Here’s another tangible reminder of how wonderful the 2010 Jazz at Chautauqua experience was.
In four songs, cornetist Randy Reinhart created a rewarding reflection of the jazz played by Eddie Condon and friends.
I can’t say for sure that Randy had this theme in mind at all. Perhaps he thought, “OK, here’s the band I’ve been asked to lead — great soloists and a cooking rhythm section. Let’s make it easy for the guys to have fun and the audience, too — a reliable swinger to start with, a pretty change of pace, a feature for someone, and a hot one to go out on!”
But much more happened on that bandstand. First off, Randy had prime melodists and swingers around him: Bob Havens, trombone; Bobby Gordon, clarinet; John Sheridan, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar; Vince Giordano, string bass and bass sax (Vince never sidled over to the tuba on this set); Arnie Kinsella, drums.
A band like that can do anything — especially with a leader who has the good sense to keep things reasonably uncomplicated (save the fugues for later) and to give his players — almost all of them leaders on their own — space to invent.
Randy began his set with a Gershwin classic, another piece of music whose title is a witty affirmation, ‘S’WONDERFUL, and kicked it off at a nice tempo, not too fast. You’ll notice that although no one is consciously “modernistic,” the harmonic vocabulary here hasn’t stopped at 1936. Hear the wonderful teamwork between Bobby and Marty when Bobby takes his winding, musing solo. Bob Havens here reminds me of the great and under-celebrated Lou McGarity, and Vince (in his own way) summons up both Adrian Rollini and Ernie Caceres in his bass sax solo. Everyone gets aphoristic in the four-bar trades that follow before the final sauntering ensemble:
Randy featured himself — but in a very modest fashion — in duet with the thoughtfully swinging John Sheridan on something that was the very opposite of formulaic: a wonderful song from the 1933 Bing Crosby book, LEARN TO CROON — and the duet showed that they, too, had already passed the graduate course with honors: Randy’s ringing tone, John’s harmonic subtleties show that they’ve eliminated each rival immediately:
Turning to one of the sidemen and saying, “Here’s your turn; do whatever you’d like,” might lead even the most creative musician into His or Her Feature. Vic Dickenson played MANHATTAN for years, alternating with IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD; Jack Teagarden had his half-dozen specialties.
Bob Havens always surprises — not only with his super-gliding technique — but this choice was extra-special: BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILV’RY MOON, a pretty song that used to be part of the American musical landscape (and was parodied in cartoons) before lesser music came along. I suspect that Bob, a solid product of the sweet Midwest, had heard, sung and played the song, through childhood and adulthood. And what he and the immensely melodic Mr. Giordano did here is priceless and touching. I only regret that there wasn’t time for us all to sing along, two choruses — one to fumble, one to sing out now that everyone had recalled the words. No matter: you can harmonize with the video; thinking of people here and there singing along with Bob and Vince will please me for a long time. Even Arnie’s train whistle doesn’t intrude on the sweet moment. And for those who are taking notes, Bob had turned eighty a few months before, which makes his continued mastery an astonishment:
Affirmation, crooning, sweet sentimentality . . . how to conclude this session? How about a hot Chicago-style paean to the beauty and charms and fidelity of one’s Beloved — EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY (But My Baby Loves Nobody But Me):
Early in this posting, I mentioned the name of Eddie Condon. I don’t want that man and his music ever to be forgotten, or for our recollection to be eroded by time and inaccurate recollection. Watching these videos again, I thought how well — and without fanfare — Randy and his friends had made the spirit of Condon alive and vigorous: tributes to friends George and Bing, to Louis and Bechet, to sweet sentimental music.
And the ambiance — hot playing, correct tempos, sweet melodies, easy improvisation — brought back the various Condon clubs, Commodore Records, Town Hall, the Floor Show, the Deccas and Columbias.
To paraphrase Eddie, whose understatements were high praise, that set didn’t harm anyone!