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Acclaim in Washington

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Acclaim in Washington




From Leonard Feather             
Washington, Tuesday.

ALAN DEAN'S visit to Washington has been described In one of the  capital's newspapers as " the greatest contribution to Anglo-American good will since the visit of Princess Elizabeth." One of the city's most popular disc-jockeys, Willis Conover, commented after hearing the melody maker's Poll-winning vocalist: "This is the best new thing that's hit Washington in a long time. What makes it even nicer is that Alan's a modest guy, and a real musician."

Alan Dean's American debut can be described unequivocally as a resounding success.

I was present at his opening night at the Old New Orleans, which describes itself officially as "Washington's Largest and Finest Supper Club."


It is not one night club but four, all on different levels and offering different types of attractions. The room where Alan was to work was the Sazarac Room, a dimly lit, intimate spot with oakwood walls and a small bandstand with a clarinettist and rhythm section at work.

Alan greeted me, bubbling over with good news. " I've done so many radio and TV guest appearances since I've arrived In Wash­ington that I've lost count." he said.                 

"Did you see this? " said Muriel Dean, displaying a postcard with her husband's picture and an advertisement  for  the  club. " They've been mailing thousands of these all over town."

Waiting for Alan to appear was not exactly unalloyed joy.  The two acts preceding him were an elderly vocalist who sounded like an inferior Bob Howard and a fairly young lady who played some fairly bad violin solos.


Then Alan was Introduced. Starting with a cute piece of special material that described, autobiographlcally, his feelings about working in America, he moved into a fine interpretation of "The Touch Of Your Lips." From the first moment, he had the packed audience in the palm of his hand. He sang half-a-dozen numbers, impressing the audience especially with the French lyrics of "Autumn Leaves" and the English atmosphere of "London By Night." (At the midnight show, I was told later, they would not let him off the floor until he had sung ten numbers.)

Wlllis Conover, who was present, was so impressed that he let Alan take over his show for half an hour, during which, according to Wlllis, Alan did a beautifully cool job."

Press plaudits

The next morning's papers confirmed the success of the opening by waxing as enthusiastic as had the crowd in the club. The Washington Post radio columnist made an exception by devoting her entire column to a long interview with Alan, mostly about the differences between the BBC and American radio stations.

Wtthin the next 24 hours, Alan was so short of his own records that it became necessary, he told me, to borrow a disc back from one jockey and lend it to another. Biggest  favourites on local stations were "Autumn Leaves", Blue Moon" (from the Dean-Dankworth Melody Maker Poll Winners' Concert recording on Esquire), and the recent " If You Go."

"It's been very difficult not having records available here." Alan said. " I didn't realise what an enormous number of records I would need to cater for all the disc jockeys. I'm glad I'll be making some records over here soon. I still haven't forgotten that I was just thought of as a quartet singer until my London agent, Harold Davidson, took me in hand."

As a result of a rave review in another newspaper, there is talk of holding a cocktail party in Alan's honour—at the British Embassy!

Melody Maker Nov.24 1951


Barry Ulanov writes about a fine, young English singer who comes to America to absorb and add some new sounds

Over the years—twelve to be exact—that I've been writing professionally about jazz, I've done very few pieces on singers and singing. I can only think of a few offhand: Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra, Billy Eckstine, Herb Jeffries, Mary Ann McCall. It's not that I don't like singing; it's simply that very few singers seem to me to merit careful critical appraisal. In writing about Alan Dean, then, I am in effect rating him, placing him in select company, with Eckstine and Jeffries and Sinatra and the distinguished ladies mentioned above with them. In my considered opinion, Britain has not heretofore sent us anybody better as musician or singer and few nearly so good.

ALAN DEAN is in the United States
When Alan speaks, he does so in a soft English accent. When he sings, he sings American, none of the o's broad, none of the consonants missed. "When he sings, he sings with the authority of an Eckstine. the musicianship of a Vaughan and the vocal quality of an earlier Sinatra. His versatility suggests Frankie Laine commercially, Billie Holiday musically, ranging as he does from September in the Rain up, with a pronounced beat and scat punctuation, to Blue Moon slow, with the beat only implicit and the ballad mood predominant.

Alan got to be the best in Britain the hard way: there is no other in England. There are almost no regular radio shows for singers in BBC; night clubs of the American kind, where a singer can work for months on end, are unknown; singing with a band or a vocal group contributes to obscurity rather than reputation as it does in the States. But Allan put in his time in all the time-honored positions for musicians and singers: he started as a boy soprano, mastered the accordion at a tender age, worked clubs as an accordionist and bands as a singer; he helped found a vocal group famous in radio, the Keynotes; he arranged for the Keynotes and for his own small bop band; he finally struck out on his own two years ago.

The top is not too high in Britain, however glamorous the name and full the press book: you still don't rate the regular radio show and you don't top the Palladium, London's Paramount Theatre, unless you're an American whose records have long established you as an attraction. As far as an Englishman can go in England Alan Dean has gone; farther, perhaps, because he has not only captured the fans but convinced the musicians as well.

Alan is a scholarly singer; he has studied his own equipment and the art of singing as carefully as he once studied the wheezes and breezes of the accordion. He has discovered that "a voice is a wind instrument and works mechanically in a similar way to a trumpet." He has learned that "the singer who knows something about the arrangement and can read the modulation into the vocal, fronts the mike with confidence and is much less likely to make mistakes." He doesn't qualify for stomach ulcers through worrying about coming in at the right place, anyway. Alan is a charming singer. His obvious enthusiasm for jazz can be seen and heard through every bar of an up tempo vocal. His warmth of person can be seen and heard through every measure of a sorrowful ballad. His face reflects and refracts mood and moment and his economy of gesture fits reflection and refraction with the eloquence of a gifted actor. Very few singers can look so well and sound so well at the same time.

To write more than this at this time would be to beg the question: clearly, now, he must be heard. When he is heard in American, as he surely will be, I and many others will have to write a good deal more about Alan Dean.

Barry Ulanov - Metronome November, 1951


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