Monthly Archives: April 2010

THE SECOND SET (THE EAR INN, April 25, 2010)

I have had a great deal of pleasure listening to jazz in many places, but the second set at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street in New York City) on a Sunday night when The Ear Regulars are playing is a true oasis.  

After their set break, the musicians are content, relaxed.  Their tempos rock; their music is stirring.  And there are usually some sterling additions, surprise guests who bring their horns and their talents.

Last Sunday, April 25, 2010, the Ear Regulars were Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, Harry Allen, and Neal Miner.  “Some band!” as Charlotte would say. 

They played a stellar set, which I captured in a post here, logically called THE FIRST SET (https://jazzlives.wordpress.com/2010/04/26/the-first-set-the-ear-inn-april-25-2010/).

Even better, some official Ear Pals came in: Andy Farber with his tenor sax; Danny Tobias and his cornet; Chris Flory (without a guitar but ready to borrow Matt’s), and Jim Whitney (ditto for Neal’s bass). 

In another world, the combination of two tenors, two trumpets, and a rhythm section might have stirred up competition.  But not here.  High notes and long solos aren’t the rule at these sessions; no, they are much more like a group of friends having a good time. 

The original quartet started off the second set with a leisurely saunter through a Ben Webster line (a composition twice removed?), DID YOU CALL HER TODAY?  In the interests of full disclosure, I must say that Ben is supposed to have substituted another verb in the title.  CALL is based on the chords of IN A MELLOTONE, which is based on ROSE ROOM.  The source of ROSE ROOM is yet untraced:

Beginning with Neal, here’s the second part:

Continuing the Ellington-out-of-Riff mood, Jon-Erik called for THE JEEP IS JUMPIN’, a Johnny Hodges version of I GOT RHYTHM — and invited Andy and Danny to the bandstand:

Here’s the rocking last chorus:

Jon-Erik passed the scepter to Danny, who called one of his favorite songs, THIS CAN’T BE LOVE:

Keeping the amorous subtext going, someone (was it Chris Flory, now ready to play Matt’s guitar?) suggested COMES LOVE, a favorite of Kenny Davern and Bob Wilber’s.  Jim Whitney had taken over on bass for Neal:

Here’s the conclusion:

Finally, the group (with Chris on guitar but Neal back on bass) romped through LINGER AWHILE, a song that makes me think of a Dicky Wells record with Lester Young, Bill Coleman, Ellis Larkins, Freddie Green, Al Hall, and Jo Jones on board:

I couldn’t linger for too long, but I can’t wait until next Sunday.  You come, too!

THE FIRST SET (THE EAR INN, April 25, 2010)

It was just another extraordinary Sunday night at The Ear Inn on 326 Spring Street.  The Ear Regulars — Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, Harry Allen, and Neal Miner — embodied all the jazz anyone could ever want in about an hour.  Bix and Louis floated by; King Oliver looked in the doorway; Don Byas and Count Basie sat a spell; Billie, Lester, and Ben made themselves to home. 

And in the corporeal audience, New York Times jazz critic Nate Chinen and his wife Ashley sat close to the band, Nate taking notes and feeling the rhythms, Ashley smiling. 

Many bands play ROYAL GARDEN BLUES fast and faster; the Ear Regulars looked back to the easy stroll of a Basie small group.  The first few seconds of the video are disconcertingly blurry, but they improve and the music is always in sharp focus:

SOME OF THESE DAYS is a finger-waggling song — “You know, you do that one more time and I’m gone!”  This band doesn’t have it in its collective heart to be threatening, but they certainly had fun with this melody:

Then it was time for a pretty song of romantic jubilation, at “rhythm ballad” tempo, I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME:

LIMEHOUSE BLUES is too interesting a song (especially with its dramatic verse) to be consigned to oblivion, so the Ear Regulars make a point of bringing it out regularly:

What would life be like without a beautiful ballad by Harry Allen?  Here. his choice was the ruminative, sad SEPTEMBER SONG:

Showing us once again that “the material is immaterial,” the Ear Regulars launched into one of the oldest “songs to blow on,” TEA FOR TWO, with delicious results:

The music was wonderful — you couldn’t miss it — but just as delightful was that Nate, bless his heart, wrote it up for the Times in a way that showed that it does mean a thing . . . and he felt the swing.  Here ‘t’is:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/arts/music/27kellso.html

THE NIGHTHAWKS ARE FLYING! (April 19, 2010)

Here are two wonderfully acrobatic performances by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks that I recorded at Sofia’s in the Hotel Edison one week ago.  My nomination for Olympian here is trombonist Jim Fryer, but he has stiff competition!  On that Monday night, the Hawks were Vince (vocal, bass sax, tuba, string bass); Kenny Salvo (banjo, guitar); Peter Yarin (piano); Arnie Kinsella (drums); Jon-Erik Kellso, Mike Ponella (trumpets); Dan Levinson, Dan Block, Mark Lopeman (reeds); Andy Stein (violin / baritone sax). 

The Nighthawks pay tribute to a 1930 West Coast band, Paul Howard’s Quality Serenaders, with a TIGER RAG variant called CHARLIE’S IDEA that originally featured Lawrence Brown and Lionel Hampton.  You’ll see what I mean about a leaping Jim Fryer as well as the dancers on the floor and Jon-Erik’s version of HOTTER THAN THAT, another ragged tiger:

And here’s a hot jam session on EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY, with a pair of slow-motion dancers and a positively demonic solo from Arnie Kinsella (and some calmer excursions from Dan Levinson, Andy Stein on the Stroh phono-violin, among others):

And this virtuosity takes place every Monday from 8-11 PM at 211 West 46th Street!

ONE-NIGHT STAND! DAN LEVINSON’S PALOMAR TRIO (April 29, 2010)

Benny Goodman was and is such a powerful influence on generations of musicians — especially clarinetists — that there are many players still living off of the King of Swing’s solos.

But Dan Levinson, who plays a number of reed instruments with great skill and understanding, is head and shoulders above the Kinglets. 

He can, upon request, rip off choruses that will make you think you are back at the Madhattan Room with your best girl or fellow in 1937; he can play a lovely ballad.  But he’s not a copyist or an imitator at heart.  Rather, he’s someone who understands the jazz and pop of that period (and of earlier eras) so that he can improvise on a song that didn’t exist in 1937 or he can make, say, CHINA BOY, sound new. 

One of Dan’s groups (he is a man of many affiliations and associations) is his Palomar Trio, which pays tribute to the California spot where Benny and his band caught fire in front of a large popular audience.  The other members are the swinging marvel Mark Shane on piano, and the ebullient Kevin Dorn on drums. 

They’ll be appearing at Shanghai Jazz in Madison, New Jersey, on Thursday, April 29, 2010 from 7:00 – 9:30 PM.  The club is at 24 Main Street.  For reservations or information (there’s no cover charge for the music, but there is a $15 food and drink minimum per person, and the menu is — as the name would suggest — Asian), call (973) 822-2899 0r or contact info@shanghaijazz.com.  The club’s website is www.shanghaijazz.com.  

I’ll be there!

ENCORE! THE CANGELOSI CARDS (2-27-10)

The performance the Cangelosi Cards put on, casually but with great skill, at the Shambhala Meditation Center, stands out as one of the great sustained musical evenings of my life. 

The Cards are delighting audiences in Shanghai, China, as I write this — and here, for those of us who miss them badly (and for those who have not yet experienced them) I present the four songs remaining from that evening.  I’ve been hoarding these videos, but it’s time to open the treasure chest one last time.  The Cards here are Tamar Korn, Jake Sanders, Gordon Au, Dennis Lichtman, Marcus Milius, and Debbie Kennedy:

They began the evening with the song I associate with the Boswell Sisters (and, later, with Marty Grosz) — another song that celebrates love and caffeine (or tea), a good combination — WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA:

Then, that sweet celebration of the love that one has found at last — EXACTLY LIKE YOU.  I read in Mezz Mezzrow’s brightly colored autobiography that the Harlem hep cats who knew the inside story called this tune ‘ZACKLY, which stuck in my mind:

Tamar sat one out — Jelly Roll Morton’s mournful, mysterious WININ’ BOY BLUES (or WINDING BALL BLUES, you pick):

And every jazz performance needs a Fats Waller song to be complete, so here’s the swing masterpiece HONEYSUCKLE ROSE, which we have to remember is more than just a well-known set of chord changes with an intriguing bridge: let’s hear it for Andy Razaf’s sly lyrics:

Jake assured me that the Cards will be coming back to us!

WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE A WALK?

Yes, it is a pretty Harry Warren song from 1931.  But I mean a real walk — a jazz walk. 

Paul Blair, someone who knows his jazz, has been editing the local jazz monthly called Hot House for the past six years.   And he’s also been conducting walking tours through various New York neighborhoods.   This home-grown enterprise – operating under the name SwingStreets (www.SwingStreets.com) – began with a focus on historic local jazz addresses:  musicians’ homes and hangouts, clubs past and present.  Paul’s led outings in Midtown, Greenwich Village, the East Village, Bed-Stuy and Fort Greene-Clinton Hill. 

Lately, he’s broadened his approach and now also leads folks with absolutely no interest in jazz through particularly distinctive Outer Borough neighborhoods they’d be unlikely to explore on their own.  Still, his most popular tour remains the one covering Harlem. 
 
A typical tour (one Paul conducted two weeks ago) went like this: “We begin at 11:30 AM in front of 3940 Broadway (a prominently numbered building situated on the NE corner of Broadway and 165th St.) and, after strolling at a fairly leisurely pace, end up at the corner of Lenox Ave. and W. 125th St., near Sylvia’s Restaurant.   I’m always willing to take people further, if they wish, to see Minton’s, down on W. 118th St, near where Otto Hardwicke and Benny Carter once lived.   For those arriving from downtown for a tour, I always suggest taking a subway (either the A or the 1) to the 168th St. station, then walking three short blocks south to our meeting point.  People purchase tickets for those Harlem tours online through my website.  And many of my fellow strollers have surnames suggesting that they’re overseas visitors to the city.”

It costs $25 for two hours, and each participant takes home a free jazz CD. 

I want to see where Otto Hardwicke lived.  Don’t you?

BUZZY DROOTIN, TWICE

First, a story from the man I call The Swing Explorer — the magnificent saxophonist Joel Press:

Buzzy Drootin spent his final decades in the Boston area, initially, with brother Al’s excellent Dixie band at the Scotch and Sirloin (Al rescued him from a day gig at Manny’s Music Store in New York City), and later on the Cape and at Sandy’s Jazz Revival in Beverly, Massachusetts.

When Sandy’s reopened in the Eighties, Bob Wilber led a band which included guitarist Gray Sargent, trumpeters Jeff Stout and Dave Whitney, trombonist Phil Wilson, tenor saxophonists Art Bartol and myself.  Gray, Jeff, and I played in Buzzy’s quintet throughout the following  summer.

Buzzy retained his love for the music and his sense of humor throughout his final years. When a member of the audience requested a Latin number, Buzzy replied, “We only play American music.”

Second, a video preserved for us by archivist and musician Bob Erwig, of a Wild Bill Davison group performing in Sweden in 1984:

The other musicians are trombonist Bill Allred, clarinetist Chuck Hedges, pianist Bob Pilsbury, and bassist Jack Lesberg.  Listen to Buzzy behind the first choruses of Bill and Wild Bill, and his work in the final chorus.  You can’t hear Buzzy’s trademark growl-roar as well as you should, but the joy on his face is vivid, his energy is audible, and his pulse is wonderful.

ERNIE KRIVDA KNOWS

It’s possible that some readers have never heard of Cleveland-born saxophonist Ernie Krivda, now 65.  I’d like to change that, for I have been impressed by his work in various contexts for some time.  And musicians in the know (among them Quincy Jones and Joe Lovano) have always admired Ernie as a person and a player. 

Thanks to Bob Rusch, I first heard Ernie on a magical tribute to Stan Getz, where Ernie had assembled a large ensemble, including forty strings. to play Eddie Sauter’s film music for FOCUS and then, taking Getz as his inspiration but not copying him, had soared over that background.  The disc, “Ernie Krivda: Focus on Stan Getz: Live at Severance Hall,” (Cadence Jazz 1165)  remains one of my favorites — tumultuous, tender, sweet, ferocious — and I am not exaggerating when I say that I bought a copy of Getz’s FOCUS and preferred Ernie’s version.  (Heresy, I know, but true.)  Here’s some first-hand (or first-heard evidence of what Ernie does so magnificently: his 1993 duo exploration of LOVE WALKED IN with pianist Bill Dobbins):

Although Ernie clearly has a whole range of saxophone influences in his mind, from early Hawkins and Young onwards to Rollins, he is an individualist with his own sound and approach.  He’s not one of those musicians who has only two approaches: one, the respectful first chorus of a ballad; two, the abrupt deconstruction of the melody and harmony into abstract fragments.  Krivda, as you can hear in LOVE WALKED IN, honors George Gershwin’s melody, but is also making the terrain his own, gently pulling and tugging at the music’s familiar contours, experimenting with timbre, harmony, rhythmic alterations.  His playing is hard to categorize (for those who need categories), but I hear the sound of a man thinking, feeling, and exploring. 

Since this blog is often devoted to musicians who are no longer with us, I am pleased to be able to write about one who is alive and inventive.  Ernie had three new CDs: a solo saxophone effort, “November Man,”a second, “The Art of the Trio,” and a third (in process), “Ernie Krivda and The Detroit Connection,” featuring Dominick Farinacci and Sean Jones.  Krivda has also received the nationally recognized Cleveland Arts Prize for career achievement and a major fellowship acknowledging him as a player and composer.  His next album with The Detroit Connection is a tribute to the music of John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, and Sonny Rollins.  The Detroit Connection band includes 78-year-old pianist Claude Black, Marion Hayden on bass (the matriarch of the Detroit jazz world), and Paul Gonsalves’ son Renell Gonsalves on drums.  It will be Ernie’s 30th album.

To learn more about Ernie, visit http://www.erniekrivda.com/index.php.. One of the categories I invented for this blog, early on, is “Pay Attention!” — profoundly relevant to the man and the music I’ve been describing here.

FAVORABLE JAZZ OMENS (April 2010)

Omens aren’t always ominous.  And while I wouldn’t see a groundswell of interest in jazz in these two recent sightings, they are cheering little incidents.

Around the corner from the Beloved’s digs, a new restaurant opened, an odd pairing, offering gourmet coffees, Shanghai dumplings, and Asian noodle dishes.  The food isn’t bad, but what caught me even before our orders came was the musical soundtrack — jazz performances I couldn’t recognize in a Fifties-plus style.  What did they sound like?  A tenor sax / piano duet on I’LL NEVER BE THE SAME; a woman singing about Jack and Jill and wishing that she and her love were young again; a piano trio trotting through S’WONDERFUL with an arco bass solo — the players sounded vaguely like Red Garland and Paul Chambers; KANSAS CITY sung by a man in front of a small group whose sound mixed Sixties Ellington with a Hammond organ. 

I pride myself on being able to recognize the great players and soloists of the jazz I appreciate, and midway through the first number (whose participants had clearly listened to Ben Webster and Hank Jones without being Ben or Hank) I asked my amiable waiter, “Who picks out the music?” wanting to extend my compliments to the hip person in charge.  He didn’t know, but went and asked.  When he returned, the answer was that the restaurant paid for a service (was its name DBX?) that selected the music.  I said, “I guess it’s called RESTAURANT JAZZ?” and he grinned.  The music, as is always the case in restaurants, got a bit too loud and its beat too urgent, but it was well-played, even if I wondered if capable musicians had been brought into the studio to deliver music that Sounds Like Famous People.  Derivative isn’t always a bad thing: it depends on what the source is.

Last night, I was on a subway platform in downtown New York City, waiting for the train.  Two neatly-dressed men were having an energetic conversation.  Or, to be accurate, one man was eagerly talking to the other, who kept smiling and nodding his head.  I couldn’t help but hear — in bits and pieces — what they were talking about.  I should confess that I edged nearer because I kept hearing familiar names: “Wynton” and “Roy Hargrove,” and the enthusiastic speaker kept miming trumpet playing by leaning back, raising his hands at a slight angle, and fluttering his fingers rapidly to simulate the pressing of valves.  (Those who know will recognize “air trumpet,” simulated by people who don’t play it.)  Where the speaker had been, I don’t know, but he was narrating his experience of witnessing a public trumpet battle where, according to him, Wynton had carved Roy a dozen different ways before turning him loose.  I heard, “And Wynton said, ‘I don’t want to leave your blood all over the stage,'” which was followed by gusts of laughter. 

The train came along before I could intrude myself into the conversation and advertise this blog, but that was fine.  I had the sense that I had been transported, for two minutes, to a universe full of wondrous jazz possibilities — where listeners simply had to tell their friends about the jam session they’d been to, and which trumpet player triumphed.  Someone out there is listening and loving the sounds!

BLISS IN THE NIGHT (APRIL 18, 2010)

You know how “the jam session” is handled in films of a certain vintage.  Magically, the cameras take us to a clearly fictive basement club where Art Tatum is playing.  He plays for a few bars, then the door opens and a whole troop of musicians who apparently have unpacked their horns outside on the sidewalk burst in, exchange a few words of greeting, and a whirlwind jam session begins, only to end in two or three minutes.  (The 1947 THE FABULOUS DORSEYS.)

Or there’s the cutting contest between trumpet players, perhaps the Young Cub and the Old Lion, aiming their horns at each other, playing higher and louder.  (The scene here is between Louis and “Red Nichols,” played by Danny Kaye in 1959 THE FIVE PENNIES, is a most benign example, and Louis gets to make some good, albeit scripted jokes.)

But real jam sessions, especially the magical ones that happen during the second set at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street in New York City) have little to do with either fantasy.  For one thing, they are a collection of friends.  In the videos below the two trumpeters (or, to be precise, the trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso and the cornetist Marc Caparone) or the two guitarists (Matt Munisteri on electric and Julian Lage on acoustic) and the reed players (Dan Block on clarinet, Andy Farber on tenor saxophone, Nick Hempton on alto) have no aggression in their souls.  No one seeks to play higher, faster, louder.  And those single men — Harvey Tibbs on trombone and Jon Burr on bass — don’t pick fights with anyone.  It’s all congenial. 

Imagined dialogue, overheard in part: “What would you like to play?”  “RITE OF SPRING?”  “Sure.  How many flats?  Your tempo . . . ”  And off they go.  There’s no JATP crowd-pleasing (or crowd-baiting); the music just grows.  The musicians smile at each other.  They listen closely, even if the crowd sometimes doesn’t. 

The second set of Sunday, April 18, 2010, began with a swinging version of AVALON that harked back to the Benny Goodman Quartet — in arrangement only, since the Ear Regulars had cleverly decided that they didn’t need a vibraphone, piano, or drum kit.  But hear how nimbly they negotiate the closing chorus — “they” being Jon-Erik, Harvey, Matt, Jon, and guest Julian Lage, playing somewhere over my left shoulder:

Then Jon-Erik called up the Pride of Paso Robles, California — someone I would give every honor I could — the noble cornetist Marc Caparone, here on a week’s visit to New York City.  Marc should be better known here: he is a plain-spoken but subtle player who favors such delightful left-handers as Henry “Red” Allen and Jim Goodwin.  In his approach, ferocity and delicacy are pals.  Here, he makes the quintet of AVALON a sextet for a lively ONE HOUR, a performance that would have pleased the very finicky Ruby Braff.  His wife, the wonderful singer Dawn Lambeth, watched Marc happily (I was grinning widely from behind my video camera, I assure you):

Each selection seemed to add a new player: next up was the gifted Dan Block, who joined in for a strolling WHISPERING, while Jon-Erik caught his breath:

Tenorist Andy Farber joined in (his back is to the camera, but I didn’t take it personally) for PERDIDO, a song with a historically-established countermelody.  Tizol’s line lends itself to long performances, and this one needed two sections to be visible on YouTube.  What passes for a bandstand at The Ear Inn (flat on the floor, really a space cleared among the diners) was too small for the musicians, so Jon-Erik was now playing somewhat over my right shoulder, with Marc employing a thoroughly Ellingtonian plunger mute. 

Some viewers will be disturbed by the intrusive white piece of paper at the lower right: it is the banner reading TIPS that lets people know what the jar was for.  I preferred to keep on filming rather than miss a note by indulging in feng shui): 

And the conclusion:

To finish, something melodic, a long romp on THREE LITTLE WORDS.  The common language is so well established here that all Jon-Erik had to do was to say to the horns, “A little Lester,” and everyone fell into the riff taken from the 1943 Kansas City Six date for Commodore — you can’t miss it.  And, in true Hollywood fashion, the Australian Nick Hempton appeared, apparently from nowhere, to offer his singular evocation of right-this-minute mixed with 1940 Charlie Parker:

The concluding moments:

I know that the “three little words” of the title are “I love you” — but certainly “The Ear Inn” is a close second.  If you know of another place where such marvels happen on a weekly basis, do write in!

MISS BARBARA LEA

April 10 was Barbara Lea’s eighty-first birthday.  I am quite late, but hope that no one minds my tardiness. 

She is deeply respected by those who know, although by my reckoning there could be many more people aware of her special approach.  Barbara has always worked wonderfully with jazz performers of a subtle kind — she is not someone shouting over a full-tilt ensemble . . . but like her idols Mildred Bailey and Lee Wiley, she is a singer comfortable with a few horns threading through her vocal and a supportive rhythm section. 

In some ways, she is the musical equivalent to Ruby Braff, somewhat of a delicious anachronism, making her peaceful way amidst the noise of the last fifty years.  The recordings I most treasure of Barbara’s find her alongside players who summon up great emotional force without ever raising their voices: Johnny Windhurst (her Bobby Hackett), Dick Sudhalter, and Vic Dickenson at the very end of his recording career. 

Barbara’s recording career began with a two-song session for Graham Prince’s Cadillac label in 1954 (those days of transition where a new single was issued both on 45 and 78): a pop trifle called I’LL BET YOU A KISS backed with Barbara’s choice, ANYPLACE I HANG MY HAT IS HOME.  The band?  Amateurs . . . Pee Wee Erwin, Cutty Cutshall, Bill Pemberton, George Wettling, and Bill Austin.  Here’s a photograph from that session:

Here’s Barbara with an unknown fan, some hanger-on:

At the Village Vanguard, 1956:

With the noted cellist Morey Amsterdam:

And in the present day, with her dear friend Jeanie Wilson, both in high style:

It’s sad to report that Barbara no longer sings, owing to Alzheimer’s disease.  But she enjoys listening to music and is strong in body — and much loved.  We have the music she made — a substantial legacy.

WHAT, NO CAKE? (April 22, 2010)

There are Underrated Musicians, Musicians Deserving Wider Recognition, Neglected Musicians, and Ignored Musicians.

Here’s a picture of a very fine jazz individualist, born one hundred years ago today.  How many people will recognize him?

“That’s BUZZY DROOTIN!” I hear some of my readers saying.  Right you are. 

Buzzy played most often with Eddie Condon’s bands — in the club and on records — but you can also hear him with Ruby Braff, George Wein’s Newport All-Stars, Max Kaminsky, Sidney Bechet, Jack Teagarden, Vic Dickenson, Jimmy McPartland, Ralph Sutton, Wild Bill Davison, Herman Autrey, Herb Hall, Claude Hopkins, Benny Morton, Pee Wee Russell, and family members Al and Sonny Drootin. 

I was lucky enough to see him at close — sometimes deafening range — in 1972, at the Sunday afternoon jam sessions run by Red Balaban at Your Father’s Mustache.  We sat right up in front of the bandstand, so Buzzy and his drums were about ten feet away, and his characteristic snare and ride-cymbal work drove the band.  His playing wasn’t fussy; he didn’t make aural jokes as did Jo Jones — but his tempos never faltered, and he had immense energy.  His sound was entirely his own, and I can still hear and see in my mind’s eye the simultaneous open-mouthed sounds (somewhere between a roar and a growl) that he made in the last sixteen bars of his solo. 

His intensity was remarkable: I never saw George Wettling or Dave Tough in the flesh, but Buzzy had some of that same “I don’t care!” energy and ferocity.  Yet who remembers him today? 

Kevin Dorn met Buzzy and celebrates him in his own playing, of course. 

I would like to take credit for remembering his birthday, his centenary, but I have to give credit to Confetta Ras and her magnificent ON THIS DAY IN JAZZ AGE MUSIC website (one of the most generous cornucopias I’ve ever seen) for reminding us all of what April 22 is all about (http://jazzagemusic.blogspot.com/). 

P.S.  I know I have among my readers not only people who’ve heard Buzzy but also those rare folks who have played alongside him.  Comments and celebrations, anyone?

“SWEET MAN”: BOB PORTER REMEMBERS DICK KATZ

I know Bob Porter as a jazz scholar, record producer, radio broadcaster — and fine writer.  Here’s his recent piece on the much-missed Dick Katz, reprinted with permission from Bob’s website, where you’ll find many rare records for sale in his auctions, “JAZZ ETC.” (http://www.jazzetc.net):

For much of the 1980s, I was a Governor of the New York NARAS chapter. One of the fringe benefits of such a position was the opportunity to hang out with and make friends with fellow Govs, in this case musicians such as Pepper Adams, Mel Lewis, Helen Merrill, Gerry Mulligan and Dick Katz. George Simon and Dan Morgenstern were also involved so there was a lot of jazz knowledge on our panel.

Together we schemed to get as much recognition as possible for jazz. One year we even managed to get Pepper, who was nominated for a Grammy, to appear on the TV show! On the other hand, we worked, to no avail, to get some relief for Woody Herman from his oppressive tax burden. I got a chance to do a record with Pepper and another with Katz, records that probably would not have been made were it not for the monthly NARAS Governors meetings.

The Pepper Adams album was entitled”Urban Dreams” and featured Jimmy Rowles on piano. It was the only time I ever worked with Rowles but I managed to pick up two or three great stories from him and I’m still living off those stories after all these years. When Pepper discovered that the budget was all inclusive and that what was left, after all the other costs were covered, went to him, he knocked that album out in about two and a half hours!

The Katz album was one of three I did for Jim Neumann and his Beehive label. Neumann was one of great LP collectors of the twentieth century (his collection was recently donated to Oberlin). A successful businessman, Jim always wanted to run things his way and the record business was a challenge. It wasn’t easy for him to run his business in Chicago and make records in New York. I suggested Junior Mance to him, knowing that Neumann was ready to record almost any good jazz player with Windy City roots. We did a mostly quartet date with Junior’s working trio and David Newman added. In another conversation with Jim, I suggested Dick Katz.

Through our monthly meetings and the conversations that ensued, I found Katz to be extremely well versed on pianists. He knew Teddy Wilson, his original inspiration, but he knew Monk’s music far better than most. He had a slim discography but one that had quality as its recurring theme. Every time I heard him play, I was impressed, thinking that lots of people were sleeping on his talent. And he wrote about jazz with authority. Add to all that was the fact that he was truly a caring human being, one sweet man.

The Dick Katz album was part trio, part quintet. It was taped in May of 1984 with Jimmy Knepper and Frank Wess as our horns. Marc Johnson and Al Harewood provided the rhythm. Dick prepared well in advance of the session. “A Few Bars For Basie”, written to honor the recent passing of Count Basie, was the only tune featuring Wess on tenor, everything else featured his flute. I remember thinking at the end of the date that Katz was very well represented on the album. His choice of material was exemplary, his trio playing elegant and he seemed to get everything possible from the quintet. The album was titled, “In High Profile” (Bee Hive 7016). The album was issued on LP but when I asked about CD, Neumann showed no enthusiasm.

After the expiration of our NARAS Governor terms, I would encounter Dick Katz occasionally, playing with Roy Eldridge , in a meeting of some sort, once at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The conversations were always brief but always contained a reference to “In High Profile” and the question of when it might be issued on CD. To me, he referred to the album as his personal favorite.

The last time I saw him, perhaps five years ago, a different attitude showed up. Beehive had been gone for a long time and the only music from the label that had appeared on CD was the Johnny Hartman material used on ‘The Bridges of Madison County” soundtrack. Neumann still held his masters but wasn’t doing any deals to get the music to CD. Katz said to me, “I never should have made that album for Beehive.”

For many years, I held to the belief that because the record industry had supplied much of my living for a long time that I should abide by their rules. Thus, I had resisted burning vinyl to CD-thinking that in time, the labels would get around to what I wanted. Well some of them, namely Beehive, never got around to it. When Dick Katz died in November last year, there were obituaries that discussed his career in considerable detail. Not once was “In High Profile” mentioned. Because it wasn’t on CD, it didn’t exist.

Well it exists on CD in my collection now. I burned it and sent a check to The Jazz Foundation of America in his memory. Dick Katz, writer, teacher, pianist, friend of mine. One sweet man.

SWING IS HERE (at THE EAR): April 18, 2010

Eddie Condon told the story of how, when you did or said something that Fats Waller approved of, his response was “Fine!  Wonderful!  Perfect!” 

That’s how I felt last Sunday night at The Ear Inn. 

And since it would be greedy of me to keep all that pleasure for myself, here are three performances from the first set. 

The Ear Regulars, that Sunday,  were co-founders Jon-Erik Kellso and Matt Munisteri, with charter members Harvey Tibbs, trombone; Jon Burr, bass. 

Let’s start off at the top — a grieving, steady exploration of Ellington’s SOLITUDE, where Jon-Erik’s feelings are so intense that they need to be harnessed inside a plunger mute:

Then, a romp on ORIGINAL DIXIELAND ONE-STEP, full of surprising twists and turns:

And a song that only The Ear Regulars play (even though Louis did it beautifully in 1929), DALLAS BLUES:

Fats would be as happy as I was.  And this was only the beginning of a glorious night in jazz.  More to come!

HOW I WOULD SPEND MY SUMMER VACATION . . .

If I had what W.C. Fields used to call “the spondulics,” mountains of them, (“bucks,” for the uninitiated), I’d be following these bands around Europe.  I especially pant for the Schloss Elmau Swing Festival, which collects some of the finest musicians I’ve ever seen, many of them who have not made many American tours.  To see the gorgeous hotel, click here:

SCHLOSS ELMAU Swing Festival (“The Musicians’ Party”)

 Musical director: BERND LHOTZKY  

 May 27th – June 4th, 2010

Shaunette Hildabrand (voc), Scott Hamilton (ts), George Washingmachine (vio/voc), Duke Heitger (tp), Menno Daams (tp), Chris Hopkins (p/as), Frank Roberscheuten (cl/sax), John Allred (tb), Howard Alden (g), Bernd Lhotzky (p), Joel Forbes (b), Eddie Metz (dm), Michael Keul (dm).

 27.05.10: “The Grand Opening” | 28.05.10: “Moon Songs” | 29.05.10: “Dancing on the Ceiling – A Caribbean Affair” | 30.05.10: “George Gershwin Night” | 31.05.10: “Scott Hamilton” | 01.06.10: “The Various Talents of Mr. Daams” | 02.06.10: “Frank Roberscheuten’s Hiptett” | 03.06.10: “Metzo Forte” | 04.06.10: “Vive Le Hot Club De France – A Joyful Celebration of Django Reinhardt’s 100st Birthday” |

Information and booking: Schloss Elmau, 82493 Elmau / Bavaria (Germany), Tel.: D – 08823 / 18-0.  http://www.schloss-elmau.de

Special swing festival package – 7 nights // Special short stay saver – 5 nights

ECHOES OF SWING

Colin Dawson, Chris Hopkins, Bernd Lhotzky, Oliver Mewes  >4 Jokers in the Pack – and more!<

Their recent album was awarded the “Grand Prix du Disque de Jazz” du Hot Club de France

19.04.10 (20:30), NL-5691 Son, De Zwaan, NL – 0492 / 599890  //  20.04.10 (19:30), D-51399 Burscheid, Kulturscheune Dierath, D – 02174 / 81 47  // 21.04.10 (19:30), D-46236 Bottrop, Kammermusiksaal, D – 02041 / 3 40 18  // 22.04.10 (20:00), D-33102 Paderborn, Kulturwerkstatt, D – 05251 / 3 17 85 //  23.04.10 (20:30), B-4800 Verviers, Königl. Stadttheater, B – 087 / 64 72 67  //  24.04.10 (20:00), D-48249 Dülmen, Aula des Cl.-Brentano-Gymnasiums, D – 02594 / 12400  //  25.04.10 (11:00), D-42699 Solingen, Rheinisches Industriemuseum, D – 0212 / 23 24 1-12  //  26.04.10 (20:00), D-90523 Wendelstein, Jegelscheune, D – 09129 / 90 97 87  //  27.04.10 (19:30), D-97877 Wertheim, Arkadensaal im Rathaus, D – 09342 / 219 11  //  08.05.10 (19:30), D-86911 Dießen/Ammersee, Theatersaal im Augustinum, D – 08807 / 70115  //  09.05.10 (20:00), D-85591 Vaterstetten, Rathaus, D – 089 / 90 90 11 86  //  26.05.10 (20:00), A-6840 Götzis (Voralberg), Kulturbühne Ambach, A – 05523 / 54949  //  18.06.10, D-45127 Essen, Kulturpfadfest, Lichtburg, D – 0201 / 88 45045  //  27.06.10, D-82493 Elmau, Schloss Elmau, D – 08823 / 18-0  //  28.06.10, D-82493 Elmau, Schloss Elmau, D – 08823 / 18-029.06.10, D-82493 Elmau, Schloss Elmau, D – 08823 / 18-0  //  30.06.10, D-82493 Elmau, Schloss Elmau, D – 08823 / 18-0  //  08.08.10 (11:00), D-65343 Eltville am Rhein, Schloss Reinhartshausen, D – 01805 / 74 34  //  30.09.10 (20:30), D-86156 Augsburg, Spectrum Club, D – 0821 / 257 28-28  //  01.10.10 (20:00), D-84508 Burgkirchen, Bürgerzentrum, D – 08679 / 91503-210  //  14.10.10 (19:30), D-81375 München, Theatersaal im Augustinum, D – 089 / 1893799-24  //  15.10.10 (20:00), D-82380 Peißenberg, Tiefstollenhalle, D – 08803 / 63 23 03  //  16.10.10 (20:00), D-82229 Seefeld, Schloss Seefeld, D – 08152 / 98 08 97  //  29.10.10 (20:00), D-53925 Kall, Kulturraum der KEV, D – 02441 / 82300  //  30.10.10 (20:30), D-55218 Ingelheim am Rhein, Weiterbildungszentrum, D – 06132 / 89 71 24  //  04.11.10 (20:00), D-49716 Meppen, Theater im Windthorst-Gymnasium, D – 05931 / 15 33 78  //  05.11.10 (20:30), D-26871 Papenburg, Forum Alte Werft, D – 04961 / 82337  //  06.11.10 (20:00), D-24306 Plön, Aula am Schiffsthal, D – 04522 / 8187  //  04.12.10 (20:30), D-63322 Rödermark, Jazzclub Rödermark, D – 06074 / 93200  //  06.12.10 (20:00), D-47051 Duisburg, Theater ‘Die Säule’, D – 0203 / 20125  //   

David Lukács – Menno Daams Orchestra feat. Frank Roberscheuten, Chris Hopkins a.o.

28.04.10 (20:00), NL-1018 Amsterdam, Hermitage Amsterdam, NL – 020 / 530 87 51

The THREE TENORS OF SWING feat. Antti Sarpila, Frank Roberscheuten, Engelbert Wrobel   

24.04.10 (14:00), NL-4201 Gorinchem, Jazzfestival, NL – 0183 / 62 52 58  //  25.04.10 (18:00), D-53111 Bonn, Collegium Leoninum, D – 0228 / 94 92 6-0  //  26.11.10 (20:30), D-73257 Köngen, Schloss Köngen, D – 07024 / 86730  // 

INTERNATIONAL STRIDE PIANO SUMMIT  >virtuoso classic jazz performed on two grand pianos<   

feat. Chris Hopkins, Louis Mazetier, Bernd Lhotzky & Paolo Alderighi:

10.06.10 (20:00), D-59439 Holzwickede, Wasserburg Haus Opherdicke, D – 02303 / 27 25 41   

feat. Bernd Lhotzky, Paolo Alderighi, Ehud Asherie, Chris Hopkins:

21.10.10 (20:00), D-85045 Ingolstadt, Audi Forum, D – 08431 / 4 12 33

feat. Ehud Asherie, Bernd Lhotzky, Rossano Sportiello, Chris Hopkins, Louis Mazetier, Stephanie Trick & Nicki Parrott (bass):

23.10.10 (19:00), CH-5623 Boswil (Zürich), Alte Kirche, CH – 056 / 634 31 32

24.10.10 (17:00), CH-5623 Boswil (Zürich), Alte Kirche, CH – 056 / 634 31 32

Engelbert Wrobel’s Swing Society feat. Chris Hopkins, Rolf Marx, Henning Gailing, Oliver Mewes   

04.07.10 (11:30), D-45964 Gladbeck, Mathias-Jakobs-Stadthalle, D – 02043 / 2 26 74

25.07.10 (11:00), D-53113 Bonn, Bundeskunsthalle, D – 0228 / 66 88-242

21.09.10 (20:00), D-59348 Lüdinghausen, Burg Lüdinghausen, D – 02591 / 926 176

26.09.10 (11:30), D-40764 Langenfeld (Rheinland), Stadthalle Langenfeld, D – 02173 / 794 926

05.10.10 (19:30), D-58511 Lüdenscheid, Kulturhaus Lüdenscheid, D – 02351 / 171 299

07.11.10 (19:00), D-51379 Leverkusen, Scala, D – 02171 / 76 79 59

JAZZIN’ JULY WORKHOP July 5th – 11th, 2010

NL-5595 LEENDE (Nähe Eindhoven), Golden Tulip Jagershorst, Valkenswaardweg 44

Teachers: Shaunette Hildabrand (vocal), Colin Dawson (trumpet), Dan Barrett (trombone), Frank Roberscheuten (saxophone/clarinet), Engelbert Wrobel (clarinet/saxophone), Chris Hopkins (piano/saxophone), Bernd Lhotzky (piano), Howard Alden (guitar/banjo), Karel Algoed (bass), Oliver Mewes (drums).

Information & Booking: +32-11-515326 (Frank Roberscheuten, director)   

More Info: http://www.swingcats.nl/workshop2010

Flyer-Download: JazzinJulyWorkshop2010

Chris Hopkins meets his Piano Friends: Louis Mazetier (Paris)

>virtuoso classic jazz performed on two grand pianos<

16.09.10 (19:00), D-53229 Bonn, Klavierhaus Klavins, D – 0228 / 94 92 6-0

17.09.10 (19:30), D-44869 Bochum, Kunstwerkstatt am Hellweg, D – 01805 / 00 18 12  (14 Ct./Min.)

18.09.10 (20:00), D-58332 Schwelm, Kulturfabrik Ibach-Haus, D – 02336 / 990 540

19.09.10 (16:00), D-44869 Bochum, Kunstwerkstatt am Hellweg, D – 01805 / 00 18 12  (14 Ct./Min.)

For more Information please  visit these websites.

info@hopkins.de

http://www.hopkins.de

info@EchoesOfSwing.com

http://www.EchoesOfSwing.com

HOLA, LOUIS!

The song remains the same, but the labels become multi-lingual.  No harm done!

y mas . . . .

y mas . . . .

Adios, amigos!

GET ‘EM WHILE THEY’RE HOT! (NOW!)

I’m very excited about some wonderful jazz in New York City tomorrow, Sunday, April 17, 2010, and Monday, April 18, 2010.

My friends Dawn Lambeth (a delightful sweet-hot singer) and her husband Marc Caparone (a trumpeter who understands Louis, Red Allen, and Jim Goodwin) have come to New York City for a brief visit . . . and we’ve worked out some opportunities to spread bicoastal joy.  SITTING IN is very much on the menu!

On Sunday, we’ll be making our way down to Fat Cat to visit with pianist Ehud Asherie and his little group — 75 Christopher Street.  The session begins at 6 PM.

We’ll race down to The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street) to hear the Ear Regulars: Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, Harvey Tibbs, and Jon Burr: an 8 PM start. 

Then, we’ll rest.

On Monday, Dawn, Marc, the Beloved, and I will head to Sofia’s in the Hotel Edison (221 West 46th Street) to hear Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, again at 8 PM.

Everyone’s prepared.  I’ve charged three batteries for my video camera.  Dawn has brought a thermos of hot tea and honey all the way from California, and Marc is so well-stocked with valve oil that he could have slid past the TSA inspectors, should he have chosen to do so.

I know this post is short notice for some of my readers, and some of you won’t be able to make it here in time — don’t fret, I’ll record what I can and share it with you — but it would be nice for those of you in the New York City area to come witness another delightful example of West Meets East.

Here’s Dawn on her April 2009 New York visit — sweetly singing THEM THERE EYES with the very same Nighthawks:

And Marc and Dawn, swinging out with the New El Dorado Jazz Band in February of this year (that’s Clint Baker, clarinet; Hal Smith, washboard; Howard Miyata*, trombone; Carl Sonny Leyland, piano; Katie Cavera, banjo; Georgia Korba, bass):

And, to quote Clarence Williams, “Won’t you come over and say hello?”

*Howard Miyata is Gordon Au’s “Uncle Howie,” bless him.

NOVEMBER 12, 1943 AND MORE

eBay, so irresistible:

From November 12, 1943: Cab Calloway, Quentin Jackson, Illinois Jacquet, Hilton Jefferson, Jonah Jones, Shad Collins, and two signatures I can’t figure out.  I’d buy it for Shad, Quentin, and Hilton:

And there’s an autograph from that Parker fellow — called “Bird.”  Heard of him?

Finally, the underrated but Hot trumpeter Sidney DeParis — signing his portrait on the cover of Art Hodes’s JAZZ RECORD magazine:

Serious temptation lurks in eBay at the intersection of “Entertainment Memorabilia” and “Jazz.”

GEORGE WETTLING’S RIGHTEOUS RAGE

The man in the picture looks serious, intent, but hardly dangerous.  He is George Wettling — known for his wonderful drumming with Eddie Condon, Max Kaminsky, Jimmy McPartland, Artie Shaw, Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, Bud Freeman, Ruby Braff, Pee Wee Russell, Art Hodes, and many others. 

In my recent, quite amiable discussion of Moldy Figs and Mossy Stones with Nate Chinen, one of my friends, drummer Mike Burgevin, brought up a piece of jazz legend: he had read somewhere that “George Wettling flattened a critic.”

Inquiring minds want to know, of course, and so Stompy Jones (my Canadian ally) asked me what I knew about this incident.  I knew nothing, but suggested that the critic in question might have been Leonard Feather, who expended a great deal of energy in the Forties making fun of the Condon bands — so much so that Condon dedicated a mocking title to him, and later on Muggsy Spanier made a record called FEATHER BRAIN. 

I inquired of fellow scholars and drummers Hal Smith and Kevin Dorn, but no one seems to have particular details of this incident.  And the less I know about it, the more it piques my interest.  Let us assume that it actually happened, of course.  Did Wettling read something in DOWN BEAT, say, by Mike Levin, the critic who compared Lester Young’s tone to cardboard, meet him on the street, swing once, connect, and leave Levin horizontal?  Or was it a critic who actually came to hear Wettling in person who may have told George that his style of drumming was old-fashioned.  “Stop playing that bass drum.  Go take some lessons from Tiny Kahn or Max Roach.”  BOOM!

Those with information are invited and encouraged to write in; aspiring playwrights are also encouraged to submit five-minute playlets on the theme. 

And then, when we’ve collectively solved this mystery, perhaps someone can explain the astonishing and continuing interest in photographs of Billie Holiday’s “man,” Louis McKay.  Hundreds of people seem to be searching for Mr. McKay.  With all due respect, why?

FOR LOUIS: BIRDLAND, April 14, 2010

It’s very simple.  For just about ten years, David Ostwald (tubaist-raconteur) has organized regular Wednesday jazz sessions at Birdland in midtown Manhattan, getting congenial friends together to honor Louis Armstrong.  Depending on the phase of the moon, the band is called either the GULLY LOW JAZZ BAND or the LOUIS ARMSTRONG CENTENNIAL BAND.  Names don’t matter much — GULLY LOW BLUES was one of Louis’s most stirring recordings of 1927, and the CENTENNIAL BAND plays music associated with The Master.

David could not be there this night — April 14, 2010 — and it took two players to replace him.  One was Vince Giordano, singing, announcing tunes, and playing banjo, keeping the rhythm riding.  Bass chores were handled nimbly by Brian Nalepka, who slapped away in fine style and also sang on SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET.  That hero of the snare drum, Marion Felder, kept a swinging pulse without raising his volume.  In the front line, a newcomer to Birdland (but not to us), clarinetist Dennis Lichtman wove beautiful curlicues around the melody, making every note count.  Dion Tucker, sometimes gruff, sometimes tender, shone in solo and in ensemble.  And Gordon Au constructed lovely solos whether the band was lamenting or shouting. 

(I only found out something about Gordon’s heroic ancestry — and that’s because the Beloved asked the right question: did you know that his “Uncle Howie” is the extraordinary trumpet / tuba / trombone / vocalist Howard Miyata, with the High Sierra Jazz Band and the New El Dorado Jazz Band?  Gordon didn’t take lessons from his uncle, but Howard did give his young nephew a cornet . . . from which marvels have come.)

The band began, as it usually does, with WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH that segues into INDIANA, the way Louis used to begin his concerts with the All-Stars:

Then Vince called the joyous Fats Waller tune, I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY (something Louis sang and played so beautifully in the Fifties).  And Vince sang, exuberantly:

ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET, a classic at a number of tempos, was Brian Nalepka’s choice for a vocal feature:

(For his feature, Dion Tucker did a sorrowing I SURRENDER, DEAR, but I had technical problems with the video — the sweet-natured waitperson came over in the middle of it to ask us culinary questions.  Sorry, Dion!)

Returning to the Land of Waller, Vince called for a brisk AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ — at a tempo that reminded him of the 1929 version that Bill Robinson recorded with a small Ellington contingent:

Dennis Lichtman showed his fluid swing on BLUE SKIES (fitting because Louis loved Irving Berlin’s melodies and, I think, recorded this one circa 1943 with his big band):

An audience member (was it Steve?) called out HELLO, DOLLY! when Vince asked for requests:

The second set began with a rocking CHINATOWN, MY CHINATOWN:

Vince reminded us that Louis’s recordings of WHEN YOU’RE SMILING are slow and spacious, frankly operatic:

And — for a closing rouser — the band launched into AFTER YOU’VE GONE:

All for you, Louis!

“MONSTROUS!” SHE SAYS

Lisa Ryan, who creates lovely impressionistic YouTube video-collages related to Bix Beiderbecke, sent along this quotation she found in a biography of Josephine Baker.  The speaker is dancer Isadora Duncan:

It seems to me monstrous that anyone should believe that the jazz rhythm expresses America. Jazz rhythm expresses the primitive savage.

I wonder what “jazz rhythm” she had heard in her days and nights in the United States, Paris, and Moscow.  Had she been terrortized by the primitive passions of Bechet, Miley, or Oliver, I would understand.  But I wonder if the music that so upset her was no more than a tea-dance band (violin, saxophone, piano, drums) one-stepping through STUMBLING.  Or did she get upset when someone read Vachel Lindsay’s THE CONGO aloud? 

Poor Miss Duncan: she didn’t go to the right places or hear the right recordings.  Would James P. Johnson’s SNOWY MORNING BLUES have struck her as “monstrous,” or the dancing of Bill Robinson?  Was her terror the fear of all things African-American?  I hope not. 

I must be off, to see David Ostwald and the Louis Armstrong Centennial Band devote themselves to the music of that “savage” Mr. Armstrong.  It will amuse me to envision Miss Duncan, clapping her hands over her ears and fleeing as the band begins its Wednesday night ritual of WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH.  Oh, what Isadora missed . . . !

“CRAZY RHYTHM” AT THE EAR INN (April 11, 2010)

One bright shining moment — that went on at a high level for nearly nine minutes last Sunday, April 11, 2010, at The Ear Inn.

The Ear Regulars that night were guitarist Matt Munisteri; bassist Pat O’Leary; trombonist John Allred; tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, whizzing through a fast CRAZY RHYTHM — a pop hit of perhaps 1927, made lively again in the next century.  (Catch the hilarious reference to SONNY BOY almost at the end.)  Great soloing, great ensemble playing: hot jazz, caught live!