Monthly Archives: July 2009

AURELIE TROPEZ / PAUL ASARO (July 12, 2009)

Near the end of the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, I left one session featuring a medium-sized band, preferring to be in a corner in the lobby of the “Cotton Club” bar. 

What awaited me there was a half-hour set of duets between clarinet goddess Aurelie Tropez (of the Red Hot Reedwarmers) and soft-spoken stride monarch Paul Asaro.  Their brand of chamber jazz was more than rewarding — but what amused me was the streams of people, leaving the “Cotton Club,” who paraded along while the music was playing, oblvious to the music or perhaps sated by what they had just heard. 

I wanted to call this post WALK ON BY or WALK THIS WAY, but decided that an excess of whimsy might be . . .  excessive.  So the first two performances here are punctuated by headless torsos ambling across the screen.  Viewers who are easily distracted by such things might choose to turn away from the monitor — but don’t be swayed, because the soundtrack is too good to pass by. 

They began with a slow-medium reading of SHOE SHINE BOY, much closer to Louis than to Jones-Smith, Inc.:

To change the mood, Aurelie suggested THEM THERE EYES:

A nearly ominous BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GAVE (or GIVES?) TO ME, a la Jimmie Noone:

HONEYSUCKLE ROSE, for Tom Waller:

And, finally, SHINE (or (S-H-I-N-E), depending.  They stomp it off, don’t they? 

 

Two players having a good time, listening to one another, with nary a cliche in sight.  Paul made that slightly recalcitrant piano sing, and Aurelie is long overdue for her own CD.  What tonation and phrasing! 

P.S.  This post is for Bridget Calzaretta, Martin Seck, Stompy Jones, and Boris, of course . . .

WHO’S THAT MAN?

Much earlier in 2009, a number of jazz photographs came up for sale on eBay.  They were taken at Stuyvesant Casino in 1950, and the musicians depicted were heroic figures to me.  As always on eBay, two things happened: the bidding skyrocketed at the last minute, and (in the calming grip of Prudence) I refused to plunge into three-digit prices . . . so I ended up the proud purchaser of two of a lot of five or six.  (The photograph that isn’t the subject of this blogpost showed Wild Bill Davison and Benny Morton.)  The other mild disappointment was the size of the originals, approximately two by four.  Inches. 

Our subject for today is a little band of deities.  Hot Lips Page, Sidney Catlett, Pee Wee Russell, Ralph Sutton.  It’s a poignant photograph, because both Lips and Big Sid wouldn’t live much longer.  Pee Wee was months away from his hospitalization and looks gaunt; Sidney, who had suffered a heart attack, looks sadly small behind his drums.  Perhaps some of this is the camera angle and that the horns are sitting down, which isn’t the way we usually see them in photographs.

The title of this post, however, refers to the gentleman on the far right, busily playing the baritone saxophone.  He isn’t the man you would expect — Ernie Caceres — and even the photographer didn’t know who he was.  I showed a copy of this photograph around at Whitley Bay to a number of jazz scholars who happen to be splendid players: Bent Persson, frans Sjostrom, the erudite Norman Field, and Matthias Seuffert — and no one recognized the saxophonist.  Of course, it could have been someone sitting in, some alto / baritone player from a big band — but I don’t know if mere mortals ascended the stage at the Stuyvesant Casino to play alongside such deities.

Olympus, 1950

Olympus, 1950

I ask my readers: who’s that man?  And while they’re at it, I ask them to consider — in their mind’s ear, if there is such a thing — what this little band might have sounded like.  “Celestial” is an understatement as far as I’m concerned.

057

Final afterthoughts: does anyone recognize the photographer — by style or by handwriting?  Somehow I don’t think this is an amateur’s snapshot, not least because of the pencil notation “1432” we see above.  And did the Stuyvesant Casino have a bandstand like this one?  The upholstered wall (leather or naugahyde) resembles the backdrop I’ve seen in photographs of the Three Deuces.  Research!

VERY BIG IN KIEV!

I was very pleased to find Jazz Lives listed among the Jazz Блоги — that’s jazz blogs for the monolingual — on the Jazz in Kiev website: http://jazzinkiev.com/?page=static&static_id=40.  Honored, in fact.  Now, will someone tell me how to say (and to pronounce properly), “Yeah, man!” in Russian?

ANDY AND HIS GANG (Racine Bix Tribute, March 2009)

Thanks to Thorbye Flemming (www.thorbye.net) — our Danish hot-jazz benefactor — for posting these jubilant performances on YouTube — featuring cornetist and youthful icon Andy Schumm leaping into solos, his sidekick Dave Bock on trombone, John  Otto on alto sax and clarinet, Leah Bezin on banjo, Striding Paul Asaro on the piano (he’s bathed in an otherworldly blue light, but it doesn’t get in the way of his Waller-Morton-James P. capers), Vince Giordano, rocking the band on his aluminum string bass, and Josh Duffee on drums.  Neither IDOLIZING nor BABY FACE is a sophisticated tune, but their wide-open spaces bring out the best in the Bixians.

SEUFFERT-HAGMANN, INC.

Three more hot performances from “South Side Special,” recorded live at the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, July 11, 2009, featuring the incendiary combination of Matthias Seuffert (clarinet), Rene Hagmann (trumpet), Paul Munnery (trombone), Martin Seck (piano), Jacob Ullberger (banjo / guitar), Bruce Rollo (bass), and Olivier Clerc (washboard) — concluding their program of music associated with Johnny Dodds and colleagues.

First, PERDIDO STREET BLUES (associated, as Matthias points out, not only with Dodds and Mitchell but also with Louis and Bechet, in a famous Decca session from 1940 whose results belie the stories of musical acrimony).  Catch Maestro Hagmann in charge of the ensemble:

Then, WILD MAN BLUES — not taken at the melodramatic tempo we know from 1927 recordings by Louis and Jelly Roll Morton, but as a swinging bounce — the tempo at which Dodds recorded it in 1938 with Charlie Shavers, Teddy Bunn, John Kirby, and O’Neil Spencer — as “His Chicago Boys” in 1938:

Finally, BALLIN’ THE JACK (or is it BALLIN’ A JACK?) — not the more widely known Chris Smith composition, but one whose title surely has the same erotic implications:

Hotter than that!

Many of the hot jazz recordings of this period can be heard at the Red Hot Jazz website: http://www.redhotjazz.com/jdbbs.html

NOT SO NICE, 2009

World traveler Bill Gallagher sent along his photograph of the latest Nice Jazz Festival lineup:

Nice 2009

Some of my readers will rejoice at the names of venerable jazz players Rollins, Corea, and Burton; others will be pleased to see younger players. 

It must mark me as someone of a nearly-extinct generation when I write that I miss the old days.  European friends, over the years, sent me on-location tapes from Nice festivals in the Seventies, featuring Bobby Hackett, Ruby Braff, Sweets Edison, Bill Coleman, Vic Dickenson, Benny Carter, Teddy Wilson, Joe Venuti, Jo Jones, Sir Charles Thompson, Mark Shane . . . proving that swinging jazz was what prevailed. 

Now they’ve been replaced by  James Taylor?

Of course, many of the players at Nice in the Seventies are now dead.  But there are five or six dozen younger musicians — from Kellso to Caparone, Block to Blake, Dorn to Nick Ward . . . who would show anyone that jazz existed before Madeline Peyroux.

“*RARE* autographs of JAZZ BAND GREATS & others c.1955”

The title of this post caught my eye on a recent amble through eBay.  I don’t often visit that famous site, for fear of stumbling across something I feel seized by . . . but this was vague and enticing both. 

As as aside, I know that I have written about the allure of autographs — the intense desire some of us have to possess an artifact that one of our heroes has, by signing his or her name, said I WAS HERE.  The other side of that emotion, of course, is the practical: what does one do with an autograph once one has acquired it?  Frame it and hang it on the wall?  Fine — it can be seen, admired, bowed to — but it does tend to turn the overall decor into some uneasy blend of museum and adolescent atelier.  Put the autograph in an acid-free folder where it will be safe from its eventual decomposition?  Wonderful, except it is now reasonably invisible.  Thus, I have coveted many more autographs than I will ever purchase. 

These photos greeted me the other day as I idly scrolled through eBay.

ebay 1

A well-preserved, elaborate restaurant menu — its blue cord and tassel still intact.  Someone took good care of this!

ebay 2

ebay 3

Nothing particularly vivid here . . . except for the very clear signature of pianist Billy Kyle, top left.  I knew what jazz band he had been part of in 1955.  More to come!

ebay 4

Small print.  Would I have liked to eat there?  

ebay 5

Useful to verify the date . . . but where are my Jazz Band Greats?

ebay 6

Another clear signature, although Guy Lombardo was not my idea of a Jazz Band Great.

ebay 7

Well, the signatures of Velma Middleton and Louis Armstrong are sufficient for me!  So Louis and his All-Stars were on the same bill as Guy Lombardo at this Atlantic City club whose restaurant had chocolate mint ice cream.  (Louis must have been thrilled.)  Driver, let’s go! 

The seller had written:

Hello! Up for auction is this RARE! c.1955 Autographed Menu from Atlantic City (The Traymore). Some of the autographs are hard to Identify….This menu has only been owned by 1 person since 1955…Their are NO COA’s with this menu. These autographs are REAL. They are all uncanny from the auto’s I have seen for sale. You be the judge! The menu is in Excellent condition. Any questions feel free to email me at anytime. Thanks for looking and Good Luck!

Was it that the seller didn’t know or understand what she or he had?  (his or her other items for sale had been automotive, which might make this piece of jazz arcana particularly arcane.)  As I wrote this post, there had been no bidding on this item, which suggests someone from a generation to whom the names LOUIS ARMSTRONG and GUY LOMBARDO were nearly devoid of meaning, which is sad.

Update: the biddind ended well past my bedtime.  The next morning, three bids had been entered, and someone purchased this for the magisterial sum of $22.50.  It is true that Louis must have autographed pieces of paper, menus, and pictures many times between the middle Twenties and 1971, but each one is, in its own way, precious.