A NEW BIX PROJECT

Few jazz musicians stir up as much longing and yearning as Bix Beiderbecke. This isn’t an aesthetic judgment on his achievement as measured against anyone else’s, but I sense that he is so powerfully missed by so many people. Although his recorded legacy is not by any means the most brief, those who love his music both revel in its beauties and wish with all their hearts that there would be more. Nearly seventy-five years after his final appearance in a recording studio, it seems unlikely that more will surface — although more unusual events have happened.

So those who revere him and his music have turned to Alternate Universes — tributes that do more than offer beautifully recorded or more leisurely versions of Okeh, Victor, Gennett, Harmony, Columbia sessions — but attempts to recreate something unheard.  (The parallel experiment, and a beautiful one, has always been Bent Persson’s ongoing Studies in Louis, spread over many records and CDs, and always rewarding.)

Nearly fifteen years ago, the very imaginative trumpeter Randy Sandke and friends recorded a CD for the Nagel-Heyer label of music associated with Louis and Bix: here is Doug Ramsey’s 2000 review of that disc.  A few years later, Dick Hyman took a small group in to the studio for Arbors Records (with Tom Pletcher inventing new beauties) to consider what would have happened if Bix played Gershwin.  (A wonderful Stomp Off session paired Bent and Tom for, among other imaginative fancies, a Bix-meets-Louis romp on MAD.)

Now, a decade later, Paul Adams of Lake Records, with the assistance and encouragement of Julio Schwarz Andrade, has another fascinating project in the works. It’s a continuation of his work over a number of years called Vintage Recording Projects — where he assembles wonderful idiomatic musicians, records them with a minimum of fuss (no baffles or headphones, just people playing in a suitable room) with delightful results. Here is what the most recent session looked and sounded like — heroically gratifying!

I’ll let Julio explain:

The premise is, of course, that there are many tunes that we know Bix played and was fond of, but never had the chance to record. So this is our humble attempt to right that historical / circumstantial wrong, and to recreate what could have been. The musicians are: Andy Schumm, cornet; Mauro Porro, reeds; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Josh Duffee, percussion.  The list of tunes hasn’t been finalized yet, but the following are being considered (in no particular order): STARDUST / SKYLARK / WOLVERINE BLUES / WASHBOARD BLUES / SWANEE / I’D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN / LAZY RIVER / IT MUST BE TRUE / PANAMA / ANGRY / HIAWATHA’S LULLABY / NO-ONE KNOWS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT among others.

Now, projects like this don’t take shape without support, so we are asking people to help out. Here is the link to contribute some . . . money.  A £30 donation gets your name in the booklet. Anything more than that gets you a place in heaven and eternal salvation as well. And all contributions will win gratitude from the organizers, the band, and future listeners.

The session will take place right after this year’s Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, and I look forward to the results.

May your happiness increase!

ENDLESS SUMMER IN SWING: THE IVORY CLUB BOYS at ARMANDO’S (May 31, 2014): PAUL MEHLING, EVAN PRICE, MARC CAPARONE, ISABELLE FONTAINE, SAM ROCHA

Feeling low because summer’s lease hath all too short a date? When you go into Target and see the pencils and notebooks and back-to-school sales, do you feel blue?

Music can’t make the calendar stay in some desired place forever, but it can lift the spirits.  To that end, I offer a swinging composition by violinist / singer / bandleader Stuff Smith — rendered beautifully by the IVORY CLUB BOYS, Paul Mehling’s evocation of Stuff Smith’s delicious swing on Fifty-Second Street circa 1936-45. Paul, guitar; Evan Price, violin; Marc Caparone, cornet (subbing for Clint Baker); Sam Rocha, string bass; Isabelle Fontaine, guitar. This was created on May 31, 2014, at Armando’s in Martinez, California, and it made me happy to be there and equally happy to share it with you.

So (as the song title says), STOP.

LOOK:

May your happiness increase!

BECKY AND THE BOYS

BECKY MEN

The title of Rebecca Kilgore’s new CD for Arbors Records comes from a Peggy Lee song, I LIKE MEN — but the simple title belies the variety of expression the session offers. There’s delight that echoes the title (I’M JUST WILD ABOUT HARRY, HE’S MY GUY); yearning for the relationship that hasn’t happened (THE BOY NEXT DOOR, THE MAN I LOVE); sorrow over one that has ended (THE MAN THAT GOT AWAY); an admonition to a puppyish too-eager fellow (DOWN BOY); comments on the possibilities of monogamy and other variations (AN OCCASIONAL MAN, FOR EVERY MAN THERE’S A WOMAN, ONE MAN AIN’T QUITE ENOUGH).

And more! — sharp-eyed contemplation of the movement from romance to marriage (MARRY THE MAN TODAY); a song balanced between yearning and annoyance at the Love Object’s inability to see what’s in front of him (THE GENTLEMAN IS A DOPE); songs that characterize both the Man’s desirability and his flaws (HE’S A TRAMP, HE NEEDS ME); a few unclassifiables (GOLDFINGER and an instrumental version of BALLAD OF THE SAD YOUNG MEN).

The recital by Rebecca, Harry Allen, Rossano Sportiello, Joel Forbes, and Kevin Kanner is emotionally and artistically varied; the disc moves easily from uptempo swing to sorrowful ruminations to light-hearted wit.  And although the title seems one-sided, it is really an hour-plus trip through the Land of Relationships, with Rebecca offering commentary on the foibles, rewards, and terrors that are part of the journey. She and the instrumental foursome fit the mood of each song without strain or artifice.

Here’s a song you will hear on the new CD, although with a different instrumental contingent.  HE’S A TRAMP comes from LADY AND THE TRAMP — written by Peggy Lee, and sung sweetly by Becky with superb accompaniment from Duke Heitger, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Dan Block, tenor saxophone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Paul Keller, string bass; Ed Metz, drums. This performance took place at the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party, on April 25, 2014:

If you’re anywhere near Cleveland, Ohio, September 18-21, this year (coming soon!) you can catch Becky, Harry, Rossano, and other luminaries at the Allegheny Jazz Party.

Becky and the Boys (known more respectfully as the Harry Allen Quartet — Harry, Rossano, Joel, and Kevin) will be offering an urban and urbane I LIKE MEN to a New York City audience on Thursday, September 25, 2014, at 6-7:15 PM at Birdland (315 West 44th Street: doors open at 5 PM).

Wherever you find Ms. Kilgore, she and her friends — male or female — create great music. A friend of ours, staying for dinner tonight, said, “I don’t like most of the singers you have on your blog.  But that Becky Kilgore!  She flies when she sings.”  True story.

May your happiness increase!

AMONG THE REEDS: DAN BLOCK, ALLAN VACHE, BUCKY PIZZARELLI, JOHN COCUZZI, FRANK TATE, DANNY COOTS at the ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (April 26, 2014)

No postmodern ironies in sight. No drama, no competition.  Just gliding swing from Dan Block, tenor saxophone; Allan Vache, clarinet; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; John Cocuzzi, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Danny Coots, drums. Recorded on April 26, 2014, at the Atlanta Jazz Party, where swing gets comfortable.

MOTEN SWING:

SOMEBODY LOVES ME:

THOSE Bb BLUES:

Thanks for the expert ride, gentlemen.

May your happiness increase!

THE BASIE WAY: MATTHIAS SEUFFERT HONORS COUNT BASIE at WHITLEY BAY (Nov. 3, 2013)

William Basie persists as a model and mentor even though he is no longer at the keyboard. Regarding the world with a cheerful amused skepticism, he embodied truths long before they were adopted as cultural cliche: less is more; the medium is the message; ‘t’ain’t what ‘cha do; give away those things not meant for you; the blues cure the blues.

Basie would have brushed such praise away, but he is Thoreau who chose the bandstand over the beanfield, a great abstract painter without a brush; a prophet whose message was primarily silence and joy, making the universe swing.

We can’t go backwards to the youthful glory of the Basie band of the late Thirties, except by listening to the airshots, the Deccas, and the Columbias, but this band has some of the unbuttoned joyous energy of the real thing (with a few leaps forward).  It’s not an outright imitation, which is a good thing, but it moves in the same happy directions.

This endearing evocation — captured at the 2013 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party — is led by Matthias Seuffert, reeds, with Jean-Francois Bonnel, Gavin Lee, Claus Jacobi, saxophones; Duke Heitger, Ben Cummings, Andy Woon, trumpets; Alistair Allan, Graham Hughes, trombone; Keith Nichols, piano; Roly Veitch, guitar; Henri Lemaire, string bass; Richard Pite, drums.

JIVE AT FIVE:

LESTER LEAPS IN:

A more recent effort in this swinging manner, Buck Clayton’s CLAYTONIA (originally recorded for Vanguard in 1957, then brought to life once more for the Buck Clayton Legacy Band, still floating):

SHOE SHINE BOY (evoking Chicago, 1936):

BLUE AND SENTIMENTAL (for Herschel):

POUND CAKE:

and a leisurely romp through ONE O’CLOCK JUMP:

Let us live our lives the Basie way — gently improving the universe as we go.

May your happiness increase!

BARBARA DANE’S HOUSE RENT PARTY (Part Two): RICHARD HADLOCK, TAMMY HALL, ANGELA WELLMAN, RUTH DAVIES, BILL MAGINNIS (Bothwell Arts Center, July 19, 2014)

Still full of fire at 87: Barbara Dane gave a joyous concert with her Golden Gate Hot Five at the Bothwell Arts Center in Livermore, California, on July 19, 2014. With Barbara are Tammy Hall, piano; Richard Hadlock, soprano saxophone; Angela Wellman, trombone; Ruth Davies, string bass; Bill Maginnis, drums.

Here’s the second part of the evening: the first part can be found here.

OH, PAPA:

WILD WOMEN DON’T HAVE THE BLUES:

JUST SQUEEZE ME (featuring Tammy Hall):

HOW CAN YOU FACE ME?:

OUT OF NOWHERE:

THROW IT AWAY / I’M ON MY WAY:

TWO SLEEPY PEOPLE:

Barbara will be honored in September 14, 2014, in Berkeley, California, at La Peña Cultural Center with an evening celebrating the release of a radio documentary chronicling her life in music and political activism, A WILD WOMAN SINGS THE BLUES.  Information about the documentary here, and you can purchase tickets for the evening celebration here.

Thank you, Barbara Dane.

May your happiness increase!

WITH BIX IN MIND: WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (ANDY SCHUMM, BENT PERSSON, ANDY WOON, GRAHAM HUGHES, MORTEN GUNNAR LARSEN, FRANS SJOSTROM, JOSH DUFFEE: NOVEMBER 3, 2013)

At the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, held in the Village Hotel, Newcastle, UK, the musicians work hard at creating the fabled jazz ensembles of the past — Henderson, Morton, Ellington, great British hot dance bands, and more — with sheaves of manuscript paper and splendid results.

To balance all of this, there are jam sessions in the hotel’s Victory Pub where no arrangements are to be found, but the same devotion to the heroes of the past is evident. But the music is more loose-limbed, and the evocations more playful. Here are four samples — recorded late Sunday night, November 3, 2013 (or was it Monday morning by then?) after the closing set of the party. The man on everyone’s mind was “the dear boy” from Davenport, Iowa — honored by Andy Schumm, Bent Persson, and Andy Woon, cornet; Graham Hughes, trombone (appearing on all but the first, and singing cheerfully on MARGIE), Morten Gunnar Larsen, keyboard; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Josh Duffee, drums.

AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL:

LOVE NEST:

TODDLIN’ BLUES:

MARGIE:

A Jazz Band Ball, indeed.

See you at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party this November, where this music will blossom, in the light or in the darkness.

May your happiness increase!