Daily Archives: May 28, 2010

PHILLY JOE JONES SPEAKS OUT

When asked about young “modern” drummers in an interview done in the Sixties, Philly Joe said:

“They haven’t even seen Baby Dodds or sat and watched him play like I did.  Or Sid Catlett.   These are the drummers for the next 20 years.   I don’t care how the drums move.   If any drummer can tell me he can go back and listen to Chick Webb and Dave Tough and Baby Dodds and Sid Catlett and tell me that’s not drums, I’ll break up the drums and forget it.”

I really never thought I’d be quoting Philly Joe — not Papa Jo — in this blog, but that’s an ideological statement I certainly agree with.

ALL AROUND US on MAY 23, 2010

YouTube provided a very encouraging coincidence — two inspiring jazz events taking place on the same day, May 23, 2010 — one in Denmark, one in Arizona.  I always hope that Hot jazz is ubiquitous, that somewhere the Ghanian Revelers or the Croatian Wanderers are playing MABEL’S DREAM or DICKIE’S DREAM or SOLID OLD MAN — and these two clips suggest the truth might not be that far away. 

First, the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys on a Copenhagen canal boat — recorded in lovely HD by Thorbye Flemming.  Their choice is LOUIS-I-AN-I-A (by Joe Darensbourg, I think?) with a very lively and current impromptu set of lyrics by banjoist Michael Boving, who has a remarkable shouting style.  He’s joined here by Robert Hansson, trumpet; Frans Sjostrom, bass sax; Ole Olsen; bass.  Sit down, you’re rocking the boat!

Rae Ann Berry went to the Arizona Classic Jazz Society’s May meeting (how lucky for us!) and had a hand in this concert appearance by Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs, who are Ray on piano; Kim Cusack on reeds; Katie Cavera on guitar; Clint Baker on bass; Hal Smith on drums.  (Hal would have me tell you, in the spirit of full and frank disclosure, that he had a terrible cold and was filled to the gills with immobilizing medicine.  He sounds fine to me.)

Here’s their slow-burning take on IDOLIZING, which is entirely associated with Bix and Jean Goldkette, who took it at a much faster tempo:

And some Western Swing (I think of Retta Christie’s great version) on RIDIN’ DOWN THE CANYON, a special treat being Ray’s laconic but utterly idiomatic vocal:

And in honor of Lillie Delk Christian, Billie Holiday, and Benny Goodman, here’s I MUST HAVE THAT MAN:

This is only a sample: the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys also favored the passengers with CLARINET MARMALADE, and Ray and the Cubs performed about twenty more songs: enjoy what happened on May 23, 2010!

GORDON AU LEADS THE WAY at MONA’S (May 24-25, 2010)

I am what Jo Jones called “a nine-to-fiver,” his way of saying I am not a musician; I have a day gig; I go to sleep when interesting things are happening.  My workday starts even earlier, which means that many late-night jazz bacchanals are impossible for me, a man yawning at 11:30. 

But one semester ended and the summer courses have not yet begun, which meant that I was free to stay up late.  So I could go to the late-night-Tuesday-into-early-morning-Wednesday jam session at Mona’s (Avenue B between 13th and 14th Street in New York City).  Mona’s doesn’t have a sign out front, but the music would let you know you were in the right place.  I went there on Tuesday, May 24.   

I am embarrassed to say that I only lasted one long set, and I was told that the music — starting at 11 PM — would go at least until 2 AM.  But what I saw was delightful. 

The jam session began with Gordon Au on trumpet and Mikey Hart on piano (and singing): soon Jared Engel, bass, and Nick Russo, banjo and guitar, joined in.  Mikey, Jared, and Nick are strong players.  Mikey coaxes a great deal of music out of that piano, and he has the patience to let his solos build; his singing is fervent, down-home.  Jared has a huge sound: he’s a one-man rhythm section.  And Nick (whom I’ve seen in many bands) can do Minton’s 1941 on his electric guitar or swing out 1929 Luis Russell style on the banjo. 

I save my greatest praise for the gentleman with the trumpet in the corner, situated underneath the bright cartoonish painting: Mister Gordon Au.  Gordon is comfortable in any idiom and is fearless . . . so he has no problem launching into a song that might perhaps be slightly unfamiliar to the other players and tugging them along by his energetic example.  He is not only a masterful improviser, he is a peerless bandleader, leading the way without saying a word.  And he’s having such a good time!  A model for us all, I think.

Hoagy Carmichael’s RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE (originally FREE WHEELING, when Bix Beiderbecke first heard it) is not your standard AABA song — it has dips and weaves, many little places in which someone could get lost, like a multi-strain ragtime piece.  But Gordon sets the tempo and leads his colleagues splendidly:

Then (after a brief talk-through) they launched into LONESOME BLUES, which I believe was Mikey’s idea.  He not only knows the song but the lyrics.  I include this in his honor as well as in honor of Louis’s Hot Five — this is the first time I’ve ever heard this rare tune performed live, which is more than enough reason to include it here:

Finally, a version of THE PREACHER, which would surely act to convert any unbelievers in the audience:

When I left (prematurely and with regrets) Gordon said, “This is a very quiet night.  Usually there are two or three other horns there,” and he pointed to the spot where he had been playing.  Very tantalizing.  So I’m trying to think of ways to stay up late and still be able to go to work on Wednesday mornings.  I invite any suggestions that are more healthy than caffeine pills.