Open-Ended Autobiography

 

Arlene Corwin’s Poetry

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Arlene Corwin’s Open-Ended Biography

(10.3.2007 updated 10.24.2007 updated 1.3.2008; updated December 15, 2009, October 2010 )

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, played a little harmonica and mandolin. The family is Jewish.

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 owned by jazz lover and connoiseur Willie Short 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, became friends with Blossom Dearie at Trudy’s in the village, Oscar Peterson, Marian McPartland at the Hickory House, Sheila Jordan, Morgana King. It was THE university for me. I was introduced to and mentored by 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.”

 

Hanging 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 and numberless 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. ” (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.

Greece, Lebanon, Greece, Oxford – Yoga & Jazz

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,(“lectured and demonstrated in what must have been a hundred Women’s Insitutes, posed for one of the very first health magazines called Health & Fitness, wrote articles on nutrition, had a weekly radio spot on a little radio show for BBB Oxford actually doing Yoga on radio while describing each pose with a microphone up my nose, did a tape on meditation – it was a lot of Yoga”) and 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 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 simply 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.”

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 until today, performing, and writing regularly for “Live With Good Intentions” an online magazine.
Still growing, still changing
The latest news – 2009 and 25 years later, aged 75: a cd of her own songs for Imogen Records produced by George Reece, a concert of Johnny Mercer to commemorate his 100th birthday, poetry grown to 2000 poems (see Arlene Corwin Poetry).

2009 finds her favorite project on Google called Arlene Corwin’s Poetry, a project that started in 1949 or about 2,000 poems ago.

2010 landmark:  First published book of poetry, “Circling Round Time” comes out in September “To The Child Mystic” the second due to come out in December.

2010-11  Circling Round Time and To The Child Mystic.  The Processes: Creative, Thinking, Meditative . Regular contributor  to online magazines ElderwomanSpace; Jerry Jazz Musician; Elderwomanstorytellingplace; 

2012 More books!  Circling Round Woman; Circling Round Our Times, Our Culture; Circling Round Vanity: Vaguely About Music and Circling Round Eros + 2.  Publised by Xlibris.

2013-2014 More & more! Circling Round Yoga, Science, War & Cats; Circling Round Nature; God Book; in the works A Sense Of The Ridiculous.

Music career took an upswing with performances and concerts – an intimate series of composer-of-the-month programs based on the best of American popular composers.

And, of all things, at age 77, the start of yoga teaching in Härryda, Sweden.  

Arlene Corwin is, as at this writing, 80 years of age. Over 3,000 poems.

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Without Love 1955

                  Without Love

Verse:

I’ve lost all ambition,

I’ve lost all my drive.

I’ve tossed all ambition out the window

Now I thrive on nothing –

And it will be that way

Until something comes along to inspire me.

I’ve lost all my feeling,

I’ve lost all my want.

I’ve tossed all my feeling out the window,

Now I’ve want for no one –

And it will be that way

Until someone comes along to desire me.

Chorus:

Without love I don’t exist.

My confidence is gone and I enlist

None of my faculties to help me.

Without warmth my blood runs cold.

My ninety-eight point six loses its hold,

And all my faculties don’t help me.

But yet I’m on the run,

I’m one big ball of fun,

So who’s got time for love and all that stuff?

Ah yes, I’m on the run,

But haven’t found the one

Who’d give me time for love –

I’ve had enough!

Without love I won’t subsist.

I’m so sick and I’m so tired,

I haven’t kissed or been desired

These many years.

I don’t want to be alone,

So before I turn to stone,

Someone love me.

©

Without Love 55.8 Lyrics;  Arlene CorwinWithout Love 55.8 Lyrics;  Arlene Corwin

 

The Meaning Of True Love 1955

                 The Meaning Of True Love

Your friends predicted, and mine did too –

They said you weren’t meant for me

Nor I for you:

But we showed them, yes, we showed them

The meaning of true love.

John said, “She’s fickle”

Jean said, “He’s fast”

And they debated as to how long it would last.

Though they differed at the start,

They decided we would part

In a week. But seven days went quickly past.

And the weeks stretched into months,

The months became a year,

And we never let ‘I told you so’ come true.

Idle gossips lost all hope.

Then we ran off to elope,

And our friends began predicting once anew.

It kind of scared me.

My knees were weak.

But then you gently touched my hand

And kissed my cheek.

And we showed them,

Yes, we showed them

The meaning of true love.

©The Meaning Of True Love 55.1.11

Lyrics; Arlene Corwin

 

 

The Circus 1955

                The Circus

The circus is over,

The tents are all down.

Each suitcase is packed

And each act’s in a new town.

The circus is over,

The ground is replaced.

Where was lust there’s dust instead of show;

Where were lights there’s only wind to blow

As the clown is refaced,

And a frown is in taste once again.

The circus is over,

The popcorn is sold.

They come and they go,

But you know

Each new circus is old.

©The Circus 55.6  Lyrics;  Arlene Corwin

Significance 1955

               Significance

What to say?

Or better still,

How to say it!

Shall I fall into my pit of generality,

Or being gay,

Describe at will

The doleful way it

Rained when Lancelot

Confessed that he was bald to me?

©Significance 9.1955

A Sense Of The Ridiculous;

Arlene Corwin

Pause To Wonder 1955

              Pause To Wonder

Pause to wonder, and in pausing try

To recollect your past and why

You’ve cause to wonder, not to wander,

Retrospect turned to meander.

Now you see it, now you don’t! If

You don’t search you won’t. Though you sniff

At old aromas, have the past shoved

Right before you by a scent loved

Long ago, cry at wounds

That never heal, at tunes

Sung long gone, at sins forgiven not,

Forgotten not, the blood clot

Never will dissolve, resolve,

Or just plain solve attachment, for

The only time that wondrous pause

Gives tit for tat,

Is if the tat is in the silent unattached. Abstruse?

It’s truth, the stitch in time

Given for tat, for when

You stop to think of then,

Rememb’ring what in time saves nine, take

Stitch’, sew ‘then’ to ‘now’, then break

The ‘now’ sewn to forever.

That seed sown adjusts the ‘never’. –

And you have it! Tit for tat. ‘Now’

Is forever torn from ‘then’. How

All and you are one! As you blunder

On through life, thunder struck, under

Strife, momentarily torn asunder,

Take that time and pause to wonder.

 

© Pause To Wonder 1.1955

Definitely Didactic; Circling Round Reality; To The Child Mystic;

The Processes:Creative,Thinking, Meditative;

Arlene Corwin

 

 

I Forgot 1955

         I Forgot

“I forgot” you say, when I inquire

As to why your

Pie was left to bake too long.

“I forgot” is your old song.

‘I just forgot’

“And why not?” you say.

“The day was hot, and you know what?

There were a lot of things to do:

Scrub a pot and fix a screw,

You cousin Dot arrived and flew,

So I forgot to watch the pie,

I forgot the reason why,

I forgot the stew,

The mending too.”

You stand still as days fly by,

And “I forgot”

Is all you cry.

“I forgot” you say.

But just let me forget a birthday

Or an anniversary,

Like an elephant I see

Your memory remember me.

It’s too bad that on the day you said “I do”,

“I forgot” did not occur to you.

So I stick it out from day to day,

Although I know that all you’ll say

When I get home is:

“I forgot.”

©I Forgot 55.2.2

A Sense Of The Ridiculous;

Arlene Corwin

 

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