Through the magic of YouTube and the generosity of Rae Ann Berry, I had been watching the extraordinary Clint Baker lead bands, generate swing, and dazzle on a good number of instruments for years before I was privileged to meet him.
He turned out to be a real kindred spirit: funny, genuine, candid. And he throws himself into whatever musical environment he finds himself, never standing back at a reserved distance. His groups swing — you can take that for granted — but Clint has different varieties of swing for different musical contexts — as you will hear in this set.
Clint’s New Orleans Jazz Band is clearly a group of friends, which is always a plus. There’s Marc Caparone on cornet; Howard Miyata on trombone; jazz patriarch Mike Baird on reeds; Dawn Lambeth on piano and vocals; Jeff Hamilton on piano and drums; Katie Cavera on guitar and vocals; Paul Mehling on bass . . . a versatile band of shape-shifters who are true to their own deep conception of rocking improvised music.
The set began with a funky ONE SWEET LETTER FROM YOU (its antecedent more Bunk than Hamp): Uncle How had to scurry from one set to another but did make it!
Katie came to the microphone to do one of her specialties, DO SOMETHING, what I think of as the flapper’s sweetly impatient updating of TO HIS COY MISTRESS, or “Shut up and kiss me, will you?” I’ve posted several versions of this song from Monterey, and each one’s been a pleasure:
Now that we’ve gotten the erotic carpe diem out of the way (at least for the moment), it’s time to honor Paul Barbarin with BOURBON STREET PARADE and the appropriate vocal chorus:
Something a little closer to the North: the lovely singing of Dawn Lambeth (with Jeff Hamilton taking over at the piano bench) — turning this New Orleans street parade into a time-travel back to the Vocalion studios with everyone making it up for the first time on THEM THERE EYES:
And Dawn follows with the tender THEY CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME. Listen closely to her sweet, original phrasing — a delight:
I knew MILENBERG JOYS was going to be something special when the ever-useful Jeff moved back to the drums, Dawn regained her seat at the piano, and Clint broke out his cornet. Please sit a safe distance from the monitor! The brass interplay is just extraordinary. I was wiping the sweat from my brow, and I was only videorecording. Later that day, I caught Clint taking a break betwen sets and I approached him with my best ominous look. “That MILENBERG JOYS you played earlier caused me a real problem,” I said unhappily. “Why? What happened?” he said with the deep gloom of a teenage boy whose misdeed has been found out. “It was so hot it melted part of my camera, you know!” I said, and he relaxed and grinned. I felt guilty for tormenting him, but it was worth it:
I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS is often the closing song of a set — and this would have satisfied any dreamy jazzlover, with Dawn’s gentle, heartfelt vocal:
But this is a New Orleans band . . . so they had to go out with something assertive, even something feline. Here’s TIGER RAG, which begins with a loud MEOW. It offers more of that two-cornet arson! And sharp-eyed cornet detectives will note that at some point in the performance (probably during the banjo solo) Marc and Clint switched cornets, although surely keeping their own mouthpieces. No matter: this music brings down the house even when you watch it with your eyes closed:
And for those who can’t miss a minute or an alternate take . . . you should know that the devoted Rae Ann Berry has put her own videos of this band on YouTube (see “SFRaeAnn”) and you might find the variations in cinematography and sound of interest. I know I do. And I imagine someone with two computers, synchronized, digging Clint and this band in surround-sound-and-Hot-Cinerama.