Much of what is presented as “traditional” jazz these days is really microwaveable Dixieland, steaming and synthetic, ready in ninety seconds. The recipe? Take some musical conventions learned from the records and make them loud and fast. Accelerating the tempo always makes for a savory dish. And the crowd, if one exists, applauds when the song and the band stop, even if they’re simply noting that it’s gotten quiet.
But when the right players get together on the stand and approach some evocative repertoire, magic just might happen. I think it did on Tuesday, December 2, when Dan Levinson’s Swing Wing got together: that’s Dan on clarinet and tenor, Randy Reinhart on cornet, Jim Fryer on trombone, Mark Shane on piano, Brian Nalepka on bass and vocals, and Kevin Dorn on drums. The cinematography is courtesy of singer Molly Ryan, one half of the Levinson-Ryan team.
Here the Wing is having fun with a song that we only know because Red Allen and PeeWee Russell took it on in 1932. “Oh, Peter” had lyrics that must have taken half a beer to compose, although its simple melody inspired the Rhythmakers to great heights. (“Oh, Peter, you’re so nice; it’s a paradise. When you are by my side, that’s when I’m satisfied. Come and kiss me, do, and hug me tight. There’s nothing sweeter than my Peter, call around tonight.”)
But this amiable band, at once energetic and relaxed, does what the best and happiest jazz musicians have always done — that is, PLAY. And Kevin, typically, is at the heart of the playful joy captured here.
The back cover of long-playing records in the Fifties used to say, none too subtly, “If you’ve enjoyed this Long Playing Record, you’ll be sure to enjoy these.” In that spirit, I will say that three more performances from this concert appear on YouTube, in a new account appropriately called “condoninthefifties.” Eddie would be pleased.