Monthly Archives: May 2008

LANCELOT ET SES CHEVALIERS

Some weeks ago, I wrote about discovering the Parisian stride wizard Olivier Lancelot. Today, I found an enticing flat package in my mailbox: a CD by Oliver with the clarinetist / altoist Didier Desbois and the washboardist / singer* Stephan Seva, recorded at a concert in 1999.

The trio plays Grandpa’s Spells / Liza / Love Me / Harlem Joys / I Believe In Miracles / Original Dixieland One-Step / Breeze* / Lulu’s Back in Town / Buddy’s Habits / Le Lac des Cygnes [Swan Lake] / High Society / Honeysuckle Rose.

The word “washboard” makes some listeners justifiably anxious, for many players of that instrument are loud, intrusive, unsteady. But Seva is a delicate player, not given to clangorous banging, and his time is just right. In fact, his solo work reminds me of late-period Zutty Singleton. Seva’s tappings and rattlings have a thoughtful sound, as if he was experimenting with his paraphernalia to see what would come out of it.

Desbois is an unusual clarinet player, and his singularity is to be praised. Most clarinetists aim for a full, rounded woody tone — the better to rip off Benny Goodman phrases! — or they growl and sputter, hoping to emulate PeeWee Russell. Desbois has a focused, penetrating, reedy tone, reminiscent of black pre-Goodman clarinetists (Cecil Scott, Benny Carter, Prince Robinson). His approach may take you by surprise when you first hear it, but it is a truly pleasant surprise. He sounds like Pan, if Pan swung this hard, which I doubt. He is also an extraordinary Hodges (and Charlie Holmes) alto virtuoso: his tone on “I Believe In Miracles” is rich but never syrupy, as he glides from note to note.

And then there’s the noble Lancelot himself, someone I have already celebrated as a solo player. But many solo players, in and out of stride, can’t merge their rhythms with other players. Not so Olivier, who proves himself a fine accompanist — in the groove — as Thirties players used to say. And you might, at first, admire his instrumental facility, his sheer mastery of stride conventions, fluidly played and creatively reimagined. But soon you stop saying, “There’s a James P. passage,” or “Hear how Olivier executes that familiar Fats run,” and you admire the serious joy he brings to his own version of the style.

As a group, the trio has its own witty fun — the startling key changes in “Original Dixieland One-Step,” Seva’s heartfelt vocalizing on “Breeze,” and the mournful ending to “Le Lac de Cygnes” — these and other touches give this trio an identity: it’s no one’s repertory band.

Visit Olivier’s website (www.lancelotmusic.com) for information on how to get the CD — and the generous bonus of unissued tracks from this concert. Here they are, in a Parisian club, “Le Petit Opportun,” in 2000.


OUR FAR-FLUNG CORRESPONDENTS: SACRAMENTO JAZZ JUBILEE (I)

Bill Gallagher is a fine candid photographer:

Eddie Erickson and Becky Kilgore, striking a pose

Allan Vache, Harry Allen, Bria Skonberg, John Allred

Paul Keller, Joe Ascione

Russ Phillips, Vince Bartels


BED (Dan Barrett, Becky Kilgore, Joel Forbes, Eddie Erickson)

and finally . . . Bill with Eddie Higgins

OUR FAR-FLUNG CORRESPONDENTS: SACRAMENTO JAZZ JUBILEE (II)

Bill Gallagher, also a fine writer, is encountered too infrequently in the pages of the IAJRC Journal. Here’s his report on the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, held Memorial Day Weekend:

This celebration of jazz was started in 1974, primarily as a Trad Jazz festival. Today it is still mostly a Trad thing but there is a good deal of Mainstream jazz and even Latin, Gypsy and Zydeco. The problem, if you could call it that, is that there are 105 different bands appearing throughout the city at 30 different venues. Commendably, there are a number of youth bands that get to strut their stuff and it is heartening to see jazz attract the younger set, particularly while the audience (myself included) seems to be aging at an alarming rate. Attendance this year was about 75,000 people. Not a bad draw, you might say, but not close to the 200,000 attendees of ten years ago. Another reality in this age of shrinking budgets is that fewer international bands are to be seen. While the festival provides a highly efficient transportation system for getting from one venue to another, the sheer size of the three-day event makes it impossible to see and hear everything. But that doesn’t stop the faint of heart from trying.

Overlooking the magnitude of the event and its associated logistics, there was lots of great jazz. Becky Kilgore and BED knocks everybody’s socks off. Various All Stars in numerous configurations provided stunning, extemporaneous performances. Performers like Harry Allen, Russ Phillips, John Allred, Randy Reinhart, Joe Ascione, John Cocuzzi, Jim Galloway, Jake Hanna and, I’m proud to say, my good friend and pianist with few peers, Eddie Higgins, provided a continuous succession of one great performance after another. But a good part of the fun was listening to the banter that goes on with musicians and the occasionally funny slip by a fan. What do I mean? Well, here’s a sampler.

Tommy Saunders made reference to a compatriot of many years with the aside, “I’ve drunk to your health so much I’ve ruined mine.”

A woman approached Bob Schulz of the Frisco Jazz Band with a request. Would you play “I’ll Be Your Friend For Pleasure”? Sure, but I think you mean “I’ll Be Your Friend WITH Pleasure.”

As Jim Galloway began to introduce a number that featured him, “Bewitched, Bothered and …” But before he could get the last word out, Dan Barrett injected “Bob Wilber-ed.”

Bob Ringwald, father of actress Molly Ringwald, performed “Bethena,” a beautiful Scott Joplin rag. As background, Bob told the audience that his daughter had asked him to play it for her wedding. It was a difficult piece to learn and it took Bob some time to finally get it down. “In fact,” said Bob, “it took me longer to learn it than the marriage lasted.”

Great music. Great fun. Good times.

—- Bill Gallagher

 

MAKING RECORDS WITH MARTY GROSZ

I realize my title contains an archaic expression, for no one makes records anymore. At Clinton Recording Studios last week, the expert engineer Doug Pomeroy was far beyond cutting grooves in a wax disc. But the atmosphere at a jazz recording session, especially one led by the guitarist Marty Grosz, is somewhere between the cheerfully lewd horseplay of a boys’ locker room and the intense seriousness of artists who know they are making something permanent out of music created on the spot. Eveyone knows that their art is both out-of-fashion and timeless.

The facts first. Grosz, looking more healthy and energized than at the previous recording session I attended (Marty Grosz and his Hot Combination for Arbors) is in equal parts vaudevillian and serious jazz scholar, crooner and chordal guitar virtuoso — someone who loves what he calls “jazz arcana” and an indefatigable rhythmic sparkplug. I’ve seen him lead groups where his is the only rhythm instrument, and he swings any number of horns easily.

At this session, Marty was recording his newest assemblage, “The Hot Winds,” make of that title what you may, for the first time. The group, compact and versatile, included Dan Block, Scott Robinson, and Vince Giordano on reeds, with Rob Garcia on drums.

But that description does them an injustice. Rob not only played drums, but added a great deal of orchestral color and commentary on his glockenspiel (or is it called orchestra bells these days?). In fact, during a break, at Vince’s request, Rob played an on-target version of Ellington’s “The Mooche” — supplying all the Jungle Band percussion patented by Sonny Greer while Rob played the melody on the bells.

Vince not only sang but also played his aluminum string bass, bass sax, and tuba. Between Dan and Scott, there was a forest of instruments: a clarinet, an alto saxophone, a baritone saxophone, an echo cornet, an Eb alto horn, a C-melody saxophone, and bass clarinet.

On the second day, Marty’s Philadelphia friend Jim Gicking brought his trombone for ensemble color on two tracks, but he also told me that he plays guitar duets (Carl Kress and Dick McDonough and the like) with Marty.

As an architectural digression: Studio A at Clinton is a square room with lots of wood, not only on the floor — and the “greatest ceiling in New York,” said Scott — resembling either Saturn’s rings or crop circles, you pick.

And, as a happy throwback to the Old Days, the musicians were arranged in a circle, so that they could see one another. True, there were more microphones than you would have found in 1940, but times change. But The Hot Winds could have made lovely music anywhere: their sound a mixture of so many happy jazz experiences — Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra, a New Orleans parade, the figure-eight strum of Bernard Addison on the 1940 Chocolate Dandies session, the Bechet-Spanier HRS discs, Django and the Quintet of the Hot Club of France . . . all leavened with the strong personalities of the five musicians in the room: jocular, inventive, hard-driving, tender.

Marty sang a number of rare songs the first day, among them one of my favorites — the 1933 ditty, “I’ve Gotta Get Up And Go To Work,” which isn’t a Monday-morning moan but a celebration of employment, something to sing about when so many were jobless:

Exactly eight o’clock! / Where’s my other sock? / I’ve got a job / So help me, Bob / I’ve gotta get up and go to work . . .

In keeping with the good cheer, Vince sang “My Blackbirds are Bluebirds Now,” one of those late-Twenties songs innocently tying good luck and bad luck to avian colors (!). While they were deciding on their head arrangement, Marty told the story of working in a trio with bassist Bill Pemberton and a famous musician, a fine player, who took a very long time to decide on the next song: “Hey, X, you wanna play ‘Rosetta’?” “Oh, I don’t know. (Long pause.) I’m not sure I know how the bridge goes.” and so on. Turning to Rob, he gave stern artistic guidance: “Give us a little Zutty [Singleton]. Don’t be afraid. We want to go wild.” And Rob, whose playing is full of snap and crackle, not to mention pop, swung out nicely.

Tenderness filled the studio with the next song, a 1931 love-effusion recorded by Ethel Waters and Jack Teagarden, “I Just Couldn’t Take It, Baby,” where Marty showed off the emotional range sometimes obscured by his comedies. As the last selection of the day, Marty returned to a beloved but little-known Fats Waller opus, “The Panic Is On,” which he had been playing and recording since his earliest days: its chart, he said, was “stolen from an old arrangement I did when I was a twerp.” And the evening and the morning were the first day.

The second day was devoted to instrumentals — where the soloists could stretch out more. Marty is one of the few musicians I know who plans his CDs as if they were concerts — variety in repertoire, mood, key, tempo, and length. He waxes eloquent on the current practice of throwing twenty-four selections at listeners, which means that people, wearied by monotony, never make it past Track Three.

The first tune he called was the truly obscure Ellington-related “Maori,” by William H, Tyers, who also wrote “Panama.” Marty envisioned this for two clarinets, with a New Orleans flavor, where the soloists kept playing, veering in and out of collective improvisation. I was reminded of the happy early days of Soprano Summit, with Marty the heart of their rhythm section. “When Buddha Smiles,” even rarer, followed — a festival of instrument-switching, as Scott first played baritone sax (it was Dan’s), then curved soprano, Eb alto horn. I am proud to report that I became indispensable for a few minutes, holding the baritone in mid-air after Scott had finished his solo because there was no stand for it. “They also serve who only stand and wait,” said John Milton, and I developed a new admiration for Harry Carney, who had that truly heavy instrument around his neck for nearly fifty years.

Jim Gicking brought his trombone into the studio for the next two numbers — a wistful “Under A Blanket of Blue,” Marty’s remembrance of the late Chicago clarinetist Frank Chace, who liked that ballad, and another rare Fats tune, “Caught,” which got a groovy treatment — not exactly music for a stripper, but in that neighborhood. Another obscurity, “Love and Kisses,” an early Ella Fitzgerald – Chick Webb record, showed its similarity to “With Plenty of Money and You” with touches of “Since My Best Gal Turned Me Down.” As is Marty’s habit, he very carefully counted off the tempo he wanted by singing / humming / scatting much of the first sixteen bars, to make sure that he and the band were in the same groove. When he led The Hot Winds into King Oliver’s “Riverside Blues,” his aesthetic direction was clear: “Let’s make it like we were playing in a joint.” I was sitting down, notebook on my lap, so I couldn’t see everything that was happening, and was happily puzzled to hear a Scott Robinson blues chorus that sounded as if he was playing a huge kazoo underwater. Later I found out that he had taken off the mouthpiece of his metal clarinet and was humming into the barrel, creating a truly other-worldly sound. (Correction: to make that sound, Scott told me, he buzzes into the clarinet as if playing a trumpet.)

Finally — and joyously — everyone swung an old Apex Club favorite, “Oh, Sister, Ain’t That Hot?” which, in Marty’s hands is never a question. In fact, during these sessions, I kept thinking of something he had once told me: in Chicago, when he was a young jazz player, he and his friends had the admonitory catchphrase “GET HOT OR GO HOME.” That’s a gospel that he and The Hot Winds take seriously, and some time next year everyone will be able to hear this delicious music on an Arbors CD.

EHUD’S GOT RHYTHM

 

The earnest, cheerful young pianist in this photograph is Ehud Asherie.  At Smalls, the happily atmospheric jazz club at 183 West 10th Street, he has been at the helm of small groups with Harry Allen, Jon-Erik Kellso, Mchael Hashim, and others.  Smalls, incidentally, is a compact jazz shrine — one of the owners, Mitch Borden, launched a conversation about trumpeter Bill Coleman — a name you don’t hear very often, more’s the pity.  And behind Jon-Erik on the small stage you will see a famous picture of a young, nattily dressed Louis in London, around 1932 (catch the plus fours), giving his blessing to everything that happens in the room. 

I went to hear Ehud and Jon-Erik play duets on Thursday night, and their one-hour set was varied, heartfelt, and swinging.  If you visit Ehud’s beautifully designed website (www.ehudasherie.com), you might think you were listening to a most capable Mainstream – Bop pianist, nimbly improvising in the treble, supporting his treble flights with percussive chords in the bass.  But I had heard from musicians, among them drummer Kevin Dorn, that Ehud knew what it was to swing, to play stride piano, most convincingly.  Kevin was right.       

Solo piano is extremely difficult, because there’s no Walter Page /Jo Jones cushion to rest on.  Ehud is more than up to the task: his melodic embellishments never abandon the beauties of the songs, and his style is a rewarding melding of thoughtful, graceful Teddy Wilson treble lines, deep harmonies that took in the whole history of jazz piano, and flexible rhythmic support with modern touches.  He has the quiet drive of late-period Ralph Sutton, with the harmonic surprise of Jimmy Rowles.  At times, I thought of Fats Waller having a drink with Thelonious Monk, but the music isn’t an academic exercise, a player showing off how many styles he’s learned.  Ehud’s playing is an organic whole, with one phrase leading to the next, one chorus logically building on its predecessor.  If solo playing is a difficult task, duet playing requires special intuition and empathy so that it isn’t Dueling Ego.  Jon-Erik is not only a priceless soloist but a generous ensemble player, so what happened at Smalls was an aesthetic conversation that occasionally became spiritual communion.  If I tell you that both players were ginning at each other throughout the set, that should convey their (and our) pleasure. 

They began with an ambling “I Would Do Anything For You,” written by the now almost-forgotten Claude Hopkins, a Thirties song usually taken at a breakneck pace, with Jon-Erik using one of his many mutes.  They picked up the tempo to explore a traditional melody Ehud thought had Irish roots, “When You And I Were Young, Maggie,” at a tempo that suggested that the past must have been more than usually athletic.  Jon-Erik thought that such reminiscences deserved the naughty growls and moans that only plunger-muted trumpet can convey.  A lyrical “Body and Soul” followed (a classic that deserves to be played on its own terms at least once a night at every jazz gig), then a Bixish “I’m Comin’ Virginia,” complete with its verse.  Perhaps as a nod to Fats Waller, or to Ruby Braff, Ehud called for “I’m Crazy ‘Bout My Baby,” which was ferocious.  Here he showed his inspiring stride playing — technically assured, with delicious variations of the bass patterns — subtly propulsive rather than mechanistic.  Jon-Erik then announced that Ehud, “the band within a band,” would play a solo, and the “Echo of Spring” that followed did honor to its creator, Willie “the Lion” Smith.  A “funky – groovy” “Lonesome Road” was the occasion for an extended Kellso solo, impassioned yet controlled.  A playful “i’m Putting All My Eggs In One Basket” featured some truly joyful interplay, and the set closed with “Tea for Two,” taken straight, Ehud beginning with an elaborate Waller-tinged reading of the verse, and wittily slipping in reference to “Some Other Time” into his improvisations. 

As I left, I saw the fine pianist Rossano Sportiello at the back of the room: he, too, had come to admire.  And there was so much to admire!  Future Thursdays will feature other distinguished New Yorkers joining Ehud: something not to be missed! 

THE NEXT GENERATION, or POPS IS TOPS

Since 1988, the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens — the house where Louis and Lucille lived — has been hosting programs to introduce neighborhood children to Louis’s music. It has never been a serious classroom exercise, rather an exuberant offering of hot jazz, spirituals, and blues in the beautiful garden behind the Armstrong house.

Louis loved children, although he never had any; he lived to “play for the people,” and his earliest musical experiences were on city streets, with music that didn’t come from an Ipod. I was thrilled to get an invitation from Baltsar Beckeld, Projects Manager of the Armstrong House Museum, to see “Pops Is Tops” for myself. Every year, some of New York’s best musicians gather on three consecutive days, at unnaturally early hours for them, to play for the children, tell some stories, and have a good time. Jazz musicians yearn for receptive audiences, and children are open to rhythm and fun. When the weather is fine, as it was today, the garden is filled with more than two hundred children. Most of them are from the third, fourth, and fifth grades at local schools (P.S. 92 and 19, precisely) but there were four-year olds in the audience as well as enthusiastic grownups like myself.

This year’s concerts feature David Ostwald’s Gully Low Jazz Band — celebrated elsewhere in this blog — Kevin Louis, trumpet and vocals; Dion Tucker, trombone; Joe Muranyi, clarinet and eminence grise; James Chirillo, banjo, David Ostwald, tuba and leader; Marion Felder, drums. Muranyi holds a special distinction as being one of the last, if not the last, of Louis’s alumni still playing, and playing splendidly.

I missed David’s introduction, where he and the musicians demonstrated their instruments, and the band was finishing a slow blues as I came into the garden, but the air brightened when he announced “High Society,” and Felder beat off the right tempo. Not all the children were immediately captivated: feet jiggled in time here and there, but even those who turned around to talk to their friends were happy. But one little girl not far from me sat rapt, attentive, nearly mesmerized by the music. When Chirillo soloed and Felder accompanied him with sticks on the wooden rim of his snare, little boys leaned forward: they had never heard anything like it.

David knows his audiences, so he became a fine cheerleader several times during the hour-long program. “Can you say Louis Armstrong?” he asked the crowd, and when they responded sedately, he said, “I can’t hear you!” until they shouted it out in cheerful unison. He then invited children to come up and strut their stuff, their best dance moves, in front of the band, which was a hit, especially with trumpeter Kevin Louis doing his best New Orleans exhortation, “Ain’t gonna dance / Better get / out of my way!” while rapping on a tambourine, creating a down-home parade in Corona. A serious “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” followed, and when the band shifted into tempo, the children were treated to a Muranyi / Chirillo duet where Joe showed he remembered Louis’s trick from “Mahogany Hall Stomp,” of repeating a simple phrase over changing chords. And, although none of the children had ever heard of Louis’s buddy Zutty Singleton, Felder’s drum solo — press rolls and bass-drum accents — showed he certainly had. The band ended with a rousing “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue,” but the music didn’t end: Louis’s majestic sound filled the garden with songs from his Satchmo: A Musical Autobiography sessions. At the end, the children crowded around trumpeter Kevin Louis, eager for his autograph.

Who knows if this audience held the next Louis, Lester, Billie, or Bird? But there was an extraordinary musical and spiritual osmosis in that garden. Louis, I am sure, was pleased. For more information on next year’s “Pops Is Tops” programs, the Armstrong House Museum (worth a trip from anywhere, if only to see the lovely turquoise kitchen, the mirrored bathroom, and to hit the gift shop), visit www.satchmo.net., or the “Louis Armstrong House and Museum” link on the blogroll.

I THOUGHT I HEARD RUBY BRAFF SAY

In 1971, when I read in The New Yorker that cornetist Ruby Braff was going to play a week at the Half Note in New York City, this was exciting news. I had first heard his playing on one of the famous Vanguard recordings, The Vic Dickenson Showcase. On “Everybody Loves My Baby” and “Old-Fashioned Love,” he had added remarkable deep indigo shadings to the ensembles, his solos mixing melodic embellishment, passionate surs and moans.

Soon after, the legendary jazz broadcaster Ed Beach devoted four hours to Ruby on WRVR-FM, and I began to search out his records. In the Fifties, Ruby had been in the studios with the best players: Lee Wiley, Coleman Hawkins, Dave McKenna, Lawrence Brown, PeeWee Russell, Benny Morton, Jo Jones, Walter Page . . . and he was featured as a member of George Wein’s Newport All-Stars.

What Wein has done for jazz in the last half-century and more with the Newport Jazz Festival and its incarnations is beyond dispute. But he is in the odd position of being simultaneously an impresario and a musician of limited gifts who saw it as his right to play in the bands he sponsored and hired. The pleasure he takes in playing is visible, but no one ever wished a Wein solo longer, no one ever delighted in the subtlety of his accompaniment. But he got gigs, he loved Ruby. Ruby derided him in interviews and no doubt in person but accepted the gigs.

Shortly before the Half Note gig, I had just bought Wein’s newest record — “George Wein and the Newport All-Stars” on Atlantic, featuring Ruby, Barney Kessel, Tal Farlow, Red Norvo, Larry Ridley, and Don Lamond. And Wein, of course. The players were superb soloists but there was little ensemble unity. One of the high points, I thought, was Ruby’s lovely solo on “My Melancholy Baby.”

Full of anticipation. I went to the Half Note with two friends, Stu Zimny and Rob Rothberg, both of whom were equally excited about seeing Ruby. Being bold, Stu had driven us from our suburban familiarities to the unknown reaches of West Greenwich Village (the Half Note was on the corner of Spring and Hudson Streets, no longer uncharted territory); Rob, an amateur trumpet player, had brought a rare record — Ruby with Ellis Larkins — for Ruby to autograph.

We came into the club, which was typically small and dark, with a raised stage at one end of the room, under it the bar. Ruby was standing nearby. He wore a blazer and tie. I had expected him to be diminutive, and he was, with a cigarette in one hand. We approached him.

I was meeting one of my idols, someone I had spent hours listening to. I had Braff solos by heart and could call them to memory. I was nervous and eager. Being a respectful nineteen-year old, I called Ruby “Mr. Braff,” told him that I loved his playing and had been collecting his records. He may have smiled. What I do remember most clearly is this exchange:

Me: “I especially like the solo you played on ‘My Melancholy Baby’ on the new Newport All-Stars record.”

Ruby: “That shit?”

Me: Embarrassed silence. When I replay this scene in my mind, I say something elegant, perhaps, “Well, I liked it,” but I don’t know if courage deserted me. The music Ruby played that night (and I illicitly recorded) is another story, but that was my first introduction to him in person.

JAZZ MANGLISH 2

I promise I don’t go looking for these things: they seek me out.

Verve Records has reissued Louis Armstrong’s 1951 Decca NEW ORLEANS NIGHTS, which features Jack Teagarden, Barney Bigard, Earl Hines, Arvell Shaw, and Cozy Cole.

One of the selections on this issue is that good old good one, “THE BUCKET’S GOT A WHOLE IN IT.”

What is there to say?

JAZZ MANGLISH

You know “Manglish.”  It’s the menu entry, “Maryland Carb Cakes.”

Jazz Manglish is usually auditory: the young radio announcers who innocently do terrible damage to the names of musicians: “Barney Biggered,” “Paul White Man,” and the like.

Today I saw a notable example of Jazz Manglish in print.  I won’t excoriate the writer, but he did it more than once.  It was the name of the leader of the Arkestra: “SUN RAH.” I guess it was that old collegiate enthusiasm bursting forth.  No other explanation.

If readers can top that one, I invite submissions.

BILLIE HOLIDAY Thanks DOC CHEATHAM and HOAGY CARMICHAEL Thanks DICK CARY

Two particularly endearing compact discs have arrived, and I haven’t stopped playing them. They’re on the Swedish Kenneth label, the jazz-child of the jazz scholar and producer Gosta Hagglof, who also happens to be one of the world’s most fervent Louis Armstrong fans and specialists. (His site, “Classic Jazz Productions,” is on the blogroll to the right.)

For forty years now, Gosta has been producing records and CDs of heartwarming jazz, featuring Maxine Sullivan, Benny Waters, Kenny Davern, Doc Cheatham, and others, alongside Swedish jazz stars, including the quite spectacular cornetist-trumpeter Bent Persson, reedman Claes Brodda, and others. These sessions have an inimitable looseness, somewhere between live performances (think of the St. Regis jam sessions without Alistair Cooke) or the slightly more formal Teddy Wilson Brunswicks, lyrical and propulsive. Here’s a much younger Gosta greeting Louis at the airport in 1965: the warm feeling passing back and forth is immediately evident.

Now, Gosta has issued Dick Cary: The Wonderful World of Hoagy Carmichael (Kenneth CKS 3410), and A Tribute to Billie Holiday: Doc Cheatham and his Swedish Jazz All Stars featuring Henri Chaix (CKS 3407). You might initially think that there have already been more than enough tributes to Hoagy and Billie, but these discs are stirringly good.

Dick Cary was one of those musicians who didn’t get recognized for his talents, perhaps because he had so many of them. He was the pianist at Louis’s Town Hall Concert: his replacement was Earl Hines, which is an honor in itself. He also was a beautifully-focused trumpeter, the only soloist I know on the Eb alto horn (the “peckhorn”), a fine composer and arranger. Cary valued variety and tone color: his piano playing encompassed Teddy Wilson and Willie “the Lion” Smith to create a seamless mainstream idiom. His trumpet playing reminds me of a cross between Harry Edison and Bobby Hackett, with touches of Joe Thomas, and no one sounded like him on the alto horn.

So the listener gets good value, to say the least, with any Cary performance — and the Hoagy performances show him off wonderfully. The arrangements are subtly varied, sometimes transforming the material: “What Kind O’Man Is You,” memorable only because Mildred Bailey sang it on a 1929 record, becomes a slow, swaying drag here, as does “Snowball.” (Most Carmichael tributes stick to his half-dozen most famous songs: this one doesn’t, without becoming esoteric.) And Cary loved the momentum that a rocking jazz band could create: his “Harvey” (a loose sketch on “Dinah,” for the most part) and “Riverboat Shuffle” build up a fine head of steam. The ballads are winsome, especially the never-perfromed “Kinda Lonesome.” It’s also a tribute to the man who did so much to bring Hoagy into the jazz consciousness, in “Ev’ntide,” “Lyin’ to Myself,” “Rockin’ Chair,” heart-on-sleeve evocations of the great Armstrong recordings, with Bent Persson in full flower. It’s one of those CDs that I have been playing from start to finish without getting bored, and there’s a percussion break in the middle of “Riverboat Shuffle” that makes me laugh out loud. What more could anyone want? How about three bonus tracks: two evoking the Ellington Brunswicks, “Kissing My Baby Goodnight” and “Love Is Like A Cigarette,” which summon up the moody sound of that band. And the CD ends with a bit of brilliant French Quarter jive in Cary’s “Swing Down in New Orleans,” which features the imperishable Doc Cheatham on trumpet and vocal, rolling his R’s extravagantly when he sings “Clar-r-r-r-inet Mar-r-r-r-malade.” Delicious!

Cheatham is in rare form on the Billie tribute, which summons up the atmosphere surrounding her more than being a direct copy of her vocals, which is all to the good. (Billie herself would have been displeased by the many feline types yowling their way through “Fine and Mellow”: better they should have stayed in the litter box.)

On this CD, the band is led by the brilliant swing / stride master Henri Chaix, whose accompaniments are a joy on their own. There is a wonderful two-tempoed rendition of “I Wish I Had You,” which Billie fanatics will remember as a title where she sings “I whoosh I had you,” always a sweetly weird moment. Doc’s climbing trumpet style is beautifully captured — no drum solos, no racetrack solos — and we get to hear him sing “The Gal I Love”:

Someday she’ll come along, the gal I love. And she’ll be big and strong, the gal I love.

Wouldn’t miss that for the world! And Doc seems to be having the time of his life, vocally. He sings at the top of his range, as he always did, lending his vocalizing a definitely feminine sound without going into falsetto; he speaks lyrics when the mood was right, and here he even indulges in touches of Fats Waller’s raillery. Even for Doc, these vocals are remarkable. And the instrumental playing on both these discs is wonderful — great rhythm section work and solos. Hagglof’s Swedish marvels come out of the great tradition, fully realized and comfortable within it, but they don’t copy the obvious models or the most recognizable sounds. You’ll hear echoes of Louis and Teddy on these discs, but also small heartfelt homages to Herschel Evans and Sandy Williams.

These are irreplaceable sessions. Gosta has two more CDs with Doc in store for us, which is splendid news. For now, I’m going to keep playing these discs, moving them from the car to the computer to the CD player, so as not to miss any notes.


PHIL SCHAAP, CHARLIE PARKER, DAVID REMNICK, THE NEW YORKER

About a week ago, the Beloved (who knows more about jazz than most people) told me excitedly that the latest issue of The New Yorker, a magazine I have been reading with some reverence since the late Sixties, had a Profile on the jazz broadcaster Phil Schaap, who’s been part of my musical consciousness for just as long. My first thought was, “Thank God! The New Yorker has rediscovered that jazz exists!” My second thought, an admittedly ignoble one, was “Why did it have to be a Profile of Phil?” Both those outbursts — idealistic and gloomy, require explication.

I first began reading the magazine because I so admired William Steig and the jazz critic Whitney Balliett. Years later, Balliett told me that when the mythic editor-in-chief William Shawn died, Tina Brown found jazz both reactionary and inexplicable, alien to the young moneyed readers she hoped to attract. Aside from a few surprisingly tepid pieces by Gary Giddins, The New Yorker seems to have considered jazz another version of model trains in the basement, not worth notice.

So a Profile of Phil Schaap, who has devoted himself to jazz with Messianic fervor, seemed at first a turning point. For one thing, it wasn’t a piece about The Death of Jazz. And although Remnick’s reportage was often snide, Schaap — in action or at rest — offers even a casual observer mountains of evidence for that point of view. But Remnick fixated on Schaap as anomaly — a flagpole sitter or the last maker of wooden shoes in Canarsie. It was The Subject As Freak, as Amiable Oddity, echoing Joseph Mitchell’s portrayal of Joe Gould.

It may not have been Remnick’s intent, but someone who knows little of jazz as a music, who thinks it arcane, will have those preconceptions reinforced. “Look how weird jazz is!” Remnick appears to be saying. “Look at Phil Schaap, its New York spokesman!” It would be sad if readers came away with the vague, subliminal notion that they had been reading an essay about jazz because Schaap plays it on WKCR-FM every weekday morning. For all his good intentions and his desire to keep jazz alive, Schaap is an entity quite distinctly different from the music he occasionally lets us hear: the Commentator isn’t the Text, and often obliterates it.

I wrote this Letter to The Editor. Wonder if The New Yorker will print it. Tune in tomorrow, precisely.

I’ve been listening to Phil Schaap for thirty years — a lifetime of words — and found Remnick’s Profile both wickedly accurate and sad. Ironically, Schaap can no longer separate his cherished facts from the music he wants to preserve. Lost in the brushstrokes, he no longer sees the painting. But Schaap isn’t Charlie Parker and his monomania has little to do with jazz itself. To hear jazz in its native habitat, unsullied by talk, let Remnick visit The Ear Inn any Sunday night. I’ll buy the first two rounds.

Postscript: I do not know for how long The New Yorker keeps pieces online, but at this moment, anyone can go to www.newyorker.com and read the Schaap Profile. Reactions, anyone?

WE’LL MISS WAYNE WRIGHT

Aside from the justly celebrated Freddie Green, the rhythm guitarist is the stoker down in the ship’s hold: unseen, uncredited, yet essential. My version of the Decline of the West got even more gloomy when four-piece jazz rhythm sections became three-piece. Green, like Eddie Condon, got a perverse kind of fame for refusing to play a solo, as if he were a farmer being paid not to grow his crop.

By way of Jon-Erik Kellso, I learned that the singular guitarist Wayne Wright died on May 9. If you saw Les Paul a half-dozen years ago, you might have seen Wayne providing rocking motion that kept it all together.

My own delighted perceptions of Wayne come from small-group New York jazz sessions of the early Seventies. At the time, Wayne was a cheerful, wisecracking presence, with a modified Beatle haircut and black-framed glasses. He was left-handed, and he liked to accent phrases with a simple figure, like a drummer’s rimshot-bass drum accent, which he would emphasize with a leap of the guitar’s neck, as if it were a fish trying to wriggle out of his grip. His rhythmic pulse was urgent but never loud — an audible, pushing sonic wave.

Even before he became a member of the Ruby Braff – George Barnes quartet, he surfaced, rewardingly, in odd places. One such occasion was a free lunchtime concert in summer 1973 which brought together Bob Wilber and Kenny Davern before they had organized Soprano Summit. Backing them was a perfect ad hoc New York rhythm section: Wayne, Milt Hinton, Dill Jones, and Jackie Williams. They played outside the Seagram Building in midtown, on a great concrete plaza with huge fountains, so rushing water competed with the music. Eubie Blake was the intermission pianist (!) and WCBS-AM anchorman Brian Madden brought his tenor sax and played enthusiastic early-Hawkins choruses with the band on “Crazy Rhythm.”

Wayne also came down to Brew’s, a little eatery that turned into a jazz club at night, just east of the Empire State Building. The Dave Tough-inspired drummer Mike Burgevin booked his friends and heroes — a very brief Golden Age that few noticed. They included pianists Jimmy Andrews and Dill Jones, bassists Al Hall and others, and horn players Herb Hall, Rudy Powell, Joe Thomas, Herman Autrey, Vic Dickenson, Marshall Brown, Kenny Davern, and others I have forgotten. But I remember one night in July 1974 when Ruby Braff, Sam Margolis, and Wayne joined forces with Jimmy Andrews and Mike to pay tribute to Louis, with exquisitely swinging music, much of its rhythmic impetus courtesy of Wayne, his bell-like sound always floating the beat. Brew’s couldn’t stay afloat because the cabaret laws caught up with it — ironically so, in terms of the noise that follows us everywhere now! — and Mike tried, for a minute or so, to have jazz trios without a drummer. I caught one such evening — a trio led by Wayne, with Jimmy Andrews and Al Hall, making delightful homespun jazz, Wayne playing melody and single-string variations on “I’m Beginning To See The Light” and “Say It Isn’t So.” Wayne’s tone sang; he bent notes; he earnestly worked around the melody.

He also played for about eighteen months with the irreplaceable quartet that Ruby and George Barnes had. The two leaders soon loathed each other, and the quartet imploded, but it was a great experience to sit on the floor of the New York Jazz Museum and listen to them meander through “Sweethearts on Parade,” for one. Wayne recorded two impossible-to-find records of guitar duets with Marty Grosz on Jerry Valburn’s Aviva label, Let Your Fingers Do The Walking and Goody Goody — but much of the material on those records is a careful, loving exploration of duets by Dick McDonough and Carl Kress, among others. Wayne is there, but his personality rarely comes through.

Now he’s gone, and it feels as if he took as much of the identifying evidence with him as he could. YouTube used to offer clips of the Braff-Barnes quartet in Berlin, in 1974, but no more. Google Images came up only with two record-cover pictures of the quartet, which I’ve included here, and the closest thing we have to Wayne’s oral history or a self-portrait is a jazz guitar site where he talks about Barnes: classicjazzguitar.com/…/article.jsp?article=61

Was he content to strum in the background? I don’t know. But he could play! Goodbye, Wayne, and thank you.

OLIVIER LANCELOT STRIDES ON

I happened upon this YouTube clip (click the picture to play it) by accident, web-surfing in hopes of finding a CD issue of James P. Johnson’s solos that had both takes of “If Dreams Come True” together. That didn’t appear — but I now know about the French stride wonder M. Lancelot, caught here in his native habitat. He’s played with Paris Washboard, and has appeared in the United States before. And he will be appearing later this year with Dan Levinson at a number of gigs. But, for now, admire the lightness and dexterity of his left hand, performing what Louis Mazetier calls the “windshield wiper” motion so essential to stride. And if he’s loosely based this performance on James P.’s famous 1939 solo, that is an asset, not a liability. People like myself who have been listening to that record for years (I first encountered it in my local library sometime before 1970 . . . !) can now SEE how James P. made some of those sounds. Three minutes of bliss, it seems like.

For information about Lancelot and his United States gigs, check www.lancelotmusic.com., and www.danlevinson.com.

THREE WAYS OF LOOKING AT MONA HINTON

Mona Hinton, Milt’s widow, died yesterday at 89 after a long illness.  Those are the spare facts.  Here are three stories:

When Milt was a rather exuberant young musician, Mona made him behave himself, save his money, take care of business.  Irene Leeman, married for years to the great (and under-acknowledged) drummer Cliff, said recently, “Mona was always pushing and encouraging Milt.  ‘Get out there, Judge, and sing that song.  Take another solo, Judge.'”  Milt was a wonderful player and warm personality, but Mona’s loving prodding no doubt made him the beloved public figure he was.

My good friend Stu Zimny, a fine bass player who took a few lessons (and a good deal of on-the-spot spiritual guidance) from Milt, told me about being the happy recipient of Milt and Mona’s generosity.  And, he has emphasized more than once, her fried chicken was delicious, her portions generous.

When I saw Milt at an outdoor concert in 1981 in Glen Cove, New York (he was with Dick Hyman, Joe Wilder, Phil Bodner, and Bobby Rosengarden) I asked him, “Where’s Mona?” not seeing her anywhere.  With some amusement, Milt said, “Oh, man, she’s heard all my shit already.”

People like Mona — loving, generous — should always be celebrated.  We’ll miss her!

TALES FROM FRISHBERG, Part Two

MALCOLM

New York in July 1963 I joined Ben Webster’s quartet at the Shalimar, on 7th Ave and 123rd St., across the street from the Hotel Theresa. The Theresa was headquarters for Elijah Muhammed and the Black Muslim movement. The clientele at The Shalimar was practically all black, and it often seemed like drummer Mel Lewis and I were the only white males for blocks around. There was a definite chill in the air, especially around the Fruit of Islam guys in their sharp navy blue suits, but people were polite, maybe because they saw we were with Ben Webster and Ben was a big hero in that neighborhood.

There was a group of four or five well-dressed men who sometimes hung out at a table near the far corner of the bar . They would be in deep conversation, and never glanced at me when I waited to order from the bartender. It sounded like they were into politics and world affairs, but I didn’t pay much attention. One night I overheard them trying to name the Detroit Tigers infield from 1934, and they were stuck at third base. So I said, “How about Marvin Owen?” And this one guy turned to me and we began to fire names at each other:Billy Sullivan, Dick Bartell, Johnny Gorsica, Elon Hogsett, and on and on for a few minutes, and then it was time for me to go back on the bandstand. Ben said to me, “You know who you’re talking to over there?” I said I didn’t and he said, “Ever heard of Malcolm X?” I said, “No kidding!” and that was that.

We stayed at The Shalimar for the rest of the summer. One night I was standing with some people out in front of the club smoking a cigarette, and I saw Malcolm and his friends coming across the street from the hotel. As Malcolm passed by he gave me a smile and said, “Hey, Baseball!” I don’t remember who I was standing with, but they looked at me with new respect. “You know him?” “Of course,” I replied.

********************

ROWLES

I recognized early on in my piano-playing life that there are certain pianists (and I’m talking about jazz players in this discussion) that can touch the keyboard in such a personal way that the informed listener, upon hearing a few notes on a recording, knows instantly who is playing; and I also recognized the remarkable fact that among these pianists, there are a handful who draw such a personal sound out of the keyboard that nobody can duplicate it.

For instance Duke Ellington can strike a three note chord in the middle of the piano along with a single note down in the bass, and you can walk up to the same piano and hit the same four notes and you can’t get Duke’s sound. Blossom Dearie can play a chord and it will sound unearthly quiet, and you can play the same voicing, and it will be beautiful, but it won’t sound like Blossom. Often it’s the time feeling that’s so personal, as with Mose Allison or Erroll Garner or Pete Johnson, but the scary ones are the pianists that can touch a piano key and make a sound that nobody else can make.

Continuing the list of unique sound generators: Count Basie, Eddie Heywood, Claude Thornhill, Nat Cole, Thelonious Monk, Mel Powell, Bud Powell, Horace Silver- and outside of the strictly jazz realm don’t forget Frankie Carle and Chico Marx. And then there is Jimmy Rowles.

Jimmy Rowles was unique in a different way. It was the way he proceeded from note to note, He spun passages that were so dynamically constructed that he seemed to be bending notes, and everyone knows that’s impossible with a piano. Rowles could milk sound from the bass clef register that was almost organ-like. He splashed chords down with a rolling blurry attack that was his alone. I’ve never heard anybody come close to his piano sound.

I think he has been my main piano influence, even though I long ago stopped trying to sound like him. I was a teenager in the late forties when I first heard him on the Woody Herman Woodchopper Columbia records. I was stunned by the way he handled his parts in the rhythm section and the sometimes startling way he comped behind soloists. Then I bought the Peggy Lee ten-inch Decca LP “Black Coffee”, and I heard Rowles as accompanist. For my money nobody touches him when it comes to playing behind singers. His imagination is outrageous, and his taste is flawless– a perfect model for artistic playing.

Once in St. Paul when I was about nineteen, a trumpet player said to me, “Hey, you sound like Jimmy Rowles.” Although it wasn’t true of course, and it never would be true, I still consider it the most generous and rewarding compliment I ever received. But “sound like Jimmy Rowles?” Forget it.

Dec 2006

Reprinted by kind permission of Dave Frishberg.

HUMPHREY LYTTELTON (1921-2008)

The Channel Four tribute above is perhaps understandably skewed towards Humph as a Naughty Old Man, a public figure . . . which is not how I think he should be remembered. (Louis, himself, gets a look-in, which is a rare pleasure, but the clip is too short for my taste.)

Instead, I would suggest that we go back to those Fifties Parlophones, with their deep-blue Ellingtonia, to his sessions with Kenny Davern (now available on Lake and Upbeat CDs) which, among other selections, feature one of the most personal evocations of Louis’s passionate spirit on a song no one else ever played, “Scatterbrain,” taken at a yearningly slow tempo. Or, if you’d prefer, the sessions originally recorded for the “77” label as “Le Vrai Buck Clayton,” where Lyttelton and Clayton, great friends, stood side by side and played as well as they ever did. A chorus of Humph’s blues should, in an ideal world, edge out all the risque jokes he made on “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue,” but we live in oddly skewed times. As if you hadn’t noticed.

——————————————————————————-

What follows is a brief, highly subjective Lyttelton CD discography. Much more exists.

Humphrey Lyttelton Rhythmakers: “Scatterbrains” with davern and Al Casey (Lake LACD 180) [1982]

Buck Clayton with HL and His Band: “Le Vrai Buck Clayton” (Lake LACD 227) [1964, 1966]

Kenny Davern and HL: “This Old Gang Of Ours” (Upbeat URCD 138 ) [1985, 1986]

The HL Big Band and Jimmy Rushing: BBC Jazz Club (Upbeat URCD 174) [1958]

Jimmy Rushing with HL: “A Night In Oxford Street” (Upbeat URCD 186) [1957]

HL Band / Digby Fairweather Band: “North Sea Jazz Festival Volume 1 (Jazz Colours 874758-2) [1979]

HL: “Take It From the Top” (Jazz Colours 874777-2) [1975, 1976]

HL – Mick Pyne, “Yours and Mine” (Jazz Colours 874772-2) [1973, 1974, 1976]

HL: “Let’s Get In” (Jazz Colours 874764-2) [1973, 1975]

HL: “Blues in Bolero” (Jazz Colours 874778-2) [1976, 1982]

HL: “Snag It!” (Living Era AJA 5462) [1948-52]

HL: “The Other Parlophones” (Sackville SKCD2-2067) [1951-54]

JIM FRYER AND BRIA SKONBERG: OUR KIND OF MUSIC!

I’ve mentioned the brilliant young hot trumpeter / singer Bria Skonberg and multi-instrumentalist (trombone, trumpet, euphonium, vocals) Jim Fryer in my postings about The Ear Inn — but here are a few more words about this dynamic brass team.

Bruce McNichols, of the Smith Street Society Jazz Band, invited me and the Beloved to a trad jazz party hosted by OKOM (Our Kind Of Music) in Lafayette, New Jersey, on April 22. Such invitations are rare and precious, the weather was beautiful, so with a few instructions to our GPS, we found ourselves at Bill Taggart’s beautiful, sprawling house, and were led down to the basement (the OKOM recording studio) for a jam session featuring Bria and Jim with Herb Gardner on piano, Gim Burton on banjo, and Ed Wise on bass. The set we heard featured sparkling variations on familiar jazz standards: “Margie,” “All of Me,” “Dinah,” “There’ll Be Some Changes Made,” and “Buddy Bolden’s Blues.” In it, Bria distinguished herself once again by a brilliant tone and an easy, rangy command of the horn, a wicked dexterity with the plunger mute, and charming, unforced singing. Jim showed off his talents on all his horns and singing, reminding me at points of trombonist Eddie Hubble.

For those who didn’t make it to that particular corner of New Jersey that afternoon, they need not despair: aesthetic relief is at hand, on the compact disc “Over Easy: Bria Skonberg and Jim Fryer’s Borderline Jazz Band,” on OKOM (details are available at www.okom.com., or you can call 1-800-546-6075. It’s an exceedingly uncliched mixture of classics Thirties pops, “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm,” and classic material from “In A Mellotone” to “At the Jazz Band Ball.” The sextet is a truly hot band, subtle and knowing, and you should get to know them as quickly as possible.

Photographs copyright 2008 by Lorna Sass

TALES FROM FRISHBERG

Quick — here’s a culture quiz for the hip among us. If you had to connect Ben Webster and Malcolm X with a third figure in the middle, which name would you guess?

Amiri Baraka

Nat Hentoff

Stanley Crouch

Wynton Marsalis

of the ubiquitous None of the Above?

Yes, it’s my friend Mr. None . . . but the answer is – – – – Dave Frishberg.

Dave Frishberg?” I can hear you saying (or I pretend I can hear it). Yes, when he was playing piano in Ben’s last New York band, and Dave impressed Malcolm X with his knowledge of baseball arcana. Now, everyone knows Frishberg as a wondrous pianist with quirky ways — a style that comes out of the Thirties with its own lopsided modernisms; a great accompanist; a dry, drawling singer of his own often hilarious and sometimes poignant songs. What you probably didn’t know is that Dave is a fine, poised, understated writer — of prose. I found this out on his website, www.davefrishberg.net., which has beautifully-written memories of Benny Goodman (of course), Scatman Crothers, Webster, Johnny Windhurst, Jimmy Rushing, Jimmy Rowles, Carmen McRae, Igor Stravinsky, Katharine Hepburn, Kenny Davern, George Wettling relieving himself, Ava Gardner, Johnny Mercer . . . and on. The site is mildly stagnant: the most recent entry is an elegy for pianist Ross Tompkins, which suggests that Dave has had other concerns. But it suggests, to steal from Lorenz Hart, that if you asked him, he could write a book. And an extraordinary book it would be, too.

Tell us another story, Dave, please.

BOBBY HACKETT AND JACK TEAGARDEN

I will have more to say about Hackett and Teagarden in the future, but I was just searching through the happy disorder I create around my computer — a heady mix of papers, minidiscs, and compact discs — for something pleasing to listen to.

What I found pleases me so much that I am using my small perch in the Blogosphere to call your attention to it — a Capitol session, recorded on the West Coast, featuring Bobby and Jack with musicians they rarely recorded with — trombonist Abe Lincoln, clarinetist Matty Matlock, drummer Nick Fatool among others. This group made its living in the Hollywood studios and were sometimes brought together as the “Rampart Street Paraders” for Columbia. The under-recorded but always joyous Abe Lincoln, happy and in top form, whoops and shouts on trombone alongside Teagarden, much sleeker by comparison.

When this music came out on vinyl, it was called COAST CONCERT or COAST TO COAST. I got Hackett to autograph my copy, which I now treasure, but that’s another story. Hackett and Teagarden, perhaps drawn together by their love for melody, for immediately recognizable, personal sounds, by their reverent devotion to Louis Armstrong, never played better than when in tandem. Teagarden, who could often return to his one solo — a beautiful creation which he tinkered with for nearly forty years — seemed to be thinking, not remembering, when he stood next to Bobby.

Hackett didn’t need much inspiration: he could create luminous traceries in the sunset sky surrounded by the most dire musicians — but he sounds tremendously inspired here, even for him. How did “little Bobby Hackett,” as Louis called him so affectionately, always find “those pretty notes”? It’s a mystery — but investigating the Why and the How could make for hours of deeply rewarding listening.

Hear what the two horns do on a slow, meditative “I Guess I’ll Have To Change My Plan,” which stands next to any jazz ballad ever recorded. Play it after Bix’s “I’m Comin’ Virginia,” Bird’s “Lover Man,” Hawkins’s “Body and Soul,” and there’s no letdown. It’s so simple, too: Hackett improvises an introduction; Teagarden plays a soulfully embellished chorus; there’s a modulation into a higher key, bringing on Hackett for his chorus, backed by the quietest of simple backgrounds. One more modulation, and Teagarden returns for the song’s final eight bars, with an extended ending which leads into a cadenza. Listen to it for the tonal beauties both men get out of what are really unforgiving lengths of brass tubing, for the humming organ tones of the other horns, for the sympathetic rhythm section — but DO listen to it. And any musicians, here or in Budapest, who pride themselves on what is now called “tradiitional jazz” or even “Dixieland,” should commit this music to memory.

And the photograph at the top of this post? A memorable thing in itself — I find the backs of those youthful heads particularly endearing, and would not crop them out for the world — but it is also a visual reminder that once, Virginia, groups of musicians calling themselves “All-Stars” were being accurate. It’s Town Hall, 1947, with Jack, Dick Cary, Louis, Bobby, Peanuts Hucko, Bob Haggart, and Big Sid. Bless them all.  And — for my most fashiob-conscious readers: catch the sharp two-toned shoes on Louis.  Class will tell!