Daily Archives: December 1, 2009


John Gill — hot guitarist, banjoist, trombonist, singer — has a deep love and understanding of Bing Crosby, as you can hear on his Stomp Off CD, LEARN TO CROON, where he and a wonderful New York band (his “Sentimental Serenaders”) pay heartfelt tribute to Bing.

I’m delighted that SFRaeAnn captured John and the Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra just a few days ago (November 28, 2009) — at America’s Finest City Dixieland Jazz Festival in San Diego, California.  And I believe all of the charts you hear are John’s own arrangements and transcriptions, expertly done and played. 

I had to begin this post with John’s version of Ralph Rainger’s irreplaceable PLEASE:

Here’s JUST ONE MORE CHANCE, complete with a little bu-bu-bu-boo and those trademark dips and slides:

And a sweetly rocking dance-band version of IF I HAD YOU. with the unheard verse and appropriate playing from members of the HRO:

Seek and you shall find — the cheerfully romantic message of I FOUND A MILLION-DOLLAR BABY (In a Five-and-Ten Cent Store).  John makes the last sixteen bars shout:

And a rarity — an Irving Berlin song Bing sang in a cameo appearance in the 1931 REACHING FOR THE MOON, with a hugely elaborate title: WHEN THE FOLKS HIGH UP DO THE MEAN LOWDOWN.  All of that verbiage aside, please notice the smiles on the musicians’ faces:

Oh, so pretty — PENNIES FROM HEAVEN, with the lovely verse:

And here’s Bing’s theme, WHERE THE BLUE OF THE NIGHT (Meets The Gold Of The Day):

To quote John, “There you go!”  Thank you, John, for wearing your heart so beautifully on your sleeve, for all of us to feel so deeply.  And thanks (as always) to SFRaeAnn, for sharing these sentimental marvels.


NEVILLE is the splendid stride and swing pianist Neville Dickie.

HAL is the swinging drummer Hal Smith.

And TOM is Tom Warner — dedicated videographer who caught them at the 2009 West Coast Ragtime Festival in Sacramento, California.  These clips originated on YouTube, where Tom’s channel is “Tdub1941,” a jazz and ragtime cornucopia.   

The marvels of technology — and the marvels of Hot. 

This duo’s interplay reminds me of James P. and Sidney Catlett, of Tut Soper and Baby Dodds, of Joe Sullivan and Zutty Singleton, of Jess Stacy and George Wettling, of Willie the Lion Smith and Jo Jones.  In the ideal world, I’d want all the young pianists to study Neville’s left hand and the rollicking interplay between his treble and bass lines.  I’d want all the young drummers who think that surrounding themselves with mountains of cymbals and tom-toms is the answer to observe the marvelously varied sounds Hal gets out of his snare, wire brushes, sticks, and cymbal.  Less is indeed more!

Here’s STRUT MISS LIZZIE, a song I associate with late Bix and early Commodores:

IF I HAD YOU (with verse) becomes a gliding rhythm ballad with hints of eight-to-the-bar:

CANDY LIPS (whose subtitle is “I’m Stuck On You”) is from the Clarence Williams repertoire.  Here, Hal switches to sticks:

Finally, here’s STREAMLINE TRAIN — an answer to our mass transit problems!

Thanks so much to the players — generous in their creativity and swing — and to Tom, for sharing these treasures with us.  Rock that thing!

A LITTLE JAM! (Nov. 29, 2009)

I remember that once an interviewer, trying to find out whether Ruby Braff was playing a cornet or a trumpet, asked him, “What is that?” pointing at his horn.  Ruby, characteristically, responded at top speed, but in italics: “That?  That is a musical instrument.”  Ruby would have approved of the jazz played at the end of the night on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009, at The Ear Inn, where gifted improvisers seemed to come from everywhere.

After an easy-going opening set by the Earregulars: Jon-Erik Kellso, Dan Block (on tenor sax and clarinet), Chris Flory, and Jon Burr, some sterling players came in: cornetist Dan Tobias, bassist Gary Cattley, clarinetist Attilio Troiano, and (new to me and quite impressive) trumpeter Gordon Au.  (To read and hear more about Gordon, visit http://www.gordonaumusic.com/html/slideshow.php.

Jon-Erik first offered his chair to Dan Tobias and said, happily, “It sounds too good.  I’m going to take notes,” and he watched happily as Dan chose one of his favorite songs, THIS CAN’T BE LOVE, for a genial run-through that reminded me of one of Ruby Braff’s late-period groups. 

Then someone suggested THE PREACHER (perhaps by Horace Silver, although the version I know is by a pair of fellows named Bing and Louis).  To my ears, it’s really not much of a composition, and Jon Burr pointed out that its chord structure resembles I’VE BEEN WORKIN’ ON THE RAILROAD, but everyone swung out.

Finally, Jon-Erik ended the evening on a triumphant note by calling for STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE, complete with an upwards modulation at the end.  Trumpets all out!  (You knew, of course, that the title of that song — translated into current slang — would be WALKING AROUND WITH MY HOT GIRLFRIEND FOR EVERYONE TO SEE?  It has nothing to do with brisket or hot dogs.)

P.S.  Victor, the Ear’s guiding spirit and bartender, set the mood before any of the players had come in — by playing Bix and Norvo, Berigan and Condon . . . turning his head to the speakers, Jon-Erik said, “We know we’re in the right place!” and he was correct.