Category Archives: Mmmmmmmmmmmmm!

BLUE AND POIGNANT. FOR BIX. FOR US: THE EARREGULARS IN EUROPE (MATT MUNISTERI, JON-ERIK KELLSO, SCOTT ROBINSON, GREG COHEN in HUNGARY: MARCH 28, 2014)

This video celebrates one of many interlocked triumphs.  For one, the wonderful elastic small group known as the EarRegulars (most often spotted on Sunday nights at The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, New York, from 8-11 PM) made their maiden voyage to Europe.  They recorded a CD — something the faithful, like myself, have been waiting for . . . for a number of years) and they performed, as a justly featured ensemble, at the 23rd International Bohém Ragtime & Jazz Festival.

Here’s one of their performances — captured with many cameras in rapt silence (as opposed to the homespun videos I’ve shot at The Ear Inn) of a song always associated with Bix Beiderbecke, Frank Trumbauer, and Eddie Lang — SINGIN’ THE BLUES (by J. Russell Robinson, Con Conrad, Sam M. Lewis, and Joe Young.  Matt Munisteri, vocal and guitar; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Greg Cohen, string bass:

Recorded at the Bohém Festival in Kecskemét, Hungary, March 28, 2014.  More info about the Bohém Festival here.

Now, the beauties of that performance will be evident to anyone willing to sit still and listen. But a few things need to be said. One is the sustained sweet delicate understatement shown by all four players, singly and as an ensemble. No one weeps or carries on; no one has to step to the microphone and sing or play LOOK AT ME, I AM SO UNHAPPY. They trust themselves, and they trust the power of the notes and words to convey the complex messages of this song.

And — rather like the Willard Robison songs of which Matt is the master — the sadness has a slight tinge of wry self-awareness. I’m singin’ the blues, my baby is somewhere else, life is so sad . . . but I am going to make something beautiful out of my sorrows.

And since 1927, when Bix, Tram, and Lang (among others) recorded SINGIN’ THE BLUES, it’s been one of the most imitated recorded performances in classic jazz. Notice, please, that the EarRegulars are not in the business of xerography, of necrography, of exact reproduction. They know the recording; they could play the solos, but they have faith in the music . . . to carry them to beautiful new places that echo old glories.

Poignant and worth several visits.

May your happiness increase!

TODD LONDAGIN’S EXTRAORDINARY RANGE: “LOOK OUT FOR LOVE”

I met and admired the trombonist and singer Todd Londagin several times in 2005 and onwards; he was one of the crew of cheerful individualists who played gleeful or dark music with the drummer Kevin Dorn.  A fine trombonist (with a seamless reach from New Orleans to this century) and an engaging singer, Todd is someone I have faith in musically.  But when I received his second CD, LOOK OUT FOR LOVE, I hardly expected it to be as remarkable as it is.

TODD LONDAGIN cover

On it, Todd sings and plays (occasionally doing both simultaneously, through an Avakian-like graceful use of multi-tracking . . . even sounding like Jay and Kai here and there), with a splendid small band: Pete Smith, guitar; Matt Ray, piano, Jennifer Vincent, string bass; David Berger, drums.  Singer Toby Williams joins in on BRAZIL.  The presentation is neither self-consciously sparse or overproduced. With all due respect to Todd, the foursome of Pete, Matt, Jennifer, and David could easily sustain their own CD or gig. I had only met Matt (unpredictable) and Jennifer (a swing heartbeat) in person, but this “rhythm section” is a wonderful — and quirky — democratic conversation of singular voices, each one of them a powerful yet gracious rhythm orchestra.

But I keep returning to Todd.  And his “extraordinary range” doesn’t refer to the notes he can hit on trombone or sing.  It’s really a matter of a deep emotional intelligence, and I can’t think of anyone who can equal him here. (That’s no stage joke.)

Consider these songs: LOOK OUT FOR LOVE / BYE BYE BABY / SOME OF THESE DAYS / BRAZIL / I CONCENTRATE ON YOU / LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY / PENNIES FROM HEAVEN / YOU GO TO MY HEAD / I CAN’T HELP IT / BUST YOUR WINDOWS.  The first two songs show off Todd’s sly, ingratiating self — witty and wily on the first (with a neo-Basie rock) and endearing on the second. Those who have to think of Echoes might hear Chet Baker, Harry Connick, Jr., a young Bob Dorough, or Dave Frishberg. I thought on the first playing and continue to think that if there were aesthetic justice in the world, the first two songs would be coming out of every car radio for miles.  (Todd would also be starring on every enlightened late-night television show, or do I dream?)

The pop classics that follow are always served with a twist — a slightly different tempo, a different rhythmic angle, a beautiful seriousness (I’ve never heard CONCENTRATE interpreted so well).

Maybe Todd is understandably afraid of being pigeonholed as Another Interpreter of The Great American Songbook — with all the attendant reverence and dismissal that comes with that assessment — so the closing songs are “more modern.”  I think he does Stevie Wonder’s I CAN’T HELP IT justice in his own light-hearted, sincere, swinging way.

I am not attuned to contemporary pop culture, except to cringe when I hear loud music coming from the car next to mine, so I had no historical awareness with which to approach BUST YOUR WINDOWS.

In fact, I thought the title would herald some exuberant love song, “My love for you is so strong, it’s going to bust your windows,” or something equally cheerful.

Thus I was horrified to hear Todd sing, “I had to bust the windows out your car,” and all my literate-snobbish-overeducated revulsion came to the surface, as I called upon the shades of Leo Robin and Yip Harburg to watch over me.

But then I calmed down and reminded myself just how much fun the preceding nine tracks had been, and that I would be very surprised if Todd — bowing to whatever notion of modernity — had gone entirely off the rails. And I listened to BUST YOUR WINDOWS again. And again. For those who don’t know the song, it was an immense hit for one Jazmine Sullivan in 2008, and there’s a YouTube video of her doing it. The premise is that the singer finds her lover has been untrue with another (not a new idea) but (s)he then takes a crowbar to her lover’s car so that her lover will know what faithlessness does to others. Tough love, indeed.  I researched Sullivan’s music video — where she is threatening to unzip herself to a tango / rhythm and blues beat — and disliked it.

But I had no patience for her rendition of her own song because I had been struck so powerfully by Todd’s — almost a stifled scream of brokenhearted passion worthy of a great opera’s finish before the grieving one, betrayed, commits suicide. Todd’s performance has no tango beat, no intrusive orchestration: he merely presents the lyrics and melody as if he is showing us his bleeding heart . . . as if he has used the crowbar on himself.  It is a performance both bone-dry and powerful, understated and unforgettable. I can’t forget it, just as I keep on wanting to replay LOOK OUT FOR LOVE.

You can find out more about Todd here, and after you’ve heard the three samples, I hope you will chase down a copy of this CD. It is wildly rewarding and beautifully-textured music, and it will stay with you when other CDs by more “famous” players and singers have grown tedious. I don’t like “best” or “favorite,” but this CD is magnificently musical in so many ways that it will astonish.

May your happiness increase!

THE REAL THING: WELCOME, KRIS TOKARSKI!

If you’ve been paying attention on the New Orleans jazz scene, you will already know the brilliant pianist Kris Tokarski, and the news of his debut CD, DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM, will be a pleasure but not a surprise.

If Kris is new to you, listen to these two selections here before moving on.

The first is the Hoagy Carmichael treasure (eternally associated with Billie) APRIL IN MY HEART; the second is Berlin’s ALL BY MYSELF.  You can also hear him play CAROLINA SHOUT and QUASIMODO if you are even the slightest bit diligent.  On the first three tracks, his cohorts are the splendid Evan Christopher or James Evans, and fine drummer Benji Bohannon.

cover

But today our focus is properly on Kris.  Yes, there are echoes of Teddy Wilson in his work, and I celebrate that, but he is on his own paths.

Kris has a strong but never overbearing reverence for the melody; his touch is lovely; he knows how to breathe through a phrase, when to leave notes out, how to create subtle carpets of harmony and oceanic swells of rhythm.  Although he is not interested in making the beauties of the past “modern” (whatever that might mean) he has a wide harmonic range; he’s heard the music that was played after 1936 and is being played now. He is a delightfully clear yet ringing orchestral pianist, someone who doesn’t lag or rush, push or pound.

He’s there when you need him, and his delicate playing isn’t effete but full of restrained wit and emotional empathy.  He knows how to swing and stride — with both hands — and his playing is fluid, supple — never stiff.  His accompaniment is the very definition of sweet teamwork, and his solos are full of surprises: you can’t tell where he is about to land, but it’s graceful and satisfying when he does.

Did I mention that this young man is 25 years old?  Allow that fact to settle in for a bit.  What graceful mastery for someone so young — let me correct myself here — gracious mastery for anyone!

His debut disc is consistently delightful.  Kris loves melodies and brings new light and shade to ones I thought had been done to a crisp by now.  He understands that the role of a jazz pianist is also to float alongside great players.  The first eight tracks are very lively homage to the piano-clarinet-drums trio so beloved of Goodman and Morton — with the clarinet offerings shared by Evan Christopher (LOVE WILL FIND A WAY, CAROLINA SHOUT, and APRIL IN MY HEART) and James Evans (DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM, IF DREAMS COME TRUE, PLEASE BE KIND, ALL BY MYSELF).  Two tracks that follow are duets for Kris and tenor saxophonist James Partridge (PRISONER OF LOVE, SWEET LORRAINE), and the closing WHAT’S NEW? is a piano solo.

The trio and duo selections honor but do not imitate any of the great recordings; rather they say implicitly, “Here we are together.  We know the tradition, but we trust ourselves to make our own lovely music.  What shall we do together as a friendly community with this song to delight ourselves and our future hearers?”

Thus a gently swinging lyricism permeates every note on the CD.  At times, I thought of PRES AND TEDDY; once or twice, of HEAVY LOVE (if you don’t know the references, they bear investigating); at other times I could find no objective correlative but simply basked in the sounds these people were so generously offering.

And where some young musicians feel the need to show off their skills — “Look how fast I can play this!  Look how many new chord changes I can put into this song!  Look how I can transform this standard into a ________!” Chris is serene and secure in his trust in melodic improvisation over swinging backgrounds.

He is also — and I admire this greatly — a deep romantic.  The disc is full of affection for the music and what it can give to us.  It’s not about egotistic display; it’s about affection.  Why else would someone begin a CD with the rhapsodic and optimistic and eternally hopeful LOVE WILL FIND A WAY?  And the closing WHAT’S NEW? is — while rueful — not bleak in its melancholy. I suspect that Kris has in his heart a deep knowledge of “love’s sweet amen.”  It comes through in his music.

I encourage you to follow this young man, to buy his CD, to cheer him on.  To buy the disc, follow the trail of breadcrumbs here.  Or if you are within range of the Louisiana Music Factory, lucky you! — click here.  The nicest thing to do, of course, would be to find Kris at a gig — his itinerary is posted on his site — and say, “Mr. Tokarski, could I buy a box of your CDs?  I heard about you and about it on JAZZ LIVES.” And then everyone would be beaming.

To know that Kris Tokarski exists, that he creates such lovely music, is very heartening news.

May your happiness increase!

MAKING MELODIES RING: MUNDELL LOWE / BUCKY PIZZARELLI: GUITAR DUETS at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ PARTY (February 22, 2014)

The title says it all.  I am honored to have been there and to have captured these performances.  Mundell Lowe and Bucky Pizzarelli are masters, having a heartfelt conversation about all the important matters in the universe: love, light and dark, cosmic rhythms, melodies that sound like birdsong, all in front of us. We celebrate their endurance, but more than that we celebrate their art.

If you need official information about Mundell, here is his website; Bucky is moving too quickly to care about such things, so we must make do with Wikipedia.

Recorded at the 26th annual San Diego Jazz Party, on February 22, 2014.  On that day, Mundell was 91, Bucky 88.

JITTERBUG WALTZ (the crowd quiets down after a bit):

EMILY:

BODY AND SOUL:

STUFFY:

DARN THAT DREAM:

How often will any of us be in the presence of such Sages?

May your happiness increase!

MAY WE? THE SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL IS COMING (May 23-26, 2014)

Although I’ve been coming to California on a regular basis only since summer 2010 (which hardly makes me a native plant) I’ve been attending the Memorial Day jazz weekend at Sacramento every year I could.

In fact, I seem to have brought my video camera and notebook with me in 2011 and 2012, too.  Evidence below.

But before any reader gets engrossed in Recent Glories, may I direct your attention — as the attorneys always say in courtroom dramas — to what is happening in May 2014?

Here is the Festival’s site.

Jazz purists, please don’t be alarmed if you don’t recognize all of the headliners: the SMF has taken a broader view of “Americana” and “roots music” than it did in earlier years, but there is a wide variety of pleasing sound for all.  The complete list of artists is available here.

I’ll simply note a few JAZZ LIVES’ favorites (in an ecumenical alphabetical order): the Au Brothers, Gordon Au, Bob Schulz Frisco Jazz Band, Clint Baker, Dave Bennett and the Memphis Boys, Eddie Erickson, the Freebadge Serenaders, Grand Dominion, High Sierra, Katie Cavera, Kim Cusack, Meschiya Lake and the Lil Big Horns, Marc Caparone, Midiri Brothers, Mike Daugherty, Pat Yankee, Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs, Red Skunk Gipzee Swing, Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, Stephanie Trick, Vaud and the Villains, Vince Bartels All-Stars . . . and more.

The thought of all that, even spread out over multiple venues from Friday through Monday, is both elating and exhausting.  While I lie down, perhaps you’d like to peruse Years Gone By . . .

Hal Smith’s International Sextet

 
 
 
 
 
Come celebrate at the Sacramento Music Festival with us this year.
May your happiness increase!

WHEN THE MUSIC REWARDS YOU: CLINT BAKER’S CAFE BORRONE ALL-STARS (Part One) APRIL 4, 2014

For a New Yorker in California, it’s always seemed like a long trip from Novato, through San Francisco, down to Menlo Park to enjoy the Friday-night jamborees that Clint Baker has put on for many years, with his “Cafe Borrone All-Stars.”

But I’ve had a conversion experience because of the delicious hot music I saw and heard a few nights ago, on April 4, 2014.  And you can share the experience, too.

Clint played banjo and guitar and sang, leaving the front-line responsibilities to men stout-hearted and true: Jim Klippert, trombone, Bill Carter, clarinet; Robert Young, cornet and vocal.  The rhythm section was completed by Bill Reinhart, string bass, and thirteen=year old Riley Baker, drums, who knows how to roll and  swing and how to stay out of the way for the collective pleasure of the band.

Here are six delights from the first set.

ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND:

SOMEDAY SWEETHEART:

ORIENTAL MAN:

WHEN ERASTUS PLAYS HIS OLD KAZOO:

PUT ON YOUR OLD GREY BONNET:

IT’S TIGHT LIKE THAT:

Clint will be back at Cafe Borrone in April and May — and he has many other gigs. You can check here for details of his future escapades in the name of swing.

May your happiness increase!

HE HAS RHYTHM. AND OTHERS DO AS WELL.

When Louis Armstrong states I GOT RHYTHM, who among us would doubt it?  Here, he uses the Gershwin song to introduce the members of his very energized (and brotherly) Chicago band:

complete with comic ending.

And for those looking for the perfect t-shirt design, may I propose this?  You won’t start many conversations on the street, but those motivated to speak to you because of this shirt will certainly be people with whom you have deep matters in common:

LOUIS I Got Rhythm

Thanks, once again, to eBay and YouTube for making multi-media presentations possible — honoring Louis is always rhythmically satisfying.

May your happiness increase!

SHE MADE A MAGIC SIGN

Not Madame Ruth, but our Rebecca Kilgore, jazz alchemist, making the 1959 Lieber-Stoller pop hit LOVE POTION NUMBER NINE into a sultry jazz classic (as she did on the recording called BLUE SWING).

Here Becky is assisted in her tale of palmistry, the dark arts, and erotic redemption by master magicians Dan Barrett, trombone; Paolo Alderighi, piano; Phil Flanigan, string bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums:

All of this good-natured magic took place at JazzAge Monterey’s yearly music fiesta, the Jazz Bash by the Bay — to be exact, March 8, 2014. Even if you weren’t there, the magic is still powerful — new potions will be available in March 2015, says Madame Ruth.

May your happiness increase!

FINE STYLISH HOT PLAYING IS HEARD

We celebrate the recent discovery and planned restoration of a 1929 short film, presumed lost, ME AND THE BOYS (reviewed here in MELODY MAKER):

Pollack film found

According to jazz film scholar Mark Cantor, “the film was made in New York City in 1929, for British release, and has not been seen on these shore since, this assuming that it was screened here at any time. The one reel film features singer Estelle Brody, accompanied onscreen by the Ben Pollack orchestra: McPartland, Teagarden, Goodman, Breidis, Morgan and Bauduc.”

This film was located in Australia, and Ron Hutchinson and Mark have been fortunate enough to line up the funding needed to restore the short. (Dudley Heer, Frank Buxton, jazz-lover Hugh Hefner and I will contribute the funds need to restore the short.) “We are hopeful that the film might be screened in a year’s time; since the work is being done at U.C.L.A., we know the results will be top-notch!”

I want to hear the vocal trio and enjoy the hot playing.

Here is a biographical sketch of Estelle Brody.  I couldn’t find any film of her singing voice, so readers will have to content themselves with this excerpt from the silent film KITTY, where Brody falls in a canal and emerges wet but still stylish, certainly hot for 1929:

May your happiness increase!

FEELING WEARY? THIS SHOULD HELP.

WEARY BLUES, by Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band, recorded on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, at the Wednesday Night Hop in Mountain View, California.  Clint, trumpet; Jim Klippert, trombone; Bill Carter, clarinet; J Hansen, drums; Sam Rocha, guitar; Bill Reinhart, banjo; Tom Wilson, string bass:

There!  I feel invigorated already.

May your happiness increase!

IDEAL PLACES: MINIMUM, THREE DOLLARS A PERSON

I think I had three dollars when this card was in vogue, although I was seriously underage . . .

CONDON'S circa 1958

but I can hear this band now — either in my imagination or in the Columbia sessions circa 1958.  They sound wonderful either way.  And Cliff Jackson!

Note to Bob Wilber: Does this seem familiar?

May your happiness increase!

SWING SYNERGY: MIKE LIPSKIN, LEON OAKLEY, PAUL MEHLING at RANCHO NICASIO (March 24, 2014)

Some groups sound larger than their numbers.  Whether the reason is experience, community, or intuition, they blossom on the stand, emerging as an entity more gratifying and complete than their individual personalities, instruments, and sounds.

Here’s a trio of piano, cornet, and guitar.  Close your eyes and you could think you are listening to a six or seven-piece band.  Open your eyes, and you wouldn’t miss a clarinet, trombone, string bass, or drums.

Such magical synergy doesn’t happen as a matter of course — but it did last Sunday, March 24, 2014, when Mike Lipskin (piano), Leon Oakley (cornet), and Paul Mehling (guitar) delighted us.

Here are eight performances from that evening — cheerful music imbued with the sweet spirit of Fats Waller and his Rhythm. Mike, Leon, and Paul don’t copy people or records, but their buoyant joy in playing evoked the swing Masters.

James P. Johnson’s OLD FASHIONED LOVE:

BABY BROWN, for and by Alex Hill:

UNDECIDED, for Charlie Shavers:

SPREADIN’ RHYTHM AROUND, that 1935 anthem:

James P.’s SNOWY MORNING BLUES, a solo for Mike:

Hoagy Carmichael’s OLD MAN HARLEM:

A romp on AVALON:

YESTERDAY (the Lennon-McCartney soundtrack of the late Sixties, but watch out for the later choruses):

Messrs. Lipskin, Oakley, and Mehling play a variety of gigs with a variety of ensembles, from solo piano to gypsy jazz to a stomping two-trumpet band . . . catch them while you can!  (They are, singly and collectively, the real thing.)

May your happiness increase!

THE BEAUTY OF IT HOT: AFTER HOURS IN THE VICTORY PUB, with JEFF BARNHART, BENT PERSSON, ANDY SCHUMM, TORSTEIN KUBBAN, KRISTOFFER KOMPEN, GRAHAM HUGHES, NORMAN FIELD, MATTHIAS SEUFFERT, FRANS SJOSTROM, LARS FRANK, JACOB ULLBERGER, JOSH DUFFEE — AT THE 2013 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (November 1, 2013)

Collectively and joyously, Jeff Barnhart, keyboard / vocals; Bent Persson, Torstein Kubban, Andy Schumm, cornet; Graham Hughes, trombone; Kristoffer Kompen, valve-trombone; Lars Frank, tenor sax; Norman Field, clarinet; Matthias Seuffert, reeds; Jacob Ullberger, banjo; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Josh Duffee, drums.

Recorded on November 1, 2013, in the Victory Pub at the 2013 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party in Newcastle, England.

THEM THERE EYES:

NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW:

LULU’S BACK IN TOWN:

A fellow named Andy Schumm came by . . . and so did Josh Duffee:

MARGIE:

COME ON AND STOMP, STOMP, STOMP:

Because it is difficult to manage a camera, a tripod, a sheet of paper, and a pen, under these circumstances, I could be slightly inexact about who was playing what, when. (No doubt my precise readers will let me know my lapses.) It could have become November 2, 2013, while I was videoing. And if you think, “I can’t see the musicians,” I agree with you.

What matters is the liveliness of the music. These are the moments we remember all our lives — when improvisers, united by common love, memory, and knowledge, give us everything they have spent their lives experiencing — for the pure joy of it.

By the way, there’s more from this and another November 2013 jam session.  But the best way to experience such marvels is by being there. Consider this seriously if you can.

May your happiness increase!

MORE FROM FABULOUS FRIDAY at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ PARTY (February 21, 2014)

Here is the first installment of my delighted reportage from the San Diego Jazz Party, complete with music.  I had a wonderful time there, and I wasn’t alone: the audience was happy and the musicians likewise. The collective pleasure is reflected in the music.

I present three more living examples.

SOLITUDE (John Allred, trombone; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Chuck Redd, vibraphone; Jason Wanner, piano; Dave Stone, string bass; Butch Miles, drums):

CHEROKEE (as above):

IN A LITTLE GYPSY TEAROOM (Eddie Erickson, vocal / guitar; Dan Barrett, trombone / vocal; Becky Kilgore, vocal; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Ed Metz, drums):

A moody evocation of a classic Ellington ballad, a swinging version of a timeless jazz standard (thanks to Ray Noble), and a Thirties romantic romp, complete with impromptu group harmony, lots of fun, and a nice cup of tea.  Who would ask for more?

And, for those keeping track — Fabulous Friday had more than these six performances to offer, to enthrall . . . it was succeeded by Super Saturday and Sublime Sunday.  If you had any doubts.

May your happiness increase!

“HE CONQUERS THE WORLD”

Don’t let the commercial at the start put you off . . . here is a young hero, Ricky Riccardi, speaking on television about our shared Hero, Louis Armstrong and his House, here.

Doing it “for posterity.”

And if you’re looking for a good book, I suggest this.

May your happiness increase!

FABULOUS FRIDAY at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ PARTY (Part One): FEBRUARY 21, 2014

A week ago (that would be February 21) I was ready to have fun at my first-ever San Diego Jazz Party.  And I certainly did.  The music below will speak — and play and sing — for itself, but the SDJP was a real pleasure . . . comfort all around, the details managed gently and wisely, the musicians smiling.  As were we.

Here are a few shining examples of how fine the music was, how comfortable the musicians were . . . couldn’t ask for more!

If you need more words — data, information, facts —   here is what I wrote about the party as it was in progress.  But I think you’ll want to hear and see some of the joyousness first.

WABASH BLUES (Ed Polcer, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Antti Sarpila, soprano saxophone; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; John Cocuzzi, piano; Richard Simon, string bass; Ed Metz, drums):

ROBBINS’ NEST (John Allred, trombone; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Chuck Redd, vibes; Jason Wanner, piano; Dave Stone, string bass; Butch Miles, drums):

THE FIVE O’CLOCK WHISTLE (Rebecca Kilgore, vocal; Eddie Erickson, guitar; Dan Barrett, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Ed Metz, percussion and miscellaneous instruments):

That, dear friends, is just a sample of how delicious the whole weekend was.  And my videos — which I am proud of — can’t convey the whole experience.  You’ll just have to be there in 2014.

May your happiness increase!

GOOD, BETTER, BEST: SWEET NOTES FROM THE 26th SAN DIEGO JAZZ PARTY

The musicians are taking a break; it’s too early for another meal; what should I do?  I can share my joy at being at the San Diego Jazz Party, that’s what.

It’s only about twenty percent through (there’s still a full day-and-a-half of music to come) but it has been splendid.  Nicely organized, humanely planned — all the things that make a jazz weekend comfortable as well as gratifying — and the music last night was often spectacular.  You can find out the complete list of players here but I just want to speak of a few delicious moments that happened last night so you, too, can get a taste . . .

Even before the official festivities began, there was wonderful music during the cocktail hour: Harry Allen, Dan Barrett, Eddie Erickson, Jason Wanner, and Dave Stone started slow and easy and then romped through a closing IDAHO; Antti Sarpila, Chuck Redd, Bria Skonberg, Rossano Sportiello, and Nicki Parrott followed with a passionate NEW ORLEANS and an old-school SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL.

(During the soundcheck that followed, Sarpilla sat down at the piano and quietly — as if no one had been listening — played a sweet, streamlined DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM, which was a private treat.)

A ten-minute swaggering WABASH BLUES was offered to us by Ed Polcer, Bria, Antti, Bucky Pizzarelli, John Cocuzzi, Richard Simon, Ed Metz.  A smaller group — John Allred, Harry Allen, Chuck Redd, Jason Wanner, Dave Stone, and Butch Miles — showed us what Groovy and Sweet meant in less than half an hour, with a coasting ROBBINS’ NEST, a from-the-heart SOLITUDE, and an exuberant CHEROKEE.  Becky Kilgore, looking mighty glamorous, took the stage with old pals Barrett and Erickson, Rossano Sportiello, Nicki Parrott, and Ed Metz for a set that culminated in the best FIVE O’CLOCK WHISTLE since Ivie Anderson, and a Romany duo: Becky’s own THE GYPSY (which began with a tender Sportiello-Barrett duet) followed by Eddie’s narrative of finding love and caffeine, IN A LITLE GYPSY TEAROOM.

And four more sets followed!  How about a duo of Venerables Bucky Pizzarelli and Mundell Lowe (the latter now 91) for — among other beauties — I REMEMBER YOU and an Oscar Pettiford blues?  Bria Skonberg told us all about Ruth Etting and then sang and played — with real ardor — LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME.  Houston Person wooed the crowd with medium-tempo ballads and Ellington; Anti Sarpilla took out his curved soprano for SUMMERTIME and his clarinet for RUNNIN’ WILD, and a band of Harry Allen, Bria, and Dan Barrett, Rossano, Richard Simon, and Butch Miles created a hot THEM THERE EYES, which made many pairs shine and gleam.

If you were in the audience, you know I am understating what we all saw and heard.  More to come.  Save your quarters, make your plans for 2105.

May your happiness increase! 

“SWINGTIME DUET: MARK SHANE and TERRY BLAINE: MY BLUE HEAVEN”

I first heard pianist Mark Shane a long time ago on someone’s illicit cassette recording of an outdoor festival.  Through the rustlings and the sonic murk, he came through like a beacon of swing.  I heard finely detailed melodic invention owing a good deal to Tatum and Wilson, translucent improvisations with subtleties reminiscent of Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan.  I had to wait until 2004 to meet him in person, but he didn’t disappoint, and still doesn’t.

When I started to purchase Shane’s CDs (a venture I commend to you) I found he was often in tandem with a glorious singer.  She swung without a letup but her approach was delicate and warm.  She was very much aware of the great singers of the past but had brought her own tender sound to their repertoire. Her work was and is genuine, and when I played her music for other musicians and fans, the reaction was always, “Who IS that?  Wow, she is the real thing!”  I had to wait until 2013 to meet Terry Blaine, and it was a joy to see Mark and Terry perform together.

Not everyone can make their way to a Shane-Blaine gig . . . but their music can come to you.  And it has!

CD Cover jpegTheir new CD is available here at CDBaby (as a physical disc) and will be available at all the usual sources as a digital download in a few days.

When I heard that Mark and Terry had recorded a disc, I asked to write some notes for them:

Our special friends are back in town, and I am so grateful.

Play a piece of music for a jazz historian and ask for a response: you’ll get an analytical primer of famous names, influences and styles, cities, dates, and record labels. A musicologist will talk of rhythmic and harmonic patterns, ethnic and cultural influences.

But music is much larger than the words and ideas that attempt to explain it. It is vibrating energy sent from its creators’ hearts to ours. True, physical entities are part of it: the uniqueness of a singer’s voice, a pianist’s touch on the keys. But ultimately music is one marvelous way that artists, devoted to feeling and craft, send messages to us.

Terry Blaine and Mark Shane are remarkable transmitters of wondrous vibrations. In the Thirties they would have been called “solid senders.” Although they have lovingly studied the great improvisers of the past, they emerge whole and joyous as themselves. In swinging synergy, Terry and Mark travel through and beyond any song. Hearing them, we emerge, refreshed and nourished by what they embody in music. They do not “imitate”; they do not approach the music from an ironic postmodern distance. They are the emotions they transmit – sly hilarity, pleasure, longing, romantic fulfillment, contentment. This is the real thing, without pretense, full of warmth.

In the first minutes of this disc, a listener will hear great sincerity in music that never parades itself, an art secure in its wisdom. Terry’s voice is sweetly intuitive, connected to the mood of each song. The way she slides from one note to the next is a caress. Her approach is both generous and wise, for she always lets the song shine through. Mark Shane is a master of delicate yet profound swing; he honors the great musical traditions by creating an orchestra at the piano, with unceasing rhythmic motion. A simple melody statement in his hands has the fluidity of a river, with currents of shading and light, surprising depths and textures. Mark and Terry are a marvelous team, a musical community that needs no other players. Their interpretations of music and words are whole-hearted gifts to the composers, the lyricists, and to us.

We know what our response to this music is: it makes us feel the joy of being alive. We’re happy in the Blue Heaven Terry and Mark create for us. You will be, too.

The songs are MY BLUE HEAVEN / HONEYSUCKLE ROSE / AIN’T HE SWEET / SKYLARK / LOCK AND KEY / MY MELANCHOLY BABY / ROCKIN’ CHAIR / I LOVE BEING HERE WITH YOU / THE NEARNESS OF YOU / THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE / MY SPECIAL FRIEND IS BACK IN TOWN / COME UP AND SEE ME SOMETIME / LET’S DO IT / SOME OF THESE DAYS / WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS.  The recording is delightfully clear and unadorned. It’s heavenly.

In case you have never heard Mark and Terry before, here is a performance recorded at the High Falls Cafe in New York, with drummer Matt Hoffmann gently joining in.  Their rollicking WHEN DAY IS DONE is a joy:

May your happiness increase!

HOTTER THAN THAT! CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND IN PISMO BEACH, JANUARY 26, 2014 (Part One)

It was indeed warm in Pismo Beach, but my title refers to what was happening indoors.

Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band swung out this last Sunday, January 26, 2014, at the Central Coast Hot Jazz Society’s concert held in Pismo Beach.  Clint himself played trombone and euphonium and sang.  With him were Marc Caparone, cornet; Mike Baird, reeds; Carl Sonny Leyland, piano, vocal; Bill Reinhart, banjo; Katie Cavera, string bass and vocals; Jeff Hamilton, drums. The wonderful Dawn Lambeth sang a few songs, which you can hear and see here.

Here’s another helping of delightful music.

Paul Barbarin’s THE SECOND LINE:

Father Leyland explains it all with BEALE STREET BLUES:

WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM:

A special request from Dottie Baird, not to be ignored: WHEN MY DREAMBOAT COMES HOME:

EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY:

Clint and his bands are active at a variety of gigs and festivals and swing dances.  If you want to experience this hot music for yourself, click  here to plan your next swing outing.

May your happiness increase!

MORE LIGHTNING IN THE DARK: JAMMING AT WHITLEY BAY 2013 (Part One)

I don’t quite know what it is like when the music isn’t being created there, but the Victory Pub in the Village Hotel Newcastle (UK) has become a small shrine for Hot music when the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party is in session — a once-yearly transformation into a place where dreams come true.

Here’s the second half of WASHBOARD WIGGLES, with Jeff Barnhart, keyboard / vocals; Bent Persson, Torstein Kubban, cornet; Graham Hughes, trombone; Lars Frank, reeds; Jacob Ullberger, banjo; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone:

Then, the Master stopped in — Norman Field and his clarinet — for a romp on LITTLE GIRL (with the verse and a characteristically buoyant Jeff Barnhart vocal):

We don’t like to talk about Buddy behind his back, but we must — BUDDY’S HABITS:

More of the good stuff — The Good Stuff — is on the way. And a cinematographic postscript: if you can, while watching on YouTube, boost the settings (where the little gear or toothed wheel is) to the highest — 1o80 — and watch full screen. That way you will find, no matter what Gertrude Stein said, there is a there there!

May your happiness increase!

ADRIAN SENDS BEST WISHES

A precious artifact.

ROLLINI and RUSSELL 001

Thanks to generous David J. Weiner!  And to Adrian, and to Gloria.

May your happiness increase!

IN HIGH SOCIETY: GORDON AU’S GRAND STREET STOMPERS at THE CAFE CARLYLE (Thursday, December 19, 2013)

GRAND STREET STOMPERS CARLYLE

I’m delighted by this swinging manifestation of upward social mobility!  Usually, the Grand Street Stompers — the tidy yet exuberant small band led by Gordon Au — has been glimpsed downtown, at small clubs and beerhalls, at dance extravaganzas.

Here you can see many videos that I and other enthusiasts have created.

Yes, there have been marvelous occasions north of Forty-Second Street (two delightful holiday stomps at Columbia University) but the GSS are breaking new ground, migrating north for an evening.

On Thursday, December 19, 2014, The Grand St. Stompers will be playing at the Cafe Carlyle (35 East 76th Street), beginning at 10:45 PM.  $25 + minimum. Reserve your seat online or at 212-744-1600.  Here is the Facebook event page. Thanks to event host Michael Katsobashvili, it’s the beginning of another chapter in GSS history, so biographers and cultural theorists take note.

The evening will feature the extraordinary vocal improviser Tamar Korn, trumpeter / composer Gordon Au, clarinetist Dennis Lichtman, trombonist Matt Musselman, guitarist/banjoist Nick Russo, bassist Rob Adkins, percussionist Kevin Dorn.  A gathering of superheroes worthy of Marvel Comics.

I’ll be there, and I hope you are too.

May your happiness increase!