Monthly Archives: January 2011

THE CELLAR BOYS: FRANK MELROSE, TESCH, WINGY, BUD, WETTLING, “CHARLES MELROSE,” 1930

Thanks to “atticus 70,” here are two wonderful hot sides from the glory days of searing Chicago jazz featuring two sadly short-lived and legendary players, pianist Frank Melrose and clarinetist Frank Teschmacher.  The other musicians on the session had longer lives: trumpeter (or cornetist?) Wingy Manone, tenor saxophonist Bud Freeman, drummer George Wettling, accordionist “Charles Melrose.”*  Recorded January 24, 1930.

The musicians took their name from the club (the “joint,” I think) they were playing in, which was called MY CELLAR.

The first selection is BARREL HOUSE STOMP (take A), and Frank Melrose appears right after the accordion solo; he’s propulsive throughout.  And Tesch is clear-toned and rasping as the spirit moves him.  Both Freeman and Manone are instantly recognizable, and although Wettling’s drums aren’t recorded as they would be in the Forties through the Sixties, he and his bass drum are solidly in there:

The other side was — no, IS — WAILING BLUES (also take A), reminiscent of KING OF THE ZULUS (without the vamp).  In the video slide show, the first picture is from 1932 (I think) showing a very serious Jess Stacy and George Wettling, seated, with a quizzically somber Tesch standing in back of them; other photos depict Wettling, Bud, Tesch, and even Jimmy McPartland.  In both displays Frank Melrose is shown in a hand-tinted photograph.  His boater is appropriately cocked to the side; his eyes stare, somewhat narrowed, away from the camera.  A serious man, the craft of playing barrelhouse piano a vocation not to be taken lightly:

This post is for all the devotees of Hot and especially for Aunt Ida Melrose Shoufler, one of this blog’s most cherished readers.  More about the Melroses in good time!  (Frank always kept good time . . . )

*Aunt Ida told Hal Smith that there was no “Charles Melrose”; Hal thinks the accordionist is Bennie Moten’s brother Bus, sitting in.  Any comments on this mystery?

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IN SUNNY ROSELAND WITH THE EarRegulars (Jan. 23, 2011)

ROSE ROOM, by Art Hickman and Harry Williams, has a special place in the hearts of jazz fans.  It’s a lovely pastoral song from either 1917 or 1918, but several things raise it above the level of the ordinary pre-Twenties pop hit. 

One is that it is famous as the song Benny Goodman called when that interloper Charlie Christian was sneaked up on the bandstand by the meddlesome but inspired John Hammond.  Legend has it that Goodman thought — not a nice thought — that Charlie wouldn’t know the song or would find the chord changes difficult and either be embarrassed or sneak off the stand in disgrace.  Of course, Charlie had no trouble and he played rings around everyone on the stand.  The rest is too-brief history.

Two is that it is the harmonic basis for Ellington’s IN A MELLOTONE.

Three is that it is one of those songs that reveals itself in different, beautiful ways whenever the tempo is changed.  I’ve heard it played as a romp, a saunter (the 1943 Commodore version with Max Kaminsky, Benny Morton, Pee Wee Russell, Joe Bushkin, Eddie Condon, Bob Casey, and Sidney Catlett), and as a yearning love ballad (J. Walter Hawkes, in this century, in live performance).

And four is that there is a Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars concert recorded in Vancouver in 1951.  For whatever reason, Louis was (atypically) not onstage when the concert was supposed to begin, so Barney Bigard, Jack Teagarden, Earl Hines, Arvell Shaw, and Cozy Cole just jammed ROSE ROOM for a start — an easy hot performance.  Were I Ricky Riccardi of THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF LOUIS ARMSTRONG, http://dippermouth.blogspot.com/, I could share it with you right now, but alas . . . you’ll have to imagine it.

But all that is prose.  How about some music?

Last Sunday, the mighty EarRegulars, the reigning kings of small-band swing who appear at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, 8-11 PM on Sundays — except this next week, Feb. 6, because of some large-scale sporting event whose name eludes me) took on ROSE ROOM late in the first set.

The EarRegulars were charter members, co-founders Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet (in a rousing Eldridge mood); Matt Munisteri, guitar; Neal Miner, bass; and the newcomer to The Ear Inn — but not to New York jazz! — tenor saxophonist Tad Shull, who has a laid-back, coasting behind the beat, relaxed Websterian approach that’s very refreshing.  Here’s what they played (with hints of Webster’s DID YOU CALL HER TODAY in the encouraging conversation between Jon-Erik and Tad at the end):

The Ear Inn is dark, but it was sunny Roseland for ten minutes!

REMEMBER: ALL MONEY GOES TO THE MUSICIANS!  SO PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW!

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A VISIT TO THE IDEAL WORLD (Jan. 27, 2011)

Who knew that one version of Paradise could be found in Williamsburg, Brooklyn? 

It’s true!

It’s the Radegast Hall and Biergarten, at 113 Third Street — at the corner of Berry Street — take the L to Bedford Street. 

In December 2010, I’d gone into new territory to hear the Grand Street Stompers, a delightfully compact jazz ensemble led by Gordon Au, and I had a fine time.  The people I’d met had been lovely, the music surprising and reassuring in equal measure, the beer — a lemon-colored, fizzy Gaffel Kolsch — delicious.   

http://www.radegasthall.com/

But it was even better last Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011. 

I had learned that the GSS would be playing that night.  But the days before had been particularly snowy.  It wasn’t the Blizzard of 2011 by any means, but it was messy and slushy.  Stubbornly, I had decided that I had to be there.  

Snow boots, knapsack with video equipment, gloves, cash, a street map . . . I patted my pockets to assure myself I had everything a bold jazz explorer needs! 

I arrived at Radegast more than an hour early, and went into the long rectangular room next to the bar to eat something.  After being gently directed by a pleasant waitress to the grill in the back of the room, I stood in rapt contemplation (like Joe Rushton) of the sausages and burgers-in-training sizzling on the grill. 

“Sizzling” is a dreadful cliche of menu-speak, I know, but in this case it was true.  I had a gracious mind-expanding discussion with the grill-Sage about choices, and I ended up with an awe-inspiring meal for less than ten dollars: smoked kielbasa, a mound of warm sauerkraut, some grill-toasted peasant bread, large self-serve helpings of Radegast’s own mustard. 

I was already in culinary Paradise with this wonderful unassuming hearty unfussy food.  I ate it slowly and savored every last molecule.  The temptation to return to the grill and say, “Do that again . . . with this sausage,” was strong but but I resisted.

Now, I hear some of you saying, “Michael, this narrative of your dinner has some appeal, but when did JAZZ LIVES become DINNERTIME?”

Have patience.

I found out later from the friendly manager, Chris, that the owner tailors the music on the sound system to the band playing there that night.  So while I contemplated my meal with true reverence, I was even more uplifted by the music. 

For me, to walk into a place and hear music I love on the sound system is a great, rare gift.  For it to be Sidney Bechet and Jonah Jones (Blue Note, circa 1954) was wonderful.  For it to be Bobby Hackett and the Andrews Sisters performing BEI MIR BIS DU SCHOEN (1937), even  better.  For the iPod shuffle to come up with I HOPE GABRIEL LIKES MY MUSIC by Mr. Strong . . . !  Bliss.

Then, I went to the bar and ordered my Gaffel Kolsch (I am a one-drink person while videorecording) and it was just as good as I’d remembered. 

Then the musicians — people I admire and like — began to come in.  I had lovely conversations with Gordon (trumpet, arranger, composer); Tamar Korn (vocals and astral travel); Dennis Lichtman (clarinet and wit); Emily Asher (trombonist in charge of blossoming); Nick Russo (banjo, guitar, and true hipness); Rob Adkins (bass, and serious joy).  And — for the cinematically-minded — when I had first been at Radegast the room had been so atmospherically dark that I could just about discern the faces of the musicians.  Better light this time, much appreciated!

The Grand Street Stompers settled themselves on their wooden chairs and Gordon kicked off the first number (he doesn’t announce them although he is happy to talk about what the band played after the set, if you ask).  I didn’t recognize it from the verse.  Then the band swung into the chorus and I nearly fell off the barstool in delight: I’ve only heard two bands perform SHE’S A GREAT GRET GIRL: Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks in 2010 and the original, Roger Wolfe Kahn in 1927 — a record featuring Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang and a very hungover but startlingly original young man from Vernon, Texas, Jack Teagarden.  It’s a great great song for easy jamming:

I have watched that clip a dozen times and it improves under scrutiny: the GSS rocks, and you might enjoy watching the body language of a group of very happy improvisers — they rock and grin, too!

What could follow that?  (I thought, “Well, if nothing else happens tonight — which I seriously doubt — I’ve had my Jazz Moment for the month!”)  But equally fine music was in store . . . a dirty, gutty, downhome version of AUNT HAGAR’S BLUES that made me think of Louis in the Columbia studios, proceeding seriously through W.C. Handy’s sermon on the healing powers of hot music, that low-down stuff, rendered as sensitive dance music to hold your Beloved close.  I wouldn’t change a sixteenth-note, from the thoughtful deep conversation among the horns to Rob’s bowing to the lovely head-arrangement passages.  Their mixture of care and ardor is something to admire:

Many musicians who are brilliant irreplaceable improvisers aren’t equally compelling composers — which is understandable, for they create their compositions every night on the second chorus of BLUE LOU.  Gordon Au is an exception: his compositions sound like songs rather than improvisations on someone else’s ideas.  And, as Dennis Lichtman pointed out, Gordon’s songs sound like his improvised playing — the same nice balance between rise-and-fall lines full of repeated notes and a cheerful reverence for the melody itself.  Here’s his ESCALLONIA RAG, which reminds me once again of an imagined piece for the Sixties Louis Armstrong All-Stars:

Gordon’s university training is in science, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that he named this original after a lovely Hawaiian flower: http://www.hear.org/starr/images/species/?q=escallonia+rubra+var+macrantha&o=plants

Then it was time for Tamar to sing, always an Event in my book.  It takes courage to open your performance (in a room full of chat) with a ballad, and then to begin that ballad with two rubato choruses.  But this is what the intrepid, searching Miss Korn did with MEMORIES OF YOU.  Her voice, as always, makes me think of great acting that isn’t acting, “country music” that isn’t the Grand Old Opry . . . you get the idea.  And the musicians follow, adding their own commentaries on this song, both sad and hopeful, coming together for hymnlike cadences while Rob is, cello-like, bowing away to great effect in the darkness, before Tamar returns to sing, so deeply, and with such feeling for the lyrics: 

MEMORIES OF YOU was (and is) so intense that I didn’t know what could follow it — certainly not something in the same wistful mood.  I don’t know who suggested SWEET SUE, but it was a fine choice — the delights of love realized rather than a song of yearning and remembering.  Not too fast, and pretty.  And the band!  Emily Asher is blossoming as a player: while we are sleeping, she’s spreading her wings!  And in case you wonder where the drum-cymbal-tambourine propulsion comes from, it is just another of the many faces of Tamar.  I love the dialogue between the two “trumpets,” as well.  This band doesn’t only share our dreams; it creates them:

Since I’ve heard so many formulaic performances of WON’T YOU COME HOME, BILL BAILEY? I tend to approach the song cautiously.  Of course Louis and Danny Kaye did it hilariously in the film THE FIVE PENNIES and, more recently, the most eminent Joe Wilder played it at a concert — having announced it, deadpan, as THE RETURN OF WILLIAM BAILEY.  This version is a delight — from the opening and closing vocal interludes (Tamar’s soprano scatting is what the angels would sound like, if 1. I believed in them, and 2. they swung) and the rocking momentum.  If Bill stayed away after hearing this imploring in jazz-time, there would be no hope for him:

As before, I said to myself, “What could follow that?” and Gordon, who is a wise leader, changed the mood with his own PAVONIS (named for the species or genus of the peacock) which reminds me of Carmichael and Strayhorn at the same time — moody, shifting, surprising, and lovely:

And the set ended with a little rough-and-ready jam session on the wonderful LOVE NEST (which will remind some of you of Burns and Allen, some of a 1944 Commodore record session that brought together Max Kaminsky, Rod Cless, and James P. Johnson).  Here the Grand Street Stompers were joined by the very engaging Lucy Weinman (of the Big Tent Jazz Band) who knows what it is to swing out.  Cool stockings and great ensemble lines, no?

A wonderful experience, as you can tell.  And it happens at least once a month!  (There’s a natural segue to be made from this post to the PayPal button below, but I’ll let my readers get there on their own.)

REMEMBER!  ALL MONEY GOES TO THE MUSICIANS!  SO PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW AND BE GENEROUS!

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WHAT RAPT CONTEMPLATION LOOKS LIKE

Josh Rushton, the very generous son of bass saxophonist (and clarinetist) Joe Rushton, sent along this photograph of his father — one of our collective heroes:

Josh says:

Hope your new year is starting out OK.  Just came across another shot of dad in rapt concentration, probably to a playback of just recorded track.  Not sure when this taken, could be early 1960’s or thereabouts in LA.  After seeing the PanAm bag in the distance, I might assume this took place after the 1960 good will tour for the US government?  Most of our family’s great B&W shots (including this one no doubt) were courtesy of Bill Wood, Red Nichols’ clarinet player back then, a good friend and frequent visitor to the Rushton household, and an avid near-pro photographer who never went anywhere without his Leica camera.

Making beauty is serious business!

Heartfelt thanks to both Rushtons and Bill Wood for their generous spirits.

REMEMBER!  ALL MONEY COLLECTED GOES TO THE MUSICIANS!  PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW!

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BETTY SMITH (1929-2011)

I learned of the death of British saxophonist, clarinetist, and singer Betty Smith from Jim Denham — whose blog is SHIRAZ SOCIALIST — a good friend although we’ve never met.  Here’s his posting —  http://shirazsocialist.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/betty-smith-6-july-1929-21-jan-2011/ and the obituary written for THE INDEPENDENT by Steve Voce, someone who knew and loved the musicians of that generation all over the world:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/betty-smith-saxophonist-and-singer-hailed-for-her-improvisational-panache-2196497.html.

She was a fine player — although (like Kathy Stobart) not well-known in the larger circles of “jazz scholarship.”  But Bobby Hackett seems to be happy to be on the same stage with her.

“OH, CLICK ME!” SAYS THE LINK.  AND ALL THE MONEY COLLECTED GOES TO THE MUSICIANS!

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MUSIC IN THE CURRICULUM: ALICE and BUTCH

Music is an integral part of the curriculum in all schooling.  Whether it’s the fifth-graders square dancing in the gym, the high school orchestra rehearsing classics, or the university jazz ensemble, they all bring light.

In that spirit, I present two YouTube clips that whimsically illustrate the point.  The first is the imperishable Swedish singer Alice Babs in her Ella-influenced turn in SWING IT, MAGISTERN (Swing It, Teacher) which has every cinematic stereotype of swing imaginable — but Miss Babs is wonderful, isn’t she?  And you don’t have to know Swedish to swing it! 

I had read about this performance a dozen years ago in one of the great Czech writer Josef Skvorecky’s novel-memoirs — he sat through this film over and over to see this sequence.  Considering what was happening in Europe in 1940 and onwards, I understand wholly.  I think that Miss Babs helped win the war.

The second clip is odd — but for those who find it both painful and amusing, it lasts only seventy-five seconds.  JUST FRIENDS is one of the great songs from the early Thirties, with beautiful records by Red McKenzie and, twenty years later, Jack Teagarden. 

But for pure emotional impact, can either of those men equal Tommy “Butch” Bond in THE LITTLE RASCALS belting it out in a 1933 short, MUSH AND MILK?  Not a whimper of false modesty or stage fright here:

Talk about believing in yourself and in your material!

P.S.  In case you might wonder at the banner below (Tommy is past being interested in money, alas, although I am told Miss Babs is alive and well in Sweden) it refers to previous postings concerning the JAZZ LIVES cyber-tip-jar for living musicians.  Information available on request!

ALL MONEY GOES TO THE MUSICIANS!  PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW AND BE GENEROUS!

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COMING SOON: TED BROWN AND BRAD LINDE (Feb. 5, 2011)

Wonderful things can happen at a jazz gig before a note has been played. 

That was the case when the Ted Brown Quartet performed at Sofia’s on Jan. 13, 2011. 

I had gotten there very early (my anxious parents always left the house too far in advance and arrived everywhere too early) and fell into conversation with a bespectacled young man seated at the bar.  We spoke of the musicians and the music, and he extended his hand and introduced himself.  “I’m Brad Linde,” he said. 

I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t have an instantaneous flash of recognition, but as we talked I thought, “He knows his stuff; he’s a real player with a deep awareness of the music.”  And then I said, “Do you have any CDs out?”  He said, “Yes, one, it’s called FEELING THAT WAY NOW.” 

As they say in the United Kingdom, the penny dropped, and I said — right off.  “My God!  I reviewed that CD for CADENCE and I loved it!”  And everything was hilariously in balance: I hadn’t recognized him but I was able to bring him good news: he had not seen the review.  A delightful interchange, wouldn’t you say? 

And it was even more delightful when young Mr. Linde did two things. 

It was his gentle urging that got Lee Konitz to walk in and sit at the bar to hear the music — making me think that we were in the presence of greatness.

And when Brad took out his tenor, I was warmed by the music he and Ted made — a series of heartfelt, friendly, apparently casual conversations.  Not a Hollywood cutting contest, certainly not Young Warrior overpowering Old: more like father and son chatting about things that mean so much.  (Brad has a loving reverence for his Jazz Fathers — performing with Butch Warren and Freddie Redd, for example!) 

Here’s a sample of what Ted and Brad created on YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM:

I’m writing this post not only to celebrate the cheerful, humble, expert Mr. Linde and his many endeavors — but to let New Yorkers know that more of this splendid music is coming our way in one week. 

On Saturday, February 5, 2011, a quartet of Brad, Ted Brown, bassist Joe Solomon, and drummer Taro Okamoto will be playing from 9:30 PM to 1 AM at Tomi Jazz — that’s 239 East 53rd Street (lower level), between Second and Third Avenues.  646-497-1254 or http://www.tomijazz.com/. for more information.  I have it on good authority that the delightfully gifted tenor saxophonist Lena Bloch, who played so beautifully at Sofia’s, will be there, too.  Perhaps Mr. Konitz will come in and oversee everything as he did, as well. . . .  You come, too!

ALL MONEY GOES TO THE MUSICIANS!  PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK AND BE GENEROUS!

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COMING SOON: PETE MALINVERNI’S “INVISIBLE CITIES” Smalls, Feb. 4/5, 2011

Pete Malinverni is an inventive pianist and composer — someone I have had the good fortunte to hear and meet recently.  (My jubilation was initially mixed with sadness that I hadn’t had the pleasure twenty years earlier, but such things are beyond our powers to change.) 

Pete is hardly overexposed at New York City gigs, so I encourage my readers who can to visit Smalls on Friday, February 4, and/or Saturday, February 5, 2011 — both nights at around 10 PM and 11:30 PM — to see Pete and a quartet of high-level improvisers create paths to and through his “Invisible Cities.”

The “Invisible Cities” project showcases new arrangements of familiar compositions about cities — such as I LOVE PARIS and CHICAGO — as well as Pete’s own compositions.  His friends on the bandstand will be Scott Wendholt, trumpet; Rich Perry, tenor saxophone; Ugonna Okegwo, bass; Eliot Zigmund, drums.  Smalls is located at 138 West Tenth Street in New York City, just off Seventh Avenue South (a minute away from the subway stop for Christopher Street / Sheridan Square on the #1): it costs twenty dollars at the door to enter and stay for hours.  There’s a well-stocked and well-staffed bar, and (if you’re lucky) a beautiful Maine Coon cat, Minnow, will wander in and around.

REMEMBER: ALL MONEY GOES TO THE MUSICIANS!  PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW!

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=VBURVAWDMWQAS

FEEL THE WARMTH: TED BROWN AND FRIENDS AT SOFIA’S (Part Two: Jan. 13, 2011)

In reading about tenor saxophonist Ted Brown and his connections to Lennie Tristano and what is characterized as “the Tristano school,” I kept finding the words abstract, intellectual, cool. 

It intrigues me to see those terms used as faint praise, as if anyone who ever had contact with Tristano was suddenly transformed into a snow creature.  I didn’t hear that in Ted’s playing. 

And even though I come from the world of HOTTER THAN THAT and STEAMIN’ AND BEAMIN’ (you could look those up), I heard the music that Ted and friends played on that snowy night as lyrical, song-based, not a series of chilly mathematical puzzles.

The participants that night at Sofia’s (221 West 46th Street, New York City) for these performances were Ted on tenor; Lena Bloch, tenor; Bob Arthurs, trumpet; Michael Kanan and / or Sacha Perry, piano; Murray Wall or Stephanie Greig, bass; Taro Okamoto, Hyland Harris, or Mark Wadsworth, drums. 

Listen and observe for yourself!

Here’s SUBCONSCIOUS-LEE, an improvisation on WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE?  — with its eminent creator, Lee Konitz, sitting at the bar, sipping his beer, listening closely to what his friends (Ted, Bob, Michael, Murray, and Taro) were creating.  (Perhaps some of my more “tradition-minded” readers will find the opening chorus a little startling.  Have faith: this music won’t bite you!):

DIG IT!  — now there’s a title to conjure with.  Ted, Michael, Murray, and Taro ride the lovely up-and-down contours of this loping line with grace and wit:

Another apt title — THE THINGS I LOVE — is a sweet saunter through romance and romanticism worthy of late-period Lester Young and his friends Jimmy Rowles, Ray Bown, and  Jo Jones.  These players certainly have heartfelt stories to share with us.  And I thought again of Pete Malinverni’s assertion, “It’s melody, man!”  Yes, it is!:

For I REMEMBER YOU, some new friends came to play: Lena on tenor (two tenors doesn’t have to mean JATP); Stephanie on bass, and Hyland on drums.  Thanks for this memory!:

And the closing music honored Bird — in the same melodic, lazily intense way.  First, YARDBIRD SUITE, with Ted, Lena, Stephanie, Hyland (swinging that hi-hat and brushes in the noble manner), and Sacha:

And, to close off this rewarding evening, SCRAPPLE FROM THE APPLE, featuring Ted, Murray, Michael and Sacha, and Mark.  That personnel listing might seem a mistake, but watch closely.  Sacha is a wondrous pianist (as is Michael) and he had played on YARDBIRD — but you can see him politely hoping that another chance to play might happen before the evening came to an end.  In the most gracious way, the two pianists switch seats slightly more than halfway through the performance — true gentlemen as well as swinging improvisers!:

Abstract, intellectual, cool?  Hardly! 

And I hope to be watching Ted, Brad Linde, Joe Solomon, bass, and Taro create more of the same delicious music on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011 from 9:30 to 1 AM at Tomi Jazz in New York City: 239 East 53rd Street (lower level) between Second and Third Avenues.  Their phone is 646-497-1254; their website is http://www.tomijazz.com.

REMEMBER: ALL MONEY GOES TO THE MUSICIANS!  PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW!

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=VBURVAWDMWQAS

TRANSPARENCY

Several readers and friends have expressed concerns about my idea of rewarding the musicians whose video performances I post on JAZZ LIVES.  And in the interest of what Andreas Kagedal calls “transparency,” here are a few clarifications.

They are not idly stated or chosen.  I understand that — even in the best economic times — asking people to part with any money is something serious.  And JAZZ LIVES is in the odd / intriguing position of public radio or television: I will keep doing what I’ve been doing even if the plan to recompense the musicians is not a success (in ways I can’t yet predict).

So here goes.

1.  I am not taking a cent of the money I collect — not for “administrative expenses,” not for a salary.  I am not asking readers to pay me for what I do.

2.  Rather than being a reward for the most popular band or “the best band on JAZZ LIVES,” which seems fraught with hurtful possibilities, I propose that my model is a profit-sharing scheme.  At the end of the year, I will tally up the videos I have posted of outstanding jazz performances — videos I have created myself (not YouTube clips from other sources).  I will divide the proceeds according to the frequency with which each musician appears.  (I believe that for this to be reasonably workable a player will have appeared with some regularity.)  A player who has been featured in twenty clips will get a larger percentage of the monies collected than a player who has appeared in one.  And although the math is potentially annoying, I think this system rewards the musicians rather than “bands,” which sometimes have fluctuating personnels.

3.  What does this mean in practice?  Let us assume that you have been moved by the videos I have been posting.  And let us also assume that if you were on the spot you would reach into your pocket and put some money in the tip jar.  The PayPal DONATE button is the way to send some tangible love to these gifted men and women even if you are far away.  It doesn’t have the same immediacy — but how many of us are willing to find out a musician’s home address and send her / him a check for the pleasure we have received?  Many of us would like to but find the lack of immediacy a drag . . . . I am trying to use cyberspace to accomplish what is (on one level) physically impossible — that you could BE THERE, watching and enjoying the sounds and the scene.  My hope is that the same machinery — mysterious and wonderful — that makes it possible for you to watch TIGER RAG or BODY AND SOUL even when time and space seem to make it unreal, will make it possible for viewers to give something back.

4.  Here’s the button!  Try it out . . . .

ALL THE MONEY GOES TO THE MUSICIANS!  PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW!

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=VBURVAWDMWQAS

For the musicians, JAZZ LIVES thanks each of you in advance.

And tomorrow I would like to post some videos rather than discussing them!

Late-breaking news: it seems that the button above does not work when the blog comes through email . . . but it does work if you look for this entry or the preceding ones by visiting http://www.jazzlives.wordpress.com

OPEN YOUR HEART

In THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE
https://jazzlives.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/therell-be-some-changes-made/
I wrote from my heart.

I hope that people who love this music, who watch the videos I post, will give something back to the men and women who so inspire us. 

Someone dubbed my idea “the JAZZ LIVES cyber-tip-jar.”

It is an experiment in making it easy to send love and appreciation. 

I have created a PayPal account to collect whatever people can give.  Whatever I collect will go to the musicians.  I know my readers will make PayPal swing!

Don’t worry: JAZZ LIVES will never become public radio or public television.  No pledge drives, marathons, tote bags, exhortations. 

But I hope that the PayPal DONATE button inspires everyone to send something tangible to the musicians who so inspire us.

PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW: ALL MONEY COLLECTED GOES TO THE MUSICIANS!

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=VBURVAWDMWQAS

And what would a JAZZ LIVES announcement be without the appropriate music?   

On January 20, 2011, the Beloved and I went to Smalls (138 West 10th Street) and delighted in the duets of Jon-Erik Kellso and Ehud Asherie.  One of the lovely songs they played — and I didn’t recognized it until Ehud announced it — was James P. Johnson’s OPEN YOUR HEART. 

Open yours.  Let it grow!

P.S.  It’s the morning of January 28th: the PayPal account is working splendidly; people have sent money; it will go to the musicians.  “Yeah, man!”

ONE MORE TIME! THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE

I am doing the unusual thing of sending this blogpost out again because it seems to have stalled somewhere in cyberspace. 

It is a very important posting for me and perhaps for the music.  I hope you understand my earnestness. 

Thank you for reading it and following JAZZ LIVES! 

P.S.  I have indeed started the process with a new PayPal account.  It’s working!  People have sent money: the money will go to the musicians.  Hotter than that!   

Michael Steinman

“You gotta pay the band,” according to Abbey Lincoln.  

This isn’t a post about putting more than a dollar bill in the tip jar: that’s for another time.  

This post is about responding with open hearts to the marvels the musicians create for us.   

Because of JAZZ LIVES, I have been having the time of my life recording live jazz performances and sharing them in cyberspace for free.  I am so happy that people who can’t get to a New York club or Chautauqua or Whitley Bay can now enjoy what the musicians do so brilliantly.  And my readers tell me regularly how these videos enrich their lives.    

Without intending to take advantage of a soul, I have made it possible for people to see hours and hours of live music for free.  But the last two words of that sentence have come to seem an unfairness.   

Have no fear: I do not plan to stop videorecording jazz performances.  To do so would break my heart.

People have told me, “You are acting as an unpaid publicist.  These musicians are getting great publicity and exposure!”  Maybe that is true, but I think that even politely asking musicians to work for nothing isn’t right. 

When some New York City listeners tell me, “I don’t have to go to ____ club because I can watch the performances on your blog,” that’s not right, either.   

So, THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE.  You know the song.

want to make JAZZ LIVES a medium for generosity and appreciation so that people all over the world can send the musicians tangible recompense for their creativity.  

A few musicians I’ve spoken with have dissuaded me from the iTunes model (putting a set price one must pay to view each video). 

I like the idea of a PayPal DONATE button.  People could donate what they choose as the spirit moves them.  I know that my readers would be generous!   

Let us give back to those who give us so much joy.  It’s only fair!

UPDATE: HERE’S THE LINK!  TRY IT OUT!  ONE CLICK MOVES MOUNTAINS (as the musicians move us!)

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=VBURVAWDMWQAS

THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE!

“You gotta pay the band,” according to Abbey Lincoln.  

This isn’t a post about putting more than a dollar bill in the tip jar: that’s for another time.  

This post is about responding with open hearts to the marvels the musicians create for us.   

Because of JAZZ LIVES, I have been having the time of my life recording live jazz performances and sharing them in cyberspace for free.  I am so happy that people who can’t get to a New York club or Chautauqua or Whitley Bay can now enjoy what the musicians do so brilliantly.  And my readers tell me regularly how these videos enrich their lives.    

Without intending to take advantage of a soul, I have made it possible for people to see hours and hours of live music for free.  But the last two words of that sentence have come to seem an unfairness.   

Have no fear: I do not plan to stop videorecording jazz performances.  To do so would break my heart.

People have told me, “You are acting as an unpaid publicist.  These musicians are getting great publicity and exposure!”  Maybe that is true, but I think that even politely asking musicians to work for nothing isn’t right. 

When some New York City listeners tell me, “I don’t have to go to ____ club because I can watch the performances on your blog,” that’s not right, either.   

So, THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE.  You know the song.

want to make JAZZ LIVES a medium for generosity and appreciation so that people all over the world can send the musicians tangible recompense for their creativity.  

A few musicians I’ve spoken with have dissuaded me from the iTunes model (putting a set price one must pay to view each video). 

I like the idea of a PayPal DONATE button.  People could donate what they choose as the spirit moves them.  I know that my readers would be generous!   

Let us give back to those who give us so much joy.  It’s only fair!

UPDATE: HERE’S THE LINK!  CLICK ON IT, WON’T YOU?

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=VBURVAWDMWQAS

REMEMBER! JACK ROTHSTEIN RECALLS THE METROPOLE

Photograph by Roger Wood, circa 1965

The Metropole in New York City was on Broadway and had a large bar near the front and the musicians played on a stand within the bar. The front window had been removed so passers-by could see and hear them. Dick Wellstood played there with a trad group. He told me that when they were hired the owner told them, “I do not want to interfere with your artistic integrity. You can play anything you want, provided you play loud.”

SPREADING JOY at THE EAR INN (Jan. 16, 2011)

It’s wonderful to spread joy.  To me, the concept doesn’t mean acting silly or buying someone a greeting card to send good cheer: it means something larger, creating beauty and sharing it so that other people become deeper and more enlightened.

Readers of JAZZ LIVES won’t be surprised when I say that the EarRegulars and friends spread joy splendidly on the evening of Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011 (from 8-11 PM).  As always, they did it at The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City. 

The regular EarRegulars (what pleasure it is to write that!) were Jon-Erik Kellso, trying out a Thirties Conn trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar and vocalizations, both singular.  Then we had Mark Lopeman on tenor sax and clarinet and Neal Miner on string bass — both quietly eloquent, nimble individualists.  Later, the heroic Pete Martinez brought his clarinet!  (In a prior post, I’ve offered the three vocal performances at the end of the evening — by Tamar Korn and Jerron Paxton, with the addition of yet another clarinetist, Bob Curtis.)

But here is some genuine Hot Jazz to warm you up, spiritually and any other way.

WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS is one of those songs that works wonderfully at a number of tempos, from the yearning Bix-and-Tram version (and even slower when performed by Peter Ecklund) to the jogging Kansas City Six (1938) version with Buck Clayton, Lester Young, Eddie Durham or Charlie Christian, Freddie Green, Walter Page, and Jo Jones.  I didn’t bring my metronome, so I can’t tell where the EarRegulars romp fits in, but it nearly lifted me out of my seat.  Hear the four players cascade, each one in his own way:

I associate BALLIN’ THE JACK with the Blue Note Jazzmen — also, oddly, with a vocal version done in the late Forties by Danny Kaye, someone who could swing in his own fashion when he decided to put the clowning aside.  The song — an ancient let’s-learn-to-do-this-dance by Chris Smith — has one of the most seductive verses I know of, and it was a thrill to hear the EarRegulars wend their way through it.  Hear how Jon-Erik balls the jack into his first solo chorus:

Mark, Matt, and Neal took time to consider OLD FOLKS, that loving Willard Robison meditation on a much-loved elder member of the family:

Because Mark Lopeman’s band director was in the house and TIGER RAG was the school fight song (what a hip place indeed!) Jon-Erik suggested it.  This version is compact (four players rather than thirteen) but it growls and frolics just as energetically.  Listen to Lopeman (when is someone going to offer him a chance to do a CD under his own name, please?): he rocks!

James P. Johnson’s OLD-FASHIONED LOVE is, to me a combination of a secular hymn to sweet fidelity given a down-home flavor.  I first heard it on the Vic Dickenson Showcase, so many years ago, and it’s never left me.  And I like the old-fashioned kind, I do, I do — as do the monogamous fellows of the ensemble.  You can hear it in their playing!  (It occurs to me that Matt’s tangy twang evokes not only the Mississippi Delta but also George Barnes, whose single-note lines consisted of notes that snapped and crackled.  And those wonderful exchanges between Jon-Erik and Neal — a bassist whose solos have strength and resonance.)

The irreplaceable Chris Flory (just returning to action after an accident — we’re so glad he’s back, intact!) took Matt’s place for HAPPY FEET, a song that has the distinction of being connected with Bing Crosby, Paul Whiteman, THE KING OF JAZZ, Fletcher and Horace Henderson, Red Allen, Dicky Wells, Fred Astaire — quite a pedigree (as opposed to “pedicure,” although witty Jon-Erik ends his solo with a kick at TICKLE-TOE!):

And I end this posting with the universal expression of desire (the second movement of the EarRegulars Happiness Suite), I WANT TO BE HAPPY, its delight intensified by a visit from Pete Martinez, who is beyond compare.  And the “Flory touch” at the start is completely remarkable; the riffs behind Pete are pure Louis, always a good thing:

I call that joy, don’t you?

“THINGS ARE TOUGH ALL OVER”

When Louis Steinman, my father (1915-1982), would meet a friend on the street, the dialogue would go like this,

“Hey, Charles, how’s every little thing?”

“Oh, things are tough all over.”

And they’d both laugh.

For the moment, things are tough all over. No, I must be more accurate: things are Tough all over.

I mean Dave Tough (he hated “Davey”) — one of the greatest drummers, percussionists, creators of sound-clouds, ever.  Cousin Uwe Zanisch (more about that later) sent along a wondrous YouTube clip, beautifully done, of an American jazz band that recorded in 1928 in Germany and featured Tough and Danny Polo on clarinet.  Given the fidelity of the 78 rpm record and the way that engineers recorded the drum kit eighty years ago, the listener will have to get deeply inside the sounds to hear what Dave was doing — but his steady, flexible bass-drum beat is a reassuring foundation of the band, and his cymbals and accents are there and they are right!  I hear echoes of the Jean Goldkette band in this and think you will too:

Cousin Uwe is someone I embrace through this cyber-medium, even though we have never met.  He is Sole Proprietor of a wonderful blog, SATCHMOTUBE — devoted to collecting and sharing performances of Louis Armstrong on film and television: http://satchmotube.blogspot.com/2010/05/pops-singt-italienisch.html.  It’s a delightful blog.  It makes me feel happy whenever I visit it. 

But why do I call Uwe “Cousin”?  It srikes me more and more that we have Internet families — people we love and admire who send the same feelings back — who we might never meet in person. 

Thus Uwe has been taken into the Steinman entourage, whether he likes it or not!  And maybe my ever-expanding jazz family will help me feel better about my dead father, someone whom I miss terribly as I write these words.  He lives through me, and I hope he knows that.

SOMETHING FOR JIM ROTHERMEL

Jazz musicians give us so very much.  And sometimes all they get back is our applause, thirty dollars at the end of the night, a burger, a beer.  It seems to me that there ought to be a way to do better, especially in the case of reedman Jim Rothermel. 

I missed the benefit held on January 17 for Jim — someone I’ve admired in a variety of jazz contexts although I’ve never had the opportunity to hear him in person.  But here’s what Scott Anthony of the Golden Gate Rhythm Machine wrote:

As you may know, Jim Rothermel, the Golden Gate Rhythm Machine’s fabulous reed-man since 1984, has undergone almost 6 months of chemotherapy to combat acute leukemia.  He has been accepted at Stanford Medical Center for a bone-marrow transplant as soon as an acceptable donor is found, probably early in 2011.  Recovery from this procedure will take a number of months, possibly up to a year, during which time he will be unable to work or have any income at all.  We are hoping this benefit will raise money for his support during his recovery period.

Click here https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=BJVUPK7HXLFGL to donate money for Jim: any amount will help!  And if you distrust online transactions, the old-fashioned method will do nicely, Checks made out directly to Jim can be sent to him at Jim Rothermel, 14 Seibel Street, San Rafael, CA 94901. 

Think of the music — and of the people who so heroically create it for us! 

THE INSPIRING CHRIS HODGKINS

Meet the versatile and creative Cardiff, Wales-born trumpeter Chris Hodgkins.  

His music answers questions: how to make art new without abandoning the tradition; how to have one’s own voice while honoring your ancestors and colleagues. 

I first heard about Chris through the magic of Google Alerts — because someone had compared him to Ruby Braff, which is my idea of an accolade.  Then I found out that he and his musical friends had created three compact discs, PRESENT CONTINUNOUS, FUTURE CONTINUOUS, and BOSWELL’S LONDON JOURNAL:

Just so know what the musicians look like should you encounter them on the street: to the left is bassist Alison Rayner; to the right of Chris is guitarist Max Brittain.  Click here to hear Alison Rayner’s QUEER BIRD, from PRESENT CONTINUOUS:

http://www.chrishodgkins.co.uk/album1.asp

And here’s Alison’s SWEET WILLIAM, from FUTURE CONTINUOUS:

http://www.chrishodgkins.co.uk/album2.asp

Click here to hear THE MACHINE, from BOSWELL’S LONDON JOURNAL (where alto saxophonist Diane McLoughlin joins Chris, Alison, and Max):

http://www.chrishodgkins.co.uk/album3.asp

You’ll hear that his music is, on one hand, rooted in a Mainstream tradition: I hear Braff, Lyttelton, Buck Clayton, echoes of Horace Silver and Blue Note recordings of the Sixties, of Henry Mancini and occasionally Strayhorn . . . in a streamlined instrumentation (a trio of trumpet, guitar, and bass on two CDs, enlarged into a quartet on the third by the addition of tenor sax).  Chris himself is a singular player; his tone ranging from the silken to the edgy, his lines winding and floating over the ringing lines of Brittain’s guitar, the deep pulse of Rayner’s string bass, and on BOSWELL’S LONDON JOURNAL they all get along nicely with the lemony alto saxophone of McLoughlin.  By the way, Chris loves the assortment of sounds and timbres that mutes give to his horn (as well as playing open) so the three discs never sounded like more of the same.   

I get a bit nervous when confronted with CDs that are all “original” compositions — whisper this: many musicians, stalwart and true, do their best composing on the bandstand, not on manuscript paper (but don’t say it too loudly) so that I was delighted to see some Kern and McHugh, Lyttelton, an Ellington blues, YOU’RE A LUCKY GUY and IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN.  Moving a little beyond the “songbook” tradition, I noted that Chris delights in a wide variety of composers and songs: Neil Sedaka’s BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO, lines by Conte Candoli, Sahib Shihab, Thad Jones, Harry Edison.  And then there are the originals — varied and lively, in many different moods and tempos.  (How could you do anything but admire a man who titles a song SWINGING AT THE COPPER BEECH?  And if you don’t get the in-joke, I’ll explain.)

BOSWELL’S LONDON JOURNAL is a real pleasure — and I am not speaking as a still-active professor of English, but as a jazz listener.  I admire Chris’s awareness of his emotional and spiritual roots in the literary / cultural past, and his joyful audacity.  The first track on the CD, THE MACHINE, describes a stagecoach ride taken by Boswell.  Chris’s original lines fall somewhere in between the twelve-bar blues and OLE MISS, and the sound of the band perplexed me — light, airy, yet serious — until I recalled its analogue: Buck Clayton’s Big Four for HRS in 1946: trumpet, clarinet, electric guitar, and bass (Scoville Brown, Tiny Grimes, and Sid Weiss, if I recall correctly).  What follows is not exactly program music: had I lost the liner notes explaining what each composition referred to, I would have still enjoyed the music — but knowing the artistic structure underneath made this a much-more-than-usually pleasing musical travelogue, veering here and there from updated Thirties rhythm ballads to hints of Horace Silver and Hank Mobley as well as very hip film soundtracks and Sixties pop of the highest order (AUCHINLECK).  I don’t know if I would have guessed the subtext of the winding, pensive REPENT IN LEISURE (referring to Boswell’s having caught gonorrhea), but the historical / musical connection works for me.  It is great fun to listen to the music on this disc — full of feeling, subtlety, and charm — whether reading the notes at the same time or as an after-commentary.

Chris Hodgkins is a fine trumpet player, small-group leader, and composer; he has good taste in his musical friends and in the music he chooses to play.  As a professor of mine used to say over thirty years ago, “I commend him to you.”

THREE ARIAS, THREE MOODS at THE EAR INN (Jan. 16, 2011)

Despairing.

Optimistic.

Sly.

If you thought that arias were sung only in opera houses and on PBS; if you thought that Puccini and Mozart had cornered the market on passionate vocal expression . . . then I would ask you to consider the three performances below.

Recorded at my favorite Sunday-night hangout of all time, The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City), these three vocal – dramatic expressions are emotionally powerful.  They capture two singers: Tamar Korn and Jerron Paxton, alongside Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Neal Miner, bass; Mark Lopeman, tenor sax and clarinet, and Pete Martinez, clarinet (far left) — on the final number, clarinetist Bob Curtis can be seen and heard even more to the left. 

The three songs couldn’t be more familiar landmarks of twentieth-century American popular song, but listen to what these singers and players make of them! 

I had heard Tamar perform BODY AND SOUL once before (with the Cangelosi Cards at the Shambhala Meditation Center, on Feb. 27, 2010 — you can see that performance on this blog) but I do not think I have ever heard her or anyone else sing this song with such despairing power and intensity.  And, yes, I know it has been sung beautifully and strongly by Louis, Billie, Frank, and many others.  But listen — listen! — to Tamar and the band here, the musicians giving her their full love and support, as she stretches notes in some phrases, stating some plainly.  And her second chorus, where she suggests by her singing that some things are too deep for mere words: 

I am not alone in having some awkward feelings about this song: its somewhat syntactically-tortured lyrics; its inescapably masochistic air (much more self-immolating than UNTIL THE REAL THING COMES ALONG); it is more a song of voluntary indeiture than of simple fidelity.  And Tamar enters so wholly into the spirit of it that I hear her moving closer and closer to the flame, to the brink, in the manner of Piaf.  But a strange thing happens here.  You realize that as much as Tamar is apparently performing open-heart surgery in front of the crowd, saying, sobbing, “You want my heart?  Here!  Here it is!  Take it!” she is simultaneously the artist in full control, creating a dramatic (but not melodramatic) statement about love and art and passion.  In appearing to throw herself into the song, she is also the artist knowing how to create that spectacle which is so unsettling, so seismic.  And the gentlemen of the ensemble evoke Roy Eldridge, Lester Young, Ed Hall, Charlie Christian, and Oscar Pettiford in the most singular ways!  Perhaps they’ve all been prisoners of love, too?

After that performance, I felt utterly satisfied and drained: in some way, I thought, “That’s it for me!  I don’t have to hear anything else tonight, tomorrow, next week . . . ”  But it was early — perhaps twenty minutes before the EarRegulars would call it a night — and they conferred on another song that Tamar might sing with them.  It took some time — choices were suggested and rejected — and since I am a born meddler and enjoy the friendly tolerance of everyone in that band, I leaned forward and said, “Sorry to intrude!  But what about WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS”?  And — my goodness! — Tamar and the Regulars thought it a good idea, and they took it up at a brisk tempo, everyone playing around with the written harmony to spark it up a bit (what I’ve heard called “the Crosby changes”) which you’ll notice.  Here, the mood was properly restorative, hopeful.  Yes, you sold my heart to the junkman, but I can always barter something and get it back in decent shape.  The clouds will soon roll by.  Your troubles can, in fact, be wrapped up in dreams and made to disappear.  Hokey Depression-era thoughts, not supported by evidence?  Perhaps.  But if I woke up in a gloomy mood every morning, which I fortunately do not, I would want to play this video — more than once — until I felt better.  See if it works for you, too:

The heroic Jerron Paxton had come in to The Ear Inn between the first and second sets, and I had hopes that he would sing.  When he shows up at a club, music happens!  And for the final performance of the night, he and the EarRegulars settled on a rocking SOME OF THESE DAYS, that anthem of “You left me and won’t you be sorry!” but sung with a grin rather than finger-waggling or real rancor.  Jerron is a sly poet, singing some phrases, elongating others, speaking some . . . and he gets his message across when he seems to be most casually leaning against the wall, just floating along: a true improvising dramatist:

Thank you, gentlemen and lady, for your passionate candor, your eloquence.

LOVE IN MUSIC by JIMMY ROWLES

 Jimmy Rowles plays and sings SUNDAY, MONDAY OR ALWAYS (Johnny Burke – Jimmy Van Heusen, written for Bing Crosby) with the help of bassist Rusty Gilder in 1974.

Send this clip to your Beloved . . . even if (s)he is just across the room . . . .

Thanks to Michael Kanan (a wonderful Rowlesian who knows not only what it is to listen to JR but to aspire to his greatness at the keyboard) for making me think of Rowles this morning.

TED BROWN AND FRIENDS (Part One): SOFIA’S, JAN. 13, 2011

To me jazz is still such a surprising expansive field — a huge meadow, in fact — that there are wonderful players I have never heard. 

I am trying to make up for these lapses, though. 

I confess that the tenor saxophonist Ted Brown, now 82, was only a name on the back of a record cover until he came to sit in on a Joel Press – Michael Kanan quartet gig at the very end of June 2010.  I already admired Joel immensely, and I could add Ted to the list of musicians whose playing spoke to me.

Ted came back to play gigs in New York City this month — the first one on Jan. 12, 2011, at the Kitano Hotel, with Michael Kanan, Murray Wall, bass, and Taro Okamoto, drums.  I hope to have some performances to share with you from that night.

But the next night (it was still dreadfully cold and snowy) Michael surprised all of us by saying that the quartet was going to be appearing at Sofia’s.  I had other non-musical obligations for the evening, which I quickly sloughed off so that I could see this quartet again.  And I am delighted that I did so!

Where the Kitano gig was lovely and serene, Sofia’s was much more like a convocation of friends.  Not exactly a jam session, but a sweet series of “Come on, join us!” as the evening progressed. 

After a first set by the quartet, a number of jazz-pals brought their horns and sat in for a number or two, with fine results.  No one tried to outdo anyone, no solos went on for long, but it gave me the feeling that I do not always have in jazz clubs, “This is the way the musicians would be playing if they were alone!”  A rare sensation.

I wouldn’t presume to point out highlights from each performance, but I would ask listeners to pay particular attention to Ted’s dry, sometimes hesitant, questioning sound and approach.  It isn’t a matter of physical inability: his powers are intact.  Rather it is a kind of focused purity, of paring-away the inessentials in the manner of late Lester Young, not running through long-held figures and phrases but choosing the two notes, perfectly placed, that have greater impact.  Ted’s spaces and pauses are as beautiful, architecturally, as the notes he plays. 

Michael Kanan is, quite simply, a great pianist, someone who nibbles away at the edges of a song — its melody, its harmony, displacing its familiar rhythms, setting up teasing tensions between left and right-hand lines and accents.  He reminds me of Jimmy Rowles, in the surprising, sometimes intentionally asymmetrical castles he builds in the music. 

Murray Wall is at one with the beat: see him rock with what he plays, bringing enthusiasm and precision to those notes, that pulse.  And Taro Okamoto has a ringing sound and great variety, no matter what parts of his drum kit he is experimenting on at that moment. 

And the delightful guest stars were up to their level: tenor saxophonist Brad Linde, a husky other-voice responding affectionately to Ted’s lines; the young trumpeter Felix Rossy (he and his father, drummer Jorge, hail from Barcelona) who recalls a young Miles, bassist Stephanie Greig, energizing the band with her rhythmic propulsion; trumpeter Bob Arthurs, cool yet impassioned.  And more to come!

The quartet began the evening with an easy melodic choice — Gershwin’s SOMEBODY LOVES ME taken at a fast clip:

SWEET AND LOVELY, its harmonies more complex, brought out the inherent striving lyricism not only in Ted but in the other players:

Michael suggested to Ted that they do the latter’s line SMOG EYES (a play on STAR EYES and Ted’s comment on the climatological burdens of Los Angeles, where he had moved from New York City — and an improvisation on the chord changes of THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU):

Then Felix Rossy, tentative in posture but not approach, joined in.  Felix has his back to the camera, but his sound — reminiscent of Tony Fruscella — comes through!  His father told me that Felix was 16 (he’ll be 17 on April Fool’s Day) and when I said to Jorge, “You did a good job!” Jorge grinned and blushed but said, “Thank you, but he did it himself,” which is a lovely compliment to them both.  The quintet embarked on a long exploration of ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE:

Someone suggested LESTER LEAPS IN (the spirit of Pres is never far when Ted is playing) but Michael wanted to make the tempo much less frenetic than it might have been, calling this version LESTER REASONABLY STROLLS IN, with Murray giving his bass over to Stephanie, who plays jauntily:

At Brad Linde’s telephonic urging, a true star walked in — raincoat tightly belted around him, his hair in a near crew-cut, said hello, made himself comfortable at the bar, ordered a Corona, and listened intently.  It was Lee Konitz, whose presence you must imagine through the next performances.  With his august (perhaps austere) presence, the second set ended with RELAXIN’ AT CAMARILLO, the Bird blues, with Felix sitting out, Stephanie remaining:

After a break, Brad Linde joined the quartet for a splendidly evocative YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM — the two tenors graciously making way for one another, their sounds distinct but never clashing:

And the momentum of that DREAM carried them through an equally leisurely investigation of I’LL REMEMBER APRIL:

Then Bob Arthurs took Brad’s place for the Lennie Tristano 317 EAST 32nd STREET (Tristano’s address at the time), an improvisation on OUT OF NOWHERE:

Six more lengthy performances remain in this most fulfilling evening.  Join me for Part Two!

HEARTFELT: SEINA’S “TRIBUTE TO MR. LEONARD GASKIN”

Leonard Gaskin (1920-2009) was a solid bassist who played with everyone: Don Byas, Sonny Stitt, Stan Getz, Eddie Condon, Dizzy GIllespie, Billie Holiday, Ruby Braff, Miles Davis, Kenny Davern, Bud Freeman, Rex Stewart, Charlie Parker — and here he is recalled and his memory kept alive by the very sweet-natured young woman Seina. 

Don’t miss this: