Daily Archives: August 21, 2010

DEEP PASSION: MENNO DAAMS – DAVID LUKACS and FRIENDS

It’s been a wonderful day for swinging jazz — tender and hot — because I found these four performances on YouTube. 

The peerless (and under-heralded) trumpeter, arranger, composer Menno Daams has started his own YouTube channel (“menno779”) and its videos include these four delightful performances by the “Daams-Lukacs Orchestra” of jazz classics — homages to Bix, to Louis, and Duke — that are evocations rather than copies even when they seem to be hewing closely to the originals. 

The orchestra — well-rehearsed without being stiff — is composed of Menno on trumpet (and arrangements); David Lukacs on clarinet;  Ronald Jansen Heijtmajer, alto saxophone; Frank Roberscheuten, tenor saxophone;  Chris Hopkins, piano; Ton van Bergeyk, guitar; Jan Voogd – bass.  Their website is www.myspace.com/daamslukacsorchestra

For the Bixians in the audience (among whom I number myself) here is a delicate reading of I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA at just the right tempo (with Chris’s feathery commentary throughout, even suggesting Fats and Teddy, approvingly) before the streamlined closing chorus:

Taking on SINGIN’ THE BLUES is just as difficult, because the 1927 recording is so much a part of our shared history, but this version is just lovely, with its own room to breathe, echoing Berigan as well as Beiderbecke (with lovely work by Ronald on alto).  That blissful chorus in the middle split between Chris and Frank sounded as if Teddy and Lester had decided to honor Bix in 1938:

SAVE IT PRETTY MAMA originally came from Don Redman but has been associated with Louis for nearly eighty years now, and for good reason.  Menno shows just how well he knows that tradition, and the band is in the groove with him.  The tiptoeing reed interlude that follows his solo suggests the Alec Wilder Octet, which is always a good thing, before Chris reminds us that Earl Hines liked this composition as well, and David has his say before a neat ensemble rocks this one to a sweet conclusion: 

And, to end this too-brief program, a subtly intense reinvention of RING DEM BELLS which suggests the great Hampton recording as well as the Ellington originals.  Catch Menno’s delighted grin at Chris’s interpolation of some Willie “the Lion” Smith in his solo.  And then the band offers us (as an encore) an on-the-spot alternate take! 

What a phenomenal small group — with a perfectly integrated subtle rhythm section as well. 

To go back to the Twenties, I’d have to say, “The way this band rocks is just too bad.”

My title comes from a Lucky Thompson line, but it fits here: you don’t learn how to play like this overnight, and you don’t do it with such skill without having a deep passion for swinging jazz as part of your essential self.

NOW HEAR THIS: Hal Smith on ZUTTY SINGLETON

Zutty Singleton: Face Drives the Train

A friend once remarked that playing in a band with Zutty Singleton “was like trying to stay ahead of a freight train that was bearing down on you.” Indeed, when Singleton was inspired, the pulse of his drumming took on the power of a highballing freight! One of the best examples of this forward momentum may be heard on “King Porter Stomp” (Decca 18093), recorded under Singleton’s name in New York City on 28 May, 1940.

Zutty Singleton had previously recorded as a bandleader for Decca in 1935. His other recording credits included sessions with Fate Marable, Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines, Jelly Roll Morton, Charles LaVere, James P. Johnson, Sidney Bechet, Lionel Hampton and the wonderful sides by the “Rhythmakers” — Henry “Red” Allen, Pee Wee Russell, Fats Waller, Joe Sullivan, Pops Foster, Al Morgan, Eddie Condon and others. After 16 years of recording with some of the greatest names in jazz, Singleton was in top form on the “New Orleans Jazz Album.”

The all-star band that recorded for Decca in 1940 consisted of: Henry “Red” Allen, trumpet; Benny Morton, trombone; Edmond Hall, clarinet; Lil Armstrong, piano; Bernard Addison, guitar; Pops Foster, bass; and Singleton. The band recorded “Canal Street Blues” and “Down in Jungle Town” under Allen’s leadership and “King Porter Stomp” and “Shim-Me-Sha-Wabble” with Singleton in charge. The four sides illustrate the thrilling interaction between New Orleans musicians (Allen, Hall, Foster and Singleton) and musical colleagues from “out of town,” but Singleton is clearly the star performer on “King Porter Stomp!”

The side begins with an eight bar introduction—the horns play whole notes as Singleton comes out swinging on the snare drum: a flurry of rolls and syncopated figures, accented rolls, more syncopations, a cymbal crash, syncopated rolls and two quick cymbal crashes, all underpinned by “Face’s” driving 4/4 bass drum.

On the ensemble verse, Singleton keeps pushing the bass drum, while playing uncomplicated press rolls on the snare drum. On bars 13-16, he plays some of his trademark syncopated figures, leading into the interlude. After two bars of long rolls, accented rolls, stinging quarter notes and cymbal crashes, Singleton launches the ensemble into the trio section of the tune.

Ed Hall is the first soloist. Singleton continues to play simple, but effective press rolls on the snare drum, with the bass drum laying down an incredible foundation.

Red Allen gets the same treatment for his chorus, though Singleton accents the afterbeats on bars 11 through 16.

Behind Benny Morton’s solo, Singleton matches Morton’s cool sound, playing smooth press rolls. He raises the musical temperature on bar 16 with an explosive paradiddle, utilizing the snare drum and cowbell.

Singleton’s press rolls and bass drum pulse take on a renewed urgency as he accompanies Hall’s second solo. On bars 14-16, Singleton audibly readies himself for a solo chorus of his own.

The band plays a stoptime figure for the drums every four bars, turning Singleton loose. On the first drum solo, he stays on the snare drum, keeping the bass drum going throughout. He plays accented and syncopated rolls on the snare drum on bars 1-4.. On bars 5-8, accented long rolls. Rudimental figures are heard on bars 9-12 and again on 13-16.

For the second drum chorus, he plays ruffs, cymbal crashes and syncopations on the crash cymbals (bars 1-4); quarter notes, then paradiddles between the tom-tom and snare (5-8); syncopated rolls (9-12) and finally a militaristic flourish to end the solo, punctuated by a cymbal crash and single quarter note on the bass drum.

As the ensemble leaps back in, Singleton continues to drive the band relentlessly, playing the “ride” beat on the cymbal with his right hand, four even quarter notes to the bar on the snare with his left hand and 4/4 time on the bass drum.

Allen holds a note for four bars, signaling one more chorus, but Singleton does not play a fill (or “turnaround”) beween the penultimate and final ensemble choruses—such a device is not necessary. By now the drums have become a literal juggernaut. The rest of the band manages to stay one step ahead of the fast freight barreling down the tracks. Singleton brings the tour-de-force performance to an exciting close with a ruff, two quarter notes and a syncopated figure on the snare and a “button” on the choke cymbal.

In the years following the 1940 Decca session, Singleton recorded many outstanding sides with a wide variety of musicians from Fats Waller to Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. But “King Porter Stomp” must surely rank as one of the greatest recordings of Singleton’s career. Few drummers could match Zutty for the kind of drive, pulse, tension-and-release and raw power heard on this side! It is tempting to imagine a conversation with Singleton regarding the drumming on “King Porter Stomp.” Considering his confidence in his own abilities and his sense of humor, Singleton would most likely have replied, “Watch out for that freight train, Face!”

HOME SWEET “HOME”

What a lovely discovery, courtesy of “andreaskagedal” on YouTube.  I don’t know the gentleman at all, but he has wonderful taste. 

He’s responsible for capturing this gently operatic reading of HOME by Bent Persson and the Hot Antic Jazz Band at the 2010 Askersunds Jazz Festival.  Sharp-eyed viewers will pick out Martin Seck on piano, Jean-Francois Bonnel on tenor sax,  and Michel Bastide on ensemble trumpet and the half-spoken vocal, quite charming.   

As my readers know, I find Bent’s evocations of Louis touching beyond words — here I am especially enchanted by his muted obbligato to Michel’s vocal. 

When shadows fall!