Half Note club and related Articles 1


By Bill Walters

“Judi-Judi – Judi”, an expression used by Cary Grant.. andrepeated many times over the years by imitators, brings to mind a fine singer named Judi-Marie Canterino. Judi-Marie was born in New York City in the 1930’s and became involved in music at the age of 7 with classical piano. Between the ages of 7 and 13 she performed at Julliard School of Music. Then, just out of high school, she was introduced to Lenny Tristano who in turn, introduced her to the Jazz Club called the Half Note in Manhattan. There she was also introduced to Zoot Sims and met Mike Canterino, whose family owned the club, and who later became her husband. Judi began singing at the club where she sat in for many years and doing basically the 4-5 numbers she knew.

During that period she was influenced by Billie Holiday and Anita O’Day. Over those many years Judi got to know and was lucky to sit in with people like Joe Venuti, Jimmy Rushing, Buddy Tate, Wes Montgomery, Bobby Hackett and Teddy Wilson.

Many nights Judi, Mike and Roy Eldridge would sit outside between sets and sing and joke around to pass the time. Judi’s singing was also influenced by other greats at the Half Note Vic Dickenson, Hubie Blake, Cootie Williams, Milt Hinton as she increased her grasp as a jazz singer.

Judi is a pleasant person, who loves nature, flowers, trees, water and gardening in the Riverside section of New York City where she and Mike reside. When she turned 50 she was convinced by Joe Puma and Ross Tompkins to really settle down and build a book that now includes 70 to 75 tunes. Judi can be heard at the Fortune Gardens, Trumpets, New York City hotels and private parties where she is accompanied by Jim Roberts, Chuck Folds, Red Richards, Mark Shane, Norman Simmons, trumpeters Spankie Davis and Doc Cheatham, Warren Vache’, Jr., and sax man, Scott Hamilton.

If you walk into a club and see the most pleasant person in the place, you know you have gotten to know -JUDI-MARIE!

Anita O’Day Is Winging at the Half Note


Anita O’Day is back in town and, as usual, she’s winging it, or improvising. 

The singer has ended a year of semiretirement in Honolulu to settle into the Half Note, Hudson and Spring Streets, for a six week run, sharing the bands stand with a quintet led by her old colleague in Gene Krupa’s band, Roy Eldridge. She arrived alone, traveling light, bringing only a few dresses, some music and one of the most consistently inspired vocal styles in jazz.

When she got to town, she I called up a pianist she had once worked with in Los Angeles, Alan Marlowe, went down to the Half Note and added Mr. Eldridge’s bassist, Buddy Catlett, and drummer, Eddie Locke, and began improvising.

She suggests a tune, calls out a key, taps out a tempo. indicates a drum pattern by patting her hip and conducts with one white-gloved hand, with her chin, with her eyes.

Phrases Like Saxophone

Meanwhile she is singing maybe “Honeysuckle Rose” or “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” or “Sweet Georia Brown”-in a voice that has an attractively rough texture, voice that roams casually from a deep contralto to an easy falsetto. She phrases as though her were a jazz saxophone, breaking words or stretchingthem to fill out a musical line, tickling the words to move them into the little fills that a saxophonist might use.

Someone standing at the Half Note bar the other night compared her singing to the words of E. E. Cummings.

“His poems are shredded out on a page,” he said, “and Anita does the same thing with a song.”

Her ability to restructure a song to give it a completely fresh and valid presentation is an astonishing artistic accomplishment. She does this without distorting the essential values of the song. In fact, these values, as a rule are amplified as she explores a remarkable variety of ways of developing material that one might think had long been drained of any new potential.

This well of inspiration is at freshest when she is challenged by musicians with whom she does not work regularly.

Each Tune Race

“This way the whole timing is a little off balance,” Miss O’Dayexplained. “and it keeps you on your toes. When you get your own group going, it gets too relaxed. The way I do it, each tune is a horse race.” 

And sometimes she loses,she admitted. 

“I did 12 tunes with Oscar Peterson on an album once.” CA she recalled, “and I didn’t win one race.”

For most of the last year, she has relaxed in Honolulu, spending her mornings on the beach and, in the afternoons, studying musical theory and harmony and taking cooking lessons.”After 34 years in night clubs,” said Miss O’Day, who is 49 years old, “I thought I deserved a change. And since music has been changing lately, it seemed better to do nothing for a while in order to get perspective.”

Now she is eager to get into “the folk-rock thing.” This visit to New York, she says, is for the purpose of looking around.

“All my contracts have expired,” she said. “I have no agent, no manager, no record company. I’m completely free. I can keep the things that are necessary, throw out those that are unnecessary. Now I can check around and see if they want an old name with a new style of music.”


We shifted the subject to Flip’s career and present mode of operations. He went out to Florida long ago and left the jazz centre field. Was he disillusioned like, say, Artie Shaw?

‘No, nothin’ like that. I just settled down there and didn’t go out as much. I felt that way, wanted to live a little bit, too. But I continued to play music and,of course, still do. Now I don’t believe I could stand the one-nighters. I used to do. I think we hold the record for that. We did eighty-one one-nighters in a row, without a single night off. And it’s pretty hard to endure that.However, I still love to play and all that, you know, but I don’t want to kill myself either. That’s why I’m down in Florida. If something comes up that I like,I’ll take it.’ 

Things that Flip likes include special events such as Dick Gibson’s Colorado Jazz Party and the occasional jazz festival. He goes to a few of these because of the change of scene, saying that they’re nice so long as there’s not too much like, I’ll take it.”travelling involved.

‘And I took up the game of golf,’ he told me, brightening visibly. ‘I’m hitting that little white ball and working my frustrations out that way. Like I said, I want to live a little bit.

”Do you play very much out there?”

‘What, golf?’

No, jazz.’

Oh, that. Yeah, I play enough. I don’t want to play every night of the week. Is he sufficiently well set-up financially, then, to be able to live that way? 

‘No, but how much can you eat? I eat enough. I eat very good in fact, and I’ve become a chef, you know, kind of a gourmet cook. So I took up golf, and now I eat good and play golf good. I wish I could play golf as well as I can cook, though. 

And when he plays music, does Flip enjoy it as much as he did with Woody Herman, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Johnny Hodges, Ben Webster, Benny Carter and such? 

‘I get a lot of satisfaction from playing,’ he answered carefully. ‘Because I don’t do too much of it.”

Zoot Sims

If ever a person sounded as though he enjoyed playing saxophone, that person was Zoot Sims. He didn’t always look happy at work, it wasn’t his nature, but the enthusiasm could be felt, as well as the dedication to flowing melodic phrases, whenever he set about making music. Zoot, it seemed to me, was a pure case of talent, unshowy and firmly based; as he progressed in years he improved in jazzcraft, and his sound grew even more personal and beautiful. For my taste the Pablo albums from his later years are outstanding for musical feeling and that extra ingredient we tend to call soul. He sang the songs on his horn, and swang them, and the effect was magical.

Page 15 up on a pedestal. We weren’t waiting for our break Every time we got a chance to work with guys like Zoot Wes, Trane or whoever we felt like we’d already made it.

The Half Note had to be the most unusual club in the world. It was 1969 outside the doors, but it was timeless inside the joint We checked out of everything, People who came back after being away for a while, maybe years would say the place hadn’t changed at all. All the problems and social issues didn’t exist in the Half Note There was no trouble, nothing bad going on in there. Just music Once in a while Trane would draw some black militants, you know, Yeah, Trane, freedom now. But Trane was just playing his ass off like nothing else mattered in the world. Even when guys sat in with him who couldn’t play just so they could say they sat in with him-he didn’t care. He just played. The only way you could tell it was the sixties in there was the way people dressed. My Judi would wear those white shoes with the high heels and thick soles, and miniskirts. Sometimes she ware pants under the miniskirts She said she ked to be different. I had kind of long hair and mutton chop sideburns 

One thing, I guess was that there were some drugs around. They were pretty much everywhere back then. Not too much, though Guys would drink a lot, and maybe once in a while after hours if we were hanging around jamming, we’d smoke some shit. I remember a few guys taking pits sometimes Guys who did any of that would go down in the basement and keep it out of sight That’s the way it was. Not much you could do about it

About two AM, the guys in the band started getting on Judy to come up and do a few songs Judy knew a couple of the guys. Ross had been the piano player on the Tonight Show for a long time and he met her a couple of times when she did the show. Leo Ball knew her pretty well, too,from playing with her in some show: Leo was the musical director for Paul Anka for a long time,and I think, later, for Liza Minnoll. He’s a regular guy, like part of the family for us, too. To this day, he shows up and sits in with Judi Marie and me every Thursday night when we do our steady gig in Larchmont. Anyway, everybody asked her to sing, but Leo’s the one who really talked her into

At first, she didn’t want to do it A lot of show biz people are like that, you know. She was 32 frightened to get up on the stage. Leo kept saying, “Come on.”

I heard her say “I’m so nervous”

Leo says, “You? After all you’ve done?” WET

“I’m so scared,” she says. “What I do?

“Do what you do he says. He had to help her up the stairs to the stage. I didn’t know what was going to happen. She was just standing there, and she looked so thin and so frail and so scared. Come on, Leo says, everybody loves you. Everybody was encouraging her, but finally, Leo seemed to convince her to do it.

I heard that not long before that at some club in England that Judy went onstage, and I guess she wasn’t up to it, and the audience threw rolls from the breadbaskets and silverware at her, and she walked off the stage being hit by that stuff. What a drag They should have just respected her. After all the entertainment she gave everyone. That would never happen in my joint It just wouldn’t. People wouldn’t do that. Or if they did, I’d throw the son of a bitch out.

Judy started with The Trolley Song. She was a little shaky for the first few bars hen all of the sudden, she was her old self. She was Judy Garland again. She went on, got started, and just opened up. It was a gas. She started to swing. Man, the guys loved it. Then she sang Over the Rainbow. Everybody was in awe.


On dedication page