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POP BEAT

Singer Came Long Way To Be Where Jazz Began

October 10, 1986|RANDY LEWIS | Times Staff Writer

Vocalist Shelley Moore is hoping no one will mind her British accent when she performs during Sunday's "All American" Jazz Festival at the Newporter Resort.

But even as the only non-American on the lineup, Moore, who has lived in Orange County for more than 20 years, says she won't feel out of place at the festival. In fact, one reason she immigrated to the United States in 1961 was to live in the land where jazz was born.

Ironically, once she arrived she found, as many American jazz artists can attest, that jazz generally gets more respect in Europe than it gets in the United States

"That's one of the things I don't understand," Moore said during a recent interview at her Huntington Beach residence. "Jazz is part of America's heritage, but it is more treasured abroad than it is here. We have a lot of wonderful musicians in Europe, but everyone owes a debt to America for jazz. I've never figured that out."

Moore, who will perform with a trio from 3 to 6 p.m. in the hotel's main lobby, will share the spotlight Sunday with eight other jazz acts. Also on the bill, which will begin at 2 p.m., will be Latin percussionist Poncho Sanchez and his orchestra, the Orange Coast College Big Band and OCC Trombone Choir and Mike Fahn with the John Patittucci Quartet. Rounding out the lineup are Frank Amoss & the Mississippi Mudders, Stephanie & Friends, the Dan Jacobs Quintet and Elena George & the George Gilliam Quartet.

Although Moore began singing professionally as a teen-ager in England, she stopped touring and performing for nearly 15 years after getting married and starting a family after she moved to the United States

Seven years ago, after her son and daughter were grown ("They are both musical" she said proudly), Moore resumed her career and has since been appearing regularly at various Southland clubs. "I never stopped singing, though," said the energetic, animated redhead. "I would sing over the sink, while doing the dishes. All that steam really loosens up the sinuses."

She hopes to record another album soon; her last was a 1961 LP recorded in the United States on which she was backed by, among others, pianist Ramsey Lewis and saxophonist Plas Johnson. The record still gets occasional air play on Long Beach jazz and blues station KLON (88.1 FM). An earlier EP, "Portrait of Shelley," was released in England by the same record label that handled singers Cleo Laine and Annie Ross.

But Moore, who once toured with Ray McKinley's big band, has no desire to mount another tour. "I had enough of that when I was in England," she said.

One of the biggest changes she's noticed between the first and second phases of her career is the role of the songwriter. (Moore still collects some royalties for songs she wrote 25 years ago, including some tunes she laughingly said she can't remember writing.)

"It used to be that a songwriter couldn't record their own songs," she said. "And I had one publisher tell me that other singers wouldn't record material written by another singer, so I often wrote under pseudonyms. But now you almost have to write your own. And now I think singers aren't worried about who writes the songs. They're just looking for good material."

While her current repertoire includes several of her old compositions, Moore admits a fondness for the standards by such giants of the American pop song as George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter. She also named Michael Franks, Michel Legrand and Lennon and McCartney among her more recent favorites.

After fronting various duos, trios and quartets in recent years, Moore recently joined an existing group: the Gerard Hagen Quartet. The group is currently rehearsing before heading into the local jazz circuit. "I've been handling all my bookings and business stuff myself. I'd rather concentrate just on my singing, and I think joining this group will finally allow me to do that," Moore said.

The most frustrating part for Orange County jazz performers, Moore said, is finding clubs where people come "to listen instead of just to pick each other up."

"There are a lot of nightspots," she said, "but most of them are Top 40. One thing about jazz is that you have to concentrate more. It's not just background music. But with all this piped-in music everywhere, I think people are oversaturated with music and they don't listen any more.

"I was in a department store shopping once and heard different overlapping piped music from two departments at the same time. It was driving me crazy, so I said to the salesgirl, 'How can you stand this?' She said, 'How can I stand what?' "

While Moore declined to give her age, she eagerly owned up to the fact that she is a grandmother. "If anyone had told me when I was a teen-ager that I would still be singing when I was a grandmother," she said with a smile, "I would never have believed it."

Moore never voiced it, but the sentiment read in her eyes: only in America.

LIVE ACTION: Maggie Mayall & the Cadillacs will perform at UC Irvine on Oct. 24. . . . Hurricane will play Cal State Fullerton's Titan Gym on Oct. 31. . . . Social Distortion will headline an Oct. 19 benefit for Safari Sam's nightclub that will be held at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano.

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