Once upon a time a good pop singer was expected to swing, sing in tune and know every standard in the book. When Eydie Gorme auditioned for the new Steve Allen Show in 1953, she was asked how many songs she knew. “Oh, about 2,000”. She was hired to sing for 4 weeks and stayed for 5 years, as the programme evolved into the legendary “Tonight” show, meeting her husband and singing partner Steve Lawrence into the bargain.
For my money, Eydie had one of the greatest post war voices. Ella Fitzgerald adored it, Sinatra loved it. Her records and TV appearances are a real masterclass in singing standards, in selling a lyric and in subtle swing. I can’t help but wonder if she hadn’t stepped out of the limelight to have children, if she’d have been a much bigger star. She wasn’t a jazz singer per say, but she occupied that swinging high ground in classy, grown-up pop music, and boy could she belt out a song…
Eydie was my pocket legend on this week’s edition of Jazz House on BBC Radio Scotland. You can listen to it again here.
What a time in which to reintroduce myself into web-society.. so many jazz greats have passed away; pianists George Duke and Cedar Walton, singer Eydie Gorme have all passed away within the last two weeks. And today, I’ve just learned of the passing of the glorious pianist and radio host Marian McPartland.
Never a real household name in the UK, despite being British by Birth, she was real jazz giant – one of only three women to feature in the legendary photo “A Great Day in Harlem.” She’s standing next to one of her female contemporaries, and another of the great pianists of the age, Mary Lou Williams.
For 40 years she was the host of NPR’s Piano Jazz Show. Marian McPartland had a great knack for making guests feel totally at ease, wether they came from the jazz world or not.
She was one of the people who inspired me to be whatever the heck I am now.
The link below will take you to some of her great interviews and duets. Hearing her laugh and chat with Sarah Vaughan, then accompany her so beautifuly and so swingingly is a joy. Go listen. Go Marian.
I’ll pay respect to all of the musicians mentioned in my opening paragraph over the next few days.