Crosby-Lee-Clooney Remembrance

AAJ Staff By

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Just one week after May 2, the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of America’s greatest pop singers, the late Bing Crosby, it is appropriate to take note of two of the finest female pop-jazz vocalists—Peggy Lee and Rosemary Clooney. A new tribute CD to Lee and Clooney, who both died just last year, was launched May 9th and 10th, by two of Philadelphia's most engaging pop/jazz vocalists—Mary Ellen Desmond and Meg Clifton. And that is just one dimension of the Philadelphia jazz. scene.

CHRIS' JAZZ CAFE, 1421 Sansom St., Philadelphia (215.568.3131) launched the new CD, Peggy Lee-Rosemary Clooney Tribute by Mary Ellen Desmond and Meg Clifton on May 9 and 10th. Shows went from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. for a $10 admission. The club was packed to the proverbial rafters and the performances were if anything better than on the CD with Ms Clifton's rendition of Fever both sexy and sultry. McKenna took, as usual, a few superb solos demonstrating once again why he is considered oneof the finest tenor men anywhere. Swana was equally overpowering and Ms Desmond is always a lady in charge.

They were backed by virtually all of the same stellar group from the CD: Mark Kramer, piano; Larry McKenna, tenor sax; John Swana, trumpet; Dave Brodie, bass and Jim Schade, drums. Kramer was out ill on May 9, but a substitute young pianist did just fine. Ms Desmond demonstrates once again the savvy singing style of a show business singer who can go from jazz to light opera with a remarkable instrument—her voice. Ms Clifton has a haunting quality to her singing reminiscent of early Billie Holiday sides where even pop lyrics take on a blues edge. On this CD, they provide a truly touching tribute to two of America’s greatest pop singers, a follow-on to an earlier tribute they did live at Chris' in August of last year. The back up group on the CD and in the set next week could not be finer with Kramer, McKenna and Swana pure perfection. McKenna worked with Ms Clooney when she played Philly. The $15CD, featuring favorites such as Fever, Why Don’t you Do Right? and Tenderly, is produced by the Alan McMahon Music Agency. It is available at Chris' Cafe, Sound of Market Street Records and through www.thejazzmall.com.

THE PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART, 26TH ST. AND THE PARKWAY (215.763.8100) still perking along with its Friday night jazz series May 9 with one of the finest bass players in Philadelphia, Lee Smith, working with a duo from 5:30 to 8 p.m. On May 16, they will be bringing in five-time Grammy winner, vibraphonist Gary Burton with top flight pianist Makato Ozone.

ORTLIEB'S JAZZ HAUS, 847 N. 3RD ST. (215.922.1035) continues to offer a steady stream of fine jazz by several first class musicians who have been there so long they are now practically part of the wood work. Sundays are a jam session with the Roger Prieto Quartet, Tuesdays with the Ortlieb’s hausband, Wednesdays with the incomparable Bootsie Barnes and his trio, Thursdays with the slick stylings of the Sid Simmons Quartet. Any of these sessions are perfect examples of the free wheeling, exciting jazz once played on famed 52nd St. in New York during the glory years of jazz. The reason these guys have been working this gig so long is that the owner, fans and musicians themselves love what they do.


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