Tag Archives: Connie Jones

“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!

A FRIEND OF OURS: JIM BRANSON REMEMBERS GEORGE FINOLA

Cornetist George FInola (1945-2000) didn’t live long enough, but was loved and respected by many.  (Hoagy Carmichael was a fan.) He spent his life in Chicago and New Orleans, playing gigs and advancing jazz scholarship — helping to establish the Jazz Institute of Chicago.

I had only known of George because of his 1965 debut recording — where he is paired with notable friends Paul Crawford, Raymond Burke, Armand Hug, Danny and Blue Lu Barker:

george finola lpand, just because they exist, here’s a Finola autograph:

george finola autograph

and a matchbook ad for a New Orleans gig:

george-finola-on-cornet-matchbook

My friend Harriet Choice, the esteemed jazz writer, had spoken to me of George — “a very dear person” — but I had never met anyone who had known him, not until September 2014.

Jim Branson and I later found out we had been at many of the same California jazz events (Jim and his wife live in Berkeley) but until Jim said something about George from the audience of the Allegheny Jazz Party, I had no idea of their close and long-term connection.  On my most recent visit to California, Jim very graciously told me stories of a precocious and singular friend.  And it seemed only appropriate to have George’s record playing in the background:

Later, Jim remembered this: When George taught himself to play cornet he learned the incorrect fingering, holding down the third valve instead of the first and second for certain notes and correcting by altering his lip pressure slightly.  This is the same mistake that Bix reputedly made when he taught himself to play.  Did George do it by mistake, or did he do it on purpose because he knew that Bix had done the same thing?

Randy Sandke had crossed paths with George as well:  George and I went to different high schools in Chicago but both grew up on the South Side, him in South Shore and me in Hyde Park. I met him at Bob Koester and Joe Siegel’s record shop, Seymour’s. I put on a record and he came over and said “is Bix on that?” After that we became friends and discovered we both played cornet. We met and jammed together and also exchanged reel-to-reel tapes of 78s we had that at that time had not been reissued. I saw him in New Orleans a few times after that. I always enjoyed his playing and he has a lot of friends from NO that I still see, so his name comes up in conversation. I was very sad to hear of his premature death. More people should have heard him play and known who he was.

Other people who have stories of George are New Orleanians Banu Gibson, David Boeddinghaus, and Connie and Elaine Jones . . . perhaps there will be more tales of this beautiful player and intriguing man — and I am sure that some JAZZ LIVES readers knew him too.

May your happiness increase!

“OLD-FASHIONED LOVE”: GIVING THANKS at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (Nov. 27-30, 2014)

I had a wonderful time at the San Diego Jazz Fest, but that is nothing new.  Paul Daspit, like the jazz patriarch of a very widespread family, treats us to one savory dish after another.  I resigned myself to hard choices but enjoyed all that I saw and heard, beginning with the Yerba Buena Stompers and their new sensation, Miss Ida Blue; the Fat Babies; Ray Skjelbred; Chris Dawson; Jonathan Doyle; Musician of the Year “Gentleman Jim” Buchmann; High Sierra; the New Orleans All Stars of Tim Laughlin and Connie Jones; Hal Smith, Beau Sample; Marc Caparone; Katie Cavera, and other notables.

The band co-led by Tim Laughlin (clarinet) and Connie Jones (cornet, vocal) continues to be very dear to me — swinging, heartfelt, always lyrical.  They were joined by trombonist Doug Finke, pianist Chris Dawson, guitarist Katie Cavera, string bassist Marty Eggers, and drummer Hal Smith.

Here’s a James P. Johnson classic — which always sounds like a hymn to traditional monogamous devotion to me — OLD-FASHIONED LOVE:

These players know all one can know about sweet melodic improvisation over a gently infallible rhythm section: I hear Thirties Teddy Wilson small groups, the Vanguard sessions, a dream meeting of Eddie Condon, Bobby Hackett, and Count Basie.  But it’s not a dream: it happened in front of our eyes and ears. That’s something to be truly thankful for!

I’m grateful to the musicians, to Paul, Myrna Beach Goodwin, Jim McNaughton, Gretchen Haugen, the volunteers, and the gracious people at the Town and Country — for helping us all have such an uplifting experience.

More joy and more videos to come.

May your happiness increase! 

“IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD” AT THE SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST: TIM LAUGHLIN, CONNIE JONES, MIKE PITTSLEY, CHRIS DAWSON, KATIE CAVERA, MARTY EGGERS, HAL SMITH

You don’t have to write Odes to Nightingales to be lyrically poetic. In this century, we have Tim Laughlin, clarinet; Connie Jones, cornet and vocal; Mike Pittsley, trombone; Chris Dawson, piano; Marty Eggers, string bass; Katie Cavera, rhythm guitar; Hal Smith, drums, to prove this.

The song on which they wax poetic is IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD, performed at the 2012 San Diego Jazz Fest:

(Connie — a great unheralded singer — embodies a special optimism. Bless him and his colleagues.)

While you are basking in the good sounds and good feeling, think of this: Tim and Connie, with their New Orleans All Stars — Doug Finke, trombone; Chris, Marty, Katie, and Hal — will be playing more than a few sets at this year’s San Diego Jazz Fest, November 26-30.

And they are certainly not the only band: click here.

If you can live joyously, it’s always a wonderful world.

May your happiness increase!

ELEGANT SWING: CHRIS DAWSON / DICK HYMAN: “ROSETTA” (August 9, 2014)

Stride pianist / composer / singer Mike Lipskin has generously staged stride piano concerts for some years now, to display the many personal styles that come under that heading.  In 2014, he put on three such concerts: two at Oakland’s Piedmont Piano Company, and one in gorgeous Filoli the next day.

I’ve posted some of the music from this series here and here already.  As Forties radio announcers used to say, here is more “by popular demand.”

Messrs. Dawson (right) and Hyman (left) honor Teddy Wilson with this lovely series of improvisations on Earl Hines’ ROSETTA — but they simultaneously show off their own personalities while honoring the tradition.  A small swing masterpiece:

Dick Hyman was 87 at the time of this performance, his gleaming accuracy and fertile imagination still brilliant.  Chris Dawson, someone I’ve been following on recording and in person for a decade, is younger, but equally delightful as a delicately compelling improviser.  (He will be at the San Diego Jazz Fest with Tim Laughlin and Connie Jones this Thanksgiving — a real reason for gratitude.)

May your happiness increase!

A WARM PRESENCE: KITT LOUGH SINGS

The appealing singer Kitt Lough has the right idea.

“I just try to make the song the star, because it really is about what came out of the writer. I’m just the delivery girl, so I try to find the meaning and sentiment in a song and convey that. For me it’s short story-telling; I just happen to be singing it.”

KITT LOUGH

In our era of self-absorption in 4/4, it’s delightful to find someone who understands singing so well and then turns around and converts artistic theory into refreshing practice. She is nicely old-fashioned in that she doesn’t obliterate the melody with improvisations; she loves the songs she sings.  Her voice in itself is a pleasure: rich and warm with a conversational directness.

And since musicians are known by the company they keep, Kitt has a full folder of explicit recommendations from New Orleans players who look forward to working and recording with her: Tim Laughlin, Connie Jones, David Jellema, Larry Scala, Kris Tokarski, Ed Wise, Tom McDermott, and more.

Here is Kitt’s Facebook page.

A BLOSSOM FELL, her second CD, is a modern version of the great swinging tradition, where singer and band graciously honor each other.  She has a wonderful band: Tim Laughlin, clarinet; Connie Jones, cornet; Larry Sieberth, piano; Jim Markway, string bass; Todd Duke, guitar; Herman LeBeaux, drums.

And she’s chosen great lilting songs: BEYOND THE SEA / DREAMER’S HOLIDAY / YOU CAN’T LOSE A BROKEN HEART / YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO / SWAY / IT’S A LOVELY DAY TODAY / NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT / TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT / A BLOSSOM FELL / AM I BLUE / TAKING A CHANCE ON LOVE / DREAM A LITTLE DREAM OF ME.  Her intelligently chosen repertoire says that she’s done her singer’s homework — but she is no copycat in thrall to her earbuds.

I swore I could not sit through another version of YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO, but I delighted in Kitt’s sensitive intelligent reading of the lyrics; her DREAMER’S HOLIDAY is a wonderfully lighter-than-air invitation; A BLOSSOM FELL is poignant without being maudlin.

I urge my readers to look out for Kitt Lough and her CD, A BLOSSOM FELL. You can purchase the disc and hear samples from it here — or if you like your music in downloadable form, it’s available at the usual places.

Do be sure to investigate what she is up to: Kitt is natural and a natural. The music she creates is very easy to listen to but it is never featureless, dull, or “smooth.”

Here’s a video of Kitt with pianist Kris Tokarski and bassist Ed Wise, wringing every drop of possible music — in a swinging light-hearted way — from ONE NOTE SAMBA:

May your happiness increase!

TOM McDERMOTT DOES THE IMPOSSIBLE

Tom McDermott isn’t (by Marvel Comics’ definition) a superhero.  No cereal box features him.  He is merely a pianist of great renown — those of you who have cable television know him from TREME; those of you who have CD players know him from those little silver discs — and this coming Thursday, August 8, he will do what we know to be physically impossible . . . he will bring New Orleans to Berkeley, California with an 8 PM solo piano gig at the Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse, a local institution.

Here’s Tom rolling through and around Professor John’s TIPITINA:

And he sounds just as good from the back in black and white:

Swing, stride, funk, blues, boogie woogie, rocking music!  The Beloved and I will be there, riding the waves that Tom so generously creates. (Tom and I have mutual friends — cornetist Connie Jones and drummer Hal Smith — so we should get on fine.)

Here’s Tom’s Facebook page.  Here’s the Freight and Salvage homepage, and here’s Tom’s website.

May your happiness increase!