Tag Archives: Fats Waller

SWEET LIKE THIS: SPATS LANGHAM, LARS FRANK, MORTEN GUNNAR LARSEN, PHIL RUTHERFORD, JOSH DUFFEE at the WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (Nov. 7, 2014)

Thomas “Spats” Langham is one of the great romantic singers of our time.  Every year at the Whitley  Bay Classic Jazz Party he moves me to tears.  I do not write those words lightly.  He can perform his deep emotional magic on a love song like GUILTY (you can find it here) but his wizardry is not restricted to amorous crooning.  No, it’s even deeper and less conventional, as he demonstrated on the evening of November 7, 2014, in his performance of a song associated with Cliff Edwards, “Ukulele Ike” to those on close terms.

NIGHT OWL is a captivating song — music and lyrics by Herman Hupfeld — with a melody that, once heard, refuses to leave, and lyrics that move from the poetic wordplay of “I make light of the darkness” to the time-filling repetition of “hooting” . . . but it casts its own spell, verse and chorus.

I think Mr. Langham’s mastery comes from a double sensibility.  You can see him give himself utterly to the song and its romance, yet, at the same time, there is a hint of amusement: “These are the most important words in the world and I must make sure that you feel them deeply but I also know they are just a touch silly . . . and I love them for both reasons.”  Imagine a huge heart and the slightest hint of a grin, simultaneously. His approach is subtle — not the let’s-have-a-ball ebullience of Fats Waller, nor the lush wooing of Russ Columbo, but it is its own splendid personal amalgam.  There’s no one like him, and we are blessed that he exists.

Lester Young told Francois Postif, speaking about the music he was searching for, “It’s got to be sweetness, man, you dig?”  Lester would have enjoyed Spats Langham immensely.  As do we:

Postscript:  Some YouTube viewers are impatient creatures, so they will want to know that the musical part of this performance begins at 2:10, but if you skip forward you will miss Mr. Langham’s narrative about the intriguing-looking, rare and precious musical instrument he is holding (and playing expertly).  It’s a novella in itself.

May your happiness increase!

BEAUTY, DOWNSTAIRS: MIKE LIPSKIN and MICHAEL HASHIM at MEZZROW (November 17, 2014)

Most people know pianist / singer / composer Mike Lipskin as a direct link to the great tradition of stride piano — a student of Willie “the Lion” Smith, and an exuberant improviser, someone eager to experiment with key changes, offering “a trick a minute.”  The master saxophonist Michael Hashim also offers us dazzling buoyancies whenever he plays, an inexhaustible flow of ideas, wonderfully executed.  But both of these players also shine in more pensive modes — sweet balladry, introspective explorations of Ellington and Strayhorn: music to dream by (with a few bouncing swing showpieces for good measure).

An appreciative audience heard them in duet on November 17, 2014, downstairs at Mezzrow (163 West Tenth Street, New York City) and we delighted in their deep improvisations and affection for the songs themselves.

SOLITUDE:

AVALON:
OLD FOLKS:
LULLABY OF THE LEAVES:
DO NOTHIN’ TILL YOU HEAR FROM ME:
THREE LITTLE WORDS:
DAY DREAM:
GONE WITH THE WIND:
I GOT IT BAD (And That Ain’t Good):
They are a rare pair.
May your happiness increase!

BRILLIANCE TIMES THREE (Part Two): TAL RONEN, MARK SHANE, DAN BLOCK at CASA MEZCAL (Oct. 26, 2014)

I was simply transported, I tell you.

The transporters were three eloquent yet casual musicians — Tal, string bass; Mark, piano; Dan, clarinet and tenor — at work and play in the pleasing surroundings of 88 Orchard Street, on the lower East Side of New York City, their creations captured by my camera on Sunday, October 26, 2014.

Here are the first four videos from that afternoon, which have lost none of their charm.  And four more, floating, lyrically Basie-style, making the air vibrate so sweetly.

I’LL ALWAYS BE IN LOVE WITH YOU:

LINGER AWHILE:

YACHT CLUB SWING:

MOTEN SWING (with a brief camera malfunction during Tal’s solo where the camera suddenly got excited by the tin ceiling and had to be reminded of its proper function. I apologize for it, Tal):

For my first post, I wrote, “This is living synergy, a translucent acoustic orchestra. Such music blesses us,” and I think those words are even truer here.

May your happiness increase!

IN THE GARDEN OF SWING: MIKE LIPSKIN, DICK HYMAN, PAUL MEHLING at FILOLI (August 10, 2014)

Take a contemporary evocation of Eden, add some inspired jazz in front of an enthusiastic, attentive audience . . . and you have the 2014 Stride Summit at Jazz at Filoli, featuring Mike Lipskin and Dick Hyman, guitarist Paul Mehling, and a few other like-minded friends.  Here are a few more highlights from that wonderful afternoon, where the swinging music honors the present artists’ originality while casting affectionate glances back to Fats Waller, Art Tatum, Al Casey, and Django Reinhardt.

HANDFUL OF KEYS (Mike and Dick):

COULD IT BE YOU’RE FALLING IN LOVE? (Mike and Paul):

CARAVAN (Dick):

WILLOW WEEP FOR ME (Dick):

JUST YOU, JUST ME (Mike and Dick):

AFRICAN RIPPLES (Mike):

Thanks to the inspired gentlemen of the ensemble for such glowing pastoral music, and special thanks to Merrilee Trost for making Jazz at Filoli a happy, memorable gathering year after year.

May your happiness increase! 

JAMES DAPOGNY’S CHICAGO JAZZ BAND at the EVERGREEN JAZZ FESTIVAL (Part Three)

Rainbow Two

The opportunities to hear James Dapogny’s Chicago Jazz Band at the July 2014 Evergreen Jazz Festival were delightful — a high point of the year for me.

That band neatly balances thoughtful arrangements and solos, and the result is hot, sweet,  eloquent, satisfying.

They are James Dapogny, piano and arrangements; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Chris Smith, trombone, vocal; Kim Cusack, clarinet, alto saxophone, vocal; Russ Whitman, clarinet, tenor and baritone saxophone; Rod McDonald, guitar; Denver native Dean Ross, string bass; Pete Siers, drums.

For those who might have missed the earlier posts in this happily extended series, here is the first part and here is the second.

And here are five more delights.

A serenade to a beloved Irish lass (with a tempo change, in honor of the 1944 Commodore recording featuring Miff Mole), PEG O’MY HEART:

The very optimistic paean to the Golden State, CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME:

A 1936 romper, SWING MISTER CHARLIE (recorded by, among others, a youthful Judy Garland backed by the Bob Crosby band):

“Another show tune,” this one from a Dick Powell film — more memorable in Fats Waller’s recording — here warbled by Mr. Cusack, LULU’S BACK IN TOWN:

And a mournful revenge song, JUNK MAN (1934, with unheard lyrics by Frank Loesser):

More to come — all equally rewarding.

May your happiness increase!

FRESH-SQUEEZED (Version Two): DAN BLOCK, DUKE HEITGER, BRIA SKONBERG, ED POLCER, JOHN COCUZZI, PAUL KELLER, ED METZ (Atlanta Jazz Party, April 23, 2014)

Another delicious version of Mister Waller’s SQUEEZE ME — this time from the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party, with a cast of characters: Dan Block, clarinet; Duke Heitger, Ed Polcer, Bria Skonberg, trumpets; John Cocuzzi, piano; Paul Keller, string bass; Ed Metz, drums:

Here was the first of the series — for those who haven’t had their daily ration of beautiful music.

May your happiness increase!

FRESH-SQUEEZED: VINCE BARTELS, ALLAN VACHÉ, DAN BARRETT, RUSS PHILLIPS, JOHNNY VARRO, DAVE STONE at the SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (May 23, 2014)

Mister Waller would be delighted.  And we were too.

Vince Bartels had assembled a truly all-star band in the Condon tradition for the 2014 Sacramento Music Festival, with himself on drums, Dave Stone, string bass; Johnny Varro, piano; Allan Vaché, clarinet, Russ Phillips, trombone; Dan Barrett, trumpet. And they performed SQUEEZE ME and got every drop of sweetly lascivious energy out of it — a memorable performance indeed:

I mean my fellow-listeners no disrespect, but that performance deserved much more applause than it got.  Perhaps everyone was stunned into silence.  You may applaud now, as loudly as possible.  If you are someplace where applause might not be appropriate, I will settle for loud grinning and sending this blogpost on to others who might like to have their spirits uplifted.  OK?

May your happiness increase!