Tributes for Two New York Tuba Legends
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Part II: Don Butterfield
Tribute to Don by Paulette Attie
It was 1988, and I was going on my annual pilgrimage to hear the great Mel Torme sing. On this occasion, Torme was accompanied by 11 musicians, and one was a tuba player. I was there to see Torme, by my eyes kept wondering to that tuba player who occupied the last seat in the line up. He played with such joy. We spoke after the show, and even after that, when Don Butterfield offered to drive my date and me home. Don and I had many things in common, especially our love of music.
I had some performances coming up at a now defunct New York cabaret called Broadway Baby. I asked Don if he would join me and my pianist, Jon de Maio. “No one has ever asked me to do anything like that. Wow! Yes!” Thus began a wonderful friendship and musical partnership that rendered some extraordinary results. We received lots of publicity and wonderful reviews, including one in the New York Daily News , which included the accompanying photo.
Don so loved the tuba. He was thrilled for the opportunity to expand the horn’s horizons, for himself and for tuba players after him. Imagine, a musician who had worked with everyone from Toscanini to Dizzy Gillespie to Frank Sinatra, saying how honored he was to work with me. The honor of performing with Don Butterfield was certainly mine.
I was so impressed with his dedication and his love to rehearse; I wrote a song for us called “The Elephant and the Songbird.” We spent many hours working on it. We performed “E & S” on most of my shows, and even at children’s benefits. The adults liked it, and the kids went wild over it. “You can’t fool animals or children,” Don used to say.
I invited him to play at numerous gigs, from Westbury Music Fair, to concerts at the Lamb’s Theatre in New York where, on one occasion, composer Burton Lane was my guest. Typical of Don, he felt privileged for the opportunity to meet one of America’s greatest composers, and talked often about it afterward.
Don once invited me to perform with him as the Narrator in Tubby the Tuba , with Bill Scribner’s outstanding Bronx Arts Ensemble. As expected, the kids adored him. “You can’t fool…etc.”
He had his first recital on the harmonica when he was seven years old, but it was the tuba with which he had a mad love affair. The number of tuba players he has taught is legion. I consider them royalty. Said royalty along with this songbird will miss him greatly. Here’s how I introduced Don at the conclusion of my shows:
There are fields in your life that really rate
Like the baseball field where you stole home plate.
There’s the field of dreams, where old pros go
And Flanders Field, where poppies grow.
Corn fields, wheat fields, bean fields galore,
Marshal Field, Sally Fields, W.C. and more.
But the field of honor and in the field of brass
Is a muse of the tuba. He really kicks ass.
Brief Background on Paulette Artie, extracted from Maximillien de Lafayette’s piece “Celebrity of the Month,” which appeared in the New York Jewish Herald (newyorkjewishherald.com):
2005 was a very good year for Paulette Attie. The New York Jewish Post selected her as “Star of The Month.” And in the Post’s annual list of Most Outstanding Women of America, Paulette Attie was on the list. World Art Celebrities Journal in their special edition of the year, Paulette was nominated “Grande Dame of the American Showbiz.” Paulette made the cover of Stars Illustrated magazine and was nominated “Star Of The Year.” In the recent edition of “Who’s Who Of The Greatest American Female Singers,” Paulette Attie occupied a place of honor. In Paris, “La Femme Magazine” chose Attie “Artiste Extraordinaire of the Year.” So, this nymph is still making noise and a big buzz!
Paulette Attie the star, the actress, the singer, the performer, the songwriter, the author, the poet, the writer, the Prima Donna starred in more than 1,000 shows, musicals, operas, plays, cabarets acts, and concerts around the world. She won the Silver Globe Award playing a French nightclub singer on TV’s The Yanks Are Coming . Other TV credits include the part of Marshal Dobbs in One Life to Live plus leading roles on General Hospital, Another World, All My Children, Sesame Street, Mercy or Murder etc. Paulette has played the leading female roles in musicals and operettas: My Fair Lady, Gypsy, Can-Can, The Merry Widow, La Vie Parisienne and plays by Neil Simon, Tennessee Williams and Noel Coward. Of her over one thousand concerts, she has appeared at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Hollywood Bowl, Bruno Walter Auditorium, Westbury Music Fair and concert halls in Japan and South America. She has performed on and off-Broadway and toured nationally. Roy Sander in Back Stage said she’s “a combination of Lily Pons and Carmen Miranda. I daresay millions would adore her.” “The classiest singer around today” is how Marjorie Gunner described her in The New York Voice , and Howard Thompson at The New York Times said Paulette is “Beautiful, animated, plaintive, and intense.” Her acclaimed one-woman show, About Time opened off-Broadway in 1997: “Her voice has size and power and her comic timing is in good shape” ( The New York Times ). “Astounding talent (The Village Voice ).”