Last night I went to another of Kevin Dorn’s late-Friday evening gigs at The Garage (Seventh Avenue South). The band, “The Big 72,” plays from 10:30 to 2:30. Staying for all four sets would require a preparatory nap, something I’ve never managed to do — but I was so delighted with the music that I stayed for two sets rather than my customary one. You’ll see why.
Like his hero Eddie Condon, Kevin likes to employ his friends for gigs (you’d be surprised at the rancor floating around the bandstand on some gigs — not Kevin’s) and he had a particularly congenial crew of individualists last night.
For lyricism, there’s the always-surprising Charlie Caranicas on cornet, who has a singing tone and many nimble approaches, not just one. The clarinet master (and occasional singer) Pete Martinez was in splendid form, murmuring in his lower register or letting himself go with whoops and Ed Hall-shrieks. I’d heard Adrian Cunningham only on clarinet before (at The Ear Inn and Sweet Rhythm): it was a revelation to hear him on alto, where he showed raucous rhythm-and-blues tendencies, bending notes in the manner of Pete Brown. In the background, Michael Bank took tidy, swinging solos and offered just the right chords behind soloists. He deserves a better piano, but he added so much. Kelly Friesen, hero of a thousand bands, pushed the beat but never raced the time, and his woody sound cut through the Garage’s constant aural ruckus. And Kevin — well, he was in his element, letting the music take its own path without getting in its way by “leading.” His solos were delicious sound-structures, full of variety and propulsion, but I found myself listening even more to his accompaniments: the sound of a stick on a half-closed hi-hat cymbal, the steady heartbeat of his bass drum, the tap of his stick on the hi-hat stem.
Here are ten performances I recorded. At first the Garage’s patrons were unusually chatty and ambulatory (or should I say Talky and Walky?) but many of them noticed that me and my video camera. Surprisingly, they executed sweet arabesques of ducking down and getting small so they wouldn’t walk in front of my lens. Thank you!
NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW, a pop tune beloved by late-Twenties jazz players (I think of Teagarden and Condon among them):
A devoted, serious reading of SUGAR by Pete Martinez:
If Louis Armstrong didn’t invent THEM THERE EYES, he certainly owned this bright, silly song (until Billie Holiday came and reinvented it for everyone):
That probing, perhaps unanswered question (before Charles Ives), HOW COME YOU DO ME LIKE YOU DO?:
AFTER YOU’VE GONE, played as a Wettling-Davison romp rather than a lament:
MY GAL SAL (whose title musicians happily corrupted into “They called her Syphillis Sal”):
Homage to Bix Beiderbecke — here’s JAZZ ME BLUES:
IDA (Sweet As Apple Cider) is forever associated in my memory with Pee Wee Russell, whose choruses were always unusual in the best way:
BALLIN’ THE JACK, an eternally popular “here’s how to do this new dance” song:
Finally, BLUES MY NAAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME, recollecting JAMMIN’ AT CONDON’S:
The Big 72 calls what they play music. Or what would you suggest?