 2007, you heard the title track "Whisper My Name."
This next set starts with an instrumental, by jazz great Gary Burton, with the help of Chick Corea. The track is called "Falling Grace," from their 1973 album "Crystal Silence."
Burton & Chick Corea - Falling Grace (1973)
Dave Koz brought us that smooth jazz track called "One Last Thing." It's from his 2003 album "Saxophonic," and before that you heard Drew Paralic and "The Sweetest Crime," from "Roll With It, Baby," from 2010.
Patricia Barber has had a long jazz career, with over a dozen albums since 1989. From her release from 2000, called "Night Club," is the song "Bye Bye Blackbird."
Patricia Barber - Bye Bye Blackbird (2000)
And this is JD Doyle, closing part 5, and helping me do it is Avi Wisnia with a fun track from 2010. On his album called "Something New" he jazzed up and made gay the TLC song "No Scrubs."
Avi Wisnia - No Scrubs ( 2010)
Billy Strayhorn - Take the A Train (1965)
"Take the A Train," one of most celebrated songs by one of the most celebrated jazz composers, Billy Strayhorn. This is JD Doyle and it's very fitting that I start this segment, Part 6, of my Jazz Special with him. Again, I'm saluting the music of openly GLBT artists, so I'm going to salute Strayhorn a bit more by playing three more songs he composed. First, from 1975 by French jazz violinist Stephane Grapelli is "Satin Doll," and then Andy Bey tells about those gay places.
Grapelli - Satin Doll (1975)
In the middle of that set was "Lush Life," written by Billy Strayhorn and sung by Andy Bey, from his 2010 album "American Song." And here's some trivia, early in his career he had an act called Andy & the Bey Sisters. They were a very popular group in the 50's and 60's, and you can find clips of them on Youtube. One of his sisters was Geraldine and her son became quite the vocalist, appearing in a number of Broadway shows, and now he's released two solo recordings. The last song of that set was therefore by Andy Bey's nephew, Darius de Haas. It was another Strayhorn composition and the title track from Darius' 2002 album, "Day Dream."
My next set is dedicated to Frances Faye, one of most colorful jazz vocalists from the 1940's through the 60's. She was famous in her live act for altering pronouns and, for those times, being fairly out of the closet. She had a lot of recordings but I'm sharing with you from a special one. It's a demo album she recorded for Capitol in 1951 which was never released. From it is a medley of the songs "Drunk with Love," "Exactly Like You," and "I Can't Believe That You're in Love With Me."
Faye - Drunk with Love medley (1951)
That was Terese Genecco, and her 2006 CD was called "Drunk with Love: A Tribute to Frances Faye." That track was one of Faye's most famous, "Night and Day." And I've got another tribute, by acclaimed jazz artist Mark Murphy, who you've already heard on other segments. On his 2002 album "Lucky to Be Me," he included the track "Blues for Frances Faye."
Murphy - Blues for Frances Faye (2002)
A contemporary of Frances Faye was Chris Connor, and her career lasted decades. I picked something early by her. In 1957 she recorded a double album called "Chris Connor Sings Gershwin," and the song was "How Long Has This Been Going On." At the end of that set was Chantel Chamberland, a Canadian artist and from her 2004 album, "Serendipity Street," I picked a song I've always loved, "Since I Fell for You."
Here's another Gershwin song, and a favorite of mine. I've got lots of versions of it, but this one is by Canadian artist John Alcorn. It's "The Man I Love," and it starts off a set of man and boy songs.
Alcorn - The Man I Love (2002)
Again John Alcorn started off that set with a very short version of "The Man I Love," and you can only find that on the DVD of the TV series "Queer As Folk" from Season 2, Episode 8. How's that for obscure. Then Thomas Harlow gave us "Loverman," from his 2003 album of the same name. That was followed by the Dave Downing Trio, performing "Oh, Boy," released in 1994 on the album "Last Night, Last Call." Bringing up the rear was Patrick Arena, and "Barefoot Boy," from his 2008 album "Night and Day."
Ah, finally, the end of Part 6 of my Jazz Special. This is JD Doyle for Queer Music Heritage thanking those that made it this far for their patience. This was a fun show to research and put together, and of course by no means do I mean to imply that this is all of the GLBT artists doing jazz. There were a number of others in my collection I could have played, and no doubt more I didn't find, but I hope this becomes a good resource for those who want to find artists in this genre.
I'm closing this series with one more boy song. It's by Swiss artist Gallavin who a couple years ago released a marvelous album called "Mad About the Boy," and a terrific video to accompany it. I highly recommend you check it out. There are a number of tracks I could have picked from the album, like "Lover Man" and "The Man I Love," but I went with the title track. Here's Gallavin and "Mad About the Boy."
Gallavin - Mad About the Boy (200