Smorgasbord Summer Jazz 2017 – William Price King meets Tony Bennett – The 70s and 80s Rollercoaster Years


We pick up Tony Bennett’s story as we head into the 1970s and to be honest this was a very mixed decade for Tony as an artist and in his personal life. His first marriage ended in divorce in 1971 and he married again later that year and welcomed two daughters Joanna and Antonia. The family moved to Los Angeles and musically Tony decided on a new direction with his music as well.

For any artist who had been in the business for nearly 30 years and had established themselves within the Jazz and Pop music lanes, it was going to be a tough decade. Rock was now firmly established in the charts and a new generation of fans were buying records. Tony Bennett was now in his late 40s and whilst he still had a loyal fan base, it was going to be a challenging time professionally.

Columbia Records had launched Tony’s career but he began to feel that his own artistic input was too restricted. The label would have loved to have him back in the fold but he turned them down in favour of a two record deal with MGM records. The two albums, The Good Things in Life and Listen Easy did not make a great impact in the charts and by 1972 Tony decided it was time to strike out on his own and he started his own record company, Improv.

He released four albums over the next five years under his own label and one with Fantasy Records. Life is Beautiful, Tony Bennett Sings 10 Rodgers and Hart Songs, The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album (With Fantasy) Tony Bennett Sings More Rodgers and Hart and Together Again with Bill Evans.

Life is Beautiful was named after the song by Fred Astaire and the rest of the album reflected Tony Bennett’s two decades of exploring the American Songbook. Tracks included Reflections by Duke Ellington and Lost in the Stars by Kurt Weill. Whilst there were some supportive reviews from the critics the album did not enter the charts. However Reflections was singled out as being exceptional. Uploaded by Dario Butler

The two albums with jazz pianist Bill Evans were also well received and their first, with Fantasy, reached 31 in the Jazz charts. Tony was working with some of the best musicians in the business on the Improv releases including Charlie Byrd and Marian McPartland but without a distribution arrangement in place with a major label the albums were not getting the airtime or marketing they needed; although artistically sound, the label went out of business in 1977.

The Warwick label released a compilation album in 1977 The Very Best of Tony Bennett: 20 Greatest Hits and Columbia also released Tony Bennett with the McPartlands and Friends Make Magnificent Music. They were to be the last albums until the mid-80s.

Tony did however release some singles in the early 70s that did better in the charts and included Something, Living Together, Growing Together, Life is Beautiful, As Time Goes By and the theme song from Love Story, Where Do I Begin.

Where Do I Begin was composed by Francis Lai and after the music had become popular on the release of the film, the lyrics were added, written by Carl Sigman. Uploaded trooper7h

The last part of the 1970s were difficult years and unfortunately his second marriage also broke down. Without a recording contract and manager, Tony was performing intermittently in Las Vegas and the IRS was also attempting to seize some of his assets.

Eventually in 1979 following a near fatal overdose Tony finally reached out to his two sons and his son Danny signed on has his manager.

The next ten years were to be much more positive and with his new manager’s guidance and innovative marketing strategy, Tony Bennett staged a comeback.

With his expenses under control and the IRS satisfied with a repayment plan, Danny took Tony away from the Las Vegas environment and booked him into smaller venues around the country to entertain a younger audience. Pianist Ralph Sharon came back onto the team as Musical Director and would stay with Tony until 2002.

Unlike many performers who were attempting to appeal to a new generation, Tony Bennett made few changes to his classic style or appearance and stayed firmly in his musical lane. Danny however booked Tony onto the popular chat and entertainment shows on television including Late Night With Letterman, The Simpsons, Muppets Tonight and  on MTV. This brought his exceptional performance skills and the music of the last five decades to a brand new audience who loved it.

The strategy began to work and in 1986 Tony re-joined Columbia Records, this time with creative control and released The Art of Excellence which was the first to reach the charts since 1972.

Tony Bennett was on his way back and he performed his way into the 90s.

To end this rollercoaster ride that was the 70s and 80s here is the appropriate song How Do You Keep The Music Playing by A.Bergman, M.Bergman and Michel Legrand from the album The Art of Excellence. Uploaded by Jason Borba

Buy Tony Bennett’s music:  Amazon

Next week – The 90s and Tony is back…….

About William Price King.

Price et Eric au Studio Marilyn

William Price King is an American jazz singer, musician and composer. Originally he studied classical music and opera but over the years his style has evolved to what many refer to as the ‘sweet point’ where music and voice come together so beautifully.

His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. His jazz album, ‘Home,’ is a collection of contemporary songs and whilst clearly a homage to their wonderful legacy it brings a new and refreshing complexity to the vocals that is entrancing.

His latest album Eric Sempe and William Price King is now available to download. The repertory includes standards such as “Bye Bye Blackbird” (a jazz classic), Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”, Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and other well-known jazz, pop, and rock classics.

William and Eric Sempe have also brought their own magic to the album with original tracks such as Keep on Dreaming and Red Snow with collaboration with Jeanne King

Download the new album. http://cdbaby.com/cd/williampriceking

William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area.

You can find the other artists in the previous series here:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/william-price-king-a-man-and-his-music-jazz-classical-and-contemporary-legends/

We would love to have your feedback and also your help in spreading the post around social media for us…we hope you will join us next week for part five of Tony Bennett’s story.

 

 

 

A Man and His Music – William Price King meets Mel Tormé – Part Four – The 1960s


Part four of the series on the life and music of Mel Tormé and it is becoming clear that this talented musician, songwriter and performer, struggles to find his niche in the ever changing music industry. As mentioned in the first part of the series, Mel felt that he had been born just a decade too late to really take full advantage of the Jazz and Big Band Era, which produced the music that he loved to both write and perform. If the 50s had produced a shift in the taste in the fans for popular music, the 60s were going to be even more challenging for an artist such as Mel. It was a time of compromise, recording singles and albums to fit in with the leading label’s demands for popular music, to support his live performances of the music he really loved.

I will hand over to William Price King now to pick up the story.

at the red hill 

We move into the 60s with Mel Tormé struggling to find a record label who will allow him to release the music that is his passion… Jazz. He is now with Atlantic Records who very clearly want him to produce pop music, and eventually a compromise was made with another live album, Mel Tormé at the Red Hill in March of 1962. However he bowed to pressure from the management and released the more current number ‘Comin’ Home Baby’ in the September.

The song was written by the jazz lyricist Bob Dorough and bass player Ben Tucker. The song got Mel into the top 40 in both the US and UK and also earned him his first two Grammy nominations for Best Solo Performance, Male and Best Rhythm & Blues Recording. Whilst a terrific achievement for any artist Mel still felt disappointed that he was not being recognised as a jazz performer. To capitalise on this nomination, Atlantic rushed out the LP of the same name but it did not enter the charts.

What was a little bit more heartening for Mel was the comment made by jazz and gospel singer Ethel Waters to say that “Tormé is the only white man who sings with the soul of a black man.”

In 1963 Mel began a collaboration with The Judy Garland Show as musical director working closely on set with Judy and writing songs and musical arrangements combined with the occasional guest appearance. The show itself was in trouble from the beginning and Judy Garland’s unpredictability due to her personal issues resulted in a roller-coaster ride of triumphs and disasters in the few months that the show aired.

Judy Garland Show

The personal relationship between Mel and Judy was not a harmonious one and he was fired shortly before the series itself was cancelled. Mel wrote a book after Judy Garland’s death “The Other Side of the Rainbow with Judy Garland on the Dawn Patrol”. It was clearly an unhappy time for the aging actress and singer as her star faded and Mel related the behind-the-scenes dramas that he witnessed. Whilst not popular with Judy’s legions of fans and family, after a rewrite of the introduction to the book to mollify their criticisms, Mel paid tribute to the fact that Judy could still pull out all the stops when performing.

right now

Free to return to live performing from late 1964, Mel signed to Columbia Records and as well as some singles he cut the album That’s All. But, as at Atlantic Records, he was being pressurised to produce more contemporary/pop/rock songs. In 1966 his Album Right Now was released and included some of his recent hits such as ‘Homeward Bound’, and ‘Red Rubber Ball’. Mel made the Easy Listening chart in the summer of 1967 with ‘Lovers Roulette’ but by the end of the year he was off the label.

Red Rubber Ball written by Paul Simon and Bruce Woodley

Mel had been appearing in films over the last few years, including playing himself in The Patsy and this was followed by A Man Called Adam. He also began to be seen more on the small screen as well as writing episodes and guesting in popular series such as Run for Your Life and The Virginian.

220px-Mel_Tormé_-_A_Day_in_the_Life_of_Bonnie_and_Clyde

Mel signed with Liberty Records in early 1968 and on the wave of public enthusiasm for the film Bonnie and Clyde that had been released in 1967, he wrote the original title track ‘A Day in the Life of Bonnie and Clyde’. With the exception of this track, the album mostly consists of covers of popular songs of the late 1920s and early 1930s, around the period when the real-life Bonnie and Clyde were committing their bank robberies.

By 1969 Mel was back with Capitol Records and cut two more albums,A Time for Us’ and ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head’. ‘A Time for Us’ was the love theme from Romeo & Juliet that had been an instrumental arranged by Henry Mancini and it was to become one of the most romantic ballads of the late 1960s.

Mel was now entering the 1970s and he would be out of the music charts for some time although he would still be in the public eye with his work in television and film and with his live performances.

Sources
http://www.mtv.com/artists/mel-torme-00/biography/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mel_Torm%C3%A9
http://www.amazon.com/Mel-Torm%C3%A9/e/B001HMPC1C
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comin‘_Home_Baby!

William Price King – Jazz composer, musician and singer.

Price Russian photo Cave Wilson

William Price King is an American jazz singer, musician and composer. Originally he studied classical music and opera but over the years his style has evolved to what many refer to as the ‘sweet point’ where music and voice come together so beautifully.

His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. His debut jazz album is called ‘Home,’ a collection of contemporary songs and whilst clearly a homage to their wonderful legacy it brings a new and refreshing complexity to the vocals that is entrancing.

William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area. His album ‘Home’ is available to download and more details in the Buy Music for Christmas.

LINKS
Links to website – http://www.williampriceking.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/WilliamPriceKing
Twitter – @wpkofficial
Regular Venue – http://cave-wilson.com/
ITunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/william-price-king/id788678484

William Price King meets Mel Tormé
https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/a-man-and-his-music-william-price-king-meets-mel-torme/ Part One.
https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/a-man-and-his-music-william-price-king-meets-mel-torme-part-two-1940s/ Part Two
https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/a-man-and-his-music-william-price-king-meets-mel-torme-part-three-the-50s/ Part Three
https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/a-man-and-his-music-william-price-king-iconic-jazz-my-funny-valentine/
https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/01/14/william-price-king-iconic-songs-of-the-last-century-stardust/
https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/a-man-and-his-music-william-price-king-sings-jazz-prelude-to-a-kiss/

THE DIRECTORY FOR NAT KING COLE AND MEL TORME
https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/william-price-king/