Monthly Archives: September 2009

ANDY SCHUMM and FRIENDS! (Sept. 2009)

I don’t think I have to praise young Mr. Schumm in this post — the video clips I’ve been posting (my own, from Jamaica Knauer and others) are eloquent testimony.  But here he is, surrounded by his musical elders, entirely comfortable, playing the music of Bix Beiderbecke that he loves, as well as a few rarities from the period.  Those well-known elders are Bob Havens on trombone; Scott Robinson on reeds; Andy Stein on violin and baritone sax; James Dapogny on piano; Marty Grosz, who needs no introduction here; Vince Giordano, ditto; Arnie Kinsella, drums. 

Andy opened his set with a slower-than-usual LOUISIANA, whose beginning I missed.  I especially admire Dapogny’s tremolos behind Scott Robinson’s Lesterish clarinet, and the way that Andy leaps in.  And Dapogny, playing the verse as an unaccompanied interlude, slyly reminds us that Mister Jelly was also in Chicago when Bix and the boys were visiting.  I apologize deeply for the lurching of the camera near the end.  Was I carried away with emotion or was it something more mundane?  Either way, the jazz ship was in no danger of going down: 

The second tune was ANGRY (it wasn’t really), which I associate with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings ans George Brunis, from the start of career to the end.  That’s some rhythm section!  Note the enthusiastic backing Arnie Kinsella gives Bob Havens, and the ferocious way Dapogny lets everyone know that he’s here at the start of his solo, emphasizing that three-note ascending phrase.  The tuba isn’t always a melodic instrument, but Vince just forges ahead, creating long-lined inventions that stick in the mind.  And I especially love it that Andy Stein said to himself, “This piece needs a baritone saxophone more than a violin,” picks his up, and boots the final chorus along energetically:

Next, from the Bix and Tram book (recording as “The Chicago Loopers”), the Fats Waller tune, I’M MORE THAN SATISFIED.  Perfectionists will note that there is a moment, coming out of the ensemble, where the team seems to have forgotten the signals (and what was the esoteric meaning of Dapogny’s right-hand gesture to the band — was it “My hand hurts,” or perhaps, “Could we start this thing, for the love of Jo Trent”?) but the performance recovers nicely.  Dapogny’s solo is a model of hot construction, and the rhythm section passage, with Vince finding his low notes and Arnie rocking the temple blocks, couldn’t be better:

And two rarities: ROSY CHEEKS (you can almost invent the bouncy lyrics without ever having heard it sung — it seems an illegitimate relative of BABY FACE, which makes sense in a plagiaristic way).  Although few members of this group could have been intimate with the song, it seems to have simple, if not simplistic chord changes, and they leap right in.  That no one in the house cheered when Scott Robinson concluded his energetically labyrinthine solo is a mystery indeed.  Perhaps they were busily concentrating on their heaped-high plates of food?  Notice how Arnie Kinsella drives the band along in the last chorus — his beat more nourishing than what was on those plates:

Then, a song recorded by Harold Austin’s Ambassadors for Gennett in 1930 (what resonance those words have) — an unusual pop tune called MONA*.  Andy’s lead is, like Bix’s late work, a both poignant and urgent.  The chorus split by and shared by Andy Stein (on baritone) and Scott (on metal clarinet) is a wonderful impromptu creation, again under-appreciated.  And the band energetically takes it out, with Andy Schumm showing the way:

To conclude the set (perhaps to everyone’s relief), Andy called NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW, much more familiar material.  Two endearing things happen at the end of the first ensemble chorus: Marty reaches forward and turns off the light on his music stand, because he doesn’t need it, and Arnie shifts into his own version of Jo-Jones-on-the-hi-hat, to encourage the congregation.  Am I the only one who finds such shifts, when done masterfully, absolutely levitating experiences?  And then, Scott whispers to Andy — certainly something about trading phrases.  What happens next reminds me a great deal of Bix and Tram on YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME, except we know it’s being created there in front of our eyes, gloriously.  More split choruses (Andy Stein and Marty, Vince and Arnie) lead into a final chorus that begins with some tentativeness and then gets heated in a nice “Chicagoan” way just in time for the last eight bars:

Yeah, man!  And more Andy Schumm footage to come – – –

*There’s also a fascinating YouTube clip of Austin’s recording — a good hot dance band of the period, with a debatable vocal — that uses period phonograph advertisements as illustrations — don’t miss the naughty postcard and the Hebrew family illustrations!  But you’ll have to search it out on your own.

DUKE HEITGER’S ON HIS WAY (October 2009)

What, I ask you, could be simpler or more pleasing?  Duke will be here for a whirlwind tour where every day’s a holiday:

Sunday,  October 4: at The Ear Inn with Anat Cohen, Matt Munisteri, bassist and friendly sit-ins to be arranged.

Monday, October 5: Duke will be part of the trumpet section with Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, which is always a treat to hear.  (Sofia’s Restaurant in the Hotel Edison in midtown, of course.)

Tuesday, October 6: Duke and Ehud Asherie will play duets (and perhaps more) at Roth’s Westside Steakhouse (on Columbus Avenue on the Upper West Side).

Wednesday, October 7: Duke will sing out with David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Centennial Band at Birdland (5:30 PM).

Thursday, October 8: He will be one of the stars at Jack Kleinsinger’s HIGHLIGHTS IN JAZZ concert, bringing together Ehud, Anat, George Masso, Jackie Williams, and many others.

I’ve skimped on the details on when and where — but all of these sites have their necessary information on the blog.  Yours in haste – – –

MARTY GROSZ: “EARLY BENNY”

I first saw Marty Grosz at close range in 1974 when he was an invaluable member of Soprano Summit — at a concert at the New York Jazz Museum (Bob Wilber, Kenny Davern, Marty, bassist Mickey Golizio, and the unsurpassed Cliff Leeman).  I recall that he introduced one of his vocal features, ISN’T LOVE THE STRANGEST THING? as having been composed by the house detective at a large hotel in St. Louis.  So his comedic credentials are solid.  And everyone knows him as a peerless rhythm guitarist in the old style.  Fewer appreciate his singing, especially his Red McKenzie-inspired ballad crooning, and fewer still know what a stellar arranger he is.  And a jazz historian of the first rank, someone who was there and has done his research.  He remains one of my heroes, because he is such fun — even when his wit is at its most acerbic — and because he stubbornly, even perversely, goes his own way against the tide of fashion.  The day I see Marty lugging an amplifier to a gig, then Yeats’s Second Coming surely is at hand.

All of these talents were on display at Jazz at Chautauqua, when Marty presented a program devoted to the early works and associations of one Benny Goodman, with five performances from the second half of the Twenties.  Several crucial factors make this performance even more amazing.  One, none of the musicians had ever seen the charts before, which testifies to their incredible professionalism.  And two: this session began before ten o’clock on a Sunday morning, when some of the players had concluded their last set with the Nighthawks at 1:20 in the morning.  Awe-inspiring fortitude!

Those players: Scott Robinson and Dan Block on reeds; Arnie Kinsella on drums; Vince Giordano on bass sax, aluminum string bass, and tuba; Marty on guitar and banjo; James Dapogny on piano; Andy Schumm on cornet; Bob Havens on trombone.  None of the songs is familiar, so a keen listener might discern some momentary uncertainty with the chord sequence, but I defy any of my readers to be so deft at this hour!

The program began with WHY COULDN’T IT BE POOR LITTLE ME? — a universal plaint at certain times in people’s lives.  I admire Arnie Kinsella’s introduction, Dan Block’s great enthusiasm, and James Dapogny’s romping second chorus:

Perhaps in deference to the early hour, Marty slowed things down (after some comedy) with BLUE (and BROKEN-HEARTED), a pretty song that no one plays in this century.  On the original recording, if memory serves, Goodman also played cornet, although not as well as Andy Schumm:

I don’t believe Marty’s recital of being personally intimidated by Vince so that he would perform this song, but (as with other improvised narratives of Marty’s) it makes a piquant anecdote — preface to I’M WALKING THROUGH CLOVER, originally recorded by the Red Nichols-led “Louisiana Rhythm Kings”:

I associate SENTIMENTAL BABY with one of Red McKenzie’s later vocals, perhaps on a Bud Freeman date for Keynote; Marty took it as a lyrically swinging instrumental, with a simple rocking Thirties riff to end (at a beautiful tempo).  Catch Bob Havens’s coda at the end — shades of Mister Tea:

Finally, a tune with some permanence — at least up until the Forties in Goodman’s repertoire — with a title Marty chose not to explain, THE WANG WANG BLUES.  I leave such linguistic and semantic mysteries to my erudite readers:

“Plenty rhythm” indeed!  Thank you, Marty and cohorts (who range in age from 23 to 81, give or take) for keeping on so nobly.  It was a privilege to be there, to hear and record this session.

MORTON’S LAW

 Jelly“Jazz music is to be played sweet.  Soft, plenty rhythm.  When you have your plenty rhythm with your plenty swing it becomes beautiful.” 

I was thinking about Jelly Roll Morton’s famous comment while listening to some new compact discs by well-known improvisers.  I would like every improvising musician to commit Morton’s Law to memory, and these codicils as well:

Loud is only good if you also know how to play softly.  Imitate Jo Jones. 

“As fast as you can” is only permitted to those players who can play music at a stately pace — and not just the opening two choruses of a ballad that is then abruptly changed into double-time.  Internalize Ben Webster and Bobby Hackett.

It takes a good deal of courage to be concise.  Are all those notes necessary?  Study Jimmy Rowles.

The spaces between phrases are as important as the phrases themselves.  Consider Count Basie. 

A solo should be more than a string of glittering phrases, or a series of Special Effects.  A beautiful melody, played with the proper emotion, might be more satisfying than the most ornate elaborations on it.  Recall Benny Morton.

If the crowd applauds a performance, do they know why?  And should they have done so?  Ask Henry “Red” Thoreau.

LOOK WHO’S IN TOWN!

Dan Barrett, trombonist, cornetist, bandleader, arranger, composer, singer, musical sparkplug (and one-third of “A Wondrous Trio” on this blog) — is coming to New York and New Jersey for a too-brief season of gigs and recording.  Here, verified and straight from the source, is his itinerary, minute-by-minute. 

Tuesday, 13 Oct 2009:  Dan arrives EWR at 3:59pm. (Dan will probably go down to Arturo’s and see pianist Harry Whittaker and bassist Pat O’Leary).

Wednesday, 14 Oct: Dan @ Ocean City Library, Toms River with Danny Tobias, Joel Forbes, Ehud Asherie, et. al

Thursday, 15 Oct: Dan @ Small’s 7:30-9pm w/Ehud Asherie, others (Dan will dash over to Sofia’s in the Edison Hotel, to hear Rossano Sportiello after Dan finishes at Small’s. Rossano plays until 11pm).

Friday, 16 Oct: Dan @ Roth’s Westside Steakhouse 7-10pm w/ Ehud, others

Saturday, 17 Oct: Dan has a free night… 

Sunday, 18 Oct: Dan @ Ear Inn 8-11pm w/ Jon-Erik Kellso, others…

Monday, 19 Oct: Dan @ Bickford Theater, Morristown, w/ Danny Tobias, Ehud, Joel Forbes, and Kevin Dorn.

Tuesday, 20 Oct: Dan, Rebecca Kilgore, Eddie Erickson, Jake Hanna, Warren Vache, Scott Robinson, Dan Block, Ron Hockett, others @ NOLA Studios; (John Sheridan’s “Dream Band” recording for Arbors Records).   

Tuesday, 20 Oct: Dan @ Little Branch 10:30-12:30pm w/ Ehud (after Arbors recording)

Wednesday, 21 Oct: more recording at NOLA as above (Dan is free in the evening after the recording session)

Thursday, 22 Oct: Dan leaves EWR at 12 Noon

Here are details for the Ocean County Library (Toms River) and Bickford Theatre concerts: 

The Bickford Theatre/Morris Museum: On Columbia Turnpike/Road (County Road 510) at the corner of Normandy Heights Road, east of downtown Morristown. Near Interstate 287 and the Route 24 expressway. This is a 300-seat hall with generous parking on site. Wheelchair access. Weeknight concerts are one long set (8 to 9:30 PM). Tickets are generally $15 in advance, but $18 at the door. Tickets may be purchased via credit card over the phone by calling the box office at (973) 971-3706. The box office can also provide information, directions or a simple “jazz map.”

Ocean County College: Midweek Jazz concerts are held on Wednesday evenings (normally at their comfortable Fine Arts Center). Concerts begin at 8 PM and run as one extended set until about 9:30 PM. Tickets are $13 in advance, but $15 at the door. Call their Box Office at (732) 255-0500 for information, credit card purchases (no fee) or driving directions, which are also available from their web site: www.ocean.edu.  In recent months, MidWeek Jazz has moved to a temporary home at the Ocean County Library in Toms River while their building is renovated. The OCC Box Office will continue to sell the tickets, and has easy driving instructions to the Library, just 4 miles from the OCC campus and less than a mile from Parkway exit 81, either direction. The Library’s street address is 101 Washington Street, 08753 if you are using a navigator, but the Library itself does not sell the concert tickets. 

(Email Don Robertson at Jazzevents@aol.com to get on his email list for regular jazz updates.)

TUESDAYS WITH SIDNEY*

*The Sidney Bechet Society.  We haven’t been able to spend Tuesdays with Monsieur Bechet for a half-century, but time spent with his youthful heirs will be just as satisfying.  Don’t be left out!

Wycliffe Gordon’s “History of Jazz Trombone”

Symphony Space, Broadway & 95th St., New York City       Tuesday, September 29, 2009       2 shows: 6:15pm & 9:00pm    

The Sidney Bechet Society presents trombone sensation Wycliffe Gordon leading a “History of Jazz Trombone.”  Wycliffe & the band will remember the legends of this soulful instrument, jazz titans like Kid Ory, Jack Teagarden, Lawrence Brown, Tricky Sam Nanton, Juan Tizol, Tommy Dorsey, J.C. Higginbotham, Tyree Glenn, Al Grey and Buster Cooper.  Joining Wycliffe will be Anat Cohen, reeds (Jazz Journalists’ Assoc. 2009 Clarinetist of the Year); Etienne Charles, trumpet (winner: 2006 National Trumpet Competition); Ehud Asherie, piano; Zaid Shukri, bass; Marion Felder, drums; Terry Wilson, vocals.   Tickets are $25, available at the box office, by telephone and online at http://www.symphonyspace.org (use code “RAC102” when ordering online).  Special 2 show discount: get our Sept. 29 & Oct. 27 shows for $44.  This offer is good at box office & phone only—use code “SBS 01”

www.sidneybechet.org

“Remembering Stuyvesant Casino & Central Plaza” with Vince Giordano

Symphony Space, Broadway & 95th St., New York City         Tuesday, October 27, 2009     6:15pm & 9:00pm

The Sidney Bechet Society presents a tribute to two legendary jazz venues: Stuyvesant Casino & Central Plaza.  Joining Vince will be Randy Reinhart, trumpet; Mark Lopeman, reeds; Jim Fryer, trombone; Ehud Asherie, piano; Kenny Salvo, banjo; Rob Garcia, drums, and Ricky Gordon on washboard.  During the 1940s and 1950s, these were the hotbeds of traditional Jazz in NYC. All the greats played there. Vince Giordano will lead a hot band recreating the music one would hear at both establishments. Special guest stars are pianist Marty Napoleon & clarinetist Sol Yaged, who played at both venues. Marty & Sol are 88 and 87 years old, respectively, and still swinging hard!  Tickets are $25, available at the box office, by telephone and online at http://www.symphonyspace.org (use code “RAC102” when ordering online).  Special 2 show discount: get our Sept. 29 & Oct. 27 shows for $44.  This offer is good at box office & phone only—use code “SBS 01”

A WONDROUS TRIO (September 2009)

Three by three . . .  Or perhaps the Jazz Magi, bearing gifts . . . .

On Friday night at the 2009 Jazz at Chautauqua, after the initial fireworks and ballad medley, the stage cleared for something out of the ordinary: a long duet set pairing the irreplaceable tenor saxophonist Harry Allen and the youthful-but-remarkable Ehud Asherie, making his debut appearance at this party.  (In the spirit of full disclosure, I had recommended him to director Joe Boughton . . . who was delighted.)  The sets at Chautauqua are usually compact affairs, but Joe gave this duo ample room to stretch out.  Then Ehud added a proven musical catalyst to the mix by inviting trombonist Dan Barrett up to the stage.  I’ve been a Barrett enthusiast since 1987: he’s a natural-born wonder, as readers will know. 
“Tonation and phrasing” in splendid ways.  Two horns and a piano might seem lopsided, but Harry and Dan were clearly having a ball, conversing in swing time, and Ehud’s orchestral playing kept everything on track.  In fact, one of the pleasures of this mini-session is in watching Dan’s face, beaming at Ehud’s playing and Harry’s — we get to beam at Dan’s work in front of our own screens. 

They began with a slow-medium SOMETIMES I’M HAPPY, ruminative but never stodgy, that reminded me of the private recordings Timme Rosenkrantz did in his apartment in 1944-5, with musicians stretching out, letting their solos build in the most relaxed way, everyone taking his time . . . to great effect.  I also think of it as Lester Young Keynote tempo!  Or is it Ben Webster with Jimmy Rowles?  And the riff that they drift into with such ease, leaving space for Ehud to comment and ornament . . . before moving into his own slow, striding world.  Catch Dan’s explosion in the penultimate chorus (it caught me by surprise) and the slow-motion rocking of this trio — an art much more difficult than playing fast and loud:

I didn’t recognize the verse of the next selection, although it seemed subliminally familiar: when the trio hit the chorus at the sprinting pace Ehud had chosen, I knew it was James P. Johnson’s CHARLESTON, which is such a wonderful (and rarely played) piece of jazz Americana.  Like two friends who know each other’s minds so well, Dan and Harry fill in the spaces in each other’s phrases in the most delightful way, with Ehud rollicking along with them (is that a bit of bossa nova I hear before he launches into full Harlem-rent-party stride?).  Then, memorable interplay, and an ending that is abruptly hilarious or is it hilariously abrupt?:

Finally (what could follow that?) Ehud went back to Irving Berlin (and Fred Astaire) — always reliable — and called I’M PUTTING ALL MY EGGS IN ONE BASKET, a song that brings out a surprising emotions in the horns, especially Mr. Allen.  And in Ehud’s ringing declarative solo, I hear the Giants — Fats, James P., Willie the Lion, Don Lambert, and others.  You’ll find your own delights — the hot telepathy Dan and Harry create before Dan decides to suggest that we carry our basket on to the A train: 

(This clip is at points obscured by a dark figure who turned out to be Joe Boughton with an eye on the clock, which was a pity: this trio could have jammed all night, and we would have begged for more.  But perhaps it’s not right to be greedy: three marvelous group improvisations at this level should be enough for anyone!)

JOHN HERR TAKES CHAUTAUQUA!

The fine photographer John Herr was everywhere, camera in hand, at the most recent Jazz at Chautauqua.  The first portrait comes from Professor James Dapogny’s Saturday afternoon solo gig in the Athenaeum lobby. 

Herr Chau 1

I’m most intrigued by the two secret agents, who happen to be jazz pianists, in the audience.  At the rear, lurking behind a pillar with his pink necktie, barely undercover, is Ehud Asherie.  Off to the right, in a plaid shirt, is Andy Schumm, more usually found behind his cornet — drinking in every nuance. 

Here’s Dapogny, close up, working hard to amaze us.

Herr Chau 2

John captured Petra van Nuis and Andy Brown, both deeply immersed in their duet. 

Herr Chau 3

Thank you, John, for showing us such beautiful music!

PROFESSOR DAPOGNY TRIUMPHS AGAIN

For me, one of the many rare pleasures of Jazz at Chautauqua has been the opportunity to savor the playing of Professor James Dapogny*, known as Jim to his intimates. 

He is an unforced orchestral pianist — which means he hasn’t learned the Official Wallerisms from a book.  Rather, his romping style summons up Joe Sullivan and Frank Melrose, Earl Hines, Jelly Roll Morton, and James P. Johnson.  And a close listener will notice that his chords are voiced imaginatively, his often advanced harmonies show that his listening doesn’t stop at 1935, and his left hand is a romping marvel.  Often he is part of wondrous rhythm section with Marty Grosz, Arnie Kinsella, and Vince Giordano — able to move mountains in the most engaging way — but Dapogny can rock the place all on his own.  And he has.  But I take particular pleasure in watching and listening to him as a band pianist — giving soloists and the ensemble just the right push with ringing chords and tremolos, rocking bass lines, without ever demanding that we pay attention to him instead of them.  He’s done this on records for some time now as leader of his own Chicago Jazz Band.  In addition, if that was not enough, he’s also responsible for the standard published edition of Jelly Roll Morton’s piano music and scholarly work that resulted in performances of the one-act opera created by Johnson and Langston Hughes (now there’s a collaboration!) called DE ORGANIZER. 

Dapogny is also a wonderful arranger; his versions of classic and obscure jazz songs have their own ebullient rock, no matter what the material or the tempo.  Two years ago at Jazz at Chautauqua, he and Marty Grosz co-led a set, alternating arrangements and songs.  The piece de resistance, as far as I was concerned, was their joint version of an otherwise unknown Fats Waller song, CAUGHT — Marty’s arrangement envisioned the composition as a bump-and-grind growl; Jim’s lifted the tempo into a jaunty rock.  The performance stretched out to ten minutes, and it was a marvel. 

At this year’s Chatauqua, Dapogny and Grosz again shared the stage: Marty began with a heartfelt tribute to singer Red McKenzie, featuring his HOT WINDS — a noble, nimble, and perhaps nubile quartet of Scott Robinson, Dan Block, Vince Giordano, and himself.  Then Dapogny took over, adding Jon-Erik Kellso, Dan Barrett, Andy Stein, and Arnie Kinsella, creating electrifying and life-affirming music.  It was, he said with a grin, fine material to begin with — every song written by a pianist!  All praise should go to the masterful professionals you will see below: each one of them reading charts he’d never seen before. 

They began with James P. Johnson’s version — in his own way — of Schubert’s An die Musik — a paean to the joyous powers that notes and tones have, AIN’T CHA GOT MUSIC?.  The churchy verse gives way to serious swinging (there’s a wonderful Thirties record of this by Henry “Red” Allen) with Marty preaching the sermon. 

Then, a mournful but rocking composition by Alex Hill, one of jazz’s nearly-forgotten heroes, dead before he had reached his middle thirties, DELTA BOUND.  I had never heard the verse — and could listen to that trio of Kellso (muted), Barrett (muted), and Block (commenting sweetly) all day.  In his brilliant solo, Dan Barrett summons up a whole Harlem trombone tradition, with a series of comments that reminded me so much of the Master, Vic Dickenson.  Andy Stein’s melody statement, front and back (on baritone) reminded me that Ellington had recorded this — with space for Harry Carney, of course.

I didn’t know that the next selection had been written by pianist J. Russell Robinson, who had links to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band; I associated it with Edythe Wright and Tommy Dorsey’s Clambake Seven: SWING, MR. CHARLIE!  For this performance, Scott Robinson steps in — and instead of a vocal chorus, the band returns to the verse, in true Thirties style.  Although Scott stands in front of Marty during the latter’s chorus, you can see the action, reflected in the shiny side of the grand piano — an accidental bonus.  Then, there are glorious horn solos and a celestially rocking ensemble that suggests a Sunday afternoon jam session at Jimmy Ryan’s, circa 1942.  Charles Peterson would have loved this band!  I find myself watching these videos over and over, each time finding something new to appreciate.

*”Professor,” in Dapogny’s case, refers to his genuinely illustrious academic career in the Department of Music at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.  But, by a twist of linguistic fate, that was the title given to the New Orleans pianists who played rags and blues in the bordellos: Dapogny’s music would have impressed these low-down pioneers as well: he’s surely got music, as the lyrics say.

PETRA VAN NUIS / ANDY BROWN, Chautauqua 2009

Petra and Andy are long-time sweethearts (now married) who make lovely intimate swinging sounds together.  I caught them at their two morning sets at Jazz at Chautauqua, and they kept a roomful of people (otherwise busily dropping their heavy silverware) rapt. 

Petra is a find: she has a delicate focused voice, doesn’t overact or emote, has beautiful lilting time and musical wit.  She honors the songs and their emotions.  And she’s no Imitation: when I first heard her, I didn’t instantly think, “Oh, she’s been listening to the Complete Recordings of _ _ _ _ _ ,” which is a relief. 

Andy impressed me immediately with his lovely chording, subtle melodies, and generous accompaniment.  Many guitar players spatter the room with notes, gangster-style: Andy makes music.  (In another posting, you’ll see him providing incredible drive and subtlety to a band.)  He has a lovely tone and a quiet pulse. 

And — even better — this duet shows just how well this pair of expert musicians listen to one another.  They are worth listening to!

Here’s a wistful SERENATA, a song I associate with big names (Sinatra and Nat Cole), but Petra makes its yearning her own as Andy chimes behind and around her:

A surprisingly jaunty BLUE TURNING GRAY OVER YOU shows how well Mr. Waller’s melodies work at any tempo.  And Andy summons up George Van Eps, which is a real accomplishment:

The leaves were beginning to fall on the grounds of the Athenaeum Hotel, so Petra and Andy performed EARLY AUTUMN in honor of the impending equinox:

And, just to show that this couple has mischief in its collective soul, here’s RUNNIN’ WILD, a performance with a sweetly wicked glint in its eye, as Andy and Petra have enough rhythm in their souls to fill the room:

Petra and Andy give us hope.

“THE BEAUTY OF IT HOT”

This isn’t a legal notice — more a rumination.  My readers will know that I am transfixed by the possibilities of capturing not only sound but sight and motion when the band is playing.  So I have been bringing video recording equipment to gigs, concerts, and parties. 

The informal nature of this enterprise means that I have to take my camera angles as I find them, accept that people are drawn by unfathomable forces to stand in front of my lens, and that the result is sometimes rough-and-ready.  But I can’t ask musicians to pose for me, nor would I wish to.  And I am grateful for the opportunities and forbearance already offered me.  “You get the beauty of it hot,” as a line in The Waste Land goes.   

In the ideal world, I would ask everyone’s permission, provide releases for them to sign, and (not incidentally) offer generous payments for the privilege of holding my little camera in the air until my arm turns numb. 

But . . . .

All I can do is to say that my intentions are good — I want to share glorious music; I want to make notable players even more widely known so that audiences will travel to see them live, will fill the tip jar, will buy shelves of compact discs.  I choose the best performances, lasting work that would gladden the heart.  And JAZZ LIVES is, to put it mildly, a not-for-profit endeavor.   

But if any musician finds him or herself represented on this blog by something he or she dislikes, please email me and I will remove the clip.  I hope this doesn’t happen!  But I understand that it might. 

Your humble servant (and a servant of the Jazz Muse as well), I remain – – –

THE GRAND FLORIDIAN, JAZZ HOT SPOT?

Disney 2My colleague and friend Dolores DeManuel-Kraus sent in this dispatch:

“These are photos from last month.  I was at the Grand Floridian, one of the resorts in Disney World–when I found out that they had a orchestra playing jazz and standards I wanted to show George and took a couple of shots.  I was there having afternoon tea with my sister and Elena, while George was at the Davy Crockett Trading Post eating fried chicken and barbecue with Anthony, my brother-in-law, and nephews.”

The Grand Floridian Society Orchestra appears in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBkQriENENQ.  Their jazz might not convince everyone, but the photographs Dolores took are certainly evocative:

Disney 1

BLOCK THAT METAPHOR!

I just received a press release from the Cape May Jazz Festival, which — for all I know — is the most worthy of enterprises. However, the unnamed writer is prone to enthusiasms, as in the paragraph-opening announcement of Ravi Coltrane as “a true renaissance man who is at the forefront carving up new paths within jazz.” 

1.     Is that why musicians call a saxophone an axe?

2.     And if jazz is indeed dying, could we indict that sentence?

CHAUTAUQUA JOYS

The Beloved and I spent the past long weekend (Thursday, September 17 – Sunday, September 20) at the Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua, New York, delighting in the twelfth Jazz at Chautauqua. 

This party, burnished to a happy sheen, is the result of Joe Boughton’s sixty-year immersion in the timeless jazz he loves, situated somewhere between King Oliver and Charlie Parker, with reverential nods to Mr. Condon, Mr. Strong, Mr. Waller, Mr. Wilson.  Joe is also the fierce champion of melodies that don’t get played elsewhere, and as the common parlance of jazz occasionally seems to shrink into a few syllables, Joe is trying to keep the beautiful repertoire of the past alive.  That means CHINA BOY, BLUE TURNING GRAY OVER YOU, SKYLARK, I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME, I’M SORRY I MADE YOU CRY, and others.  Play SATIN DOLL at a Boughton extravaganza and you might get glared at, which I understand. 

Jazz at Chautauqua has its own delightful conventions (and I don’t mean the clusters of people who gather around the coffee urn, the bar, the tables of compact discs and sheet music).  Thursday night is devoted to what Joe calls “informal music with all musicians in parlor room,” sometimes the most eloquent jazz of the whole weekend — loose jam session sets by bands Joe has assembled on the spot — no lighting, the musicians on the same level as the audience.  Friday afternoon is spent in the parlor around a grand piano, with a variety of solo recitals, and the opening blow-out that night begins as if we had returned to the Third Street Condon’s of 1947, with two front lines alternating and then joining forces for an unusual number (this year it was GOD BLESS AMERICA), a ballad medley, and an old favorite. 

Each day features an exalted version of Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, because most of the Chautauqua players are also Nighthawks alumni — rather like an all-star baseball team behind their blue banners and music stands.  In between, there’s the occasional set by “the faux Frenchmen,” a QHCF group augmented this year by Andy Stein on violin, sets for the wondrous Rebecca Kilgore.  Musicians ranging in age from 29 to 87 come and go, and there’s a good deal of friendly conversation between players and listeners, with some players holding forth at length while sitting on the porch or leaning against the front desk.  (The Athenaeum, if you’ve never been there, is a delicious throwback: an entirely wooden hotel, over a hundred years old, with perhaps the most friendly, solicitous hotel staff on the planet.) 

In years past, I brought my notebook to Chautauqua and wrote down the details of every set.  This year, I abandoned my notebook for other methods of capturing the evanescent and as a result this reminiscence is more impressionistic than quantitative.  I was also busily chatting with friends David and Maxine Schacker, John Herr, John and Mary-Etta Bitter, Jim Adashek, Sally and Mick Fee, Caren Brodskey, and making new friends of Steve LaVere, Lois Lardieri, James Stewart, John and Helen Trudinger, as well as various Boughtons.  Essayist and art photographer Lorna Sass graciously offered her candid portraits for this post. 

What sticks in my mind is, of course, the music.  On Thursday night, after a witty set by “the faux Frenchmen,” a delicious band of Andy Schumm, Dan Barrett, Bob Reitmeier, Jim Dapogny, Vince Giordano, Marty Grosz, and John Von Ohlen took the stand, and offered seven tunes that paid homage to Red Nichols (a slow SHEIK OF ARABY), Louis (YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY) and the tradition of the “rhythm ballad,” with Marty Grosz’s earnest vocal on BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD.  They were followed by Duke Heitger, Dan Block, Bob Havens, Ehud Asherie, Frank Tate, and Pete Siers, whose set reached a peak with SEPTEMBER SONG — featuring Duke, plunger-muted, and Dan Block, richly emotional.  Joe Wilder and Harry Allen floated over the wonderful rhythm section of Rossano Sportiello and Jon Burr for four leisurely numbers, ending with a growly JUST SQUEEZE ME and a BLUES in Bb.  Then, suitably inspired by what they had heard, Jon-Erik Kellso, Scott Robinson (wearing a red-and-black shirt that had SPACE CADET or was it SPACE CHAMP printed on the front) hit five home runs, playing ecstatic tag with one another with the help of Ehud, Andy Brown, and Arnie Kinsella — a rhythm section that had probably never gotten together ever but produced gliding, propulsive swing.  The closing SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL was hilarious, hot, and intense. 

After that point, I put my notebook away — so what remains is a happy blur of solos, ensembles, and moments. 

ChauAndyStein09Andy Stein, shown here on violin, was even better on his secret weapon, the baritone sax, anchoring and boosting every group he played in.

Jim Dapogny, properly Professor Dapogny, jazz scholar, once again showed himself the invaluable member of every ensemble, his right hand landing with force and delicacy to produce ringing octaves; his left offering powerful stride and variations. 

 

ChauEhud09Just as impressive was Ehud Asherie, not yet thirty (someone I had recommended to Joe to fill the piano chair) who so impressed us all — whether recalling Donald Lambert or being harmonically and melodically adventurous.  One of the highlights of the first night was a long Asherie-Harry Allen duet set, capped by three numbers where Ehud invited Dan Barrett to join them.  Two horns plus a piano might seem lopsided, but it was a wonderfully balanced trio. 

Andy Schumm, the young Bixian from Wisconsin, continued to delight and amaze — not only with his evocations of the Beiderbecke era (his versions of RHYTHM KING and NO-ONE KNOWS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT) but with his delicate fluency: he would fit in anywhere and shine.  When I passed through the bandroom, I was touched to see Andy and Tom Pletcher, Bixians young and old, deep in conversation.  Too bad that they didn’t get to play a set together.

Guitarist Andy Brown reminded me happily of George Van Eps, his chordal traceries gleaming (he is one of those rare guitarists who knows better than to stun us with rapid-fire passages); he and the lovely Petra van Nuis offered two brief sets.  Petra, who appears girlish, has a surprising emotional range: she got absolute rapt attention at 9 in the morning with her opening song, a version of SERENATA.  (Later in the weekend, I prevailed upon the modern troubadour Edward Lovett to sing two songs, accompanying himself on the guitar: he’s somewhere between Seger Ellis, young Crosby, and Dave Frishberg — you’ll hear about him!) 

ChauDuke 09And there were non-musical moments: Duke Heitger, now the delighted father of two beautiful little girls, showing off their pictures and positively glowing with pride.  Marty Grosz, discoursing at length both on and off the stand — at one point discussing how current CD covers all show grinning performers and his reluctance to adopt that pose.  Marty also sang I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME at the just-right 1931 ballad tempo, recalling his hero Red McKenzie. 

Jon-Erik Kellso, at his ease on the stand (he is an inestimable bandleader as well as player) and happily taking his ease with wife Jackie.  Rebecca Kilgore, getting so pleased with the rhythm and solos her accompanists were creating that she indulged in a good deal of ladylike trucking on the stand (as well as singing better than ever). 

ChauJoe09

On one of Rebecca’s sets, Joe Wilder was so buoyed by the rhythm section of Rossano Sportiello, Jon Burr, and Pete Siers, that he flew through dazzling solos — leading Dan Block, as a spectator, to say, “Unbelievable!” while shaking his head in amazed delight.  Scott Robinson, playing a luminous AT SUNDOWN on trumpet.  That same Dan Block, eloquent on clarinet, bass clarinet, and various saxophones, his body always reflecting the power of the music flowing through him.  An impassioned I CAN’T GET STARTED by Duke Heitger, who saw the heights of passion and attained them.  Arnie Kinsella, the poet of volcanic ebullience, hitting his cowbell in a solo, as he said later, “as loud as he could,” because he wanted to — in a way that we agreed was a celebration of joyous impulse and a Bronx cheer in the face of death. 

The music still rings in my ears.  And I am thrilled to announce that on Sunday, Joe Boughton was busily signing up musicians for next year’s Jazz at Chautauqua.  I’ll have to wait, but it won’t be easy. 

I’ll have more to say about this ecstatic weekend in posts to come.

WELCOME!

The very articulate Rochelle Koskie met me at Chautauqua and told me of a very worthy event at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto on October 1 — celebrating the inauguration of the JAZZ PERFORMANCE AND EDUCATION CENTRE of Toronto, with a musical gala in honor of Lincoln Alexander.  I didn’t know much about Alexander, but he is the first black Canadian to serve in a vice-regal position; he has been an influential political force for good.  And he is an ardent jazz fan!

I won’t supply all the details here but will say that the evening will include performances by Peter Appleyard, Guido Basso, Russ Little, Archie Alleyne, Joe Sealey, Arlene Duncan, Michael Dunstan, Molly Johnson, Jackie Richardson, Scott Alexander, Brian Barlow, Vern Dorge, Steve Mc Dade, Ted Quinlan, Michael Stuart, Tom Szcesniak, and Simon Walls — all Canadian jazz luminaries.

Those of us who remember CODA, who can recall when Toronto was host to world-famous players, will want to attend this event to support the JPEC, a not-for profit and charitable organization devoted to the preservation and continued development of jazz in Canada.  It promises to “inspire audiences through performances, education, workshops, and recordings,” and “will provide a Hall of Fame and Archive of Canadian and International Jazz History.” 

That’s worth supporting — and the gala evening ends with a dessert reception, always a good thing.  For more details, visit www.jazzcentre.ca.

MISS LEE WILEY, 1959 and 1972

LeeWiley

I had never seen this photograph before — Lee Wiley, after her “retirement” from music, at the Grandview Inn in Columbus, Ohio, on September 21, 1959.  The candid shot was taken by the late Ed Lawless.  More of his jazz photographs appear at the website of the New Orleans Jazz Club of Northern California — http://www.nojcnc.org/nojcphotos.html.

I also have to say a few words about the only time I saw Miss Wiley perform — at her last public appearance, during the two “Newport in New York” concerts in summer 1972 devoted to the music of Eddie Condon and his remaining friends — called EDDIE AND THE GANG.  The Gang included Wild Bill Davison, George Brunis, Barney Bigard, Dick Hyman, Joe Thomas, J.C. Higginbotham, Max Kaminsky, and others.  For those with copies of Hank O’Neal’s EDDIE CONDON’S SCRAPBOOK OF JAZZ, a photograph of the closing “Impromptu Ensemble” ornaments the back inner cover.  The first half of the concert, if I am correct, was a set devoted to the World’s Greatest Jazz Band — all of its members with solid Condon associations: Yank Lawson, Billy Butterfield, Vic Dickenson, Eddie Hubble, Bob Wilber, Bud Freeman, Ralph Sutton, Bob Haggart, Gus Johnson, who played their familiar repertoire expertly.  Much of the instrumental music that followed was a reminder of how many years it had been since the Town Hall concerts and the glory days of the Fifties . . . as older musicians went through their paces, backed by an over-miked piano that tinkled and rattled.  Thomas and Hackett played beautifully, but they weren’t asked to do much; the others roared and circled. 

Miss Wiley had one set to herself — where, happily, she was backed by Teddy Wilson, Bobby Hackett, Bucky Pizzarelli, George Duvivier, and Don Lamond (if I recall).  She seemed rather nervous at the 5 PM concert but everything was in place — her unmistakable timbre, warmth, and vibrato — for the second concert at 9 PM.  I don’t recall how she was dressed, except that she, too, had changed somewhat since her glamorous portraits of the Thirties and Forties.  But her voice, although more husky, was still beautiful, as you can hear on the Jazzology CD that captures her short set. 

But Miss Wiley did something unforgettable.  Stu Zimny and I were in the first or second row, way off to the side, surrounded by men and women who seemed to have been Condon fans in the Forties and Fifties.  I had my concealed cassette recorder, and was perhaps (in retrospect) so concerned with tape-recording the music that someone without such concerns might have enjoyed it more.  And my tape of the 5 PM session fell apart and vanished, as objects tend to do.  But during Miss Wiley’s WHEN I FALL IN LOVE, I closed my eyes for a moment, a hopeless romantic even then.  I knew, in some rational way, that I was another anonymous face — if she cared to look down and see me — at best.  Performers at Carnegie, I would guess, don’t see people in the audience all that well.  But, with my eyes closed, basking in the lovely warmth of her sound, I could imagine that she was singing directly to me.  I knew it was an illusion then and know it is one now.  But that’s the effect Miss Wiley had on people who heard her . . . and it comes through the recordings.  Bless her.

COMING SOON!

coming_soon I’d like to alert you to three new compact discs I’ve heard — available soon!  

MELISSA COLLARD has recorded a session for Audiophile — with Hal Smith, drums; Richard Simon, bass; Chris Dawson, piano; Bryan Shaw, trumpet.  I first heard Melissa some five years ago on her debut CD, “Old Fashioned Love,” (Melismatic Records), a wonderful disc, thoughtful, witty, and moving.  This one’s even better. 

For the same label, REBECCA KILGORE has recorded a disc devoted to Jerome Kern, “Sure Thing.”  It also features Hal, Richard, and Chris.  Until you’ve heard Becky sing I’VE TOLD EV’RY LITTLE STAR, you haven’t lived . . .

DANNY TOBIAS, who just brought his cornet to the Ear Inn, has recorded an intimate swing session with Joe Holt, piano; Gary Cattley, bass, that reminds me very much of the best late-period Ruby Braff recordings.  Need I say more?

Make room on your CD shelves . . .

JAMES P. JOHNSON, EVERYWHERE

On eBay, there are always a good number of James P. Johnson recordings — ranging from original 78s to 10″ and 12″ vinyl pressings to the occasional compact disc.  Today, though, a small trove of sheet music has come to light — worth admiring.  This song is justly famous — one of James P.’s pretty lines (with echoes of CARELESS LOVE and perhaps even older, undocumented folk strains).  Of course I remember Kenny Davern’s comment on this title, “You know, that’s face to face.”

James P. 1

Here’s another — perhaps more famous because of Fats Waller and Marty Grosz.  The cover, typically, is wonderfully idealized; neither of those two comely people looks like a porter or a chambermaid, but perhaps they’re dressed up for Thursday night at the Savoy Ballroom:James P. 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the last one is a real oddity.  Somehow I don’t think of it as a particularly ambitious composition — is it the presence of Mike Riley? — but I wonder if any of my readers has ever heard it.  James P. 3

Now to more serious matters.  Although no one would count James P. Johnson as undeserving, he is buried in an unmarked grave.  In New York City, a group of jazz pianists led by Spike Wilner have set up a downtown version of a Harlem rent party to benefit James P., posthumously — to purchase a marker for his grave.  I won’t be nearby on October 4, but this is an enterprise worth supporting:     James P. Johnson’s Last Rent Party!

 Smalls Jazz Club     Oct. 4th, 2009      1:00-to 9:00 PM

 James P. Johnson, the father of stride piano, the composer of “The Charleston” and “Carolina Shout,” and one of the founders of modern jazz piano lies, shockingly, in an unmarked grave in Maspeth, Queens, Mt. Olivet Cemetery.  Please join the James P. Johnson Foundation, a non-for-profit organization dedicated to music education and to raise the awareness of James P. Johnson, the Johnson family and Smalls Jazz Club for an all day “rent party” to raise money to buy a monument to commemorate this great musician!  Join us on Sunday, October 4th beginning at 1:00 PM at Smalls Jazz Club located at 183 West 10th Street at 7th Ave.  The afternoon will begin with a symposium by musicologist and Johnson scholar Scott Brown on the life and work of James P. Johnson.  This will include an exhibit from The James P. Johnson archive housed at The Rutgers Institute for Jazz Studies.  Around 3:00 will then be a steady stream of pianists to play solo piano in tribute to James P. Johnson.  Artists to appear include: Dick Hyman, Ethan Iverson, Ted Rosenthal, Terry Waldo, Mike Lipskin, Conal Fowlkes, Spike Wilner, Aaron Diehl and others to be announced.  Suggested tax-free donations are $20 with all the proceeds to go to the James P. Johnson Foundation.  You may come and go as you please throughout the afternoon.  Refreshments will be served.  Please come by and pay your respects to The Dean of Stride Pianists!   For more information:  info@smallsjazzclub.comwww.jamespjohnson.org.  

EXTRA! THE CANGELOSI CARDS CD

newsboy2Thanks to Eve Polich, I learned that the Cangelosi Cards debut CD was not only finished but on sale.  I’d been thinking about this disc since Tamar Korn had said that the Cards were making their first-ever formal recording.   

But at the same time, bringing this extraordinary group into a recording studio made me anxious.  The Cards create an ecstatic spectacle whenever they perform.  Even if there isn’t a whole line of dancers in front of the band, the music makes everyone bond joyously, and the band climbs higher and higher. 

I’ve been at recording sessions, observing the most experienced professionals, and I know the effect that even the most congenial studio can have on creative improvisers.  Everyone plays splendidly, but there is the chilling effect of being watched too closely, of having your every breath recorded — literally — for posterity.  It’s a rare band that’s totally relaxed in the studio, and most musicians seem exhausted at the end of the session, relieved that it’s over, vaguely dissatisfied with the results.  I wondered if the artificial environment of the recording studio would cause the Cards to lose some of their exquisite energies?   

I need not have worried.  Yes, there’s no crowd audible on the CD, and the absence of enthusiastic noise took a few minutes to get used to.  But the music comes through more clearly than it ever does in live performance.  I hear nuances of timbre in solo and ensemble that I would only have sensed in a club.  And the Cards seem not at all intimidated by the microphones, the weight of being captured for immortality.  From the first notes of MY BLUE HEAVEN, the Cards rock — without strain or tension, but with a graceful intensity.  The rhythm section is splendidly easy; the front-line players show off their distinctive voices and timbres.  Subtle, convincing little arrangements, too.  As we’ve seen, the Cards are full of surprises: no performance is predictable, although there is none of that irritating seeking-after-novelty that distinguishes lesser groups.  You’ll hear a persuasive, irresistible swing that gives way to tender ballad playing, in their characteristically varied repertoire — hinting at Billie Holiday and Jimmie Rodgers, to mention only two names. 

Tamar’s voice is, as always, a delight — and in this form, I can hear textures that a club audience might have over-ridden.  She sings sweetly, growls the blues, becomes her own trumpet / hi-hat cymbal, and yodels — her focused but expansive vocal instrument responding to every nuance of the music.  And I truly admire the witty trombone playing of Musselman, Lichtman’s fluent clarinet and eloquent mandolin work, Milius’s forceful harmonica solos, Meyer’s perfectly poised violin playing, Sanders’ solid rhythm playing and eloquent lines, Holden’s deep-down bass support, and Webster’s nimble, searching piano.  The Cards would have been welcome on Fifty-Second Street in its glory days: hear the rocking momentum they create on IDA, as well as the Victorian delicacy of TREASURES UNTOLD.       

And, although it seems paradoxical, the disc isn’t too long.  Many CDs are filled to the brim with twenty similar performances, making listening to them somewhat exhausting.  The eight selections here are a wonderfully satisfying banquet.     

The details?  The CD is available for $10 from La Compania de Musicos Viajeros (www.losmusicosviajeros.net) 718-744-7391; email is correspondence@losmusicosviajeros.net.  Obviously, the ideal way to buy it is to pick up several copies at a Cards appearance.  Why “several copies”?  They make ideal gifts;  they will be collectors’ items; they help fund this irreplaceable band.  But you already have figured that out.  I heard rumblings that it would be possible to download the music from the site, but you’d have to check there.

The disc is called THE CANGELOSI CARDS: CLINTON STREET RECORDINGS.  My Blue Heaven / It’s Like Reaching For The Moon / Blue Yodel No. 2 / Ida, Sweet As Apple Cider / September Song / Puttin’ On The Ritz / Treasures Untold / The Anniversary Song.  It features the full octet: Jake Sanders, guitar; Tamar Korn, vocals; Cassidy Holden, bass; Matt Musselman, trombone; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet and mandolin; Marcus Millius, harmonica; Karl Meyer, violin; Gordon Webster, piano.

It delights me — and I can’t wait until the next one!

HUNGARIAN JAZZ RHAPSODIES

It’s not something I like to admit, but until a few hours ago I was unaware of the fine hot jazz in Hungary.  Carol Baer had given me a CD by the Bratislava Hot Serenaders, but my world geography is so weak that I never quite figured out where Bratislava was, although I liked the band.

But I’ve just heard from Tamas Ittzes, of the Bohem Ragtime Jazz Band and the Bohem Ragtime and Jazz Festival.  And I’m delighted to add his site to the blogroll: http://www.bohemragtime.com.  If you are still burdened by a narrow world-view, here are some of the players who have appeared at the Festivals in the past: Paul Asaro, Bria Skonberg, Matthias Seuffert, Nick Ward, Russ Phillips, Paolo Alderighi, Morten Gunnar Larsen, Bob Barnard —  are you convinced?  The RJB has also recorded with Barnard, George Kelly, Zeke Zarchy (!), and Joe Muranyi.

But this isn’t an instance of a European group that needs the visiting stars to bolster itself.  Proof is here, in their  March 2007 live version of Ellington’s BLACK BEAUTY.  The players are Attila Korb, cornet (normally trombone); József Lebanov, trumpet; Zoltán Mátrai, tenor; Tamás Ittzés, piano, leader; József Török, bass; György Mátrai, guitar; Alfréd Falusi, drums.

And here’s more evidence of the worldwide connections amongst swinging jazz musicians — an entertaining (and well-edited) mini-documentary filmed at the 2009 Festival.  Watch closely and you’ll see your favorites, and some players you hadn’t known but obviously should.

I’ll be posting more about the CDs and the festivals to come in Hungary in 2010 — one in March and a Louis Armstrong Festival in June.  Obviously, NOBODY’S SWEETHEART and TIGER RAG transcend any language barriers, as we always knew they did.

NICK HORNBY, RECORD STORES, and “POP MUSIC”

I visit www.jazz.com. with some regularity, and I’ve even had my own blogposts featured on it.  A good deal of what is posted there is not my thing, but some of the content is fascinating. 

Today I encountered there an article published in the Guardian by the popular British novelist Nick Hornby on the death of record stores.  That isn’t a particularly original observation: everyone who’s bought even one record during the last half-century could write similar articles about the phenomenon. 

Hornby proposes that new pop-music blogs that offer MP3 downloads are the new local record stores, and that the internet has become a global music market.  I can’t say much about the first proposition, because I don’t find twenty-second musical snippets valid enticements to purchase, but the second is surely true.

But this casual pronouncement made me sit up straight:

After my local CD shop closed down, I was getting ready for a musical life that turned in on itself, before dying slowly from malnutrition.  Any piece of music becomes drained of meaning and excitement if you listen too much to it, but a three-minute pop song isn’t going to last you a lifetime.  Popular music needs to keep flowing. If the fresh supplies stop, it’s you that becomes stagnant.

I am enthralled by this terminally short attention span: “Any piece of music becomes drained of meaning and excitement if you listen too much to it.”  This hunger for new sensations clearly isn’t just Hornby’s artistic immaturity; it defines contemporary culture’s glorification of disposable ersatz-Art, novels that exhaust their ingenuity before the reader is well into chapter two; music that bores the listener on the first hearing.  (It all sounds dismayingly like a dystopian restaurant where the food is stale as soon as it leaves the kitchen.)       

I don’t know: I’ve been listening to Lester Young and the 1938 Kansas City Six, to Louis and the Mills Brothers, to Billie Holiday and Count Basie, to the Blue Note Jazzmen . . . for almost forty years now.  And if I were to hear one of their recordings now — even though I could hum along with it, knew the solos and the accents by heart — that music wouldn’t be “drained” for me.  The next time Hornby comes to the US for a book tour, I hope he’ll accept my offer of music that doesn’t grow old.  I’d be glad to share some Teddy Bunn and Bessie Smith records: they should restore him!

The full text of Hornby’s piece can be read at http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/sep/06/nick-hornby-mp3-record-shops

“TOM-TOM, THE ELEVATOR BOY”

I admit that it is hardly a promising title. 

But I just stumbled upon this clip — the only video I know of Leo Watson, Teddy Bunn, and two other musicians who form the Spirits of Rhythm.  And Leo Watson scats!  The bad news is that the YouTube clip is moderately out of synch, so it takes an optimistic effort to get beyond the lapse between what Watson mouths and what we hear — or it could simply be that he is miming to a prerecorded track. 

The performance — a sublimely forgettable novelty number — comes from a forgotten 1941 Columbia Pictures college musical, SWEETHEART OF THE CAMPUS, starring Ruby Keeler in her final major screen appearance, alongside Harriet Hilliard and Ozzie Nelson.  The film was directed by Edward Dmytryk, whose reputation surely doesn’t rest on this.

But I thought I would never see film or television footage of Leo Watson.  Now if some film archivist will uncover more of James P. Johnson (besides THE EMPEROR JONES and ST. LOUIS BLUES, where he is heard but not seen) and some Lee Wiley and Mildred Bailey, I’ll be content.

And for the scholar-readers out there: the other tipple player seems to be genuinely playing, but I wonder about that bassist.  He doesn’t look like Wellman Braud to me!