Wednesday, December 14, 2011

HISTORY OF SYRACUSE MUSIC - CHAPTER SIX - THE JAZZ INFLUENCE- Mark Murphy, Chris Powell, Anna Marie & others (Updated Oct 26, 2015)

The sound of jazz was nothing new to Syracuse. It goes back to the early 1900's when Washington Street (then the red light district) echoed the sound played by the big band masters. Syracuse soon became a hot bed of jazz, because of location it was convenient stop over point for folks traveling between New York City and Buffalo, Cleveland and Toronto.

Young teenagers became interested in the early jazz sound as they later would with Rock n.' Roll. By the age of thirteen, Chris Powell had jammed with many of the top names in the jazz field. Powell a drummer by trade, later traveled to Philadelphia and formed a thirteen piece band that featured Clifford Brown soon to be known as one of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time.

As his reputation grew the band was now working 52 weeks a year, which culminated with a long engagement in Las Vegas. Chris recoded many songs on such major labels as Columbia, Okeh, Grand and Groove. He biggest hit on the "Sunny Side of the Street: was released by Columbia in 1947. As they early 50's arrived, Chris Powell and the Blue Fames recorded the classic song "Blue Boy" featuring lead vocalist Joe Van Loan. Van Loan later became the lead vocalist for group "The Ravens" of rhythm and blues fame. This recording is valued  over $200 and is highly sought after by collectors even today.

Chris Powell wasn't the only Syracusan making a name for herself nationally in the field of jazz. Vocalist Anna Marie Genovese was singing with the likes of Tommy Dorsey, Dizzy Gillespie, Tex Beneke and Charlie Schaffer. Many vocalist could put "life" in  a song, but it is a rare treat to hear a vocalist combine this talent with a melodic voice, such a singer was Anna Marie. Known primarily as a ballad singer, Anna Marie specialized in obscure songs that had deep feeling. Her perfect control and delicate thrill result in a rendition pleasing to everyone and a definite thrill to critical admires of vocal art.

AS a teenager, self taught, Anna Marie was the winner on the Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour. Later in her career, she became known nationally by her appearances on the Tonight Show, then hosted by Steve Allen, Anna Marie released tow recordings during her career. The first a ten inch album "The Interludes With Anna Marie' (recorded at the WHEN Studio then located in the Loew Building) which received a four star rating in Down Beat Magazine. Her second a  45 rpm single "Interlude" accompanied by the Bill Rubenstein Trio.

Bill Rubenstein became known as one of Syracuse's top jazz pianists. At seventeen he was performing with Buddy Rich that led to appearances with Stan Kenton, Ray Anthony, Pee Wee Hunt, Kai Winding and Carman McCrea. Where ever Rubenstein was playing Syracusans could be assured that the top names in entertainment would come and jam with him. Bill was said by many to be Syracuse's spiritual leader.

Local male vocalist were likewise innovative. One of the top white jazz singers in the United States was raised in nearby Oswego, Mark Murphy. Mark's career started in 1947 while still in high school. His singing debut was on WOPT Radio (now WOSC). The show was hosted by Phil Lambrinos (the TV Doctor). He continued his education as Syracuse University studding voice as well as drama. After graduation Mark formed a trio and toured Canada. He later returned to Central New York and sang many engagements with Anna Marie. It was in Syracuse that Mark was seen singing by Sammy Davis Junior who made calls to New York on his behalf. In 1954, he had traveled to New York City to appear in the television opera "Casey At The Bat." which led to summer stock and a recording contract with Decca Records.  His first recording "Exactly Like You" was released the same month Buddy Holly set down the Decca version of his most famous song "That'll Be The Day." Mark then appeared on the Steve Allen Show, Allen referring to Mark is "The Best Jazz Singer in the U.S. today." Thought the years  Mark has made well over 50+ recording (albums, 45's, cassettes, cds and  DVD's) for such labels as Decca, Capitol, Riverside, Fontana, Verve, HighNote,  Jive and Muse. Though the 1960's Mark resided in the United Kingdom and became very popular playing the role as Jesus in a pilot film for the BBC. He returned to the United States in the early 70's and still performs to this day. Mark Murphy one of America's great jazz vocalists returned to Syracuse to perform at Syracuse Area Music Award Show #6 on February 1, 2002. Sadly jazz great Mark Murphy passed away on October 22, 2015 in Englewood, New Jersey at age 83.

Many other names hold a special place in the hearts of Syracuse jazz fans. Bobby Henderson (Judy Bolden) was Billy Holiday's first accompanist, and wrote "Home On The Clouds" for Benny Goodman.

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