257

A Harpist and a Harpy

Nick Catalano By

Sign in to view read count
Keely Smith with all of her comic venom has lost none of her sheer vocal magic...
A few years ago, amid the reams of jazz press releases and publicity blurbs that I receive each month, I noticed a piece about South American Roberto Perera who was recording a group which featured his own playing of the Paraguyan harp. Immediately, I sought to discern the principal differences between this instrument and the traditional acoustic concert harps. The characteristics are complex and I’d rather not conduct a music theory class in this column. Suffice it to say that Perera’s playing of the Paraguayan instrument offered a new opportunity to record South American music because this instrument was native.

Through the years I’ve kept listening to his CD’s and been continually intrigued by his constant experimentation with the harp while producing music that is nicely accessible to a growing listenership. In his latest CD Sensual on the Heads Up label, Perera notes carefully that on several selections he is playing a “Paraguayan harp with sharping levers” – essentially a different instrument altogether. And on a gig I caught awhile back at the Hollywood Florida Musicians exchange I found Perera tinkering with yet another harp. This one has sounds that even Maestro Perera has difficulty hearing.

Important plaudits go to Perera who is trying to advance the music and simultaneously keep his band working. His recordings are compelling and the sounds of his various harps will challenge even the most astute cognoscenti.

At seventy-five, Keely Smith feels she can say and do on stage whatever she likes. Recently she teased and coquetted conductor Bob Lappin with such intensity that it had an SRO audience howling. The comedy was, of course, entirely spontaneous and reflected a shrewd show business professionalism honed during the old Vegas days when she and Louis Prima were working the Sahara Lounge doing six shows a night between midnight and 6:00 a.m.

But make no mistake, Keely Smith with all of her comic venom has lost none of her sheer vocal magic and, at her advanced age, this is a bit miraculous. The rangy octave jumping and crisp phrasing that were 1950’s trademarks are still operating at full throttle. Despite a hard working dues paying career, Keely never drank, smoked, or did the other stuff and her present performance power is a testament to this abstemious regime. When she sings the tester “You Go to My Head” (the present arrangement by Dennis Michaels is delicious) the glory days of the great swing chanteuses come instantly to mind. Although Keely quickly runs through the “Prima” hits (“Black Magic”, “Just a Gigolo”, “I Ain’t Got Nobody”, etc.) for the nostalgic audiences, she really displays her works on the challenging ballads (“I Wish You Love” – which sold nine million copies).

Last year she received a grammy nomination for “Keely Sings Sinatra” and at an age when most might prefer smaller venues of cult audiences, Keely Smith is packing them in at 2500 seat houses and shows absolutely no signs of stopping. Keely Smith will be at Feinstein’s for most of May.

Speaking of nostalgia, I was simply knocked out this month by a CD from Mark Winkler who sings the music of Bobby Troup on his latest Rhombus release. Troup was a west coast legend for hipsters a generation ago and his music is an important chapter in the California jazz story. If you’re a new singer looking for material, you’ll be especially moved by the legacy of Bobby Troup.


Shop

More Articles

Read John Pizzarelli Soars at Birdland New York Beat John Pizzarelli Soars at Birdland
by Nick Catalano
Published: September 16, 2016
Read Joey DeFrancesco at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola New York Beat Joey DeFrancesco at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola
by Nick Catalano
Published: August 18, 2016
Read Clifford Brown and Max Roach in 1954: New Research New York Beat Clifford Brown and Max Roach in 1954: New Research
by Nick Catalano
Published: June 13, 2016
Read Pat Martino at The Jazz Standard New York Beat Pat Martino at The Jazz Standard
by Nick Catalano
Published: February 9, 2016
Read Carol Fredette at Jazz at Kitano New York Beat Carol Fredette at Jazz at Kitano
by Nick Catalano
Published: November 23, 2015
Read "Joey DeFrancesco at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola" New York Beat Joey DeFrancesco at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola
by Nick Catalano
Published: August 18, 2016
Read "John Pizzarelli Soars at Birdland" New York Beat John Pizzarelli Soars at Birdland
by Nick Catalano
Published: September 16, 2016
Read "Clifford Brown and Max Roach in 1954: New Research" New York Beat Clifford Brown and Max Roach in 1954: New Research
by Nick Catalano
Published: June 13, 2016
Read "Blue Side of Lonesome: Country Crooners on BGO" Multiple Reviews Blue Side of Lonesome: Country Crooners on BGO
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 23, 2016
Read "Ralph Peterson's Triangular III at Nighttown" Live Reviews Ralph Peterson's Triangular III at Nighttown
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: April 18, 2016
Read "Foundation of Funk at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom" Live Reviews Foundation of Funk at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom
by Geoff Anderson
Published: February 20, 2017
Read "The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome" Extended Analysis The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: November 27, 2016
Read "Katie Thiroux Quartet at Birdland" Live Reviews Katie Thiroux Quartet at Birdland
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: November 8, 2016
Read "Miles Davis: In Time, All Changes" Hi-Res Jazz Miles Davis: In Time, All Changes
by Mark Werlin
Published: July 18, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!