Daily Archives: March 19, 2009

GEORGE AVAKIAN’S 90th BIRTHDAY PARTY (Birdland, March 18, 2009)

George’s birthdate is March 15, 1919.  So his celebration last night was slightly late — but neither he nor anyone in the audience that filled Birdland to capacity last night seemed to mind.  It made sense to celebrate George amidst the music he loves — Louis, Duke, and Fats, played live and joyously.

We heard heartfelt tributes to George from Dave Brubeck, Sonny Rollins, Bob Newhart, Michel Legrand, Quincy Jones, and Joe Muranyi — a stellar assortment for sure.

And Birdland was filled with the famous — Tony Bennett, Dan Morgenstern, Daryl Sherman, Vince Giordano, Michael Cogswell, Mercedes Ellington, Lloyd Moss, Phoebe Jacobs, Robert O’Meally, Ricky Riccardi, the Beloved, and myself.

All of us were there to honor George, who has recorded and supported everyone: Louis and Duke, Brubeck and Rushing, Eddie Condon, Garner and Mathis, Rollins, Miles Davis, John Cage, and Ravi Shankar — in a wonderful career beginning with the first jazz album (CHICAGO JAZZ, for Decca, in 1939), helped reissue unknown jazz classics, made recordings of the first jazz festival.

The Louis Armstrong Centennial Band played a marvelously uplifted version of its regular Wednesday gig — with Paquito D’Rivera sitting in with his clarinet when the spirit moved him — that’s David Ostwald, tuba; Randy Sandke, trumpet; Wycliffe Gordon, trombone and vocals; Anat Cohen, clarinet; Mark Shane, piano and vocals; Kevin Dorn, drums.  I was recording the whole thing (audio and video) and offer some video clips.

However, I have not chosen to post the version of ST. LOUIS BLUES during which my tabletop tripod collapsed and sent the camera, still running, into the Beloved’s salad.  It’s cinema verite as scripted by Lucy and Ethel.

Here’s a tribute by Wycliffe to Louis, to Hoagy Carmichael, and to George — ROCKIN’ CHAIR:

And a gently trotting version of the 1927 Rodgers and Hart classic, THOU SWELL, remembering George’s reissuing the best of Bix Beiderbecke:

Duke Ellington said that he was born at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, and George’s stewardship of the famous Columbia recording of that concert was the occasion for the band to recall Duke, pre-Newport, with a wonderfully deep-hued MOOD INDIGO (also for Mercedes Ellington, honoring us all by her presence):

George never recorded Fats Waller, but he did help Louis record the peerless SATCH PLAYS FATS, so the band launched into a perfectly jubilant I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY, complete with the verse (“I’m walking on air . . . .”) and an extraordinarily evocative vocal by Mark Shane, who known more about the many voices of Fats than anyone:

Finally, here’s George himself to say a few words.

Happy birthday, Sir!  Thanks for everything!  Keep on keeping on!

SIX FOR BIX: A JAM SESSION

Six minutes, that is.

Two trumpets, two trombones, two banjos, one piano, one drummer, eager happy dancers, “Some of These Days,” sheer pleasure.  I recognize Andy Schumm, cornet; Dave Bock, trombone; Paul Asaro, piano, Leah Bezin, banjo, and Josh Duffee, drums, but would like help with the other gifted players.  Do you think they would come to my apartment and jam if I asked nicely and had canned drinks for everyone?

P.S.  Mike Durham came to the rescue: “Other players in Six for Bix are Brad Kay, trumpet, Frank Galtieri, trombone and Jacob Ullberger, banjo (visiting from Sweden).”

SCENES FROM RACINE: THE BIX FEST, MARCH 2009

These clips aren’t nearly as good as being there, but they are wonderful experiences created by Andy Schumm, cornet; Dave Bock, trombone; John Otto, sax and clarinet; Paul Asaro, piano; Leah Bezin, banjo; Vince Giordano, bass and bass sax; Josh Duffee, percussion.

Here, the Gang rocks through the Goldkette favorite “Idolizing,” without embarking on a vocal tribute, though:

And another version of the ODJB / Bix classic “Clarinet Marmalade,” which has the right exuberant spirit without rushing:

A privilege and a pleasure to see and share these clips!

A LOUIS ARMSTRONG CONTEST (with a real prize!)

louis-heebie-jeebies-jpegLast night (Wednesday, March 18), the Beloved and I went to Birdland to be part of the joyous celebration of George Avakian’s ninetieth birthday, with stellar music from the Louis Armstrong Centennial Band to elevate us all.

I had my video camera and hope to post some live clips from this very happy evening.

Midway through the evening, David Ostwald announced a “Louis Armstrong trivia contest,” with the prize — courtesy of Michael Cogswell — a two-for-the-price-of-one ticket to the Louis Armstrong House / Museum in Corona, Queens.  I knew the answer to the question — who was Louis’s third wife? (Alpha!) and I won the prize.

But I’ve been to the House before, and I’d rather give this wonderful experience to someone who hasn’t ever had the chance.

Here it is — the First Official Jazz Lives Louis Armstrong Contest.

To win this ticket (good until January 1, 2010) write me no more than 500 words on what your favorite Louis Armstrong recordings are.  I will post the comments.  Entries will be judged on their originality and perceptiveness, as always.  The contest will end on Friday, March 27, at midnight.  And, of course, all entries become the property of the Management, whatever that means.

Seriously, I would like to hear from people who have never been to the House but love Louis.  And if you live in Colorado or Oaxaca, you might have to convince me that you actually are going to visit New York City before next January.

Let the fun begin!