Jazz Jottings July 2022

Pat Yankee, who passed away in late May at age 94, loved an audience, whether it was singing with her own band or for Turk Murphy, dancing with “Bojamgles,” performing in elaborate costumes as Bessie Smith or Sophie Tucker, or carrying on an animated conversation with a fan or friend. Pat was everyone’s favorite just by the force of her vibrant personality and ability to relate to her audience and people in general. When Pat Yankee performed, the whole stage came alive. The late Floyd Levin noted “her personal Yankee stamp, her growling tones and distinctive phrasing in everything from gospel songs to blues to melodic swing.” Critic George Avakian observed, “A lot of singers have taken a shot at the Bessie Smith repertoire. The vast majority of their recordings have only demonstrated how far they fall short. Pat Yankee hits the mark for a very simple reason: she sings the songs exactly as Pat Yankee and nobody else. Pat has the voice, style and understanding to serve both the repertoire and spirit of the matchless Empress of the Blues.” Born Patricia Weigum, in Lodi, California, she took her mother’s maiden name as her stage name. She admitted that she was born to be in show business, but never considered herself a big star. She did vocal exercises to keep her voice in shape, but said she never had any throat problems. Great Story Teller Pat always had a story to
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Lew Shaw started writing about music as the publicist for the famous Berkshire Music Barn in the 1960s. He joined the West Coast Rag in 1989 and has been a guiding light to this paper through the two name changes since then as we grew to become The Syncopated Times.  47 of his profiles of today's top musicians are collected in Jazz Beat: Notes on Classic Jazz. Volume two, Jazz Beat Encore: More Notes on Classic Jazz contains 43 more! Lew taps his extensive network of connections and friends throughout the traditional jazz world to bring us his Jazz Jottings column every month.

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