Daily Archives: November 1, 2009

MR. TOBIAS COMES ON!

THE BRONZE MESSENGER, by Ericka Midiri

I’m very happy to report that cornetist Danny Tobias has finally come out with his own CD, aptly called CHEERFUL LITTLE EARFUL — a subtle trio session, intimate yet propulsive.

I was fortunate enough to write the very brief notes for the CD:

Danny Tobias is an old-fashioned jazz player in the best modern way, at home in any swinging jazz context. Like his heroes Buck Clayton and Ruby Braff, he loves melody, his improvisations have a beautiful shape, and he is always recognizably himself. Danny didn’t learn his jazz from a textbook but through experience – early gigs with Ed Metz, Jr., Paul Midiri, and Joe Holt, and a fifteen-year musical apprenticeship with drummer Tony Di Nicola and master clarinetist Kenny Davern.

Kenny was an inspiration. He taught me what not to play, how to play in an ensemble, and how to construct a solo. He could build a solo as well as anyone who has ever played. Period. Tony and Kenny were always willing to teach me and I loved every night that I had the privilege to work with them. Since those two passed away I’ve been traveling with the Midiri brothers to festivals all over the country and leading my own groups whenever possible. It’s funny but when I looked at the tunes I’d picked for this CD almost all of them were written between 1925 and1935. I don’t think of these songs as old. They speak to me and remind me of Tony and Kenny.

When I asked Danny about his original compositions, he said, The names of my tunes are rather silly. I rehearse with an organ trio once a week in Trenton saxophonist Dom DeFranco’s cellar. Hence the name DOMINIC’S BIG CELLAR, which is based on LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME. When I brought up NO MATH, he just grinned. And the song with the most striking title has an intriguing explanation: HOW’S YOUR MOTHER was first written as a Christmas song for my three sons. The title comes from a gag of mine (with people I know very well): when someone mentions something off color or foul, I will say “How’s your mother?” as if the bawdy comment has jogged a memory.

Danny’s trio is completed by two very sympathetic and supportive players. Pianist Joe Holt is a fixture in jazz rooms along the Eastern Seaboard, and he and Danny have been playing together for years, often with the Midiri brothers. (You can see them on YouTube.) Gary Cattley has his Ph.D. from North Texas State University, plays tuba in addition to string bass, and appears with the Princeton Symphony as well as Marty Grosz.

This easy-going trio got together for sessions in summer 2009, with the head arrangements done by Danny. The results remind me of the finest sessions for Keynote Records in the Forties or the John Hammond sessions for Vanguard a decade later: neat but inspired. Each performance was completed in one or two takes. This CD captures the kind of jazz that musicians play for their own pleasure when only the attentive customers are in the club. It’s comfortable, late-evening music, from the sorrowing SAY IT ISN’T SO to the romping CHICAGO RHYTHM and the title tune, a perfect description of Danny Tobias’s jazz.

The disc is available from the modest, soft-spoken Mr. Tobias himself for $15.00.  Send check, cash, or other negotiable instruments to Danny at 38 Fenwood Avenue, Mercerville, New Jersey 08619.  More to come!

P.S.   When Dan Barrett started his New York City tour — sadly too brief — one of the first things he said to me was that he had played two concerts in New Jersey with a wonderful cornet player, Danny Tobias.  Did I know him?  (I murmured assent but Dan was so intent that I don’t know if it registered.)  That young Mr. Tobias was so good, so melodic that he reminded the elder Dan why he had taken up the cornet himself: to play the melody.  Dan (Barrett) continued, looking at me sternly, “You really ought to mention Danny in your blog,” and I happily said, “I have, at length, and he’s coming out with his own CD.  He’s a fine player and a fine person!”  All true!

Advertisements

MONK, KNOWN AT LAST

I’m only up to page 138 — which is the year 1948 — in Robin D.G. Kelley’s monumental THELONIOUS MONK: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF AN AMERICAN ORIGINAL (Free Press, 2009, 588 pages) but I had to write something about this book now rather than waiting sedately until I finish it.  Kelley doesn’t need my enthusiasm, judging by the reviews and media coverage, but his book is seriously worthwhile.monk

It’s clearly the product of fourteen-plus years of research, and the result is thorough without being overwhelming.  Writing about Monk isn’t easy: previous studies have tended to overemphasize his “weirdness,” his apparent reclusiveness, his tendency towards gnomic utterances — as if saying, “Both the man and his music come from the same unreachable, inexplicable sources.”  But Kelley went to the most logical sources — the Monk family and friends — so that the portrait we get is not of someone strange and threatening, but the loving husband and parent.  This may seem a terrible cliche by now, but it’s a relief from those books that equate Genius with Madness or at least with Cruelties.  I find those equations wearisome.  Although Kelley doesn’t invent scenes of Monk going to Home Depot or being a secret suburbanite, it is reassuring to find that in some deep ways, he made sense — if not always to the prying world outside, at least to those who loved him.  (This demythologizing is welcome.) 

Kelley has also had the benefit of being able to speak at length with Monk’s manager, Harry Colomby, so that the book becomes far more than the record of a musician’s life — which often follows a predictable trajectory: early encounters with the music, youthful influences, first success, and then a boring chronicle of gigs and concerts.  About twenty percent of the anecdotes are familiar, but the rest are new and often greatly revealing.  Kelley, a jazz pianist himself, gets under the surface of Monk’s music without being overly technical.

He also grapples with two other issues: the role of the media in the Forties (often the role of people who earnestly wanted to make sure Monk received wide coverage) in making Monk “the High Priest of Bebop,” thus peculiar — because peculiarity brings people to clubs more than benign normality.  He has also faces the larger — and painful — question of Monk’s mental illness, or bipolar disorder, or chemical imbalance . . . call it what you will — honestly rather than speculatively.  I haven’t yet read enough of the book to see how he takes on the unanswerable question, “If Monk had been medicated early, if he had been a compliant patient, if more had been known, would he have been happier?  And would we have those astonishing records?”

Reviewers have to complain about something so that readers know they are attempting to be objective, so I have two Official Complaints.  Kelley doesn’t mention that Louis Armstrong made influential records of JUST A GIGOLO and BYE AND BYE — material that receives some emphasis in the text.  And, perhaps in his desire to be unbuttoned, friendly rather than academic, Kelly is occasionally a bit too casual, too slangy for me.  Monk may have called it “reefer,” and Bessie Smith did, but Kelley’s hipness rings false. 

But I am a seriously finicky reader . . . and if these are the only things I could find to complain about, it has to be a beautifully written and carefully documented book.  Thrilling, even, in its diligence, intelligence, and compassion.

PERFECT YOUR SWING!

When Dan Barrett was in New York City — playing exquisitely — he offered me a flyer for the July 5-11, 2010, workshop detailed below.  It’s very exciting — the chance for the amateur musicians all around the world to perfect their jazz skills in the old-fashioned way, by learning from the Masters.  My instrumental skills would still need a few years of serious polishing before they would let me in the gate, but surely some of my readers would have a fine time here. 

Or it could be a splashing birthday present for the jazz savant in your household!

Jazzin’ July – workshop 2010                  

5th to 11th july 2010

 

1 week workshop, classic jazz music:

Jazzin’ July, hosted in the idyllic Golden Tulip Jagershorst, Eindhoven NL, is one of the few workshops dedicated to the instruction of classic jazz music.  For this week an international team of teachers, led by Frank Roberscheuten, has been selected based upon their excellent reputation as performers and their ability to motivate and guide students.  A main feature of the course is the focus on playing in bands which develops your knowledge and feeling for various styles such as Blues, New Orleans and Swing. In the daily lessons you will work on the optimal control of your instrument, while emphasis will be given to technique, harmony, improvisation and interpretation. Jazzin’ July is oriented toward practice and competence, aiming to prepare you for actual performance work and to give a new impulse on your personal development.

 Teachers

Howard Alden (guitar & banjo, USA) – www.howardalden.com

Karel Algoed (bass & sousaphone, B) – www.swingcats.nl

Dan Barrett (trombone, USA) – www.blueswing.com

Colin Dawson (trumpet, GB) – www.echoes-of-swing.de/dawson.htm

Shaunette Hildabrand (vocal, USA) – www.swingcats.nl

Chris Hopkins (saxophone, D) – www.hopkins.de

Bernd Lhotzky (piano, D) – www.lhotzky.com

Oliver Mewes (drums, D) – www.echoes-of-swing.de/mewes.htm

Frank Roberscheuten (saxophones & clarinet, NL) – www.swingcats.nl

Engelbert Wrobel (saxophones & clarinet, D) – www.swingsociety.de

 Programme

Monday 5/7 – 18-19: welcome and introduction, 19-21: dinner, 21-24+: jam session

Tuesday 6/7 – 10-12: courses, 12.30-14: lunch, 15-17: courses, 19-21: dinner, 21-24+:  jam session

Wednesday 7/7– 10-12: courses, 12.30-14: lunch, 15-17: courses, 19-21: dinner, 21-24+: jam session

Thursday 8/7 – 10-12: courses, 12.30-14: lunch, 15-17: courses, 19-21: dinner, 21-24+: jam session

Friday 9/7 – 10-12: courses, 12.30-14: lunch, 15-17: courses, 18-21.30: exclusive Jazz Dinner presenting the Jazzin’ July Teachers Band, 22-01+: jam session

Saturday 10/7 – 10-12: courses, 12-14: lunch, 15-17: courses, 18-21.30: exclusive Jazz Dinner presenting the Jazzin’ July Teachers Band, 22-01: Student’s Concert

Sunday 11/7 – 10-11: breakfast and farewell

 Golden Tulip Jagershorst, Eindhoven NL

In the beautiful nature of the Leenderbos woods, one can find hotel Golden Tulip Jagershorst Eindhoven. The city of Eindhoven can be reached by car within 15 minutes and the hotel is easy to reach from the A2. Guests can park their car at the hotel for free. During a stay there are numerous possibilities to explore the countryside, the historic buildings and quaint villages in the vicinity. The surroundings are perfect for a walk, a bicycle ride and horseback riding.  The hotel has uniquely decorated rooms that are equipped with amenities such as a bath tub, an LCD television, internet and a minibar. Guests can make free use of the wellness center (including sauna and swimming pool). In the hotel there is a brasserie and a bar, where one can enjoy drinks and nice dishes. On sunny days guests can take a seat on one of the hotel’s two outside terraces and enjoy the weather.

Rates

Participants

single room – full board

+ workshop + jazz dinners                 € 960,- pp

Companions

full board (per night)                    € 75,- pp

(supplementary charge of €25,- for each jazz diner)

!  Attention: final date for registration is februari 1, 2010

For information regarding the Jazzin’ July Workshop contact:

Frank Roberscheuten, Bleekstraat 11, 3930 Achel, Belgium

tel & fax +32 11 515326

frank.roberscheuten@planet.nl

Visitors

Jagershorst will be serving an exclusive 4 course Jazz Dinner (beverages included) on both Friday and Saturday, 18.00 till 21.30. Between courses guests will be treated to a unique musical intermezzo from the superlative Jazzin’ July Teachers Band.

4 course dinner (bev. incl.)                        € 65,- pp

Jagershorst Single special: 4 course dinner (beverages incl.)

+ single room + breakfast                         € 125,- pp

Jagershorst Double special: 4 course dinner (beverages incl.)

+ double room + breakfast                        € 215,- 2ps

To make reservations for  the Jazz Dinner contact:

Golden Tulip Jagershorst

Valkenswaardseweg 44, 5595 XB Leende

The Netherlands

Tel +31 40 2061386

Fax +31 40 2062755

info@goldentulipjagershorst.nl

www.goldentulipjagershorst.nl