Angel Wing

It was just yesterday (technically early this morning) that I wrote about musical people who have left a void, and now I have just learned of the death of Lee Wing. You may not know her by name, but she wrote “An Older Man Is Like an Elegant Wine,” a song that was recorded to great acclaim by both Carol Sloane and Nancy Wilson.

Here’s a snippet from Nancy’s recording of An Older Man Is Like An Elegant Wine (that’s Toots Thielemans with her).

I never met Mrs. Wing, and all I knew about her was her talent as a songwriter. Now, reading her obituary (which I am posting below) I am fascinated to learn of her work in the fields of government and education. A common thread seems to be giving people a voice. Smart Start Kids is an Emmy-award-winning half-hour television program where preschool children are the “stars” of the show, and my eyes zoom in on phrases like “citizen call-ins,” and “connect people and their government.” It seems that her life touched on many of the same topics that I hold dear. Here, then, is her obituary from the Durham Herald-Sun, August 29, 2006.

Durham’s Honored Mrs. Wing dies

Lucie Lee Abramson Wing of Durham, who founded and served as president of Friends of University Network Television (WUNC) and was arts and communications policy adviser to Gov. Jim Hunt in the 1970s, died Sunday. She was 80 and had lived in Durham since 1965.

“I just loved her,” longtime friend Mary D.B.T. Semans said Monday. “She was so talented. I admired her so. She inspired me.”

Mrs. Wing also was executive director of the N.C. Agency for Public Telecommunications from 1979 to 1993, and created OPEN/net, a statewide satellite and cable television network with unscreened citizen call-ins designed to connect people and their government.

The network won the Ford Foundation and Harvard-Kennedy School of Government Award for Innovations in State and Local Government.

Mrs. Wing also received the Governor’s Award of Excellence and was inducted into the Order of the Longleaf Pine for her service to the state.

In 1993, she founded Responsive Media Inc. as a vehicle for new projects involving audience participation. She produced the Call-In Kids radio program from 1996 to 1999, and later created Smart Start Kids, produced by WRAL-TV, which won a regional Emmy Award in 2004.

Mrs. Wing also wrote music and lyrics. Her song “Pushing Forty” was recorded by Pearl Bailey and “An Older Man Is Like an Elegant Wine” was recorded by both Carol Sloane and Nancy Wilson.

From 1968 to 1972, Mrs. Wing was president of the Durham County Democratic Women. She co-chaired Terry Sanford’s 1972 presidential campaign and was a delegate to the 1972 Democratic National Convention.

“She was such a believer in democracy and worked for it all the time,” Mrs. Semans said. “She cherished the Constitution and everything about it.”

Former state Rep. George Miller of Durham agreed.

“She was really the one person who originally advocated open government in North Carolina,” Miller said. “That included the Legislature, the Office of the Governor, state agencies, and the like…. She had many talents.”

Mrs. Wing is survived by her husband, Cliff; her son and daughter-in-law, Steve and Betsy; their daughters, Ann and Marion; her son and daughter-in-law, Scott and Natasha; and their sons, Erik and Nicholas.

The family said it will announce plans later to remember and celebrate her life.

My condolences to Mrs. Wing’s family and friends.


It was with a little trepidation that I shared with you the list of my latest jazz CD purchases. While I admit to being opinionated — I know what I like and what I don’t like, and usually can give some reason why — I do not by any stretch consider myself to be an expert, and though at times I am quite critical, I never claim to be A Critic. So I was very pleased to receive this succinct endorsement from Mr. Rifftides:

Good choices.

I am fortunate to be rubbing elbows all these years with many great artists who I am lucky to call my friends. Many of them no longer walk among us but they have left the wonderful gifts of their music preserved on recordings. From time to time I talk about Joe Williams and Shirley Horn, but there are so many more that I miss often and mention all too seldom. I spent many a night with Helen Humes, most often at The Cookery in NYC but also in Boston and in Nice. Even without the CD I can hear her singing “Every Now and Then” (for me, no one else can do justice to that song), “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me,” and “If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight.” She did an album in 1960 titled Songs I Like to Sing! that has all three of those songs and nine others that she really did like to sing because I heard her sing each and every one of them, often, right up until her death in 1981. Helen liked to have a good time (we had wonderful BBQs at the home of her niece in Los Angeles) and she loved to be naughty (lyrics to “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” were more often than not altered to “a hard man is good to find”).

Despite my taking lessons with some truly legendary jazz pianists, and my preference for Bill Evans over Beethoven, my limited pianistic talents were stronger in the classical arena. My “serious” music studies during my high school years were at the Westchester Conservatory, but it was Roland Hanna who introduced me to the music of Scriabin. “I can’t play jazz,” I said frequently. “It’s all the same,” Roland would say. Then he’d ask, “What are you working on?” Sitting at the piano in his 72nd street studio, I’d play whatever it was, maybe a Chopin Nocturne or a Brahms Rhapsody. Roland would stroke his chin, nudge me to the edge of the bench and re-interpret the piece, proving that jazz or classical, it’s all music with which you could do as you felt. He could play anything, classical or jazz, bop, swing or out-to-lunch. I cherish, too, the memory of those nights at Bradley’s where he often played solo. It’s his solo recordings that are my favorites, especially his first solo album, Sir Elf, with “Bye Bye Blackbird.” I think some Japanese company released a CD, but, alas, I can’t find it. My Hanna collection currently includes his solo concert at Maybeck Hall, the Duke Ellington Piano Solos, Tributaries: Reflections on Tommy Flanagan, Solo: Round Midnight which I think is no longer available, and one ensemble recording Sir Roland Hanna Quartet Plays Gershwin.

I also miss Paul Desmond, Zoot Sims, Etta Jones, Art Farmer, Thad Jones, and Sweets Edison, to name just a few. If you want to know about my Desmond reminiscences you’ll have to read Take Five, the fantastic biography by Doug Ramsey a/k/a Mr. Rifftides. (I’m on pages 264, 296-7). And I’ll save these other memories for another evening when nostalgia strikes again.

Christmas In August

Several weeks ago I shopped online at Concord’s Blowout Sale, filling some gaps in my CD library and stumbling across some old treasures. The package finally arrived.

Many years ago I feel in love with Brubeck’s Time Out and wore out several LPs. It was released when I was four years old; I probably didn’t hear it, or pay attention to it until I was 10 or 11. By the time I was 12 I had the printed music as well, and acquitted myself adequately playing “Blue Rondo A La Turk,” ‘Three To Get Ready,” and “Kathy’s Waltz.” I found the CD some years ago and bought it. It wasn’t until later that I heard Jazz At Oberlin, released before I was born, but I never owned that one…now I do.

I also learned and loved to play Bill Evan’s “Waltz For Debby.” Never mind that it wasn’t written for me, it was my calling card and I wowed a bunch of London musicians by playing it with Bill’s voicings at a party when I was 10 years old and the printed music wasn’t yet available overseas. (Mom and I were on the road with Dad who was playing six weeks at Ronnie Scott’s Club.) Now that you know that you’ll not be surprised that I had to buy the complete set of Bill Evans’ Riverside Recordings. If you’re surprised that I hadn’t yet owned them, don’t be — I bought the Fantasy set instead some years back. Now I’ve got both.

Long ago and far away (1970s, Boston and New York City) I took some lessons with some other noted pianists including Jaki Byard and Walter Bishop, Jr. Strangely enough I owned not a single Bish CD and only one by Byard (the solo recording at Maybeck Hall). Now that omission has been rectified with the purchase of The Walter Bishop Jr, Trio recorded in 1962-63 with Butch Warren and Jimmy Cobb, and Jaki’s Freedom Together recorded in 1966 with Richard Davis on bass, Alan Dawson on drums, and Jaki on piano, celeste, vibes, tenor saxophone and drums. I spent many a night at Bradley’s in NYC listening to Jaki on piano, but I don’t think I ever knew he played all those other instruments. Another gap in my education. The Bishop CD has a nice mix of standards and originals, but I wish it included “Giant Steps;” at the time I studied with him he was using that tune as a teaching tool and had worked out this exercise that, if my hazy memory serves, we used to work through key changes and full-fisted voicings.

And then there’s Wiggin’ Out — Gerry Wiggins playing Hammond organ with Jackie Mills on drums and Harold Land on tenor sax. As long as I have known Wig, about 35 years, I have never heard him play organ. I called him up to ask about it and he just laughed, saying “that’s probably the only time I ever did.”

What else did I buy? Four more that I haven’t played as yet. 1) A Leonard Feather production titled The Jones Boys with Thad, Reginald, Quincy, Jimmy, Jo and Eddie.
2) The MJQ’s Django — by that time I became familiar with the group Connie Kaye was playing drums. The tracks on this CD were recorded in the early 1950s with Kenny Clarke on drums.
3) Sonny Rollins with The Modern Jazz Quartet (I own several recordings by each but nothing with them together).
4) The Ellington Suites, recorded in 1959, 1971 and 1972 with Duke, Cat Anderson, Harry Carney, Paul Gonsalves, Johnny Hodges, Butter Jackson, Clark Terry…..

And lest you think me selfish, I did buy a few others for my husband. He got first dibs on Milt Jackson/Wes Montgomery – Bags Meets Wes!, Cannonball Adderley – Know What I Mean?, and Cannonball Adderley/Milt Jackson – Things Are Getting Better.

This should keep us busy for awhile.

PS: Easy Listening — Talk about discovering oldies, I just browsed by The Overgrown Path where I read Sweden’s best kept secret – Jan Johansson and listened to the short audio clips — very pleasant and mildly reminiscent of John Lewis’s Bach’s Preludes & Fugues and Claude Bolling/Jean-Pierre Rampal’s Suite for Flute & Jazz Piano.

Spoils of War

Perhaps taking my cue from the jazz world, riffing off one another’s postings I take note of Mr. Rifftides latest post re our “conversation” about music being used as a weapon or punishment, a dispatch wherein he has included words penned by the esteemed Gene Lees. While Gene’s words were prompted by a prior Rifftides post in which Kenny Drew held forth on the subject of rap music (here), they are nonetheless right on target vis a vis my query.

You may remember that a few days ago I asked anyone who knew of any such stories to please share them with me. I made that request because for some time now I’ve been percolating an idea for a book about the myriad ways in which the America uses music to further policy objectives. My book proposal is making the rounds; here’s an excerpt:

While it is true that technological advances have made it no longer necessary to use musical instruments to command and control the troops in battle, music still has many wartime uses. Sometimes the employment of music seems heart-warming, such as when it serves to soothe and help heal the wounded, or even inspire perseverance in the face of adversity. Uplifting stories of entertaining troops on the front lines have always been fodder for fictional movies and factual newsreels. Troop morale is crucial, and while the world might think Bob Hope and the USO handled it all by themselves, the truth is that there are places that Bob could not go – places where the danger was too great, the need even greater….

Marching bands always stir up patriotic feelings; everybody loves a parade…. Music is used in ceremonial events, presidential funerals, state dinners, and official events galore. In towns large and small, all across the country, military buglers play taps, and military bands of all types and sizes march in parades to pay tribute to homecoming soldiers and honor those left behind.

But music can be applied and exploited for purposes that may be depressing, distressing, or to some, even despicable. One who finds beauty in music will likely be appalled to hear a young American soldier fighting in Iraq describe how he and his buddies patch rock music into the headphones in their tank in order to pump themselves up for the fight. While employing music to whip soldiers into a fighting frenzy may seldom be discussed, it is not uncommon. Nor is it unusual to use music as a weapon. As seen in the capture of Manuel Noriega and the Siege of the Church of Nativity in Israel, music has been an effective tool for soldiers in PsyOps (Psychological Operations)….

A friend, now retired from the US Air Force, once told me that music money is “miniscule in terms of the overall defense budget, but the payback is so huge, you can’t even begin to calculate how important it is.” Hmmmm….

Up To The Challenge

Hats off and many thanks to Mr. Rifftides. I asked for the whole story about punishing high-school kids by making them listen to Sinatra records and Mr. R has delivered, posting it here on his blog.

At the end he wonders whether Sinatra might have known about this and what he might have said or felt. I know one or two folks who knew Ol’ Blue Eyes fairly well so I am going to ask. (Had this been a few years ago I might have persuaded Joe Williams to call Frank directly and ask him for me.) I probably won’t get much of a respose, but we’ll see. One never knows, do one?

Supposed News That’s Not Fit To Print (or Air)

I have been waiting to hear someone in the media say this:

The reappearance of the JonBenet Ramsey story on the media radar made my heart sink.

Thank you, Joe Carroll (San Francisco Chronicle). Every night my husband and I talk back to the news readers on telelvision…often we yell at the politicians and pundits too. Lately, we just shake our heads at all the JonBenet coverage. I guess the media must believe that a little soft porn in the guise of “breaking news” will raise the ratings. That alone is a shame. Add to that the fact that there are no real facts and certainly no real news in this current flurry of re-hash and you have the making of another journalism travesty. Here’s a graf from Carroll’s column:

Even before the story about the guy who didn’t kill JonBenet Ramsey broke, I had been thinking about people trusting the media, or rather not trusting the media. Of course, sensible people don’t trust politicians either, or large corporations, or advertising — one feature of modern life is how untrustworthy everything is. No wonder we’re crazy; we have no idea what the truth is, and we need at least an approximation of the truth in order to make intelligent decisions.

But how does anyone know to trust anyone else?

Read the whole column here

Music, War, Human Nature…

In response to my mention of the Army’s PsyOps division having used music as a weapon, Mr.Rifftides sent this message:

I remember that a few years ago there was quite a ruckus about the high school principal who punished his misbehaving inner-city students by making them listen to Frank Sinatra recordings. It may have been Chicago. If I turn up details, I’ll let you know.

I hope he does turn up the details; thats a story I’d like to hear.

In yesterday’s The New York Times there was an article (Harmony Across a Divide) by Alan Riding.

IT was an immensely appealing experiment, both in its idealism and in its simplicity: Let young Israeli and Arab musicians play together in an orchestra to show that communication and cooperation were possible between peoples who had long fought each other.

Conceived by Argentine-born Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and the Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said, the project began in 1999 as an annual event, and despite even the more recent outbreaks of violence, the orchestra is still performing.

Still, with the orchestra touring 13 cities in Spain, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Turkey, Mr. Barenboim believes that this latest crisis merely underlines the venture’s importance.

“From the beginning it took a lot of courage to participate in this project, but all the more so this year, while this war is going on, and the friends and relatives of some are being hurt by the friends and relatives of others.” Mr. Barenboim said in an interview the day after starting the tour with the first classical concert ever in Seville’s historic bullring. “In that sense this is a very small reply to the terrible horrors of war.”

I have begun to collect similar stories of music used in service of diplomacy and/or as a humanizing force. Colonel Gabriel once told me a story of taking a German town by force in 1944 as an infantryman, and returning years later as Commander of the US Air Force Band, capturing that same town with music. In 1944 he left with their flag, and later they gave him their key. Another story is that of the joint concert performed by our National Symphony and the Iraq National Symphony, described by The Lehrer Newshour as “an attempt at literal harmony out of the confusion and sometimes violent aftermath of the Iraq war.”

If anyone knows of any such stories, please share them with me.


Speaking of jazz classics, I just saw a press release reminding me that it has been 50 years since Paul Gonsalves’ six minute solo on “Diminuendo and Crescendo In Blue” brought the proverbial house down at the Newport Jazz Festival.

Tonight, on the radio, Columbia record producer George Avakian, Newport Jazz impresario George Wein, and critic Stanley Crouch will be savoring the memory of Duke Ellington and His Orchestra’s historic performance — the program is Open Source, it airs from Boston (89.7 on the dial) at 7 PM and can be heard online here.

I’ve Got Mail: Another Perspective

As you know, I’ve been embroiled in the online discussions with my classmates about the wars, and more specifically about human nature and whether we are wired to be violent, an inherency tempered only by our intellect and consciousness (and/or perhaps conscience). It was with that in mind that I posted the quote from Carl Jung (see yesterday’s post just below). Bill Crow writes in response:

Re your posted quote from Jung: He must have been talking about himself. I personally have come to consciousness many times with joy and pleasure, as when I first heard Louis Armstrong’s recording of West End Blues, when I first heard Duke Ellington’s recording of Creole Love Call, when I first heard Lester Young’s recording of I Got Rhythm, and when I first heard Charlie Parker’s recording of Ko Ko. Such moments of revelation have carried me happily through a life in music, without pain.
(The pain came later on, in my fingers, from struggling to transfer the consciousness of the music onto my instrument.)

Thanks, Bill, for providing a ballast, accentuating the positive, and reminding us of the power of music. I’m don’t know which specific renditions you have in mind (these guys having recorded these songs more than once) but I hope the above links to sound clips will give DDW readers a little sample.

Did you all know that the Army’s PsyOps division has used music as a weapon? I’ve been meaning to research the details, but I remember something about driving Noriega out of hiding by bombarding him with heavy metal music. No joke. I wonder what would happen if we were to fill the air in warring territories with great music. Now there’s a secret weapon I could support. Hmmm…