Bio

A Dry, Dry, Ongoing Open-ended Autobiographical Article To Help Readers

Arlene Corwin (born Arlene Faith Nover) is an American jazz singer and pianist, poet, teacher and practitioner of Yoga. Born November 8, 1934 in the Williamsburg Maternity Hospital, Brooklyn, New York. She has two children. Jonathan Eric Corwin (born July 24. 1956 and) Jennifer Nover Council (born February 2, 1964).
Mother Margy Lillian (born Brown). Father Albert S. Nover. Both were hairdressers, owning a beauty salon together. Everyone was musical on both sides of the family. Mother sang, could play some piano. Father was a gifted sculptor and wood carver.

Early Life
Started studying piano age 8. Studied voice at the famous 1650 Broadway with ‘coach’ Matty Levine. Did a little recording at aged 10 in Nola studios. (The record has since disappeared) At 12 she started studying harp with Meyer Rosen (Julliard and NBC Orchestra) and the occasional piano lesson with an NBC pianist who taught her how to read chord changes, seeing at once that she was not interested in learning classical piano.
As a child she had already sung at weddings, bar mitzvahs and for the USO, raising bonds for the war effort. At 13, having a boyfriend who played the saxophone and who listened to Symphony Sid, jazz disc jockey whose late night show originated from Birdland, she awakened to jazz, listening to the late night show “under my blanket”. “A turning point”, she says. (Well before “Lullaby of Birdland” was put to words Arlene had written a lyric of her own – a lyric she still sings today) At 14, she was playing for a dancing school once a week. Then she got an accidental job (“slipping in on a banana peel when the singer got sick”) in a Brooklyn nightclub singing with a group. “Mom and dad chaperoned, of course”.
1950s
She began to sing regularly when again, out of the blue, an agent rang offering a job for a hundred dollars a week to play at the Mayflower Hotel in Manhattan. It was a restaurant owned by Bob Olin, a former light heavyweight world champion. “I was so naïve I played the whole evening without ever taking a break. Who knew about breaks? Why they kept me I’ve no idea.” But they did and the steady salary of $100.00 a week (which she gave directly to her mother, any other choice never occurring to her) and the experience of having to make a varied program led to her singing to the piano, and eventually to playing to the singing. At this time she was still in high school as attending the prestigious High School of Music & Art as a harpist.

She graduated from Music & Art getting a scholarship to Hofstra College as a music major.
Then in 1952, while still at Hofstra College (now university), she was playing on the weekends in a Hempstead, Long Island nightclub-restaurant when Slim Gaillard, who’d come to see Jack Teagarden (also working there) began to take notice of her. He started showing up regularly. There he met Arlene’s mother Margy, and the two eventually opened a jazz nightclub, the first to cater to blacks and whites. It was called The Turf and it, like Birdland had its own radio show, for which Arlene wrote the theme song “The Slim Gaillard Show”. Now she was standing as well as sitting, getting a chance to sit in and sing as often as she chose. The die was cast. It was jazz, cool jazz.
Early Influences
In 1954, on the day she ought to have been attending her college graduation, she married Bob Corwin, a 21-year-old jazz pianist with the Don Elliot Quartet. Because Bob toured, Arlene began her new stage of education: listening to Don’s group while they played on the same bill as the jazz greats of the 50’s. There was Helen Merrill at George Wein’s Storyville in Boston, Terry Gibbs and Illinois Jacquet in Detroit, Bill Evans, Cy Coleman, Bernard Peiffer, Tal Farlowe,Johnny Smith John Mehagan and Billy Taylor (who had also performed at the Turf) at the sophisticated Composer in Manhattan. “ It was also a chance to see and listen to other singers of the day. New York was marvelous in those days. I saw Peggy Lee at Basin Street, Blossom Dearie at Trudy’s in the Village, Oscar Peterson, Marian McPartland at the Hickory House. It was THE university for me. I was introduced to and befriended Tony Fruscella, the tragic, unsung genius of the trumpet, ‘who I took on my gigs, but to whom I was actually the apprentice’ – and through Tony to Morgana King and Beverly Getz, the talented [and equally tragic] wife of Stan Getz. I feel blessed to have experienced jazz at that time. The guys would gossip about who played ‘behind’ or ‘ahead’ of the beat, bass lines, good ‘changes’, bad ‘changes’. No Music & Art or Hofstra did that. I learned almost the whole of what is now called The American Songbook. And I, I was sounding like Sarah Vaughn with a little voice.”

zzzHanging Around Manhattan; Not This, Not That…
Living in New York, and looking for a niche she spent time, as other musicians did, at the Musicians Union Local 802 or Charlie’s Tavern where jobs could show up. In this way, there were weeks and weekends away with big bands: Tommy Dorsey’s Orchestra under the leadership of Warren Covington, Claude Thornhill and Larry Sonn.
“When you hang around New York all kinds of opportunities show up”. And so, she got a leading role in a B film called “Jukebox Racket’, wrote the score for another B film called, at the time “She Should Have Stayed In Bed”, later to be called ‘1,000 Shapes Of A Female: see IDMB (the company, called Exploit Films was owned by Errol Flynn “tall, big in every way, veins on his face, but exuding old world charm” He was quite, quite overwhelming.”
Then there was a bit part in John Cassavetes “Shadows”, followed by the lead in what has become a cult ‘beat’ musical called “The Nervous Set” by Fran and Jay Landesman where she introduced the now-standards “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most and “Ballad Of The Sad Young Men”, both subsequently recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Bassey, Roberta Flack and numberless amounts of major artists. She studied acting with Joshua Shelley. “It was a time to find out who and what I was. “I was definitely not an actress. I was too introverted and none of those clothes fit” she says.

More Influences and more Not This, Not That…
In 1959 she met Johnny Burke (Burke & Van Heusen) who took her under his wing, taking her to Hollywood to demonstrate his show “Donnybrook” for Rosalind Russell and husband, producer Frederick Brisson “It was a glitzy time. I stayed at Bob Hope’s house in Palm Springs, met Frank Sinatra and his then fiancee Juliet Prowse, Jerry Lewis, Marlene Deitrich, had my own suite in Las Vegas , traveled first class, but was so introverted I always kept to myself, never saying much, definitely not participating in any of these scenes. Those clothes didn’t fit either.”
All the while she returned to the intimacy of New York supper clubs. They were the bottom line, singing and playing.
It was during the supper club period, she met Al Weissman who became her manager. She was signed to the Joe Glazer Agency and began to tour with her own trio. “Wherever I went they’d say, “You know, there’s just been a girl here who sounds like you. Her name was Barbra something. I suppose we had Brooklyn Jewishness in common – and reaching for high notes. ” (She too was signed with Glazer.)
Although published by Frank Publishing (owned by composer Frank Loesser), years later she asked for the songs back because “nothing happened.” “It was a period of promise, a period I was not equipped to fulfill”.

1960s-1970s
In 1962 it was back to Hollywood with Al Weissman and high hopes. “I had some jobs, but never in my genre.” Back to New York. A little jaunt of songwriting with singer Dick Haymes. A short marriage of four months to Richard Robin Palmer.

In 1966, by way of Paris, Greece (where she and husband Jim Council were neighbors with Leonard Cohen and Marianne) and Lebanon, “where I actually managed to do some television, singing jazz” she settled in Oxford, England for the next 18 years, teaching yoga, singing and playing, being voted Best Jazz Singer in the Midlands 1972, appearing at Ronnie Scott’s three times. She did 3 television shows; a late night BBC jazz show called “In The Cool Of The Evening”, radio for BBC overseas, was invited over to Amsterdam to do Dutch radio, sang at universities around England, (“one night opposite Pink Floyd, “who were just starting out, I suppose”), the American air bases.
She acquired a weekly radio spot on nutrition and yoga on BBC’s Oxford Radio, and appeared several times at The Stables in Wavendon (run by John Dankworth – now Sir John Dankworth – and Cleo Laine -now Dame Cleo Laine – while at the same time giving weekly yoga lessons to a group there, (which included Dame Cleo – “a wonderful yogin”). The Wavendon All-Music Plan, later known simple as WAP “was the most stimulating and original enterprise I’ve ever encountered, pairing all kinds of musical genre. I even played on the same bill as Vladimir Ashkenazy.”

It was sometime in the 1970’s while working one night in a country pub when suddenly “I knew who I was and what I really sounded like. No effort, no imitation conscious or unconscious. No inner evaluation. Just me. It was a quiet, wonderful moment of revelation and permanent change. One (I) settled into one’s own voice.”

1970’s to 1982 and a lot of Yoga
Starting in 1969 and all during the 70’s fate gave a push to the yoga side of things and Arlene was teaching yoga classes in doctor’s offices for hyper-tense, cardiac and overweight men. teaching regularly at conferences for IBM. She gave demonstrations, lectured all over for the Women’s Institute, posed and wrote for Health and Fitness Magazine (summer issue 1982) a book called The New Manual Of Yoga by Karen Ross (1973) wrote articles on nutrition, made a cassette called This Is Meditation. It was a full double life with Yoga taking half the time and singing the other half.

1980s to now.
In 1983 she once again ran into Slim Gaillard – this time in London. He asked her to appear on a television show he was producing that was to star himself, Kai Winding and Wayne Shorter. It was the last appearance she ever made in England.

In 1984, finding Sweden fertile ground for singer/pianists, and meeting and falling in love with Kent Anderson, she moved to Sweden where she lives by a lake, deep in the forest. until today, performing, contributing daily to her site called Arlene Corwin’s Poetry (click Google).

 

 

 

9.14.2010 First book: Circling Round Time (XLibris)

 

2010
A productive year. Arlene did three concerts. Her first ever cd (Imogen Records) came out in April. Her 2nd book of poetry “To The Child Mystic” (Authorhouse) will be coming out in time for Christmas. A self-help, sometimes didactic little book of the for the spiritually and poetically inclined, written over a period of 50 years. Thirty more collections to come.

2010 1st book: Circling Round Time (Xlibris)

12.22.2010 New book: To The Child Mystic (Authorhouse)

7.6.2011 New book: The Processes: Creative, Thinking, Meditative.(Xlibris)

8.5.2011 New book: Circling Round Woman (Xlibris)

12.30.2011 New book: Circling Round Vanities(Xlibris

2.10.2012 New book: Circling Round OurTimes, Our Culture (Xlibris)

4.11.2012 New book: Vaguely About Music (Xlibris)

8.22.2012 New book: Circling Round Eros+2 (Xlibris)

2.8.2013 Birth, Death & InBetween (Xlibris)

Arlene 2010

4.16.2013 New book:Love Relationships (XLibris)

12.20.2013 New book: Circling Round Yoga, Science, Wars & Cats (Xlibris)

5.22.2014 New book: Circling Round Nature (Xlibris)

April 2014 Concert Molnlycke Kulturhuset, Sweden.  Two songs captured on video (see Youtube Arlene Corwin Green Dolphin Street, Oklahoma Toad). Standing ovation.

 

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Marilyn
    Nov 19, 2010 @ 12:59:51

    Although I know you my lifetime, I was intrigued to “know you”.

    Like

    Reply

  2. arlenecorwin
    Nov 20, 2010 @ 20:47:55

    “Circling Round Time”, published by Xlibiris, came out in September.

    Like

    Reply

  3. Ronald Joseph Kule
    Jan 30, 2013 @ 01:40:15

    Arlene, what a charmed life you’ve led, meeting all those “cats” at different times of their careers; finding your own voice and writing poetry while signing in Scandinavia.
    Our paths never crossed until now, but you’ve known people that I’ve either met or admired for the voices: Tony Fruscella, Dame Cleo Laine, Jacquet, Evans, Peterson, Haymes, et al. WOW!
    My next book project coming up is the biography of jazz musician and film composer Misha Segal, with Misha. Ever run across him in your travels?

    Like

    Reply

    • arlenecorwin
      Mar 05, 2013 @ 21:16:41

      Dear Ron,
      How could I have missed your comment? Do tell me more – about yourself, the book. I was just going through my mail and found your comment. I honestly don’t remember whether or not I answered. But it doesn’t hurt to answer one more time. I have a feeling I said no, I hadn’t ever met up with Misha Segal. As I said – tell me more. Or remind me, if you already have.
      Sincerely,
      Arlene

      Like

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: