Happy Birthday Phil! On Friday, November 3, from 8pm to Midnight Eastern. WGBH 89.7FM’s Jazz From Studio Four host Steve Schwartz celebrates the 75th birthday of alto saxophonist Phil Woods (born Nov. 2, 1931) with a four-hour retrospective of his ongoing career. One of the true masters of the bop vocabulary, Woods has played with an impressive array of artists—touring and recording with jazz legends Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, and Benny Goodman and playing on pop albums by Billy Joel, Carly Simon and Steely Dan. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy an evening while simultaneously boning-up on large slice of jazz history. If you’re not within earshot via terrestrial radio, tune in online at wgbh.org/jazz

Meanwhile, here’s a little appetizer. It’s an excerpt from the liner notes I wrote for a live concert recording in honor of Johnny Pate, featuring Phil Woods, James Moody, Monty Alexander, Shirley Horn, and Ron Carter, among others.

…“Minor Detail,” opens with Pate playing solo piano – the first of many pleasures yet to come. The solo introduction to this minor-key ballad is thick with rich chordal harmonies that weave through the reed and horn sections. Then an alto saxophone is heard in the distance, and it’s Phil Woods, in his trademark black cap, who emerges from the wings playing. Soon a deeper horn sounds and James Moody wanders onstage playing tenor. Woods kisses the top of Moody’s balding head, and the two go on musically conversing with one another. The jazz ensemble members are mesmerized, and though it is not discernable to the ear, they are so awestruck that they nearly miss their musical cue to come back in. Woods and Moody wander off the stage.

At the microphone again, Pate waits just a beat to compose himself, and tries to lighten the moment by joking. “An intrusion,” he says, gesturing toward the wings. “They just let anyone wander around.” He tells the audience about the day he heard Phil Woods playing alto on a Dizzy Gillespie recording, and how he thought to himself that if he were ever in a position to produce records, Phil Woods would top his list of artists. Bringing Woods back onstage, “all the way from Pennsylvania,” his voice cracks with tears. A week earlier, Pate predicted this would happen, telling Spencer Patterson of the Las Vegas Sun, “I haven’t been in contact with most of these people for years. Seeing them all at once, all together will be quite a thing. I’ll need three or four boxes of Kleenex.”

It may not seem like such a long way from Pennsylvania to Nevada, but for someone battling emphysema and down with the flu just days earlier, it is a very long way indeed. Still, Woods would not have missed today’s events. Woods’ handwritten note to Pate, reprinted in the program book, says, “Your faith in me long ago lives forever in my heart.” Woods means it. He tells the audience about his life as a struggling musician in the 1960s. “I couldn’t get arrested. ‘Buy a flute, be a studio man,’ they told me. I said ‘forget it.’” Woods moved to Europe where he hoped the musical climate would be more hospitable to jazz musicians. But in 1968, salvation came from stateside in the form of Johnny Pate.

Then East Coast director of A&R for Verve Records/MGM, Pate was in a position to make Woods an offer. Tracking him down in France, Pate offered Woods a record deal with a dream rhythm section (Herbie Hancock on piano, Richard Davis on bass and Grady Tate on drums), augmented by a string section led by Gene Orloff. The album is titled Round Trip. “I’m talking the truth,” Woods tells us. “I went back to France with a shitload of money, and a few months later I was invited to play at Newport. I was back, baby! I was back, and that’s ’cause of Johnny Pate, and I want to say thank you.”

Woods sounds breathless when talking, but not when playing. He is featured on the next two selections, “Carolyn” and “Fill the Woods With Laughter,” both of which are on that 1968 recording. The first, a ballad dedicated to Pate’s wife, is a simple theme with variations, rich harmonies, a walking bass line, and a sweet trumpet turn at the end. The students acquit themselves well, breaking into double time before the bridge, but it is Woods who plays with such love that my eyes tear up. Pate is standing on stage, bending backward from the knees as if the music is the wind and he is a sail. Much later, the only words Pate will be able to muster are “I love what he does with a ballad. I just stood there in awe.” By the time they finish the second tune, the audience is cheering and all Pate can say now is “Wow!”

On The Edge

In my mailbox has been languishing a note from my friend, drummer Michael Stephans. It announces an audio interview he did with Richard Paske who produces an online monthly half-hour audio magazine called Notes From The Western Edge. Michael’s interview is one of the two pieces produced for October, and October is almost over. I logged on to hear it, but it cost money — $24/year for a streaming audio subscription, $36/year for the downloadable subscription.

I balked; what if Michael’s interview is the only one that will interest me? $24 is a lot to spend for one 15-minute audio clip.

But how dare I balk? Am I not also endeavoring to share my thoughts and skills via the internet for a price? SnapSizzleBop had a few free goodies, but yes, I hope people will become paying participants, even if only at the lowest $20 level. So, fair is fair and I decided to check out Notes From the Western Edge.

The home page of each issue offers brief excerpts so I was able to verify the excellence of both the interviewer and the production. In doing so I was delighted to find interviews with Maria Schneider, Joe Zawinul, Bennie Maupin, Chris Potter, and Ron McCurdy. I’m not sure how much I’m going to like David King’s “sonic tsunamis” or Nels Cline’s “Armageddon of screeching and howling feedback,” but I’ve put my money where my mouth is.

I encourage you all to support artists on the Internet. Perhaps you’ll find my “People On The Page” book project of interest…or not. Perhaps Notes From The Western Edge will be your cup of tea…or not. Maria Schneider, Jim Hall and Bob Brookmeyer are only three of the three-dozen-plus who have ArtistShare websites; browse through the ArtistShare list of Featured Artists. Check out Joe Lovano‘s, Billy Taylor‘s, Bill Mays‘ and Sonny Rollins‘ web sites too — all impressively produced by Bret Primack, and they are replete with wonderful audio and video clips and podcasts. On Taylor’s site I just watched a three-piano rendition of Perdido with a young BT playing with Duke Ellington and Willie “The Lion” Smith on the David Frost show. On Lovano’s site Primack has conceived and produced Video Liner Notes ™ for Lovano’s Streams of Expression recording. On Mays’ site you can watch Video Highlights that include clips with Freddie Hubbard, Red Mitchell, Gerry Mulligan, Toots Thielesman, and others.

I’ve put lots of links in today’s post, please click and enjoy. Surely there is something out there for you. And if you find something else that you think might be of interest to DevraDoWrite readers, please let me know and I’ll spread the word.

(P.S. This is not an invitation for every publicist in the world to send me their pitches. Either know me, or at least know my taste before sending anything.)

Uniquely Yours

It amazes me how much time people spend creating neat stuff to see and do on the World Wide Web. And my mind boggles at the amount of time very busy people spend surfing and discovering these things. Bloggers do it a lot, and they may be the chief disseminator of such – myself among them. How Many Of Me is a goody I picked up from Terry Teachout, who got it from Tinkerty Tonk, who got it from Charles, who got it from Swirlspice, who got it from Lauren. Seems like I’m in good company.

Logo There are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Based on data from the US Census Bureau, no one on their list has my first name, but then they say that “around 1 out of every 10 people will have a first name not on the list” and over the years I have met a few others with the name Devra. Their list includes 599,937 people in the U.S. with the last name Hall and by their calculations it is “statistically the 26th most popular last name.” But the kicker is they list 12 famous people with the last name Hall, and notonly was Jim Hall not among them, but I had never heard of any of them! So, of course, I googled them all:

1. Alexander Hall: Director/film editor/actor born in 1894. (Ancient as I might feel, he was a little before my time.)

2. Anthony Michael Hall: Star of The Dead Zone. (Not my speed.)

3. Dante Hall: (courtesy of Wikipedia) an NFL kick/punt returner, and wide receiver, known as the “Human Joystick” in the NFL for his moves during kick returns. (I don’t watch much football; lost interest after Joe Namath started hawking panty hose.)

4. Jerry Hall: the supermodel/actress a/k/a Mick Jagger’s long-time companion/wife. (I should have known this one, but I was thinking “Jerry” was a guy’s name.)

5. Jon Hall: Beefcake co-star of Maria Montez in the most popular movies in Technicolor which were made between 1942 and 1945. (Again, this predates me.)

6. Kevin Peter Hall: Actor who was frequently cast in monster roles due to his extremely tall stature—he stood 7′ 2½” – at age 36 he died of AIDS contracted from a blood transfusion. (Monster flicks are not a part of my limited movie experience.)

7. Michael C. Hall: Young tv actor on Six Feet Under and Dexter. (I’ve heard about Six Feet Under, but never seen it. I don’t like having to pay for tv reception and refuse to pay for “premium” channels.)

8. Patrick Hall: Could they mean the kid in his mid twenties who was on American Idol?! (Fame ain’t what it used to be.)

9. Philip Baker Hall: Character actor. (Didn’t recognize the name, but the face is familiar. I probably saw him in recent years on TV — Without A Trace, Boston Legal, and/or West Wing. Now you know what I watch.)

10. Regina Hall: Actress (She’s in a bunch of movies I’m not likely to ever see.)

11. Toby Hall: baseball catcher for the Dodgers. (I still think of them as the Brooklyn Dodgers, so you know that I’m not a good source for the current roster.)

12. Robert David Hall: Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Al Robbins from the original CSI. (Finally, one I knew – not by name, but unlike Philip Baker Hall who merely looked familiar, I could positively ID this body.)

Having nothing better to do – and desiring to perfect my skills in the craft of procrastination – I then tried my married name. They note 41,996 people in the U.S. with the last name Levy (tied with 57 other last names for 831st most popular last name) and cite three who are famous. Again, my cultural IQ seems lacking as I never heard of Canadian actor Eugene Levy; football coach Marv Levy, now general manager for the Buffalo Bills; or Shawn Levy, another actor/director with a list of credits for things I’ve never seen.

And now folks, I really do need to get back to work. With any luck, I’ll catch up with myself and get back to a more regular/consistent blogging schedule. Until then…


My ArtistShare-powered site has finally launched. I know I’ve been talking about it for awhile now — I didn’t know how big a job it was to prepare — but now it’s ready for the world to see.

SnapSizzleBop.com was born today, October 16, 2006 at 1:15pm Pacific Time. Weighing in at approximately 34 web pages, proud parents are all doing fine and are anxious for you to visit.

Here’s the overview press release with links to more detailed releases about the two projects that are ready.

The Launch of SnapSizzleBop.com
A consortium of projects powered by ArtistShare

Three is a magic number and SnapSizzleBop.com is all about magic.

  • SNAP: the magic of music – Clairdee
  • SIZZLE: the magic of making people come alive on a page of words – People on the Page
  • BOP: the magic of seeing through a camera’s lens – At the Feet of a Jazz Master

SnapSizzleBop is a web site powered by ArtsistShare featuring a team led by writer Devra Hall, with jazz singer Clairdee, photographer Leroy Hamilton, and personal manager/jazz master John Levy. Their first ArtistShare odyssey is a group of three independent projects, each of which has a Snap-Sizzle-Bop three-pronged approach.

The Inside Story: Have you ever wondered who an artist really is beyond the music they make? Clairdee takes participants on an exclusive expedition to discover the vignettes of song that will become a limited edition 12-track ArtistShare recording. The Inside Story brings you into the life of this artist and behind the scenes in the making of this recording. Inspirational, educational and part memoir, this experience will focus on

  • SNAP: The art of storytelling – lyrics are more than words set to music.
  • SIZZLE: Revealing a common thread between music and Clairdee’s life, and
  • BOP: The various steps Clairdee is taking to move her career to a strong national presence.

People On The Page: If you like to read biographies, People On The Page will give you a new perspective on what goes into researching and writing someone’s life story. And if you have any interest in jazz, Broadway musicals, or African-American history, you will also be intrigued by the life of Luther Henderson, a Black man who attended Juilliard in the 1940s, was Duke Ellington’s “classical arm” and musical director for both Lena Horn and Polly Bergen, composed and arranged music for many of Broadway musicals, and had a hand in dozens of popular recordings and television shows. People On The Page is:

  • SNAP: Part memoir of Devra Hall’s life as a writer and the issues she grapples with as a biographer
  • SIZZLE: Part behind-the-scenes look at her process as she works on the biography of Luther Henderson
  • BOP: And part exploration of what readers and writers of biographies think about…. with insights from several biographer colleagues such as Walt Harrington, Doug Ramsey, Terry Teachout, and Bill Zinsser, among others.

At the Feet of a Jazz Master: This is a soft-cover coffee-table book with photos by Leroy Hamilton and text by Devra Hall that will share the current thoughts and wisdom of John Levy. This project is slated to roll out after the first two, but here’s a little preview. In January 2006, John Levy, the jazz bassist turned talent manager, was named an NEA Jazz Master. Photographer Leroy Hamilton was on the scene and shot some 7000+ photos over a period of several days, following John through:

  • SNAP: The official NEA events (Jazz Masters luncheon, panel discussion and awards ceremony attended by so many legendary jazz people who John has known),
  • SIZZLE: Interviews and book signings, and
  • BOP: Rehearsals with the newest artist on his roster (Clairdee) as well as in the studio with Nancy Wilson.

At The Feet of a Jazz Master is a sequel of sorts to Levy’s life story, “Men, Women, and Girl Singers,” and will include snippets and stories, reminiscences and ruminations, from a man who, at the age of 94, has lived a long life in jazz.

While each of these three projects stands alone, you may surmise some crossover appeal. Those who are jazz fans may find interest in all three projects. Those interested in the art of biography may also enjoy the highly biographical flavor of the photo/essay book. “At The Feet Of Jazz Master.” Fans of Leroy Hamilton will enjoy exploring one of Leroy’s personal passions, jazz, as documented through his unique lens. Clairdee fans curious about her manager, John Levy, will especially enjoy the section of “At The Feet Of Jazz Master” that will be devoted to his work with her and Leroy’s photos of her rehearsal and performance at IAJE in January of 2006.

So please visit and then comeback and let me know what you think. SnapSizzleBop.com

Rules of Engagement

“The divide is not between the servants and the served, between the leisured and the workers, but between those who are interested in the world and its multiplicity of forms and forces, and those who merely subsist, worrying, or yawning… The world is full of light and life, and the true crime is not to be interested in it.”

–from Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice, by A.S. Byatt

Pas de Deux

“Life may not be the party we hoped for but while we’re here we might as well dance.” — Maya Angelou

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learned to dance.
— Alexander Pope, “Essay on Criticism”

Nothing is more revealing than movement. — Martha Graham

The way people move is their autobiography in motion. — Gerry Spence

We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. — Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Dance as if no one’s watching, sing as if no one’s listening, and live everyday as if it were your last. — Irish proverb

God respects us when we work, but loves us when we dance. — Sufi saying

If you can talk, you can sing. If you can walk, you can dance. — African Proverb

Movie vs YouTube

While the world wrestles with YouTube — good for us, not good for us; fair or unfair, fun or futile — some people are still going to movie theaters. My friend Valerie is tauting “an incredible film” in a real movie theater…if but only for a moment — she writes:

I’m giving a “heads-up” to as many folks as I think might be interested and in close enough proximity to see this incredible film. It’s playing at the Music Hall on Wilshire & Doheny in Beverly Hills only until this Thursday. It is about five Black dancers who were the divas of Harlem in the ’30s at places like the Apollo Theatre and the Cotton Club. They were also strong activist-types who rose to the occasion when needed and protested at the Apollo from which resulted the AGVA union. After the big band era came to a halt, they got jobs as bartenders, etc. You’ll just have to take it from me that their lives are fascinating. They are now in their 80s and 90s and reunited about 18 years ago and are dancing once again!! I am seeing this film for the second time tonight! If you want to check out the website, it’s: www.tootscrackin.com/braml.htm

It’s not scheduled to play in this area again until next April when it will be in San Diego for one night. It’s already played New York and Boston.

Note: Her reference to “in this area” means Southern California. Looks like the film is making selected rounds, so keep your eyes open. I’m not going to have the chance to see it just yet so I’m hoping maybe it will appear on DVD.

As for the YouTube reference, I’m sure you’ve read by now Terry Teachout’s piece in The Wall Street Journal. If not, go here. I’m not sure that I’m in complete agreement, and I expect that I’ll have more to say on this subject down the road.

In Context

“Such things…as the grasp of a child’s hand in your own, the flavor of an apple, the embrace of a friend or a lover, the silk of a girl’s thigh, the sunlight on rock and leaves, the feel of music, the bark of a tree, the abrasion of granite and sand, the plunge of clear water into a pool, the face of the wind — what else is there? What else do we need?”
–Edward Abbey

I saw this quotation in a magazine. Curious about the source, I turned to Google and found it. It’s from Desert Solitaire (1968). What I also found is the preceeding sentence.

“For my own part, I am pleased enough with surfaces — in fact, they seem to me to be of much importance. Such things, for example, as the grasp of a child’s hand …”

When I read the lines in the magazine, surfaces were the farthest thing from my mind. My brain connected the word surface to superficial and unimportant, completely contradictory to the thoughts evoked by images of sunlight and music and the grasp of a child’s hand. Now, even more context was required for proper understanding. Desert Solitaire is a narrative nonfiction book about Abbey’s experiences as a park ranger in Utah, and in nature, as in all art, surfaces are indeed beautiful. How pleasant to have my synapses redirected on a more positive pathway.