Stuff We Liked: A Norma Retrospective, “Fixing” Hellzapoppin, the Most Flexible Jazz Dancer, Ella’s “Duke’s Place”

This week, we continue to feature the incredible Norma “The Queen of Swing” Miller on the occasion of her 99th birthday. We love this beautiful retrospective on Norma’s career produced by Rob and Diane van Haaren. Check it out, if you need a reminder about how amazing Norma is!

Other Stuff We Liked:

  • Melissa Mason (1913-2001) was a talented jazz dancer who was known for her unbelievable flexibility. IMDB notes that she could “swing one leg through a full circle vertically.” That barely touches on her superhuman bendiness. Here’s a couple of her incredible performances in “The Yacht Party” (1932) and “Radio City Revels” (1938). No CGI involved! [Hattip: straycat264 on Reddit]

  • “A Great Day in Harlem” is one of the most iconic photos from the Harlem Renaissance. Appearing in Esquire in 1959, the photo brought together nearly all of the Black jazz artists from that era in one astounding group portrait. Now, 60 years later, a new book -- Art Kane: Harlem 1958  -- has come out that includes every frame from that shoot, and more of the background on that historic day. That’s top of our Christmas wish list for sure. (Via The Daily Mail).

a great day in harlem detail.jpg
  • UK dancer Andy Lewis makes the somewhat radical claim: all this time, the iconic lindy hop scene from Hellzapoppin’ was edited out of sync from the actual choreography. He argues “the phrasing was messed up a bit by this [editing] process – and like some of the other classic clips (e.g A Day at the Races), the whole thing is shifted by one beat (hence the offending hand clapping.)... To make things worse, they added the hand-clap sounds on top. On the odd beats…” Andy did an impressive job attempting to “fix” the Hellzapoppin’ clip, which you can see below. What do you think?

  • My favorite version of “Duke’s Place” is sung by the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald in her later years in 1966. Only recently did I learn that there’s a video of that live concert performance of the song. Check it out.

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