Bye-Bye Birdie opened at the Martin Beck Theatre on April 14, 1960 with Lee Adams and Charles Strouse composing the music. Running 607 performances the musical starred Dick Van Dyke, Chita Rivera, Dick Gautier, Kay Medford, Susan Watson and Paul Lynde. Two actors, Van Dyke and Lynde would go on to star in the film version. A Lot Of Livin’ To Do and Put On A Happy Face are two compositions that would go on to become jazz standards.
The Story: A popular rock star, Conrad Birdie, is about to be drafted and his agent, Albert, arranges a coup he hopes will keep revenues coming in during Conrad’s stint and allow him to marry Rosie. They pick a girl in a small American town to represent girls across the country to be sung to one last time before Conrad enters the service. Albert’s mother is against the marriage and breaks it up. Conrad goes off to have a wild night, Albert wins back Rosie but everything is turned upside down in the small town.
Broadway History: An Off-Off-Broadway production that features members of Actors Equity is called an Equity Showcase production, however, not all Off-Off-Broadway shows are Equity Showcases. The union maintains very strict rules about working in such productions, including restrictions on price, the length of the run and rehearsal times. Professional actors’ participation in showcase productions is frequent and comprises the bulk of stage work for the majority of New York actors. There has been an ongoing movement to revise the Equity Showcase rules, which many in the community find overly restrictive and detrimental to the creation of New York theatre.
The term indie theatre, or independent theatre, coined by playwright Kirk Bromley, has been adopted by many as a replacement for the term Off-Off-Broadway, and is used by groups such as The League of Independent Theater and the website nytheatre.com.
Mads Vinding, born December 7, 1948 in Copenhagen, Denmark, took up the basses as a child. By sixteen he was playing professionally becoming the house bassist at Copenhagen’s legendary Café Montmartre.
Along with the acoustic double bass, he has also refined his playing on the electric bass making him an outstanding artist and a sought-after soloist for his musical command and his maturity. Vinding has performed all over the world, produced several records and has been honored with numerous jazz awards such as the Ben Webster Prize, Palae Jazz Prize, Readers Polls and three Grammy Awards among others.
One of the “Aces of Basses” with more than 600 recordings to his credit as a sideman, Mads has performed or recorded with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Sonny Stitt, Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter, Dizzy Gillespie, Dollar Brand, Clark Terry, Chet Baker, Renee Rosnes, Stan Getz, Hank Jones, Gary Burton, Quincy Jones, Monty Alexander, Don Byas, Toots Thielemans, Ben Webster and Dexter Gordon, just to name a few in a long list of jazz luminaries. He continues to perform, record, tour and produce.
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Enrico Pieranunzi was born December 5, 1949 in Rome, Italy. When he was only five and a half years old he began studying piano. At the same time his father, a guitarist, started introducing him to the wonders and challenges of jazz improvisation as well. From then on Enrico followed a double road in music developing his jazz style while studying classical piano.
At 19, Enrico began his professional career in Italy and since then he has worked with an abundance of bands, both Italian units and groups led by Americans. His wide-ranging experiences include collaborations with jazz luminaries such as Johnny Griffin, Chet Baker, Art Farmer, Lee Konitz, Jim Hall, Johnny Griffin, Phil Woods, Charlie Haden, Frank Rosolino, Mads Vinding, Lee Konitz, Billy Higgins and Kenny Clarke among others.
Since 1975 Pieranunzi has led his own groups, mostly trios, with which he has played clubs and festivals all over Europe and released his first album that year. He has performed as unaccompanied pianist and still does to this very day. As an educator he has taught both in the jazz and classical fields and is currently full professor of piano at the “Conservatorio di Musica” in Frosinone.
Pianist Enrico Pieranunzi is a very original musician and a talented composer, able to travel the high road with his own ideas and remarkable musical sensitivity. Voted “Musician of the Year” in the “Musica Jazz” critic’s poll in 1989, twice the recipient of the Djangodor Award “Best Jazz Musician” in 1992 & ’97 and the 2003 Django d’Or in Italy. In 2006 he started the Trans Alpine Jazz Project and since the beginning of his career has amassed a catalogue of fifty-one recordings as a leader. He continues to perform, tour and record.
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Cassandra Wilson was born December 4, 1955 in Jackson, Mississippi, the youngest child of guitarist, bassist and educator Herman Fowlkes, Jr. and between her parent’s love of Motown and jazz, her early interest in music was ignited.
Wilson’s earliest formal musical education consisted of classical lessons, studying piano from age of six to thirteen and playing clarinet in the middle school concert and marching bands. She then took what she calls an “intuitive” approach to learning to play the guitar and began writing songs and adopting a folk style. While in college she spent nights working with R&B, funk and pop cover bands and singing in local coffeehouses. But it wasn’t until her association with The Black Arts Music Society that she got her first opportunity to sing bebop.
By 1981 Cassandra was working television public affairs in New Orleans but the pull towards jazz was strong and began working with mentors Earl Turbinton, Alvin Batiste and Ellis Marsalis. With their encouragement she moved to New York to seriously pursue jazz singing the following year. There her focus turned towards improvisation, heavily influenced by Abbey Lincoln and Betty Carter. She fine-tuned her vocal phrasing and scat while studying ear training with trombonist Grachan Moncur III and frequenting jam sessions under the tutelage of pianist Sadik Hakim.
A meet with altoist Steve Coleman reinforced Wilson to look beyond the jazz repertoire in favor of composing original music. This led her to become the vocalist and one of the founding members of the M-Base Collective in which Coleman was the leading figure, a stylistic outgrowth of the early-formed Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and Black Artists Group.
Cassandra recorded her first project as a leader “Point of View” in 1986 utilizing M-Base members Coleman, Jean-Paul Bourelly and James Weidman. As subsequent albums followed she would develop a remarkable ability to stretch and bend pitches, elongate syllables, manipulate tone and timbre from dusky to hollow. She would receive broad critical acclaim for “Blue Skies” that would eventually lead to her signing with Blue Note.
She has effectively reconnected vocal jazz with its blues roots, but is arguably the first to convincingly fashion post-British Invasion pop into jazz, trailblazing a path that many have since followed. Wilson was a featured vocalist with Wynton Marsalis’ Pulitzer Prize winning composition “Blood On The Fields”, paid tribute to her greatest influence Miles Davis with “Traveling Miles”.
Cassandra has been a side- woman and guest vocalist on numerous recordings of such jazz luminaries as Terence Blanchard, Regina Carter, Don Byron, Jacky Terrasson, Charlie Haden, David Murray and Teri Lynne Carrington among others. She has performed on 13 soundtracks, featured singer in two movies, has received an honorary doctorate from Millsaps College, been named America’s Best Singer by Time Magazine and has won two Grammy Awards.
Contralto Cassandra Wilson has an unmistakable timbre and approach as she is expanding the playing field by incorporating country, blues and folk with jazz while continuing to perform, tour and record.
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Lester Koenig founded the jazz label, Contemporary Records, in Los Angeles in 1951. It was known for seminal recordings embodying the West Coast sound, but also released recordings by jazz artists known throughout the world. Under his leadership, Contemporary recorded such artists as Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Art Farmer, Benny Golson, the Curtis Counce Group featuring Harold Land, Jack Sheldon, Carl Perkins and Frank Butler; also Ben Webster, Miles Davis, Benny Carter, Chet Baker, Art Pepper, Phineas Newborn, Woody Shaw, Shelly Manne, Hampton Hawes, Barney Kessell and Leroy Vinnegar.
Les maintained extremely high audio standards. In 1956 he hired Roy DuNann from Capitol Records, who, out of the label’s shipping room turned studio, turned out some of the best sounding records of the 50s and 60s using German and Austrian condenser microphones that produced very high output of these microphones, especially close-in on jazz musicians’ dynamic playing. DuNann would achieve his signature sound for the label, a crisp, clear and balanced without distortion or unpleasant “peak presence” by keeping his microphone setups very simple, generally one per musician, and he avoided the use of pre-amplifiers.
In the mid 1960s the company fell into relative limbo, but limited new recordings were made in the late 1970s including a series of albums by Art Pepper recorded at the Village Vanguard in New York. After Koenig’s death in 1977, his son, John ran the label for seven years and continued the legacy producing albums by George Cables, Joe Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson and Chico Hamilton to name a few.
Fantasy Records purchased the Contemporary label and catalogue in 1984 but not before ushering in a number of major figures in the music business such as Nesuhi Ertegun, who went on to exec at Atlantic Records, and writers Nat Hentoff and Leonard Feather among others.
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