Daily Archives: May 17, 2010

“I’M THE WININ’ BOY (DON’T DENY MY NAME)”

Cafe Borrone in Menlo Park, California, looks like a perfectly nice restaurant in the middle of a shopping mall — but it has hot jazz every week.  (Wish that the mall nearest to me could get this idea.)  And Rae Ann Berry is there, faithfully. 

She captured a particularly rewarding session by Clint Baker’s Cafe Borrone All-Stars on May 14, 2010, from which I’ve taken Jelly Roll Morton’s WININ’ BOY (there’s been a small fervent discussion of whether it’s WININ’ or WINDIN’ or WINDING or WiNDING BALL and what those terms suggest . . . the usual consensus is that they refer to various types of male sexual prowess: use your imaginations). 

On this lengthy soulful version, Clint is at the drums, doing splendid things with cymbal accents; Bill Reinhart is providing a powerful string bass pulse; Jason Vanderford takes a rare acoustic guitar solo late in the performance; Robert Young emotes beautifully on the soprano sax; Jim Klippert not only anchors things on trombone but takes an impassioned vocal; trumpeter Leon Oakley finds just the right mute for each chorus; Ray Skjelbred “makes that old piano [in this case an electric keyboard] sound exactly like new,” or even better, with right-hand splashes and solid chords. 

A wonderfully cohesive group – – – especially in the middle of grilled chicken salads.  Don’t deny their names!

Thanks, as always, to Rae Ann, to the band, and even to the shoppers and diners who make this gig possible.

DELICATE FORCE: HANK JONES (1918-2010)

Hank Jones, 2005

It’s unrealistic, but I thought that Hank Jones would be around forever: so I was unreasonably shocked to hear of his death at age 91.  The obituaries speak of the musicians he played with so gloriously — from brothers Elvin and Thad to Charlie Rouse and Joe Lovano . . . to Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Hot Lips Page, Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Joe Wilder, and Ruby Braff.  He had fine taste: the “New York Rhythm Section” that flourished in the Fifties included Hank, Milt Hinton, Barry Galbraith, and Osie Johnson. 

Modestly, he didn’t want the spotlight for himself (although he recorded prolifically as a leader for forty years and more); nor did he say that his sound on the piano, his touch, was exceptional.  But anyone hearing even four bars of his playing could identify Hank — he had a singular way of hitting notes on the piano, of phrasing a line of notes, of voicing a chord . . . so that it could be no one else.  I don’t know enough about piano technique to say whether it was a matter of touch, of pedaling — but he could make the simplest (even the most cliched) phrase sound pearly.  Next to him, many other pianists (with monumental reputations) sound over-elaborate or uncouth.  (The player closest to Hank in this was Ellis Larkins.)  Hank’s phrases seem to float above the piano, transcending the mechanics of hands pressing down wood, the wood hitting strings, and so on.  And he had a particularly steady rhythmic sense: his beat was also unmistakable, apparently decorous.  But the elegant surface veneer of his playing, its sheen and gloss, could not mask his swinging force beneath.  Like Bobby Hackett, he was never loud.  He didn’t have to be.   

And he’s gone.  But we had sixty-five years to hear him: what a generous life!

“The Official Hank Jones Website” can be found here: http://www.officialhankjones.com/.  It’s rather outdated, but it will do to remind us of the glorious playing of Hank Jones.