Sunday, March 18, 2012

Babes in Boyland: Looking at women in jazz, pop

This is a tale of two photographs. This first shows a fresh-faced hippie chick with flowing hair and clothes, straight outta Left Coast counter-cultural lore, stubbornly naive, still not broken by the world. She's got an acoustic guitar. You can almost hear the soundtrack of the Great Folk Scare in the background. The second, taken in 1991, about a decade later, shows the Bangkok babe, a jazz singer, a girl singer, as they used to call Rosemary Clooney, wearing a slinky black sequined cocktail dress and an upswept hairstyle. She’s surrounded by a trio of local musicians. It’s taken at the Bamboo Bar in Bangkok, in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where guys like Joseph Conrad and Somerset Maugham used to hang, in another era, where she played four sets a night, six nights a week during a seven-month run. Very different scenes, worlds, right? So, then, what happened, Celia Slattery? “Some very serious drastic changes," says the Boston-based singer/actress, who will bring “First Ladies of Jazz and Pop: Voices of Change,” her one-woman show, to the Actors Studio this week.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Look, it's Tiger Saw. Wow, it's been a while.

Tiger Saw will play its first local show in seven years
March 24 at the Firehouse. 
Photo courtesy Jon Donnell.
Well, anybody hoping to dig into a heaping helping of fresh, interesting news about Tiger Saw, information in advance of the band’s March 24 show at the Firehouse … well, sorry man, you gonna be disappointed because there’s not a whole lot happening with Tiger Saw right now. No tour on the immediate horizon, no new records since “Nightingales,” ten tunes about, or, at least, inspired by the night, and a return to the band’s slowcore/sadcore roots in late 2010, and, so far, no plans to head back to the studio any time soon. Yeah, an unusually slow period for the band, which constantly shifting collective that has zigged and zagged, musically, from the beautiful, hushed, slowcore sound of its early days to indie pop singalongs and basement over the course of its decade-long, 1,000-plus concert existence. Because, truth be told, Tiger Saw founder Dylan Metrano has been dogging it a bit, spending most of the winter on the road, in warmer climes, enjoying some down time, and his friends, and the calendar is quickly coming up on his standing date, his pause/refresh time, when he hides out on Monhegan Island, the artist colony outside Boothbay Harbor. Or, at least, that’s one way of looking at it.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Mara Flynn back in the local spotlight

Singer-songwriter Mara Flynn performs with Tiger Saw
March 24 at the Firehouse.
It's not like Mara Flynn fell off the face of the earth. She's been around, over there, at the Tannery, running Acting Out Productions for the past decade. And it's not like she made a conscious decision to walk away from music, from the stage. Not at first, anyhow, although it almost ended up that way, but not because she had grown tired of it. Life just took over. Her focus turned to family, the day-to-day and, after a while, she just didn’t feel the need to pick up the guitar. Maybe once a year, when she would have to play camp songs at summer theater workshops for kids, but that’s it. And the stage? That would have been way too much of a commitment, with rehearsals and performances and all. All things considered, life was good and, just when things started getting comfortable, real life came tumbling down on her, big time — a health crisis, an ectopic pregnancy that nearly killed her. Which got her attention. And, after dealing with the physical realities, left her holding the existential bag. She had to figure out what all of this meant, which, for Flynn, meant creatively. She started writing, not for anybody in particular, just writing to process, writing from “a place of deep grief and solitude,” she says.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Schmoozing with a brash, bawdy singer

Linda Myer plays Sophie Tucker at the Actors Studio.
Sophie Tucker is on the bubble, historically, remembered as a brash and bawdy belter, a nightclub performer with a swagger and a repertoire of, well, playfully nasty songs filled with winks and double entendres. She was the self-styled Last of the Red Hot Mamas, performing in the heyday of the Vaudeville era in the early 20th century to the dawn of the rock age — in clubs, on the circuit, even on the big screen. But her historical profile these days is thinner than the physical, her girth, which, for better or worse, was another big part of her persona. A lot of people have heard her, but few know much about her. That she was a nice Jewish girl, an emigre from the Ukraine. Who was married and divorced three times. Who abandoned her family, which included her young son, to chase after a career, a dream. Who "made it" in blackface, racist but accepted in the day. Who was forced to go that route because club owners and talent handlers decided she was “so big and ugly" that they had to "black her up," says Linda Myer, who brings “Schmoozing with Sophie: Last of the Red Hot Mamas," her one-woman show about Tucker to the Actors Studio next week, black culture being the only one where such an, um, voluminous, talent would be accepted, or so the thinking went.