Swingin' with a Starr
Starr Padden has been close to jazz for most of her life, and after years compiling fans for her vocal prowess she has finally put her voice to disc. Where years ago one had to go to Los Angeles to make a record - likely under contract to a label - now you can virtually go across the street. Jazz came early, but it was Dixieland at first. 'I grew up with Dixieland and standards. My father's family was in vaudeville early and music just seemed to be around us all the time. My sisters and I learned those standards young and I played piano. It was by ear at first, but I had six or seven lessons. I can remember hearing ' Bumble Boogie' and listening to my teacher Ida Powell. I still hear better than I read!' Her father's vaudeville career had him playing spoons and doing blackface as Snookums Padden. 'He took up trumpet and began playing Dixieland, and that's the direction he went.' He had his own bands in the twenties and thirties. Starr moved on though and realizing she was drawn to rhythm and melody began listening to singers like Ella Fitzgerald. ' I really liked Ella for her sense of rhythm and her scat vocals. I listened to a variety of vocalists, from Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington to Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden - a whole range of styles, including Sarah Vaughn and Rosemary Clooney and I also listened to R&B in the 50's. I discovered singers like Ann Richards, Lee Wiley, early Conee Boswell and Alberta Hunter.' 'Nancy King is a jazz singer,' Starr says. 'She's wonderful. She knows how to scat, and puts her stamp on whatever she sings. I don't scat. I love lyrics and I don't do novelty stuff. I like bop but I don't sing it. Give me Johnny Mercer, Harry Warren, Gershwin, Porter, Rodgers. That's where I come from.' If piano came early in life, so did singing. 'I actually started singing as a kid,' she says, 'and later was in choirs, doing weddings and funerals. By my late 20's I was singing in clubs. I can remember sitting in at Tuck Lung's down in Chinatown. Pat George played there and he liked what I did. Then I found pianist Eddie Wied and began going to jam sessions which seemed to be going on all the time. The Jazz Quarry: I used to love to sit in there. I miss that club.' About this time Starr met Portland (by way of L.A.) trumpeter Basil Clark, who met a tragic end several years later.' You know Basil was such a talented guy and his musical knowledge from playing with all the L.A. jazz greats was a great gift. He introduced me to the music of all the horn players he loved, Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, Miles Davis, Woody Shaw and Freddie Hubbard. He was the catalyst in my musical life that gave me confidence that I had something to contribute. He told me to find my own voice, to have something to say . We were together four years - until he died in 1985.' After that she continued working with the musicians they had performed with, Chris Conrad, Ben Wolfe, Eddie Wied and Dick Blake. She also became friends with several L.A. musicians and sat in when she was visiting in California with Jack Sheldon, Ross Tompkins, Marty Harris, Monty Budwig and Leroy Vinnegar. I do go out and support live music around town as much as possible. I get a lot of ideas listening to the players around town; and believe me, there are a lot of great jazz players in this area. I wish more singers would go out to listen and support it' She does casuals still and will be performing in 2003 with the Border Patrol big band once again. Starr has assembled some of the area's best for this recording. Included are pianist Eddie Wied, Lee Wuthenow on tenor, Paul Mazzio on flugelhorn, Tim Jensen on flute, Skip Parente on violin, bassist Frank de la Rosa and on drums Mel Brown. Pianist Tony Pacini wrote all the horn charts.