Daily Archives: August 1, 2008

A SCOTTISH JAZZ PARADISE, AUGUST 2-7

Forres Gazette
Published:  30 July, 2008

NAIRN Festival, which this year runs from August 2 to August 7, makes no bones about how it organises its annual event programme – if the audience has loved a gig or an artist then they are brought back for more! And trumpeters take the centre stage throughout this year’s event.

And despite funding cash being short and airfare soaring, a full programme of American stars have been lined up.

Duke Heitger has been on the bill with Evan Christopher for a number of years – but this year he flies into the event to take residence for the whole Festival and feature in all sorts of new line-ups – including introducing fellow New Orlean vocalist Topsy Chapman for his Paddleboat shuffle, and for the first time in the Festival programme, Engelbert Wrobel on clarinet, for an interesting History of Jazz.

He has also brought in a red-hot selection of other horns including Randy Reinhart (cornet/trumpet) and Bill Allred (trombone) – in the Wild Bill Davidson Legacy Band. Australia’s finest Bob Barnard (trumpet), performs together with Reinhart and Jon-Erik Kellso (cornet/trumpet) in the Nairn Trumpet Summit and the later as a special guest of the Swedish Jazz Kings, adding a fresh note as they both make Nairn Festival debuts.

And even on a more reflective note… the death of cornet legend Ruby Braff in 2003 has not stopped this year’s event recalling his now historic final live performance in Nairn 2002. Ruby opened the first ever Festival of Food and Jazz as it was then billed in 1990 and it is his long-time friend Scott Hamilton (who also featured in the programme that year) who pays tribute to him along with John Bunch, piano and Dave Green, bass, reprising their roles, and US cornet player Jon-Erik Kellso – in what is set to be one of the usual flagship exclusive concerts within a slightly more humble, but yet packed, programme.

The Knockomie Hote, one of the staunchest supporters of the jazz festival in Forres, will again be hosting a concert. The Classic Jazz Quintet, featuring Bent Persson on lead trumpet and special guest Dan Barrett on trombone, will be playing a late night concert, starting at 9.30pm, on Tuesday, August 5.

Funding has been much more difficult this year and along with late awards and the soaring cost of US airfares, which make the budgets even tighter than usual, the organisation decided to be a bit more frugal and invest in what it could deliver well, rather than continue on the wider development and growth plan of the last few years.

But even this did not stop organiser Ken Ramage revisiting his own personal highlight concert of 2007, which featured pianist Larry Fuller, and with the support of The Davidson Trust, he has managed to bring him back for another exclusive, the Nairn International Piano Trio line-up featuring Nairn’s favourite bassist Andy Cleyndert and Basie drummer Butch Miles.

Ken said: “We have received continued significant local sponsor support from Hawco Volkswagen and Gordon Timber and decided to go ahead with what I am billing as a reflective programme, filled with the essential elements that have become synonymous with the brand style now known as Ramage Jazz.”

Of course the key to making any event a success is not only the programming but ticket sales and the event is hoping that along with its loyal audience, now from all across the UK, it will hit the right note with locals when it strongly needs their support.

 

All content copyright 2008 Scottish Provincial Press Ltd.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

This piece comes from the FORRES GAZETTE: thanks so much for making me wish I was going to be in Scotland for these hot festivities!

THE LESTER YOUNG MOSAIC, PART ONE

I know it’s a bold statement, but there is nothing better than the Thirties Basie band with Lester, Buck, and the All-American Rhythm Section.  So I was eager to buy the new Mosaic set and have derived an anticipatory thrill from the four discs still in their shrinkwrap, knowing what I will be able to listen to when I can’t put off the waiting one moment more. 

I had heard from Marc Myers (Mr. JazzWax) that some web-grousers had leaped in online to declare that there was just too much Lester Young on this set for them.   I thought he was teasing.  But here’s an excerpt from Will Friedwald’s admiring piece in the New York Sun (June 2, 2008), “When Basie Was Young At Heart”:

“[The recordings Lester did with his] musical soul mate Billie Holiday, were amazingly democratic: All of the players get equal solo space, and even the star singer is confined to a single chorus.  Not so on the Basie sessions: The bulk of these are solo features that spotlight him more like a king than as an elected official or public servant. There are other solo stars here, notably the trombonist Dicky Wells, trumpeters Harry “Sweets” Edison and Buck Clayton, as well as two excellent band singers in Jimmy Rushing and Helen Humes. Still, the material is skewed toward Young. The four discs here do not contain the band’s complete output of the period, just those numbers on which Young solos.”

When was Lester ever a public servant?  The mind reels. 

I do not share Mr. Friedwald’s muted distress at a possible overabundance of Lester’s music at the expense of those records featuring other players, and direct him back in time to a ten-record vinyl box set put out by French CBS, collecting every recording they could find of Basie’s recordings for Columbia, Vocalion, and OKeh in the 1936-42 period.  (Mosaic has come up with new alternates, incidentally.)  On paper, that CBS set looks like the Holy Grail, and Mr. Friedwald would be able to hear all five takes of “One, Two, Three, O’Lairy,” or whatever it was called.  I find alternate takes thrilling for what they reveal of the creative process, but long stretches of this Basie set were surprisingly monotonous.  But completists believe that what they do not have is much more important than what they do, and in some emotive way they might be right. 

However, I must thank Mr. Friedwald for using the Sun’s resources to reprint a Gjon Mili photograph of Lester and Basie at a jam session.

I believe this comes from Lester’s 1943-44 stint with Basie, because the drummer (probably Kansas Fields) is in uniform.  The other saxophonist is altoist Earle Warren, and (for the moment) the trumpeters elude me.  Is this another shot from the session where they were Dizzy Gillespie and Harry Edison?  But I direct you to the clarinetist.  It’s not Larry Talbot — it’s Milton “Mezz” Mezzrow, Jazz’s very own Zelig.  And I am certain that Mezz is blithely playing along while Lester is taking his solo.  If you insist on being charitable, let us say that he is joining the riffing behind Lester.  Notice how he has wedged himself into the gathering, though, and the man behind him — Jo Jones! — has to crane his neck around Mezz to see what is happening.  

Gjon Mili took a number of wonderful shots of Jazz-in-action for a wartime feature published in either LOOK or LIFE around 1943, so this may come from that sequence.  If his odd-sounding name is familiar in the context of jazz and Lester Young, he is also responsible for the short film JAMMIN’ THE BLUES.  Bless him, and the players, too.

I will have more to say about the Lester Young Mosaic once I have begun to break into my precious hoard.