Daily Archives: December 2, 2009

PETER ECKLUND / BLUE SUITCASE (Dec. 9, 2009)

Good news!  The very gifted (subtle, swinging, thoughtful . . . ) trumpeter / fluegelhornist / cornetist / plectrist / whistler Peter Ecklund has a new website — http://peterecklundmusic.com.  There, you can hear enticing musical samples. 

And he also has an upcoming Manhattan engagement at the Greenwich Village Bistro (Carmine between Bleecker and Sixth Avenue) on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009 from 9-11PM:

Peter Ecklund – trumpet, flugelhorn, ukulele
Matt Munisteri – guitar, vocals
Mike Weatherly – bass, vocals
Some additional accompaniment from the Blue Suitcase

A program of jazz standards, songs, and originals.

And, I quote Peter about the Bistro: “Dancing prohibited but often tolerated,” a qualifier that caused a number of comments the last time I posted it.  I think readers should go to the Bistro to see for themselves!

“THE DEAR BOY”: BIXFEST 2010 (March 11-14)

First, “the dear boy” is what Louis Armstrong called Bix, writing about him in 1954.  And Bix Beiderbecke remains dear to many, as man and musician.   

Phil Pospychala is once again arranging his Tribute to Bix, to be held in the Marriott in Racine, Wisconsin.  Details can be found — along with photographs, cartoons, comedy, and information — at http://www.bixfest.com/

The music promises to be typically rewarding, with Vince Giordano leading his Midwest Nighthawks and as a member of the “Bix and his Gang” band — which features Andy Schumm on cornet, Dave Bock on trombone, John Otto on reeds, and Josh Duffee on drums.  Jamaica Knauer, videographer and singer, will be making her debut with cornetist Scott Black, Bock, Andy Schumm on piano, John Otto, and Sue Fischer on drums.  The New Century Jazz Orchestra from the UK will be playing as well. 

Jamaica says, “It’s a really nice, intimate kind of festival, with a bus trip to jazz sites, lectures, record
contests, record sales, jazz films, late night record spinning, birthday cakes in Bix’s honor….a great time to hear some fantastic music, mingle with the musicians, make friends, and visit with old ones.”

For details (prices, reservations, scheduling) visit the BixFest site above.  The video clips I have seen and posted from this festival are evidence enough that a good time was and will be had by all.  Or ask your local Bixian!

THAT’S LIKE IT OUGHT TO BE

My title comes from a Jelly Roll Morton record from his great Victor period — but it’s a close approximation of the phrase that came into my mind when I watched and heard this great small band from the recent San Diego Dixieland Jazz Festival, with these November 27, 2009 video clips coming to us through the apparently inexhaustible generosity of Rae Ann Berry.

The band?  Led by the melifluous clarinetist Tim Laughlin, it features pianist Chris Dawson, recently celebrated in this blog, drummer Hal Smith, cornetist Connie Jones, trombonist Alan Adams, guitarist Katie Cavera, and bassist Marty Eggers — a nice mixture of Californians and New Orleanians, stirred and hot.

Here they are on WANG WANG BLUES.  Catch Hal’s press rolls behind the opening ensemble, Tim’s melodic fluidity that hints at Noone by way of Davern, his beautiful tone; Connie’s mixture of gruffness and Bixian nimbleness; that rhythm section, with Chris light yet rocking, Marty and Katie fervent, Hal remembering all the things one can do with a hi-hat cymbal and its stem; Katie’s neat chorded solo.  And then the ensemble choruses, starting calmly and getting Hot.  There are rough edges here (it seems to have started the set) but I love it in an old-fashioned way:

Fats Waller’s KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW follows, situated midway between Dixieland conventions and the Vanguard recording featuring Vic Dickenson and Ruby Braff.  Connie’s earnest vocal is a treat, and the ghosts of Wild Bill Davison and Teddy Wilson, apparently unlikely partners, share the stage in perfect harmony, before Marty’s melodic solo and the easily-rocking final ensemble:

Connie and Alan left the stage for a splendid quintet version of DOWN BY THE OLD MILL STREAM, which allows us to hear and see the uplifting work of Chris Dawson, his treble lines sparkling but never upstaging Tim.  Katie’s chordal solo reminds me of Carmen Mastren’s playing on the 1940 Bechet-Spanier session, and that’s high praise.  And this performance suggests some of the lilting playing of a Goodman – Wilson Thirties airshot without copying any of those patented licks:

More to come!

SOMETHING FOR LESTER

Lester Young was born in 1909 and died before he reached fifty, so when we celebrate his hundredth birthday, it is with the wonder that he existed at all — and the sadness that his feelings were often “bruised,” to use his evocative word.

Just recently (Nov. 27, 2009) the drummer and swing master Hal Smith staged a tribute to Lester at America’s Finest City Dixieland Jazz Festival in San Diego, California, with some performances caught by our very own and most cherished SFRaeAnn, who signs her checks Rae Ann Berry. 

Hal’s band — wittily dubbed “Hal’s Angels,” is comprised of Anita Thomas, tenor sax and clarinet; Carl Sonny Leyland, piano and vocal, Katie Cavera, guitar and vocal, Mike Earls, bass, and Hal himself.  Hal and band led the audience through a brief musical tour of Lester’s life, from his pre-recording influences to his last decade.  Here are several highlights:

To start things off, Hal and the band embarked on a rocking blues, the kind that Lester loved to play, early and late.  This blues line comes from recordings made at a mid-Fifties gig in Washington, D.C. — and it’s in the key of G, hence the title: “G’S, IF YOU PLEASE”: 

But before Lester ever got into a recording studio, he was astonishing fellow musicians and listeners — among them the writer Ralph Ellison.  But Lester, for all his indefatigable originality, had heard other musicians in the Twenties.  Jazz records were not easy to find, but his fellow reedman Eddie Barefield had acquired several of the 1927 OKeh records featuring Bix Beiderbecke and Frank Trumbauer.  Lester credited Trumbauer as an early influence, and if one listens to Tram throughout his career, the sound and approach that affected Lester are easy to appreciate.  (In fact, Trumbauer’s final session for Capitol contains a near-ballad version of BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA that sounds for all the world like Lester on C-melody saxophone.)

Thus, a properly slow reading of Trumbauer’s solo on WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS:

One of the glorious sessions Lester made was also his first — “Jones-Smith, Inc.” in late 1936, which produced LADY BE GOOD.  Had Lester recorded nothing else, we would have this recording as evidence of his mastery.  And his influence is heard throughout this performance, which shows off the uplifting rhythm section, even when Anita isn’t soloing:

With the Kansas City Six, Lester played clarinet, unmistakably, and Hal’s Angels turn to I WANT A LITTLE GIRL, with Carl offering a vocal that reminds us of Lester’s work alongside Jimmy Rushing in the Count Basie band.  It’s the only time Anita offers a written-out Lester solo, and she has his tart tone and sideways phrasing down pat:

For perhaps three years, Lester and Billie Holiday turned out one recorded masterpiece after another: here is BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD, with Katie singing, in their honor:

I don’t exaggerate when I write that Lester would have been delighted to play with this band.  And since he called everyone “Lady,” I think he would have been most pleased by the playing of Lady Anita, who suggests some of his curving architecture without copying him.  Although many famous players tried to copy him, their energetic imitations only show how individual he was, and how his essence eluded them.  Better to “go for yourself,” as he said, as Hal’s Angels do so well here.