FOR PRES (Part One): MICHAEL KANAN, LARRY McKENNA, MURRAY WALL, DORON TIROSH (Sept. 1, 2018, University of Scranton, PA)

Michael Kanan, Larry McKenna, Murray Wall, Doron Tirosh at the University of Scranton, Sept. 1, 2018. Photograph by John Herr.

I extol the virtues of life in New York, but beautiful things are created when bold explorers like myself cross into other states, too.  On Saturday, September 1, at the University of Scranton, PA, Loren Schoenberg and The National Jazz Museum in Harlem presented “Tribute to Prez: The Life and Music of Lester Young” featuring The Michael Kanan Quartet, with saxophonist Larry McKenna, string bassist Murray Wall, and drummer Doron Tirosh. Loren wasn’t able to make it, but his perception and generosity made a wonderful musical event take place.  Thanks are also due Cheryl Y. Boga, Tom Cipriano, and photographer John Herr.

JUST YOU, JUST ME:

BLUE LESTER:

LADY BE GOOD:

I had the honor of being there, getting to say a few words about Lester alongside Michael and  Larry (to a hip audience) and recording the concert, nine extended beautifully floating performances which captured Lester’s spirit while enabling everyone to “go for himself.”  Here are the first three, which require only open-hearted appreciation . . . no explication needed.  Just sweetness everywhere.

May your happiness increase!

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WHEN PAST AND PRESENT EMBRACE: “SWEET LIKE THIS”: THE ORIGINAL CORNELL SYNCOPATORS with ED CLUTE (September 2018)

I first encountered the Original Cornell Syncopators at the 2017 San Diego Jazz Fest, where “they blew me away” with their joyous enthusiasm and fierce determination to get it right while having a good time.  Here they are with our friend Katie Cavera sitting in, and here is a second helping.  Since some of the original members graduated from Cornell in the interim, I had worries that the OCS would have been a brilliant Hot supernova, streaking once only across the sky. I needn’t have worried.

In the fashion of the great bandleaders he adores, the multi-talented Colin Hancock has recruited a whole new crop of brilliant young people to play the music most convincingly . . . and the OCS is embarked on its East Coast tour, with a New York City gig coming up.

And here’s a recent — and very moving example: their version of the King Oliver / Dave Nelson SWEET LIKE THIS, with a guest appearance by the remarkable pianist Ed Clute.

In this video, the OCS (or, as Colin calls them, the “Syncs”) are Colin Hancock, cornet, arranger, director; Lior Kreindler, trumpet; David Connelly, trumpet; Uche Chukwukere, violin; Rishi Verma, trombone; Kieran Loehr, alto, clarinet; Stephen Newcomb, alto, baritone, clarinet; Troy Anderson, tenor, clarinet; Robbert Van Renesse, banjo; Christina Li, piano; Sarah Cohn-Manick, tuba; Noah Li, drums; special guest Edward Clute, piano:

I find that simple melody completely haunting, and hear a whole generation of melancholy music in it — parallel with some of 1928 Louis and forward to 1940 Duke.  A true tone-painting, rendered so soulfully by the Syncopators.

This Friday, September 28, the OCS will play a ninety-minute concert at the Triad Theater (158 West 72nd Street, New York City) from 7 to 8:30: details here.  I suggest that if you are interested in seeing this phenomenon, you look into buying tickets.  As I remember it — from my Upper West Side days — the Triad is not a huge space.  But it will be filled to the rafters with love, heat, and enthusiasm.

May your happiness increase!

EXTRA! EXTRA! HOT TIMES IN PISMO (Jazz Jubilee by the Sea, October 25-18, 2018)

As I’ve written here, I am making my maiden voyage to the Pismo, California, JAZZ JUBILEE BY THE SEA next month — about five weeks from now.  While my suburban neighbors will be having illicit affairs with their leaf blowers and looking skeptically at their down parkas, I’ll be in Southern California, enjoying the sounds of (among others) Larry Scala, Bob Schulz, Carl Sonny Leyland, Chloe Feoranzo, Clint Baker, Creole Syncopators, Danny Coots, Danny Tobias, Dawn Lambeth, High Sierra, IVORY&GOLD, Jeff Barnhart, Marc Caparone,  Midiri Brothers, Mike Baird, Adrian Cunningham, the Au Brothers, The Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band . . .  The list is subjective, and I am sure that someone’s favorite band in the cosmos has been omitted, but a complete listing follows below.

I invite you to join me, of course.  Details here (Facebook) and the much more comprehensive Pismo Jazz website.

But for people like me, and I would think many of my readers, going to a jazz festival is not just a matter of, “Oh, I’ll drop by this place.  Music is coming out of the windows and front door,” but a matter of strategy: “If we go to see the Land Rovers at 3, we’ll be in a perfect place to see the Hot Tortoises at 4:15, and then the Adrian Rollini Memorial Orchestra at 7, but we’ll have to miss the Broken Sandals on Friday.  No worry, though, they are playing an 8 AM Saturday set,” and so on.

“Hey, Mister! Hey, Lady! Get the Full Band Schedule here! The Pismo News!”

Such cogitation — worthy of a great eighteenth-century European general planning his campaign — is only possible when one has a Band Schedule, which I can offer you now, courtesy of the very kind people who run things.  Hence:

There’s a version of this schedule on the Jubilee website here, which may be easier to read and annotate.  I am sure that the schedule will also be given out to attendees when they buy tickets / pick up badges onsite.

Veterans of the Jubilee have pointed out to me that the performance venues are somewhat spread-out.  I am moderately ambulatory (that might be a euphemism) but my days of sprinting from one place to another are over.  So I report with pleasure the news from Jubilee HQ:

If you get stranded at a venue, we do have buses.  We are trying something new. Every venue will have a bus.  That bus will be available at the end of the set.  They will take you where you want to go, venues first.  If that bus is full, another bus will be along and dropping people off.

Very reassuring!

And in the spirit of “breaking news,” here’s a bouncy love song from 1934 by Chick Bullock and his Levee Loungers.  Alas, Sterling Bose (or Stirling?), Perry Botkin, Joe Venuti, and Jack Teagarden won’t be at the Jubilee — they have other commitments — but I know you and I will be in for a weekend of singular sights and music:

May your happiness increase!

LONDON’S HOTTEST RHYTHM JUGGLERS: THE VITALITY FIVE, “SYNCOPATION GONE MAD”

I’ve had an alarm clock / clock radio at the side of my bed for decades now, and its message is unvarying and irritating. Time to go to school!  Time to go to work! Time to move the car to avoid a ticket! 

But playing the new CD by The Vitality Five, its title noted above, I thought if I could rig up a musical machine that would, at first softly, play one of their glorious lively evocations of a vanished time, I would be much more willing to get out of bed and face the world.

The Vitality 5 is inherently not the same as many other bands performing Twenties hot repertoire.  For one thing, the 5’s reach is informed and deep: of the seventeen songs on this disc, perhaps four will be well-known to people who “like older jazz.”  Be assured that even the most “obscure” tunes are melodic and memorable.  More important to me is the 5’s perhaps unstated philosophy in action.  Many bands so worship the originals that they strive to create reverent copies of the original discs, and in performance this can be stunning.  But the 5 realizes something in their performances and arrangements that, to me, is immensely valuable: the people who made the original records were animated by joyous exuberance.

The players we venerate were “making it up as they went along,” as if their lives depended on it.  Theirs did, and perhaps ours do as well.

So these performances are splendidly animated by vivacious personality: they leap off the disc.  I don’t mean that the 5 is louder or faster, but they are energized.  You can’t help but hear and feel it.

Facts.  The band has been together since 2015, and it is that rare and wonderful entity — a working band.  Two of its members should be intimate pals to JAZZ LIVES readers: David Horniblow, reeds, and Andrew Oliver, piano — they are the one and only Complete Morton Project.  The other three members who complete the arithmetic are special heroes of mine, people I’ve admired at the Whitley Bay / Mike Durham jazz parties: Michael McQuaid, reeds and cornet; Martin Wheatley, banjo; Nicholas D. Ball, drums.

And they are superb players — not only star soloists, but wonderful in ensemble, making the 5 seem much more a flexible orchestra than the single digit would suggest.  They are, as Louis would say, Top Men On Their Instruments.  Each performance has its own rhythmic surge, the arrangements are varied without being “clever,” and the band is wise enough to choose material that has a deep melodic center — memorable lines that range in performance from sweetly lyrical to incendiary.  The back cover proclaims that there are “17 CERTAIN DANCE HITS!” and it’s true.

A final word about repertoire — a subject whose narrowing I find upsetting, as some “Twenties” groups play and replay the same dozen songs: this disc offers songs I’d either never heard before (JI-JI BOO) or not in decades (THE SPHINX) as well as classics that aren’t simply transcriptions from the OKeh (FIREWORKS, EVERY EVENING, COPENHAGEN) — across the spectrum from Nichols-Mole to Clarence Williams to McKinney’s Cotton Pickers and more.

I know it’s heresy to some, but the Vitality 5 performs at a level that is not only equal to the great recordings, but superior to them.  A substantial claim, but the disc supports it.

Visit here to hear their hot rendition of COPENHAGEN — also, here you can buy an actual disc or download their music.  Convinced?  I hope so.

And to the Gentlemen of the Ensemble: if you perfect the Vitality Five Rise-and-Shine machine, suitable for all electric currents, do let me know.  I’ll be your first purchaser.  Failing that, please prosper, have many gigs, and make many CDs!

May your happiness increase!

FOUR-FOUR RHYTHM: KRIS TOKARSKI, JONATHAN DOYLE, LARRY SCALA, NOBU OZAKI, HAL SMITH at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (November 24, 2017)

Jazz at Lincoln Center (and JazzTimes) just sent an announcement about the 2019 Jazz Congress, January 7-8, 2019 at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Broadway at 60th Street, New York, New York.  One panel is:

 Jazz, Swing, Race and Culture
Considering swing as a rhythm or swing as a feeling or a verb, what are the social, cultural, and racial factors that affect individuals’ perception, acceptance or rejection of the concept? Player[s] and thinkers ponder what swing means in 2019.

I doubt that it will happen, but in my ideal world, the player[s] and thinkers at JALC will watch these videos before pondering.  The music was created in 2017, not 2019, and there are other ways to swing, but what Kris and his Gang did was genuine and might eliminate some theorizing.

These four performances come from a magical band that made a splash at the 2017 San Diego Jazz Fest: Kris Tokarski, piano; Jonathan Doyle, clarinet / tenor saxophone; Larry Scala, guitar; Nobu Ozaki, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.  I could spend paragraphs pointing out resemblances and echoes of the Ancestors (you’re free to chase such things at your leisure) but I’d rather you admire these living heroes at play, and such expert play.

LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME:

REPEATER PENCIL (and, yes, such a thing did exist: see here):

DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM:

JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS:

Festival organizers, club bookers, concert promoters with taste: now’s the time!

Incidentally, this is the charming 1929 record from which I take my title:

May your happiness increase!

MR. WALLER SWINGS BY (Part One): THE HOLLAND-COOTS JAZZ QUINTET at the SCOTT JOPLIN INTERNATIONAL RAGTIME FESTIVAL (Sedalia, Missouri: May 31, 2018)

The Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, photograph by Amy Holland, 2017, Nashville, Tenn.

The Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet has a special affinity for the music of Fats Waller — his own compositions as well as those he made his own.  It’s not surprising: Mister Waller’s particular swing and playfulness fits well with this contemporary group’s joyous approach.

If the fellows above are not familiar to you, you’ve been missing out on quite a lot of good jive (do you know their debut CD, which is also a Fats mini-concert?): from left, Marc Caparone, cornet / vocal; Steve Pikal, string bass; Danny Coots, drums; Evan Arntzen, reeds / vocal; Brian Holland, piano.

One of the high points of the 2018 Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival (May-June, Sedalia, Missouri) was an evening concert devoted to Fats’ music.  I’ve posted performances by Dalton Ridenhour, and duets between Neville Dickie and Danny Coots, but here’s the first part of the wonderful offering by the HCJQ.  Notice that they honor the original recordings but they don’t copy them.

MOPPIN’ AND BOPPIN’, composed by Benny Carter for the 1943 motion picture STORMY WEATHER:

KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW, tenderly sung by Evan, with the verse:

The rollicking I’VE GOT MY FINGERS CROSSED, sung by Marc:

And the beautiful LONESOME ME:

Finally, some original Wallerizing — a hot sonata for Arntzen and Pikal, called PHAT SWOLLER:

More to come!  (Incidentally, I’m following this band on to Baby’s first-ever cruise . . . but don’t let me influence you unduly.  Details here.)

May your happiness increase!

“JUST LIKE THAT!” DAN MORGENSTERN TELLS A TALE (June 8, 2018)

Perry Como, 1944:

You didn’t expect to see him on JAZZ LIVES, but he deserves the attention.  People of my generation will remember him as a completely relaxed television presence, wearing a sweater before Fred Rogers, comfortable and warm.  As a young singer, he did his own very convincing version of Bing, which is not something I would chastise him for.  Here’s an early vocal on a Ted Weems record — to complete the Bing-ness, there’s whistling by Elmo Tanner:

But this blogpost isn’t a return to the fairly sweet sounds of yesteryear.  When I visited Dan Morgenstern last June, I think we’d planned to talk about a variety of jazz notables . . . but I’ve learned to start the camera and trust the teller.

What Dan recalled is, to me, memorable: it says, “There ARE righteous people”:

One of the righteous is Dan himself.  But you knew that.

May your happiness increase!