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.

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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.