The Art of Jazz . . .
When it's done right, it's like looking
over Van Gogh's shoulder as he paints a canvas. Bright
colors, traces of darkness, unbounded joy and touch
We're talking about improvisational
jazz, and a very special afternoon.
There were no arrangements. The only
thing approaching organization was a list of song titles
on a yellow lined legal pad and suggested keys in which
to play them.
After that, it was simply a blank canvas
and some incredible talent.
Hal Schaefer has been doing this for
a long time. While still in his teens, he was known
around his native New York as Duke Ellington's protege.
He toured with big bands in the 40's and ended up in
Los Angeles in the middle of the progressive jazz scene.
Some of the bands he worked with included Benny Carter,
Harry James, Boyd Raeburn and Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey.
Hal worked at 20th Century Fox composing
and arranging film music and developed a speciality
of teaching actors to sing. His most noted effort was
coaching Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Gentlemen
Prefer Blondes. He arranged Marilyn Monroe's show-stopping
Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend.
Hal returned to New York in the 60's
and became the first A&R (Artists and Repertoire)
man for the fledgling United Artists Record Company.
In addition, he wrote radio and TV jingles, dance arrangements
for Broadway shows (A Funny Thing Happened on the
Way to the Forum) performed in jazz clubs - home
base was Green Street in SoHo - and was a sought-after
vocal coach. He was also a faculty member of New York
University's School of Music Jazz Studies Department
for several years.
He moved to Florida in 1992 with his
beloved wife Brenda and continued to teach singing.
Widowed in 2000, Hal was introduced to Insight for the
Blind by one of his vocal students, Gwen Lai, in 2002
and continues working in our studios as a producer/director/engineer
(Monitor). In 2004 Hal played his first benefit concert
for Insight for the Blind and it was an unqualified
This year's effort proved the same
and more with the addition of Marion Cowings, a long
time friend of Hal's and one of the great jazz singers
of our time.
When you hear Marion's rendering of
Hal and Brenda Schaefer's Strange As It Seems,
you'll be transported to a smoky jazz club at 2 in the
morning . . . My Foolish Heart has never been
done better . . . the rousing finish to the concert,
The Best Things in Life are Free is filled
with the creative joy of great artists having fun and
listen carefully to Marion's rendering of Elizabeth
Barrett Browning's I Yield the Grave for Thy Sake
- timeless words set to a stunning melody by Hal Schaefer.
Besame Mucho showcases the
talents of bassist Paul Shewchuk. Originally from Canada
and now part of the Florida jazz scene, Paul has worked
with Dr. Lonnie Smith, Ira Sullivan, Larry Elgar and
Melton Mustafa to name a few. He is an "in-demand"
bass player and a favorite of Hal's. This is his second
concert for Insight for the Slind.
Listen to the drum breaks throughout
the recording and you'll hear the artistry of Larry
Marshall. Larry is currently touring with Alan Harris,
Othello Milineaux and Kevin Mahogany. Originally from
the Philadelphia area, Larry has an established reputation
and was recipient of "Best New Artist" and
"Best of Philadelphia" Awards.
Four incredible talents, a sunny Florida
afternoon, a very worthy cause and an audience that
understood and appreciated what was happening on stage.
It doesn't get any better than that!
Harry C. Sharp
Jazz Host, WLRN FM, Miami