The Beloved and I haven’t been to Birdland for the early-evening Wednesday gig of David Ostwald’s GULLY LOW JAZZ BAND (a/k/a LOUIS ARMSTRONG CENTENNIAL BAND) for some time. The music we heard there tonight convinced me that we — and everyone else — should show up far more often.
For those of you who don’t know the place or the circumstances, Birdland is on 44th Street in New York City between Eighth and Ninth Avenue, and David’s band will be celebrating its tenth anniversay there this May — a remarkable achievement in these times or in any times. Speaking of times, the band plays two sets — from 5:30 to 7:15 — convenient for an early dinner or a pre-theatre visit. The cover is $10 / person — less than a movie!
This edition of the GLJB was made up almost entirely of leaders, but it was delightful, rather than a disharmonious ego-scuffle. Here are four highlights in an evening devoted to the music of Louis, early and late. In addition to David, the band featured Marion Felder on drums (swinging his snare drum in a manner that suggested New Orleans street parades as well as Baby Dodds and Zutty Singleton), Vince Giordano on banjo, vocals, and two spots on piano; Gordon Au on trumpet, characteristically eloquent; Jim Fryer on trombone and vocals, playing masterfully; Dan Block, fervent as always on clarinet and tenor sax.
First, a tender, earnest, and swinging version of I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE, sweetly sung by Vince. After the first set, he spoke disparagingly of his singing, which I flatly refused to countenance: it’s the heartfelt, casual style so prevalent in the Thirties, and so appropriate:
Then, a chugging BEALE STREET BLUES which owed just as much to a 1953 Eddie Condon session as to Louis’s performance, slightly later. A highlight for me (and the other people at Birdland) was the entirely unexpected scat battle between Vince and Jim — priceless fun:
Then it was time for beauty — IN MY SOLITUDE. How many people recall Louis’s lovely 1935 Decca recording, with vocal? This performance, although instrumental, is entirely in the right spirit — both hushed and emotionally forthright:
Finally, a romp through DIPPER MOUTH BLUES . . . from which I take my title:
There were distinguished guests in the audience, too: broadcaster and writer Lloyd Moss, trumpeter Charlie Caranicas, acupuncturist Marcia Salter. See you there some Wednesday! Worth every penny!