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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

Welcome to Straight No Chaser, the Award-winning Podcast hosted by Jeffrey Siegel

May 9, 2009

When I learned of "The Cat Who Went to Heaven", my curiosity was piqued (OK, OK, here's where you make the joke about what curiosity did to the cat). Nancy Harrow, who had briefly made a name for herself in the late fifities and early sixties as a jazz singer, has reinvented herself by writing jazz "song cycles" for the past ten years based on a variety of literary sources. She's set works by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Willa Cather to music, and is fine tuning a project on F. Scott Fitzgerald. Her jazzy adaption of a children's book, "Maya the Bee", had a seven year run Off-Broadway and is now in demand overseas.
She's turned to another children's book. a 1931 Newberry Prize winner by Elizabeth Coatsworth entitled "The Cat Who Went to Heaven". Now subtitled "A Story in Jazz", the recording has been available for a few years, featuring (among other notable players) Ms. Harrow, Grady Tate, Clark Terry, Kenny Barron and Frank Wess. A production of the work with puppets at the Harlem School of the Arts, is now set for next week in collaboration with the Culture Project.

I spoke with Ms. Harrow this week about her career as a singer, her choices of projects and the inspiration that went into adapting a children's classic as a jazz song cycle. Podcast 144 gives you highlights from that interview, along with selections from Ms. Harrow's work as a singer and "The Cat Who Went to Heaven" album. Click here to listen to:

Nancy Harrow - "Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do" from Voices of Cool: Atlantic Jazz Vocals, Volume 2. Nancy's first album is sadly out of print, but you can find this Billie Holiday tribute on an Atlantic Jazz compilation, and a Warner Jazz recording entitled Music For A Bachelorette's Pad.

Nancy Harrow - "Barney (Martha)" from Street of Dreams. Nancy reverses the gender on a Tom Waits composition, and brings a different perspective to a soulful tune. The band on the album is Jim McNeely on Piano, Steve LaSpina on Bass, Richie DeRosa on Drums, Bob Brookmeyer on Trombone and John Basile on Guitar.

"Celebration -jazz interlude" from The Cat Who Went to Heaven. Ms. Harrow was a long-time collaborator with the late piano great Sir Roland Hannah. She's very fortunate to have one of today's great players, Kenny Barron, along to improvise on her tunes for one of several jazzy instrumental interludes on the CD.

"But Not the Cat" and "I'll Paint Her In" from The Cat Who Went to Heaven. Ms. Harrow's son Anton Krukowski plays the Buddhist Priest on the album, and Grady Tate plays the artist. Tate, a widely recorded hard-bop drummer, has lent vocals to a number of albums inthe past, most notably Jimmy Smith's Go For Whatcha Know. Among his most widely heard vocal performances are the songs "I Got Six", "Naughty Number Nine", and "Fireworks" from Multiplication Rock and America Rock, both part of the Schoolhouse Rock series.

"Imagine That " from The Cat Who Went to Heaven. The jazziest tune on the album features a vocal by Clark Terry, the famous trumpet player who scatted on an overdub after Barron and company had laid down the groove.

Six performances of "The Cat Who Went to Heaven" will take place at The Harlem School of the Arts> Theater, 647 St. Nicholas Avenue between West 145th and 141st Streets, New> York, NY 10030 as follows:
Wednesday, May 13 at 7 p.m. , May 16 at 11a.m. Wednesday, May 20 at 7 p.m.
Wednesday, May 27 at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 30 at 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 3 at 7 p.m.
Suggested donation is $10. For more information, visit or Reservations can be made at 212-479-0829.