Daily Archives: May 5, 2009

NEXT STOP, WHITLEY BAY!

suitcaseFor someone who spent the better part of his life venturing no more than a hundred miles from his birthplace, I’ve traveled a great deal since 2004, most of my peregrinations courtesy of and beside the Beloved, the world’s finest travel companion.

And we’d already made plans to go to the 2009 Jazz at Chautauqua in September (where we’ll hear and meet Dan Barrett, Marty Grosz, Duke Heiger, Becky Kilgore, Andy Brown, Petra van Nuis, Jon-Erik Kellso, James Dapogny, Bob Reitmeier . . . need I say more) — that delightful party situated amidst the lovely leaf-strewn walks and cottages of Chautauqua, New York.

But as my faithful readers know, I have never been to a British jazz party, although some of the jazz musicians I revere are European.  So when I read about July’s Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, run by trumpeter Mike Durham, my pulse rate increased and I began to fantasize.  Bent Persson, Frans Sjostrom, Matthias Seuffert, Spats Langham, Nick Ward, Martin Wheatley, Jacob Ullberger, Michael McQuaid, the Red Hot Reedwarmers, Rene Hagmann, Norman Field, the West Jesmond Rhythm Kings . . .people I’ve admired so much on Stomp Off, Kenneth, and other CDs.

Initially I simply wanted to go in the way that people would like to do something.  Wouldn’t it be nice to hear all these musicians I’ve only heard on record and CD?  But it would be so far away.  It would be inconvenient (flying is not my passion); it would cost a great deal; the Beloved had larger plans for a UK tour — involving things beyond staying in a hotel for four days listening to jazz from noon to midnight.  So I put it aside in the corner of my mind where the things I want to do but have some doubts about aleep at night.

Then it hit me — I can’t say I sat up in bed or had to pull over to the side of the road on the way to work.  I wasn’t knocked out of my saddle.  But I have been teasingly saying to friends for the past two years that the Beloved and I have incorporated to form the CARPE DIEM TRAVEL AGENCY (deep discounts, experienced planning, an easy payment plan).

But the nagging question formed itself over and over in my mind: “What if I should die and never have heard the Hot Jazz Trio (Persson, Sjostrom, and Ullberger) live, not on CDs?”  It was too painful to envision.  Two days ago, I booked my flight — an extravaganza of airplanes and airports beyond belief — and I just gave the Village Newcastle (the hotel where the festival takes place) my credit card information.

I’m coming!  And my head surely isn’t bending low.  If any blog-readers are going to be at Whitley Bay (and I cannot, for the life of me, see how anyone could resist the lineup), please let me know.  Perhaps you can guide me to a portion of fish and chips that won’t stop my heart by the second bite, perhaps I can find some American CDs you’ve been searching for.  Or something equally friendly and enlivening.

That lineup and more is posted at http://www.whitleybayjazzfest.org

“YEAH, MAN!” (BIX 2009)

Jamaica Knauer, the patron saint of Midwestern Hot Jazz on video (now there‘s a mouthful of Homeric epithet) very generously uploaded two more of her videos from the 2009 Bix Beiderbecke Festival on YouTube for our collective joy and enlightenment.  To quote Milt Hinton, “If you don’t like this, you don’t like broccoli!”*

Here are “Bix and His Chicago Gang,” fervent and expert, captured live at Fitzgerald’s — in tuxedos, no less.  They are Andy Schumm, cornet; Dave Bock, trombone; Kim Cusack, clarinet; John Otto, bass sax; Paul Asaro, piano; Leah Bezin, banjo; Josh Duffee, drums.  First, one of the affectionate songs of the late Twenties, MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS.  (Cutty Cutshall, that Condon stalwart, used to call it MAHONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS.) 

There are too many delightful details to absorb in one viewing, but the band does the very pleasing thing of returning to the verse several times during this performance, making the most of the possibilities of changing from verse to chorus more than once.  It’s a lovely idea, now abandoned in favor of playing chorus after chorus on the theme, which can (I write this in a whisper) become monotonous.  Notice also how many times one of the musicians is grinning because of something another player has just created, and you know that those smiles aren’t “counterfeited glee” for the benefit of the audience.  This band rocks without raising its voice or accelerating its pace. 

The second performance has nothing to apologize for, even though the source material is the tune SORRY.  Jamaica had to switch from one memory card to another in mid-performance, cutting off a bit of Paul Asaro’s striding solo, but I’m so glad she caught what she did.  And the gap in the middle is in itself nostalgic, reminding all of us of those radio airshots captured on 10″ 78 rpm blanks that have a chorus or two we have to imagine — while the diligent recordist tried to turn the acetate over as quickly as possible or put another blank on the turntable.  Heroically done, Jamaica; romping hot jazz, O you Bixians! 

And my title is more than just a Twenties and Thirties exultation, although it would do just fine on that basis: in 1933, Bing Crosby was asked to fill out a questionnaire — favorite color, music, books, and the like.  When it got to “favorite expression,” that’s the one he thought of.  “Yeah, man!” indeed!

 *And if you don’t like broccoli, perhaps it’s because someone’s been overcooking it: try removing it from the heat when it’s still got some life in it.  Late-life culinary conversions are both possible and uplifting!