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VINICIUS DE MORAES

Daily Dose Of Jazz…

Vinicius de Moraes was born Marcus Vinicius de Moraes on October 19, 1913 in Rio de Janiero, Brasil. As a child he was exposed to various musicians and composers and in high school he was writing his first compositions. He went on to graduate college at twenty and published two books of poetry.

Over the next several years he held a variety of banking, government and diplomatic positions while still writing and publishing his poetry. But it wasn’t until the ‘50s that he moved into the realm of pop culture. He studied film festival management, wrote his first samba, contributed lyrics to several classical pieces and in 1956 Vinicius staged his musical play Orfeu da Conceicao that would later become Orfeu Negro or Black Orpheus and win an Academy Award for Best For Language Film in 1959, a British Academy Award and the French Palm d’Or at Cannes.

Collaborating with Antonio Carlos Jobim, Moraes was at the fore when the bossa nova movement began with the release of Elizete Cardoso’s album Cancao do Amor Demais that consisted of the pairs music and a then unknown Joao Gilberto. They went on to compose Garota de Ipanema, Insensitez and Chega de Saudade. Vinicius’ songs would go on to be included in another Cannes winner Un Homme et une Femme (A Man and A Woman) in 1966.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Vinicius continued collaborating with many renowned Brazilian singers and musicians, in particular with Baden Powell venturing into Afro-Brazilian influences that came to be known as collectively as Afro-Sambas. A known bohemian and diplomat, Vinicius also had a problem with alcohol that ultimately had him drummed out of the diplomatic corps by the military regime. But with his new partner, guitarist and singer Toquinho, he continued to realize success on both music and literary landscapes releasing several popular and influential albums.

Vinicius de Moraes, composer, playwright and diplomat nicknamed O Poetinha (The Little Poet), passed away on July 9, 1980 in Rio de Janiero after a long spell of poor health. Hundreds of jazz musicians and performers worldwide have recorded more than 400 of his songs. In 2006 he was reinstated into the diplomatic corps and in 2010 was posthumously promoted to the post of Ambassador by the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies.

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A SUMMER PLACE

Hollywood On 52nd Street

A Summer Place was adapted from the Sloan Wilson novel into a 1959 film of the same name, at a time when divorce, adultery and teenage sexuality were taboo subjects and very controversial. The theme song which became a jazz standard was composed by Mack Discant and Max Steiner.

The Story: Focuses on the adult lives of two one-time teenage lovers, Ken and Sylvia, who were from different social strata. Ken was self-supporting, working as a lifeguard at a Maine island resort, while Sylvia’s family stayed as guests of the owners, one summer between years at college. After their summer love affair, they married other people, but rediscovered each other later in life. At that time, Sylvia has a son, Johnny, and Ken a daughter, Molly. While Ken and Sylvia renew their love affair, their children begin a romance.

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HIGHER AND HIGHER

Hollywood On 52nd Street

A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening enters into jazz history from the creative minds that scored the music and lyrics, Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson, respectively. Taken from the 1944 musical film Higher and Higher starring Michele Morgan, Jack Haley and Frank Sinatra. Written It is loosely based on the 1940 Broadway musical written by Gladys Hurlbut and Joshua Logan.  The film version diverges significantly from its source.

The Story: The household staff of millionaire Cyrus Drake hasn’t been paid for months when his bankruptcy is announced. With the wife and daughter of Cyrus on a long trip abroad, a scheme is formed to pass off the attractive young maid Millie as the socialite daughter, Pamela Drake, and marry her off to a rich man so there’ll be money for all.

The valet, Mike O’Brien, helps with the transformation, unaware that Millie is secretly in love with him. Asked if she’d ever been courted, Millie mentions that she likes the way a young man next door sometimes sings to her. His name is Frank.

The social secretary Sandy begins to teach Millie the proper etiquette and how to walk and talk like a debutante. At a coming-out ball, where Georgia Keating, a high-society friend of the Drakes, wants her daughter Katherine to be considered the most desirable deb, Millie is nudged toward Sir Victor Fitzroy, a nobleman she should marry.

No one there knows Victor can’t even pay his hotel bill. He’s hoping to catch a rich girl to pay off his own debts. Millie isn’t in love, but agrees to marry him for everyone’s sake. Mike mistakenly thinks she’s in love with Frank, so he helps Millie get out of the wedding at the last minute. To his surprise, Frank ends up paired up with Katherine, which frees Mike and Millie to finally begin their romance.

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LEON THOMAS

Daily Dose OF Jazz…

Amos Leon Thomas Jr was born on October 4, 1937 in East St. Louis, Illinois. He studied music at Tennessee State University and went on to become the vocalist for Count Basie and others in the Sixties. In 1969, Leon released his first solo album for the prestigious Flying Dutchman label, however, an earlier album he recorded still remains unreleased.

Thomas is best known for his work with Pharoah Sanders, particularly the 1969 song “The Creator Has a Master Plan” from the Karma album. His most distinctive attribute was that he often broke out into yodeling in the middle of a vocal, developed after he fell and broke his teeth before a show. This style influenced singers James Moody and Tim Buckley.

Thomas toured and recorded as a member of the band Santana in 1973 but was largely forgotten until a resurgence of interest in soul jazz and several of his tracks have been sampled in hip-hop and down-tempo records. Leon Thomas, jazz singer, often in the avant-garde genre, died of heart failure on May 8, 1999.

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DONNY HATHAWAY

Daily Dose OF Jazz…

Donny Edward Hathaway was born on October 1, 1945 in Chicago, Illinois and was raised by his grandmother in the projects of St. Louis, Missouri. He began singing at age three in a church choir with his grandmother, a professional gospel singer. Graduating from high school he studied music at Howard University. Forming a jazz trio to work around D.C. but left Howard in 1967 without a degree, after receiving job offers in the music business.

Hathaway worked as songwriter, session musician and producer in Chicago at Twinight Records, arranged for The Unifics, worked with the Staple Singers, Jerry Butler, Aretha Franklin, The Impressions and Curtis Mayfield. He became house producer for Curtom Records, recorded as a member of the Mayfield Singers and dropped his first single “The Ghetto” in 1970. He recorded several albums following this debut.

Donny went on to contribute to soundtracks, recorded the theme to the TV series Maude, composed and conducted the soundtrack for the 1972 film Come Back Charleston Blue and wrote several hits such as his collaboration with Roberta Flack – Where Is The Love – that garnered them both a Grammy and This Christmas that has become a seminal holiday song.

However, genius has its detractors and during the best part of his career he began to suffer from severe bouts of depression and was found suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. On January 13, 1979 the body of Donny Hathaway was discovered on the sidewalk outside the luxury Central Park South hotel Essex House in New York City. His death was ruled a suicide.

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