ASKING THE UNANSWERABLE QUESTION IN SONG

I am not suffering from romantic despair, so I don’t know what drew me to revisit this performance (recorded slightly more than two years ago) but I find it so delicate yet powerful that I want to draw your attention to it.

It is a performance of a melancholy Irving Berlin classic by the singer Abigail Riccards and the pianist Michael Kanan — recorded at The Drawing Room in Brooklyn, New York, on October 6, 2013.  Abigail’s charades at the start made me giggle then and still do . . . but the mood turns quiet and serious quickly.

I think of this performance as a triumph of that indefinable quality called “phrasing” — how do musicians pace the notes and the words so that the message is clear without over-emphasis, keeping the melodic and rhythmic momentum going so that the song does not come to a stop?

And “phrasing” is always in tandem with other indefinables — “dynamics,” “interpretation,” “emotion.”  This performance could have become a dirge.  It could have become a protest, a near-shout of despair, of rage.  But here it is a translucent poem.

I do not know how Abigail and Michael do what they do, singly and as a team, but it moves me beyond words.  I blink back tears because of the quiet irrevocable gravity they create, yet I want to cheer because they remind me that such beauty is still possible in this world that sometimes seems to find beauty incomprehensible or irritating:

It was an honor to be there, a privilege to record this, and a deep experience to see and hear it again. And I would point you here to learn more about Abigail and Michael and her most recent CD, a trumph.

May your happiness increase!

“THE FIRST KIND OF MUSIC”

When I first began to search out New York live jazz performances, the news of who was playing where and when was often available in my local newspaper, the New York Times, The New Yorker, even Down Beat.  Some of the information, accessed weeks in advance, was no longer accurate by the time the gig happened, so there were some disappointments.  And much of what I learned was by word-of-mouth: “Do you know that Buddy Tate has a gig on Saturday at The Onliest Place?” and that bit of information could be investigated by telephone.

It would seem that jazz fans have it much easier in 2014.  The sources I’ve mentioned above still publish gig announcements, and several other periodicals — including The Wall Street Journal and New York — have joined in. I am very fond of Hot House Jazz Magazine (their first-rate website is here) and The New York Jazz Record (their website here) and both journals — free, published monthly — can be found at a variety of jazz clubs.

So that’s fine for someone who wants to plan out the next month’s gigs.  But what if you are especially fond of X and her Urbanites, and want to know when they are making music?  Of course, some media-wise creative types have their own websites; others have Facebook pages and event listings.  Each is quite valuable.

But you might have to be a Facebook friend of X and the Urbanites (or X herself) and it is possible that X might be so busy writing charts and rehearsing that she hasn’t kept her website current.

There is a new cyber-resource in addition that I’d like to call your attention to: David S. Isenberg’s weekly music blog — THE FIRST KIND OF MUSIC (its title comes from the Ellington comment that there are only two kinds of music; you can imagine which one David is praising): see it here.  I don’t entirely understand how it works: it Tumbles and Tweets at the same time?  That sounds exhausting. But it’s a truly worthy effort to get more information out to an eager public about the gigging of people we love and love to hear.  So do investigate.  It’s so much nicer to know about the gig in advance than to hear about what-happened-last-night-that-you-missed.

May your happiness increase!

MORAL CENSURE in 4/4, WITH A STOP-AND-GO (at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST): MARC CAPARONE, RAY SKJELBRED, BEAU SAMPLE, HAL SMITH (Nov. 28, 2014)

I’m very fond of NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW — both the music and the sadly censorious lyrics that wag a stern moral finger at the pretty girl who has left her home town to live a fast life in the Big Bad City.  Here is my leisurely explication-with-music of several songs that do the neat trick of delineating vice while saying how naughty it is and what sad consequences ensue.  (What other blog offers you fallen women all the way back to Thomas Hardy?  I ask you.)

But here, without its lyrics, is a 2014 Chicagoan version of that Sweetheart’s fall from grace — as performed at the San Diego Jazz Fest by four swing poets: Ray Skjelbred, piano; Marc Caparone, cornet; Beau Sample, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.  Watch out for the stop-and-go that begins its gradual ascent at about 5:20 — you’ll understand how it got its name.  And enjoy the hot lyricism:

Swing out, all you Ruined Maids!  And the rest of you, too.

May your happiness increase!

GETTING HOT IN SPOKANE

According some serious-looking online research, the average temperature in Spokane, Washington is 48.05 degrees Farenheit.  So you know my title is not, strictly speaking, true as a statement about climate.

BING AL MILDRED

But there are kinds of heat one can’t measure with a thermometer, as JAZZ LIVES readers know.  I know Spokane as the birthplace and early proving grounds for some serious artists: Harry Lillis Crosby, Mildred Rinker Bailey, and her brother Al.  Put them all together and you have a sizable chunk of twentieth-century creativity in fine music.  But they run the risk of being forgotten, which is sad.

I was thus amused and pleased to hear from Garrin Hertel, swing guitarist and cultural crusader, who wrote me (he’s very articulate, so I’ll let you read his words):

I’m emailing to send you a press release for a project I’m starting here in Spokane with my band Hot Club of Spokane. While the band name probably brings to mind Django Reinhardt, we’re actually more in tune with the original Hot Club of France. That is to say, we’re less concerned about being just like Django, and more concerned with keeping traditional jazz, swing, and blues alive and well.

So, with that in mind, we’re recording a CD aimed at celebrating our local jazz icons – Bing Crosby, Mildred Bailey, and Al Rinker. Most people in Spokane, sadly, have never even heard of Mildred Bailey or Al Rinker. And as you’ll see in our Kickstarter video (which is short – 3min for the main message) – many people in Spokane couldn’t even name a Bing Crosby tune that wasn’t associated with Christmas.

[But] Jazz lives in Spokane, even though the jazz lives that were so influential a century ago have faded. We want to help light up our community again, and you know, play some great music.

I was curious about the video, so I clicked here. I was enlightened although only a little dismayed by the absence of Crosby-recognition in this century.  (The collective memory resembles a drop of water in a hot cast-iron skillet, but I digress. Collective ignorance is much more durable.)  But I was intrigued to learn more about Al Rinker as a composer, and any project that brings more attention to Mildred is just fine with me. The Hot Club of Spokane is also offering a free collection of five Christmas songs for your listening and dancing pleasure here: they are a limber medium-sized group with their own personality, which always pleases.  I asked Garrin about the musicians in the HCS, and he sent me a list — although they often work as combinations of six, seven, or eight: Rachel Aldridge, Abbey Crawford (vocal); Michael Harrison (trumpet); David Fague (tenor); Christopher Moyer (tenor, alto, bari, bass, and clarinet); Robert Folie (alto, bari); Steve Bauer (lead guitar); Don Thomsen, Aaron Castilla (fiddle); Eugene Jablonsky, Kim Plewniak (string bass); Mark Stephens (drums); Garrin Hertel (rhythm guitar).  I hope you’ll feel motivated to investigate and support this project, and if you can’t, spread the word about the Hot Club of Spokane and the good sounds they create.
May your happiness increase!

 

THEY’RE WONDERFUL: THE IVORY CLUB BOYS at ARMANDO’S (May 31, 2014)

This is more joyous evidence from a great evening of music created by the Ivory Club Boys — this time at Armando’s in Martinez, California, on May 31, 2014.

The ICB are devoted to the hot and sweet swing music often associated with Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys — a Fifty-Second Street small jazz group of the middle Thirties, featuring Jonah Jones and Cozy Cole among others.  Their twenty-first century incarnation includes Paul Mehling, guitar / vocal; Evan Price, electric violin; Isabelle Fontaine, guitar / vocal; Sam Rocha, string bass / vocal.  This night, sitting in for Clint Baker, we had Marc Caparone, cornet, who will be familiar to readers of JAZZ LIVES.  I’ve posted other music from this evening in half a dozen posts — this is a special favorite of mine.

But here are two more: a sweet one (written by Stuff) and a hot one (written by several people including Puccini).

IT’S WONDERFUL:

AVALON:

The Ivory Club Boys gig here and there, hither and yon — most recently in Santa Cruz, which I couldn’t get to.  I dream of regular gigs, a CD, a DVD, and more.

“Ask for them by name!  Accept no imitations!”

May your happiness increase! 

“WHERE THE WINTRY WINDS DON’T BLOW”: CONNIE JONES SINGS AND PLAYS at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (Nov. 29, 2014)

I first heard and saw Connie Jones play cornet and sing late in 2010, and I was entranced by his quiet majesty, his subtle grace.  Other cornet players make more noise; their horns point to the sky — but they don’t create beauty the way Mister Jones does.  And although he doesn’t look the part of a “boy singer,” he sings with more conviction and more fluid rhythmic delicacy than most singers who do only that.

Connie performed in six sets with Tim Laughlin’s New Orleans All Stars at the San Diego Jazz Fest over Thanksgiving weekend.  One of the many highlights of that weekend was his performance of TISHOMINGO BLUES, written in 1917 by Spencer Williams, referring to the Mississippi town of that name.

He’s joined here by Tim, clarinet; Doug Finke, trombone; Chris Dawson, piano; Katie Cavera, guitar; Marty Eggers, string bass; Hal Smith, drums:

I was delighted by this performance when I saw it, and it has become one of those videos I can happily watch and listen to repeatedly.  I hope it affects you the same way.  I feel honored to be in the same space as Connie Jones, who shines his light so generously on us.  Long may he prosper.

May your happiness increase!

MAKE MINE MEZCAL: TAMAR KORN, JAKE HANDELMAN, JESSE GELBER (Oct. 19, 2014)

Casa Mezcal — 86 Orchard Street on New York City’s Lower East Side — became one of my favorite places in autumn 2014.  Brightly lit with friendly people and good food, it also has been offering the best music for a Sunday afternoon: with appearances by Tamar Korn, Dan Block, Ehud Asherie, Tal Ronen, Mark Shane, Jake Handelman, Jesse Gelber, and others.

(At the time of this video, Jesse and Kate Manning’s new baby, Greta Helen Gelber, had not yet made her appearance on the scene — but she’s happily here now.)

Here are four more performances from October 19, 2014, featuring the trio of Tamar (vocal improvisations), Jake (trombone and vocal), Jesse (piano), the repertoire ranging from Twenties pop to jazz classics to a spiritual:

THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE:

CAKE WALKIN’ BABIES FROM HOME:

DO THE NEW YORK:

DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE:

Here’s the instrumental highlight of that afternoon — a trombone / piano duet on JAZZ ME BLUES:

This session was my first introduction to the very talented and jubilant Mister Handelman — trombone and voice — and you should meet him for yourself.

The odd ectoplasmic effect on a few of these videos is what happens when one shoots video against a brightly lit window.  At points, Tamar and Jake look like actors in a silent film . . . which might be temporally appropriate.

Now.  Don’t tell anyone, but I was at Mezcal yesterday and experienced a delicious musical afternoon with Tamar, pianist Michael Coleman, and bassist Rob Adkins.  Hotter than the salsa verde!  (Videos to come.)  Try Mezcal for yourself — a most congenial place.

May your happiness increase!