Tag Archives: Catalina Jazz Club

Corky Hale Celebrates Billie Holiday Music and Memories

Billie Holiday, Corky Hale 1957 photo courtesy Ray Avery

“A Birthday Tribute to Billie Holiday” is being performed Wednesday (4/25) at L.A.’s Catalina Bar & Grill nightclub in honor of what would have been the immortal jazz legend’s 97th — by her one-time pianist, Corky Hale Stoller.

It seems impossible that Stoller could have played for the star-crossed “Lady Day,” who died in 1959, but the energetic musician started her career as a teen. She won over Holiday, who started calling her “my little girl” and they performed together in Hollywood and Las Vegas. “In those days, Las Vegas was so glamorous. Everyone dressed up to see a show,” Hale recalls.  “Now people go to see shows dressed in sweatsuits.”

Holiday invited her on a tour of the Philippines, too, but “at that time she was married to husband number four, Charlie McKay, and I was scared to death of him,” Stoller says of Holiday’s abusive spouse.

Stoller also played for Liberace — as a harpist, and with white blond hair to look grand for the black and white cameras at his suggestion — on his television show.   She was a musician at the renowned Cocoanut Grove nightclub. And she has a plethora of stories of the fascinating times and personalities she’s known. Small wonder a biography of Hale is in the works.

Today, her life is divided between music, politics — as a mover and shaker in the Democratic Party — and philanthropy.   Tomorrow (4/24) will mark the grand opening of the Stoller-Filer Health Center in L.A.’s Watts/Willowbrook area, a Planned Parenthood facility under the auspices of Hale and her husband, Mike Stoller of Leiber & Stoller songwriting fame.  It’s their second such health center.


Roslyn Kind: Music Remained a Communication Channel When Mother Suffered Alzheimer’s

Roslyn Kind

Roslyn Kind is among the celebs who’ll be turning out Sunday (10/9) in L.A.’s Century City for the Alzheimer’s Association’s 19th annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s event.  The singer, also known as Barbra Streisand’s sister, cared for their mother after she began showing signs of Alzheimer’s following open heart surgery at age 82, until her death at 93.

“They told me changes might happen down the road — she’d been hours under anesthesia with the heart-lung machine going — but I thought, ‘Changes?  She’s sharp as a tack.’  Little by little it started happening, the taking things out of the refrigerator and putting them in the cupboard, forgetting the stove was on, wanting to run away.”  Kind points out that she was fortunate enough to have 24-hour help at her home.  “I have friends now that are dealing with it, and it’s not easy.  I tell them the book  The 36-Hour Day is really helpful in terms of letting you know what to expect and how to deal with it.”

Kind found that music remained a channel for communication and companionship with her mother, who had a “beautiful soprano voice.  She remembered the melodies even when she’d forgotten the words.  And when she forgot the melodies, she’d make new ones.”  After her mother was incapacitated in a fall, she’d sing for her at the hospital, she says.  She’s shared that magical musical connection elsewhere, like the Wexner Heritage Village facility in Columbus, Ohio, where she visited last month and joined the rabbi there in sharing music with Alzheimer’s patients.

“I sang and played tambourine and hugged them.  These people, they need to be touched and hugged.  It’s so easy to give a hug, so easy to give a smile,” she says.
Kind (roslynkind.com) is bringing her lustrous vocals to L.A.’s Catalina Jazz Club Oct. 21 and 22.

Jazz Singer Rondi Charleston Influenced by Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward

Songstress Rondi Charleston sets off on a club tour next week that will take her to cities including Boston, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, Atlanta “and a few other places,” she says –with stops at a number of Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang camps for seriously ill children as well as hospitals all along the way.  She plays L.A.’s Catalina Jazz Club on June 30th, for instance, and the next day will perform at the Painted Turtle Camp.

Charleston has been neighbors with Joanne Woodward and the late Paul Newman in Westport, CT for years, and “They’ve had a big influence on me when it comes to how to live a good life.  They’re my role models,” she explains.  “What I try to bring to the kids is a moment of relief of their pain and suffering.  Music really can uplift the spirit and the body as well.  Recent neuroscience shows the connection between music and the brain is very powerful.  It can help restore speech to people with Parkinsons, lift people out of depression, calm and help organize thoughts for people who have Alzheimer’s.”

 The contemporary jazz singer, who has won rhapsodic praise fromThe New York Times, Downbeat and an array of other music publications, was formerly a network news producer for Diane Sawyer’s “Prime Time Live” and other shows.  Now, with her Motema “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”album, she’s being extolled as a songwriter with great storytelling gifts as well as for her plush voice.  One example:  “Land of Galilee,” which tells of a true incident of harmony in the Middle East.  Small wonder her work is en route to being used in a film, details of which will come later.

IN ANOTHER LIFE:  Speaking of fabulous female jazz singers, casting is underway now for Melinda, “a dazzling ’40s jazz singer with an incredible voice” in Harry Connick, Jr.’s Broadway revival of “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.”  Interesting.  If you’ve been following plans for this new version of the 1965 musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane (which, of course, begat the 1970 Barbra Streisand film), you know big changes have been made.  Instead of a woman who has esp and is a reincarnated spirit, now the central character is a man — a male Barbra? — who was a female jazz singer in a past life.  (Harry is playing his/her psychiatrist, Dr. Bruckner.)  The show is  being produced by Tom Hulce with a fall debut planned.   

HE’LL BE THE JUDGE:  Cedric the Entertainer is trying his hand at a new untitled courtrom comedy, with a pilot soon to be shot.  It has the King of Comedy as a judge in that unique land of the crazy, the weird and the artistic:  Hollywood.