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Wer war/ist Warfield, William ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD und mehr


AN AMERICAN TREASURE
by William Carter
It was late in William Warfield's life (and not so early in my life) that I got to know him. A trea-sure, indeed. At the end of our sofa, there's still a perceptible glow. at least in my eyes, where Bill sat about three years ago. Aged 79. he kept leap-ing up to tell stories, and to jump around in a cir-cle showing how he had often done it onstage while singing one of Aaron Copland's 'Old American Songs' with Copland himself at the piano. Bill Warfield had come to dinner with our mutual friends, the Jim Cullum Jazz Band, with whom he was touring. I'd needed a commanding headliner for a two-day show of centennial lectures and performances. entitled, 'New Orleans 1900: The Birth of Jazz:' to be presented in October, 2000 by Humanities West and the San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation at that city's beautiful Herbst Theater. Long famous as a light classical baritone, Bill was not really a jazz singer. But as one of the great concert singers of all time of black spirituals, as well as of such American classics as 'Old Man River:' William Warfield had an electric stage presence. In recent years, living in Chicago. he had had a busy career featuring dra-matic readings, at which he was unsurpassed.


Plus. I had discovered something else about Bill. That summer of 1999. I caught up with him one morning in his hotel room at the Holiday Inn in Palo Alto. I had my clarinet so we could sketch out keys and arrangements of spirituals-cum-jazz tunes we would be doing on the Birth of Jazz show a year later. We started with a few modest sounds. As we got further into it, Bill's voice boomed higher. The question of chords came up so that the rest of the band would be in synch. 'Why don't we just go down to the bar and do it with the piano?' he said. I hadn't even known he played piano. Bill explained that his father had been a Baptist preacher, and literally at his mother's knee he'd grown up playing churchy piano as much as singing. In that empty hotel bar at 11:30 AM, with cases of beer piled on the baby grand, we started rocking and jamming. Eventually, a lady in a busi-ness suit stuck her head in the door and whis-pered, 'Can you tone it down a little? We're having a conference in the next roomy This revelation of Bill's churchy piano origins led directly to the present CD. Our 'New Orleans-1900' band recorded the day before the show. I'm not aware of any other recordings of Warfield accompanying himself, although in his autobiogra-phy he mentions playing piano a lot around the time of his Army service in World War II. an ability which also served him well later in life as a vocal professor at Northwestern and at the University of Illinois.

His vocal abilities need no comment here, other than to say that his earthy blues authenticity and profound understanding of black spirituals, in both the down-home and con-cert styles, made that day in Berkeley's Bay Records studio unforgettable for all concerned, including the engineer/owner, Mike Cogan, who had been treasur-ing Warfield's ancient LPs for decades. And since Bill sadly passed away a scant two years later, he won't be mak-ing any more albums such as this. of spiritual jazz. His autobiography, My Music & My Life, is wonderfully can-did and clear. (I easily found a used copy on the internet.) From his obscure ori-gins, to instant fame and worldwide touring follow-ing his Town Hall debut, his marriage to Leontyne Price, prominent parts in shows like 'Porgy and Bess' and in the MGM movie, 'Showboat': interac-tions with famous people including U.S. Presidents, the book amounts to a portrait not merely of him-self but of a major era and segment of American entertainment—all told with the natural humility, humor and intelligence of a great raconteur in prose as well as song.

Onstage at beautiful and historic Herbst Theater, for two days running, Bill not only sang a lot and played piano some, but narrated the script which I had written. His cohort in the latter depart-ment was the wonderful Alisa Clancy whose lively daily radio show, Morning Cup of Jazz, has been a Bay Area mainstay for many years. Our 'house' pianist, both with the band and independently, was none other than the great Dick Hyman. ...



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WARFIELD, William: Something Within Me (CD)
Art-Nr.: CDDE772
 

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(2000/01 'Delmark') (68:11/17) Ein ungewöhnliches Album. Der damals 80-jährige William Warfield konnte auf eine lange Karriere als Sänger zurück blicken. Er war einer der großen schwarzen Konzertsänger, der sowohl Klassiker wie 'Ol' Man River' beherrschte und...

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