Monthly Archives: May 2009

RECORD COLLECTORS’ HEAVEN (ON EARTH)

Who knows what rarities might be for sale?

Who knows what rarities might be for sale?

I haven’t visited one of these extravaganzas in years (I get dizzy from a surfeit of wonders and my apartment is brimful of music as it is).  But I had a wonderful time at the Bash the two or three times I went and I recall it fondly, as well as the treasures I took home — paper ephemera as well as recordings of all varieties.  And David’s film presentations are priceless.  Worth visiting! 

The 35th Annual Jazz Record Collectors’ Bash

 June 19th – 20th, 2009

http://www.jazzbash.net/

78s, LPs, CDs & memorabilia.

Hilton Woodbridge 

120 Wood Avenue South

Iselin, NJ 08830

http://www.hiltonwoodbridge.com

Reservations: Call either the toll free number 1-800-HILTONS (800 445-8667) or the Hilton Woodbridge (732) 494-6200. Mention JAZZ RECORD COLLECTORS GROUP to get discount.

Email: reservations@hiltonwoodbridge.com

Rate with discount is $119.00 + tax per night. Please note: There are a limited number of rooms available at the discount rate. Reservations received after June 3, 2009 will be provided on a space availability basis.

By car: Hotel is immediately off Garden State Parkway exit 131A. Commercial vehicles are not permitted on the Garden State Parkway. If you have commercial license plates, please contact hotel for directions.

By public transportation: From Penn Station in New York City, take NJ Transit (Northeast Corridor Line / NEC) to the Metropark Station. (Do NOT take train to Woodbridge station.) There are at least two trains per hour outside the peak travel time, with travel time being about 45 minutes. Trains stop at Penn Station in Newark and Newark Liberty International Airport. … From Philadelphia 30th Street Station, take SEPTA to Trenton, NJ and transfer to NJ Transit NEC. Trains from Trenton run approximately once hourly, more frequently after 4 pm.  For additional information on schedules and fares, see www.njtransit.com.

From Metropark station or any point within a 5 mile (8 km) radius of the hotel, a free shuttle is available to hotel guests and attendees of the Bash. Call the hotel ahead of time for shuttle pickup.

General admission: $20.00 covers buyer’s admission for two days (Friday & Saturday). Saturday only admission is $10.00. Early buyers will be admitted Thursday evening after 7:30 pm for $40.00.  Doors open 8:00 am on Friday & Saturday.  Vendor space: All tables are 6 ft x 3 ft. Cost in advance is $70.00 per table for 2 days or $40 for one day, 50% deposit required. On or after June 18th, cost will be $80.00 per table (2 days) on a space available basis.  Dealers may set up on Thursday night after 7:30 pm. The room will not be available prior to that hour.

Rare vintage videos each evening after 8:00 pm: Admission free with Bash admission or $5 each night for film show only.  Friday: Jazz collector and film historian David Weiner will present two hours of rare film and TV clips featuring jazz solos by Eddie Lang, Louis Armstrong, Eubie Blake, John Coltrane, Pee Wee Russell, Sonny Stitt, Johnny Hodges, Willie “The Lion” Smith, Eddie Miller, Joe Venuti, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie; the orchestras & combos of Count Basie, Eddie Condon, Duke Ellington, Jack Hylton, Ray Noble, Johnny Green; and vocalists Ethel Waters, Nick Lucas, Ruth Etting, the Brox Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald, Kate Smith, Joe Williams, Gertrude Niesen, Helen Ward, Bing Crosby.  Also, after the films, rare record playoffs / challenges hosted by Henry Schmidt.  Saturday: Ron Hutchinson, co-founder of The Vitaphone Project, will present a largely previously unseen collection of early sound jazz and vaudeville short subjects.

To be added to the mailing list for the Jazz Record Collectors’ Bash, contact:

Art Zimmerman, P. O. Box 158, Jericho, NY 11753-0158,  (516) 681-7102, zimrecords@msn.com

Vendor payment in advance by check, money order or Paypal. Cash and checks will be accepted at the door. Non-vendors pay only at door.

BILL GALLAGHER, CAMERA AT THE READY

My California friend Bill went to the most recent Sacramento JAZZ JUBILEE and captured these moments on film for the blog, as he so generously did last year. 

A word about Bill (who deserves more); one of the gratifying things about jazz is the deep friendships it makes possible between people who wouldn’t otherwise meet.  Bill and I first encountered each other perhaps fifteen years ago (by mail) as people sharing an interest in jazz royalty — in particular, Sir Charles Thompson.  Then we discovered our mutual fascination with Teddy Wilson, with stride piano, and on and on.  Bill and I live on opposite coasts, and we’ve only met face-to-face once (over an Italian dinner in New York City, with Bill’s lively wife Sandy) — but we email almost daily, and we’re as good friends as can be. 

Bill is a fine writer (you can read his reviews in the IAJRC Journal) as well as a meticulous discographer, who’s created a Thompson discography online and one of the fine pianist Eddie Higgins (in print). 

And Bill is one of this blog’s unpaid correspondents — in fact, he heads the California bureau — even though I haven’t found a way to offer health benefits or personal days.  Maybe at the next contract negotiation?  Until then, just enjoy his photographs.

Vince Bartels, Jennifer Leitham, Eddie Higgins

Vince Bartels, Jennifer Leitham, Eddie Higgins

Two Allreds (Bill and John) and a Metz (Ed., Jr.) on trombones and drums

Two Allreds (Bill and John) and a Metz (Ed., Jr.) on trombones and drums

Harry Allen

Harry Allen

Eddie Higgins

Eddie Higgins

Where it all took place

Where it all took place

NINA LEEN’S JAZZ PHOTOGRAPHS

I had never heard of Nina Leen until I found her wonderful photographs of jazz musicians printed in LIFE in 1944. 

Vic Dickenson, Eddie Heywood, perhaps Lem Davis

Vic Dickenson, Eddie Heywood, perhaps Lem Davis

Mildred Bailey, wistful

Mildred Bailey, wistful

Gene Krupa, in the moment!

Gene Krupa, in the moment!

Jess Stacy, dapper as always

Jess Stacy, dapper as always

Ed Hall at Cafe Society, with Mouse Randolph and Johnny Williams

Ed Hall at Cafe Society, with Mouse Randolph and Johnny Williams

Charles Ellsworth Russell, "the Pied Piper of Jazz"

Charles Ellsworth Russell, "the Pied Piper of Jazz"

Those photographs are so alive that they made me wonder if Ms. Leen was a pioneering jazz photographer I had never heard of.  That isn’t the case: she was simply another great professional, specializing in different species, as her New York Times obituary points out:
Nina Leen Is Dead; A Photographer
January 5, 1995
Nina Leen, one of the first female photographers for Life magazine, died on Sunday at her home in New York City. Ms. Leen was secretive about her age, but Alison Hart, a press agent for Life, said she was believed to be in her late 70’s or early 80’s. Ms. Leen photographed many subjects but was best known for her pictures of animals. Among her 15 books were two studies of bats, published in the 1970’s. To make the pictures for these books, she used special cameras and lighting and overcame an aversion to the animals. One of her most famous images is a 1950 photograph of the Abstract Expressionist artists known as the Irascibles, including Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Jackson Pollock. Ms. Leen was married for many years to Serge Balkin, a fashion photographer. No immediate family members survive.
(Like bats, jazz musicians are nocturnal by nature — but which series of portraits came first?  Which fascination inspired the other?)

DAN TOBIAS, QUIETLY LYRICAL

After discovering Louis Armstrong, I began my exploration of jazz by way of Bobby Hackett, so I am innately fond of those trumpet and cornet players who make their way to the heart of a song subtly, even subversively.   This inclination led me to Ruby Braff and Buck Clayton, Shorty Baker and Joe Thomas, Joe Wilder, Jon-Erik Kellso, Bob Barnard, Duke Heitger, Peter Ecklund, Marc Caparone, and Dan Tobias.

Dan Tobias may be the least well-known player on that list, which is a pity.  He hasn’t made compact discs under his own name, and he isn’t a regular on the jazz festival / jazz party circuit.  But the good news is that he is alive, youthful,  and playing beautifully.  New Yorkers and Jerseyites (especially the latter) can see him play, and he has two gigs coming up (details below).  But you don’t have to believe me without any evidence.

Here he is, playing BODY AND SOUL with casual unaffected mastery.  Hear his lovely tone, his delicate phrasing, his architectural sense of how to construct a solo.  Admire his love of the melody and respect for it, too.  And his singing approach to that demanding collection of tubing and metal. Dan can lead a shouting ensemble, and he can zip around corners in the best Clifford Brown way, but he is essential a tone-painter.  (In fairness, this impromptu duet favors the capable pianist Joe Holt, but you can’s miss our Mr. Tobias.)

I first heard Dan play on a CD by the Midiri Brothers band, where his compact lyricism was immediately apparent, and then I had the good luck to catch him one night as the cornetist with Kevin Dorn’s Traditional Jazz Collective.  I haven’t heard him regularly enough for my taste, but he has shown up occasionally at the Ear Inn . . . and impressed everyone, even when the front line included his admiring peers Kellso and Ecklund.  On that score, rumor has it that he will once again be at the Ear this Sunday (that’s May 31) with guitarist Matt Munisteri.  I’ll be there, happily.

And there’s another gig in Dan’s home state of New Jersey, in Medford, to be exact — on June 13, from 7:30 to 10 PM.  Dan writes, “The concert will take place at Memorial Hall,Cathedral of the Woods, 100 Stokes Road, Medford Lakes, New Jersey [609-654-4220].  This is a group from Trenton that rehearses weekly (not weakly).  The band features Trenton organ legend Tom Pass, chop monster guitarist Mike Remoli, the fearless saxophonist Dom DeFrancesco, the ever swinging Joe Falcey, and me on the trumpet. The material that we perform is adventurous and the band takes no prisoners!  The venue is a cool log cabin building with really good acoustics.  I hope that you can make it to the concert!”  Admission is $0, $15 for students and seniors, and refreshments are included.

A good deal!  If you’ve heard Dan play live, you won’t need my urging; if you haven’t, wait no longer.

PLAYING THE FOOL OUT OF “UKULELE LADY”

I read Whitney Balliet’s New Yorker Profile of King Oliver, “For the Comfort of the People,” perhaps twenty-five years ago, and this passage stuck in my head: Jess Stacy describing the first time he heard Oliver play, around 1926, in Chicago:

The first time I ever went to hear Oliver he was playing “Ukulele Lady,” and he was playing the fool out of it, and he took five or six choruses in a row.  He played sitting down, and he didn’t play loud.  He knew his instrument.  He wasn’t spearing for high notes; he stayed right in the middle register.  His chord changes were pretty and his vibrato just right — none of the Italian belly vibrato.

When, last year, I became interested in the ukulele,  I wondered what that pop tune — supposedly inspired by May Singhi Breen — sounded like, but that question faded into the disorganized repository of unanswered questions I carry around with me.  Last summer, though, when the Beloved and I visited Maine, I found stacks and piles of sheet music*.  And one of the songs I found was UKULELE LADY.  So the pieces of the puzzle began to come together.  It was a simple, bouncy song — and if I tried quite hard, I could imagine a Joe Oliver solo on its melody.  But how to convey this to my readers?

Nothing simpler.  Sheet music cover and lyrics, presto change-o!

Ukulele Lady cover

UKULELE LADY© 1925

Lyrics & Music: Lyrics: Gus Kahn, Music: Richard A. Whiting

Verse: I saw the splendor of the moonlight

On Honolulu bay

There’s something tender in the moonlight

On Honolulu

And all the beaches

Are full of peaches

Who bring their ukes along

And in the glimmer of the moonlight

They like to sing this song

Chorus: If you like ukulele lady

Ukulele lady like-a you

If you like to linger where it’s shady

Ukulele lady linger too

If you kiss ukulele lady

And you promise ever to be true

And she finds another ukulele

Lady fooling ’round with you

Maybe she’ll sigh (and maybe not)

Maybe she’ll cry

Maybe she’ll find somebody else

By and by

To sing to where it’s cool and shady

Where the tricky wicki wacki woo

If you like ukulele lady

Ukulele lady like-a you

She used to sing to me by moonlight

On Honolulu Bay

Fond memories cling to me by moonlight

Although I’m far away

Someday I’m going

Where eyes are glowing

And lips are made to kiss

To meet somebody in the moonlight

To hear that song I miss

But how to provide the music — short of bringing Bent Persson into a studio to become Papa Joe Oliver?  This isn’t an adequate substitute, but it made me laugh hysterically this morning, so I hope it will do the same for you — a musical extravaganza by the Fred and Ginger of hand puppets . . . . Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy.*  Now everyone can hear what the song sounds like, including the verse:

*Go ahead.  Find another blog that has Jess Stacy and the Muppets in the same posting.  I dare you.  I am also so fond of the phrase “playing the fool out of ______,” perhaps a polite Midwestern euphemism, that I keep trying to find a context in which it fits, which isn’t easy.

**Subject for another blog: the near ubiquity of music for painfully forgettable songs in certain regions — CHONG, HE CAME FROM HONG KONG must have been a huge hit in Maine in 1930.

BENNY VISITS “AVALON”

In the last few days I’ve been listening to the Benny Goodman Festival being broadcast on WKCR-FM (if you’re out of range of this New York City FM station, you can hear it online at www.wkcr.org).  Whenever I turn on the radio a Goodman small group is eagerly exploring AVALON at a jaunty tempo, a coincidence that both amuses and puzzles me.

BGNow, I don’t plan to accuse Goodman of being an aging artist caught in his own boredom, but the frequency with which jazz musicians return to their own narrowing repertoire of familiar songs to improvise on is worth comment.

I know that Hot Lips Page famously said (to whom?) “The material is immaterial,” and Bob Rusch has gently reminded me that jazz is about what one does with the material rather than the material itself.  “‘T’ain’t what you do, it’s the way that’cha do it,” sang Trummy Young.

And anyone brave enough to improvise in public at the tempos Goodman favored should, by law, have the right to choose his or her own favorite set of chord changes — no matter whether the improviser in question is Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Mary Lou Williams, or John Coltrane.  But I’ve also heard some of the finest jazz artists turn in established solos on familiar pieces for their features, occasionally playing something quite moving, but more often falling back on set routine.  I think of Jo Jones’s CARAVAN, of Buddy Tate’s BODY AND SOUL, of Vic Dickenson’s IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD, and so on.

One could, of course, make the case that jazzmen have “master solos” and “polished performances” to fall back on, because improvisation is such a demanding art.  And Ricky Riccardi has made the point that Louis Armstrong’s versions of INDIANA that often began his later performances were anything but rote repetition.

But Benny himself (according to Ross Firestone’s sweet-natured biography) seems to have been dissatisfied with the music he played in his last decade, saying to someone, “You can’t play LADY BE GOOD forever.”  But he did play AVALON for fifty years.

Did he play it so regularly because it was a song he loved from his childhood (it first appeared in 1920)?  Did he return to it because it was one of his proven hits, a selection that his audience — sometimes made up of people who had cheered him on in 1937 — wanted, expected, and waited for?  Did he feel a responsibility to please the people who had paid to hear him with a medley of his Greatest Hits?  Or was playing AVALON something that gave him pleasure in itself — both as a stunning ride over the chord changes and as a way of making an exciting performance?  I can’t begin to say.

And some of the performances of AVALON I’ve heard on WKCR-FM are justly thrilling — not just in terms of technique and facility, but as musical expressions — evidence of an older artist still finding “something new to say” on a familiar text.  Some of them sound like Goodman playing at being Benny Goodman — with playing that is technically exciting but not especially creative improvised music.

The only time I was fortunate enough to see Goodman in person — at a great distance — was at a Carnegie Hall concert in 1974 or 1975, with a truly all-star group including Bobby Hackett and Roy Eldridge (!).  Of course, the King offered us AVALON, STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY, and DON’T BE THAT WAY to enthusiastic applause, but I was much more moved by Hackett’s choice of a feature number — an uptempo SECRET LOVE, which I can still dimly hear in my head as I write this.

Does this make me a snob for asking my beloved jazz heroes to “be original”?  I don’t know.  Perhaps if I had been able to ask Benny why he explored and re-explored AVALON, he would have said, “I like it.”  And that would have been enough, even for me.  Any artist who’s given us so much for such a long time is entitled to his idiosyncracies.

ANOTHER WONDROUS PIANIST SIGNS IN

Jimmy Rowles was a wizard of light and shade, of wit and deep feeling at the piano.  I momentarily fell into one of my eBay reveries and considered bidding on this artifact (which seems to be less mutable than the recent “Arthur Tatum” sighting) but then thought, “What would I do with it?”  Perhaps the wiser act is merely to post it here so that everyone can admire it — without succumbing to the costly need to HAVE it.

Rowles autograph

And if you haven’t listened to Rowles recently, I urge you to do so — joking around with Billie and Artie Shapiro at a Clef rehearsal, with Ben, Lester, BG, Zoot, or Peggy Lee — inimitable and wholly himself.

ART TATUM’S CHATTEL MORTGAGE?

Yes, I know . . . this combination of words doesn’t occur often in daily discourse, especially because those of us who follow and idolize jazz musicians think of them as occupying a realm far above the ordinary obligations of our lives.  So when I saw this document advertised on eBay, I was first delighted to see what I assume is a genuine Art Tatum signature.  Then — the mind reels — “Arthur Tatum” had a mortgage?

And a “chattel mortgage” on a Plymouth?

“Research!” as the late Len Kunstadt used to say.

Feast your eyes . . . .

Tatum autograph

OH, DIDN’T THEY RAMBLE!

I spent a few glorious hours last night (Sunday, May 24) at the Ear Inn — absorbing the sounds in two long sets by New Orleanian Evan Christopher (clarinet), Scott Robinson (trumpet, C-melody saxophone, and tenora), Matt Munisteri (guitar), and Danton Boller (bass) — the EarRegulars minus co-leader Jon-Erik Kellso, who was working his plunger mute at the Breda Jazz Festival in the Netherlands.

Candor compels me to say when I walked into the Ear, I found it noisy and crowded — as expected on the Sunday of a four-day weekend.  Finding no place to sit at first, I even entertained the cowardly thought of turning tail and heading back uptown.  But when I saw friendly faces — Jim and Grace Balantic, whose amiable presence I’ve missed for some time, Doug Pomeroy, jazz acupuncturist Marcia Salter, Conal and Vlatka Fowkes — I calmed myself and prepared to stay.

However, throughout the evening I kept noting the newest weird phenomena: photographers who have not yet figured out how to shoot without flash, thus exploding bursts of light a foot from the musicians.  Even more odd, I counted many young male faux-hipsters who now sport hats with tiny brims, rendering their skulls unnaturally huge.  Will no one tell them?  In my day, being Cool didn’t automatically mean looking Goofy.  But I digress.

The Ear Inn, incidentally, never turns into a monastic sanctuary — commerce, food, and drink are part of the cheerful drama of the evening . . . so one of the two hard-working waitresses was forever imploring the bartender (not Victor, alas for us), I need two Boddingtons, one Stella, two vodkas, one grapefruit tequila with salt!” In earnest near-shouts.

A word about the musicians.  Evan is one of the finest clarinet players I will ever hear: his command of that recalcitrant instrument from chalumeau to Davern-like high notes is astonishing, and he has a fat woody New Orleans tone, rapturous in the lower register, moving to an Ed Hall ferocity when he presses the octave key.  He is a fierce player in intensity and sometimes in volume, but he can murmur tenderly when he cares to.  And, although he is fluent — ripping through many-noted phrases — he doesn’t doodle or noodle aimlessly, as so many clarinetists do, filling up every space with superfluous rococco whimsies.

Scott Robinson, wearing his OUTER SPACE shirt, made by his multi-talented wife, Sharon, was in fine form: doubling trumpet and C-melody saxophone in the space of a performance, playing three choruses on the trumpet and then — without pause — going straight to the saxophone, magically.  Few payers (Benny Carter, Tom Baker, Smon Stribling) have managed to double brass and reeds; none of them have made it seem as effortless as Scott does.  And the tenora . . . a truly obscure Catalonian double-reed instrument that he had brought to the Ear on May 10 — which has an oboe’s insistent tone and timbre — is gradually becoming a Robinson friend.

Matt Munisteri was in fine form, even though the Ear gig was the second or third of the day (a concert for the Sidney Bechet Society in the early afternoon, then a 1:30 jam session with Evan in honor of Frankie Manning); he burned throughout the performance, with his humming-along-to-his-solos particularly endearing.

Young Danton Boller, quiet and unassuming, seemed to play his string bass without amplification, but swung heroically, reminding me at points of Milt Hinton or George Duvivier — his melodies ringing, his time flawless, his spaces just right.  One could transcribe a Boller solo for horns and it would be mightily compelling.  He is someone to watch, if you haven’t caught him yet — on CD, he is a delightful presence on the Kellso-Christopher-Munisteri CD, BLUE ROOF BLUES (Arbors).

The band began with a nearly slow AT SUNDOWN (perhaps in honor of the still light-blue evening sky?) which did that pretty tune honor, and then, perhaps in honor of togetherness to come, romped — and I don’t use that word lightly — through TOGETHER (“We strolled the lane to-geth-er,” etc.) in suggesting a modern version of Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra, with Scott riffing behind Evan, the two horns creating a rocking counterpoint.  A blistering THEM THERE EYES followed, with Evan and Scott swapping the lead in their opening choruses (this quartet showed it knew the value of old-time ensemble playing, something that some musicians have unwisely jettisoned in favor of long solo passages).  Evan, who has a comedic touch, then discussed the business of making requests of the band.  He laid out three conditions: the band had to know the song; the band had to be interested in playing the song; the band would be most knowledgeable and willing to play the request if some financial support was forthcoming.  A man sitting at the bar asked for the very unusual Bing Crosby JUNE IN JANUARY (1934) which Evan taught the band in a matter of moments, and the band learned it in performance, with its final choruses recalling the glories of Soprano Summit in years gone by.

At the end, Evan said, “That was a SPECIAL request!” — and some member of the quartet, primed to do so, asked, “Why was it SPECIAL, Evan?” to which he said, full-throttle, “Because it was PAID FOR!”  Making himself clear, you understand.

SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET followed, beginning with hints of Johnny Hodges, then moving into Louis-territory, with Evan and Scott using the Master’s passionate phrasing and high notes in their solos.  And something unexpected had taken place: perhaps because this jazz oasis is called the Ear, the noisy audience had gradually changed into a room (mostly) full of listeners, who had caught the group’s drift.  Of course, there were still people who talked through each song and then clapped enthusiastically at the end because everyone around them was doing so — but I could sense more people were paying attention, always a reassuring spectacle.  And the set ended with a joyous JUNE NIGHT — with laugh-out-loud trades between the two horns, and a jovial unbuttoned vocal by Evan (a little Fats, a little Louis Prima) which surprised everyone.  Then the musicians retired to the back room to eat some well-deserved food.

Emboldened by the idea of JUNE IN JANUARY, before the second set started, I approached Evan with an appropriate portion of currency unsubtly displayed, and asked him, “Excuse me, Evan, would that buy me some SWEETHEARTS ON PARADE?”  Evan took in the bill, said, “SWEAT-HOGS ON PARADE?  OK?!”  And that’s how the set began, the band rounding the corners in wonderful style, Scott even beginning his trumpet solo with a nod to LOVE IN BLOOM, Matt playing a chorus of ringing chords, the band inventing one riff after another to close.  Scott, brave fellow that he is, took up the tenora for a feature on THE NEARNESS OF YOU — which had plaintive urgency as you could hear him getting more comfortable with his new horn.  (At the end of the night, when I talked with him about the tenora, he said, “I know it has a pretty sound, but I haven’t quite found it yet.”  He will, I know.)

HINDUSTAN was a highlight of the BLUE ROOF BLUES CD, with the nifty idea of shifting from the key of C to the key of Eb for alternating choruses, something I’ve never heard another band do, raising the temperature considerably; this performance ended with a serious of ecstatic, hilarious, and knowing phrase-tradings, with quotes from I’M BEGINNING TO SEE THE LIGHT, PAGILACCI, leading up to an urgent, pushing counterpoint, mixing long melodic lines with fervent improvisations, savoring the many textures of the quartet.  A waltz-time NEW ORLEANS cooled things down, beginning with a duet for clarinet and guitar that sounded like back-porch music for a warm night.  A riotous THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE took us back to Noone, to Soprano Summit, with Scott’s rocking solo pleasing Evan so much that he was clapping along with it.  Finally, a down-home MAKE ME A PALLET ON THE FLOOR mixed operatic fervor and hymnlike unison playing, ending with the band getting softer and softer, as if they were walking slowly into the distance.

It was lovely music, fulfilling and fulfilled, and it has filled my thoughts a day later.  You should have been there!

BLISS ANTICIPATED, SHORT NOTICE!

From Nick Balaban:

“Hey everybody,

Here’s a day-brightener….

On Tuesday, May 26th, the great New Orleans pianist Tom McDermott will once again honor us with his bedazzling ivronics in our living room! This time, he’ll be playing with the illustrious Jon-Erik Kellso on trumpet! AND if that wasn’t enough, our friend Brian Robinson proprietor of Fort Greene’s Gnarly Vines, has generously offered to donate some environmentally friendly boxed VINO. Yes, you heard that correctly. Time to get over any preconceived notions you may have of boxed wine. “Drink out of the box.”® Brian will be serving From the Tank Red and White – high quality, organically produced wines from the Cotes du Rhone as well as a classic Rose from the Comptoir de Magdala in the Cotes de Provence. All three of these wines come in 3 liter bag-in-a-box packages which represent an 80% reduction in carbon emissions when you factor in the amount of fuel required to manufacture, transport and recycle glass. (Jump on the sustainability bandwagon and be the first on your block to serve boxed wines!)

To be part of this true story, you need only to show up. (You’d be NUTS not to as anyone who’s been to these events knows…) As always, we will be passing the hat on behalf of these astounding artists…

Tuesday, May 26 – Two sets 7 and 9 p.m. Show up early, as seating will be limited.

135 Eastern Parkway, #10F (Eastern Parkway stop on the 2/3. Opposite the Brooklyn Museum)

If you never got to make it to any of our post-Katrina New Orleans Diaspora Concert Series, you can get a taste at http://www.nickbalaban.com.

Can’t wait to see you all!

Love,

Nick & Maura”

“SECRETS OF SATCHMO UP FOR SALE”

Previously unknown private letters from Louis Armstrong to a British journalist have been unearthed

GUARDIAN, Sunday, 24 May 2009

Previously unknown private letters from Louis Armstrong to a British friend have been unearthed.  The letters, to the journalist Lionel Crane, reveal the strong conviction the American jazz virtuoso had that he should stay close to his own class, in spite of his international fame.

Crane visited the musician in his Bronx home in the late 60s and the two struck up a correspondence. The rare letters from the trumpeter, who was called Satchmo or Pops by his fans, are being put up for sale next week by Crane’s daughter, writer Rosemary Bailey.

Crane wrote about his visit, including descriptions of the impoverished area where Armstrong still chose to live. The musician replied:

“My neighbours … were very proud that you thought enough of them to mention them … they are all real people. The warmth that we have for each other is out of this world,” Armstrong writes.

Continuing in his characteristic disjointed prose style, Armstrong points out that he and his wife, former Cotton Club dancer Lucille Wilson, had the money to move away to what he refers to as a “Dickty Neighbourhood”, or a wealthier area.  “But, what about these people … the whole year that I’ve been out sick, it was my fine neighbours who love’s and understands us.”

Armstrong developed a peculiar use of grammar to give his writing a distinctive rhythm. In one touching passage he wrote: “If I miss one day warming up – calls come into Lucille asking is Pops OK?  We did not hear that today.  Man, that’s neighbours.”

A comment is necessary: Louis’s neighbo(u)rhood was far from “impoverished,” and he deserves more than this mildly condescending pat on the head.  This UK journalist could learn something about “warmth” from Louis and his letters.  However, it’s always rewarding to find more of Louis’s  prose emerging.  Will the buyer make these texts — much more “touching” than “peculiar” — to jazz scholars?  I hope so.

WKCR-FM, www.wkcr.org, 212-851-2699

microphoneI don’t like pledge drives on public radio or public television.  More often than not, I have reacted to the extended earnest pleas for financial support by turning off the flow of words.  When I returned to New York this morning and heard that WKCR-FM was asking its listeners for financial support, my initial response was a muffled groan.  But two factors changed my thinking.  One is that the station (Columbia University’s jazz station, on the air steadily since October 1941) was broadcasting Benny Goodman’s music around the clock until June 1 — in honor of BG’s hundredth birthday.  And while I was listening to the flow of familiar BG sides from 1939, I heard a few Helen Forrest vocals I hadn’t heard before.

And — more to the point — the Beloved and I have spent the last week-plus in Utah.  Utah is extraordinarily beautiful, even oppressively and overwhelmingly so — but we couldn’t find any good music on the radio.  Seventies rock and religious music in profusion, but no Charlie Christian, Charlie Parker, Charlie Barnet, or Charlie Green.  Even when a station such as WKCR is broadcasting music that isn’t to my taste, it seems a cultural oasis in the American landscape.

I also remember WRVR-FM and Ed Beach — a glorious aesthetic and educational experience that vanished one day because someone wanted that particular frequency for a station that made more money.

So I called 212-851-2699 and made a contribution.  And I encourage blog-readers to do the same.  Even if you are out of the New York metropolitan area, you can access the station online at http://www.wkcr.org.  And if you did so, you’d hear Benny’s 1941 band with Sid Catlett, Cootie Williams, Lou McGarity, Mel Powell . . . music worth supporting.  Please do!

FRANKIE MANNING FEST (May 21-25)

This four-day New York celebration was planned to celebrate the 95th birthday of dancer, choreographer, generous spirit, and inspiration Frankie Manning — who, as they say, departed this earthly life a bit too soon.  But the festivities go on — featuring, among others,

Dancer Norma Miller, musicians Wycliffe Gordon, Houston Person, Evan Christopher, Matt Munisteri, David Ostwald’s Gully Low Jazz Band, the Cangelosi Cards, a number of documentaries, and an abundance of swing dancing.  Here’s the schedule.  Even if you’re going to be miles away from Manhattan, or if you move sluggishly on the dance floor, visit www.frankie95.com.

Thursday, May 21

3:00 PM Open registration & Contest Sign In Manhattan Center Lobby

6:30 PM Ballroom Opens Manhattan Center-Grand Ballroom

6:45 PM Special screening of the documentary Frankie Manning:

Never Stop Swinging Manhattan Center-Grand Ballroom

7:30 PM Talk with Norma Miller Manhattan Center-Grand Ballroom

8:00 PM Hellzapoppin’ contest registration ends Manhattan Center Lobby

9:00 PM Dancing begins with The New Orleans Jazz Vipers and Gordon Webster;

Performances;

Manhattan Center-Grand Ballroom

9:00 PM Competitors’ Meeting Grand Ballroom-Balcony Level

11:30 PM Hellzapoppin Wildcard round Manhattan Center-Grand Ballroom

1:00 AM Registration Closes Manhattan Center Lobby

3:00 AM Dance Ends

Friday, May 22

9:00 AM Memorial Service Jam begins, featuring Benny Powell, Frank Wess, Yvette Glover, and others. Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church

(5th Ave & 55th st)

10:00 AM Memorial Service Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church

12:00 PM Second Line From Church to Park led by David Ostwald’s Gully Low Jazz Band Fifth Avenue

12:30 PM Central Park Dance with George Gee & His Make Believe Ballroom Orchestra & David Ostwald’s Gully Low Jazz Band Central Park Naumberg Bandshell

1:30 PM Break World Records Central Park Naumberg Bandshell

3:45 PM World’s Biggest Jack and Jill Central Park Naumberg Bandshell

4:00 PM Registration Check In Opens Manhattan Center Lobby

5:00 PM Central Park Dance Ends Central Park Naumberg Bandshell

6:30 PM Competitors’ Meeting Hammerstein Ballroom-3rd floor Balcony Level

6:30 PM Ballroom Opens Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

7:00 PM Presentation: Remembering Frankie Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

9:00 PM Dancing begins with The Blue Vipers of Brooklyn and Ron Sunshine & Full Swing;

Performances

Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

12:30 AM Hellzapoppin Semi-Finals Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

1:00 AM Late Night Entry (As space permits) Manhattan Center Lobby

12:40 AM Late Night beings with The Cangelosi Cards and The Paul Tillotson’s Trio;

Performances Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

2:00 AM Registration Closes Manhattan Center Lobby

4:00 AM Dance Ends

Saturday, May 23

9:00 AM Masters Auditions Alvin Ailey School

9:00 AM Registration Check In Opens Manhattan Center Lobby

10:00 AM 1st Workshop begins Alvin Ailey School/LaGuardia High School/424 West 34th St.

11:30 AM 2nd Workshop begins Alvin Ailey School/LaGuardia High School/424 West 34th St.

1:00 PM 3rd Workshop begins Alvin Ailey School/LaGuardia High School/424 West 34th St.

2:30 PM 4th Workshop begins Alvin Ailey School/LaGuardia High School/424 West 34th St.

4:30 PM World’s Biggest Jack and Jill Rain back up. 424 West 34th St.

4:30 PM Lindy Hop & Big Apple: A History Program for Kids by Cynthia Millman Professional Children’s School

6:00 PM Competitors’ Meeting Hammerstein Ballroom-3rd floor Balcony Level

6:00 PM Ballroom Opens Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

6:30 PM Savoy Era Panel Discussion Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

8:30 PM Dancing with George Gee & His Make Believe Ballroom Orchestra, The Harlem Renaissance Orchestra, and Frank Foster & The Loud Minority;

Hellzapoppin Finals (approx. 9:25PM);

Frankie95 Worldwide Routine;

All Band Super Finale Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

1:00 AM Late Night Entry (As space permits) Manhattan Center Lobby

2:00 AM Registration Closes Manhattan Center Lobby

4:00 AM Dance Ends

Sunday, May 24

10:00 AM Registration Check In Opens Manhattan Center Lobby

11:00 AM 1st Workshop begins Alvin Ailey School/LaGuardia High School/424 West 34th St.

12:30 PM 2nd Workshop begins Alvin Ailey School/LaGuardia High School/424 West 34th St.

2:00 PM 3rd Workshop begins Alvin Ailey School/LaGuardia High School/424 West 34th St.

4:00 PM Presentation:

The Story of the Big Apple

The Gymnasium at 424 W.34th street (between 9th and 10th avenue)

5:30 PM J & J Competitors’ Meeting Manhattan Center-Grand Ballroom

6:00 PM House doors open for seating to the show (first-come first-serve basis) Grand Ballroom/ Hammerstein Ballroom

7:00 PM Ambassador of Swing: The Frankie Manning Story

Starts Manhattan Center-Grand Ballroom

9:15 PM World’s Biggest Jack and Jill Semi-Final Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

10:00 PM Dancing with The Boilermaker Jazz Band and Jonathan Stout & His Campus Five featuring Hilary Alexander;

Competition Awards Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

12:00AM World’s Biggest Jack and Jill Final; Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

1:00 AM Late Night Entry (As space permits) Manhattan Center Lobby

1:30 AM All Star Band Jam with Evan Christopher;

Performances Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

2:00 AM Registration Closes Manhattan Center Lobby

4:00 AM Dance Ends

Monday, May 25

10:00 AM Open registration Sign In Manhattan Center Lobby

11:00 AM 1st Workshop begins Alvin Ailey School/LaGuardia High School

12:30 PM Presentation:

Dawn Hampton: Bhangra The Gymnasium at 424 W.34th street (between 9th and 10th avenue)

12:30 PM Informal Picnic in the Park;

Unguided Harlem Tour (explore on your own)

Central Park-Sheep Meadow

12:30 PM 2nd Workshop begins Alvin Ailey School/LaGuardia High School

1:30 PM Presentation (Tentative) 424 West 34th St.

2:00 PM 3rd Workshop begins Alvin Ailey School/LaGuardia High School

2:00 PM Presentation:

Everything Remains Raw:

Connecting Jazz Dance and Hip Hop The Gymnasium at 424 W.34th street (between 9th and 10th avenue)

3:00 PM Presentation 424 West 34th St.

3:30 PM Presentation:

The History of Swing Dance

led by Peter Loggins The Gymnasium at 424 W.34th street (between 9th and 10th avenue)

6:30 PM Ballroom Opens Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

7:00 PM Discussion Panel: The 80’s Revival: Re-Discovering Frankie and Lindy Hop Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

9:00 PM Dancing with the Houston Person Quartet and the Wycliffe Gordon Quartet & the Battle of the ‘Bones;

Performances Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

11:59 PM Birthday Countdown Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

1:00 AM Registration Closes Manhattan Center Lobby

2:00 AM Event Ends

2:00 AM Afterhours Party: Frankie Forever with Kim Nallie Dance Sport Studios (22 W. 34th st, 4th floor)

6:00 AM Afterhours End

DON EWELL and DICK WELLSTOOD, 1981

Yes, Ewell had had a stroke some years earlier.  Neither of the pianos at the Manassas Jazz Festival was worthy of its artist.  But this video clip (thanks so much to my fellow YouTube poster — who also gave us the priceless clip of Vic Dickenson singing and playing ONE HOUR) is a wonderful rediscovery.  And Claude Hopkins’ band theme, I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU, always seems to inspire.  Ewell and Wellstood — they would do anything for us.  My rating on YouTube?  “Awesome.” 

MATT MUNISTERI SPEAKS!

The wizard guitarist (plectrist, rather) Matt Munisteri has a ferocious beat, is a cornucopia of new melodies, and is a demonic wit — in addition.  Here’s his latest gig-posting, worth reading even if you are going to be miles away on the dates he indicates here.  And if you can come to one or all of these gigs, so much the better . . . .

Munisteri

Peoples. There are musical rewards aplenty for folks who hang in town this coming Memorial Day weekend.

Thursday May 21st 10pm Barbes

For my first “Third Thursday” gig in two months, I’ll joined by Jon Dryden on piano and Tim Luntzel on bass. One very small part of Jon’s load of genius involves his rather incendiary (to me, to me at least) Floyd Cramer touch on 3-chord chestnuts, so I’m busy scheming.

Friday May 22nd 9pm Jalopy $12

SMECK! A Celebration of String Wizardry

Roy Smeck, “The Wizard of The Strings”, was a 1920’s and 30’s multi-string virtuoso and a vaudeville star, and I’ve recruited two of the most powerful string wizards I know, Doug Wamble and Charlie Burnham, to join me in conjuring the spirits of wizards past and future. All three have us have played with Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra, but I believe this will mark the first time we’ve ever trio-ed. The evening will begin with Alan Edelstein’s great ’86 Academy Award nominated film “Wizard of the Strings” – with an in person introduction by the auteur – followed by a selection of ultra-rare short films of various by-gone string virtuosi, curated by the mad archivist Russell Scholl. Then we’ll all take a deep breath (of something) and see just how much voodoo Doug, Charlie, and myself can summon with a heap of guitars, banjos and mandolins. And the blood of one dead chicken.

Sunday May 24th 8-11 The Ear Inn – Spring St, off Washington

The EarRegulars

Our leader and savior Jon Kellso will be absent this Sunday, but we’ll be blessed with a visitation of two of the baddest sorcerers-of-the-reeds, Evan Christopher, of New Orleans LA, and Scott Robinson, of Teaneck NJ. Also on hand will be Danton Boller, of Malcolm X Blvd., on bass. Be afraid. And get there early, to plant your booty firmly in a seat – there exists the distinct likelihood that such a lineup will, ahem, “turn this mother out”.

Later that same night, at 1am, (!), Evan, Danton, and I will be playing for a grand celebration in honor of what, up until April 27th 2009, would have been Frankie Manning’s 95th birthday. Actually, earlier that same day we’re playing a private event for the Sidney Bechet Society, but don’t worry; we’ll Man Up. Monday, I rest.

And, of course there’s always a “Law and Order” re-run on somewhere if you’d rather stay home. Yes, I’ve seen to that too. I seek only to keep you entertained.

THE JAZZ IN UTAH

Hunting for something evocative on the FM radio in the car as we made our way through this beautiful state, I said wryly to the Beloved that it was ironic that the “Utah Jazz” was a famous sports team . . . but that so far I hadn’t heard any jazz in Utah except for those moments of Jack Purvis and Bobby Hackett I had provided myself through the iPod.

Serendipity was at work, though.  Tonight, in a Hampton Inn in Provo (very nice — although with the modern perversity of a wall-mounted television set in the bathroom, for the multi-taskers among us) I went in search of a cup of Earl Grey.  As I walked towards the lobby, I heard two distinct strains of sound.  One, rather harsh, I could identify as the huge flat-screen television in the “breakfast room.”  Predictable and reasonably easy to block out.  The other, sweeter strain, was familiar — and startling in its familiarity.  Had you been able to shadow me, you would have found me standing in the middle of a deserted hall of rooms, a hall of locked doors, with my face turned towards the little white plastic speaker in the ceiling.  Reverent.  Rapt.

What was I hearing?  Nothing less than Louis Armstrong, circa 1956, from the Decca MUSICAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY, singing and playing GEORGIA ON MY MIND.   I stood there, surprised by joy (to recall C.S. Lewis) until the last high note died out.  Ashley, the young woman on duty at the desk, told me that corporate headquarters makes up a new “playlist,” hours long, and sends the Inn a new version regularly.  What forces were at work to get me in the hall at the moment Louis was singing and playing I cannot tell, but I’m grateful to what or whomever they might be.  “The road leads back to you,” indeed!

Louis Huff Post

JIM GOODWIN, REMEMBERED

My friend Barb Hauser, the wise woman of San Francisco jazz, sent this along — an obituary notice for the brilliant, plunging cornetist (later pianist) Jim Goodwin, written by his friend — the justly renowned Dave Frishberg.

James R. (Jim) Goodwin, the son of Katherine and Robert Goodwin, was born March 16, 1944 in Portland, OR, and died April 19, 2009 in Portland.  Jim was a natural musician with no formal training.  Practitioners and admirers of traditional jazz on both sides of the Atlantic have long regarded him as somewhat of a legend, and his heroic cornet playing, influenced by Louis Armstrong and Wild Bill Davison, was warmly appreciated by his musical colleagues as well as by audiences who listened and loved it.

Jim was a star first baseman at Hillsboro High – a left-handed line-drive hitter.  After high school he served in the Oregon National Guard, then trained on Wall Street for a career in finance, returned to Portland, joined Walston & Co., and became for a time the nation’s youngest stockbroker.  Jim then put aside the financial career and began to devote his life to playing jazz on the cornet.

During his forty-year career as a cornetist and pianist, Jim had long residencies in Breda, Holland and Berkeley, California, as well as in his home town of Portland.  He played with many prominent musicians of the “old school,” including Joe Venuti, Manny Klein, Phil Harris, and Portland’s Monte Ballou (Jim’s godfather).  He toured extensively in Western Europe and became probably better known there than in the US.  During his long residence in the Bay Area he played regularly at San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel and at Pier 23, as well as in three World Series with the Oakland A’s pep band.  Before his recent return to Portland, he spent several years living in rural Brownsmead, OR, near Astoria.

Jim became a pioneer in the Portland micro-brewing industry when, together with Fred Bowman and Art Larrance, he established the Portland Brewing Company.  During the 1990s he and Portland pianist Dave Frishberg played regular duet performances at the company’s Flanders Street Pub, and the two made an internationally acclaimed CD on the Arbors Jazz label.

In recent years Mr. Goodwin was on the Board of Directors of Congo Enterprises, and he served briefly as CFO of that company, leaving office months before the scandal became headline news.

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

Forest Park was very dear to Jim. He spent a lot of time there hiking and running.

Donations may be made to: Forest Park Conservancy

1507 NW 23rd Avenue

Portland, OR 97210

Tel: 503-223-5449

– Include a note stating that the donation is “in honor of James Goodwin.”

– Donations may be made online at http://www.forestparkconservancy.org

– A space is provided to enter the honoree’s name.

There will be a party honoring Jim on Saturday, September 19th, in Portland.

For more information contact, Retta Christie at ARChristie@aol.com.

THINGS AIN’T WHAT THEY USED TO BE

 Duke 1942My friend and fellow jazz researcher David Weiner sent me this clipping from BILLBOARD (issues of that music business magazine from 1942 to the present are now accessible online).  David is a tireless reader, and he found this review of an Ellington stage show which would make anyone wish for a time machine to ttravel to the RKO-Boston in February 1942, an acetate recorder, a sound movie camera — and a crew to operate them all.  For your reading and listening pleasure.  (Oh, and you can ignore the racist language and you don’t have to stay for the movie itself.)

From Billboard, Feb. 21, 1942:

Duke Ellington has one of the fastest and finest shows seen on a local stage in a long time. The Duke still has the band and he is also a fine showman.  There is no letdown from the moment the Ellington medley intros the stageshow until the final curtain. Ethel Waters is present along with the Ellington band, and it all adds up to the biggest flesh value the Hub has seen in many moons.

Offering opens with a medley of Ellingtonia – Sophisticated Lady, Solitude, etc. The Duke then introduces Marie Bryant, who has one brief number to offer, which clicks very nicely. Ivie Anderson follows and receives a great ovation, singing Rocks In My Bed and I Want A Man Like That. In the latter number she gets some assistance from the boys in the band, notably drummer Sonny Greer, who has some choice repartee.

With the next offering, Concerto for Clinkers, a symphony of offtones, the Duke gets a chance to introduce some of the boys in his band, all of whom were joyously received. Johnny Hodges, who does some very fine sax work, received a great hand.

When the Concerto is finished, the Duke brings out Herb Jeffries, who sings Flamingo, the band’s recent release. Encouraged by the great response, Jeffries comes back with Blues In The Night, highlighted by a good Ellington arrangement. Jeffries has a nice, easy manner and a fine voice and makes an immediate and definite impression.

Ethel Waters follows and starts with Ain’t Gonna Sin No More, Frankie and Johnny and Bread and Gravy. In the last-named piece she is assisted by three dusky maidens proficient in singing Negro spirituals. They demonstrate their ability with Miss Waters aiding them, and get a great hand. Miss Waters then goes into St. Louis Blues, bows off, and returns in response to a great ovation to offer Stormy Weather. Finally had to beg off.

Ellington then introduces Pot, Pan and Skillet, from the cast of Jump For Joy, who do a terrific job with a comedy dance routine. Called back for some more antics, they delight the crowd, finally bowing off to make way for the Ellington finale, which features Ivie and his newest number I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good.

Screen fare is a trifle weak, “North to the Klondike.”

(Mike Kaplan, Billboard Mag.)

OGDEN, UTAH / RED AND MIFF VISIT THE 21st CENTURY

Yesterday the Beloved and I drove through Ogden, Utah.  That town is quite removed from our usual route, but we are here so that she can teach three classes in pressure cooking at the amiable Love to Cook / Kitchen Kneads (!) store in Logan . . . and then we can drink in the natural beauty that so characterizes the state — snow-topped mountains so astonishing that on first glance they look unreal, and the wondrous birds who casually inhabit the Wild Bird Refuge at Bear River. 

All right, what has any of this to do with jazz?

A good deal, by luck and serendipity.  Ogden, as some of you might know, is the birthplace of Loring “Red” Nichols, the cornetist and bandleader whose name, nearly forty-five years after his death — still has the power to stir up ideological controversy among jazz fans.  Some of his best “Five Pennies” recordings feature the revolutionary-for-his-time trombonist Miff Mole, who was born in Freeport, Long Island, a community not far from the one where I spent my childhood.  Red and Miff favored a kind of jazz that was “modern,” harmonically sophisticated, and complex . . . but their performances have always been mildly condescended to by those who prefer their jazz scalding Hot — those who listened to the Five Pennies recordings for the solos of Teagarden, Goodman, Lang, or Teschmacher, the rhythmic support of Sullivan, Krupa, Vic Berton, or Tough.  Next to the hot players of his generation, Nichols can — on occasion — sound a bit mannered, and one might hear the echoes of “Carnival of Venice,” which he played as a boy, coming through.  But he was a better-than-average player, he employed the best players he could find, and he gave them solo space.  And, unlike Ted Lewis, he didn’t sing or talk over anyone else’s solos.  I think the bad things said about Nichols have to do with the unconscious or conscious Marxism that hovers over jazz.  Nichols had the bad taste to be Caucasian, middle-class, prosperous — someone who made a living from jazz and lived a long comfortable life.  Had Nichols died of tuberculosis, or had he frozen to death on a Harlem doorstep, would he be held in higher esteem among the jazz purists? 

Miff Mole is somewhat of a different story.  The trombone requires so much from the person behind the mouthpiece, that there are very few trombonists who keep their initial style intact (I think of Morton, Teagarden, and Vic Dickenson as a celestial trio) — but Mole’s early solos are acrobatic and graceful.  It’s impossible to imagine that Teagarden, Jimmy Harrison, and Charlie Green didn’t notice what Miff was doing, quietly, in the early Twenties.

One of the wonderful things about this music is that younger players can look back to the past, honor it, and then give their homage its own individuality. 

While we were driving through Ogden, Utah, Jamaica Knauer was posting one of her delightful videos from the 2009 Bix Fest — Andy Schumm, Dave Bock, Kim Cusack, Paul Asaro, Leah Bezin, John Otto, and Josh Duffee, “Bix and his Chicago Gang,” here payting tribute to Miff’s recording (from 1928, I think) of ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND.  Initially, it sounds ragtime-and-brass band flavored, but the boys (then and now) take themselves to the land of jazz, in a lovely manner.

BEN’S AUTOGRAPH BOOK

Browsing idly through Ebay (or is it eBay?), I entered the search term “jazz autographs” to see what would emerge.  Of course a number of the items for sale were autographs of players for the Utah Jazz, but this one was much more relevant, even though I have no plans to start bidding for it — the suggested price is just under two thousand dollars.

The late Staff Sergeant Benson (“Ben”) Hardy was a jazz fan who carried his copy of Charles Delaunay’s NEW HOT DISCOGRAPHY with him in the late 1940s and got many musicians to sign the pages on which their records were listed.  My eye, of course, was drawn to the page below, signed in 1948:

Catlett autographSomething special and rare, I would suggest.  If you’re interested in seeing the other signatures (including Buddy Rich, Charlie Barnet, Kid Ory, Barney Bigard, Louis, Velma Middleton, Tommy Dorsey and other luminaries), look for “15- RARE-Vintage-BIG BAND-AUTOGRAPHS-Jazz Legensa-SIGNED.”  My man Agustin Perez Gasco helped me to find the working link, which is http://tinyurl.com/ofkfdp

Knowing that items tend to vanish from eBay, I would do it shortly — even if your finances are rather like mine.

CRAIG VENTRESCO: “I MUST HAVE IT”

I first met Craig in 2005 or so, when he was playing guitar and banjo with the Red Onion Jazz Band (under the irascible leadership of drummer Bob Thompson); he impressed me profoundly as a soloist and as a living curator of music and musical forms that the world threatened to ignore.  The Hit Parade of 1905; Zon-o-Phone records; tangos, waltzes, stomps, and blues.  It is so reassuring to know that while we are sleeping on the East Coast, Craig is taking his time, showing no strain, displaying the easy intensity that marks the greatest players.  Here he is at one of his usual haunts, Cafe Divine, gliding through King Oliver’s “I Must Have It.”  Damn, Craig, you surely do have it. Don’t lose it, please?

DOIN’ THE VOOM VOOM / THE HOT WINDS

Doin' the Voom Voom CD coverPeople who listen to music extensively and closely become harder to please.  And I am a prime offender.  This over-sensitivity causes me a great deal of trouble, but many new CDs that seem almost wonderful to me.  But the “almost” is lethal.  On these discs, the effort is discernible, the sincerity, the energy — but something just isn’t in place.  One musician might be rushing or dragging the tempo; there could be a slight tension in the band (three members going one way, two thinking about going in the opposite direction); a CD could have an odd recording balance; the material might be excellent in itself but not for these performers, and so on.  If I were to describe this critical tendency of mine, I might call it “attentive,” “discerning,” “”detail-oriented,” “finicky,” or “listening too damned closely,” depending on my mood.  Perhaps if you have, as I have, heard a band of Bobby Hackett, Vic Dickenson, Teddy Wilson, Milt Hinton, and Jo Jones, it sets the aesthetic bar sky-high.

And, as an additional caveat, I am distrustful of any writer’s hyperbole, especially mine.  Earnest as it might be, such prose always sounds like ad copy: “this new CD by Minnie and the Meowers offers the best meowing you’ll hear all year” makes me want to run to my litter box and hide under it.

All this is prelude to my stating that two new Arbors CDs — the label that has done so much to document and preserve the kinds of jazz I love dearly — seem as close to perfect as recordings ever get.

The cover of the first CD is depicted above — trumpeter Duke Heitger and pianist Bernd Lhotzky, recorded in Germany in 2008.  Now, the trumpet (or cornet) and piano duet in recorded jazz goes back to Joe Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton in 1924, and it stretches into the future: Louis and Earl, Ruby and Dick Hyman or Ralph Sutton or Ellis Larkins, Butterfield and Wellstood, Randy Sandke and Dick Hyman, Sudhalter and Kellaway, Eldridge and Bolling . . . including brilliant (as yet unrecorded duets) by two of my heroes, Jon-Erik Kellso and Ehud Asherie.  For me, there’s something extraordinary about the pairing of a soaring hot trumpeter and a stride pianist.  For one thing, the trumpeter has a mobile, energetic rhythmic pulse to improvise over; the pianist has the pleasure of darting in and out of the trumpet lines.  It is magically orchestral and magically fulfilling.  That’s the case on this CD with Duke and Bernd.  To start with the basics: I’ve never heard either of them play so lavishly and nobly, and I’ve heard both of them live in a variety of contexts: Duke at Chautauqua for perhaps five years in a row; Bernd at Westoverledingen and the 92nd Street Y.

Maestro Lhotzky first.  Stride pianists often get caught up in their own enthusiasm (and who would blame them?) so even the best tend to get louder and faster, which is perfectly understandable in a romping solo but less than wonderful when there’s another player involved — it’s as if the trumpeter becomes a child trying to catch the ice cream truck that is accelerating down the street.  Zeno’s paradox in jazz.  Bernd doesn’t have that problem: he is steady but never dull, propulsive but calm — appearing to run as fast as he can without losing his essential cool.  The piano sound he creates is wonderful, whether he is pensively wandering through a ballad or doing his best James P. Johnson.  And he is a peerless accompanist, nearly telepathic.

“Lord Heitger,” as Bernd playfully calls him, wears his heart on his sleeve, but his emotion never gets in the way of the music.  He can shout, he can soar, he can growl and moan — at any tempo.  On this CD, his tone is gorgeously round (the way jazz trumpet is supposed to sound but often doesn’t), his passions on display.  He often reminds me of 1930 Louis but he is purely himself, Duke of a royal lineage.

And neither musician embarks on the treacherous business of “recreating the originals.”  Yes, the wise ancestors of jazz are everywhere on this disc: Louis and Fats, Duke and Bubber — but there are also immensely feeling evocations of Sir Edward Elgar (not your usual idea of a solid sender), Willard Robison, Kern and Gershwin, Ray Noble, Richard Rodgers, Toots Mondello (!) and Carlos Gardell.

Most CDs — do I write this too often? — flirt with monotony by being seventy-five minutes of similar or identical music.  This one is a joy from first to last.  And even the Beloved, who’s a tough critic (her ideals are Louis, the early Goodman small groups, Nat Cole’s piano) said, simply, “That’s gorgeous!” before we were a half-minute into “The Folks Who Live on the Hill.”  Hooray for this duo.  May they make a dozen more CDs as rewarding as this one, and may those discs come in a steady stream, perhaps two a year.

Hot Winds coverThe other Arbors CD is the debut of another Marty Grosz assemblage, organization, or perhaps brainstorm — a purportedly all-reed group featuring the dervishes Dan Block and Scott Robinson with a rhythm section of Marty, Vince Giordano, Rob Garcia, and guest appearances from “Panic Slim” on trombone.  I write “purportedly,” because the irrepressible Robinson, who just turned fifty, brought along his cornet, echoe cornet, and Eb alto horn.  I won’t go on about this CD, because I’ve done so already on this blog, in a post called MAKING RECORDS WITH MARTY GROSZ.  (I was lucky enough to attend two of the three sessions at Clinton Studios, and brought both camera and notebook.)

I’ll just say that the CD captures all of the enthusiasm, swing, and wit of those sessions — glorious visits to the land of Hot Jazz.  Engineer Doug Pomeroy did a wonderful job, and you can hear every ping of Rob Garcia’s glockenspiel and the deep resonant sound of Vince’s bass sax, tuba, and aluminum string bass.  More?  Well, Marty essays (as he might say) the other William H. Tyers classic, “Maori,” (recorded by Ellington and anyone else?), pays tribute to his Chicago pal Frank Chace with a tender “Under A Blanket of Blue,” and the whole band stretches out on a wondrously funky “Riverside Blues.”  I am also grateful for this CD because it captures Marty — at last — recording one of my favorite not-too-complicated songs, Herman Hupfeld’s 1933 classic, “I Gotta Get Up and Go To Work,” which is how I feel in the morning.  A neat collage by the Master, typically lemony notes.  To quote Fats on “Swing Out to Victory” : “Yeah, man!  Solid!  Here we come.”

The Arbors Records site is on my blogroll — www.arborsrecords.com — and, as they used to say on radio, “You won’t be sorry.”  And heartfelt thanks to Mat and Rachel Domber — maybe the best patrons this music has, people who put their energy and their support where their good taste is.

P.S.  I need to know.  Was “the Voom Voom ” ever a real dance or is that Ellington-Miley title their version of “That Da Da Strain”?  Surely one of my readers will know.

P.P.S.  Is it “The Hot Winds is a peerless small group,” or “The Hot Winds are astonishing”?  Or is it like using the sprinkler to water the lawn in suburbia — it depends whether the day in question is odd or even on the calendar?