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.

PIANO FIREWORKS AT CHAUTAUQUA (from EHUD and ROSSANO)

It was Sunday afternoon and Jazz at Chautauqua had ended.  Guests had flown to their cars, hoping to get a head start on the long drive home.  The staff at the Athenaeum Hotel was putting the place back together, rolling tables back into storage, tidying up.  I was waiting with a group of musicians for the bus that would take us to Buffalo Airport. 

Suddenly I became aware of spirited piano playing.  That in itself wouldn’t have been exceptional, for the party featured Keith Ingham, John Sheridan, Mike Greensill, Ehud Asherie, and Rossano Sportiello.  But the playing was coming from the piano in the hotel parlor — a romping rendition of ALL GOD’S CHILLUN GOT RHYTHM.  It sounded like Rossano.  But no, like Ehud.  I got up (drawn magnetically by spirited improvisation) and went to investigate. 

Just for fun, Ehud and Rossano were playing four hands (sometimes three), with magnificent results — not only in their own brilliant solos, but in their inspired teamwork.  Here’s the portion of ALL GOD’S CHILLUN that I captured for posterity:

If any of my readers have CD companies of their own, I suggest that this is the idea of the decade . . . . !

MARTY GROSZ at CHAUTAUQUA: IMPROMPTU ENSEMBLES

Sometimes uplifting music happens in the most casual circumstances — as was the case at this year’s Chautauqua jazz party, which began with informal jam sessions on Thursday night.  Here are two more performances from a splendid little group, led by Marty Grosz and featuring Andy Schumm, Bob Reitmeier, John Sheridan, Frank Tate, and Pete Siers.

Here’s a pleasingly brisk run through I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME:

And a tune that musicians of a certain inclination love to play — perhaps because they spend so many hours on planes, away from their loved ones — BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD:

Impromptu and rewarding both.

BOB BARNARD’S NEW YORK (Part Two)

Having warmed up his trumpet on Tuesday night (September 21) with the Nighthawks, Bob Barnard returned on Wednesday to sit in with David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Centennial Band at Birdland. 

His credentials were (as Dizzy Gillespie would say) unimpeachable, because he was the only person in the room who’d actually played for Louis (as a member of Graeme Bell’s band). 

And, aside from George Avakian, who was seated nearby, delighting in it all, I think Bob could safely say that he was the only person in Manhattan who had seen Louis and the All-Stars on four tours of Australia. 

But Bob didn’t need to explain any of this to get up on the Birdland bandstand — the musicians in the LACB knew him well and were happy to have him join in: Jon-Erik Kellso, Wycliffe Gordon, Dan Block, Ehud Asherie, David Ostwald, and Dave Gibson.

And they performed three classics from the Armstrong book:

STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE:

SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY:

SWING THAT MUSIC:

More to come!

MOLLY RYAN SINGS SWEETLY (Sept. 21, 2010)

Being at Club Cache (Sofia’s Ristorante) in the Hotel Edison is a very good thing on Monday and Tuesday nights when Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks are playing.  It was especially good this past Tuesday when Bob Barnard came and sat in. 

But the surprises didn’t end when Bob sat down.  Vince called on the fine singer Molly Ryan to do an impromptu number.  Her choice was I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE — with an appropriate full-chorus solo from a tall fellow in the reed section standing up next to the EXIT sign, one Dan Levinson, who also happens to be Molly’s husband.  A sweet moment, musically and otherwise:

Thanks to Molly, Dan, Vince, and the Nighthawks (Mike Ponella, Jon-Erik Kellso, Jim Fryer, Will Anderson, Peter Anderson, Andy Stein, Conal Fowkes, Ken Salvo, and Arnie Kinsella) for this!

BOB BARNARD’S NEW YORK (Part One)

Mayor Bloomberg might not have noticed, but this week the Australian trumpeter Bob Barnard made Manhattan his own. 

Bob and his very charming wife Danielle have been away from home for nearly two months now, with visits to Scotland and England, to Jazz at Chautauqua, touching down for their final fortnight on the East Side. 

When I heard from Bob (at Chautauqua) that he was planning to visit some New York jazz spots, I put on my Carpe Diem outfit (it has a lapel button reading I’LL SLEEP NEXT WEEK) and followed him around admiringly. 

Bob knows the repertoire masterfully but isn’t offering a series of pre-formulated solos.  Rather, he approaches each chorus as a leap into the unknown: what will this melody and chord sequence have to say to me?  And his improvisations have lovely tumbling phrases, a round glowing tone, an exuberance that elates both audiences and musicians.  I hear Louis and Bobby and Bix, but you’re never in doubt that it’s Mr. Barnard at the helm.   

Last Tuesday, September 21, Bob and Danielle came to Club Cache in the Hotel Edison for an evening with Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks.  For most of the night, Bob was enjoying the band: their authenticity, their playfulness, their swing. 

This edition of the Nighthawks included Jon-Erik Kellso and Mike Ponella, trumpets; Jim Fryer, trombone; Will Anderson, Pete Anderson, and Dan Levinson, reeds; Andy Stein, violin and baritone sax; Conal Fowkes, piano; Ken Salvo, banjo and guitar; Vince, bass sax, string bass, tuba, and vocals; Arnie Kinsella, drums. 

Vince invited Bob up for three solo features, one more gratifying than the next.

Here’s SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY:

An amusing irony for a man who’s been traveling for eight weeks, BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD:

And an affectionate (and true) close to the evening, SOMEBODY LOVES ME:

There’s more to come from Bob in New York!

RARE ITEMS

Judging by the frequency by which their signatures appear on eBay’s “Entertainment Memorabilia,” some famous musicians spent as much time signing autographs as they did playing.  Others may have been less well-known or more reticent, so when their autographs appear it’s a pleasant surprise.  (And some eBay sellers label items “rare” in inverse proportion to their value.)

Eddie Durham wanted to be paid for his services, and rightly so, considering what marvels he accomplished with his arrangements for Basie, Glenn Miller, Lunceford, and many others.  Fifteen dollars for a band arrangement now seems a pittance; was this piece of paper actually from the Thirties or was Eddie simply notating, “Hey, you owe me fifteen dollars”?  Research, please:

William “Cat” Anderson, for all his blazing high register in the Ellington bands, might have been somewhat insecure: would anyone have mistaken him for an anonymous saxophonist or bassist?

This rare program from Benny Goodman’s 1962 trip to the USSR is something I hadn’t seen (a souvenir of that unhappy experience, according to the bandsmen); this one sports autographs by Mel Lewis and Jimmy Knepper, jazz stalwarts:

And the expected full-page portrait of the King himself:

And what I assume is a program of songs and performers:

And more of Benny, here in caricature:

Not the usual thing (Mindi Abair, Sonny Rollins, Les Paul,  or Don Redman signatures) . . .

YES! NEW MUSIC FROM THE CANGELOSI CARDS

The Cangelosi Cards provoke enthusiastic affirmations wherever they go. 

And recently they’ve gone as far as I can imagine — to the House of Blues and Jazz in Shanghai, China for a three-month residency.  They’re returning for gigs between October 22 and November 4, including a stint at the Nanjing Jazz Festival,  October 22nd-28th. The group will also make a four-city tour including Nanjing, Suzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing. 

I am cheered by their widening circle of friends.  But for those of us who can’t drop everything and follow the Cards to China, there’s new musical evidence to savor.

When I first heard the Cards at Banjo Jim’s some years ago, I was moved by their swinging momentum and deep feeling — unaffected sentiment with a rocking pulse.  The singular instrumental voices always sounded like a conversation — intimate yet fervent — that I was privileged to eavesdrop on.  When Tamar Korn began to sing, the experience became otherworldly, music coming from what Yeats called “the deep heart’s core.” 

Tamar and the band loved the music of the Boswell Sisters — not only the beautiful repertoire and hot solos but the vocal harmonies and sophisticated arrangements.  I saw Tamar and her sweetly singing friends Naomi Uyama and Mimi Terris create their own variations on the Boswell repertoire.  I remember their acapella rendition of MOONGLOW performed on the sidewalk outside Banjo Jim’s brought me to tears. 

Now that experience has taken tangible shape, for Tamar, Mimi, and Naomi,  as “The Three Diamonds,” have recorded a mini-CD of three selections backed by the Cards (Gordon Webster, Dennis Lichtman, Jake Sanders, Matt Musselman, Cassidy Holden, and Marcus Milius). 

It’s extraordinary music — connected by a celestial theme: STARDUST, MOONGLOW, and the lesser-known WHEN MY BLUE MOON TURNS TO GOLD AGAIN.  The EP will be available at the Cards’ shows and can be purchased online at www.losmusicosviajeros.net for $3 plus shipping.

And since the Cards are back in New York City for a moment, they can be experienced at Harefield Road, where, to quote Jake, they’re “inviting a bunch of folks out this Sunday, some good friends-fine players from other groups.”  Harefield Road is on Metropolitan between Graham and Humboldt in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the third stop on the L.  The Cards will play from 5 to 9. 

Members of the band will also be playing at MOTO (http://www.cafe-moto.com) on Friday nights from 9 to midnight. 

And they will also be presented in concert by the New Jersey Jazz Society — at the Bickford Theatre in Morristown, New Jersey, on October 11.  The concert begins at 8 PM: tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door.  The Bickford Theatre/Morris Museum: On Columbia Turnpike/Road (County Road 510) at the corner of Normandy Heights Road, east of downtown Morristown.    The hall is near Interstate 287 and the Route 24 Expressway.  It seats 300 and there’s ample on-site parking and wheelchair access.  Weeknight concerts are one long set (8 to 9:30 PM).  Tickets may be purchased via credit card over the phone by calling the box office at (973) 971-3706.  The box office can also provide information and directions, or email Jazzevents@aol.com.

PAGING DOCTOR JAZZ: FOR JIM DAPOGNY

Recently Jim Dapogny had major surgery.  But he is recovering (as Marty Grosz would say) With Dispatch and Vigor

If you don’t know Jim, what a pity — Professor Dapogny is not only a music scholar of great renown, noted for his work on Jelly Roll Morton and James P. Johnson, but he is a stomping pianist of splendid subtleties, someone who can rock the hall without half trying — a true successor to Joe Sullivan and Frank Melrose.  And he’s a wonderful arranger for big bands and small.   

Even with the stellar pianists at this year’s Jazz at Chautauqua, we missed the Professor. 

But the waggish Martin Oliver Grosz, he of the rapier wit, is very fond of his colleague and dedicated a tune to him during the Thursday night jam sessions.  What tune?  YOU PUT A BANDAGE ON ME — known to more sedate listeners as YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME. 

Here, Marty, John Sheridan, piano; Andy Schumm, cornet; Bob Reitmeier, clarinet; Frank Tate, bass; Pete Siers, drums, swing out in true Dapogny style.  They’re all specialists; they don’t need second opinions:

Get well, Professor!  Watch out for those co-pays!  See you next month!

The Third Set: ANDY SCHUMM and his BIXOLOGISTS at WHITLEY BAY (July 10, 2010)

“Too good to ignore!” as Eddie Condon once said. 

Here are the closing performances from a generous concert set: Andy, cornet; Paul Munnery, trombone; Norman Field, reeds and commentary; Paul Asaro, piano; Jacob Ullberger, banjo and guitar; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Josh Duffee, drums.

ANGRY (courtesy of the Bruni[e]s brothers):

JAPANESE SANDMAN. more evidence of the Orientalism of pop songs of the time:

SUSIE (OF THE ISLANDS), which Andy says is “take A”:

HUMPTY DUMPTY — a Schumm “modernistic” piano solo, entirely convincing:

and to close off this lengthy and rewarding concert, SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL:

We’re grateful for such impassioned, expert playing.

THE CHALUMEAU SERENADERS at WHITLEY BAY (July 11, 2010)

Seeing jazz live means that the wonderful sounds that have previously come out of speakers or earbuds are magically transformed into people with instruments, creating music only a few feet away.  Could anything be better than having a favorite band materialize in front of you? 

That’s happened to me many times.  An especially pleasing instance took place at the 2010 Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, when the Chalumeau Serenaders — whom I’d only known as a recording band — played a live set.  The Serenaders emerged from Stomp Off Records’ producer Bob Erdos’ love of clarinet duets.  Bob put together two of the finest with a crackling rhythm section: that’s Norman Field and Matthias Seuffert on reeds, Nick Ward on drums, Keith Nichols on piano and vocals, Malcolm Sked on sousaphone and string bass, and Martin Wheatley on banjo and guitar.  

They began with that pretty Irving Berlin song, A PRETTY GIRL IS LIKE A MELODY:

Then, because Bix and Tram seemed to be everywhere in the ether, Keith Nichols opted for I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA and sang a chorus:

WHO? was the question (the Chalumeau Serenaders were the definitive answer):

MAORI, (subtitled A SAMOAN DANCE) — by William H. Tyers, who wrote PANAMA, was next:

Norman Field suggested (whimsically, as is his habit) that the Serenaders create a LOWDOWN BLUES.  Or perhaps it was a LOW-DOWN BLUES.  You’ll have to decide.  And even though it was a sunny afternoon in Newcastle, Keith’s piano choruses summoned up a dark Chicago basement.  Nick’s drumming is usually extraordinary (“Every move a picture”) but watch and listen closely — also to Martin’s wonderfully down-low solo.  A highlight of the weekend:

The lovely I’LL NEVER BE THE SAME, echoing Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti, Billie Holiday, Buck Clayton, and Lester Young, followed.  Bask in the warmth of Matthias’ tenor sound, so rhapsodically reminiscent of 1934 Coleman Hawkins:

And the set closed with a romping (and accurately titled) FINE AND DANDY:

Remarkable things happen at Whitley Bay!

The Second Set: ANDY SCHUMM and his BIXOLOGISTS at WHITLEY BAY (July 10, 2010)

Andy, cornet and piano; Paul Munnery, trombone; Norman Field, reeds and commentary; Paul Asaro, piano; Jacob Ullberger, banjo and guitar; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Josh Duffee, drums; Nick Ward, drums on BORNEO and CLARINET MARMALADE.

SWEET SUE is a delightful melody at any tempo; I love Andy’s devil-may-care introduction: “A flat.  See what happens.”  What happens is great good fun:

WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD might have the solo by Andy Secrest, but it remains a lovely Irving Berlin song (recorded also by Bing Crosby and Fats Waller — alas, separately):

THOU SWELL is a splendid Rodgers and Hart declaration of love:

CHINA BOY was much beloved by Hot players from Condon and Tesch to Muggsy and Bechet, and remains a Hot perennial:

I’LL BE A FRIEND “WITH PLEASURE” is remembered by all who love Bix for its sweetly mournful solo, here evoked by the whole band:

BORNEO is one of those now politically-incorrect songs about the swinging savages.  But without the lyrics, it still rocks mightily (with percussive help from Nick Ward):

I’LL FOLLOW YOU must be the only song ever recorded both by Bing Crosby and Willie “the Lion” Smith — further proof of the Crosby influence reaching into all corners of jazz and pop music.  Here it’s a pretty ruminative feature for striding Paul Asaro:

CLARINET MARMALADE always reminds me of the many-themed silent film accompaniments, memorably so.  Catch Nick’s vibrant solo here:

Be back in ten minutes!

CHRIS TYLE, CL.

I know Chris Tyle as a wonderful hot cornetist, a superb drummer, an affecting singer.  What more would anyone want? 

But Chris is a splendid clarinetist as well — and I’ve just been reminded of this by one of the most consistently stirring new CDs to burst out of its mailer.  It won’t be out until mid-October (so says Amazon) but this will give you time to get excited, to anticipate, and (if you like) to pre-order.  It’s a honey of a session!

Since the photograph is a bit small, I will offer subtitles: the band is CHRIS TYLE’S PACIFIC PLAYERS, and the disc is “TRIBUTE TO PEE WEE RUSSELL” (Jazzology JCD 378). 

The Pacific Players are Chris, clarinet, vocals; Katie Cavera, solo guitar, bass, vocals; Ray Skjelbred, piano; June Smith, rhythm guitar; Hal Smith, drums. 

Most CDs by one jazz group — even the ones I earnestly yearn for — begin to seem long.  Maybe it’s my late-life-attention-deficit-disorder, but it’s more the unintentional lack of variety on those discs.  Seventy-five minutes of the same thing can get monotonous.  

Happily, I listened to this disc all the way through, delighting at the varied tempos and instrumental textures this little group accomplished with great style and knowledge. 

Creating a tribute to someone whose sound and approach were so distinctive could pose its own problem for a musician less intuitive than Chris Tyle.  Russell’s twists and turns, his mutters and wails have tempted less gifted clarinetists to attempt to “be” Pee Wee for a day.  And since Russell’s vocabularly was always vividly aduible, from his talking-to-himself chalumeau musings to his out-and-out arching hollers, lesser musicians might simply offer almost-identical collections of gestures within familiar repertoire.  The result, a shadow Pee Wee. 

But Tyle, rather like the late Frank Chace, knows better.  We have the original recordings, and someone attracted to a Russell tribute is likely to know them well, so imitation is suicide, to reiterate Emerson. 

Tyle has some of Russell’s characteristic phrases under his fingers and in his emotional library, but he blends his own left-handed approach with the Master’s.  If I heard this CD in a Blindfold Test (or a CADENCE “Flying Blind”) I would say, “That’s someone who loves Pee Wee but has his own musical identity.”  Chris has an innate rhythmic energy (he is a hot player even when purling his way through a ballad) and his own sound, both within and enveloped by Russell’s. 

And the CD — wisely — roams throughout Russell’s career and wide range of musical situations: there’s a WILD MAN BLUES that suggests the 1957 performance on television on THE SOUND OF JAZZ, a number of songs associated with Russell’s late quartet with Marshall Brown (MY MOTHER’S EYES and HOW ABOUT ME), some Condonia (MANDY, MAKE UP YOUR MIND and SAVE YOUR SORROW) and homages to the Rhythmakers among others.  This multi-faceted approach — without making the disc a chronological tour through Pee Wee’s recordings — adds a great deal to its charm and vitality.  I heard the rhythm section taking on some of the characteristics of Russell’s later recordings with Nat Pierce, Jo Jones, and George Wettling, and they manage to make SHINE ON YOUR SHOES and HELLO, LOLA romp with one horn only.

Chris would have had a steeper uphill climb with a lesser rhythm section, to be sure.  The first sound I heard on this disc was the joyous swish of Hal Smith’s hi-hat, and I will say only that his drumming through this session is supportive and exultant: he uses every part of his drum kit in the most swinging ways.  Katie Cavera adds her girlish singing (very sweet indeed) to a few numbers, her solo guitar most effectively, and her solid bass work throughout — sounding much like Walter Page, no small compliment.  June Smith is a wonderful guitarist with an authentic rhythm wave that can echo Freddie Green or Condon most delightfully.  And Ray Skjelbred is just invaluable — his rocking accompaniment and brilliant solo playing do honor to Hines and Frank Melrose, to Stacy and Sullivan . . . boiling away through the ensembles. 

I think this is a thrilling CD.  Hail Chris Tyle and his mighty colleagues!

ANDY SCHUMM and his BIXOLOGISTS at WHITLEY BAY (July 10, 2010)

Andy Schumm is a generous person and musician, and when given a block of time, congenial musical friends, and a receptive audience, he doesn’t spare himself. 

What follows is the first set of a Bix Beiderbecke-themed morning concert at the 2010 Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, recorded on July 10, 2010. 

Andy played cornet and piano; his colleagues were Paul Munnery, trombone; Norman Field, reeds and persiflage; Paul Asaro, piano; Jacob Ullberger, banjo and guitar; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Josh Duffee, drums. 

They began with MARGIE — we’re always thinking of her, too:

Then a romantic version of I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME (one of those songs that Andy — and I — would have loved to hear Bix play and record):

BIRMINGHAM BERTHA was a pop-jazz hit of 1929 or so, with recorded performances by Ethel Waters and Miff Mole, among others (with Josh Duffee bringing Stan King back):

JAZZ ME BLUES remains a Hot classic:

LOUISE (my request to Andy) is so pretty — whether done by Bix, Bing and the Rhythm Boys, or Lester Young and Teddy Wilson:

MY PET comes close to being a “naughty” song . . . all that heavy petting meant something then:

BLUE RIVER retains its essential melancholy:

KING PORTER STOMP takes us out of the Bix-and-Tram orbit to a parallel universe in 1924, the world where Joe Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton could find themselves playing this in duet — thankfully, in front of a microphone:

Finally, a jubliant exultation of good luck (or is it Horticultural Optimism?) — I’M LOOKING OVER A FOUR-LEAF CLOVER:

There’s a Second Set and a Third Set to come!

JAMMIN’ AT WHITLEY BAY (July 9, 2010)

Jazz musicians know that great truth: if you stay up late, you can always sleep tomorrow. 

Although the players at a jazz party might seem to have an exhausting schedule, many of them are fueled by the encounters with their peers and heroes — thus, an after-hours jam session often happens.  I was lucky enough to be awake for this one and have a fully-charged video camera.  The session took place at the “Victory Pub” in the Village Hotel Newcastle, the comfortable home base for the Whitley Bay International Jazz Party.  

Of course the seating arrangement scattered musicians here and there, and several flat-screen televisions remained on through the session, but the music was the focus here. 

The musicians who began the session were an organized band — a great one: Michael McQuaid’s Late Hour Boys: Michael and Jason Downes on reeds, John Scurry on guitar, Mark Elton on drums, Ian Smith on drums and washboard.  Then they were joined by Graham Hughes (from London) on trombone, and other gifted jammers.    

FORTY AND TIGHT comes from the Johnny Dodds book, and its title is a slang expression for something (or someone) who is splendidly gratifying.  How naughty the coinage is I don’t know; talk among yourselves:

MAMA INEZ certainly has a rocking, irresistible  beat:

Then, they were joined by a friend from the land of Oz — the fine trumpet player and singer Geoff Bull, who nudged them into SOME OF THESE DAYS:

Thinking of Louis, Jeff Barnhart unsheathed the keyboard and sang ROCKIN’ CHAIR:

But that might have been too mournful for a jubilant occasion, so they swung into another Louis-Hoagy connection, JUBILEE, which certainly did make the rafters ring / up to Heaven:

Bassist Henri Lamaire and drummer Josh Duffee joined the festivities and Geoff suggested the pretty THANKS A MILLION, again reaching back to the Thirties Louis book (or perhaps as homage to Dick Powell, who introduced the song in “the film of the same name”):

And the session concluded with a romping JUNE NIGHT, with pianist Martin Seck and a host of other musicians joining in (again, I’ll happily credit them by name if informed).  My hat’s off to Geoff Bull, who certainly knows how to get everyone going in the right direction with inspiring riffs.  And the wonderful solos are surely sparked by Josh’s exuberant drumming:

And here’s a very musical solo from Josh to wrap things up in a swinging way:

If you weren’t already convinced, I think this session is further proof that good things happen in the dark.

“IT’S GLORY”: THE EAR INN (September 5, 2010)

Last Sunday I made my way down to The Ear Inn with great eagerness.  Jon-Erik Kellso and Neal Miner were going to be there along with two players making their debuts at 326 Spring Street: altoist Dmitry Baevsky, whom I’d admired on a duet gig with Ehud Asherie at Smalls, and the remarkable guitarist Ray Macchiarola.

I wasn’t disappointed for a moment, as you shall see and hear.  And the guests in the house made the music even more delightful: Mark Lopeman brought his alto sax and sat in for part of the first set, and cornet master Danny Tobias lit up the room for one number in the second set.  I’m using the Ellington original as a title for this blogpost simply because the music at The Ear was indeed glorious.  Here are a few notable examples in a session of timelesss Mainstream jazz, full of wit, energy, and feeling: 

A leisurely I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME brought back Billie and Lester and their Basie-ite friends:

SLOW BOAT TO CHINA, music for two friendly alto saxophones:

AFTER YOU’VE GONE:

And a delicious little scrap too good to erase:

WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM:

And the conclusion, which ends with a hilarious little conversation between Dmitry and Jon-Erik before they head for home:

LADY BE GOOD (which I called DANNY DROPS BY on YouTube — features courtly interplay between the two brassmen, the very soul of politeness):

BLUES (a tempo and mood reminiscent of Parker’s):

BLUES Part Two:

TEA FOR TWO:

What delicious music!