Monthly Archives: September 2010

JAVA JIVE

I’d love to have heard the conversation between Eddie South and Big Sid Catlett as they so politely posed for photographer Carl Mihn in September 1944 when they were both leading bands at the Streets of Paris nightclub in Los Angeles, California.  Eddie and Sid would have known each other from Chicago, but something tells me they didn’t always meet over coffee.

Cream and sugar, anyone?  Some rugelach?

This photograph was originally published in BAND LEADERS (March 1945, p. 21) in a photo spread called “Hollywood Is Hep.”  It appears here through the kind permission of the AB Fable Archives.

HAIL, KING LOUIS: BOB BARNARD, JOHN SHERIDAN, ARNIE KINSELLA at CHAUTAUQUA 2010

Both of Louis Armstrong’s birthdays — July and August — had passed by the time that Jazz at Chautauqua started its informal Thursday night sessions this September 2010.  But celebrating Louis Armstrong’s music needs no occasion besides itself, and always refreshes the most tired soul. 

A beautifully empathic trio gathered for four Louis-associated numbers, and did the great man honor. 

Trumpeter Bob Barnard saw Louis on his four Australian tours, played for him, followed him around, saw every show, even tried to get a handkerchief (but was thwarted in this by the rather sour Doc Pugh) . . . but his love of Louis goes deeper than simple hero-worship.  Rather, Bob has gotten to the warm heart of Louis’s music — understanding it rather than copying it.  You’ll hear a good deal of another Master, Bobby Hackett, here, which is appropriate — for Louis and Bobby loved one another.  Bob’s deep golden tone, his skipping phrases, the way he wears his heart on his sleeve without proclaiming it’s there — all add up to an emotional resonance that belies the apparent casualness of his approach to the horn. And although Bob can amaze with his mountain-climbing phrases, this quiet session found him tempering his approach to the band, the size of the room — without losing an iota of feeling. 

John Sheridan is a fertile, swinging embodiment of all that’s eloquent in jazz piano: in him, the elements of the great tradition come together for an instantly recognizable style that’s both light-hearted and serious, taking flight while keeping a fine beat and resonant harmonies going. 

Arnie Kinsella is in love with sound — the tapping a stick makes on a closed hi-hat, the wallop of another stick on a tom-tom head, rattlings and speakings all around his set.  Vince Giordano has called him LITTLE THUNDER: this trio finds Arnie in a mellow mood, not calling down the cosmic forces but being an engaging part of this high-level jazz conversation.

Bob began by calling Louis’ 1936 novelty hit, THE SKELETON IN THE CLOSET (which strikes me now as an interesting song to improvise on as an instrumental if enough musicians would learn its ins and outs) — with a rocking result, frightening no one:

Then, he thought of one of Cole Porter’s ballads from the film HIGH SOCIETY — indirectly honoring Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly as well as Louis.  Listen closely to John’s thoughtful exploration here, too:

Louis and Hoagy Carmichael were meant for each other — think of Louis’s STARDUST, GEORGIA ON MY MIND, and JUBILEE for three stellar examples — and LYIN’ TO MYSELF is one of those Carmichael songs so stamped with Louis’s personality that it takes strong players to attempt it, as this trio does nobly:

Finally, the set ended with a more mellow-than-usual version of I DOUBLE DARE YOU, which is often played fast, high, and exultantly.  (It initially begins as a cousin of SWING THAT MUSIC, but people who spend their creative lives on the high wire can be forgiven a brief detour into another Louis classic.)  Bob and John seem to make themselves comfortable within the song, making it more a wooing theme than a true dare: 

In these performances, there’s love, mastery, humor, teamwork — lessons for everyone!

DAN BARRETT IS COMING EAST!

It wouldn’t be hyperbole to call Dan Barrett one of the greatest jazz musicians I’ve ever heard.  In an age that seems to think multi-tasking the highest virtue, he’s a splendidly gifted trombonist, cornetist, pianist, singer, arranger, composer, and artistic sparkplug.  Any band that has Dan in it is already operating at a higher level of inspired play. 

Those of us who live on the East Coast don’t get to see and hear Dan as often as we’d like, but this is about to be remedied for a too-brief period.  “Mark it down,” as Billie growled on MISS BROWN TO YOU.  Here are the dates (at present) for Dan’s tri-state sojourn: I’ll be attending as many of these events as I can.   

Sunday, Oct 17: The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, New York) with Jon-Erik Kellso and the EarRegulars: 8 – 11 PM.

Monday, Oct 18th: Arthur’s Tavern on Grove Street (New York City) with the Grove Street Stompers.  Dan will be playing cornet with pianist Bill Dunham and other hardy souls.

Tuesday, Oct 19th: Bickford Theater, Morristown, New Jersey, with Danny Tobias; Rossano Sportiello, Frank Tate, and Kevin Dorn. 

Sunday, Oct 24th: The Ear Inn — another version of The EarRegulars featuring Andy Schumm, cornet; Dan, trombone.

Monday, Oct 25th: Concert for the Sidney Bechet Society at the Kaye Playhouse, Hunter College,  695 Park Ave., New York (a jam session with leader Dan Levinson; Randy Reinhart; Bucky Pizzarelli; Joel Forbes; others.)

Practical matters: The Ear Inn and Arthur’s tavern are casual places, but you’ll want to show up early to sit near the band.  Bring some folding money for the tip jar to say THANKS to the hard-working musicians!

To purchase tickets for the Bechet Society jam session, visit http://kayeplayhouse.hunter.cuny.edu/tickets.shtml or call (212) 772-4448.  The Society’s website is www.sidneybechet.org.

Tickets for the Bickford Theatre concert are $15 in advance, $18 at the door. Buying ahead of time, by phone, using a credit card, will shorten the lines… and reduce disappointment at the occasional sellout. Pick up your prepaid tickets in the express line that night (suggested), or have them mailed for $1 per order. Purchase at the door or via credit card over the phone. Box office: (973) 971-3706.  The Bickford is on Columbia Turnpike/Road (County Road 510) at the corner of Normandy Heights Road, east of downtown Morristown, NJ. Near Interstate 287 and the Route 24 Expressway.

DEEP SONGS AT THE EAR (Sept. 26, 2010)

It was another elevating night at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street). 

Nothing could spoil the collective merriment — not the fact that the subways were perversely unpredictable, not the untrained owner with the overeager dog who knocked over a beer and nearly ruined one of Jon-Erik Kellso’s antique mutes, never meant for a lager-bath. 

No, when Jon-Erik, Scott Robinson (tenor and soprano this time), Matt Munisteri, and Pat O’Leary join forces, it’s a delightful and always surprising musical encounter.  And (later on) they were joined by Bob Barnard (trumpet), who’s always inventive.

But the highlights for me were the imaginative musical conversations that the quartet and quintet embarked on — each player having his say but deeply listening to what his peers were doing and being inspired by it. 

Bear in mind that these are highlights — for those of you seated at home, savoring this experience, it’s only a shadow of what really goes on at The Ear Inn. 

After an energetic I DOUBLE DARE YOU, the EarRegulars chose something that has now become mildly unusual — the pretty Ray Noble ballad THE TOUCH OF YOUR LIPS played at a slightly faster tempo, reminiscent of what Ruby Braff might have done with this lyrical melody:

LIPS like those need a good long time:

Jon-Erik handed off the trumpet chair to Bob, who dove right in to a Louis-inspired CHINATOWN MY CHINATOWN, with Scott, Matt, and Pat in truly hot pursuit:

Music for two trumpets!  Jon-Erik called for “a rocking blues,” and Bob stayed on for a lengthy BEALE STREET BLUES:

Making BEALE STREET talk:

Irving Berlin’s sweet A PRETTY GIRL IS LIKE A MELODY got a swinging exploration:

SLEEPY TIME GAL began with a lavish reading of the melody and became even more lovely:

Isham Jones’s ON THE ALAMO gave the quartet a chance to stretch out and explore:

Too good to draw to a close too quickly:

What lovely songs!

A TRIBUTE TO THE McCOY BROTHERS (October 3, 2010)

In the Thirties, one of the great folk-blues-hot jazz bands was the Harlem Hamfats, who recorded a great many rocking sides for Decca’s “race records” line.  The band was sparked by the string playing of “Kansas Joe” (guitar) and “Papa Charlie” McCoy (mandolin) — who are buried in unmarked graves.

Arlo Leach has organized a daylong tribute to the McCoy brothers: it’s October 3, taking place in Chicago.  And our own Andy Schumm will be playing the role of hot trumpet man Herb Morand in a recreated Hamfats band.  Wish I could be there!

Please visit the site to learn about the day’s program — and perhaps make a contribution so that the McCoys don’t remain uncelebrated in death: http://www.mccoybrotherstribute.com/

NORMAN FIELD’S NOVELTY RECORDING ORCHESTRA at WHITLEY BAY (July 11, 2010)

Norman Field is a man of many talents. 

He’s a wildly versatile reed player — capable of becoming hot in the best Teschmacher manner or serene a la Trumbauer — while always retaining his own identity.  And he’s a wonderfully erudite jazz scholar, ready to discourse on esoterica — alternate takes and label colors — at the drop of an acetate. 

Norman’s also an engaging raconteur and enthusiastic singer: the session has new energy when he’s onstage! 

His website is http://www.normanfield.com/cds.htm

But that’s only one small sliver of what interests our Mr. Field: see http://www.normanfield.com/hobby.htm for a larger sample, including investigations of obscure recording artists, Norman’s beautiful wildlife photographs, disquisitions on an againg tumble dryer, and more. 

But what we’re concerned with at the moment is a delightful set Norman and friends created at the 2010 Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival — an ad hoc group named by festival director “Norman Field’s Novelty Recording Orchestra.”  I was recording it, and although many of the songs were familiar jazz classics, every performance had its own novelty.

The group — a compact assemblage of individualists — included the eminent Nick Ward on percussion, Frans Sjostrom on bass saxophone, Jacob Ullberger on banjo and guitar, Paul Munnery on trombone, and Andy Woon on cornet.  Here they are!

For those without a calendar or an iPhone, here’s OUR MONDAY DATE, created by Earl Hines in 1928 when he, Louis Armstrong, and Zutty Singleton were Chicago pals:

Another good old good one, ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET, honors Dorothy Fields, Jimmy McHugh, Louis, Johnny Hodges, and many other creators:

SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE, another hot Chicago song, was named for the dance (or was it the reverse?).  I think of Red Nichols and Eddie Condon as well as Frank Chace when I hear this multi-themed composition:

What could be more wholesome than a nice BLUES (IN G)?

Then, there’s the Claude Hopkins – Alex Hill declaration of romantic devotion made tangible, I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU, with a bouncing vocal from Norman — being a solid romantic citizen, notice that he eschews the MOST sometimes found in the title:

Time for something soft and slow — Paul Munnery’s feature on BODY AND SOUL:

Back to dear old Chicago in the Twenties, evoking Bix and his Gang with a fervent JAZZ ME BLUES:

And it’s always a pleasure to watch and hear Nick Ward swing out on his very own percussion ensemble, as he does on SWEET SUE:

The barroom favorite, MY MELANCHOLY BABY, is still a good song to play at almost any tempo:

And a closing romp on NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW made us all elated, notwithstanding the lyric.  Has anyone considered that the unnamed young woman of the song is really one of Thomas Hardy’s “ruined women,” who’s much happier having lost her innocence and gained her independence?

Thanks for the cheer, O Norman Field and Novelty Recording Orchestra!

TORONTO’S JPEC: SUPPORTING LIVE JAZZ (October 3, 2010)

Have plans for October 3, 2010?  Here’s a suggestion.  The Jazz Performance and Education Center, based in Toronto, is having a jazz gala to help make possible all their good works — and, as you can see above, it features an all-star jazz band and singer Ranee Lee.  Here’s the invitation with all the details you’ll need: http://www.jazzcentre.ca/images/evite-gala.pdf

To find out more about the JPEC (the brainchild of jazz  enthusiasts Rochelle and Raymond Koskie) and their endeavors to support and encourage live jazz in Toronto, visit http://www.jazzcentre.ca/About.html.