The pairing of violin and trumpet as a jazz front line might initially seem odd until one thinks of Stuff Smith and Jonah Jones, Stephane Grappelli and Bill Coleman, even Joe Venuti and Jimmy Dorsey. Then, of course, there’s Ray Nance, who was his own pairing.
Someone at the 2010 Jazz at Chautauqua had the good idea of putting violinist (and vocalist and saxophonist) Andy Stein together with trumpeter-fluegelhornist Joe Wilder for a set, and backing them with Arnie Kinsella, drums; Keith Ingham, piano; Vince Giordano, string bass and more — all New York friends and long-time associates. Andy and Joe had worked together for Garrison Keillor on the PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION show, and (as the Irish say) this band “worked a treat.”
Here’s what happened! I first must note — admiringly — the way Andy and Joe play so beautifully as front-line partners, each allowing the other space, their lines intertwining beautifully.
They began with the jazz standard CHEROKEE, played at a tempo more easy than blistering, with the original melody being heard:
I suspect that Don Redman understood that GEE, BABY, AIN’T I GOOD TO YOU? was one of those rhetorical questions: if the object of one’s affection replied, “I don’t think so,” the relationship was in trouble. But this performance of this mournful song is anything but that:
Joe spent many years in the pit orchestras of Broadway shows, although I don’t know if he was there for Irving Berlin’s CALL ME MADAM. But the duet YOU’RE JUST IN LOVE is, well, lovely:
Andy’s BLOZIN’ — as he explains — is his own satire on the pretentions of the bebop generation. You’ll have to listen twice to catch all his funny, snide lyrics:
Finally, the old jazz chestnut BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA — but with the proper melody line, as Andy (he’s quite exact) explains it to us, to conclude a winning set of sweet Mainstream jazz:
And — is it too unsubtle to point this out? Joe Wilder was eighty-eight years old when he performed this set. He is one of the marvels of the age, no question!