April 23, 2021

Cleo Laine, jazz diva turns 88

Cleo Laine turned 88 this week. The English songbird has been one of my favorites over the years.

I was staying at the San Francisco Fairmont Hotel and noticed Laine was booked to open in their Venetian Room that evening. Alas, I was departing the city that afternoon so I snuck into her rehearsal before heading to the airport.  It was a good twenty minutes before a hotel employee asked me to leave. Still, I had seen the great jazz diva for at least a mini-set.

Years later, she and her husband John Dankworth were in Chicago for a concert. They had a late supper at the Pump Room where I was singing. To my utter delight, Laine and Dankworth came up to the stage and hung out with me, another male singer and our trio. They even gave us their home address and said if we were ever in Great Britain,
they would love to have us perform at their residential concert space. Sad to say, I never made it to England and saxophonist/band leader John Dankworth passed away in 2009.

Still and all, this is a delicious memory encountering one of my jazz goddesses. Happy birthday Dame Cleo Laine.

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