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.

Advertisements

5 responses to “MARTY GROSZ: “EARLY BENNY”

  1. Я считаю, что “Wang Wang” относится и к мужчинам гениталии.

  2. Thank you, Boris, for clearing that up! I always knew that this song came originally from Minsk.

  3. Pingback: MARTY GROSZ: “EARLY BENNY”

  4. John C Graham

    It’s been said before, I’m sure, but it needs to be said again..and again. Marty Grosz is and always has been a National(international)Treasure. His latest disc on Arbors is proof enough for sure.

  5. Bill Gallagher

    I wish that Marty would put down his guitar long enough to pen some of his humorous recollections and observations in his inimitable style. At a time when I was working on the Eddie Higgins discography, I wrote to Marty to try and get some details on a vague recording session that he and Eddie had participated in Madison, Wisconsin. To my delight, Marty took the time to respond and his letter began as follows: “Yes, I vaguely remember the Madison session. What was I doing in Madison? What was Eddie doing in Madison? What was anybody doing in Madison?” He then proceeded to recite the names of some of the local sidemen, including trombonist Sid Dawson. He and Sid did a joke number called the “Cabbage Roll Blues,” highlighting the trombones lowest pedal notes as he aped the flatulence caused by the consumption of cabbage rolls washed down by strong beer. Sadly, this did not make Eddie’s discography, but it sure made my day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s