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
, is now
set for next week
in collaboration with the Culture
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
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
"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
, both part of the Schoolhouse
"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.