Archive for October, 2009

A Star was Born

October 23, 2009

Lights….Camera….Action!

thePno

Standing alone….in the center of a white room….surrounded by contemporary works of Art…was a lone baby-grand piano. The music is forever silent but its mere presence is definitely fortissimo. It is the former “Magruder” Piano transformed by artist, Ray McCray, assisted by Greg Dahl and others into a take-your-breath-away damnedest Art Piece I have ever seen!
Yesterday (10-10-09) was the Grand Opening of a new show at the William Grant Still Art Center-Gallery in Los Angeles. It featured the unveiling of the little 1930’s piano from a Jazz bar near Central Avenue. In 1965, my late husband John (Magruder) brought this sick and very badly damaged piano to his house and lovingly restored it. In its lifetime in our living room, it was played by myself, and many well-known keyboardists including Horace Silver…. Its keys were even tickled by the small fingers of my Grand-Daughters with great pleasure and glee.
After John passed away in 2003, I decided to re-form the “Magruder Monktet”. I needed a better playing piano. At the very last moment, Greg Dahl told me that he and Ray McCray needed a piano for an art project. So, I donated my piano in August, 2003…to Art.
Until yesterday’s premiere, I had only seen pictures of the piano’s metamorphosis into the amazing piece of art that it has become. All of the keys have been signed by famous Jazz Artists, many of whom actually played that piano! The first key was dedicated to John, which I signed…followed by the nine “Monktet” members and the others…the one blank key (hopefully) awaiting the signature of…Stevie Wonder.
Every other inch is covered by colorful images of Jazz History, its symbols and players…all hand painted. The strings were replaced by a dimensional collage of famous Jazz Heroes, including Coltrane, Parker, Pepper, Miles, Diz, Monk…and John.
If you stand back and look at this familiar shape…its hard to believe that it once was a working piano. I guess I could best describe it as a Dali-esque Rainbow from Oz! And to think that Ray McCray had this vision in his head all along…

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Things About…Bill Fulton, Pianist/Composer

October 23, 2009

BillFultonBorn on the 4th of July, 1962 in Oakland, CA., Bill began his music exploration at the age of 7 on the trumpet (I guess I have a “thing” about trumpet players!). He later switched to piano when he was 14. After graduating from Cal State Hayward as a music composition major, he worked extensively in the Bay Area as a performer, teacher, composer, arranger, and recording engineer. As a keyboardist, Bill worked with Sheila E., Chuck Mangione, Grant Geissman as well as many other fine musical ensembles.
Bill moved to Los Angeles in 1987 to study composition at the prestigious Dick Grove School of Music. In 1988, he went to work for Universal Studios as a staff composer. He created themes and underscores for “The Munsters Today”, “The New Dragnet”, “The New Adam 12”, “FBI: The Untold Stories”, and many other films and commercials. For Warner Bros./Hanna Barbera Cartoons/Cartoon Network, be composed for “I Am Weasel”, “Cow + Chicken”, “Poochini”, and “What a Cartoon!” animated series. Does this make him a “car-tune-ist”?
Bill formed the Bill Fulton Band in 2002 which released an album called “Time”, and his newest CD, “About 12:00 AM” (2009). They have played in many Los Angeles venues including Catalina’s Jazz Club, Jazz videos, and the Playboy Jazz Festival. This fabulous band is a jazz-fusion octet that features some of the greatest talents in L.A….Piano/Keys: Bill Fulton; Alto Sax: Glenn Morrissette; Tenor Sax: Rick Keller; Trumpet: Larry Williams; Trombone: Andrew Lippman; Guitar: Andrew Synowiec; Bass: Adam Cohen; Drums: David Derge. Bill also established his own 17-piece Big Band (2009), attracting many legendary local players as well.
Some of the artists Bill has worked with include: Bill Holman, Connie Stevens, Ernie Watts, Gordon Goodwin, Jeff Goldblum, Jeff Lorber Joely Fisher, Lily Tomlin, Martha Plimpton, Suzanne Somers, John Magruder and many others, including my “Monktet”.

Showtime

October 23, 2009

I’ve written about growing up in Show Biz. Stages, Runways, Radio, Films, then TV….all were part of my childhood….from age 3 into adulthood. But being a theatrical professional wasn’t the only thing going on in my young life.
My sisters and I were so beautifully spoiled. We lived in a big Victorian house in the Wilshire Area near the Ambassador Hotel. Our wonderful dad converted one of the garages into our very own theatre… stage, curtains, and all! Our neighborhood was filled with youngsters who became cast, crew and audience. (There was little or no TV!) We wrote and/or ad-libbed some marvelous “productions”… with costumes and music (RCA Victrola and 78’s or whenever possible – live). We later added sing-a-longs and dancing. Our parents and family members always encouraged us and were our biggest fans. It was sort of like Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland saying: “Hey Kids, lets’ put on a show!”
I still have my tap shoes and ballet toe-shoes from that era. I truly treasure them. These memories are some of my most favorite in all my life!

Dizzy Diz

October 23, 2009

johnMagruderMy late husband, John (Magruder) was the original baritone player with the Don Ellis Big Band. He also wrote some of those infamous time charts that made the Band such a stand-out favorite. They played to college and university audiences as well as clubs all over North America and Europe. Locally, they played at places like Bonesville. Don, John and a few other Band members became co-club owners and opened Ellis Island in North Hollywood. Apparently being night club owners took more time and effort than anyone had to spare…so it closed.. The Band continued to record and play live in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
In 1967, they were invited to perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival for the first time. John used to love to tell this story….
The whole band was on stage, set up and ready to play. Dizzy Gillespie walked up to the mic to introduce Don and the Band. He turned to look at the players and noticed John sitting at the opposite end of the stage with his horns.
Diz smiled his great big famous grin and said (on mic), “Well,  if it isn’t John Magruder….hey ‘Red’, I haven’t seen you in a long time!” He then went over to John….reached out and picked him up off his chair…Baritone and all, and showed him to the audience! He gave him a bear hug and put him back…”See you later, man”. The crowd loved it. So did John. (John was about 5’9” and the Bari was almost as big!). I only wish that I had been there. Oh, to be hugged by the Great Diz!!

The “Prince of Pinups” and Me

October 23, 2009

006a_JOY230First he invented his own brand of glamour photography. Then he built a canyon studio as a backdrop for his pictures. And finally he designed his own camera to snap them with. No wonder photographer Peter Gowland developed into what many consider the Prince of Pinups. (Bob Pool, L.A. Times – 4-13-04)

In 1953, my mother and I walked into the studio of Peter and Alice Gowland, then located in Los Angeles. I was 13 years old…looked 18…fresh faced and very curvy. I eventually became one of Peter’s first (of hundreds) models. We shot all kinds of classy cheesecake and figure photography in the distinctive Gowland Southern California look…magazines, cover shots, product ads, gallery shots and tool company calendars which hung in shops, sheds, and garages all over the world. I never did Playboy Magazine for which Peter was famous. I was too young…and not interested.

towelMy favorite group of photos…I call them the “Towel Pictures”…..were shot in one day….when I was 14 years old. I am using one of them as the cover photo of the “Monktet’s” new album, “Joy Bop”. Once they got over the shock that yes indeed that was me….the guys in the band made their choice. I was pleased.

I felt that I should contact Peter and Alice for permission. Through the years, I’ve sent them my hand drawn Christmas cards and think of them often. So I wrote a letter of request, describing who I was and a little background. I didn’t know what to expect.

colorAlice called me almost immediately! Yes she remembered me well, and Yes I could use any and all of Peter’s photos!! We chatted for over 30 minutes…so many wonderful memories. Peter, at 93, is still active and designing cameras. Alice still manages his catalogue of over 100,000 negatives. I promised to send them a copy of “Joy Bop”. I hope to deliver it in person. What a wonderful thing to give them both the biggest hugs I can manage! What an honor…and a real pleasure!
By the way…Alice asked me about my old contract with Howard Hughes…If I can put together enough nerve, I’ll tell you all later…if you are interested.
The attached pictures, of course, do not include the “Joy Bop” cover photo. You’ll have to wait for the album. Soon.

Release Race

October 5, 2009

Larry Williams and I seem to be in a race to see who gets our albums out first. We’re both at the same stage of pre-release. His fabulous “Tales of Wilmon” is his special tribute to his father. Larry’s marvelous compositions feature himself on trumpet, evi, and guitar.
“Joy Bop”, the “Monktet”’s second album was a thrill to record and I am so pleased and proud of the results. It’s difficult to brag about my “baby”…but I am excited! It is really good….damn good.
I’ll keep you posted.

Looking Ahead

October 5, 2009

The 2009 Friday Night Jazz Series closes with the “Magruder Monktet”. This is such an honor to be selected to perform at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art…to be the closing band is even better! The “Monktet” will be playing in the L.A. Times Central Court from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. Admission is free…so please join us and bring your family on November 6th!

Fan Dance

October 5, 2009

Sometimes it is so much fun just to be a fan. Last night (9-30-09) at Catalina’s, Bill Fulton’s Band just knocked every one of their previous outstanding performances….right out of my head! This band was absolutely outstanding. With Bill at the keyboards; Adam Cohen on Bass, Andrew Synowiec – guitar and David Derge on drums…pushed the horns to their maximum. Larry Williams (trumpet), Andrew Lippman (trombone), Glenn Morrissette (Alto), and Rick Keller (Tenor) took spectacular solos. Whew!!
“Shizzle Dizzle” sizzled! “Straight No Chaser” was a favorite…provocative and very entertaining.
“ ’Round Midnight”, the classic Monk tune doesn’t hold a candle to Bill’s “About 12 AM”, the title tune on his new CD. This outstanding arrangement is in its own time and place.
Bill’s compositions and arrangements can be filled with joy and sensuality or be sonically adventurous.
Bill Fulton could be called the “Gary Cooper of Jazz”. I knew the real “Coop” and he did indeed sizzle inside. Bill is certainly soft-spoken but he becomes a wild man in his music. This is one passionate man! I am glad to know both sides. He is such a delight.

By the way…Bill should be commended for saving the life of a malnourished kitty he found in his garage. He nursed “Cookie” back to good health, had her spayed and she is about to be adopted. He has a big and beautiful heart! His own two cats, “Fig” and “Newton”, are lucky to live with Bill.

Lights On

October 5, 2009

In 1954, “Light’s Diamond Jubilee” was the first live Coast-to-Coast TV Special. The West Coast broadcast, from CBS’ new studios on 3rd and Fairfax, featured a live 57 piece orchestra. The show was three hours and included Music-Dance-Comedy and Drama. George Goebel made his major TV debut in a most spectacular way, commenting on electricity being 75 years old and what would things be like without it. This made him a Star! In one dramatic scene, Helen Hayes and Thomas Mitchel played my  parents…and in another, I was honored to share the stage with Judith Anderson! But my favorite silly segment was set at a Prom. After I danced with the other cast members…Eddie Fisher appeared and “chose” me to sit on his lap (in my “Prom” dress!). He then sang “Sweetheart of Sigma Chi” to me! UGH!! Eddie Cantor, who was also on the show, later announced Eddie’s engagement to Debbie Reynolds. They were called “America’s Sweethearts”! Yeah!!!

Blue Blood

October 5, 2009

If you introduced somebody, whom you cared about, to something that caused him to “Bleed Blue” for over 30 years…would you feel responsible?
Of course you would. My best “Over the Hill” friend, composer Kevin Hiatt, is as nuts about the Dodgers as I am. Baseball season is even more special because of Kevin…we are both looking forward to our boys winning the World Series!! Yes, yes, yes…of course. Go Blue!!