Daily Archives: May 19, 2010

BUILDING CASTLES IN THE EAR (May 16, 2010)

Some people think that jazz performances are primarily strings of solos, and this is occasionally true.  But one of the deep pleasures of listening to this music is in the three-dimensional shapes that performances can take.  This kind of immediate, impromptu architectural construction can happen at a jam session, where the players don’t know each other well, or it can be the happy collective invention of a working band. 

In either case, while a listener is absorbing the movement from one chorus to the next, it’s easy to visualize a jazz cathedral being built.  Everything adds to the larger structure: notes and lines aren’t there solely for their own evanescent purposes, but they also function as parts of something far larger that is getting created before our ears and eyes.

This happened all through the night at last Sunday’s session at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street) by the Ear Regulars, who were (in the first set) Matt Munisteri (guitar) , Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet), Pete Martinez (clarinet), and Greg Cohen (bass).  For the second set, they were joined, off and on, by Dan Block (tenor), Alex Norris (trumpet), and Adrian Cunningham (clarinet).  To my ears, everyone played brilliantly — but a good deal of the credit for the lovely architectural shapes goes to Jon-Erik, who has quietly taken on the mantle of his and my hero, Ruby Braff — not only as a peerless player, but as a wondrous sensitive on-the-bandstand subtle orchestrator, making performances shapely and varied.  Pete Martinez was in burning form — his tone and attack on his Albert system clarinet is one of the marvels of the age.  Greg Cohen created one eloquent solo after another (no one has told him that the string bass is supposed to be less than orchestrally grand!) and providing fine support.  Matt Munisteri, once again, came through as one of the hardest-working men in music: never letting up, never coasting, either in rhythm or in fluid, tumbling lines.   

I’ve included a number of performances that particularly struck me as having an architectural glory.  See if you don’t agree!

Early on in the first set, they took on the pretty pop song (circa 1935) that everyone associates with Fats Waller, although he didn’t compose it.  (Later, Ruby Braff took it on, most deliciously.)  Its title is properly optimistic: I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES:

Then, a tongue-twisting novelty number identified firmly with Louis — who gave up on the lyrics early on in the performance.  I’M A DING DONG DADDY FROM DUMAS (“and you oughta see me do my stuff”):

And the concluding section:

Returning to Louis’s Hot Seven, here’s WILLIE THE WEEPER (whose lyrics describe the dream that Willie — he was a chimney sweeper — had.  I think Willie was under the influence of some illegal but highly uplifting substances, but since the Ear Regulars don’t favor us with a vocal chorus, you’ll have to investigate the text on your own).  Non-guitarists like myself might find Matt’s playing on this track unusual, but (as Jon-Erik pointed out) he’d broken a string and soldiered on heroically anyway.  Nothing stops our heroes!

In the second set, Dan Block brought his tenor sax, and they launched into a rollicking MAHOGANY HALL STOMP, complete with flourishes:

And (with trumpeter Alex Norris — he of the full, round tone — added) I’M CONFESSIN’, full of feeling:

If the Landmarks Commission only knew what beautiful structures were being erected on Sunday nights . . . !

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OUR FRIEND, JOE BOUGHTON (1934-2010)

Meadville,Pennsylvania.  Joe Allen Boughton, 76, of 283 Jefferson Street, passed away on May 18, 2010, surrounded by loved ones after a courageous battle with cancer at the Crawford County Care Center.
 
Joe was born on May 17th 1934 in Odell, Nebraska.  He was the only son of the late Newell and Elsie Boughton.   His father, a dentist and jazz musician, moved his practice to Wareham, Massachusetts in 1940.   Joe grew up near the seashore of Cape Cod.   He graduated from Wareham High School in 1952 and enrolled at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.   Shortly afterward, he transferred to Northwestern University in Chicago and graduated in 1956 with a degree in History. 
 
Joe married Emily Richardson (of Glendale, Ohio) in 1956 and moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where the first three of their four children were born.   He worked for Champion Paper until relocating to Meadville, Pennsylvania, in 1962.   Joe worked as the Purchasing Manager at Lord Corporation (formerly Hughson Chemicals) for 36 years before retiring in 2000.
 
Joe Boughton’s passion was jazz.   He began developing relationships with musicians from an early age through his father and began booking performances at college.   He formed the Allegheny Jazz Society in 1984 and organized performance s at the Riverside Inn in Cambridge Springs, Conneaut Lake Hotel, Meadville Council on the Arts Gardner Theater, the Academy Theater in Meadville and most recently, the Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua, New York.   Joe took special pride in providing opportunities for emerging artists.   Dan Barrett, a renowned trombonist from Costa Mesa, California, said…”I owe Joe Boughton a great deal, as he was one of the first to give me a chance to play with the older jazz greats, shortly after I moved to New York.   He did so much for so many musicians, and is someone who—through his many events and recordings—significantly helped keep the music we all love alive.”  Joe acquired the Jump Record label in the 1980’s and rented studios with many great jazz musicians to produce over 25 CD’s.
 
Joe served locally on the Meadville Council of the Arts, Meadville Medical Board and the local Chamber of Commerce.  He also served as the chairman and on the board of his family camp for many years.   “Treasure Island” is an Ontario family camp where the Boughton family and their relatives gather each summer for family reunions.   He was a consummate planner whether it was a breakfast picnic for the family or a dinner theater for the adults.   He enjoyed gatherings amongst friends and family and organizing events that brought people together.   Joe was a lifelong diabetic.   He lived every day like it was his last and shared this passion for life with his family and close friends.  Let the world be reminded that every minute of every day is precious.
 
Survivors include, Emmy Boughton; four children and spouses, David Boughton and his wife Lori of Meadville; Betsy Horning of Ashland, Virginia; Sarah Holt and her husband, Max of Meadville; and Bill Boughton and his wife Jill of Cincinnati, Ohio.   He had eight grandchildren:  Chloe, Cassidy, Jenny, and Ben Boughton, Peter and Sarah Horning; and Charlie and McAlester Holt.
 
The Boughton family will receive friends at Waid Funeral Home, (581 Chestnut St. Meadville, Pennsylvania) on Friday, May 21 from   2:00-4:00 and 7:00 to 9:00pm. 
 
A private family interment will take place at Greendale Cemetery, West Mead.
 
Memorial contributions may be made to Allegheny Jazz Society or Treasure Island Camp, c/o 401 Byllesby Avenue, Meadville, PA 16335.

I will have more to say about Joe and his legacy — a considerable one — and the joy he took in sharing “his” music so generously.  Right now, I want only to remember the man who was so delighted when the musicians were jamming on a less-played song that he had a hard time containing his delight . . . . and he was most happy when he had people around him to hear what he was hearing.