Daily Archives: July 21, 2009

LOVELY TO LOOK AT

People who have never held an original 78 rpm recording from the great jazz past might not understand why these pictures are so exciting, but they are.  I’ve heard this music for almost forty years now, and I’ve got the digital versions on my iPod and on CDs, but when I saw these pictures of records for sale on eBay, I thought it would be worth sharing them with my readers:

KC 6 two

KC 6 one

Commodore509b

Commodore509A

AGAINST THE CURRENT

Jazz has never quite shaken the notion that newer is better.  Musician C, born in 1956, is an improvement on B, born in 1936, and we are affectionate about A, born in 1916, while casting kindly eyes at his shortcomings.  And these assumptions creep into the critical language, as if playing a “harmonically sophisticated” chord was more “advanced” than a seventh.  Perhaps this ideology has something to do with our desire for novelty, our short attention spans — listeners getting bored with perfection.  Yes, artists do stand on the shoulders of previous generations — but such reasoning is ultimately limiting. 

As my counter-truth, I present four performances by the Anachronic Jazz Band, recorded at the Nice Jazz Festival on July 16, 1977.  The AJB hasn’t existed since 1980, which is a pity: we always need such romping enlightenment.  Its members were Patrick Artero, trumpet; Daniel Barda, trombone; Marc Richard, André Villéger, Daniel Huck, clarinet; Philippe Baudoin, piano; Patrick Diaz, banjo; Gérard Gervois, brass bass;  Bernard Laye, drums.  Goran Eriksson sits in on recorder on the third performance.

The band’s comic spirit is witty and knowing; the music isn’t mean-spirited or broadly knockabout.  You’ll see!

Heartfelt evidence that “progress” in jazz is illusory; rather, art is a Mobius strip, where beginnings and endings cease to matter.   ASK ME NOW would have gladdened the hearts of both Thelonious and Louis.  Bless every one of them.  

MATTHIAS SEUFFERT’S MANY SELVES

I was first impressed by the playing of reedman Matthias Seuffert on a few Stomp Off releases several years ago.  One, the BLUE RHYTHMAKERS, paired him with Bent Persson and Keith Nichols; another, PERCOLATIN’ BLUES (by the Chalumeau Serenaders)  found him with Norman Field, with Nick Ward on the drums.  Happily for me, I was asked to write the liner notes for the second volume of a Johnny Dodds tribute organized by “Pam” Pameijer — a session also featuring Jon-Erik Kellso and Jim Snyder.  On all of these discs, I had the opportunity to marvel at Matthias’s fluent technique and gritty intensity — when he’s playing Twenties clarinet, he could show Johnny Dodds a few things; when he’s playing Thirties tenor, he echoes the early, rhapsodic lines of Hawkins.  But, best of all, Matthias is his own man, choosing novel approaches for each song.

Seuffert-Sportiello CDHis originality and down-home ardor are well demonstrated in two very different contexts.  One is a CD, SWINGIN’ DUO BY THE LAGO (Styx CD 1026, available from CDBaby)  that I fear hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves, considering its personnel includes Matthias, piano king Rossano Sportiello, and tenor star Harry Allen.  Recorded in 2005 and 2006, it finds Matthias in seven duets with Rossano, three quartet selections with Harry, Rossano, and drummer Anthony Howe, and three “bonus tracks,” featuring Matthias with a piano-less rhythm trio.  On it, Matthias takes wise and refreshing approaches to the sometimes familiar songs: rubbing the sharp corners off Monk’s ASK ME NOW to make a clarinet-piano duet of it that suggests both a cooler, more pensive Goodman; on a Benny Carter line, BLUE FIVE JIVE, he has all the tough swagger of a late-Fifties hard bopper.  Standing next to Harry Allen, Matthias is never combative, but it’s clear that this is a meeting of equals, whether the song is a tender CHELSEA BRIDGE or an assertive LESTER LEAPS IN.  I read about this consistently rewarding disc thanks to John Herr; it’s also music for people who say they dislike jazz — soothing without being soporific, easy to take but never “easy listening.” 

At Whitley Bay, I could greet Matthias face to face (he’s charming) and hear his “South Side Special,” a tribute to the Chicago ambiance that produced some classic Twenties sides with Johnny Dodds, George Mitchell, and Natty Dominique.  Matthias’s front-line partner was the revered Swiss multi-instrumentalist Rene Hagmann, who played magnificiently on trumpet and the reeds.  (I also saw him play air trombone with the Swiss Yerba Buena Creole Rice Jazz Band — more about them in a future posting — and Bent Persson raved about Rene’s real trombone playing to me.)  The band also included Paul Munnery (trombone), Bruce Rollo (bass), Martin Seck on piano (who’s usually a charter member of the Red Hot Reedwarmers), Jacob Ullberger on banjo (a Swedish colleague of Bent’s), and the dazzling young Swiss washboardist Olivier Clerc.  Here they are!

I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t recall the title of this first song (I believe it comes from the Dodds Victor sessions — surely one of my readers will know?) but I wasn’t about to leave it off the blog for such a trifling detail:

Matthias announced this one, pianist Lovie Austin’s MOJO BLUES:

For the more literal-minded members of the audience, this selection might have required a leap of faith.  Johnny Dodds Plays Cole Porter?  But YOU DO SOMETHING TO ME existed in 1929, and it pleases me to imagine the Dodds brothers playing this on the gig, where pop songs of the day might well have been requested.  Matthias and the group show that it’s no stretch, aesthetically:

Finally, they concluded the session with BROWN SKIN (or perhaps BROWNSKIN) GAL:

I should point out that all of this ferociously hot music was created around lunchtime: so much for the legends of jazzmen who, like bats, are nocturnal.  The sun was shining outside, although we knew such things were of lesser import.