Monthly Archives: July 2010

RED NORVO’S SPOTLIGHT BAND on FILM

The distinguished jazz film scholar Mark Cantor offers another cinematic mystery:

“In Back Beats and Rim Shots, Warren Vache and Johnny Blowers discuss a band put together by Red Norvo, under the sponsorship of Coca Cola, for an overseas tour during World War II.  The tour never happened, but before the band broke up a film  — called THE VICTORY PARADE OF SPOTLIGHT BANDS — was made of (in Johnny’s words) “the show.”  At least one performance from this film is known to me, and I have pulled a small set of pictures of the band from this film.  Coverage is not great, and the guys are somewhat disguised by the costume hats they are wearing.  I do see Eddie Condon on rhythm guitar, and Flip Phillips is one of the saxophonists. From what Johnny said, both in an interview and in his book, Dale Pearce and Dick Taylor should be in the brass section, but you don’t get close enough to really see most of these players clearly. There are five reeds in the band, and I am almost certain that Flip Phillips is to the far right.  Hymie Schertzer and Aaron Sachs are supposedly in the section, but I am not sure where.  The rhythm section is quite possibly Ralph Burns, Eddie Condon (for certain), probably Clyde Lombardi and Johnny Blowers (again, a certainty).

Please let me know what your readers think.”

The hats, oh, those hats.  Eddie Condon looks as if he is beginning a long prison term.  

I would love to hear the soundtrack.  

I’d also like to know whatever possessed the film director to dress everyone up — although it is indeed possible that they wore period clothing as part of their “show.”

A postscript.  Eddie Condon loathed big bands and was not shy about saying so.  Phyllis Smith Condon, his wife, was a copywriter for the D’Arcy agency — and she was in charge of the Coca-Cola account.  During the war, she, Eddie, and Ernie Anderson tried to market jazz to the servicemen and women under the beverage’s sponsorship — one project that never quite materialized resulted in a late-1942 recoding session for Condonites and famous friends.  But Eddie still looks miserable under his hat.

SIDNEY’S SECRET

I was chatting with the wonderful drummer Josh Duffee at the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival while we were in the pub.  Because he was waiting for his dessert, the talk turned to dinner, to cuisine, to matters dear to both of us. 

Then Josh gave me the great gift of an anecdote I’d never heard before.

“Louie Bellson told me that Big Sid always carried a bottle of catsup in his back pocket.  Put it on everything, Louie said.”

(The image comes from http://oldadvertising.blogspot.com/2010/06/snider-catsup-1915_19.html).

I have continued to speculate about this revelation.  The simplest conclusion I can draw is that Sidney liked the taste of catsup.  But perhaps it was because the food he often encountered on the road was of such variable quality that it often needed something to enhance its taste or perhaps to mask it altogether.  I will be delighted to consider other possibilities as well.

And perhaps we now have to amend Sidney’s famous declaration to read, “I can swing seventeen men with one wire brush, a telephone book, and a bottle of catsup.”

“H” MARKS THE SPOT?

There’s a proliferation of rare jazz autographs for sale on US eBay — oddly enough, most of them of artists whose names begin with the letter H.  Does this suggest some larger arrangement in the stars, or is “mrbebop” (the source of most of these gems) simply working through his collection in some logical alphabetical order? 

The one that will perhaps attract the most attention (and has the most substantial price tag) is Billie’s:

Here’s Bob Haggart’s autograph on a late-Thirties photograph of him with Ray Bauduc:

And the most exalted Edmond Hall:

A rarity — trombonist Bill Harris:

Finally, the long-lived and deep-rooted Art Hodes:

I wonder what marvels will come next . . . . !

ITALO LOVES JAZZ!

Who is this happy man?

Why, Italo Assogna, that’s who.  No, he doesn’t play cornet with the Pescara Hot Stompers, but he loves jazz with all his heart. 

How did we meet him? 

Italo is the manager of Pino’s, a wonderful Italian restaurant on the High Street of Lechlade in Gloucestershire, GL7 3AD, where the Beloved and I had lunch today.  I know this isn’t a food blog or a restaurant blog, but we had what Louis would call a truly dee-licious meal there.  And we met Italo’s charming fiancee, Maria, as well.

 “But this is a jazz blog!” I hear you insisting.  True enough. 

Italo loves jazz.  I knew this when I went inside the restaurant and heard a strangely familiar sound coming through the speakers — the closing instrumental choruses of PRETTY LITTLE MISSY by Signore Armstrong, followed by HAVE YOU MET MISS JONES? by the same person.  I found out that Italo had chosen the music, and we had a long chat about what kinds of jazz would be best for a restaurant (I suggested Ben Webster with strings, followed by Clifford Brown with strings; the Beloved suggested Paul Desmond; I thought of Hank Jones and Jimmy Rowles). 

But Italo and Maria were two of the most enthusiastic and charming people we have met on our UK trip, and I think they would stand out anywhere as wonderful individuals.  We will remember them — and the extraordinary food — long after we are back in New York.  And Italo loves jazz! 

Mille grazie!

“IN AN ACTUAL TRUMPET CASE”!

Introducing – The Genius of Miles Davis

Housed in an actual trumpet case!

43- CD Collection assembles all eight multi-CD, Grammy award winning box sets

 The consummate artistry of Miles Davis and the scope of his musical vision at Columbia Records is paid the ultimate tribute on THE GENIUS OF MILES DAVIS. Weighing in at 21 pounds and individually numbered to 2000, THE GENIUS OF MILES DAVIS is destined to be a treasure in the hands of true Miles Davis aficionados. A Direct to Consumer exclusive, this set is only available via GeniusOfMilesDavis.com, it is now available for pre-order at $1199.99 in advance of its September 14th release.

 The Genius of Miles Davis includes:

First and foremost there is, of course, the music, which is showcased as follows:

Miles Davis & Gil Evans: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings (6 CDs)

Miles Davis Quintet 1965-1968 (6 CDs)

The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (4 CDs)

Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Complete Columbia Recordings, 1955-1961 (6 CDs)

The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions (3 CDs)

The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions (5 CDs)

Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings Of Miles Davis, 1963-1964 (7 CDs)

The Complete On The Corner Sessions (6 CDs)

Then comes the treasure of wonderful extras within the case:

A mouthpiece replica of exactly the ‘Gustat’ Heim 2 model used by Davis especially created by Kanstul.

A previously unseen and unavailable fine art lithograph by Davis, who was a dedicated and talented artist

A boutique-worthy T-shirt manufactured exclusively for this package by Trunk Ltd. showcasing the image of Davis playing his horn.

Images of each item included in the set as well as additional information and pre-order link can be found at MilesDavis.com

 Should anyone wish to write that I am insufficiently respectful of Miles Davis’s contributions to jazz, I would beg to differ.  However, this Sony enterprise leaves me feeling that the only appropriate thing to say is “No comment,” except when I tell people I spend my life thinking about and listening to jazz, a good many of them come up with Miles as the only name they can think of.  Products like this one — with an actual facsimile trumpet mouthpiece and trumpet case — seem fetishistic rather than musical.  Turning artists into commodities is sure to keep jazz alive!  Alas. . . .

“I GIVE UP!” SAID VERY LOUDLY

When I’ve been faced with something that’s annoying and frustrating — trying to find a parking space in Manhattan in an unwelcoming hour — after attempting everything plausible and reasonable, I have been known to say I GIVE UP! at high volume several times.  More often than not, just the dramatic pretense of a man ready to do the desperate act of overpaying for parking helps . . . a spot opens up.  The loud enactment of theatrical despair seems to help. 

So I am trying it here:

I GIVE UP!

“What is he complaining about?” you might ask.  It’s a technical problem.  I came back from the 2010 Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival with a new Panasonic HD video camera full of jazz videos — over one hundred fine performances.  And I began to download (or upload) them to YouTube, thence to this blog for all to see.  This worked wonderfully well in the US, and it worked — poorly and painfully slowly — in the UK.  It took something like three days to download four clips by the Hot Antic Jazz Band.  Then, here in Oxford, where the wireless broadband seems swift, nothing . . . either YouTube takes twelve hours to load a five-minute clip and then tells me (in my favorite new redundant phrase) “length of clip is too long” or it loads a clip in eight hours and then the video is out of synch with the audio, creating an impossible-to-watch spectacle.

If this latest batch of clips doesn’t load, I’m taking my clips and going off to do something else.  I’m going on strike.  You’ll see the Whitley Bay performances — starting in September. 

I will be grateful for any technical suggestions, but must say that I am hopeless at this: my dear friend Elin Smith tried to explain it to me, but her clear email had me converting formats back and forth until I was dizzy.  Pretend you’re writing to someone who hasn’t converted video files before . . . and sorry for the delay!

REMEMBERING KARL WATT

One of the many delights of having a blog is meeting people — not always in person — who enrich your life with their presence, their music, their stories.  One such person is banjo player Candace Brown, who’s a member of Chris Tyle’s Silver Leaf Jazz Band.  I had posted a clip of that band in full flower, playing the hot jazz we live for. 

Candace told me a little bit about the jazz drummer Karl Watt — much beloved and a swinging presence — who is no longer with us.  I urge you to read Candace’s story: http://goodlifenw.blogspot.com/2010/07/remembering-karl-watt.html.  And even though I don’t live near the Pacific Northwest (a lovely area of the US) her blog, Good Life Northwest, seems to be a renewing delight, and I plan to visit it often.

“BEST WISHES,” 1934

It had to happen — that while in the UK I would find myself browsing on www.ebay.co.uk.  And browsing led me to this:

Would you mind having that on the wall to look at in odd moments, to think, however whimsically, “Hey, Louis sends me his best wishes”?  I wouldn’t mind, myself.

BIX LIVES (EVERYWHERE)!

I was delighted to read this editorial piece in the Quad City Times (that’s Bix Beiderbecke’s home-town newspaper) about the influence of Bix here and abroad — as documented in a wonderful two-disc set.  And I was even happier to find myself quoted at length:

http://qctimes.com/news/opinion/editorial/article_18b3f3f8-95ee-11df-9a6b-001cc4c002e0.html

To be cited as an authority unexpectedly is a very rewarding state of affairs!  May it happen to you, too – – –

CONNEE BOSWELL, 1934: “ISN’T IT A SHAME?”

Even though Ella Fitzgerald insisted that Connee Boswell was her first and perhaps greatest influence, Connee hasn’t been given her due.  Perhaps because there hasn’t been a proper reissue of her solo recordings (as opposed to the well-deserved attention given to the recordings she made with her sisters) listeners don’t pay enough attention to her solo work.  For me, she is the poet of yearning — consider the first chorus of this recording and of IN A LITTLE SECOND-HAND STORE — and then she moves from deep pathos and loss to a lighter, more jazz-like approach for the second chorus.  It’s not only great singing; it’s wonderful acting and dramatization, making us forget that the song isn’t terribly deep on its own.  Listen, and listen again:

And thanks to the superb singer Melissa Collard for reminding me of this YouTube posting.

ENGLAND SWINGS!

“like a pendulum do,” is the Sixties refrain that comes to mind, but I have other evidence to present here. 

Our UK sojourn so far has offered many charity shops and second-hand bookshops, and a few jazz oases, potential and real.  The potential one was spotted in York: unfortunately, in the fashion of used CD shops, it didn’t open until later than we could stay, but these two photos point to its engaging possibilities:

Mildly interesting from a distance . . . better when close-up:

I will hasten to say that I don’t long for either of those records — but I admire and was amused by the sensibility that would put Bunk and Joe Pass center stage amidst the other musics.

I can’t say more about REBOUND because I never got inside.  But about the ALBION BEATNIK BOOKSTORE I can go on enthusiastically. 

We have found Oxford just delightful — varying areas of antiquity and modernity, a wide variety of people (and dogs and cats), gardens, a canal to walk along . . . .  Down the street from us, I saw both THE LAST BOOKSHOP (devoted to two-pound remaindered books — a fine thing) and across from it, at 34 Walton Street (01865 511345) the ALBION BEATNIK.  Frankly I was skeptical: could it be a UK bookstore devoted to Kerouac, Kesey, and Burroughs? 

I walked in with the Beloved, who spotted this beautifully painted door (the artist is Chris Vinz, and his design consciously harks back to the Forties) which is the first picture of this posting.  That was beautiful in itself.  But those doors swung open to reveal a thrilling collection of jazz compact discs in alphabetical order, new, fairly priced:

I’m afraid I began to pant and sweat at this display, and only Prudence (that restraining girl) held me back.  But I did buy three Chronological Classics discs that had otherwise eluded me: a Trummy Young, a Buck Clayton, and the last volume of the Putney Dandridge series, another Buck, a Bruce Turner — irresistible discs.  I saw a small shelf of jazz books, hemmed in by more popular tomes.  Then the very quiet man in charge, Dennis, pointed me to the rear of the store, where a bookshelf held what has to be the finest collection of jazz literature I’ve ever seen.  Not one book related to Louis, but nearly ten . . . and books I’d never heard of.  The two-volume set by Edward and Monroe Berger devoted to the life and music of Benny Carter, for another glowing example.  Only the thought of the weight of our luggage held me back, but I know that I could reach the shop in cyberspace at http://www.albionbeatnik@yahoo.co.uk whenever the need or the urge strikes.  Long may they prosper! 

You’ll have to see for yourself.

ENRICO, SEEN TWICE (by LORNA SASS)

Enrico Tomasso’s talents are too large to be enclosed in one photograph.   So the celebrated nature photographer Lorna Sass took two of him in action at the 2010 Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival.

Rico is always slightly in motion, so these photographs capture him as a moving subject. 

If you haven’t seen the wide range of Lorna Sass’s photographs (eclectic photography — high-heeled women, shadows, scorpions, and exquisite nature studies) hurry on down to http://www.lornasassatlarge.wordpress.com.

THE MUSIC GOES ‘ROUND AND ‘ROUND

Gramophone records seem to jump out at me in the United Kingdom — I have seen more than half-a-dozen Louis lps in charity shop bins (including SATCHMO AT PASADENA and LOUIS UNDER THE STARS, sold here as SENSATIONAL SATCHMO) . . . but here are two UK jazz discs I bought in an Oxfam book and record shop — instantly upon seeing their covers.

What could possibly go wrong?

The only musician known to me is Ray Whittam, but I have great hopes.  The second record (bassist Ron Russell’s JAZZ AT THE PALACE) had many more familiar names and they’d all signed in:

That’s Digby Fairweather, Pete Strange, and Keith Ingham — the last is someone whom I’ll see in person at Jazz at Chautauqua.  I hope I’ll get a chance to show him this artifact from his somewhat earlier career.

Now we come to the more antiquarian part of this chronicle.  Readers who tire of record labels are encouraged to skip to the end, where an audio reward awaits.

I saw this cardboard album of records in a Corsham shop named GRANNY’S ATTIC.  We were in late, in a great hurry, so I bought the whole parcel (the shop-lady wouldn’t sell me individual records) and then, at my leisure, could inspect the contents.  Here are the most interesting discs:

Arnheim’s band always had a rich sound — with or without its prize vocalist, Mr. Crosby.

I don’t know which of these two potentially despairing pop songs should be played first.

Erotic-romantic triumph . . . much better than moony longing!

Alas . . . back to lamenting and longing.  But Nipper looks hopeful.

Sam Lanin,like Fred Rich, usually had interesting New York players hiding in those grooves:

And for the audio reward for those who might wonder what that last 78 side actually sounds like — here, courtesy of YouTube:

That’s Tommy Dorsey, bursting out of the ensemble in the last minute.  TD’s solo and attack owe a great deal to one Bix Beiderbecke: consider his solo transposed upwards for cornet and see if you agree. 

I am always delighted by the way that recording executives hid the hot solos, the jazz improvisation, for the last choruses of a hot dance record — perhaps thinking that the more dance-oriented buyers would already have made up their minds to buy the record and be immune to fright by that time.  Who’s in the vocal trio?   The YouTube disc is an OKeh, so perhaps a different take?  Do any of my readers know the complete personnel?  Is the drummer Stan King? 

Too many questions, I know.  But more records, I am sure, to come!

MICHAEL KANAN / JOEL PRESS: “THESE FOOLISH THINGS” (June 29, 2010)

I’m very moved by the performance you are about to see, and I feel fortunate to have been there to capture it: this comes from tenor saxophonist Joel Press’s gig at Smalls (138 West 10th Street) as a member of the Michael Kanan Quartet — with bassist Pat O’Leary and drummer Joe Hunt. 

For seven-and-a-half minutes, they explore THESE FOOLISH THINGS in the most gently questing way.  In the late Twenties (perhaps beginning with Bix and Tram) jazz players invented the “rhythm ballad,” a sweet melody taken at a slowly pulsing tempo.  (This song carries with it memories of Billie and Lester and Nat Cole, of course.) 

Michael, Joel, Pat, and Joe carry on the tradition here.  They honor the essential thread of emotion — this is, after all, a song about remembering love gone away — but they never get bogged down in it.  Michael’s introduction, delicately evoking players like Ellis Larkins, prepares us for an inquisitive duet, where he and Joel state the melody, exchange thoughtful comments on it, test it out, and then are joined by the quartet.  Joel, as always, speaks within and beyond the melody, with a casual seeming-simplicity that one does not grow into quickly.  Michael’s solo, never frivolous, smbodies the pleasure of a mature improviser who knows what it is to play.   Pat and Joe, listening as always, keep everything beautifully moving forward. 

Art like this doesn’t grow stale:

THE HOT ANTIC JAZZ BAND at WHITLEY BAY (July 9, 2010)

This one’s for Nancie Beaven, one of this blog’s most ardent readers, currently ensconced in Connecticut.  Nancie is a  great admirer of the Hot Antic Jazz Band and of its cornetist, Michel Bastide.  Several times during the 2010 Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, I had ample opportunity to see why. 

The HAJB also sported Bernard Antherieu, clarinet; Philippe Raspail, saxophone; Martin Seck, piano; Christian Lefevre, brass bass; Philippe Guignier, banjo.  (The regular banjoist is Jean-Pierre Dubois but that week-end was attending his daughter’s wedding.  I apologize to all the musicians I omitted, mis-identified, or mis-named: it took the help of several people (Bill Lowden and JC from Les Rois de Fox-Trot) to get me this close to accuracy.  

A lovely melody by a composer new to me, called HOW STRANGE:  

SUNDAY, in honor of Bix, the Jean Goldkette band, and even the Keller Sisters and (their brother) Lynch:

CHICAGO RHYTHM, suggesting not only a time and place, but also Jimmie Noone in his heyday:

Finally, an enthusiastic solo piano reading of THE PEARLS, by “Jelly Roll Martin”:

Some band!

WHAT JAZZ LOOKS LIKE (Whitley Bay, July 2010)

Jean-Francois Bonnel, playing as if his life depended upon it:

Enrico Tomasso, himself and the horn inseparably charged:

Nick Ward, Rhythm King:

 Elin Smith, jazz videographer:

Jazz has many other faces: here are four of its most noble citizens.

JOEL PRESS and MICHAEL KANAN (June 29, 2010)

I had first heard the saxophonist Joel Press on a CD called HOW’S THE HORN TREATING YOU? some years ago.  I was delighted by his imagination, his ease, his sense of self — he knows and has lived through an entire jazz tradition from Lester and Hawkins to free jazz and beyond, but he sounds utterly like himself. 

Then, more recently, I had the good fortune to hear his duet sessions with pianist Kyle Aho, UNTYING THE STANDARD, which impressed me greatly.  (Both of these CDs are on the Cadence Jazz Records label, numbers 1184 and 1204, and both are consistently uplifting.)  And the beautifully idiosyncratic photograph — legs and untied shoes — is by Joel’s daughter Maya Francesca Press, a questing artist herself. 

I learned that Joel was coming to New York to appear twice in quartets headed by the superb pianist Michael Kanan (whose work on Dan Block’s new Ellington disc is a sweet highlight).  Joel transcended my expectations as a player and as a person: friendly, candid, full of feeling. 

Here is the quartet — completed by the wondrous Pat O’Leary and the steadily powerful Joe Hunt — as they appeared at Smalls.  One of the high points of that night was FOOLIN’ MYSELF, learned from the irreplaceable 1937 Billie Holiday – Lester Young recording.  

This version is both original and a loving homage: notice Joel’s mastery of tone (purring or strong), his own phrase-shapes (you can’t predict where he is about to land, but once he has, it makes perfect sense), his speaking approach to the horn, as if he were someone with an important message he wanted to whisper in everyone’s ear.  Pay attention to Michael’s subtle, needling approach to his phrases; he can be percussive or as gentle as someone carefully smoothing the wrinkles out of the blanket.  And then there’s Pat’s sound, his rich sonority, his mastery of space and time; Joe’s serious pulse, his mastery of his whole drum kit.  FOOLIN’ MYSELF is, to me, a delicious exploration of the past that makes it brightly alive in 2010 . . . with more to come:

and a brief dialogue between Joel and Michael to conclude this lovely performance:

CADENCE, RESOUNDING

I’ve mentioned CADENCE Magazine often — but perhaps not often enough — in these pages.  It has a brand-new website, http://www.cadencemagazine.com., which I urge you to visit. 

Candor requires that I say I have written reviews for the magazine for a number of years.  But I would applaud CADENCE even if they had never encouraged me to have my say.  It is the only honest jazz magazine I know . . . which sounds both irascible and contentious, but is true.  I recall that CODA did not accept advertising, but it is now defunct. 

All the other jazz journals I am aware of accept, encourage, and perhaps solicit advertising, and it is hard to imagine the situation where a reviewer might be allowed to say that the new CD by the Blenheim Palace Hot Boys was terrible if the BPHB had paid for an ad on the facing page. 

CADENCE has advertising, it is true, but it is kept to a separate section in the way that the new puppy might be kept in the kitchen.  And — as a reviewer — I have always been asked to tell the truth, and if the truth was impolitely stated, no one suggested that I could benefit from a course in good manners. 

Editor Bob Rusch is one of the great men in support of creative improvised music, and some of the most rewarding discs I know have emerged precisely because he has put his money where his beliefs are.  All this is long prelude to my happily drawing your attention to the site — as a way of encouraging you to consider subscribing to the magazine. 

My most traditionally-minded readers will at first think that the names they see in the sample pages are obscure, but (for instance) vibraphonist Mark Sherman is on Dan Block’s splendid new Ellington CD . . . and everyone is obscure to someone.  I have written about the most delightfully old-fashioned New Orleans jazz in CADENCE’s pages, so even before I wrote for the magazine, I was a happy reader. 

Check it out!

WHITLEY BAY PORTRAITS by LORNA SASS

The renowned nature photographer and blogger Lorna Sass also has a deep affection for small-band swinging jazz.  She offers a few portraits taken at the 2010 festival.  Here she captures the heroic Bent Persson, plunger mute in position over what I believe is a Solotone mute — all too technical, but this portrait makes it appear that the interior of Bent’s horn is red-hot, which is absolutely accurate.

Here’s the extraordinary (and nattily-attired) Josh Duffee, the virtuoso of the choke-cymbal, beating it out, caught in mid-stroke, pensive and relaxed all at once.

The heated and lyrical Andy Schumm, in the special trumpeters’-cornetists’ zone, eyes rolled back in his head: echoes of the famous portrait of Louis at Symphony Hall, 1947.  Working hand, Andy is shedding light all around him!

Not only did Lorna capture Malcolm Sked on his shiny and sonorous tuba, but the reflection of the entire orchestra, assembled, as well!

EAR’S MORE! (June 27, 2010)

I am quite nostalgic about this session at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street)– the last time I saw The EarRegulars in New York City before leaving for England.  The august and esteemed personnel was Harry Allen and Scott Robinson on tenor saxes, James Chirillo on guitar, and Greg Cohen on bass.  Later in the evening, sweet-toned and sweet-natured Valerie Levy unpacked her violin, and young tenor man Evan Schwam joined in the happiness.  Here is some more of the music captured that night.

First, a slow-drag BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME? that really asks the question with some sincerity:

Another query that might be emotionally relevant follows — WILL YOU STILL BE MINE?

BLUE SKIES gets a winsome treatment here, led by Valerie:

WHERE OR WHEN is a lovely Rodgers and Hart song that doesn’t get played all that much as a  jazz instrumental; here it is in a lengthy, leisurely version, with Valerie staying on and Eric joining the fun:

And the conclusion (for the literal-minded, it’s “WHEN”):

Finally, a romping BROADWAY — music for Three Tenors:

What fun!  And credit goes to Jon-Erik Kellso, punster / wordplayer extraordinaire, from whom I stole the idea for the title.

MIKE DURHAM’S BRILLIANT IDEA (ANOTHER ONE!)

Mike Durham is not only a fine trumpet player and soulful man.  He’s also the embodiment of musical generosity — with his wife Patti (herself inimitable) he has given the world twenty Whitley Bay International Jazz Festivals.  The 2010 one was announced as the final one, and I think all the musicians and listeners had their joy tinged by a certain melancholy: to paraphrase Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar, “Mother of Mercy, is this the end of Whitley Bay?”

Yes and no.  Of course.

There will be no WBIJF in May 2011.  That is the bad news.

However, Mike has an idea — a Classic Jazz Party to be held at the same location (the comfortable Village Newcastle Hotel) for three days in November 2011  — Friday to Sunday, November 4-6. 

It would be a long weekend filled to the brim with hot music from the artists who have so enlivened Whitley Bay.  Bent Persson, Michel Bastide, Keith Nichols, Rico Tomasso, Rene Hagmann, Matthias Seuffert, Norman Field, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Kristoffer Kompen, Martin Litton, Malcolm Sked, Frans Sjostrom, Spats Langham, Martn Wheatley, Nick Ward, Josh Duffee, Debbie Arthurs, and more. 

As he envisions it, it would be three days of jazz — from midday to midnight, with each band presenting an hour-long set. 

But jazz parties are expensive endeavors, so Mike cannnot go ahead with this one without some funding up front from the faithful.  The principle of subscriptions is, I think, as old as publishing in the eighteenth century and as new as CD production in this century.  What Mike is asking from people is a check (or “cheque”) for a hundred pounds, made out to CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY, and sent to him at 60 Highbury, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE2 3LN.  Along with the money, he asks that you send your name and full address, phone number and email address. 

If too few people send their money (alas, alack, and woe) Mike promises to return every penny.  I don’t know what arrangement he might make for those of us who don’t have UK pounds at the ready, but he can be emailed at mikedurham_jazz@hotmail.com.  And, for my part, before Whitley Bay 2010 had ended, I’d made sure to give Mike some coin of the realm, so that I could do my part . . . in hopes to sit with my pals Elin and Ron Smith and Honor and Richard and Robin and and . . . listening to the best jazz I can imagine. 

And if enough people subscribe, the Village Hotel (very comfortable) promises to offer three nights of dinner, bed, and breakfast for 175 pounds total, which is a bargain.  More details to follow.

Don’t be late! 

Don’t be left out! 

You come too!

“PAY ATTENTION!” CELEBRATING JAKE HANNA (August 8, 2010)

The greatest artists have a way of making us comfortable.  We see them, unannounced, come on the stage, and we relax and get ready to be delighted.  “This is going to be wonderful!” we think, before the first note has been played.  Hank Jones and Milt Hinton and Ruby Braff and Vic Dickenson and another dozen others always evoked that feeling.  And Jake Hanna. 

 Jake lifted up every session with his beautiful sound, his floating, encouraging time, his own delight at being there.  But he was so consistently generous that I fear he didn’t get celebrated sufficiently when he was alive.  But the musicians knew, and wise listeners did also.

He isn’t with us anymore — to push the band joyously on his hi-hats, to crack wise on the bandstand, to tell long scurrilous hilarious stories off it.  But his presence is very much real and alive.

Jake’s niece, Maria Judge, has organized a musical celebration in honor of Jake.  It will be held in his hometown, Dorchester, Mass., on August 8 at 2 PM.  Musicians who loved Jake and who shared his artistic vision (loosely paraphrased, it went something like: “If you’re not going to swing, what the hell are you doing on the bandstand?”) will be there: Becky Kilgore, Howard Alden, Randy Reinhart, Warren Vache, Harry Allen, Joe Ascione (playing a set of Jake’s drums),  and Joel Forbes.  Knowing Jake — and how deeply people loved and admired him, there will be a great deal of laughter and swing.  I would give anything to be at the back of the hall with my video camera, and hope that someone takes my place.

The Hometown Celebration will take place on Sunday, August 8, beginning at 2 PM, at Florian Hall, 55 Hallet Street, Dorchester, Mass. 02124.  Don’t know how to get there?  Look-a-here . . . and there’s more information on the brand-new website, http://www.jakehanna.com.  My title (and one of my most-used tags)?  “Pay attention!” was one of Jake’s favorite phrases.  Attention must be paid . . . .