Daily Archives: February 20, 2010

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!