WATCH YOUR STEP!

joevenut2young

Even though some vulgarity I find amusing, I outgrew jokes about farting many decades ago, but not everyone did.  This is a famous underground record — with Joe Venuti as the boyish ringleader — and here’s a clean 78 copy brought to us by the very erudite and witty jazz scholar who calls himself “lindyhoppers”  on YouTube.

I think Venuti remained a boy long after he grew up.  But you hear Manny Klein, Joe Tarto, Stan King, and others.  Worth the childishness, which I find endearing.

May your happiness increase!

SARAH AT SARAH’S: AUGUST 28, 2016 (Part One)

sarah-spencer

My friend Sarah Spencer (tenor and soprano saxophone, clarinet, vocal) is an impeccable hybrid.  London-born, New Orleans-sourced.  Although her speaking voice and cadences are purest UK, her musical soul is situated somewhere on the Rue Conti.  And, yes, she encountered Raymond Burke and Percy Humphrey and several dozen Masters, now-Ancestors in her musical and spiritual development.

On August 28, 2016, I had the very pleasant opportunity to hear and record Sarah and her Quartet (Jimmy Mazzy, banjo and vocal; Art Hovey, string bass and tuba; Bill Sinclair, piano and vocal) at the Jazz Masters Series at Sarah’s Wine Bar (an outgrowth of Bernard’s, a wonderful restaurant) in Ridgefield, Connecticut.  (The Jazz Masters Series is held on the last Sunday of each month.)

Before we begin, here are two performances featuring Jimmy Mazzy from that evening.  One is eloquently tender; the other ribald.  You’ll be able to tell them apart.

And several emotionally energized highlights from the first set.  (I’ve left the beginnings unedited, for the most part, so that you can see the endearing friendly exchanges among the quartet)

ANYTIME:


MY MEMPHIS BABY:


BOGALUSA STRUT:


THE LAUGHING SAMBA:

WE’LL MEET AGAIN:

Part Two will be along anon.

May your happiness increase!

“HOT CLASSICISM” by KRIS TOKARSKI, ANDY SCHUMM, HAL SMITH on DISC (and LIVE)

If it were possible to play a compact disc to extinction, my copy of HOT CLASSICISM would be gone by now.  Amazingly, the disc is starting to look translucent.

What it contains is the rousing and lovely performances by Kris Tokarski, piano; Andy Schumm, cornet or clarinet; Hal Smith, drums, recorded live in New Orleans at the Old U.S. Mint on January 13, 2016.  Here’s a sample — the rollicking PARKWAY STOMP:

Several of the performances appeared as videos on YouTube, but the fidelity of the CD is immensely superior, and you can’t (or at least you shouldn’t) play videos in the car unless you are a passenger, so I commend this disc to you with high enthusiasm.

hot-classicism

HOT CLASSICISM was produced by Kris.  You can order a copy at his website, here, and if you are in New Orleans come see the trio’s CD release show. This Saturday, the 24th, at 8:15 PM they play at the Steamboat Stomp and Sunday the 25th, they are at Snug Harbor, with sets at 8 and 10 PM.

hot-c-photoHere’s what I wrote for the CD.  In full candor, I insisted on writing something for them, and would have been very put out if they had said NO.  I believe in this music and these musicians with all my being.

One of my favorite quotations is “We cannot ask the dead to come back. We can, however, invite them to live through us.” This CD is a vibrant, generous conversation between the Ancestors and three very much alive Jazz Masters. Kris, Andy, and Hal know that Lester was right, that you have to “go for yourself.” But innovation is a Mobius strip: try to be yourself by rejecting the Past and you might run dry in mid-chorus. The Elders were innovative in their moment. We revere them but we honor the past by making it new.

“Hot classicism” is the phrase that came to my mind when I first encountered these magically conjoined kindred souls, their music an instantaneous wallop of bliss that hasn’t faded yet. In this trio, everything is in balance. It’s a true Hot Democracy where everyone gets a chance to blow, where musicians support one another for “the comfort of the band.” Listening to this joyous session, I also thought of the great classical chamber trios and quartets: Casals-Thibaud-Cortot, for one example. In those groups, even though musicians were following printed scores, their sensibilities, temperaments, and vocal timbres blazed through. Someone listening to an unnamed violinist on radio or record recognized the player: Szigeti, not Heifetz; Stuff, not Stephane. And those personalities blended in wondrous synergy.

“Hot,” everyone knows as the remarkable marriage of passionate abandon and exquisite control. These performances, as Hot as you could want, are technically splendid, idiomatically pleasing. But here’s the beautiful part: they are marvelous because the players know what not to play, how to leave space. They know that too much is not a good thing, with apologies to Mae West and Oscar Wilde. Hal, Kris, and Andy embody ancient virtues: how to say your piece eloquently in sixteen bars; how to create memorable syncopated dance music. And since they are temporal hybrids – living simultaneously in 1926, 1936, and 2016, a very pleasing subversive freedom animates these performances. These musicians roam freely in a universe of sounds. They bring their modern awareness to the sacred texts of the past. Consider Andy’s clarinet playing, which reflects the great Chicagoans and New Orleanians but also delineates an alternate universe where Milt Mesirow put in that ten thousand hours of practice. So the music here, although deeply devout, goes its own way. If there’s a harmony or a rhythmic suspension that works at that moment, this trio offers it joyously, even if Keppard would have frowned on it.

James Joyce said of ULYSSES, not humbly but perhaps accurately, that if Dublin were to be destroyed, it could be built again from his novel. And if all the monumental jazz recordings prior to, say, 1930 were to vanish, one could rebuild the Hot Library of Alexandria from this CD.

Some listeners (they can’t help themselves) will compulsively start a list of Influences and Models that they hear. I won’t. This CD is completely endearing because it’s music. Let others point out, “Oh, that’s exactly the note that Kid Wawa plays on take 17, the take that only came out on Beka 12666-4!” I say, “Don’t these fellows sound grand, utterly like themselves?”

The only thing missing from this session is a band vocal: I think of the three of them humming behind a Kris solo passage or (dare I dream) hearing the trio warble the ode containing the heroic couplet, “You bought my wife a Coca-Cola / So you could play on her Victrola.” Maybe on the second disc of this trio’s oeuvre.

Andy, Kris, and Hal create affectionate wise music that amazes us, touches our hearts, helps make our world dance. Infinitely complex yet plain as day, their music enriches us.

Don’t be the last one on your block to experience HOT CLASSICISM.

May your happiness increase!

LYRICAL SWING: KRIS TOKARSKI, TIM LAUGHLIN, HAL SMITH (Evergreen Jazz Festival, July 31, 2016)

When it’s genuine, casual yet expert, you know it — no artifice laid on here to substitute for heartfelt swing and melodic improvisation.  Yes, there are shadows of various Ancestors and Elders — name them at your leisure — but the music made by Kris Tokarski, piano; Tim Laughlin, clarinet; Hal Smith, drums, is fresh and soulful and eager.  These three performances come from a blissful time in the Colorado mountains — more prosaic folks would call it the Evergreen Jazz Festival — and these were recorded at a local restaurant, The Fire Pit, on July 31.  First, a lover’s astonished delight:

Variations on the same emotional theme, after a fashion (an earlier song):

and a delightful blues line — so simple, but so deep — honoring both its creator, Jimmie Noone, and a whole era of Chicago inventiveness:

I am posting these performances not only because I love them but I have the immense good fortune to be writing this from a very pleasant hotel room in New Orleans, where I am because of Duke Heitger’s wonderful Steamboat Stomp, going on tomorrow through Sunday.  I’ll see and hear this trio there, and Kris has a new CD out, HOT CLASSICISM, which is an absolute delight — with Hal and Andy Schumm.  (I will have more to say about that one soon.)

Even if you can’t get down to New Orleans right quick, you can certainly savor these Joys.

May your happiness increase!

THE JOANNA STERNBERG TRIO with DAN BLOCK and JOE COHN: PART ONE (Sunny’s, Brooklyn, New York City, September 8, 2016)

joanna-sternberg-sept-8-2016-poster

I will let Joanna Sternberg — ace string bassist, singer, composer, guitarist, whimsical visual artist — introduce her new trio for herself . . . eloquently and naturally, as she does all else:

I am so thrilled and emotionally levitated to be singing and playing double bass in a trio with Joe Cohn on guitar, and Dan Block on tenor saxophone and clarinet. They are two musicians who share the same rare trait: nothing separates their minds, hearts and souls from their respective instruments. They provide selfless services to music on a daily basis.

Dan and Joe love, live and breathe music, whether they are playing a gig or walking down the street.  Every note is treated with appropriate attention and care in the correct “spirit of the song.”  Dan’s rich and warm (yet bright) tone is complimented by Joe’s sensitive and lively sound, as they gracefully listen to each other and draw inspiration from each other’s rhythm and note choices.

My job is to be selfless while gleefully listening to (and reacting to) them, and lay down a bed (or a carpet) of sound for them to play on, making every note they play sound “right” whether they choose to stay in the traditional chordal progressions, or impose new harmonies which are always creative and soulful and true to the spirit of the song.

I am honored to be playing music with them, and we hope to perform multiple times a month. We share a love and appreciation for the music of Billy Strayhorn, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hart, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, and Ray Noble among many others.

We hope to release a record this year, and do a concert performing the music and arrangements from “Moody Marilyn Moore.” This is an album featuring Joe Cohn’s mother Marilyn Moore singing, and Al Cohn (Joe’s dad) on tenor saxophone (and arrangements.)

When I “play” music with Dan and Joe, it is a form of concentrated play. I am having a lot of fun, while trying my best to focus on serving the music properly. In order to do this, I have to conceal some of my excitement so that my playing is not exactly how I feel (which is a mixture of butterflies inside, and deep gratitude.)

I am usually smiling the entire time, unless it is a heart-wrenching ballad.

-Joanna Sternberg
www.joannasternberg.com

ON THE ALAMO:

A FOGGY DAY:

THREE LITTLE WORDS:

I’VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN (where Joanna takes her own decidedly un-Sinatra approach!):

More to come.  Finding this trio in their debut performance made the trip to Red Hook, Brooklyn (past the reach of the subway, any subway) rewarding.  And, yes, cabs go there.

May your happiness increase!

GUILTY, WITH AN EXPLANATION (September 2016)

judges-gavel

I confess that I’ve let some days go by without blogging.  Unthinkable, I know, but I (gently) throw myself on the mercy of the JAZZ LIVES court of readers.

Permit me to explain.  From Thursday, September 15, to Sunday, the 18th, I was entranced by and at the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party.  Consider these — randomly chosen — delights.  Jim Dapogny playing IF I WERE YOU (twice) and some of his winsome original compositions.  Rossano Sportiello, Frank Tate, and Hal Smith swinging like no one’s business.  Rebecca Kilgore singing KEEP A SONG IN YOUR SOUL in the Andy Schumm-Hal Smith tribute to Alex Hill. Andy, on piano, with Paul Patterson and Marty Grosz — once on banjo! — in a hot chamber trio (a highlight being LOUISE).  Wesla Whitfield in wonderfully strong voice.  Dan Block and Scott Robinson romping through HOTTER THAN ‘ELL.  A Basie-styled small band led by Jon Burr, offering (among other pleasures) IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS OF THE MORNING.  A string bass trio — Burr, Tate, and Kerry Lewis — showing that no other instruments need apply.  Harry Allen and Jon-Erik Kellso playing ballads, and Dan Barrett, too.  Tributes to Nat Cole, Harry Warren, Isham Jones, and Bill Evans.  Many videos, too — although they take some time to emerge in public.

I came home late Sunday night and on Monday and Tuesday returned to normal (employed) life as Professor Steinman: John Updike, Tillie Olsen, William Faulkner.

Tomorrow, which is Wednesday, September 21, I get on a plane to New Orleans for Duke Heitger’s Steamboat Stomp.  Obviously I can’t report on delights experienced, but I can say I am looking forward to hearing, talking with, and cheering for the Yerba Buena Stompers, Miss Ida Blue, Banu Gibson, Tim Laughlin, Hal Smith, Kris Tokarski, Andy Schumm, Alex Belhaj, David Boeddinghaus, Ed Wise, Charlie Halloran, James Evans, Steve Pistorius, Orange Kellin, Tom Saunders, Debbie Fagnano, and many others.

So there you have it.  I could sit at home blogging, or I could be on the road, collecting gems, some of which I will be able to share.

My counsel in all this has been the most eminent solicitor, Thomas Langham, who will now offer his closing argument to the jury:

May your happiness increase!

POUR MONSIEUR BECHET: TIM LAUGHLIN, CONNIE JONES, DOUG FINKE, CHRIS DAWSON, KATIE CAVERA, MARTY EGGERS, HAL SMITH (San Diego, Nov. 30, 2014)

The great man himself, signing a promotional postcard, in 1955 or 56:

Bechet postcard front

and the other side:

Bechet postcard back
Honoring Sidney, these great lyrical artists, November 30, 2014, at the San Diego Jazz Fest:

An absolutely exquisite rendering of SI TU VOIS MA MERE, Bechet’s paean to maternal love and memory, here performed by Tim Laughlin, clarinet; Connie Jones, cornet; Doug Finke, trombone; Chris Dawson, piano; Katie Cavera, guitar; Marty Eggers, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.

I look forward to seeing Tim at the Steamboat Stomp, later this month.

May your happiness increase!