Videographer and radio broadcaster Don Wolff is my idea of a jazz philanthropist.
After I posted one performance that Don had published (as “MrDonwolff”) on YouTube — by Marty Grosz, Peter Ecklund (cornet), Bobby Gordon (clarinet), and Greg Cohen (bass) — https://jazzlives.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/characteristically-marty-grosz-the-orphan-newsboys-1997/ — I asked Don if there were any more at home like that. There were and there are.
This set came from the 1997 Mid-America Jazz Festival, and it finds the quartet in wonderful form. The rhythm pulse is something to marvel at, thanks to the fine teamwork of Marty and Greg; the horns are splendidly lyrical and hot. And Marty’s inimitable commentaries are here preserved for future cultural historians.
Bobby Gordon wears his emotions proudly — no more openly than in a ballad performance such as IT’S THE TALK OF THE TOWN, that Thirties narrative of heartbreak and hoped-for reconcilliation. Who needs more than two choruses?:
DON’T BE THAT WAY is such a pretty song when removed from big-band performance ritual (there’s a touching version from 1938 — one of John Hammond’s many fine ideas — featuring Lester Young and Buck Clayton, approaching this song as a sweet rhythm ballad). Here, Peter’s pastoral whistling sets the mood instantly, leading to a gentle vocal. The often acidic Mr. Grosz is — to my ears — a peerless singer of love songs at this tempo and even out-and-out ballads, and he outdoes himself here. Peter suggests 1928 Bix at points, and Bobby, in his inimitable tender wanderings, evokes and outdoes his mentor Joe Marsala before the eloquent Greg Cohen has his say before Marty (imploring his favorite “fat mama” to be gentle) leads into a fade-out with a surprise:
And to close — a paean to romance of a different kind, EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY, where Peter growls the message to us through that archaic but useful jazz fashion accessory, the metal derby, before Bobby takes a more tender approach to his amorous declarations, before Marty and Greg show us why rhythm was born.
This performance, by the way, is the source of my title — a Grosz exhortation from the old days:
As I write this, Don is getting ready to record more of Marty and his esteemed friends at the 2011 Arbors International Jazz Party in Florida — I can’t wait!