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JOSE JAMES

Daily Dose Of Jazz…

José James was born on January 20, 1978 in Minneapolis, Minnesota and combines jazz, soul, drum’n’bass, and spoken word into his own unique brand of vocal jazz. Though his main influences are John Coltrane, Marvin Gaye, and Billie Holiday, his sound is reminiscent of ’70s jazz-soul icon Terry Callier, and his music feels more like an update of Gil Scott-Heron’s approach, but he makes it distinctly his own.

José attended The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music and in 2008 debuted his first album, The Dreamer, on the Brownswood label. Blackmagic followed in 2010, as well as, For All We Know on the Impulse! Label, the latter becoming the winner of both the Edison Award and L’Académie du Jazz Grand Prix for best Vocal Jazz Album of 2010.

Signing to Blue Note Records in 2012 James issued Trouble, his first single for the label, with his fourth album, No Beginning, No End released the following year. New compositions brought the release of 2014’s While You Were Sleeping, a collection that reflected rock alongside R&B and jazz.

In commemoration of the 100th birthday of his musical mother, Billie Holiday, José recorded nine songs written by or associated with her on Yesterday I Had the Blues. He fronted a band that included pianist Jason Moran, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Eric Harland.

Vocalist and bandleader José James, who blends modern jazz and hip-hop, continues to perform globally both as a leader and with other groups.

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RUBY GENTRY

Hollywood On 52nd Street

The song Ruby was composed by Heinz Eric Roemheld as the theme for the 1952 film Ruby Gentry. It subsequently became a jazz and pop standard, both as an instrumental and with lyrics by Mitchell Parish. The film was directed by King Vidor and starred Jennifer Jones as Ruby Corey/Gentry, Charlton Heston played Boake Tackman and Karl Malden held down the role of Jim Gentry. At the time of the film’s release the theme enjoyed much popularity in an orchestration by Les Baxter with harmonica solo by Danny Welton. 

The Story: Ruby, a poor backwoods girl living in the small North Carolina town of Braddock, is still in love with Boake Tackman. During high school, Ruby had rebuffed his aggressive advances, and was taken in for a couple of years by kind wealthy businessman and his wife, who protected her and taught her the skills a lady would need. She moves back home when her father needed her help. Boake’s family used to be wealthy, but after generations of profligacy all he has left is the land he has had drained and farmed. He starts a relationship with her but plans to marry a local woman with a rich family. When Ruby hears the news, she marries her former benefactor, Mr. Jim Gentry, whose invalid wife recently died, despite not loving him.

Her background keeps her from being accepted by most of Jim’s peers, most of whom decline to attend their after-wedding party. Insecure, Jim becomes jealous of her relationship with Boake, has a fight, calls her a tramp and she leaves in tears. Apologies ensue and while sailing she admits her lack of loving him, while a loose rope results in Jim being knocked overboard by the boom, leaving Ruby widowed and distraught. Now she becomes the local gold-digger and murderess, the town rebuffs her and she gets harassing phone calls.

Retaliating, Ruby uses Jim’s money to begin a campaign against everyone who slighted her, calling in debts to close down people’s businesses as well as the newspaper that slandered her. Still holding a soft spot for Boake she returns his promissory note but again he rebuffs her kindness as a way to buy him and her out of the swamp. Once again, woman scorned and she floods Boake land, ruins his crop and once calm, apologizes. However, her estranged brother Jewel begins shooting at them, killing Boake and in turn Ruby kills her brother and then laments her decisions that have caused so much pain. Now alone, Ruby becomes the skipper of a fishing boat, forever looked down upon by the townspeople.

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RAY EBERLE

Daily Dose Of Jazz…

Raymond Eberle was born January 19, 1919 in Mechanicville, New York and followed in his elder brother Bob’s footsteps who fronted Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestra as a Big Band singer. With no formal training he started singing in his teens and in 1938, when Glenn Miller, looking for a male vocalist asked Bob if he had any siblings at home who could sing, he answered yes, and Ray was hired on the spot.

Ray went on to find success with Miller deeming the songs for the 1942 film Orchestra Wives, such as the jazz standard At Last, to be among his favorites. He also appeared in the Twentieth Century Fox movies, Sun Valley Serenade in 1941. From 1940-43 he did well on Billboard’s College Poll for male vocalist.

Miller ran a tight ship and often fired people after one negative incident. When stuck in traffic one day during a Chicago engagement, Ray was late for a rehearsal and Miller fired him on the spot, and replaced him in 1942 with Skip Nelson. After his departure from Miller, Eberle briefly joined Gene Krupa’s band before launching a solo career. He appeared on numerous television variety shows in the 1950s and 1960s, and later joined former Miller bandmate Tex Beneke’s orchestra in 1970 for a national tour, and reformed his own orchestra later in the decade.

He made several Universal films, including Mister Big, making a cameo appearance as himself. Eberle mostly sang ballads. He led his own orchestra called, The Ray Eberle Orchestra as well as the Serenade In Blue Orchestra from 1943 and maintained his band until his death.

Vocalist and bandleader Ray Eberle died of a heart attack in Douglasville, Georgia on August 25, 1979, aged 60.


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CATERINA VALENTE

Daily Dose Of Jazz…

Caterina Valente was born on January 14, 1931 in Paris, France into an Italian artist family, her father, a well-known accordion player and her mother, a musical clown. In 1953, she made her first recordings with Kurt Edelhagen and soon afterwards achieved success with songs such as Malagueña, The Breeze and I,] and Dreh dich nicht um with the Werner Müller orchestra. In 1955, she was featured on The Colgate Comedy Hour with Gordon MacRae.

By the mid 1960s Valente was working with Claus Ogerman and recording his arrangements and compositions and sometimes conducted in both Italian and English on the Decca and London labels. She guest appearances on the NBC Kraft Music Hall television program and on the Dean Martin Show, the CBS variety series The Entertainers alongside Carol Burnett and Bob Newhart.

She has recorded some seven dozen albums around the world in the United States, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Columbia, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Germany and South Africa. Caterina has been nominated for a Grammy and won 15 awards in Austria, Italy, the US, Italy, Brazil, France and Germany. She recorded Cole Porter’s I Love Paris, that sold nearly a million copies in 1954, her jazz album A Briglia Sciolta recorded in 1989 was her best selling album worldwide and has been reissued under the titles Fantastica and Platinum Deluxe and in 2001 released her album Girl Talk with harpist Catherine Michel..

Over the years of her career she has recorded or performed with Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, Perry Como, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Sy Oliver, Buddy Rich and Edmundo Ros.

Vocalist, guitarist, dancer and actress Caterina Valente has yet to retire from show business at the age of 85.


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viola-wells

Daily Dose Of Jazz…

Viola Wells was born Viola Gertrude Wells Evans on December 14, 1902 in Newark, New Jersey, the first child of Robert Olivia Simmons and Earle Henry Wells, who had moved to Newark from Surry County, Virginia. When her mother died from giving birth to her sister Estelle, she briefly went to live with her maternal grandparents Rev. Morgan and Annie Simmons in Virginia, who only liked to listen to secular music. In contrast, his son “Uncle Charlie” was popular locally for his song and dance routines.

Returning to Newark in 1910 after her father remarried, she started to sing in her church’s Salika Johnson choir under the direction of her music and piano teacher, Ruth Reid. This choir performed in cities outside of New Jersey and WOR Radio in Newark invited her to sing on air to raise money for the first Black YMCA. Wells also sang in her high school glee club and competed in talent shows. At nineteen she married her first husband, tap dancer Howard Nicholas.

Her career began singing in traveling shows, once filled in for Mamie Smith and was on the Theater Owners Booking Association (TOBA) circuit by 1921. Viola frequently sang at local Newark jazz clubs, eventually moving to Harlem and finding singing engagements in nightclubs there. The Twenties saw her touring throughout the US with different bands and in the 1930s, her first big break came while touring with the Banjo Bernie Band from Baltimore and then with Ida Cox.

As the 30s came to a close she moved to Kansas City, where she ran a nightclub and headed a band. Moving back to Newark in the Forties, she met and married guitarist Harold Underhill and began singing at various New York City clubs, sometimes under her married name. She replaced Helen Humes as a singer in the Count Basie Orchestra. During that period in her career she was often billed as The Ebony Stick Of Dynamite and sang at United Service Organizations (USO) shows on military bases.

She retired from music in 1946 due to diabetes and in an effort to spend more time with her family after her father was murdered. Brought out of retirement by blues historian Sheldon Harris who helped revive her career in the 1960s, Viola recorded on the album Encore For The Chicago Blues released in 1968 by Spivey Records. She also produced a blues album in 1972 called Miss Rhapsody and toured with the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band in the 1970s.

Vocalist Viola Wells received many honors in her later years, including the key to Newark. She passed away on December 22, 1984 in Belleville, New Jersey. The book Swing City: Newark Nightlife, 1925-50 by Barbara J. Kukla is dedicated to her.


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