Daily Archives: September 8, 2009

“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!

Advertisements

THE FINAL SEASON: “HIGHLIGHTS IN JAZZ”

Jack Kleinsinger has been putting on jazz concerts every year in New York City for thirty-seven years — including just about everyone alive and playing, including Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Hines, Buddy Rich, and Big Joe Turner.  2009 will be the end of the incredible run for “Highlights in Jazz.” 

I have fond memories of the concerts: in fact, I was in the audience for Jack’s second concert — a 1972 tribute to Fats Waller at the Theatre deLys.  At other times, I recall seeing Teddy Wilson, Buddy Tate, Dicky Wells, PeeWee Erwin, Bobby Hackett, Dick Hyman, Vic Dickenson, Milt Hinton, Kenny Davern, Jon-Erik Kellso, David Ostwald, Doc Cheatham, and many others.  My memory isn’t deep enough (Jack’s is) to delineate all of the surprise guests, but they were happy to be there. 

So consider these concerts!  There won’t be another season, and I don’t see new series emerging that give so much loving attention to Mainstream and earlier styles of jazz.

Here are the details:

Thursday, September 10, 2009 – 8 pm
Cabaret Jazz: featuring Barbara Carroll and Paula West

Thursday, October 8, 2009 – 8 pm
Hot Jazz From New Orleans To Israel: featuring Evan Christopher, Duke Heitger, Anat Cohen,
Ehud Asherie, George Masso, Jackie Williams, Johnny Varro, Joe Ascione

Thursday, November 12, 2009 – 8 pm
Living Jazz Legends: featuring Buddy DeFranco, Jay Leonhart, Joe Cohn, Ron Odrich, Ed Metz, Jr.
and Bucky Pizzarelli, John Pizzarelli, Martin Pizzarelli, Mickey Roker

Thursday, December 10, 2009 – 8 pm
Celebrating the Swing Masters:
Ken Peplowski Recalls Benny Goodman
Terry Gibbs Recalls Lionel Hampton
Freddie Bryant Recalls Charlie Christian

All Shows at TRIBECA Performing Arts Center
Borough of Manhattan Community College, 199 Chambers Street
TRIBECA Box Office at (212) 220-1460  http://www.tribecapac.org/music.htm 
Subscriptions $130, individual tickets $35, students $32.50.  Make checks payable to & mail to: Highlights in Jazz, 7 Peter Cooper Road, New York, NY 10010 (enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope)

P.S.  In a more enlightened time, Knopf would have published Jack’s memoirs, and Columbia Records would have been issuing a sustained series of concert CD / DVD packages.  These things haven’t happened, which is perhaps all the more reason to celebrate what has taken place.

LOUIS, SIDNEY, RICKY (1949 and 2009)

Gather round, children.

First, this blogpost exists because of the generosity of Ricky Riccardi.  September 8 is his birthday, but he’s given us the second of two extraordinary gifts. 

The first was a blogpost featuring a rare recording — running six minutes — of Louis Armstrong and the All-Stars (that’s Jack Teagarden, Barney Bigard, Earl Hines, Arvell Shaw, and Sidney Catlett) in New Orleans, 1949, performing SHOE SHINE BOY.  I won’t take anything away from Ricky’s extraordinary post on the subject, except to say that this version of SHOE SHINE BOY is an unrivaled masterpiece, even for Louis — with superbly tender singing. 

http://dippermouth.blogspot.com/2009/09/shoe-shine-boy.html

Today, he came back with another treasure from the same concert — a positively explosive ROYAL GARDEN BLUES with Sidney Catlett in violently swinging form.  I urge all my readers to savor this music, but — as the saying goes — don’t try this at home.  Sidney’s accents are much more than loud; they’re perfectly placed explosions, each with its own timbre, to encourage the soloist, to make a point in the ensemble, to give an encouraging push.  Percussionists who didn’t understand the rationale behind such playing simply took it as an excuse to play solos behind the horns.  Nay, nay.  But listen for yourself — to the spaces Sidney leaves as well as the glorious clamor he makes! 

http://dippermouth.blogspot.com/2009/09/one-hot-garden.html

Happy Birthday to Ricky, giver of gifts!

EDDIE LOCKE (1930-2009)

The great players of a certain generation are leaving us in body, although what remains in sound and memory will outlive us all.  I remember Eddie Locke as one of the anchors of Roy Eldridge’s band at Jimmy Ryan’s, at various concerts and gigs across New York City — cheerful, energetic, musically attuned, a disciple of the Master, Papa Jo Jones.  And what better tribute could he have had then to be chosen by Coleman Hawkins for the rhythm section?  

Like Ruby Braff, Eddie should — if art is measured by the calendar — have been a vigorous bopper, playing alongside Clifford Brown rather than Willie the Lion Smith.  But he followed that four-beat rhythm he had heard in the Forties.  It sustained him and he sustained every group he played with.   

Eddie will be missed!  But photographer John Herr caught a beaming Eddie in June 2008: a treasure.

Photograph by John Herr, June 2008

JAZZ BRILLIANCE AT THE EAR INN

Sunday, September 6, 2009, was my first visit to The Ear Inn after a summer’s hiatus. 

The music I heard there was uplifting, with a Labor Day holiday weekend version of the EarRegulars: cornetist Dan Tobias, alto saxophonist Michael Hashim, gutiarist James Chirillo, and bassist Frank Tate — with violinist Valerie Levy sitting in for two songs in the second set. 

I brought my video camera, as I had done at Whitley Bay, to capture the proceedings in cinematographic splendor.  And I did, although less than splendidly.  The Ear is rarely brightly lit (although occasionally strings of tiny white bulbs come to life, suggesting Christmas for non-sectarian audiences) but that night the ambiance was especially murky.  So the videos that follow are occasionally blurry and consistently grainy. 

Mea cinema culpa, I say.  Readers who object to having their jazz turned noir (Dan’s shirt was a series of vivid pastels) should avert their gaze.  But the music is so restorative that I hope they can listen while doing something else.*

About the band.  Dan Tobias is a wonderful, intuitive player, someone who would have been welcome on Fifty-Second Street or at a Keynote Records session.  He has a glowing tone but can also growl and soar, although he usually takes the compact middle-register paths of Buck Clayton and Bobby Hackett.  This night he reminded me of Roy Eldridge, of the Thirties Ellington and Basie brass, of Joe Thomas and Shorty Baker.  Need I say more?  Dan is also a genial ad-hoc bandleader: almost every number ended with a series of Kansas City riffing outchoruses created on the spot.  Michael Hashim has spectacular technique and musical wit.  His bubbling personality has so many sides that it’s like a full sax section on the gig.  There’s the Johnny Hodges balladeer; the rhythm and blues crowd-inciter; Pete Brown’s love-child; the King of Arpeggios.  He only got paid once on Sunday, a pity.  James Chirillo’s solos are full of brilliant tumbling lines (yet every note rings and has a purpose), happily weird dissonances, a sonic spectrum that goes from pastoral whisperings to twangy Fifties chords to hints of electronic music.  He’s never predictable, and his rhythm is a wondrous force.  Frank Tate was there two years ago on the EarRegulars’ first gig.  Frank can walk the chords with a resonance and rightness that suggests Walter Page, and his melodic inventions catch the ear (fitting for someone who learned a great deal from playing alongside Bobby Hackett).  When the music heats up, many bassists get carried away: Frank swings hard but is the epitome of steadiness. 

Let’s start with IF DREAMS COME TRUE — the property of Billie Holiday, also James P. Johnson, Teddy Wilson, and Buck Clayton — here a trotting conversation among friends:

A Duke Ellington medley is often formulaic, stringing together “greatest hits” as Duke himself did — almost as if to get it over so that the crowd would go home happy they had heard SATIN DOLL.  This version is anything but cliched; it begins with DO NOTHIN’ TILL YOU HEAR FROM ME, where Hashim does Hodges perfectly, then the quartet gets serious for Danny’s SOLITUDE, full of mournful growls (bringing together Arthur Whetsol and Clark Terry), and James’s pensive WARM VALLEY brings everyone together in a deliciously hymning way:

Jazz musicians keep coming back to Irving Berlin’s melodies, even those that seem most simple, and ALL BY MYSELF (a favorite of Kenny Davern) should be played more often — especially as it is here:

Performed as an unstated homage to Bix (catch the first chorus) and to Eddie Condon (throughout), SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL is one of those happy oddities that blossomed through Twenties and Thirties pop music — a song that should properly be melancholy but is a real romp.  Notice James’s brilliant introduction, and Danny’s invitation to the ball game:

On a “gal” kick?  Who knows, but the next tune called was the old favorite MY GAL SAL:

Another “Dixieland” tune, BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME, is fun to play, even if the band neatly sidesteps the stop-time patter vocal chorus:

Valerie Levy, a classically-trained violinist who’s also got a great deal of experience playing the American Songbook (and who also happens to be Mrs. Chirillo), joined the band for a lovely EMBRACEABLE YOU:

I try to request songs infrequently, but my restraint gave way.  Not only did I ask Danny if the band would play I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME, but I pushed presumption to its limits by asking for a slow-medium tempo.  Danny agreed, and I got to record this wonderful performance:

I remember Davern calling I WANT TO BE HAPPY at the extraordinary concert Hank O’Neal put on at the New School in 1972 (the other participants: Condon, Wellstood, Davison, and Krupa) and Davison leering at the crowd, “Don’t we all!”  We still do:

Finally, for this post, POOR BUTTERFLY, a sideways memory of the suffering operatic heroine:

Some band! — even through the murk and blur.

*If anyone can recommend a hard-drive compact video camera that functions well in low light, I would be grateful.  I’m using a Sony DCR SR 220. . . .