Monthly Archives: May 2011

POETIC (The Second Set): MICHAEL KANAN, JOEL PRESS, SEAN SMITH, JOE HUNT (Smalls, May 13, 2011)

Michael Kanan, piano; Joel Press, tenor / soprano saxophone; Sean Smith, string bass; and Joe Hunt, drums, created a memorable first set at Smalls jazz club on May 13, 2011.

Happily for us, their sustained creativity lit up the second set as well.  The music was easy, thoughful, emotionally intense but never losing its cool.

Monk’s HACKENSACK:

YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO, with Michael’s lovely rubato reading of the verse:

I HEAR A RHAPSODY (which could stand as a title for my postings of this group):

SOPHISTICATED LADY — with a floating duet for tenor and piano:

and the closing RED TOP (in F):

Joel plans to be back in New York City from June 23d through July 7th.  And on the 7th, he will be playing duets at Smalls with the excellent pianist Spike Wilner.

ESSENTIAL LISTENING: CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND “TEARS”

Some time ago on JAZZ LIVES, I had some fun posting two Desert Island Disc lists of my own — one of the Great Dead, one of the Happily Living.

Now, it’s time to revise those lists — because TEARS, by Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band, is an absolute delight.

It’s not a respectful museum-piece, but a lively, surprising evocation of many jazz eras — one of those CDs you will listen to all the way through and then want to play again.

Clint Baker is one of those blessed players who can swing the band no matter what instrument he picks up.  On Rae Ann Berry’s YouTube videos (and some of mine), the exciting evidence is there: Clint on trumpet, cornet, trombone, clarinet, guitar, banjo, drums, vocal — all superbly.  On this CD, he plays trombone — moving around stylistically from the hot roughness of the late Twenties to the smoothness of mid-Thirties Benny Morton, all with conviction and wit.  In the front line, he has Marc Caparone (punching out that fine lead in the best Mutt Carey manner or looping around in the sky a la Buck Clayton) and Mike Baird (think Johnny Dodds or Prince Robinson).

But the best front line imaginable sinks without a cohesive, friendly rhythm section — like the one on this CD: Dawn Lambeth on piano (more about Dawn in a minute), Katie Cavera on swinging guitar and banjo (ditto); Mike Fay (did someone say “Wellman Braud”?) and the wonderful Hal Smith, propulsive but always deeply sensitive to the band as a whole.

Katie delivers one of her delicious sweet-tart, almost-innocent vocals on SWEET MAN, which is a treat.  And Clint convinces us of the earnest message of WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM.  But this CD also has a vocal masterpiece: Dawn Lambeth’s pure, yearning I CAN DREAM, CAN’T I?  And Dawn illuminates four more selections — jazz singing at its best.

Clint favors what he calls “musical whiplash,” which has a rather ominous ring to it — but it’s not what happens when you’re driving, engrossed in a new CD.  No, what he means is a wide-ranging repertoire, a band comfortable with playing music from the ODJB, King Oliver, operetta and opera (Saint-Saens!), Twenties pop and novelty tunes . . . all with precision and abandon, intensity and relaxation.

The CD runs 73;34, and the songs are OSTRICH WALK / I CAN DREAM, CAN’T I? / TEARS / SWEET MAN / ONE HOUR / YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU (the Hot Five song, not Jolson’s) / LOVING YOU THE WAY I DO / MY HEART AT THY SWEET VOICE / WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MADE / ORIENTAL STRUT / BLUES IN THIRDS / IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE / WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM.

Need more information?  It’s all here: http://www.katiecavera.net/ctb_tears.html

COME AND JOIN THE JUBILEE!

I had the great pleasure of meeting the Louis Armstrong scholar Ricky Riccardi at the Armstrong Archives (they’re in the Queens College Library and they’re a marvel) so that we could have a brief chat about his new book, WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD: THE MAGIC OF LOUIS ARMSTRONG’S LATER YEARS (Pantheon).  The book will be out on June 21 although you can pre-order it on Amazon.

It’s a wonderful book, and I’ll have more to say about that in a few weeks.  But here’s its young author — informed, sincere, down-to-earth and full of love for his subject.  And I’m not the only one who thinks so:

“The story of Louis Armstrong’s later years is the great untold tale of postwar jazz.  Now Ricky Riccardi has told it to perfection,” says Terry Teachout, author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong

Now do you understand why Louis smiles while Ricky is speaking?

You’ll have another opportunity to meet Ricky, to buy an autographed copy of his book . . . and where better than at a summer garden party at the Louis Armstrong House Museum?     The book party will take place in the Armstrong Garden at the Louis Armstrong House Museum,  Sunday, June 26 from 2-4 PM.

Tickets are $35, which includes an autographed book, a guided tour of the Armstrong House and refreshments.  $25 for LAHM members.

Space is limited. Make your reservation today!   

Reservations can be made at:  reservations@louisarmstronghouse.org.

For further questions call the museum at  (718) 478-8274.

The LOUIS ARMSTRONG HOUSE MUSEUM is located at 34-56 107th Street, Corona, Queens, New York City 11368.  It’s easy to get there by car or by public transportation.

If you can’t come to the party, I hope you will buy a copy of Ricky’s book and consider becoming a member of the Louis Armstrong House Museum — a down-home shrine visited by people from every country on the globe.     Members support their mission — making sure the joy Louis spread is never forgotten — and receive exclusive benefits throughout the year, including: free admission for historic house tours, special member discount to all events, a subscription to Dippermouth News, a sneak peek of upcoming events, 10% discount in our museum store, pre-show parties with other members, and much more.

PAGES WORTH READING: JESS STACY’S STORIES

Jess Stacy

Because I’ve been reading about jazz for decades, I prefer books that offer first-hand information rather than pastiches of familiar quotations.  Reading a revered musician’s own words is a special pleasure.

A new book presenting the reminiscences of pianist Jess Stacy is a delight.

It’s called CHICAGO JAZZ AND THEN SOME: AS TOLD BE ONE OF THE ORIGINAL CHICAGOANS, JESS STACY.  The author is Jean Porter Dmytryk — who, with her husband Edward (the film director), had the good fortune to live next door to Jess and his wife Patricia from 1951.  The book was published in 2010 by Bear Manor Media, and you can find it through their site — http://www.bearmanormedia.com., or through Amazon.

It’s only 138 pages, but it contains more new information — and wonderful rare photographs — than many jazz books weighing three times as much.  Those who love cats will find especially endearing the photograph of the Stacys’ cat, Dollface, peering over the top of the music as Jess plays the piano at home.  Worth the price of admission.  And what comes through on every page is the affection Jess had for his neighbors and his pleasure in telling his stories.

The book takes Jess from his childhood in Cape Giardeau, Missouri, up to his 1974 triumph at the Newport Jazz Festival (I was there, and can testify that he played beautifully — solo and with Bud Freeman), and the back cover mentions that he celebrated his ninetieth birthday with the Dmytryks.

In between there are some stories we know well — Jess’s first meeting with Bix Beiderbecke and his sorrow at Bix’s death, his urging Benny Goodman to keep on going to California and the band’s triumph at the Palomar Ballroom, his eventual retirement from the music business and later return to New York.

But for every familiar story there are five brand-new ones.  Stacy was a keen observer of Chicago nightlife and of the gangsters he worked for: so there are sharply-realized, often surprising sketches of Al Capone, Machine Gun Jack McGurk, even of John Dillinger’s body in the morgue.  Decades after he had left Chicago, Jess would still call the intersection of Thirty-Fifth and Calumet “the center of the universe” and speak fondly of King Oliver, a young Louis Armstrong, of how George Wettling was punished by the gangsters for bad behavior.  And the stories aren’t all about jazz musicians: Sally Rand and Texas Guinan make appearances, as does a forgotten singer named Muriel Leigh who tried to pull a fast one, and two singers who would become deservedly famous — Frankie Laine and Doris Day.

Other personalities — occasionally helpful, more often frustrating — are seen at close range.  I speak of Benny Goodman (Stacy’s association with the King lasted a quarter-century but was often unhappy) and Lee Wiley (their brief but nearly toxic love affair, marriage, and musical partnership).  Those who rhapsodize over Wiley might find the pages where she appears startling, but the stories have the ring of truth.  But Jess is never mean, never vindictive.

Readers will be moved by Jess’s close friendship with Frank Teschemacher (who else could have told us what Stacy does?), his affection for Wingy Manone and Jack Teagarden, for Muggsy Spanier and Wettling, for Bessie Smith, Bunny Berigan, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tommy Dorsey.

The story of Jess’s long-time romance with Patricia Peck (with enough twists and turns for a perfect 1946 movie) is a highlight of this book.  Unlike the stereotypical jazz musician, he recognized true love — and even though he almost lost it, it couldn’t be stifled.

Stacy seems a cheerful, down-to-earth person, someone we would have been honored to meet, someone who would have made us feel at home in a sentence: a man who can say that he had liked gin and tried pot, but that nothing beats a Hershey bar.

Two other biographies of Stacy have already been published, but even if you own the admirable books by Derek Coller and Keith Keller, make room on your shelf for this one.

P.S.  Perfectionists will see that Jean Porter Dmytryk is not a polished writer.  Jazz scholars will notice some inaccuracies.  But the pleasure of hearing Jess Stacy tell his own stories far outweighs any flaws in the book.

POETIC: MICHAEL KANAN, JOEL PRESS, SEAN SMITH, JOE HUNT (Smalls, May 13, 2011)

There are many first-rate jazz players and many inspiring ones — but only a few reach deeply into the poetry at the heart of the music. 

Last Friday, May 12, 2011, I saw four of these jazz poets at work at Smalls: Michael Kanan, piano; Joel Press, tenor and soprano sax; Sean Smith, bass; Joe Hunt, drums.  Their two sets reached heights that even the best music doesn’t always attain.

I could attempt to describe what I heard in words: Joel’s soulful, conversational approach to melody and his rhythmic energies; Michael’s thoughtful, surprising lines and deep harmonies; Sean’s pulse and empathy; Joe’s array of sweetly musical sounds that embrace the group and push it along.  The animation this quartet brought to well-known material.  But I’d rather let these shining performances speak for themselves . . .

THAT OLD FEELING:

INDIANA:

LOVER MAN:

ERONEL:

BLUES FOR LESTER:

Pure poetry — deep art that doesn’t call attention to itself but lingers in the mind and the heart.  And there’s more to come.

THOSE RHYTHM MEN: RAY SKJELBRED’S FIRST THURSDAY JAZZ BAND (May 5, 2011)

Here are some more uplifting moments in jazz, courtesy of  on YouTube. 

The prime movers here are Ray Skjelbred’s First Thursday Band, performing at Seattle’s New Orleans Restaurant, on May 5, 2011.  That’s Ray on piano and vocal; Steve Wright, cornet, clarinet, alto and soprano saxophones, vocal; Dave Brown, string bass, vocal; Mike Daugherty, drums, vocal.

I would write “Four minds with but a single thought — to swing,” but that would be an oversimplification.  The beauty of this little band is that they are unified, presenting something irresistible, but each player shines through, his individual sensibility intact yet happily part of the group.  Ray, Steve, Dave, and Mike surely rock — in the best old-time-modern ways.  Savor those tempos!  Many bands with less feeling for the music play only Fast or Slow . . . . not this quartet.  But you don’t need me to tell you how good this band is: the music will do that in a minute. 

THAT RHYTHM MAN — connected to Louis and Fats in 1929 — was originally a dance number for the chorus line, I recall, so its tempo would have been hot.  The FTB takes it at an insinuating medium-tempo, just intoxicating:

Something for Bix — even if the debate goes on whether he is on the Irving Mills 1930 recording of this song — LOVED ONE:

Jelly Roll Morton’s tune WHY asks that puzzling question:

And for the vipers in the house . . . here’s a Thirties paean to the joys of muta.  Mike shows how it would feel to be Tall: he’s VIPER MAD:

More delights await — video performances of AVALON, STUMBLING, MOANIN’, ONE HOUR, AFTER YOU’VE GONE, and a favorite of mine, the lovely FOREVERMORE.

But wait!  There’s more!  “Informed sources,” as I used to read about in the New York Times, have told me that there is a First Thursday Band CD in the works.  What good news!  Watch this space!

“MUSICALLY YOURS” on eBay

Two more surprises from the national museum / flea market / antique store / attic:

Minimum bid $100 . . . .

Minimum bid $6500.  It is a lovely picture, though. 

Thanks to diligent JAZZ LIVES scout David J. Weiner for pointing the way!

SOUL MUSIC: THE SCANDINAVIAN RHYTHM BOYS (April 2011)

The four gentlemen who make up the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys make more music than a full orchestra — simple yet deep, propulsive yet full of feeling, with arching melodies, deep roots, and more.  They are Robert Hansson, trumpet; Frans Sjostrom, bass and soprano saxophones; Michael Boving, banjo, guitar, and vocal; Ole Olsen, bass and clarinet.  The excellent videos were created by Flemming Thorbye, my Scandinavian comrade.

Here’s a lovely, poignant version of I’M COMIN’ VIRGINA, with Bix in mind:

MAKE ME A PALLET ON THE FLOOR was “written” by W.C. Handy as the ATLANTA BLUES.  Here, this achingly slow version features Frans on soprano saxophone and Michael on one of his irreplaceable deep-inside vocals.  Robert dares the brass Fates and Ole lays down a foundation you could build a cathedral on:

The Boys ask the unanswerable existential question, HAVE YOU EVER FELT THAT WAY?

Michael continues in the same searching vein, “How long will I have to wait?” enclosed in this rendition of HESITATING BLUES.  (For passion without artifice, he touches the heart every time!):

JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH ME is perfect for a jazz lecture in a church (a very hip church that has both the SRB and a menorah):

Moving again towards secular matters, the Boys explore BUDDY’S HABIT.  We don’t know what his habit was — but I suspect he couldn’t get enough hot, lyrical jazz of the kind the SRB lays down here:

And finally — the most endearing version of “Mind your own business!” you’ll ever hear — AIN’T NOBODY’S BUSINESS IF I DO:

For those who can’t get enough of proper documentation, the first performance was recorded at the Hotel Christiansminde, Svendborg, Denmark, on April 16, 2011.  The remainder were captured at a jazz lecture given by the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys on April 30, 2011, at Broenshoej Kirke — the oldest church in Copenhagen (from 1180) titled GOSPEL, JAZZ, AND THE SONGS OF THE OPPRESSED. 

To hear more, find the SRB’s latest CD — CHARLESTON MAD — a wonderful effort.    

Thank you, Michael, Frans, Robert, Ole, and Flemming!

P.S.  Flemming Thorbye has excellent taste in hot jazz: visit his YouTube channel, thorbye, for much more enjoyment.

‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN WILLIAMSBURG: GORDON AU’S GRAND STREET STOMPERS (May 12, 2011)

I made my monthly pilgrimage to the Radegast Bierhall in Williamsburg, Brooklyn last Thursday (May 12, 2011) and had a delightful evening with trumpeter / composer Gordon Au’s Grand Street Stompers. 

The May edition of the GSS had Gordon, Matt Musselman on trombone, Matt Koza on clarinet, Davy Mooney on guitar, Rob Adkins on bass, and Giampaolo Biagi on drums.

The GSS did what they do so well: they swung, they had a wonderful ensemble sound and rocking motion; they created beautiful solos.  And in the manner of the late Ruby Braff, Gordon showed himself once again to be not only a soaring trumpeter but a peerless on-the-spot arranger, setting up little duets and exchanges on the bandstand.  Here are ten examples of this band’s easy grace.

The first tune comes with its own story.  I had fallen in love with the 1922 or 3 bit of manufactured sentimentality for the Old South and Mammy’s nest, TUCK ME TO SLEEP IN MY OLD ‘TUCKY HOME, ever since I heard John Reynolds sing it at this year’s Monterey Jazz Bash by the Bay.  (Pianist Chuck Folds had once written that Vic Dickenson loved to play it, so I hear Vic in my mind’s ear as I write this.)

When the GSS began their first song, I knew I had heard it but didn’t recognize it.  It sounded good — and then, as they say in the UK, the penny dropped: it was ‘TUCKY HOME.  What a treat!  Dig it for yourselves:

Then, a famous “Dixieland” standard — bringing Eddie Condon’s club to Brooklyn, FIDGETY FEET:

Gordon’s musical imagination is anything but narrow (as previous posts have shown): here’s an “Afro-Cuban” composition by Arturo O’Farrill, CAMPINA:

I associate SOUTH with the Bennie Moten band, with California revivalist groups, and a wonderful session pairing Louis and the Dukes of Dixieland:

I don’t know why my mind retains such things, but after the band launched into ABA DABA HONEYMOON with a fine lope, I recalled that Debbie Reynolds and Carleton Carpenter had performed it in some MGM musical — and that its cheerfully silly lyrics delineate (politely) the romance of the chimpanzee and the monk.  You figure it out while I listen to the GSS:

Cross-species love having its happy ending, the GSS could move to less biologically-fraught terrain wittheir tribute to the 1927 Hot Seven masterpiece, POTATO HEAD BLUES (whose title caused such scholarly commotion on this blog some months back).  Not only is it an engaging composition on its own, but the ensemble version of Louis’s solo is a real delight:

Here’s one of Gordon’s characteristically winding originals — it doesn’t always land where you think it might, which is a lovely thing.  The title is SO MUCH FOR LOVE, and I hope Gordon will set lyrics to this melody (he’s a fine lyricist, too):

A night with the Grand Street Stompers wouldn’t be complete without one of their excursions into Disney territory — here, ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH, which swings from the start.  Catch the impromptu brass riff behind Matt Koza’s second chorus:

For Louis or Fats Domino?  I couldn’t tell, but BLUEBERRY HILL still works, more than sixty years later, especially with plunger mute:

And an old-time jam session favorite to end this posting, I NEVER KNEW:

Its title is slightly off, because the Grand Street Stompers surely know . . . .

I believe that they will be at Radegast on June 15, for a CD release party — not to be missed!

JUST DANDY: THE JOHN REYNOLDS TRIO

Do you like your swing intimate but hot?  How about some echoes of Bing and Eddie Lang, of Django and Louis Vola, of Joe Marsala, Carmen Mastren, and Wellman Braud?

I could go on naming names and posing rhetorical questions, but I’d rather direct you to these three YouTube videos — hot from the press! — recorded beautifully by Katie Cavera (string bass and video camera), Larry Wright (clarinet and other surprises), and John Reynolds (National steel guitar, singing, and whistling).  And in an ear where everyone looks as if they’re dressed for mountain climbing or dog grooming, those crisp outfits are an extra added attraction.

How about AFTER YOU’VE GONE?

Something more romantic — dim the lights and take your Beloved for a tender spin around the kitchen while the trio plays and sings and whistles OUT OF NOWHERE:

And to close off this delightful little presentation, SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL, where Larry breaks out his ocarina and then his alto saxophone:

I can’t wait — there must be more!  When’s the CD release party?  And I hear that this group has four new features in the Paramount picture, THE BIG BROADCAST OF 2012. . . . coming soon to a multiplex near you!

And there’s more fun — musical and cinematic — to be found on Katie’s YouTube channel, kcavera

FOR JIM ROTHERMEL

In happier times -- Jim at an outdoor gig, 1977

The sad news — courtesy of Dawn Lambeth and the Dixieland Jazz Mailing List:

Dear Jazz Family,

We are sad to announce that the great reed player, Jim Rothermel, has passed away last night (Monday, May 16) from leukemia. Marianna August, his loving partner for the past 10 years, called with the sad news. Jim had been diagnosed with cancer of the blood in June, 2010, but continued to play with his and other bands up through early this month, when he made a valiant rally to record at his home with some of his band mates, including Larry Vuckovich, Shota Osabe, Al Obidinski, Tony Johnson and Randy Vincent. Marianna will have more details later, but Jim’s son and daughter will need finances now to help pay his medical expenses. We ask if you are able to contribute to this fund, that you write a check to Jim Rothermel and mail it to his address at 14 Seibel St., San Rafael, CA 94901.

Jim took an active part in the San Francisco music scene since the mid-60s, and was an accomplished and talented musician, proficient on saxophones, clarinet, flute, recorder and harmonica. He was adept in a variety of musical styles: Dixieland, Swing, Big Band Jazz; Western Swing, Rock and Roll, Blues and Folk. Jim had toured and performed extensively with numerous major artists in the United States, Europe, Japan, and Canada, and was a seasoned studio musician with featured performances on more than 100 recordings. He led two recordings of his own: NeoClassic Swing (2001) and Memories of You (2011).

Jim played at prestigious festivals and concert halls, including Monterey Jazz Festival, San Francisco Jazz Festival, the Bix Beiderbecke Festival, Indianapolis Jazz Festival, Sacramento Jubilee, Carnegie Hall, Universal Amphitheater, The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, The Great American Music Hall, as well as several Bread and Roses festivals.

He had performed/toured with Bucky Pizzarelli, Charlie Byrd, Jay McShann, Buddy DeFranco, Terry Gibbs, Steve Allen, Charles Brown, Dr. John, Norton Buffalo, Steve Allen, Bob Crosby and the Bob Cats, Maria Muldaur, Boz Scaggs, Jesse Colin Young, Van Morrison, David Grisman, and many others. He had played on several film and TV productions, including CKVU’s Vancouver Live; and specials for CBS (Canada), NTV (Japan) and Belgian National TV. He was two-time Bay Area Music Awards (BAMMY) nominee, and was a featured performer on the 1987 Grammy Award winning album, A Tribute to Steve Goodman. Jim was also an educator, having worked in the Bay Area Music in the Schools program, and as a jazz saxophone instructor at Sonoma State University, and a guest artist-clinician at Santa Rosa and Delta junior colleges.

The late San Francisco music critic Phil Elwood called Jim “the Bay Area’s most versatile and brilliant woodwind performer – among the best instrumentalists in the country, and in the studios”. Randall Kline, director of the San Francisco Jazz Festival, called Jim Rothermel: “a Bay Area treasure”. Jim led his band in a fantastic Benny Goodman centennial tribute at the San Francisco Jazz Festival in October, 2009, on which Larry was honored to play; Jim’s band opened for clarinetist Eddie Daniels and his quartet.

Jim led his own Jim Rothermel Swingtet, and his Neo Classic Swing Quintet, and played with many other outstanding Bay Area bands, including the Larry Vuckovich All-Star Big Band, Harold Jones and the Bossmen, Mike Vax’s Great American Jazz Band, Full Faith and Credit, The Oakland A’s Swingers, Don Neely’s Royal Society Six, The Golden Gate Rhythm Machine, Warren Gale Sextet, Peter Welker Sextet, Bryan Gould’s Swing Fever, and in a special combo with his sweetheart vocalist, Marianna August and her Jazz Pals.

This is a deep, personal loss for us. We will miss Jim’s beautiful playing and his sunny sense of humor. The closer we’ve become to both Jim and Marianna, the more our respect has grown for the depth of their courage, love and determination during this struggle. We will let you know more details as they unfold. We send our deepest love to Marianna and Jim’s children, Diana and David, and grandchildren. You can read more about this talented, warm-hearted, courageous man at:www.jimrothermel.com

Warm hugs,

Larry& Sanna

Larry Vuckovich / Sanna Craig

Tetrachord Music

707-942-9007

http://www.larryvuckovich.com

THREE FOR LOUIS: MARTY EGGERS and FRIENDS at PIER 23 (May 2, 2011)

My West Coast role model Rae Ann Berry was on the move again in the beginning of May 2011 and she captured this hot afternoon session at Pier 23 in San Francisco.

It’s a splendid cross-generational encounter, the kind of music that results when experienced jazz players who know the common language and history get together and have their say, individually and collectively.

The bow-tied gent in front is cornetist Jim Cullum; well behind him in the shades is Leon Oakley, also on cornet; to their left is clarinet hero Bill Carter; Marty Eggers (often on bass) is stompin’ ’em down at the piano, J. Hansen doing the same at his drum kit.  Although my attention is usually focused on the cornetists, Hansen is solid, his sounds colorful; Marty is often thinking about Morton, and Bill Carter sounds exactly like himself — perfectly surprising, heartfelt, witty, brave.

Although Rae Ann recorded fifteen performances, I’ve chosen three I like very much as homages to Louis.

The first comes from the time when Louis was just up from New Orleans, “Little Louis,” although he was hardly slender, playing alongside his musical father, King Joe Oliver, in the Creole Jazz Band: RIVERSIDE BLUES:

And something from the Clarence Williams period (the Red Onion Jazz Babies), a hot CAKEWALKIN’ BABIES FROM HOME where one of the gentlemen of the ensemble, obviously inspired, bursts into song to tell us all about those champions:

Here’s the closing selection of the Louis-evocation, what I think of as the National Anthem of our music, two cornets entwining on WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH:

To see the dozen other performances that the diligent Ms. Berry has captured for us and for posterity, visit her YouTube channel:

http://www.youtube.com/user/SFRaeAnn

It’s moments like these that make a man think of pulling up his New York roots and moving — with the Beloved, CDs, turntable, computers, and tea strainer — to California.  Could one of my readers find me an income that will run for the next ten years so that this might be accomplished?

TRULY WONDERFUL: THE RAIN CITY BLUE BLOWERS (May 7, 2011)

The post’s title isn’t hyperbole.  A friend sent me a few YouTube videos of this new band — holding forth on May 7, 2011, at the Bellingham Jazz Club (in Washington State).

I got through about fifteen seconds of the first clip before becoming so elated that I stopped the clip to make a few phone calls . . . their import being “You HAVE to see this band!  You won’t believe how wonderful they are!”

For a change, let’s begin with the rhythm section.  You can barely see Candace Brown, but you can hear her firm, flexible pulse — she’s playing a Thirties National steel guitar.  On her left is her husband Dave on string bass — strong yet fluid.  Closer to the camera is that monument of unaging swing, Ray Skjelbred on piano — the hero of the steady, varied left-hand and the splashing, striding right hand.  (His right hand knows what his left is doing: no worries!)  The front line is a mere duo but with multiple personalities — great for Jimmie Noone / Doc Poston ecstasies — of two gifted multi-instrumentalists.  On the left is Steve Wright — cornet, clarinet, soprano sax, vocal; to his right is Paul Woltz, bass, alto, soprano, tenor sax, and vocal.  Their repertoire moves from New Orleans / ancient pop classics to Bix and Tram to Condonite romps with a special emphasis on Noone’s Apex Club.

You’ll hear for yourself.  I began with MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS (homage to Bing and to Cutty Cutshall, who called this tune MAHONEY’S . . . . ):

Pee Wee Russell had a girlfriend named Lola (this would have been in the late Twenties and onwards, before Mary came along); legend has it that Lola was violently jealous and when she got angry at Pee Wee, she’d take a big scissors and cut his clothes to bits.  The Mound City Blue Blowers (with Coleman Hawkins and Glenn Miller) recorded a wonderful song and called it HELLO LOLA — were they glad to see her or merely placating her, hoping she hadn’t brought her scissors along?  We’ll never know, but this version of HELLO, LOLA (with comma) has no sharp edges — at least none that would do anyone harm:

The young man from Davenport — forever young in our imaginations — is loved so intensely that the RCBB offer two evocations of his music.  Young Bix Beiderbecke is on everyone’s mind for a romping IDOLIZING (memories of those Goldkette Victors):

And we think of Bix at the end of his particular road — with I’LL BE A FRIEND (WITH PLEASURE):

Now do you understand why I find these performances so enlivening?  This band has tempo and swing, heart and soul, rhythm in its nursery rhymes!  Seriously — what lovely rocking ocean-motion, heartfelt soloing and ensemble playing.  This band knows and plays the verse and the tempos chosen are just right.  And that beat!

I want Ralph Peer or Tommy Rockwell to hear the RCBB and I want them to be under contract to Victor or OKeh right this minute!  I would invite John Hammond to hear them, but John tends to meddle so – – – he’d want to replace half the band with people he liked better.  And I can’t think of people I would prefer . . .

How about two more selections?

This one’s for Mister Strong — his composition, you know! It’s MUSKRAT RAMBLE at the nice Hot Five tempo:

And just for fun (and because Red McKenzie sang it so wonderfully), the DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ BALL — with the verse:

By day and by profession, I am an academic — which explains the didactic streak in my character — but this is a suggestion aiming my readers towards happiness rather than a graded assignment.  You might want to consider visiting Steve Wright’s YouTube channel — “” and indulging yourself in the other performances by this band.  How about SWEET SUE, EVERY EVENING, KING JOE, ONE HOUR, STACK O’LEE, CHANGES MADE, GEORGIA CABIN, LET ME CALL YOU SWEETHEART, and I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY.

Multi-instrumentalist Steve Wright told me this about the band’s instant creation, gestation-while-you-wait:

“We pulled this together in a hurry.  Chris Tyle’s Silver Leaf Band was originally booked, but Chris got a call for some work in Europe and gave the gig to Dave and Candace (who play with him in Silver Leaf).  I play occasionally with the three of them in Candace’s Combo De Luxe, so I was looped in, and then we decided to pull in a second horn player (Paul) and Ray on piano.  I pulled together some leadsheets and two-reed arrangements from previous bands, and off we went.  Even the name was a rush job: I got a call from the Bellingham folks needing a band name for their publicity, and an hour to figure something out. Since I was already planning to use some Red McKenzie material from the First Thursday book (Hello Lola, for example), I thought of taking off from the Mound City Blue Blowers.”

Now . . . suppose the names of these players are new to you?  Ray Skjelbred has his own website — go there and feel good!

http://www.rayskjelbred.com/

— but Wright, Woltz, and the Browns might be less familiar to you.  Don’t fret.  Here are some facts for the factually-minded.

DAVE BROWN began his musical career decades ago, on banjo and guitar, later expanding his impressive talents to string bass.  He lays down solid rhythm with an energetic style influenced by Steve Brown and Pops Foster. Dave’s credits include membership in the Uptown Lowdown Jazz Band, Stumptown, Louisiana Joymakers, Chris Tyle’s Silver Leaf Jazz Band, Combo de Luxe, Glenn Crytzer’s Syncopators, Ray Skjelbred’s First Thursday Band, Gerry Green’s Crescent City Shakers and others.  Many West Coast bands call Brown for gigs, including Simon Stribling’s New Orleans Ale Stars, Red Beans and Rice, Vancouver Classic, Solomon Douglas Sextet, and Jonathan Stout’s Campus Five.  Over the years he has appeared at national and international jazz festivals and has been privileged to play alongside jazz greats “Doc” Cheatham, Spiegle Willcox, Jim Goodwin, and others.

STEVE WRIGHT has been a sparkplug of many fine bands, including the Paramount Jazz of Boston, the Happy Feet Dance Orchestra, the Stomp Off “studio” band (The Back Bay Ramblers).  He’s even substituted a few times with the Black Eagles on clarinet.  After moving to Seattle in 1995, he  joined the Evergreen Jazz Band as a second reed player and then moved to mostly playing cornet as personnel changed.  In the last few years, he’s played a great deal with Candace’s and Ray’s bands, as well as with a local Lu Watters-style two-cornet band, Hume Street Jazz Band.

CANDACE BROWN is one-half of the Jazzstrings duo with husband Dave, Combo de Luxe, Louisiana Joymakers, and she has subbed in many other bands (including Simon Stribling’s Ale Stars and Mighty Aphrodite) as well as playing in the pit orchestra for musical theater. Candace has been heard at a number of festivals including the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, on an Alaskan jazz cruise, at several jazz society concerts, and in July of 2007 she was a member of the pit orchestra for a production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”  Candace is also a splendid writer — if you haven’t read her inspiring blog, GOOD LIFE NORTHWEST, you’re missing out on deep pleasure:  http://goodlifenw.blogspot.com/

PAUL WOLTZ began playing music in his youth, in California.  He performed frequently at Disneyland for a decade, worked as a studio musician in Hollywood, and was a member of the Golden Eagle Jazz Band.  In the Seattle/Everett area, he is a member of the Uptown Lowdown Jazz Band (with whom he has performed at countless jazz festivals and on jazz cruises) is principal bassoonist in the Cascade Symphony, occasionally performs with the 5th Ave Theater, and is called as a sub in numerous bands in the Puget Sound area and beyond — all over the United States and abroad.

TRULY WONDERFUL!

PAY ATTENTION! JAKE SANDERS IS MAKING MUSIC

Guitarist and banjoist Jake Sanders must have gotten tired of being told that his first name — in Twenties slang — is a synonym for “great,” as in “Everything’s Jake!” meaning things couldn’t be better . . . but the name fits.

Youthful Mr. Sanders creates lovely melodies; he knows how to swing; his musical vocabulary is broad and rich without ever being artificially enhanced.

JAZZ LIVES viewers have seen him here as one of the guiding lights of the Cangelosi Cards.  Now, Jake is doing some New York City gigs on his own, and will be dividing his time between Wisconsin and New York — so I encourage you to get out and hear him!

Jake’s gig calendar can be found here:

http://www.losmusicosviajeros.net/home/cangelosi-cards/calendar.html

But here’s something to pay attention to — an upcoming gig at the cozy Jalopy Theatre in Red Hook, Brooklyn, on May 27, 2011.  From 9 to 10, Jake will play an opening set in a duo with guitarist Marko Gazic, presenting acoustic traditional guitar music from Mexico and Europe.  Then, Jake’s Quintet will play two sets — he’ll be joined by my heroes Gordon Au (trumpet), Will Anderson (reeds), Rob Adkins (bass), and Giampaolo Biagi (drums).  Andrew Nemr will also tap dance for a few songs in each set.

P. S.  I won’t be there — because I’ll be in Sacramento at the Jubilee.  Does anyone want to audition for the position of JAZZ LIVES videographic understudy?

DRUMATIC CYMBALISM is COMING!

Artist Alex Craver, Mike Burgevin, and Sadiq Abdu Shahid

“DRUMATIC CYMBALISM” CONCERT SERIES

May – October 2011, Stamford, New York

Two of Central New York’s top kit drummers will perform six concerts of  spell-binding rhythms and creative drumming. The focus will be The American Drum Kit from the 1930’s until the present day.

Professional drumming is a way of life for these seasoned performers “Mike” Burgevin and Sadiq Abdu Shahid (formerly Archie Taylor, Jr.).

“Sadiq,”who resides with his family on their farm in Masonville, New York, was born and raised in the Midwest and studied with Cleveland Symphony Orchestra percussionist Charles Wilcoxon.  He performed and recorded with many famous avant-garde jazzmen: Pharaoh Sanders, Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, and Cecil Taylor (among others) and was a resident drummer for Motown Records in Detroit, there recording many albums backing R&B groups.

His father, Archie Taylor, Sr., was also a famous drummer accompanying Lou Rawls, Nancy Wilson, and the one and only Billie Holiday.

Michael “Mike” Burgevin, now a resident of Bainbridge, New York, began drumming professionally at age 15.  From the mid 1960’s through the 1980’s he worked regularly at famous NYC jazz clubs, Jimmy Ryan’s, Sweet Basil, Eddie Condon’s, and Brew’s side by side with many of the great jazz “Swing” players (now legends) Max Kaminsky, “Doc” Cheatham, Jimmy and Marian McPartland, Roy Eldridge, Wild Bill Davison, Warren Vaché and many, many others.

He has had the honor and privilege of playing with Joe Thomas, Herman Autrey, Vic Dickenson, Bobby Hackett, Benny Morton, Bobby Gordon, Rudy Powell, Dill Jones, Dick Wellstood, Al Casey, and many others.  It was my privilege to see him swing the band every time he started a gentle beat with his brushes or tapped his closed hi-hat.

Mike studied with Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra percussionist Richard Horowitz.  He also performed in several of the “Journey in Jazz” concerts with saxophonist Al Hamme in Binghamton University’s Anderson Center as well as producing many jazz concerts in the historic Town Hall Theatre in Bainbridge between 2001 and 2007.

No two DRUMNASTIC CYMBALISM concerts are ever the same!

Drumming becomes a musical art form in the hands of these outstanding percussionists.  A show may begin with “Curious Curlicues & Nimble Noodles” then move to whisper-quiet ruffs and other rudiments… then pass through sonorous tonalities before roaring into layered polyrhythmic styles of Jazz, and Free Form drumming.  Sadiq and Mike totally explore the drum set with all its possibilities.  Their concerts open with a brief discourse on the history and development of the drum and the evolution of various styles of drumming.

A Master Creative Drum Workshop will take place on July 16th from 3:00 to 5:00 at The Gallery East, 71 Main Street, Stamford, NY.  Workshop fee is $25. Students should bring sticks, a practice pad or snare drum and stand.

Questions?  Call The Gallery in Stamford at 607 652 4030.

Before the concerts: Come early and enjoy dining in one of Stamford’s fine restaurants.  Then visit artist Timothy Touhey’s two galleries, both located on Main Street (Route 23).

You will be uplifted by the art and music!

So mark your calendar: May 21st / June 18th / July16th / August 21st / Sept.17th / Oct.15th — Performances begin at 7:00. Tickets at the door are $10.00 / $8.00 in advance.

For information in advance call:   THE GALLERY EAST 71 MAIN ST. STAMFORD, NY @ 607 652 4030.   On the day of the concert please call 607 353 2492.   Tour The Gallery at www.touhey.com.

I’VE BEEN TOO BUSY!

This post is to celebrate something I find sweetly amusing.  I came home late last night (or early this morning) from my very serious video-recording of four jazz gigs in a row, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.  You’ll see the results soon, but that isn’t the point of the anecdote.  I was greeted by a phone message and several emails — their substance was, “Michael, are you all right?  You haven’t blogged in days!”

Nice to be missed!  I’m fine.  A little sleepy, but fine, and happy, too.  But I’ve been too busy capturing music for the blog (and for the musicians, too) to be able to blog.  And the circular logic could provoke headaches, so I suggest you simply accept the statement.

To celebrate the state of being TOO BUSY, here’s some hot jazz on that theme:

Recorded by the Wizard of the Wide-Angle Lens, Rae Ann Berry (“Have Tripod, Will Travel“) on June 20, 2010, at the New Orleans Jazz Club of Northern California — here are Leon Oakley and the Friends of Jazz.  The musicians are: Leon Oakley, cornet; Roy Rubenstein, trombone; Robert Young, soprano sax; Clint Baker, banjo; Marty Eggers, bass; and Jeff Hamilton, drums.  And the elder statesman seated at the far right — with trombone and cap — seems to me to be none other than Bob Mielke!

This one’s for Louis, Jimmie Noone, Earl Hines, Lillie Delk Christian, and Johnny St. Cyr — we’re never too busy for them.

“THE LAST WORD IN HOT”: FROM THE McCONVILLE ARCHIVES (Part Eight)

New tidings from the world of McConvilliana — always delightful and surprising!

Leo Jr. told me at our last meeting that his father was famous not only for his beautiful lead playing but also for his mastery of half-valve playing!  Who would have thought Leo McConville a precursor of Rex Stewart’s BOY MEETS HORN?

And — on a more personal note — Leo Jr. said that his father had a substantial and beautiful HO train layout, complete with wooden houses, in a large upstairs room in their three-story house.  Leo Sr. was so proud of his autographed photographs that he had built picture molding for top and bottom, up at the ceiling and running around the four walls of the room, his pictures there on display.

Thus I am happy, in some small way, to recreate that display in installments on JAZZ LIVES.

A less happy story concerns Leo Sr.’s terror of bridges (I’ve also heard that his fears included high buildings) — so much so that his fellow passengers would have to lock him in the car trunk when they went over a bridge.  The solution seems as painful as the problem, but I can’t say — bridges aren’t one of my phobias.  It is possible that the only way Leo could endure going over a bridge would be in an utterly dark place where he couldn’t see what terrified him.

But enough of such matters.

Here’s another half-dozen friends of Leo — some famous, some whose name in the autograph calls up some dim recognition, some obscure.

Let’s start with someone who used to be famous, although you’d have to be a film buff or of a certain age to recognize him instantly:

The publicity still is from later in Powell’s life — did Leo meet him while playing in a radio orchestra, or had their paths crossed earlier, when Powell was a hot banjoist / guitarist (and perhaps cornetist, saxophonist) and singer in hot dance bands — including the Royal Peacock Orchestra and the Charlie Davis Orchestra?

Next, someone far less well-known these days:

The man above is Canadian-born, a saxophonist and bandleader — someone Leo would have known in radio.  He had connections to Sam Lanin and Bing Crosby, and made a few records with an all-saxophone ensemble that backed Seger Ellis on disc.  Or so I think — but there’s another man with the same name, born in 1897, died in 1978, whom I’ve read was “born in Watertown, New York.  Attended Clarkson Institute of Technology.  Teacher of Larry Teal. First American saxophonist to teach regulated vibrato and founder of the New York school of saxophone playing.”

Please advise!

How many readers have heard anything by the tenor saxophonist Jim Crossan (one of the section on a number of OKeh hot dance recordings) much less seen a portrait of him?

Frank Parker — radio singer!  Is this the Irish tenor associated with jack Benny, Harry Richman, and Arthur Godfrey?Now, “the last word in hot” — that’s more like it as a Homeric epithet for our Leo!  The handsome tenor saxophonist here is Dick Johnson — someone who played clarinet with Red Nichols and the Red Heads.  (Obviously “good-fellowship” in those days meant that trumpet players hung out with saxophone players: Leo Jr. remembers meeting Jimmy Dorsey, who was an old friend of his father’s.)

For a perceptive piece on the Red Heads, see Andrew Sammut’s review of the Jazz Oracle reissue: http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=39412

Perceptive readers will notice that Johnson autographed his photo to “Wilbur,” which Leo Jr. said was a teasing name for his father.  I imagine (it is speculation) that Leo Sr. made it known to everyone he talked to that he really wanted to leave the music business, buy some land, and have a chicken farm.  “Wilbur” must have been the sharply-dressed New Yorkers’ nickname for a deep-down hick.

And someone I really knew nothing of:

My friend Rob Rothberg — deep jazz scholar and long-time collector — helped me out here, “The face is unfamiliar, but there was a Cecil Way who played trumpet in Charlie Kerr’s band in the mid-twenties;  I’m not sure what happened to him after that.  Leo and Cecil played alongside an up-and-coming banjoist named Eddie Lang in Kerr’s band in the early twenties.  I think I see some lip muscles, so I’ll vote for that Way.”

We are indeed known by the company we keep, and Leo had a wide range of musical friends!  Not all of them had lip muscles, but Leo was an easy-going fellow. . . .

IT’S THAT BOY AGAIN: JOHN COCUZZI, ANTTI SARPILA, EDDIE ERICKSON, JOHN SHERIDAN, NICKI PARROTT, ED METZ Jr.

What I mean is CHINA BOY, recorded on February 25, 2011, at the San Diego Jazz Party (held in the Del Mar Hilton) — performed by John Cocuzzi, vibraphone; Antti Sarpila, soprano sax; Eddie Erickson, guitar; John Sheridan, piano; Nicki Parrott, bass; Ed Metz, Jr., drums.

And here it is — at a splendidly fast tempo and in glorious black and white!

Who said, “Swing won’t stay and it’s dying out?”  I can prove I’m in the groove and they don’t know what they’re talking about!

For more information about the San Diego Jazz Party, visit http://www.sdjp.org.

MAYA HED LOOKS AND SEES: ART / JAZZ PHOTOGRAPHY

One of the consistent pleasures of having a jazz blog is that people you wouldn’t otherwise know of find you.  One of my most happy encounters of late in cyberspace has been with the young Israeli / American photographer Maya Hed, who is having her first solo exhibition in Israel, beginning May 19, 2011 (details below).  Maya chooses an approach different from many photographers and catches her subjects — jazz artists from around the world — in contemplative mode during the sound check.

The first photograph is a study of Tony Pancella from Italy, someone internationally known for his work with Larry Willis, Charles Tolliver, Lee Konitz, and many others. Maya told me, “The reason I chose this photograph is because I love the blue back aura that rises from behind Tony. For me this was a moment of pure “Nila” (Blue) Loving kindness, peace, and universal compassion — shown by the color of the Buddhist flag. The interaction between Tony and the piano is what interested me; when I took this photograph I could feel his thoughts before the music came to life with the help of his great knowledge.”

The second photograph captures the American drummer Joe Farnsworth, known for being a band member in ONE FOR ALL.  Maya recalled, “I remember taking photographs of Joseph and the band; I was about to get off the stage and then I heard someone laughing.  I turned around and saw the magical smiles of Joe and John Webber, the double bass player.  I slid onto the stage and took the photograph.  Each time I look at it I hear their joyous laughter and remember that great moment.”

The Israeli saxophonist Mel Rosenberg is the subject of Maya’s third study. Maya recalls, “Mel is the first musician I ever photographed and he introduced me to the Israeli jazz scene.  In this photograph what enchanted me was the interaction between Mel and the woman in the photograph behind him; she looks as if she is listening to the music and contemplating something. Her eyes are half-open and she is looking towards Mel’s saxophone, which was the source of the music playing when I took this photograph.”

Maya’s fourth study is of Stefano Bollani, Jasper Bodilsen, and Antonello Salis, musicians who hail from Italy and Denmark.  She told me, “This photograph was the birth of the title of the exhibition.  About a year ago I was looking at this photograph and this title came instantly into my mind: A MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON.  It’s not that I’ve lost my mind.  No, it’s what I would love my viewers to feel when they look at my photographs — a pure moment of relaxation.” I hope that some JAZZ LIVES readers can visit and immerse themselves in Maya Hed’s world. And on opening night, Mel Rosenberg and his band will give a concert.

Here’s the invitation:

and (by Shira Raz), portraits of the artist Maya Hed herself:

A Momentary Lapse Of Reason

Upcoming Exhibition May 19th -June 19th , 2011

From May 19th – June 19th, Maya Hed will present her solo photography exhibition, which captures exclusive pictures of extraordinary jazz artists from all over the world, during the sound check in opera houses and jazz clubs where the artists experience very intimate, secluded, and unique moments.

In this intimate series the viewer can experience through the photographic medium, the vivid expressive force of jazz music, echoed by the photographs that enable us to “listen” with our eyes.

Further, after enduring the black and white photography documentation of jazz music over the past years, Maya’s fresh approach presents many photographs in color in the belief that emotions and stage life come to light better in her colorful menagerie outlook.

The camera leads us behind the scenes with such luminaries as Stefano Bollani who overwhelmed Italian jazz culture, Tony Pancella — a very important figure in Italian Jazz, and Nicola Stilo, who played with one of jazz’s greatest artists, the notorious Chet Baker and many more.

Biography:

Maya Hed was born and raised in Los Angeles and moved to Israel in the late 90’s, where she studied at The Kiryat Ono College of Photography.

Maya specializes in photography of the arts, focusing on music and fashion.  She enjoys taking portraits and seeks to create a sense of freedom and relaxation for the viewer.  Her photographs shine with life and creativity and generate intrigue. Her photography transcends space and time, taking the viewer through an emotional journey of positive feelings.  Maya’s goal is to express her point of view and passion for life while giving the viewer a glimpse into her world.

Past Exhibitions:

On The Warm Sand at the National Maritime Museum in Haifa. January 2007.

60th Anniversary for Israel’s Independence at the University of Basel and moving around, 2007

PCK Group Exhibition at The College of Photography Kiryat-Ono, July-August 2008.

A ROBOTIC REMINDER, or DON’T MISS THESE GIGS!

If the mechanical men know about Michael Kanan, Joel Press, Joe Hunt, Lee Hudson, Sean Smith, and the wonderful jazz they will be creating this weekend at Smalls (138 West 10th Street, New York City, Friday night, May 13) and at Sofia’s (211 West 46th Street, NYC, Saturday night, May 14), shouldn’t you?

There will be room for everyone — interplanetary and terrestrial — I guarantee.  Bring your Beloved!

“PLAY NICE!” (THE EAR INN, May 8, 2011)

At its best, jazz improvisation is spirited play, even when the musicians are creating a slow blues or a heartbroken lament.  Since the musicians are finding their paths on their own, bar by bar, there is no choice but to be flexible and leap in.  Risks lead to rewards!  It doesn’t surprise me that many of the finest improvisers are also verbally witty — not tellers of jokes, but people able to see the possibilities for hilarity in ordinary conversation, everyday situations.

So when we say that a jazz group played something beautifully, we mean more than the casual phrase says.

The second set at The Ear Inn (that’s 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York) this last Sunday — Mother’s Day 2011 — was a hoot and a holler.

Trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso*, trombonist John Allred, guitarist Matt Munisteri, and bassist Neal Miner share the same sensibility and some of the same wit — intellectual and musical — so the attentive viewer will see many smiles among the band.  You can’t always see the audience, but the atmosphere at The Ear was quietly, intently joyous.

And when Ray Heitger, clarinet, vocal, and father of the sterling Duke, joined in, the air was thick with happiness; when Dan Block brought his alto sax to the meeting, no one could ask for more.

Here are four leisurely selections from that evening, play at its finest.

LINGER AWHILE (why not sit a spell?  To quote John Gill, “Make yourself to home!”).  The ensemble choruses that close this performance made me think, “Ah, Fifty-Second Street South!”:

GORILLA MY DREAMS (or, for the prudish, GIRL OF MY DREAMS — composed by the bandleader Sunny Clapp) with a surprise — a rocking, down-home vocal by Ray, who sends us!

OLD-FASHIONED LOVE, for James P. Johnson and Kenny Davern, both:

And to close, Jelly Roll’s MILENBERG JOYS (or perhaps it’s MILNEBURG?  But the JOYS remain unshakeable).  I think the ensemble sound in the opening and closing choruses is what the angels swing to.  (Wherever they are, Lips Page and Eddie Condon are smiling.)  And please admire Neal Miner’s bass solo — something so eloquent and fleet that no one talks through it:

Oh, PLAY those things!

*It was Jon-Erik’s birthday, but (as always) he gave presents and presence to us. 

HAPPY 123, MR. BERLIN!

For Irving Berlin, who would be 123 today . . . the overlooked master of humor, sentiment, and deep feelings expressed in simple but unforgettable words and melodies:

And some music to go with the cake, of course.

Here are Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks playing a Berlin waltz medley in December 2009:

And Tamar Korn and The EarRegulars essaying THE SONG IS ENDED:

The songs are never going to be ended as long as we remember Mr. Berlin.