Monthly Archives: February 2010

I HEAR FATS IS IN TOWN — LET’S GO!

This photograph by William Claxton was shared with us by the jazz violin scholar Anthony Barnett.  Hollywood’s “Famous Door” seems much more rustic than its New York counterpart, but any place that had Fats Waller playing was immediately palatial:

PLEASE READ THIS!

This is Tom Cosentino’s incredibly touching piece on Clarence Armstrong, Louis’s adopted son — someone Tom knew in his Bronx childhood.  Blessings on Tom, on Clarence, on Louis, and on Ricky Riccardi for letting us know about this essay:

WHAT I LEARNED FROM CLARENCE ARMSTRONG

Last night I watched a documentary on the Ovation television network on jazz legend Louis Armstrong. I’ve always been fascinated with the man known as “Satchmo,” not only because of his music, which I love, but because of a boyhood tie that I have to him.

During the course of the documentary, reference was made to Louis’ adopted son, who was retarded. No name was given, but I knew what they were talking about, for he was my friend Clarence, a person I first knew as a little boy as Ooga Booga.

I grew up in the northeast Bronx on a street called Oakley. The cross street was Fenton Ave, and a few house up that block was a woman named Miss Lillian. That was the house that Clarence lived in as well. Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of friends until I was 8 and I was allowed to start playing in the street and nearby school yard of my boyhood school, P.S. 78. From my backyard, I would see Clarence pass my house every day, wearing his Mets cap. I never really talked with him. Then, when I started playing ball in the street with the other kids up my block, I heard them call him by another name, that of “Ooga Booga.” The kids were afraid of him and would tease him for chewing on his tongue. When they would see him they would taunt him with the cry of “Hey, Ooga Booga, Hey Ooga Booga” and then run. I’m ashamed to say, I joined in.

Then, one day, Clarence called me out and said he would tell my father. When I was home that night, I asked my parents about Clarence. They then told me that he was the son of Louis Armstrong. They even told me that Louis used to come up to the house to see Clarence when they first moved in. I knew Louis Armstrong was a musician, and knew him from television and the song, Hello Dolly. What I didn’t know was that Miss Lillian had married Clarence under an arrangement with Louis Armstrong. They had a son who used to play the trumpet out of his window all the time. However, he later died, although I do not know the reasons.

Knowing now the background of Clarence, I was carrying the guilt of being one of the abusive kids taunting him. The next time I saw him, I didn’t run but said hello. Clarence started talking to me about his love, baseball. This would begin years of dialogue on the Mets. Even though I was a Yankees fan, Clarence knew I loved baseball too. He would make up trades for the Mets, ringing my door bell to tell me the Mets got Reggie Smith from the Red Sox or Tony Perez from the Reds and other such All-Stars. Of course, they never traded anyone for these players, but I caught on and just kept the discussion going. Many times, he would ring my doorbell to tell me his news. My dad or mom would have to rescue me by coming out to tell me to finish my home work or have dinner.

I remember the one trade that was really made that thrilled Clarence was when the Mets got Willie Mays from the Giants. Clarence was literally jumping for joy that day. He would often jump up and down when he was excited, yelling as loud as he could. He was a little boy in a grown man’s body.

I communicated my discovery of Clarence’s background and love for baseball to my friends and they quickly caught on too. Soon Clarence began hanging out with us, watching us play. We’d even let him coach some times. He quickly became our mascot and lookout, watching for kids from other blocks that might look to start trouble with us.

Not only was I able to get to know Clarence, but I would visit and say hello to Miss Lillian nearly every day. Sometimes she would even give me a present.

When Louis Armstrong died in July, 1971, I remember WPIX carrying the funeral live on television. There, I got to see Clarence getting into a limousine. It confirmed for real, his relationship with the famed trumpeter.

As the years progressed and we all got older, we continued playing ball all the way through our college years. Clarence was there with us, watching and cheering us on as always. He was still making up trades. In fact, if the Mets hired Clarence, they may have won a few more pennants.

Clarence was Catholic and I would often walk and attend Mass with him at St. Phillip & James Church on Boston Road. Many parishioners would shy away, but I would sit with him in a side pew.

Sometimes when Clarence would ring my bell it wasn’t always about baseball. I can remember one time when he called on me to tell me a member of his daddy’s band had died.

After watching the documentary last night, I decided to look up information on Louis Armstrong, hoping to find mention of the adopted retarded son I knew as Clarence. Why I never did this earlier, I don’t know, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a link in the Wikipedia entry to a story written by Gary Giddins in the Village Voice in 2003

that outlined the history of Clarence. It turns out; Clarence was the son of Louis Armstrong’s cousin Flora. As Giddins’ account, posted below, points out, Louis began supporting Clarence when Louis was just 14. It became a lifelong pursuit, as Clarence was Louis’ only child.

“A few steps into the archive I was stopped dead by a pasteboard blowup of a photograph that had never been published, showing Armstrong and his adopted son, “Clarence Hatfield.” I had never given Clarence much thought, having heard he was mentally retarded and died a long time ago, hidden away.

But here he was: beaming backstage at the Band Box, a club in Chicago, in the 1940s, nattily dressed in a double-breasted suit not unlike the pinstripe tailored for Armstrong, who also beams, with unmistakable paternal pride. Clarence and their relationship sprang to life, sending me back to Armstrong’s account in Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans, to appreciate for the first time its affectionate candor regarding his only venture into paternity. Clarence was born in 1915 to Louis’s teenage cousin, Flora, apparently after she was molested by an old white man her father felt powerless to challenge. Louis’s first sight of the baby washed “all the gloom out of me.” He took it upon himself, at 14, to get a job hauling coal (immortalized in the 1925 “Coal Cart Blues”) to support the baby and the ailing mother, and assumed full responsibility after Flora’s death, marrying his first wife and adopting the three-year-old at 17. In that period, Clarence fell off a porch and landed on his head; doctors judged him to be mentally impaired. When Louis married Lil Hardin in Chicago, Clarence joined them, and Louis never forgave Lil—who claimed that Clarence was never legally adopted—for her impatience with him. When he left Lil for Alpha, he brought Clarence along.

Eventually, Clarence was set up in the Bronx, where he was married in an arrangement of convenience financed by Louis.”

Miss Lillian eventually passed and I got married and moved to New Jersey, losing any connection I had with Clarence. My dad and brother who were still living there told me that his house had been boarded up and Clarence taken away one day. They never knew what happened. After reading Gary Giddins’ story, I now know he died in 1998. I now have to read Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans and learn more.

Clarence Armstrong forever changed my life for he taught me how to deal with others. Appearances and background don’t matter. It’s what’s inside a person that counts. It’s something I’ve tried to carry through on throughout my professional career.

I can still see him cheering for us, tongue hanging from his mouth and his Mets cap hanging sideways on his head as he jumped up and down. “Tommy, Tommy” I can hear him yell. “The Mets just got Albert Pujols. They gonna have a bad ass team this year!”

Tom Cosentino

“MUSIC FOR DRUMMERS”: EXTRAORDINARY LARGESSE

Although I’ve always understood that part of the urge to collect has in it the urge to keep something for oneself — “Mine!  Mine!  Not yours!” screams the toddler self — I am delighted beyond words when someone in the jazz collecting world says, “Here!  Listen to this!  Let everyone listen to this!”  The Italian jazz scholar Enrico Borsetti is one of these heroic figures.  And now I’ve met another person, in cyberspace to be sure, who has showered riches upon us.  His name is Mike Tarani.   

I found the blog MUSIC FOR DRUMMERS through a Google Alert for “Jo Jones.”  I have now seen a great deal of information about Susie Jo Jones, and Jolanda Jo Jones, and Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones.  I’m sure they are all beyond compare, but none of them played drums in the Basie rhythm section, none of them fired rimshots and accents behind Tommy Ladnier at Carnegie Hall.  You understand.

MUSIC FOR DRUMMERS has devoted an astounding post to Jonathan David Samuel Jones (and kindly mentions my piece on Jo in this blog) — which includes YouTube videos.  AND it includes mp3 versions of Jo’s famous two-record set, THE DRUMS.

But wait!  There’s more!  MFD also offers — free and gleefully — the tape of an oral history interview of Jo done by Milt Hinton, circa 1973.  Hearing those voices nearly brought me to tears.   

My goodness!

And, as Mae West never said, “Goodness has everything to do with it.”  Blessings on Mike Tarrani for his generosities.

See for yourself at http://drumz4sale.blogspot.com/2010/02/papa-jo-jones.html

CHANGES MADE

This post is motivated by email conversations with friends, some of them musicians, who confess in hushed tones that they really can’t listen to X, no matter how famous or renowned (s)he is. 

So I hereby reveal my contributions to this secret dialogue.  It interests me that some of the music I adored in my twenties I no longer can put up with. 

I find Ella Fitzgerald chilly and detached except when she is warmed by Ellis Larkins or Louis.  Once I thrilled to Tatum’s rococco wanderings for Norman Granz and Hines’s late-period bubblings-over.  No more.  No can do.  No Oscar Peterson; no Buddy Rich.  Rush the tempo, no matter how famous you are, and I want to walk away.     

Some of this may be the result of my aging impatience.  I’ve heard a lot, on record and in performance, and much pales by comparison.  Of course, my reaction may sound snobbish.  “What an over-critical view!  Jazz needs all the friends it can get,” some might say. 

But now I want a certain intense passionate simplicity (or it has to sound like simplicity — even though it isn’t simple at all!) rather than displays of technique.  Tell your story and let someone else play, please.  It’s not a matter of disliking, but a paring-away of what now seems to me inessential.  Maybe my ears are saying, “You know, life isn’t long enough to listen to four choruses of that solo.”  I know that some readers will find my choices wrong, inexplicable.  And I applaud their doing so.  We must listen to and love that which makes us vibrate in the best ways.

And I still have my treasures.  Certain recordings (I restrict myself to dead players and singers) I will carry with me to the grave, and beyond.  Lee Wiley’s Liberty Music Shop recordings.  Louis’s THAT’S MY HOME, KNOCKIN’ A JUG, and two dozen others.  The Chocolate Dandies’ I NEVER KNEW.  Eddie Condon’s TAPPIN’ THE COMMODORE TILL.  Sidney Catlett’s STEAK FACE.  Teddy Wilson’s I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS (School for Pianists).  Red Allen’s ROLL ALONG, PRAIRIE MOON.  Billie’s I’LL BE SEEING YOU.  Mildred’s WILLOW TREE and BORN TO BE BLUE.  Joe Thomas’s YOU CAN DEPEND ON ME.  James P. Johnson’s IF DREAMS COME TRUE and AFTER YOU’VE GONE.  The Basie rhythm section.  Almost anything by Vic Dickenson, Bobby Hackett, Benny Morton, Buck Clayton, Emmett Berry, Lawrence Brown, the Boswell Sisters.  Red Norvo on xylophone.  Ben Webster with strings.  Lester Young in good company.  Jack Purvis’s work on the Seger Ellis SLEEPY TIME GAL.  The Ellington-Hodges STOMPY JONES.  The 1934 Fats Waller sessions with Bill Coleman.  Dicky Wells in the Thirties.  Hot Lips Page and Dave Tough on Artie Shaw’s 1941 THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE.  Teddy Bunn.  frank Newton.  Early Crosby, and the Bing-Mercer MR. CROSBY AND MR. MERCER.  Bix, Tram, and Lang.  Mercer’s THE BATHTUB RAN OVER AGAIN.  Early Jack Teagarden.

But many other famous players and recordings do not move me.  However, one of the freedoms of no longer attempting to be a completist, not having to listen to everything the Jazz Heroes / Heroines did is that I can spend time discovering less-publicized delights, the living players I celebrate in this blog.

And then there’s the larger issue, or burden, of perception.   

Some time ago, I began to write a blogpost called IS ANYONE LISTENING?  It remains a valid question.  Occasionally jazz seems based on a star system that rigidifies.  You come to the music of Kid Flublip early, fall in love with it, and are loyally obligated to keep to your early allegiance.  That’s wonderful, if the music continues to satisfy.  But I wonder if listeners are actually listening to what they hear or are so wrapped up in their adoration that they no longer hear.  Can an acolyte hear what the band is playing or is (s)he wholly in love with the name of the leader?     

Everyone might try a self-imposed Blindfold Test, or what CADENCE calls “Flying Blind”: take a treasured recording and listen to it as if you’d never heard it before.  It requires a playing-tricks-on-the-self, but the result is exciting.  Familiar recordings give up new bits of lovely evidence; others crumble.  The Famous Bassist is out of tune; the Revered Soloist goes on for too long. 

A listening public — as opposed to a sentiment-driven one — might find new disenchantment.  The music we actually hear might not measure up to what we think we remember.  But that would enable us, as well, to put aside our adorations and hear something or someone new, a different kind of reward.

And if the musicians or singers I’ve grown away from still sing to you, consider yourself fortunate; it must be idyllic to find everything in an art form equally rewarding.  I can’t do it, and I am not sure that it would be a rewarding activity.

TAMAR KORN / “GAUCHO” IN SAN FRANCISCO

In the jazz world, new “Gypsy Swing” groups seem to proliferate.  Gaucho is one of the best of the Django-inspired small swing groups, a San Francisco staple, inventive and rocking.  They’ve recorded three CDs, each one delightfully consistent.  They are Dave Ricketts, Michael Groh, g; Rob Reich, acc; Ralph Carney, reeds; Ari Munkres, b; Pete Devine – d, perc, and Cheek-O-Phone (TM) — the last something you’ll have to see and hear in person.  “Gaucho,” incidentally, is the band’s version of “gadjo,” the term a Gypsy would bestow on a non-Gypsy.   

Here are two neat video clips that I just found out about, recorded in atmospheric black and white and HD at AMNESIA in San Francisco a few months back.  The YouTube channel is “PortoFrancoRecords,” a label that will be issuing a new Gaucho CD in the fall. 

AND these two videos (and the CD to come) feature the eloquent and always surprising TAMAR KORN.  Need I say more?    

I associate “The Anniversary Song” with a lugubrious reading in waltz-time, and it has always been credited to Al Jolson, who (not surprisingly) did little to create it aside from recording it.  Here it’s offered in a lilting swing four-four, with Tamar singing, dancing (to the accompaniment of Ralph’s adventurous clarinet solo) and improvising with soprano riffs to conclude:

“I Surrender Dear” comes from Mr. Crosby and Mr. Armstrong, but Tamar makes it her own, as always, floating on Gaucho’s impasioned pulse and invention:

Thanks to Peter Varshavsky of Porto Franco Records, whose new website will have a variety of independent music from swing jazz to modern permutations: http://www.portofrancorecords.com/videoblog.  Peter tells me that many musical things are happening quite fast, so there will be more to come very soon!  And energetic YouTube surfers will a number of other clips of Tamar and Gaucho in performance from “charlestonalley,” a friend of swing jazz and swing dance.

“GEORGIA BO BO”

This song, originally recorded in 1926 by “Lil’s Hot Shots” — a transparent pseudonym for the Louis Armstrong Hot Five, under contract to OKeh — nominally led by Lil Hardin Armstrong for Vocalion — is a fairly simple blues. 

Jesse’s Jazz Band, led by trombonist Jens “Jesse” Lindgren, is seen here at the 1999 Akersunds Jazz Festival in Sweden.  I knew in a minute that the Hot cornetist was my hero Bent Persson, but don’t know the name of the other sterling players: the clarinetist who has Dodds down, nimbly; the drummer accenting the rhythm on the rim of his bass drum, the steady banjoist and drummer.  If someone knows their names, please let us all know!  This video was posted on YouTube by “jazze1947,” and we thank him, as well as the players!

And perhaps Stephen Calt (author / compiler of BARRELHOUSE WORDS) will tell us if the “Georgia Bo Bo” was a euphemism, as was the “Georgia Grind.”  Inquiring minds want to know!

TWO NEW CANGELOSI CARDS GIGS! (Feb. 27, March 27, 2010)

Splendid news!

The Cangelosi Cards are in town.  The Cards will be playing and singing at a new venue — two Saturday 8 PM concert appearances (dates above), with free dance lessons at 7 PM.  A $10 admission will do it, and there will be “wine and soft drinks by donation.”  The concert announcement reads: “The Cangelosi Cards bring their acoustic swing music to the Shambhala Center for a lively evening of music and dance.  The large hall with wooden floors and good acoustics gives room to dance, not just in the aisles, while the separate lounge gives socializing its full due.”  Who could argue with any of that?

To see all of this for yourself (if any doubters exist): http://ny.shambhala.org/music.php.  The Shambhala Meditation Center Of New York is located at 118 West 22nd Street, 6th Floor, New York,  New York 10011.  Tel. 212-675-6544    Email: // info@shambhalanyc.org

Here’s George Yi’s picture of the band (Stockholm, 2009):

THE CHEERFUL MR. GOODMAN / THE ELUSIVE MR. McKINNEY

The Columbia Records studio, August 6, 1946: Mitchell Ayres, Benny, guitarist Mike Bryan. 

A poster for McKinney’s Cotton Pickers — appearing at a “Roseland” on the Merrimack, autographed to “Bob Page” by William McKinney.  The perpetual calendar tells me that Friday, May 25, would have occurred in 1928 or 1934.  Hard to tell more from the poster, except for the violently stereotypical drawings below.

 

And a detail of the autograph:

eBay, of course.  Where else?

BARRELHOUSE WORDS

Did you ever listen to a blues singer on a recording — from the Twenties onwards — and have only a dim idea of exactly what the singer was talking about?  The general themes of the blues: disaster, poverty, oppression, heartbreak, dance, and sexuality, are discernable, but the language often gets in the way of clarity. 

Stephen Calt’s new book: BARRELHOUSE WORDS – A BLUES DIALECT DICTIONARY (University of Illinois Press) — will be invaluable, and it’s often eye-opening fun.

Like all dictionaries, it’s not the sort of book one sits down with at “act the fool” and reads steadily until reaching “your time now, be mine after awhile.”  Anyway, we know the plot — and it usually takes only twelve bars to develop.  No, the fun is in searching out those expressions we’ve heard on record or in performance and having our suspicions (or intuitions) confirmed or denied. 

Because the blues singers often took the oldest subjects — money, love, and sex — as the structure of their songs, part of the amusement is in finding just how many of the words we thought were vaguely erotic synonyms are just that: “horn,” “pork-grinding business,” for the penis, “toodleum,” “cookie,” and “cake” for vagina. 

But there are other surprises: “tight like that,” according to Calt’s research, is a term of enthusiastic praise that has nothing to do with erotic dimensions and pleaure.  “Honky,” we learn, a term of Black scorn for Whites, may have originated with White men in automobiles honking their horns in Black neighborhoods in search of prostitutes, with the lyrics to Kokomo Arnold’s 1935 “Busy Bootin'” as possible evidence: “I met your mama in the alley way / She’s catching honkies night and day.”  I didn’t know that “nation sack” was short for “donation sack,” which the proprietor of a roadhouse or juke joint would wear around the neck or waist to collect money for food and drinks.  Or that a “partnership man” was a man shared by two women.

Another pleaure is in noting how many blues couplets and conceits are a shared common language: so the lines I first heard on an Ida Cox record were also recorded by other singers.  Calt is far more scholarly than his chosen material might lead one to believe: he began the book nearly forty years ago — the result of his curiosity about the music he loves and his love of language.  Although the project was put aside because he could not interest a publisher, Calt interviewed a number of seminal blues musicians about phrases they used in their songs  and has done a good deal of research into vernacular English and regionalisms.  The book also contains his fine introductory essay about the language of the blues, and the double standard based on race: Black performers could be as licentious as they liked in performance and in the recording studio, but Whites could not.

The book is valuable in itself — and enjoyable, as few dictionaries are — but it will also send readers back to the recordings, and I imagine a new internet conversation springing up, of serious-minded blues lovers who try to season their emails with as many word found in Calt as they can. 

It’s certainly tight like that!

“AN AFFECTIONATE TONE”

That phrase is how cornetist Jimmy McPartland remembered the sound of Bix Beiderbecke’s playing.  It applies just as well to a book about Bix by the late Rich Johnson (with Jim Arpy and Gerri Blowers): BIX: The Davenport Album.

And an album is what this book is — nearly seven hundred pages of newspaper clippings, first-hand reminiscences, and photographs detailing Bix’s life and music.  Now, given that there have been a number of biographies of Bix, one might ask why such a book needed to be written.  But from the first page, it’s evident that Johnson was a masterful researcher, and that his diligence allows us to hear the now-silenced voices of people who knew Bix — primarily from his home town of Davenport, Iowa.  So it’s not the usual chronicle of gigs played, punctuated by comments from famous musicians.  (The book does, by the way, have comments from Bix’s famous colleagues, including Hoagy Carmichael, Armand Hug, Benny Goodman, Wingy Manone, and Louis Armstrong — but they are delightful ornaments to Johnson’s wider view.)

The people who knew Bix as a friend, a schoolmate, and a member of the community offer their voices and memories: many of them born in the earliest years of the last century.  These sweetly affectionate narratives make us see Bix anew: not simply as a phenomenal cornetist and improviser, but as the boy next door, one of the gang of kids.  The effect is very touching and intimate, as if we had been invited into their homes to drink tea and chat.

Here’s Leon Wermentein (1902-89): “I remember one Halloween night that he came to our neighborhood.  There was an old maid sourpuss everybody was scared to death of.  We dumped ashes on her porch and then rang the bell.  Bix was the last one to jump away a the door opened.  The old maid reached out, grabbed Bix and yanked him into the house.  Well, we didn’t know what would happen.  We all sat across the street staring at the house and wondering what she was going to do to Bix.  After about ten or fifteen minutes, the door finally opened and out came Bix carrying two big bags of cookies.  That’s the kind of guy he was.  He could win anybody over.  He was a charmer.”

We hear from Theresa Beyer (1911-2003) sister of Carlile Evans — in whose band clarinetist Leon Rappolo and cornetist Emmett Hardy played: “[Roppolo[ lived with us.  I remember many a night waking up and hearing him play clarinet.  He couldn’t read or write music, but boy, could he play.  The only thing . . . the only bad thing . . .he moked muggles, I think they called it.  My brother tried to get him to quit but he never did.”

Rolla Chalupa (1904-98), the Davenport postmaster, recalled Sophie Tucker’s appearances at the Columbia Theatre, where Bix (still in school) played cornet in the pit orchestra some nights and on weekends — and Tucker always introduced Bix as “the greatest trumpet player in the world.”

The book offers the sweet memories of Thelma Griffin, Bix’s Valentine in 1921: “I’m a pianist myelf and listeners tell me I have a different style.  It’s one that Bix taught me, how to play Somebody Stole My Gal, with a beat at the end where he’d come in on cornet.  Bix was just a wonderful guy.  I can’t believe some of the things they say about him today.  He and I were jut friends, even if the Valentine I’ve kept all these year does say To my sweetheart.  He was friendly, but shy.  I never dreamed that Bix would reach the status he did.  I moved to Springfield about the time he started on his road to the top bands.  We corresponded for a while, but I didn’t save his letters.  Sometimes I wish I had, now that he’s famous.”

And there’s more — the reminiscences quite affectionate, even Chet Salter, who remembered perhaps seventy years after the fact that Bix still owes him eight dollars for a pair of football shoes. 

Of course, since some of the incidents of Bix’s life are less fortunate — his alcoholism for one — Johnson does not ignore them, and I learned more about the “cure” at the Keeley Institute than I had expected.  But the overall tone of the book is anything but tragic or critical: it is a generous, sometimes sprawling valentine to Bix from the people who loved him — as a person as well as a musician.

CELEBRATING “MISS LIL” on RIVERWALK (March 4, 2010 – )

During the week of March 4, 2010, the “Riverwalk” jazz program — featuring Jim Cullum’s Jazz Band and perhaps a guest or two — will be honoring Lillian Hardin Armstrong, someone who deserves attention even when it’s not Women’s History Month. 

Lillian Hardin Armstrong was known as “Miss Lil” to her fellow musicians in King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band.  On 1945 record labels, she was heralded as “Lil ‘Brown Gal’ Armstrong” — not an offensive racial reference, but a reminder of one of her hit tunes.  But most people know her as one of the earliest (and perhaps most successful) women in jazz and as Louis Armstrong’s second wife and co-composer. 

It’s easy to dismiss Lil Hardin Armstrong as an improviser.  In early recordings, one hears her piano as competent at best: a steady but hardly swinging approach to the music.  Correct and emphatic but not terribly inventive.  And it is ungracious but inevitable to imagine how much more the Hot Five might have swung had Teddy Weatherford or Cassino Simpson or Earl Hines been the pianist. 

But she was one of those musicians we cherish because she improved — by the Thirties, her Decca recordings (now almost impossible to find) show an ebullient vocal personality.  Her compositions were cheerful swing material, and at least one of them — JUST FOR A THRILL — is wonderfully moving.  She knew enough to surround herself with the best players of the period, Chu Berry and Joe Thomas among them.  And she had learned a good deal about playing swing piano — if you compare her recordings from 1926 and a decade later, it’s clear that she had travelled a long distance, not only in concept, but in Hot execution.

But we celebrate her for more personal reasons.  Many married men roll their eyes when they discuss the power that their wives hold in the household and beyond.  “She Who Must Be Obeyed,” Rumpole of the Bailey calls his Hilda.  “The Power Behind The Throne,” says another.  “I’ve got to call home and get my marching orders,” said one of my professors in college, years ago — with some vestige of affectionate resignation.

And Louis Armstrong’s bandmates called him “Hennie,” short for “hen-pecked.”  So Miss Lil, by her own account, was a woman who would say, “Do it this way or I won’t stick around a moment longer.”  She told Louis that she wasn’t going to stay married to a second-trumpet player, and that he had better play first, lead the band. 

But her way — she was ambitious for her husband in ways that he wasn’t — benefitted both Louis and the course of the music.  He would have been more than content to play a supportive role to his musical father, Joe Oliver, for a long time.  But Lil saw what was happening: that Joe was keeping Louis down so that Joe wouldn’t be outshone by the younger man.  She directed Louis’s career until he was a star.  So we owe her thanks for being so — overbearing.  And Louis, late in life, although he was ungenerous about her skills as a pianist and improviser, thanked his pushy wife for aiming him in the directions his talent said he should go.

So when the Riverwalk series (given over to the Jim Cullum Jazz Band and illustrious guest stars) devotes a program to Miss Lil, with the subtitle, “Behind Every Great Man,” it has real validity.  And fine jazz.  The program wil air the week of March 4, 2010 — and, as an extra bonus, the Riverwalk people have included audio clips of Lillian Hardin Armstrong telling her own story. 

Here’s the link where you can find out more AND hear Lil herself reminisce: http://www.riverwalkjazz.org/jazznotes/behind_every_man/

And I’m sure that the Cullum band will do justice to STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE (which I’ve heard was originally a pretty waltz by Lil before Louis changed the tempo) as well as JUST FOR A THRILL and other delights.   

P.S.  If you want to learn more about Miss Lil after you’ve heard the Riverwalk tribute, be sure to visit Chris Albertson’s blog — not only did he record her with a great romping Chicago double-sized band, but he’s also published long sections of her typed autobiography, fascinating stuff.  The first section is http://stomp-off.blogspot.com/2009/09/louis-lil-and-little-gangster.html; others follow.

THANKS A MILLION!

After a good deal of affectionate nudging from the Beloved, whose instincts are very fine, I began this blog on February 21, 2008 with a posting about the upcoming Jazz at Chautauqua. 

Today JAZZ LIVES celebrates its second birthday and it has become an addiction, an obsession, and a thorough pleasure in ways I could not have predicted. 

In those two years, the blog has gotten over 150,000 hits.  I am very proud of this number, but my pride and delight is not about me as much as it is about my heroes.  I now know, even more than before, that there are many more people I may never meet in person who share my passion for Frank Newton and Sidney Catlett, for Eddie Condon and live jazz videos from New York City, Chautauqua, and Whitley Bay.  When I check my blog in the morning, as I do, and see that people have come to JAZZ LIVES because they’ve been looking for information about Kaiser Marshall, Jon-Erik Kellso, Hal Smith, Kevin Dorn, or Melissa Collard, I am excited.  People who love this music often feel cut off from it by the modern world with its own relentless thrum; JAZZ LIVES has reminded me every day that I am surrounded by like-minded, appreciative men and women. 

No one’s accosted me on the street, and I don’t expect that it will happen, but I was thrilled when someone approached me at Chartwell Booksellers last December (I had a video camera at the ready) and said, “Hey, are you that blogger Jazz Lives?  I commented on your blog!” or words to that effect.  And I could say back to him, after hearing his name, “Yes!  I remember you!”   

JAZZ LIVES has given me a huge affectionate community — friends from ten miles away, from South Korea, Australia, and Istanbul.  I have been fortunate in being able to reconnect with people I knew in 1974.  And I am continually reminded of the global nature of the Hot jazz community.  Case in point: today I was sitting in a house in Sedona, Arizona, posting YouTube videos recorded ten years ago in Sweden, shared by a Swedish collector.  I did not know two of the song titles.  A new blog-pal from Canada and an established cyber-scholar from Australia told me what I didn’t know, in the sweetest and most encouraging way.  That’s a marvelous testimony to the powerful, loving energies this music summons up, isn’t it?

I look forward to much more fun in 2010: more postings, more discoveries, more videos . . . more, more, more! 

And my readers and viewers and commenters are the wonderful stimulus, an enthusiastic, sympathetic readership.  

THANKS A MILLION! to all of you —

Michael Steinman

ENGELBERT WROBEL’S SWING SOCIETY: 20 YEARS

Here’s a new, quite extraordinary compact disc: 

ENGELBERT WROBEL’S  SWING SOCIETY featuring Dan Barrett: 20 Years

Click Records (Recorded 11.08.09 – 12.08.09 in Bonn, Germany) 

Engelbert Wrobel – Clarinet, Soprano, and Tenor / Chris Hopkins – Piano / Rolf Marx – Guitar / Ingmar Heller – Bass /

Oliver Mewes – Drums.  Special Guest: Dan Barrett: Trombone, Cornet (Titles 1, 2, 5, 8, 10, 13)

Titles 4, 10 & 14 plus String Quartet (arranged by Dan Barrett): Nathalie Streichardt (violin), Maria Suwelack (violin), Martina Horesji (viola), Ulrike Zavelberg (cello)

 Wang Wang Blues / Blues For Ben / Pick Yourself Up / Estrellita / Long Live The King / Opus 3 /4 / Cachita / Medley: Take Me In Your Arms – And The Angels Swing / After You’ve Gone / Serenade in Blue / Tricotism / It Might As Well Be Spring / Way Down Yonder In New Orleans / Danny Boy 61:01.

Those are the facts.  What distinguishes this disc from twenty others by living jazz musicians considering many aspects of an older style?

Expertise, originality, passion, and precision for starters. 

I don’t ordinarily comment on the cover pictures of compact discs, but this one is a good guide to what’s inside.  My discerning readers will notice that it places he band, smartly dressed, with their instruments, in an older color picture.  And the blending is seamless, which isn’t a tribute to someone’s mastery of Photoshop, but an indication of how beautifully this small group melds the eternal Present and the hallowed Past.  That Past, in jazz terms, is the Benny Goodman small groups, the Keynote Records sessions created by Harry Lim, the Kansas City Six [Lester Young, Buck Clayton, Eddie Durham, freddie Green, Walter Page, Jo Jones], the Lucky Thompson – Oscar Pettiford –  Skeeter Best trio, and more. 

But this CD isn’t a repertory exercise: the Swing Society would think it an impiety to copy recorded solos off the records.  And although the musicians in this band admire and revere Benny Goodman, Dave Tough, Sidney Catlett, Charlie Christian, Johnny Guarneri, Teddy Wilson, Vic Dickenson, Shorty Baker . . . and on.  But they don’t imitate.  The closest they come is an occasional note or gesture, beautifully executed, in a solo of their own.  So, listening to the swinging drummer Oliver Mewes, I would say, “Damn, that Chinese cymbal of his sure sounds as if he admires Dave Tough,” but you know it’s Mewes making his own delighted way upstream. 

In fact, the whole rhythm section works together in a way that would surely guarantee them a long run on Fifty-Second Street if Swing Street were still musically thriving.  Listen to their seductively nudging playing behind Barrett on TAKE ME IN YOUR ARMS — at the kind of medium-tempo most bands find it hard to sustain for long.  In fact, it would be both instructive and uplifting to listen to this whole CD just for the rhythm section — their groove, their sonorities.  The padding momentum of Mewes’ brushes; the togetherness of Marx and Heller, their ringing solo lines; the just-right accompaniment and romping solos of Hopkins.

But to listen only to the rhythm section would be to ignore Barrett and Wrobel.  For me, Barrett’s name on a disc is a guarantee of swing, wit, and taste.  His trombone sound — so creatively varied — is beautifully captured here, and his trumpet playing (one of the wonders of the age, I think) is as well — although only on WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS.  When will someone get Dan into a studio with just his cornet or trumpet and a sympathetic pianist?  I’m waiting.  His string-quartet arrangements are a revelation: who knew?  And there’s the famous Barrett sly wit, as in the interpolation of A BLUES SERENADE into SERENADE IN BLUE.  Dan also contributes delightful arrangements and a tribute to Benny — LONG LIVE THE KING — that improvises on some of Mr. Goodman’s favorite chord changes. 

That fanous name brings us to the brilliant intelligence of Engelbert Wrobel, who has absorbed the whole reed-playing jazz tradition, digested it, and made it his own.  He is a marvelous player with more than enough technique, but he’s never swallowed up by his own abilities.  Many clarinetists who revere BG spend their lives tossing off one calculated phrase after another, often at a high volume and with a shrill tone.  Not Wrobel: his tone glistens, his fingers fly, but you immediately listen to the music he’s making, the beautiful phrase-shapes and how they add up to cohesive statements.  And he’s a compelling yet understated soprano player (on CACHITA), too; turning to the tenor with great effect on TRICOTISM.

The sum of these parts is a band, mellow and rich — on a compact disc that glides from one rewarding performance to another, with a few surprises along the way.  It’s a wonderful musical banquet.

To purchase it, you can visit http://www.engelbertwrobel.de/html/cdshop.html or http://www.echoes-of-swing.de/.

SWEDISH JAZZ KINGS 1999 (Tom Baker, Bent Persson, Martin Litton, Joep Peeters, Tomas Ornberg, Olle Nyman, Bo Juhlin)!

 These videos by the Swedish Jazz Kings were recorded at the 1999 Akersunds Jazz Festival.  And they are, as they used to say, just my thing.  Thanks to “jazze1947” for posting them on YouTube: I became an instant subscriber!

That’s Bent Persson on trumpet or cornet; Tom Baker on trombone, tenor sax, and vocal; Tomas Ornberg and Joep Peeters on reeds; Martin Litton on piano; Olle Nyman, banjo and guitar; Bo Juhlin, tuba.  I could write a good deal about the passionate intensity of the soloists, their individualized reflections of Earl Hines, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, and more – – – but I’d rather let my readers skip the analysis and jump in neck-deep into the music.  What music it is!

Here’s APEX BLUES.  Sometimes long performances become wearisome, but I think six-and-a-half minutes of this wasn’t enough:

MANDY LEE BLUES:

Here’s KNEE DROPS (which I assume refers to a dance move — but, more importantly, refers to Louis and Earl in 1928):

And the theme song of our century, MONEY BLUES (with the verse as only Bent can do it):

and something tender: a duet on STARDUST by Tom Baker (now on tenor — in a Webster vein) with Martin Litton:

Thanks to jazz scholar Bill Haessler from Australia, I now know that the next song is “What Makes Me Love You So?”:

Here’s a lovely OLD FASHIONED LOVE, which is regrettably incomplete (just when Tom is singing so beautifully):

And a concert-ending performance of PAPA DIP (thanks to Bill Lowden for telling me this!):

Thanks to the musicians, the promoter, the videographer, “jazze1947,” and more.  Wow!

WHO IS SHE?

These photographs — by the esteemed photographer Otto F. Hess — just emerged on eBay (in my favorite evening-browsing pasture, Entertainment Memorabilia).  I know that there were women reed players — in the International Sweethearts of Rhythm — but this young woman with a clarinet in a Benny-pose is not someone I recognize.  And, in the second photograph, I don’t have any idea about the bassist and guitarist.  My knowledge of obscure musicians is of course imperfect, but I wonder if this concert or performance was done somewhere besides New York City.  Any suggestions? 

That’s the trio.  Here’s the back of one of the photographs:

And here she is, assuming the famous posture of jazz ecstasy:

And I seriously  doubt that this young woman is Anat Cohen!

“ON THIS DAY IN JAZZ AGE MUSIC”

Melissa Collard told me about this wonderful blog — “On This Day in Jazz Age Music” —http://networkedblogs.com/p28200453.  The creation of Confetta Ras.  She posts photographs, mp3s, sheet music, and more, celebrating the lives of musicians and personalities born on that day.  As Melissa says, it’s nice to wake up and be reminded of whose birthday it is.  Today, February 19, Confetta is honoring banjoist Eddie Peabody, British traditional jazz trumpeter Bill Brunskill, singer / actor / dancer John W. Bubbles . . . . and more.  She’s assembled biographies, YouTube clips, song lyrics, recordings; there are listings of Jazz Age radio shows online.  Wow!  I’ve put it on this blogroll: pay it a visit and you’ll be entranced!

A CURE FOR MARCH 1: A NEW ORLEANS JAM SESSION!

March first is the middle of nowhere.  Spring is still three weeks away.  The Valentine’s Day candy has been eaten and the flowers are gone.  You can’t wear your purple Mardi Gras beads to work for too long a time, or else your co-workers make jokes.  It’s snowing, or it’s going to snow, or there’s dirty snow piled up somewhere. 

And it’s a Monday, no less.

But relief is at hand!  The Sidney Bechet Society is hosting a concert at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in downtown New York City on March 1,  2010.  The leader is clarinetist Orange Kellin — a New Orleanian in many ways, including spiritually.  He’ll be joined by Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Scott Robinson, reeds and more; Matt Munisteri, guitar / banjo and more (do I detect a definite trend towards the Ear Regulars?  Always welcome!), Ken Salvo, guitar (taking a Monday-night holiday from Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks), Kelly Friesen, bass; Ricky Gordon, washboard and percussion (he’s from the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra); Ruth Brisbane, vocals.  Hot breezes to counteract the chilly winds of March.

Practical details?  

The concert is on Monday, March 1 at 7:15pm.  The Lucille Lortel Theatre is at 121 Christopher Street in New York City.  Tickets are $35 at the box office or Ticket Central (212) 279-4200: www.ticketcentral.com

OLD TIME MODERN, or HOT ECLECTICISM

I thought of “Old Time Modern” while watching a wonderful new concert DVD.  That title originally was from a Nat Pierce composition recorded for Vanguard in the Fifties, blending boppish harmonies with a Thirties Basie feel. 

Now it perfectly summons up the inspired pairing of Eddy Davis, banjo, vocals, and badinage, and Conal Fowkes, piano, vocals, and commentary.  This duo had a wonderful opportunity to appear in a Barcelona club for an extended run; they found a most hip Brazilian filmmaker, Arturo Querzoli, and the results are now available.

Most jazz videos (including mine) suffer from the demands of impromptu recording: poor lighting, people walking in front of the camera, extraneous noise.  Devoted types like Rae Ann Berry and myself grin and bear it and call the results “cinema verite.”  But how rewarding it is to see two completely relaxed musicians captured from every angle with beautiful sound in high-definition video.

And what musicians they are!  I know that some people get pale and anxious when they even hear the word “banjo” in a sentence, and I can hardly blame them.  Badly played, the banjo can provide hours of painful listening experiences.  Many banjo players seem to have modeled their approaches on power tools, giving their instruments a metallic twang.  Not Eddy Davis.  His approach is subtle but his rhythm propulsive, and although he doesn’t look the part of a Thirties romantic hero, he has a deep sentimental streak.  Eddy writes his own appealing tunes and digs out those you’d forgotten or never heard.  Where Eddy looks much like a small-town pharmacist with a decided FDR image, Conal could pass as a multi-lingual European statesman.  A diplomat, perhaps, or even the head of a large bank.  But beneath that sedate exterior there is a fine, stomping Jelly Roll Morton – Joe Sullivan – Fats Waller pianist, a singer both hilarious and tender, and a wonderful accompanist to Eddy.  In fact, one of the great pleasures of this duo is watching two fine soloists who are also splendid accompanists.  This duo isn’t a cutting contest; it’s a friendly conversation, with one egging the other on. 

By the way, I first saw (and met) Conal and Eddy sometime in 2005 when Eddy’s multi-named small group (eventually called WILD REEDS AND WICKED RHYTHM) had the Wednesday-night spot at the now-vanished Cajun.  Most nights, Debbie Kennedy was on string bass and occasional vocal; Scott Robinson and Orange Kellin were the hot winds, and the group rocked as few others I’ve ever heard have done.  If you weren’t sitting near me to hear this group, you definitely need this DVD.  And if you were at one of the front tables, you won’t need any convincing.

And (for me) the best part — including the musical intimacy, the beautiful recording, the fine camerawork — is the amazingly broad repertoire.  Most groups limit themselves: the Fowkes-Davis collective is happy playing Morton, Ory, Oliver, Eubie Blake, Morton, Ellington, Henderson — but these musicians have a deep streak of sentiment, so you’ll also hear I FALL IN LOVE TOO EASILY, LA VIE EN ROSE (with a tender reading of the original French lyrics by Conal), and MY FOOLISH HEART, crooned in a near-whisper by Eddy.

And here’s some brilliant musical and visual evidence from the DVD:

Here are WILD MAN BLUES and MEMORIES OF YOU:

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES and DINAH:

SNAKE RAG and I FALL IN LOVE TOO EASILY:

Henderson’s THE STAMPEDE:

ORY’S CREOLE TROMBONE and MY FOOLISH HEART, surely a surprising pair:

LA VIE EN ROSE and HANG OUT THE STARS IN INDIANA:

Finally, there’s CRY ME A RIVER:

Now. that’s a generous helping of music for free.  But there’s more!  The DVD includes a dozen selections (some of them lengthy medleys) and one bonus track with an appearance by A Famous Mystery Guest.  You can find out how to buy this at www.davisfowkes.com (a little Barelona bird told me that the price is $20.00 plus shipping, certainly cheaper than the round-trip flight).  It’s a consistent pleasure.

MAGGIE CONDON HAS A PLAN

Last week, I met Maggie Condon.  If you don’t recognize her immediately, let me give you a hint:

Yes, that family.  Maggie is the elder daughter of Eddie and Phyllis Condon; she and her husband Peter (a most amiable filmmaker) live in the family’s Washington Square apartment, where I visited Maggie recently. 

I should say here that Eddie Condon — bandleader, man with an idea, guitarist, promoter — is one of my most beloved heroes.  When I started listening to other jazzmen beyond Louis, I naturally gravitated to any and all records that had any connection with Eddie — from the early Twenties to the middle Seventies.  And I was lucky enough to see the great man himself: once at close range, three times in concert. 

I knew I was in the presence of something remarkable when Maggie offered me the tour of the Condon apartment — which began by her walking to the window that overlooked Washington Square Park and pointing out the diagonal path she remembered seeing her father take across the park to the club named for him (47 West Third Street).  Then she opened a box and unwrapped what was and is a sacred object — Eddie’s first banjo, labeled on the back of the head “Slick Condon,” with a date of 1921.  Eddie had his own bedroom in the apartment because he and Phyllis — although truly devoted to each other — kept different hours.  Phyllis, an ambitious woman, was up early, someone with things to do.  Eddie came home late from the club and wanted darkness and silence for his daylight-hours sleeping pleasure: thus his room was painted a dark green, almost black. 

The holy relics continued to surface: one of Eddie’s custom-made Gibson tenor guitars:

From another angle, with reverence:

One more:

And here’s the label on the outside of the guitar case — written by Phyllis:

Eddie called the jazz magazine BROW BEAT — and here’s the only award he ever got from them:

But back to the title.  “Maggie Condon has a plan?”

Yes, Maggie Condon is making a video documentary about her father — possibly a feature-length film.  She’s been planning it for more than twenty years, and is well-qualified, having been a film and television director for a number of years.  As I write this, she is doing a series of video interviews — of jazz scholars who knew and loved Eddie, jazz musicians who played alongside him, people who saw him at close range. 

The film, let me assure you, is a daughter’s tribute to her father — as a man, as a musician — no filmed pathobiography here.

Why Eddie Condon? 

If you were to search blindly through the morass of semi-factoidal information that makes up the web, you might find that Eddie was (some say) more well-known for talking than playing, a not-very-adept rhythm guitarist (according to others) who didn’t take solos; a proponent of a now-dead style.  Even though Eddie loathed the word “Dixieland,” and said that it was “music for the farmers who wanted to hear THE SAINTS,” he is identified with the form.

All wrong. 

Three minutes of any Condon record would sweep some of this fallacy away, but there’s more that needs to be said.  That Bx Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong called him their friend should say something as well. 

First, Eddie was a rebel against the Midwestern world in which he was born.  Who would have expected a young man from Indiana to find his calling in that noisy music called jazz?  And, odder still, who would have expected that Condon boy to be so thoroughly color-blind that he would organize integrated record sessions before 1930, picking musicians by their talent rather than their compliexion at a time when this wasn’t done?  Even as late as the mid-Forties, an integrated Condon band was shut out of a Washington, D.C. concert hall because the DAR wouldn’t countenance race-mixing onstage.  So he was a pioneer.

Critics and social historians get justifiably excited about John Hammond bringing Teddy Wilson into the Benny Goodman band; they extol the heroism of Branch Rickey, getting Jackie Robinson onto the field in the white major leagues. 

But who celebrates Eddie Condon for getting Fats Waller and Hot Lips Page into Carnegie Hall?  And when the Condon groups broadcast from the Ritz Theatre and Town Hall over the Blue Network in 1944-45, how many people (here and overseas) thrilled to the music and then realized that the people whose art they were charmed by were the same people who had to sit in the back of the bus?  (Exhibit A above: “Eddie’s Hot Shots” was what they used to call “a mixed band,” and the record is still a Hot landmark.)

Ken Burns didn’t pay much attention to Eddie; I have yet to see a Jazz at Lincoln Center tribute to the man and his music.  Eddie was Caucasian (unfashionable), he made a living from his music (unthinkable), and he didn’t die young (unbelievable).  Even in the face of all these ideological burdens, he surely deserves to be celebrated.  Was it his fault that he had a good time, and that jazz wasn’t his martyrdom?   

He was the first jazz musician to have his name on a club, and it’s not incidental that the music that came out of that club was free-wheeling and passionately expert.  And he brought jazz to television long before it became the soundtrack for many shows — as early as 1942, and his EDDIE CONDON’S FLOOR SHOW remains a model of what could be done with the form — informal, funny, and Hot. 

With Milt Gabler, another down-home urban saint, Eddie and his gang made extraordinary records for the Commodore label in the late Thrities and early Forties, moving over to Decca and later (under George Avakian’s benign, wise guidance) to Columbia for classic sessions in the Fifties.    

So I’m thrilled that Maggie is interviewing the elders of the tribe as well as getting acquainted with the younger musicians who know and love the jazz that Eddie nurtured and sustained. 

If you’ve got memories of being in Eddie’s club, let’s hear them!  If you remember the first time you heard a Condon record, tell us!  (And — I’m probably not supposed to say this, but consider it whispered: if you’re a wealthy jazz-lover who would like to make sure more people know who Eddie Condon is — is, not was — it would be nice to hear from you, too.) 

Not someday, but now.  More to come!

NEWS FROM THE BOHEM RAGTIME JAZZ BAND (February 2010)

I’ve shared some YouTube videos of the Bohem Ragtime Jazz Band here in the past: they do live up to their description as “possibly the workd’s most versatile jazz band” — the band adapts wonderfully to all kinds of jazz material without the soloists losing their essential identities.

The BJRB will be celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary on March 8, 2010.  Congratulations!  Keeping a band together for a quarter-century in these perilous times (perilous for Hot jazz as well as most other things) is a real accomplishment. 

AND the Bohem Jazz Festival is nearly upon us.  That’s March 26-28, 2010.  More information about the six-day package offer here:http://festival.bohemragtime.com/images/fest10-touristinfo.pdf.  The musicians featured at the Festival will include Nicolas Montierm tenor sax;  Thilo Wagner, piano; Jennifer Leitham, string bass; Vince Bartels, drums; Washboard Wizardz, the BRJB, of course;  PapaJazz; Swing Manouche Project; Daniel Balazs, piano; Ivan Nagy, piano; the Penge Benge Jazz Band . . . and more.  

“How did he find all this out?” you might ask.  Easy as paprika: I simply visited http://www.bohemragtime.com.  You can, too!  They have an email newsletter, but they neither harangue nor pester — it’s great fun.  And if you aren’t fluent in Hungarian, don’t panic — click on the Union Jack and everything will appear in a flash in the most melodious English prose.  There you can hear and see Joe Muranyi singing BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA, and find out about your special present from the BRJB.  It’s all true!

But since the Beloved and I are not going to be able to attend the Festival this year, I’ve been delighting in several CDs and DVDs put out by the BRJB and esteemed guests.  There’s a DVD by the BRJB itself, one with guests including Herbert Christ, Bria Skonberg, Matthias Seuffert, Bob Barnard, Nick Ward, and Jeff Hamilton, and a delightful CD — a hot piano / violin recital, with both instruments expertly played by the swinging Tamas Itzes. 

Check it out — no, check them out. 

Sound of New Orleans
(with Bob Barnard & Herbert Christ – tp, Matthias Seuffert – cl, ts)
CD: KJA-BCD 8020, 2005

1. I’m Sorry I Made You Cry (Nicholas Joseph Clesi)
2. You’re Lucky To Me (Andy Razaf–Eubie Blake)
3. Cornet Chop Suey (Louis Armstrong)
4. Sorry (Raymond Klages–Howdy Quicksell)
5. Someday Sweetheart (Benjamin & John Spikes)
6. Stompin’ At The Savoy (Benny Goodman–Andy Razaf–Chick Webb–Edgar Sampson)
7. Black Beauty (Duke Ellington)
8. Smackaroony (Bob Barnard)
9. Wall Street Rag (Bud Coleman)
10. Black Bottom Stomp (Jelly Roll Morton)
11. Everybody Loves My Baby (Jack Palmer–Spencer Williams)
12. Sing, You Sinners (W. Frank Harling–Sam Coslow)
13. Home (Harry & Jeff Clarkson–Peter van Steeden)
14. San (Walter Michels–Lindsay McPhail)
15. Mandy, Mandy, Make Up Your Mind (Meyer–Johnston–Clarke–Turk)
16. Body and Soul (Green–Heyman)
17. Down In Honky Tonk Town (Charles McCharon–Chris Smith)
18. Sweet Substitute (Jelly Roll Morton)

Bohém Ragtime Jazz Band Live! – 12. Dixieland Jubilee, Stuttgart
CD: CACD 8302, 2008

1. Milenberg Joys (Jelly Roll Morton-New Orleans Rhythm Kings)
2. I’m Sorry I Made You Cry (N. J. Clesi)
3. Ballin’ The Jack (Chris Smith)
4. Someday Sweetheart (Benjamin & John Spikes)
5. Whistling Rufus (Kerry Mills)
6. Love At Sundown (H. M. King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej)
7. Sam, the old accordion man (Walter Donaldson)
8. Cataract Rag (Robert Hampton)
9. I’m Confessin’ (Doc Daugherty-Al J. Neiburg-Ellis Reynolds)
10. Creole Jazz (Claude Luter)
11. Black Beauty (Duke Ellington)
12. Louisiana (J. C. Johnson-Andy Razaf-Shafer)
13. Maple Leaf Rag (Scott Joplin)
14. Tango Palace (Ott fogsz majd sírni…) (József Kola-Andor Szenes-Joe Murányi)
15. Honey Suckle Rose (Andy Razaf-Thomas “Fats” Waller)
16. The Entertainer (Scott Joplin-John Brimhall)
17. Good night, ladies (traditional)

1. Wild Romantic Blues [2:15]  
2. Tin Whistle Blues [3:00]  
3. Kiss Me Sweet [2:58]  
4. Never Let No One Man Worry Your Mind [2:28]  
5. The Carolina Blues [1:56]  
6. The Fives [2:28]  
7. Freakish Blues [2:22]  
8. Irresistible Blues [2:46]  
9. Charleston Clarinet Blues [2:34]  
10. War Bride Blues [4:05]  
11. Paradise Blues [2:57]  
12. Monday Morning Blues [2:22]  
13. Blue Law Sunday Blues [2:39]  
14. Jerry the Junker [2:15]  
15. Black Cat Blues [2:55]  
16. Alabama Blues [2:18]  
17. Louisville Blues [3:06]  
18. Jogo Blues [3:16]  
19. It Takes a Long Tall Brown-skin Gal to Make a Preacher Lay His Bible Down [3:03]  
20. You’re Such a Cruel Papa to Me [2:53]  
21. A Bunch of Blues [4:04]  
22. Regretful Blues [3:38]  
23. You’ll Want Me Back Someday [3:06]

And here’s a YouTube sample:

MAHOGANY HALL STOMP (with József Lebanov, trumpet; Attila Korb, trombone; Zoltán Mátrai, clarinet; Tamás Ittzés, piano, leader; József Török, tuba; György Mátrai, banjo; Alfréd Falusi, drums.

JAZZ VIDEO DOCUMENTARIES (February 2010)

I just received an email from Lauren Kesner O’Brien, the founder of a “video magazine,” (a site that shares new video documentaries on a variety of subjects) called www.telegraph21.com, — telling me that this week the site will be offering documentaries on jazz.  In particular, she told me about THE SOUND AFTER THE STORM, a film focusing on Dr. Michael White and Lillian Boutte and their experiences in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  You can see an eight-minute segment from the documentary here: http://www.telegraph21.com/video/the-sound-after-the-storm.  I’m glad to see new documentary filmmakers turning their lenses on jazz: it never gets enough attention!

SHORPY (“ALWAYS SOMETHING INTERESTING”)

In these days of “milkless milk and silkless silk,” to recall W.C. handy, it’s very gratifying to point my readers to a website that for three years now has lived up to its title.  www.shorpy.com presents beautifully defined black-and-white photographs from the past — everything from candids sent in by readers to Ben Shahn portraits of small-town streets, children at the beach, bathing girls, and more. 

I decided to write a few words about the site because I was fairly sure that people who are deeply involved in the kind of jazz I write about here might also have an affection for the objects and places it came from — and such obsessions as trains, for instance.  And this particular picture made it a must for me to write this post — a 1920 Washington, D.C., shop window advertising the latest Victor records and a line of Nippers (one large fellow in the doorway) that made me laugh.

Reprinted by permission of http://www.shorpy.com

I will understand if some of my readers ask, “What’s that doing on a jazz site?” but my guess is that others will be clicking on www.shorpy.com. as quickly as they can and won’t come up for air for a long time.  SHORPY has been going strong for three years now, and shows no sign of running out of energy, or of beautiful surprises.  (When you visit the site, you’ll find out the rationale behind its unusual name and you’ll also be able to see the photograph above in full size — the details jump out at you.)