Lawren Harris

Lawren S Harris, “Billboard (Jazz)”, 1921, Oil on Canvas, 1072 x 1275 cm, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

The first paintings Lawren Harris exhibited in Toronto in 1911 included urban scenes of streets and houses in The Ward, the largely immigrant area west of Toronto’s City Hall. Best known for his landscapes of Ontario’s near north, the Rocky Mountains and Arctic and later abstractions, Harris’s urban scenes played a key role in his exploration of the role of art in the transformations of Canadian society.

Harris exhibited several of his new “Shack Paintings” at the 1921 Group of Seven exhibition in the Art Gallery of Toronto. These paintings dealt with a subject he had been treating for almost ten years- houses in the poorer sections or in the unserviced and uninsurable outskirts of Toronto.

The painting “Jazz”, later retitled “Billboard” was provacative at the time, dealing with modern, urban life, considered by the then puritanical Toronto to be a decadent or immoral lifestyle. Painted with agressive brushwork and fractured text, it shows workers in the foreground and a row of frame houses receding in the background. The almost abstract billboard with its torn posters is the principle subject; this abstraction is carried across the top of the canvas by the torn clouds.

Over the course of his career, Lawren Harris’s painting evolved from Impressionist-influenced, decorative landscapes to stark images of the northern landscape to geometric abstractions. From 1934 to 1937, Harris lived in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he painted his first abstract works, a direction he would continue for the rest of his life.

In 1938 Harris moved to Sante Fe, New Mexico, and helped found the Transcendental Painting Group, an organization of artists who advocated a spiritual form of abstraction. Harris died in Vancouver in 1970, at the age of 84, as a well-known artist. He was buried on the grounds of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, where his work is now held.


Jimmy Scott

Jimmy Scott, “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You”, 1986, From the Album “All the Way”

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in July of 1925, James Victor Scott was an American jazz vocalist known for his sensitivity on ballads and for his high countertenor voice. The high range of his singing voice was due to a rare genetic disease, the Kallmann syndrome, which prevented him from reaching classic puberty and limited his physical height. 

Given the nickname of “Little Jimmy Scott” by jazz musician and band leader Lionel Hampton, Scott achieved prominence as the lead singer in Hampton’s band when he recorded “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool” in December of 1949. This song became a top rhythm and blues hit in 1959. Scott sang the vocals on Charlie Parker’s adaption of Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” in 1947; however, his vocals was credited to the female vocalist Chubby Newsom on the album.

Jimmy Scott signed in 1963 with Tangerine Records, a record label owned by Ray Charles and distributed by ABC-Paramount Records. Under that label, he recorded the album “Falling in Love is Wonderful”, with Ray Charles interplaying on the piano. This ranks as one of the best works of Scott’s career, showing his range of emotions and his hitting all the notes with perfection on such classics as “How Deep is the Ocean” and “Someone to Watch Over Me”.

By the late 1960s, Jimmy Scott’s career had faded; he returned to his native Cleveland and worked in several menial labor positions. It wasn’t until 1989 that he returned to music, sharing a late-night billing with singer and pianist Johnnie Ray at the famed New York’s Ballroom. Singing at the funeral of his friend, blues singer and songwriter Doc Pomus, gained him further recognition and an opportunity with Sire Records. 

Sire Records, an arm of the Warner Records group, released Jimmy Scott’s 1992 album “All the Way” which earned Scott a nomination for a Grammy Award. Between 1994 and 1998, Jimmy Scott released three albums: the 1994 “Dreams”, “Heaven” released in 1996, and an album of pop/ rock interpretations entitled “Holding Back the Years”. This last album earned an award for Best Jazz Album of 2000, and included covers of songs written by Prince, Lennon, Elvis Costello, and Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

Jimmy Scott’s early recordings for Decca Records and Savoy Records were re-released as a box set in 1999. He signed with Milestone Records in 2000 and recorded four albums with guests such as Wynton Marsalis, Renne Rosnes, and Lewis Nash. His final recording took place at his home in May of 2014, a track written for him by Grégoire Maret titled “The 26th of May” which appears on Maret’s album “Wanted”.

Scott performed at the inaugurations of both President Eisenhower and William Clinton, singing “Why Was I Born”. He received the NEA Jazz Masters award in 2007, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jazz Foundation of America in 2010. Jimmy Scott was inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame in 2013. He died in his sleep at his home in Las Vegas on June 12, 2014 at the age of eighty-eight years. He is buried in Knollwood Cemetery in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.

“As singers, we all deal in pain. We’re all trying to push the pain through the music and make it sound pretty. Jimmy Scott has more pain and prettiness in his voice than any singer anywhere”

– Ray Charles



Tony DeSare “You Don’t know Me”

Tony DeSare, “You Don’t Know Me”

Born in New York, Tony DeSare is a jazz singer, pianist and songwriter. He has performed at major jazz rooms such as Birdland and the Blue Note with his quartet; nightclubs including the Cafe Carlyle; and with his big gand in concert at Jazz in Lincoln Center. He records on the Telarc label and with the California-based Concord Music Group.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 8th of August, Solar Year 2018

Lounging on White Cotton

August 8, 1907 was the birthdate of jazz saxophonist Bennett Lester Carter.

Bennett Carter appeared on record for the first time in 1927 as a member of the Paradise Ten led by Charlie Johnson. He did arrangement work for recordings by Fletcher Henderson and his band. Carter’s arrangement of the 1930 “Keep a Song in Your Soul” for Henderson was very complex and a significant song in his career. After leaving Fletcher, Carter became leader of McKinney’s Cotton Pickers in Detroit until he formed his own band in New York City. The songs “Lonesome Nights” and Symphony in Riffs” written in 1933 show Carter’s masterful writing for saxophones.

By the early 1930s Bennett Carter was considered one of the leading alto saxophonists. He also became known as a leading trumpet player, having rediscovered the instrument from his childhood. Carter’s orchestra played the Harlem Club in New York but only recorded a few records for Columbia, Okeh (under the name of “The Chocolate Dandies”), and Vocalion.

In the middle 1940s, Bennett Carter made Los Angeles his home, forming another big band, which at times included Max Roach, JJ Johnson, and Miles Davis. But this would be the last big bands he would lead. With the exception of occasional concerts, performing with Jazz at the Philharmonic, and recording, he ceased working as a touring big band bandleader. Los Angeles provided him many opportunities for studio work, and these dominated his time during the next decades. He wrote music and arrangements for television and films, such as “Stormy Weather” in 1943. During the 1950s and ‘60s, he wrote many arrangements for vocalists such as Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Peggy Lee.

In 1969, Carter was persuaded to spend a weekend at Princeton University by Monroe Berger, a sociology professor at Princeton who wrote about jazz. This led to a new outlet for Carter’s talent: teaching. For the next nine years he visited Princeton five times, most of them brief stays except for one in 1973 when he spent a semester there as a visiting professor. In 1974 Princeton gave him an honorary doctorate. He conducted teaching at workshops and seminars at several other universities and was a visiting lecturer at Harvard.

Bennett Carter had an unusually long career. He was perhaps the only musician to have recorded in eight different decades. Another characteristic of his career was its versatility as musician, bandleader, arranger, and composer. He helped define the sound of alto saxophone, but he also performed and recorded on soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, trumpet, trombone, clarinet, and piano. Carter received the Jazz Masters Award in 1986 given by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2000 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts created by the United States Congress.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 1st of April, Solar Year 2018

Sea Adventure

April 1, 1895 is the birthdate of the American jazz singer and songwriter Alberta Hunter.

In her early teens Alberta Hunter began her singing career in small clubs in Chicago, Illinois. By 1914 she was receiving lessons from the prominent jazz pianist Tony Jackson who helped her expand her repertoire and compose her own songs. One of Hunter’s first notable experiences was singing at the Panama Club, a white-owned club with a white-only clientele. Her act was in the upstairs room where she began her developement as an artist in front of a cabaret crowd of patrons. Her big break came when she was booked at Dreamland Cafe, singing with the cornet jazz musician King Oliver and his band.

Alberta Hunter first toured Europe in 1917, performing in Paris and London. Her career as a singer and songwriter flourished in the 1920s and 30s; she appearred in clubs and on stage in musicals both in London and New York. At this time she wrote the critically acclaimed song “Downhearted Blues” (1922). Alberta Hunter recorded prolifically during the 1920s, starting with sessions for Black Swan in 1921, Paramount in 1922-24, Gennett in 1924, Okeh in 1925-26, Victor in 1927 and Columbia in 1929.

In 1928, Hunter played Queenie opposite Paul Robeson in the first London production of “Show Boat” at Drury Lane. She later performed in nightclubs throughout Europe and appeared in 1934 with Jack Jackson’s society orchestra in London. One of her recordings with Jackson is the famous song “Miss Otis Regrets”. She later moved to New York City, performing with Bricktop, the American female dancer and jazz singer, and recording with Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet.

In the summer of 1976 , Alberta Hunter was connected with Barney Josephson, the legendary owner of the Greenwich Village club, The Cookery. He offered her a limited engagement at the club, which turned into a six year engagement and a revival of her music career after a fifteen year absence from the profession. Impressed by her press reviews, John Hammond signed Hunter to Columbia Records, where she made three albums.

Alberta Hunter was inducted to the Blues hall of Fame in 2011 and the Memphis Music Hall fo Fame in 2015. Her comeback album produced by Columbia Records, “Amtrack Blues”, was honored by the Blues Hall of Fame in 2009.