One of the highlights of the 2011 Sacramento Jazz Jubilee was getting to meet the great jazz drummer Hal Smith in person. I’d heard him on records (and eventually seen him in videos) for twenty-five years, but to hang out with him and see him play was a deep pleasure.
I had recorded some fine music by the Carl Sonny Leyland trio — that’s the barrelhouse pianist and singer Carl, solid-as-a-rock string bassist Marty, and Hal — where I (perhaps appropriately) set up my camera so that you and I could admire Carl’s neat fingering, his joyously gutty singing. For this set, I decided (in the ancient jazz phrase) to “give the drummer some,” and you will get to see as well as hear why Hal is so respected by musicians and listeners — the variety of tonal colors he offers from his drum set, his intense but relaxed swing.
Here are five performances from a May 28, 2011 set. They remind us of what rock and roll originally meant!
Carl recreated Tampa Red’s suggestion that we be loving and honest — hinting at the dark rewards for those who told fibs and falsehoods or bent the truth — DON’T YOU LIE TO ME:
Then, a little “postcard” for one of the most warm-hearted, spiritually generous people it will ever be my privilege to know — Aunt Ida Melrose Shoufler. She is the surviving child of the legendary pianist / composer Frank Melrose, a jazz and blues lover (she plays the piano and sings, too) and I am proud to be able to send her this little video. (I met her through Hal — another thing I have to thank him for!) Here’s a romping Chicago version of a sweet late-Twenties pop song, MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS, which I associate with fellows named Crosby and Condon, who also happened to admire one another:
Don’t play near those tracks, boy. Don’t you know that Cripple Clarence Lofton’s STREAMLINE TRAIN is coming?
Another Twenties pop song (I think of Helen Humes and the Basie boys when I hear it), SONG OF THE WANDERER, made truly groovy by this trio:
And a piece of Americana that I believe dates from 1919, MARGIE:
What a band!