Pal Joey makes its second appearance as a 1957 drama musical film starring Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak. The Lady Is A Tramp and My Funny Valentine (Babes In Arms/1937), There’s A Small Hotel (On Your Toes/1936), I Didn’t Know What Time It Was (Too Many Girls/1939) were introduced in their respective Broadway plays and all make their debut in the film, while I Could Write A Book and Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered make sophomore appearances. All of the above compositions composed by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart became jazz standards.
The Story: The setting is San Francisco; Joey Evans (Sinatra) is a second-rate singer, a heel known for his womanizing ways, calling women “mice”, but still charming and funny. When Joey meets Linda English (Novak), a naive chorus girl, he has stirrings of real feelings. However, that does not stop him from romancing a former flame and ex-stripper, now society matron Vera Prentice-Simpson (Hayworth), a wealthy, willful, and lonely widow, in order to convince her to finance his dream, “Chez Joey”, a night club of his own.
Soon Joey is involved with Vera, each using the other for his/her own somewhat selfish purposes. But Joey’s feelings for Linda are growing. Ultimately, Vera jealously demands that Joey fire Linda. When Joey refuses, Vera closes down “Chez Joey”. Linda visits Vera and agrees to quit in an attempt to keep the club open. Vera then agrees to open the club, and even offers to marry Joey, but Joey rejects Vera. As Joey is leaving for Sacramento, Linda runs after him, offering to go wherever he is headed. After half-hearted refusals, Joey gives in and they walk away together, united.
Lizz Wright was born January 22, 1980 in the small town of Hahira, Georgia, one of three children and the daughter of a minister and the musical director of their church. She started singing gospel music and playing piano in church as a child, and also became interested in jazz and blues.
She attended Houston County High, where she was heavily involved in choral singing, receiving the National Choral Award. Lizz moved to Atlanta and went on to attend Georgia State University, studying singing. Since then she has studied at The New School in New York and also in Vancouver.
Wright joined the Atlanta-based vocal quartet In The Spirit in 2000, performing at the local jazz haven Churchill Grounds and with the guidance of then manager, Ron Simblist, she was consistently featured on the late night jazz radio program Serenade To The City,and was soon achieving critical acclaim and notoriety. In 2002 she signed a recording contract with Verve Records, where her musical compositions and vocal style were comparable to that of Norah Jones.
Her debut album, “Salt’ was released in the spring of 2003 and reached number two on the Billboard Top Contemporary Jazz chart in 2004. Her sophomore release in 2005 ”Dreaming Wide Awake”, maintained the jazz and pop blend, while incorporating folk music to her musical blend. It reached number one on the Top Contemporary Jazz chart in 2005 and 2006.
Lizz has most notably performed and recorded with the late Joe Sample, Danilo Perez, David Sanborn, Toots Thielemans, Amos Lee, Regina Carter, Jakob Dylan, Massimo Biolcati and Meshell Ndegeocello among others.
In 2008, she released “The Orchard” to positive reviews and then released her fourth album, “Fellowship”, a collection of gospel standards, in 2010. Vocalist and composer Lizz Wright continues to perform and tour and is currently working on the release of her fifth album.
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“Thank Heavens For Little Girls” is from the 1958 Academy Award-winning film Gigi. Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner composed the song and lyrics and it went on to win the Academy Award for Best original Song in 1958. A cover version by Billy Eckstine peaked at #8 in the UK Singles Chart in 1959. The film starred Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier and Louis Jordan.
The Story: Set in turn-of-the-20th century Paris, the film opens with Honoré Lachaille, a charming old roué among high society. Dodging marriage Honoré is concerned with his bored nephew who enjoys hanging out with his mamita, Madame Alvarez and her precocious and carefree granddaughter Gigi. However she is sent away to be groomed as a courtesan and learn etiquette and charm. The two young people spend a lot of time together with the thought of taking Gigi as a mistress. Finally Gaston finds the thought unbearable with the help of high society. Taking Gigi home, he wanders the streets until finally ending back at Madame Alvarez’s door asking for Gigi’s hand in marriage. They couple are elegant, beautiful, and happily married. Honoré has been a framing device for the film, which can be seen as a romantic victory of love over cynicism.
Eartha Mae Kitt was born Eartha Mae Keith on January 17, 1927 to a Cherokee/Black mother and German father on a cotton plantation in North, a small town in Orangeburg County near Columbia, South Carolina.
Raised by Anna Mae Riley, a Black woman whom she believed to be her mother, at age 8 she was sent to live with another family until Anna Mae death due to her man’s refusal to accept the child’s light complexion. She was ultimately sent to live with her biological mother Mamie Kitt in New York City.
Eartha began her career in 1943 with the Katherine Dunham Company, a relationship that lasted until 1948. As a member she appeared in the 1945 original Broadway production of the musical Carib Song. Orson Welles signed her 1950 to her first starring Broadway role as Helen of Troy in his staging of Dr. Faustus, followed by Shinbone Alley. During this decade she starred in films such as Mark of the Hawk, St. Louis Blues and Anna Lucasta.
A talented singer with a distinctive voice and unique style that became enhanced as she became fluent in French, by the early 1950s, she had six US Top 30 hits and a UK Top 10 hit “under The Bridges of Paris” with two more in 1963 and 1983. Kitt recorded such hits as Let’s Do It”, “Champagne Taste”, C’est Si Bon”, “Just An Old Fashioned Girl”, “Monotonous”, “Je Cherche Un Homme”, “Love For Sale” and “Santa Baby” among others.
Success found her way into television taking over the role of Catwoman in 1967 for the 3rd and final season of Batman. But in 1968, her career in America suffered due to President Lyndon B. Johnson after she made anti-war statements at a White House luncheon. It wasn’t until ten years later that she made a successful return to Broadway in the 1978 original production of the musical Timbuktu, receiving the first of her two Tony Award nominations; the second was for the 2000 original production of the musical The Wild Party.
Eartha toured and performed in Europe for many years and her English-speaking performances always seemed to be enriched by a soft French feel. She spoke four languages and sang in seven, which she effortlessly demonstrated in many of the live recordings of her cabaret performances. Over the course of her career from the Seventies until her death, Kitt voiced television commercials, wrote three autobiographies, had disco hits, was embraced by the gay community, continued making movies, making appearances on popular television shows, returned to Broadway and touring companies, and became a darling of the cabaret scene.
Eartha Kitt, actress, jazz singer, cabaret star, dancer, stand-up comedienne, activist and voice artist, winner of three Emmy Awards, and recipient of a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star was a true renaissance woman who screamed her way out of this world, passed away in her home on Christmas Day, December 25, 2008.
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Kat Parra was born on January 13, 1962 in San Francisco, California and spent part of her teenage years in Chile. Upon her return, she move to southern California to attend University of California at Los Angeles where she studied classical flute and voice for a year. Moving to the Silicon Valley area she shifted her educational focus to jazz, studying voice at San Jose State University alongside singer Patti Cathcart of Tuck & Patti, who was a major influence.
Kat spent five years as a lead vocalist for the Bay area salsa band Charanga Nueve, and they opened for the likes of Celia Cruz and Los Van Van of Cuba. But despite all that musical activity, she still had a “day gig” working for the tech giant Cisco Systems. In 2006 she left Cisco to be a full-time singer and concentrate on music exclusively.
That very same year Parra recorded her first solo album, Birds In Flight produced by Bay Area-based trombonist Wayne Wallace on JazzMa Records. After that, she signed with Wallace’s indie label, Patois Records, releasing her second solo album, Azucar de Amor (Sugar of Love) in 2008.
Kat is a flexible and broad-minded jazz vocalist who has very strong Latin leanings but has also been affected by Middle Eastern, Arabic, and North African music as well as greatly influenced by Afro-Cuban jazz. She has also combined jazz with everything from Brazilian samba to Afro-Peruvian music. She plays flute, guitar, and piano, and continues to perform in several different languages, including English, Spanish (which she speaks fluently), Portuguese, French, and Ladino, which is the language of Sephardic Jews and is considered one of the romance languages.