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BLUES IN THE NIGHT

Hollywood On 52nd Street

This Time The Dream’s On Me was given to the jazz world when Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer penned what would become a classic standard. Debuting in the 1941 film, Blues In The Night, starring Priscilla Lane, Jack Carson, Betty Field, Richard Whorf, Wallace Ford and Elia Kazan.

The Story: Jigger Lane forms a band that includes singer Ginger “Character” Powell, wife of the trumpeter Leo Powell, and Nickie Haroyen and Peppi. All of them dedicate themselves to work as a unit and to play ‘blues’ music. The dedication isn’t paying off in money and while riding the rails in a boxcar they meet and befriend a gangster named Del Davis. He offers them a job at a New Jersey roadhouse, where Powell falls in love with Kay Grant, a former real-good friend of Davis. But when Powell learns that Character is about to have a baby, he returns to her. Jigger tries to make Kay the band’s singer and, when this fails, runs off with her. She leaves him with nothing to show for him except a nervous breakdown. Back at the roadhouse, after his recovery, Kay shows up, has a quarrel with Davis, shoots and kills him and plans to take back up with “Jigger”, who knows better but just can’t help himself. While she is waiting in a car for him, along comes cripple Brad Ames, who she put in that condition. He gets in and drives the car over a cliff, leaving no survivors in the two-passenger crash. The band is back together at the end, still using boxcars as their transportation, but happy playing the blues.

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HELEN O'CONNELL

Daily Dose Of Jazz…

Helen O’Connell was born on May 23, 1920 in Lima, Ohio but grew up in Toledo, Ohio. By the time she was 15, she and her older sister, Alice, were singing duets in clubs and hotels and on hometown radio stations. She launched her career as a big-band singer with Larry Funk and his Band of a Thousand Melodies.  She was singing with Funk’s band in Greenwich Village when Jimmy Dorsey’s manager discovered her. She joined the Dorsey band in 1939 and achieved her best selling records in the early 1940s with Green Eyes, Amapola, Tangerine and Yours.

By 1953, O’Connell and Bob Eberly were headlining TV’s Top Tunes with Ray Anthony and his orchestra. She became a featured singer on The Russ Morgan Show and had her own 15-minute program, The Helen O’Connell Show, twice a week on NBC.

She retired from show business upon her first marriage in 1943 but returned when her marriage ended in 1951, achieving some chart success and making regular appearances on television. At one point she was interviewing celebrities on her own NBC program Here’s Hollywood, hosted the pageants and sang duets with Bing Crosby, Johnny Mercer and Dean Martin.

She won the Down Beat Readers Poll as best female singer in 1940 and 1941, won the 1940 Metronome magazine poll for best female vocalist and was named as the darling of GIs during World War II.Her 1942 recording of Brazil with the Jimmy Orchestra was a 2009 addition to the Grammy Hall of Fame. On September 9, 1993 vocalist Helen O’Connell succumbed to her battle with Hepatitis C in San Diego, California.


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THE JAZZ SINGER

Hollywood On 52nd Street

Irving Berlin composed Blue Skies in 1926 as a last-minute addition to the Rodgers and Hart musical Betsy. After only 39 performances the song was an instant success, though the show closed. However, in 1927, it became one of the first songs to be featured in a talkie, when Al Jolson performed it in The Jazz Singer.

The Story: The son of a Jewish Cantor must defy the traditions of his religious father in order to pursue his dream of becoming a jazz singer. Cantor Rabinowitz is concerned and upset because his son Jakie shows so little interest in carrying on the family’s traditions and heritage. For five generations, men in the family have been cantors in the synagogue, but Jakie is more interested in jazz and ragtime music. One day, they have such a bitter argument that Jakie leaves home for good. After a few years on his own, now calling himself Jack Robin, he gets an important opportunity through the help of well-known stage performer Mary Dale. But Jakie finds that in order to balance his career, his relationship with Mary, and his memories of his family, he will be forced to make some difficult choices.

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WU FEI

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Wu Fei was born on May 12, 1977 in Beijing, China. From the age of four she began her music studies first on the guzheng and then piano the following year, practicing two to four hours everyday. At fourteen she tested into the China Conservatory of Music and studied composition before and then at Mills College in the United States.

Wu Fei, who is also a composer, vocalist and improviser, combine East with West in her approach to her music. In 2007 she released her debut solo album A Distant Youth with accompanying guitar, violin and percussion. Her sophomore project titled Yuan followed the following year.

She has recorded with Abigail Washburn Carla Kihlstedt, Helge Andres Norbakkeh and two Fred Firth albums, as well as on his soundtrack for the PBS documentary film The Happy End Problem. Her performance was highlighted in the 2009 Shan Qi music DVD and she gave a live performance on guzheng and voice at the Hermes fashion show during Paris Fashion Week.  Wu Fei, avant-garde and experimental jazz musician, continues to perform, compose and record.

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42ND STREET

Hollywood On 52nd Street

In 1932 composer Harry Warren scored the music for the 1933 movie musical 42nd Street along with lyricist Al Dubin for Warner Brothers Studio. From the film came the classic jazz standards “Lullaby of Broadway”.

The film was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress and ranked #13 on the American Film Institute list of Best Musicals in 2006.

The Story: It is 1932, the depth of The Depression and noted Broadway producers Jones played by Robert McWade and Barry portrayed by Neal Sparks are putting on Pretty Lady, a musical starring Dorothy Brock Bebe Daniels. She is involved with wealthy Abner Dillon played by Guy Kibbee, the show’s “angel” of a financial backer, but while she is busy keeping him both hooked and at arm’s length, she is secretly seeing her old vaudeville partner, out-of-work Pat Denning.

Julian Marsh (is hired to direct, even though his doctor warns that he risks his life if he continues in his high-pressure profession; despite a long string of successes he is broke, a result of the 1929 Stock Market Crash. He must make his last show a hit, in order to have enough money to retire.

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