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THE ART OF JAZZ VOCALESE
Music, videos and biography..
Edgar J. "Eddie" Jefferson Born August 3 1918 PITTSBURGH PA - Tragically murdered outside "Baker's Keyboard Lounge, Detroit Michagan. May 9, 1979!
CONVERSATION FROM A LIVE INTERVIEW WITH RUSTY HASSAN ON WPFW FM 89.3
One of my students from Washington DC
click to listen
Eddie Jefferson was visinting Washington DC and performing at Harold's Rogue N Jar. While in town he stayed at my apartment like he did on many occasions. This one particular evening I drove E.J. and Richie Cole to the radio station for this interview. We had been hanging out together for about 1 year prior and continued for about 5 years until his life was cut short by a tragic murder in Detroit, Michigan. After we met we continued to talk weekly and I would travel back and forth to NYC to see him at his apartment and go watch him perform in different cities. I studied his every move, inflections, stage presence, microphone control, pronunciation, diction, how he danced, related to the audience and learned how to write good lyrics. I was on him like white on rice! You can say I earned my BA and MA hanging with EJ during th e70's. He finally told me I had to write my own lyrics and take it to another level and stop immitating him.
My first set of vocalese lyrics was to John Coltrane's classic "Moments Notice". After 3 years of following him around to all his concerts Eddie surprised me and called me to the stage in Philadelphia, PA at the Grendals Liar. I never asked him to sing or let me sit in and he never got tired of me singing his songs while in his presence. I learned not to ask anyone to sing from John Malachi. Eddie was amazed that this young cat was sining his material. He introduced me as "NEXT IN LINE". and would do this whenever I was at his concerts. It was the greatest feeling in the world. Since then I have continued to carry on the message and have written lyrics to several hundred solo's. Eddie was my dear friend, mentor and a genius....this is how the story goes..
WASHINGTON DC IN 1974 WITH RICHIE COLE & GEORGE V JOHNSON JR."NEXT IN LINE" PRESERVED FOR HISTORICAL PURPOSES. FAN SITE ONLY! KEEP THE DREAM ALLIVE!
HOW I GOT INTO VOCALESE was for the love of the music, listening to it. Understanding it and really loving it like I say. I just heard a story. There were so many good horn players out there during the time. I couldnt get into the competition of being a horn player, so I figure Ill sing it. Its the best you can do and no one else was really doing anything along that order so I thought lyrics to be the appropriate for a lot of the solos to keep them alive a little longer.
So back in the late 30s I went into this. Like 38 the Nancy Stomp, Taxi War Dance, and later on Blue in Sentimental with Hershal Evans, Lester Young on clarinet. I started doing solos for my own pleasure. I found out other people like to hear them and thats how I started out! Back before that dancing was the main thing.
In my tap dancing days I danced with the old stars like the Jackie Gleason,
the great Irish tenor Lanny Ross,
Edith Fellows a young singer and movie star in those days that sing with Benny Goodman.
I used to work with the Bob Cats, you know theater dates with Bob Crosby and the Bob Cats.
Regular Vaudeville before it went out. The last of it.
and the Carnival Circuit,
Well? Moodys Mood" was an accident. My fiancee and I were around the house and we always liked that solo and I started singing there you go, there you go something and just passing words and she would come up with a word and we had a song with Moodys solo and other people used to come to the house and say will you sing us that song for us .
I'd go to other towns and do it and King Pleasure heard it, he learned it, recorded it and thats how it came to the publics attention. Thank you King Pleasure! I did my first session in Pittsburgh. A company called HI-LO came from New York to Pittsburgh to record because I couldnt leave Pittsburgh because my dancing business was very heavy. They came and recorded my first one. Two 78s.
It was my first album with Bob Weinstock.
Interview with James Moody "Moody's Mood for Love"
# 4 Episode in July
My association with Moody was a 17 year association. As a matter of fact Moody talked me into coming out to the public doing this style. I worked with him in the Theater. His band was backing me up as a tap dancer and I use to open with my partner Irv Taylor who incidentally was on Old Shoes. He was my dance partner for years. He could sing this stuff and we could both sing it equally. Wed both do the solos and right now I think he could sing this thing as equally as I can right now or better.
Anyway Moody said come on and work with me for a minute. Cause my partner and I were going to have 2 weeks off before we went to the mountains. So I ended up. So a minute ended up 17 years with James Moody. The dancing thing was getting low anyway. Moody was a great, great player. He inspired me completely and showed me how do get deep into the music and climb into it like you put your coat on and live in it. And thats the only way you can make it. He was in Vegas at the time.
From a taped interview
To be continued...
George V Johnson Jr
In 1979 I met James Moody at a tribute to Eddie Jefferson at a Carnegie Hall tribute coordinated by Jon Hendricks. I won't go into details about the events that took place but while walking out the door Moody grabbed me by the arm and said be at Sweet Basil's at 10:00. He surprise me and called me to the stage and we did our own tribute to Eddie Jefferson. From that day I performed with Moody throughout the 80's. I left the band after I got a job working as a conductor on the railroad. I was on call 24 hrs and it was almost impossible to do the 5 nighters and travel. I had a family with 3 sons to support and a home. There wasn't any options at time, because most jazz musicians were struggling to get a gig. I was making 50 to 100k per year. When I look back I didn't realize the historical value of performing with James Moody. Performing with Moody was like going to college and I really appreciate his mentor-ship. You can say I earned my 2nd BA and MA attending the University of James Moody. I learned so many things. How to sing like the horn, climb into the solos, capture the feelings and write good lyrics. The audiences loved what we did and gave us standing ovations where ever we performed. Moody always pulled me to the side after each concert, brought me down to earth and made corrections. Even when I thought I was perfect he gave me valuable critique and keep my feet on solid ground. I love Eddie Jefferson and James Moody.
The late John Malachi, pianist for the orginal Billy Eckstine Band with the heavy hitters. Malachi conducted a weekly workshop at the "PIGFOOT". A jazz club in Washington DC owned and operated by guitarist Bill Harris formerly of the Clovers. I studied at the University of John Malachi for 15 years.
John gave Sarah her nickname "SASSY" Sarah Vaughn and gave me the name "YOUR MAJESTY"
Below is my report card and letter of recommendation for the National Endowment of the Arts. At that time I was applying for a grant to write the first Jazz Vocalese Opera. Since then I've penned lyrics to hundreds of solos. My recent endeavors includes lyrics to over 40 Hank Mobley's classic compositions recorded on Blue Note records.