Monday, May 10, 2010

Farewell To A real Icon: Ms. Lena Horne

Lena Horne: Jersey jazz artists remember the showbiz legend
By Star-Ledger Staff
May 10, 2010, 6:29PM

Cab Calloway and Lena Horne co-star in the 1943 film 'Stormy Weather.'
By Tris McCall/The Star-Ledger

Lena Horne impressed audiences with her wit, her sophistication, her talent -- and her courage, too.

"Aside from her impeccable musical legacy, we honor her for coming of age in an era that didn't accept her", says jazz guitarist and Saddle River native John Pizzarelli, who testifies to Horne's enduring influence on generations of musicians.

"No matter how she was received -- in Hollywood and elsewhere -- she continued to be marvelous, and she continued to do terrific shows," he says.

Pizzarelli remembers Lena Horne as a trendsetter and groundbreaker: one who went smashing through social barriers, and who, in the process, enlightened her listeners as much as she entertained them.

Ed Berger agrees with the guitarist's assessment.

"She was just as important as a social force and a catalyst as she was in music," says Berger, the associate director of the Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers-Newark. "She used her unique position in music to advance her social aims and goals."

Those who worked with Horne remember her strength of character -- and the high standards she set for herself.

"She did things her way, and she knew what she wanted," said Mike Renzi, the musical director of "An Evening With Lena Horne," her 1994 album. The pianist, a one-time Fort Lee resident, recalls introducing a difficult, "talky" song to her. While Horne lacked the technical knowledge to call for a diminished chord, Renzi read her reaction to the unsatisfactory arrangement loud and clear.

I watched stormy weather for the first time last week. I was taken away from how Lena commanded every performance. Her youth and flawless smile made the film that much more special. In today's world you look at these famous little girls who think that they have it needs to take note from Ms. Horne she never had to take it far for everyone to know what a class act and star that she is.

In showboat Ava Gardner was given the part that was suppose to get. However back then people like us weren't really allowed to be on film in such roles so being the classy Lady she was Lena Gave Ava the color tone of Lena's skin so that she could play the role of the "light skinned girl". What a woman, what a Legend..

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