PRESS ON THE BOSWELLSISTERS CENTENNIAL
Editor’s note:The following are excerpts from readers’ comments posted at nola.com/entertainment
Boswells finally recognized
I’m so glad that the most influential female musicians ever to emerge from New Orleans are getting their well-deserved homage, and that folks may finally realize that the jazz vocal group was invented here in New Orleans right on Camp Street, at Mac No. 7 and at Nicholls High School (Centennial honors Boswell Sisters of N.O., Lagniappe, Nov. 30).
Monday, December 03, 2007
Boswell Sisters Centennial A weekend of concerts, seminars and events dedicated to the famous jazz trio concludes. The singing sisters, Connee, Vet and Martha, recorded more that 300 songs during their careers. Today marks the 100th birthday of Connee Boswell, who died in 1977 at age 68. Connee’s 100th birthday bash, Marigny Brasserie, 640 Frenchmen St. 11 a.m. A pass may be purchased at www.bozzies.com/Centennial.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Miracle on Fulton Street Fulton and Poydras streets. Harrah’s New Orleans sponsors the new holiday attraction with lighted displays, strolling costumed characters, “real snow,” entertainment and holiday-themed dining, 10 a.m. daily through Jan. 8. Concert take place 3-6. Free.
Boswell Sisters Centennial A weekend of concerts, seminars and events dedicated to the famous jazz trio continues. The singing sisters, Connee, Vet and Martha, recorded more that 300 songs during their careers. Dec. 3 marks the 100th birthday of Connee Boswell, who died in 1977 at age 68. Today: Seminars and presentations, Arsenal Room, Cabildo. 9-noon. Free; Bozfest with YazooZazz, Shout Sister, The Stolen Sweets and the Pfister Sisters at the Cabildo, noon-4. Free; Swing Cinema at Snug Harbor featuring Randall Riley’s film “Connee Boswell: Life is a Song,” the Pfister Sisters and more. 626 Frenchmen St., $15. 8 and 10 p.m. A pass for all other events may be purchased at www.bozzies.com/Centennial.
Swing Flicks with the Pfister Sisters
Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro, 8 p.m. 626 Frenchmen Street, Marigny Tickets: Contact club Resources: Snug Harbor’s website | Official event website
Snug Harbor wraps up the four-day Boswell Sisters Centennial Celebration with a special performance from the Pfister Sisters, (New Orleans’ own trio of vocalists patterned after the legendary Boswells) paired with screenings of archival footage from the Boswell’s depression era performances.
Centennial honors Boswell Sisters of N.O. Friday, November 30, 2007 By Molly Reid From naming a park and an airport after Louis Armstrong to nurturing a bevy of local celebrities, New Orleans has a reverence for its musicians that is hard to find anywhere else. However, even in a city where a one-hit wonder like Ernie K-Doe can become a legend, the Boswell Sisters have been largely overlooked in the city’s collective musical memory.
A sister act trio, the Boswell Sisters were a singing sensation in the 1920s and 1930s, starting out on local radio and becoming solid national pop stars. Raised in the Garden District, Martha, Helvetia “Vet” and Connee Boswell played their own instruments, wrote their own arrangements and essentially invented the girl-group harmonic formula that would make stars of the Andrews Sisters in the 1940s and even the Judds in the 1980s. To resurrect the legacy of the Boswell Sisters in their hometown, the Boswell Sisters Centennial Celebration, held today through Monday, will feature four days of live performances, film screenings and lectures honoring the pioneering jazz and pop trio.
Connee Boswell, who died in 1976 and enjoyed a successful solo career through the 1940s, would have celebrated her 100th birthday Monday. Cynthia Lucas, project manager for the festival committee, credits Hurricane Katrina with spawning the idea for the centennial celebration. With so much of the city’s cultural fabric destroyed or displaced in the storm, she and the festival’s founding members realized the importance of honoring all of New Orleans’ musical treasures, she said. “When you have a city that’s got so much in culture, it’s like sitting on a treasure chest for years and years. We thought, ‘It’s time to open that treasure chest and show people all of the contributions that the Boswell Sisters made to New Orleans and to popular music,’ ” Lucas said.
The Boswell Sisters grew up on Camp Street, and studied classical music through violin, cello and piano lessons. As the Jazz Age heated up after World War I, Lucas said, the girls switched their instruments for banjo, sax and jazz piano. They started out playing gigs at Rotary Club events and gradually moved into local concert halls. In 1922, they won a contest on WAAC, one of New Orleans’ first radio stations, in its first week of broadcasts, and were instant favorites over the airwaves.
“From the very beginning of radio in New Orleans, the Boswell Sisters were there,” Lucas said. “They didn’t just do jazz. They put gospel into their music, a lot of blues and some classical. It was like all the music of New Orleans wrapped into one, and they could sing. They could do it all.”
After making a record in New Orleans with a traveling Victor Records representative, the Boswells joined the national vaudeville circuit and landed in Los Angeles in the late 1920s. Performing on national network radio, the Boswell Sisters became stars, and spawned successful imitators into the next two decades, including the Andrews Sisters of the big band era, the King Sisters and the Lennon Sisters.
So why has their legacy remained hidden for so long? Lucas said they might have simply gotten lost in their own wake. “I don’t know why; it really baffles me,” she said. “Maybe it’s because they were women. You know, girl singers — dime a dozen. But not these girls.”
During events, live performers will include the Pfister Sisters, Shout Sister and Jan Shapiro. Organized by the Boswell Sisters Centennial Committee, the festival was made possible by a $4,000 grant from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation. “New Orleans needs a little bit of positive cheer right now,” Lucas said. “I mean, (the Boswell Sisters) got the country through the Depression, so I’m sure they still lift our spirits now.”
For more details on centennial events, see the special events calendar on Page 30, or visit www.bozzies.com. Molly Reid can be reached at email@example.com or (504) 826-3448.
By JOHN WIRT, Music critic
Published: Nov 23, 2007
The Stolen Sweets are a septet of New Age, 30-something North Westerners who fell hook, line and sinker for the music of the Boswell Sisters, those jazz-singing siblings from New Orleans who reached the peak of their popularity 72 years ago.
From Portland, Ore., the Stolen Sweets specialize in the music of the Boswells and such Boswell contemporaries as Cab Calloway, Bunny Berigan and Tommy Dorsey. The Sweets make their Louisiana debut Nov. 29 in Lafayette and then travel to New Orleans for next weekend’s Boswell Sisters Centennial.
The band’s interest in the Boswells began with the group’s guitarist, Pete Krebs. During the mid-’90s surge of rock music from Portland and Seattle, Krebs was a member of the popular indie band, Hazel. Even while he wailed away with his punk-rock guitar, Krebs was fascinated by pre-World War II jazz, especially the gypsy-jazz of guitarist Django Reinhardt and the Hot Club of France.
“After Hazel exploded, or imploded, as rock bands often do,” Stolen Sweets singer Jen Bernard said, “Pete bought a gypsy guitar and got really passionate about this music. He even traveled to Amsterdam to study with renowned gypsy guitarists.”
Krebs’ devotion inspired the formation of the instrumental group, Django’s Tigers. He later asked Bernard if she’d like to sing a few Boswell Sisters tunes for a one-off show with Django’s Tigers.
“Because the Boswells have a lot of that Hot Club jazz in their songs,” she said.
Bernard and friends Laura Michell and Erin Sutherland agreed to re-create the Boswells’ trio format. But after studying the sisters’ recordings, they decided the music was too good to do just once.
“We wanted to make a band,” Bernard said. “Pete wasn’t sure that he wanted to commit to that. We backed him into a corner and said, ‘OK, dude, either you do this with us or we’re gonna find somebody else!’ We had the fever at that point. We were seduced by this material, which, for any harmony singer, is a huge, enthralling challenge.”
Other Portland musicians from various genres — Bernard previously worked in a Goth-folk group — enlisted in the cause.
“We started to feel really connected to the music,” Bernard explained. “It started to take on a life of its own and each of us brought his or her own take on it. We knew we had something good and it’s been snowballing since then.”
The Stolen Sweets’ upcoming gigs in Lafayette and for New Orleans’ Boswell Sisters Centennial will be the group’s most distant shows from its Portland base.
Cynthia Lucas, a Georgetown, Texas, resident and fan of both the Boswell Sisters and New Orleans, organized the four-day Boswell Sisters Centennial with the help of a committee including Bruce Boyd Raeburn, curator of the Hogan Jazz Archives at Tulane University; Jan Shapiro, voice chair at the Berklee College of Music in Boston; and songwriter and Boswell contemporary Jack Lawrence.
The event, timed to Dec. 3, Connee Boswell’s 100th birthday, received a grant from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and Foundation.
“The Stolen Sweets were one of the first participants we selected to be part of the celebration,” Lucas said. “Their adaptation of the Boswell sound represents the latest evolution of the Boswells’ persistent influence. More than simple nostalgia, the Stolen Sweets reflect the way modern musicians take excellent music from the past and distill it into a brew that is fresh and distinctly their own.”
“Cynthia found us and invited us,” Bernard said. “We’re honored to be part of it and thrilled about the opportunity to see the city, because it’ll be the first visit for many of us.”
Interest in early 20th-century jazz of the kind performed by the Boswells, Bernard said, is international. “A pretty large community of musicians is doing this music all over the world,” she said. “In this era of electronic music, there is a hunger for things that are organic. I see all these technological advances as being all about information transmittal and speed and commerce, a mindset of conquest and more is better. But no matter how many iPhones or wi-fi networks we have, music is one of those things that really keeps us connected with what it means to be human.”
For a full recap of The Boswell Sisters Centennial Celebration, visit Bozzies.org here
Boswell Sisters Centennial Celebration
“This weekend, New Orleans hosts the Boswell Sisters Centennial Celebration, a festival focused on the lives and music of the New Orleans sisters whose brought jazz harmonies to popular song, and influenced talents including Ella Fitzgerald, the Andrews Sisters, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and many more.
Vocal groups including New Orleans’ Pfister Sisters will perform songs from the Boswell songbook, and there will be a bus tour of Boswell sites and a showing of Boswell film clips.
The Pfister Sisters will perform a free show Saturday at 2 p.m. at the New Orleans Jazz Historical Park, and that night Portland’s Stolen Sweets play Snug Harbor. For a complete list of free and ticketed events, go to Bozzies.com/centennial.”
Stolen Sweets Invited to Headline Boswell Centennial in New Orleans 9/10/2007
Portland 1930s vocal jazz group, The Stolen Sweets, has been invited to headline at the first annual Boswell Sisters Centennial Celebration on November 30 and December 1 in the Boswells’ hometown of New Orleans. The event will commemorate the birthday of the most famous Boswell Sister, Connee, who was born on December 3, 1907 in Kansas City, MO.
The Boswell Sisters were popular radio stars in the 1930s, most famous for their acrobatic 3-part harmonies, tempo and key changes and tight syncopation. They preceded some of the most famous sister acts and influenced vocalists from the Andrews Sisters to Ella Fitzgerald. To this day, they are considered one of the best harmony groups in American music history.
“When we originally got together to form the Stolen Sweets,” says Sweets guitarist and vocalist Pete Krebs, “the divining inspiration for us was both the spirit of the Boswells and the world that was reflected in their music. We strive to present ourselves not as a nostalgic group, but as a continuation of the path blazed by Connee, Martha and Vet, a modern band rooted deeply in the early 20th century.”
The Stolen Sweets’ repertoire is inspired by the Boswells and other artists of yesteryear like Nat King Cole, Cab Calloway and Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys. Five of the six band members share lead vocal duty, giving their sets variety, but the majority of the songs are 3-part Boswell arrangements.
The Sweets connected with New Orleans resident and Boswell enthusiast, Cynthia Lucas, on MySpace and began dialoguing about the possibility of the Sweets playing in the Boswells’ hometown. When the opportunity of playing at the Centennial presented itself, the Sweets pursued it enthusiastically. They were notified in early August that they would not only be performing at the event, but they would be one of the headlining acts.
Before they perform at the Centennial, the Sweets will stop in Lafayette, Louisiana, to play a venue called the Blue Moon Saloon. November 30 marks their Centennial debut, when they perform for a showcase at arguably New Orleans’ best jazz club, Snug Harbor. They will wrap up their New Orleans stay with an afternoon concert on the steps of the historic Cabildo, a National Historic Landmark operated by the Louisiana State Museum and situated in the French Quarter. The Cabildo was the site of the Louisiana Purchase ceremonies in 1803.
Before the Sweets were invited to play in New Orleans, they had been invited to play on October 26 and 27 at upscale restaurant and club, Jayne Marie On Cross Lake, in Shreveport, LA. The Sweets are also in the process of booking a 3-week tour to Europe in March of 2008.
Though the band’s airfare and lodging will be funded by a local arts grant, they will be donating their performances for the Centennial in support of the city’s restoration efforts. To supplement their New Orleans fund, the band will be performing two free happy hours at Alberta Street Public House (appropriately entitled “Gumbo for Six”) on Monday, October 15 and Monday, October 22 from 6:30pm – 8:30pm. All tips will be added to the band’s New Orleans fund. The band has also been invited to play a show at the historic Blue Moon Saloon in Lafayette, a famous stopping point for touring bands en route from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. The club is well-known for hosting old music of all sorts, and is considered to be a cultural center for the town. This performance will be on Thursday, November 29.
Adds Krebs, “We’ve been very fortunate to bring this wonderful music to so many people on the west coast; you can imagine how thrilled we are to participate in the Boswell Centennial in their home town of New Orleans.”
The Stolen Sweets Contact: Erin Sutherland, firstname.lastname@example.org, 503-789-6401, www.stolensweets.com
Boswell Centennial Celebration Contact: Cynthia Lucas, email@example.com.
Comprehensive web site about the Boswell Sisters: www.bozzies.com
Alberta Street Public House: 1036 NE Alberta Street, Portland, OR, 97211, www.myspace.com/albertastreetpub Blue Moon Saloon in Lafayette, LA: www.bluemoonpresents.com
December 18, 2007
Music brings Sutherland home
Junior Miss link drew Sutherland to sing with Stolen Sweets
Listen to The Sweets
By KATHY GRAY
of The Dalles Chronicle
Erin Sutherland is nursing an unfortunate case of laryngitis, standing out from her black-clad band sisters in a bright red, satin dress, but mostly sticking to the backup harmonies at Saturday night’s concert at the Civic Auditorium. It’s not the ideal scenario for The Dalles native’s homecoming, her second with the vocal jazz group The Stolen Sweets. But every once in a while her smoky alto shines through, among the smooth voices, rapid and complex harmonies and sharp yet airy arrangements.
A 1993 The Dalles High grad, Sutherland has been performing with the Sweets for several years now, starting with performances in the Portland area and branching out around the Northwest and California.
The group bases its performances on the 1920s and 1930s vocal jazz of the renowned Boswell Sisters and, earlier this year, made a pilgrimage to New Orleans, the Boswell Sisters’ home town, as one of five bands to perform at the Boswell Sisters Centennial.
“We were a little scared,” Sutherland said. “We’re not purists and we don’t do the same instruments.”
The Boswell Sisters were backed by big band orchestras, while The Stolen Sweets use string instrumentation. But the other groups, mostly older performers, welcomed them into the fold, Sutherland said.
Next year, Sutherland and the Sweets are planning a European tour that they have booked, promoted and funded themselves.
It won’t be the first time Sutherland’s voice has taken her to Europe. She’s been in the spotlight since the age of 12, singing in opera, solo competitions in Europe and rock bands alike, according to her Stolen Sweets biography. She pursued her musical interests throughout her school career at The Dalles High School. She was also Wasco County’s Junior Miss in 1992 and went on to become Oregon Junior Miss.
That’s where she met Lara Mitchell, the 1989 Oregon Junior Miss, who not coincidentally happens to be a fellow band member in The Stolen Sweets. “We also went to Willamette University together,” Sutherland noted, during an interview Saturday afternoon.
Through Mitchell, Sutherland was tagged for a special performance of songs from 1920s and 1930s radio stars the Boswell Sisters along with current band guitarist Pete Krebs and others, including Jen Bernard, Sutherland’s other band sister.
“We learned a couple of songs,” Sutherland said, then “being control freaks” began strategizing about marketing and booking and a host of other band management issues.
“We never did that show,” Sutherland said with a laugh. “They decided we were more than they could handle.”
But that nonbeginning brought the three women together, who decided to start their own band focusing on music of the Boswell Sisters, whose complex vocal jazz reworkings of old favorites were the inspiration for later acts including the Andrew Sisters and Ella Fitzgerald.
“They inspired a lot of the music that came after, but they were before television,” Sutherland said.
The women enlisted Krebs, along with fellow guitarist David Langenes, and upright bass player Keith Brush, forming a band that mixes the best elements of the Boswell Sisters with string arrangements reminiscent of gypsy jazz legend Django Reinhardt.
Sutherland is the band’s music sleuth, tracking down old 78 RPM records and sheet music from the era.
The Stolen Sweets have become a fixture around the Portland area with a strong following. They’re scheduled at the Doug Fir Lounge Jan. 24 and for three weekends in February at McMenamin’s Kennedy School starting on St. Valentine’s Day.
They also play a lot of private parties and corporate events. “Our music tends to appeal to a broad audience,” Sutherland said. Technology has helped that audience become even more broad, paving the way for their earlier performance in New Orleans and their upcoming European tour.
“MySpace.com has afforded us all these opportunities,” Sutherland said. When the group arrives in Europe in March, they’ll be met by fans who already know their music through MySpace.
Most of those fans are, admittedly, Sutherland’s parents age. The group is hoping an edgy image can help attract a younger group of fans, as well. Her night job as a band chanteuse compliments her day job as a public relations coordinator for the College of Oriental Medicine.
“Mr. Walworth [her high school choir teacher] pointed out to me that I’m doing both things I went to school to do,” Sutherland said. And though The Stolen Sweets’ popularity is growing, that’s not likely to change any time soon.
“We all kind of like our day jobs,” Sutherland said.