Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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CAVANAUGH, INEZ, and Timme Rosenkranz

Inez Cavanaugh (b 29 January 1909, Chicago; d 2 November 1980, Long Beach CA) was one of the first African-American jazz journalists, and was also a singer. Her partner Timme Rosenkrantz (b 6 July 1911; d 11 August 1969, NYC) was a Danish journalist, author, concert and record producer and broadcaster with a passion for jazz, but little head for business.

In a letter written to journalist Andre Glavimans in Europe after WWII but dated only 'Hotel Crystal/ Sat. P.M.', Inez claimed to have worked as a stenographer at age 14, then for the National Benefit Life Insurance Company ('then the largest Negro insurance company in the world'), then as a law-court reporter for the Associated Negro Press, and then as a journalist on the New York Amsterdam News ('the largest Negro weekly in America'), and also 'as secretary (evenings) to the famous Negro poet Langston Hughes'. She was certainly in New York in 1937, a jill-of-all-trades at the Amsterdam News and sitting in here and there as a singer; that year she met Baron Timme Rosenkrantz, and became his life companion.

Timme was known as The Jazz Baron; he could trace his family back to the 14th century. The first known family member was Niels Iversen from 1341. According to legend, the wreath of roses, or rosenkrans, was given to a family member who sold fish to the Pope, and so was given a rosary, which he put on his helmet; this is first seen in a seal belonging to Otte Nielsen in 1433. The Rosenkranz name was first used in 1524 by Henrik Nielsen Rosenkranz after the king, Frederik I, had asked Danish nobility to stick to one family name and not just add a 'sen' to their fathers' first names, which made too many Nielsens, Hansens and Iversens. Timme's father, who was a novelist and a poet, wrote a book about Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, postulating that two noble cousins, Frederik Rosenkrantz and Knud Guildenstern, had traveled to England and could very well have met Shakespeare in London, thus ending up as characters in Hamlet.

Despite his noble heritage, Timme was not personally wealthy, but he already had a huge collection of jazz 78s as a teenager. Timme was the first European journalist to report on the jazz scene in Harlem, beginning on his first trip to the USA in 1934 and until his death 35 years later. He started one of the first European jazz journals, Jazzrevy (January 1935 to December 1936), and went on to write several books (including novels and short stories in Danish), as well as founding and editing other periodicals. He wrote articles for Scandinavian newspapers and magazines as well as for Down Beat, Metronome and Esquire in America, and Melody Maker in England.

Pouring on his aristocratic charm, in 1938 Timme went to see Eli Oberstein, later decribing him as the president of RCA Victor: the wheeler-dealer Oberstein never rose that high, but at the time he was what we would now call a record producer, and very successful at it. Partly by exaggerating his own importance as a jazz enterpreneur in Europe, Timme talked Oberstein into recording a dream band as Timme Rosenkrantz and His Barrelhouse Barons: four tracks were made in May, using some of his favourite musicians, including Rex Stewart on cornet, Billy Kyle on piano, future Ellington trombonist Tyree Glenn, Walter Page and Jo Jones on bass and drums, and Don Byas on tenor sax: Timme was said to be the first to record Byas and Glenn, and regarded them as his discoveries. Other reeds were Russell Procope and Rudy Powell; Timme had nothing if not good taste in musicians. Inez sang on 'Is This To Be My Souvenir?' (lyrics by her and Timme) and 'When Day Is Done'; the other two tunes were 'A Wee Bit Of Swing' and 'The Song Is Ended'. Timme always claimed that these were named among the best records of the year by Metronome and Down Beat magazines, and that three years later he received one small royalty check.

Timme had published a song in Jazzrevy by the Danish composer and pianist Leo Mathisen called 'Song of Souvenirs', dedicated to Coleman Hawkins. He had brought it to New York with him and taken it to W.C. Handy; the tune was rewritten and new words written by Maceo Pinkard, but nothing happened; nobody wanted to record it. Timme and Inez reverted to the original melody and wrote their own words, and this was the song that became 'Is This To Be My Souvenir?', published by Lincoln Music in 1938. This seems to have been the extent of Timme's dabbling in publishing, though he must have had ambitions in that direction: in his archive are Powers of Attorney given to him by Sam Wooding in 1934 and by Svend Asmussen in 1938, granting him the right to manage their compositions.

Inez never found commercial success as a singer, but she was bright and personable, as was Timme, and they easily made lots of friends in the late 1930s and during the war, including young Claire Phillips, from Los Angeles, who soon became the Ellington band's secretary. Claire wrote that 'they seemed like a devoted couple . . . I never heard a cross word or a correction or an interruption. It felt as if they totally accepted one another and were together happily.' Inez and Timme talked about marriage in 1938. Later that year Timme had gone back to Denmark and Inez was supposed to follow; she was in Detroit staying with relatives (first she was looking after two kids she had to take to school every day, and later she was staying with her Aunt Maude) and looking forward to sailing to Europe on the Île de France. But she had trouble getting a passport, because the birth certificate records in Chicago from before 1916 had been lost or destroyed; and while she was gathering up all the documents she could and sending them to Chicago, she missed the boat. And the marriage never happened. Although he was penniless all his life, Timme was always conscious of being part of a Danish noble family, and made the most of it in New York when he got a chance, but the Danish community in New York kept him at arm's length because he consorted with black people and lived with a black woman. The story in the family is that he was afraid of his mother's reaction to a marriage. 'We were all afraid of my grandmother,' wrote Timme's favourite niece, journalist Bente Arendrup; 'She would get blue in the face and threaten to drop dead if things didn't suit her.' Timme evidently caved in to family pressure; he never married, and felt guilty about Inez for the rest of his life.

On Timme's third trip to New York, he found himself stuck there for the duration of WWII. He had moved around a bit, but finally found the ideal apartment on West 46th Street, in a brownstone with a sign on it that said 'Diamond Jim Brady Lived Here'. Also in 1944-45, the Dane had his own jazz program, Rhythm Is My Business, on WNEW (he was first to interview the Swedish clarinetist Stan Hasselgard on his show) and his new address was close enough both to 52nd Street and to the radio station. Timme and Inez may have been poor compared to Diamond Jim, the railroad magnate of the Gilded Age, but their parties sometimes went on all night, and frequent guests included Duke Ellington, Stuff Smith and many other luminaries. There was of course a grand piano, and Timme (along with Tondaleyo Levy, the beautiful ex-showgirl who ran her own club on 52nd Street) was credited with discovering Erroll Garner. Timme was first to record Garner, cutting lacquer discs in his apartment in 1944, the sessions later issued on five Blue Note 10-inch LPs, and still later on the Danish Official label on three 12-inchers as Overture To Dawn. Timme's sound quality was variable, but Garner's extended improvisations, mostly on his own themes, are full of atmosphere, and precious to his fans. Timme also recorded Inez singing with Garner's piano, but those three tracks remained unissued until Official put out a larger set on CD, soon out of print. For a fee, Timme would record off-the-air from live gigs in New York that were broadcast, and the musicians would stop over to hear how they sounded; but glasses would be raised and more records played and one suspects the fees were not always collected. Timme also recorded violinist Stuff Smith and classically trained pianist Robert Crum in his apartment: The Stuff Smith & Robert Crum Complete 1944 Rosenkranz Apartment Transcription Duets have been compiled on a 2-CD set on AB Fable in England in 2004. Billy Taylor, in Jazz Piano, A History, calls these 'stream-of-consciousness improvisations … very much ahead of [their] time'; Jack Bowers in Cadence writes of 'a "crossover" session using "free improvisation" long before these terms were conceived.' Bowers also describes the sound as 'dreadful', but the label says that is because Timme's lacquers, 60 years later, were worn and damaged.

Back and forth between New York and Europe after the War, Timme produced and the WNEW disc jockey Art Ford emceed a jazz concert with the Red Norvo band, the Stuff Smith trio, singer Fran Warren and others, at New York’s Town Hall on 9 June 1945. A lot of other big stars were supposed to be there, including Billie Holiday, but Timme hadn't acquired the proper contracts, and their agents ordered them not to show up. Gene Krupa turned up with his trio to help out, but on top of everything else there was a newspaper strike on, so there was no publicity. The concert was well reviewed but a financial disaster. In August there was another Barons recording session, this time without Inez but featuring Norvo and reedmen Otto Hardwick and Harry Carney from the Ellington band: three of the four sides recorded were issued only on obscure labels and the fourth is presumed lost. Timme organized a European tour for the Don Redman band in 1946; the first post-war tour by American jazz musicians would have been one of his biggest projects, but he had a lot of help from a cousin, Jorgen Rosenkrantz (1921-2004), who was also a jazz fan. Timme also arranged Friday jam sessions at the Café Bohemia and The Famous Door on 52nd Street in 1947, as well as hosting a popular jazz program periodically on Radio Denmark from 1946 until his death. His fans called him 'Jazzens onkel' (the Jazz Uncle). He produced a Sidney Bechet concert in Copenhagen in 1951 that would have been sold out, but with his usual luck, a huge snowstorm hit the city that day, so most people didn't show up to collect and pay for their tickets. 'During his whole life,' Bente wrote, 'Timme was on the look-out for this very special person with a big money bag who would make his dreams come true, so he could come back here and gild us all and the town hall square of Copenhagen too!'

Back in New York, Inez had a career of her own, but like Timme she had to spend a lot of time scuffling. The thread that runs through their correspondence is a shortage of cash. But Inez wrote one of the first profiles of Billy Strayhorn for Metronome magazine, and about Tricky Sam Nanton and others. Timme's chronicle of his jazz life in New York is called Dus med Jazzen: mine jazz Memoirer (Copenhagen, Chr. Erichsens Forlag, 1964), which means something like 'on first-names with jazz'. In 2004 the Denmark-based American freelance writer Fradley Garner (no relation to Erroll) was translating and adapting the book into English, from two different manuscripts. Timme claimed that Inez had been the Ellington band's secretary; she claimed in her letter to Glavimans to have been 'public relations counsel for three years for Duke Ellington'. The band's secretary, looking after the fan mail and sending out Christmas cards, was Claire Phillips, who had married lyricist Irving Gordon, and spent the latter part of 1944 in Los Angeles, forbidden by her doctor to travel during a pregnancy, while Inez was no doubt doing her best to ingratiate herself in New York. Many years later in Europe Inez may have been gilding the lily for Glavimans, while Duke Ellington himself, one of music's all-time great schmoozers, would have been quite capable of giving everybody something to do to keep them all happy.

Ellington's first Carnegie Hall concert in January 1943 included the première of his Black, Brown And Beige: Tone Parallel To The American Negro, during the American Federation of Musicians' infamous recording ban. Four pieces from it were finally recorded in the studio by RCA in December 1944. The packaging was unusual; instead of the usual album of the era, the two 12-inch 78rpm discs came in a fold-out sleeve complete with a color photo of Duke, similar to a 2-LP set of 20 years later. Inez wrote the notes; Dan Morgenstern later wrote that 'She intelligently paraphrased Ellington's comments about the music.' Inez claimed in her letter to Glavimans to have 'co-authored' the text of Black, Brown and Beige with Ellington. Timme later wrote that Inez had written a text in blank verse for Black, Brown and Beige that was almost a hundred pages long, intended to be issued along with a recording; but if Inez wrote anything longer than the album notes it seems to have been lost. (Inez is not mentioned in Harvey G. Cohen's meticulously researched Duke Ellington's America [University of Chicago Press, 2010]. Cohen studied Ellington's unpublished script for Black, Brown and Beige, some of it in verse, which is in the Smithsonian Institution.)

The rest of Inez's recordings were made in Europe. In 1946 she sang 'Every Time I Feel The Spirit' with Redman at a concert in Copenhagen. The following year she sang 'Five Minutes More' at a studio session in Brussels (the band under the name of Glenn Powell, but actually pianist Ray Ventura's studio time; these both may have been phony names, since the reference books do not list either man in the personnel). Also in 1947 she sang with Don Byas in Spain, and in 1949 she toured Europe with Byas and Bill Coleman in the Edward's Jazz Band (probably named after the Théâtre Edouard VII in Paris, which managed the band and where they gave their first concert). Inez ran a bistro in Paris, Chez Inez, serving home-cooked food to homesick American servicemen; in April 1950 a photo taken in the club was printed in Flair, the famous fashion magazine. The American expatriate community used to hang out there, including, it is said, George Plimpton, William Styron and Terry Southern; Aram Avakian worked there as a waiter, and became a hero when he purposely spilled hot soup on Doris Duke's playboy boyfriend Porfirio Rubirosa. Avakian and Orson Welles spotted young Eartha Kitt there, and Avakian wrote to his brother George in New York, then working for Columbia Records, offering to make an album with Kitt, but George had never heard of her and turned down the idea. (Welles teased George Avakian about that after Kitt became a star.)

Inez also at one point had something to do with a club in Antibes, complaining in a letter to Timme that although it wasn't her club -- somebody else had put up the money -- she was doing most of the work. In early 1954 Inez tagged along on Leonard Feather's Jazz Club USA package tour of Europe. (One of the headliners was Billie Holiday, and her pianist Carl Drinkard said that Lady and Inez did not get along. Inez also once referred in a letter to a quarrel with Mary Lou Williams. Inez was probably, necessarily, trying to promote herself, while both Holiday and Williams were known to be occasionally prickly.) Inez sang on six tracks with a trad band, Mr Adams Jazzopators, recorded in Hamburg in 1959. Also during the 1950s she and Timme wrote the notes for one of the first reissues of Holiday's classic Columbia recordings, a greatest hits collection.

Timme operated Timmes Club in Copenhagen (there was no apostrophe on the sign outside the club), presenting such guests as Ben Webster, Teddy Wilson, Count Basie and Mary Lou Williams, but as with all their bistros, business was precarious. Teddy Wilson made an album called An Evening At Timme's Club in December 1968, Inez singing on most of the tracks; the album was issued on Sonet and Danish Storyville, and included 'Is This To Be My Souvenir?' as well as Wilson's composition 'The Little Things That Mean So Much', and 'I'll Never Be The Same', which Inez completely recomposes, the new tune making an endearing integrity with her dark vocal color and a sense of timeless stoicism. She was 60 years old, and said that she had come out of retirement to help run the club, and because 'I waited 30 years to sing with Teddy Wilson!' Her voice is accurate and the feeling is there on the early tracks, but later her intonation flags a bit, and the stoicism begins to sound tired.

Timme went to New York the following year to cover the Newport Jazz Festival, but his ulcers and his liver suddenly brought him down (he had been an alcoholic for many years). Erroll Garner Gems, the journal of the Erroll Garner Club, reported in July 1991: '...Rosenkrantz died at the age of 58, in New York's Columbus Hospital, after having collapsed in his hotel room. He was in America to do broadcasts for the Danish State Radio and to book artists for the fall opening of Timme's Club in Copenhagen.' Eleven days after his death there was a memorial service at St Peter's Church on New York's East Side, conducted by the 'Jazz Pastor', John Gensel; there were tributes from Stanley Dance, Dan Morgenstern, John Hammond and Duke Ellington; the Danish Consul General in New York, J.O. Stephenson, paid his respects; and Tyree Glenn played Ellington's 'Mood Indigo' and 'Satin Doll'. His ashes were sent to Copenhagen, where there was another memorial service in November at the Odd Fellow Palace: Teddy Wilson and Kenny Drew took turns at the piano, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, Charlie Shavers, Ben Webster and Don Byas, and the Saints and Sinners, led by former Fats Waller trumpeter Herman Autrey and including Eddie Barefield and Vic Dickenson, all played. Inez sang 'I'll Never Be The Same'.

Inez was right: the curtain was coming down. She dropped out of sight; Timme's family was concerned about her, especially Bente, but Inez turned up only briefly in 1973, in California. In January of that year Duke Ellington was hospitalized in Los Angeles for eight days, his problems described as influenza and fatigue; he was certainly fatigued, having just played five continents in two weeks, but his illness was pneumonia. If he was already suffering from the lung cancer that killed him 16 months later, the doctors didn't diagnose it at that time. Inez was being evicted from a shabby room in Hollywood, and trying to get in touch with Ellington, whose West Coast public relations counsel, Patricia Willard, said that he was not supposed to receive calls or visitors, but had a method of sneaking in people he wanted to see. Duke told Willard 'that [Inez] was a very dear and important person to him … Duke asked me to feed her, give her money and bring her to my house, and make sure nothing bad happened to her. She seemed vaguely disoriented but interesting and very likeable.'

They had only a few conversations before Inez went to stay with Claire Gordon. When she was getting married in April 1944, Claire remembered, 'Inez came over and cleaned my apartment for a wedding present!' It was a tiny place but had accumulated a lot of grit from the neighborhood, Claire wrote candidly, 'and I had no idea how to clean ... If a broom and dust cloth didn't do it, then I was baffled. Inez spent hours scouring the place.' Remembering that kindness nearly 30 years later, Claire was glad to look after her old friend for a few weeks, even buying Inez's daily pack of cigarettes, and found her a job as a live-in babysitter. But the job didn't last long, and Inez dropped out of sight again. Several weeks later, Claire said, Inez phoned to say, 'Benny Carter says I should call and thank you for letting me stay with you.' Inez touched Benny a few times for money, and when they hadn't heard from her for a while they thought she may have died.

There has long been a rumor that Inez died in the Jonestown massacre in Guiana in 1978, but we know she was living in a nursing home in Pasadena at around that time, because she wrote to Timme's family from there, asking for money to pay for her own cremation. Los Angeles County's death certificate says that she died in a convalescent hospital in Long Beach after suffering from cerebral arteriosclerosis for some years; she died in poverty and obscurity, but at least she was not the victim of a religious psychopath. The death certificate lists her marital status as 'Widowed'.

 

Addenda:
Claire Phillips (b 23 January 1919, Los Angeles; d 3 June 2016, Arroyo Grande CA) spent a lifetime befriending and helping musicians, and becoming close friends with many of them. In 1943-44 she was the Duke Ellington band's secretary; she became Claire Gordon when she married lyricist Irving Gordon, who told her (when they were divorcing!) that he had written 'Unforgettable' for her: she had taken the song to her friend Nat Cole, who made it a standard. She allowed Norman Granz to use her booking license for his first concerts; she was a close friend of Benny Carter's for decades. She helped Rex Stewart with his books Jazz Master of the Thirties and Boy Meets Horn, a biography; she helped Marshal Royal with his memoir, Jazz Survivor; her own self-published memoir was My Unforgettable Jazz Friends. (The book is not absolutely reliable -- it was Claire who published the story that Inez had died in Jonestown -- but it is full of love.) She will never be forgotten by anyone who knew her.