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Big Band Jazz Singer Ernie Andrews Recalls Fond Memories

Gone are the great soul crooners of yesteryear - Johnny Hartman, Billy Eckstein, Al Hibbler, Joe Williams and others. Now meet 74-year-old Ernie Andrews, one of the last of the big band jazz singers.

Andrews was discovered in 1945, by songwriter Joe Greene who penned Andrews' biggest hit "Soothe Me." He went on to work with some of the best in jazz, including Cannonball Adderly, Harry James and Benny Carter. Today, audiences of all ages come to hear Andrews sing such concert favorites as "Satin Doll" and "Ol' Man River."

Andrews' first exposure to music was gospel in his mother's Baptist church in his native Philadelphia. He took up drums, and continued singing when his family moved to Los Angeles, California in his early teens.

One of his fondest memories is singing at the Lincoln Theatre on Central Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. Andrews remembers when that area was a thriving entertainment center. "Central Avenue was like the 52nd Street of New York," he said. "But it was just Central Avenue and naturally being in California it was spread out more than New York. In New York on 52nd Street you could see Duke Ellington on this side of the street, Count Basie on the other side, Erroll Garner on the other side of the street. Within two or three blocks you could go to five places. But Los Angeles was a bit spread out."

Levine: "So it was like a little oasis in the middle of everything."

Andrews: "Yes. You could go from 5th and Central all the out to 120th Street and you'd find sporadic places [nightclubs]. There were a couple of blocks there where they had [clubs] Alabam and The Last Word and the Memo Club and the after hours places. You could go into Lovejoys and find Art Tatum [playing] all night long - just sitting there [at the piano] all night long."

Levine: "That was back in the days when a song was well-crafted."

Andrews: "Oh yeah. And a story was a story. To present a story to the people and [make it] something that they can relate to."

In support of his latest album, Girl Talk, Andrews will be appearing with his quartet in Baltimore, Maryland on April 28, followed by a concert at the DeSalva Museum in Chicago, Illinois in late May.