When asked about the origins of jazz and the blues, Willie “the Lion” Smith was certain that the music had originated in the brickyards of Haverstraw, New York, where he first heard it.
Official Jazz Historians may scoff at his theory, based on first-hand experience, but I do know that traditional jazz — hot and ready — flourishes in Guilford, Connecticut, as a rewarding seasonal event: JEFF and JOEL’S HOUSE PARTY — that’s Jeff Barnhart, piano, vocals; Joel Schiavone, banjo. Both men have been known to burst into song at intervals as well.
The autumnal event (a hot jazz solstice of sorts) will take place this year from Friday, October 11, to Sunday, October 13. Details immediately below!
My first-hand experience of two House Parties is that these events are delightful, with an authenticity not always found at more formal jazz events. Part of this comes from the easy friendliness of the people who run the House Party, people whom it’s easy to get to know. But a good deal of the happiness here has to do with the physical setting — as if a group of jazz musicians just happened to be having a relaxed session in someone’s home. Unlike some “jazz parties,” where the musicians are far away on a stage, the House Party is informal, and the barriers between musicians and audience are never quite established. Not only do you get to hear your heroes; you might have a casual conversation over a sandwich, or find one standing outside on the porch, admiring the lovely fall landscape. (The leaves are especially beautiful at this time of year.) And the music-packed sessions are good value indeed (for the budget-conscious, Guilford has a number of pleasant inexpensive motels a few minutes’ drive away from the Schiavone farmhouse.) For those who don’t see themselves getting to France any time soon, the extra-added-attraction on Friday of PARIS WASHBOARD is something you don’t want to miss.
The music has been blissfully wide-ranging, from Hot Five and two-trumpet King Oliver to Twenties New Orleans and early Ellington, Joplin as it might have been played in “Disneyland for adults” (a bordello circa 1904), a good deal of Bix-related music, evocations of early Bennie Moten and Willie the Lion Smith ensembles. Chopin, Lil Hardin, Don Lambert, and other notables stopped by, too.
If you need some audible evidence (video provided by CineDevine), here is memorable music from the April 2013 party. I present one of my musical heroes, John Gill, singing and accompanying himself of Ernest Ball’s classic SALOON — with friends Jeff, piano; Lew Green, cornet; Noel Kaletsky, clarinet; Brian Nalepka, tuba; Kevin Dorn, drums:
For more information and good times amidst hot music, click here.
May your happiness increase!