Monthly Archives: July 2011

THANKSGIVING with HAL SMITH’S RHYTHMAKERS, NOVEMBER 1988 (Hal Smith, Chris Tyle, Ray Skjelbred, Bobby Gordon, Frank Powers, Mike Duffy, Jack Meilahn)

I have nothing against Thanksgiving as a holiday, and I have plenty to be thankful for.  But I wish I’d been in San Diego over the Thanksgiving weekend in 1988 to hear this hot band . . . although they were captured on local television in a wonderfully varied half-hour.  The band?  Drummer Hal Smith’s Rhythmakers (named in honor of the 1932-33 sessions with Red Allen and Pee Wee Russell) featured the engaging hot cornetist and singer Chris Tyle, the tenor man Frank Powers, the wondrously brave clarinetist and singer Bobby Gordon, our hero Ray Skjelbred at the piano, solid bassist and guitarist Mike Duffy and Jack Meilahn.  I believe that all but Frank Powers are still with us.  And I’ve had the good fortune to hear Hal and Bobby in person, and look forward to hearing Chris, Ray, Mike, and Jack someday soon . . .

Here’s ONE HOUR — and you don’t have to wish for it in plaintive James P. Johnson style!

JELLY ROLL / HOME / MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS (vocal Mike Duffy):

MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS (concluded) / THIRTY-FIFTH AND SHIELDS / BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN / THAT’S A PLENTY (in tribute to Joe Sullivan, by the rhythm section):

THAT’S A PLENTY (concluded) / MAHOGANY HALL STOMP / YOU CAN DEPEND ON ME (vocal by Bobby Gordon) / DIPPERMOUTH BLUES:

TWO DEUCES / I WOULD DO MOST ANYTHING FOR YOU:

The miracles of YouTube, not to be taken lightly.

I CAN HEAR THIS NOW

An extraordinary trio — captured on a still photograph but not (alas) at a recording session.  I think the stage was at the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C., before 1941 — at one of the concerts staged by the Ertegun brothers, Ahmet and Nesuhi.

And the players?  Joe Marsala, Zutty Singleton, Teddy Wilson.  What an answer to the Goodman Trio and the Shaw Gramercy Five . . . !

UP IN THE CLOUDS with BILL COLEMAN

No other trumpeter sounded quite like graceful Bill Coleman, who should have put his profession as “aerialist” on his passport.

It wasn’t a matter of playing high notes, for other trumpeters have gone higher, but the ease with which Coleman accomplished his arcs in the sky.  Most astonishingly, he made the whole thing sound so easy, which even non-trumpeters will know is a great feat of magic. And his sound!  Not brass and valves and air pressure and force, but “gold to airy thinness beat.”

Here he is in glossy form in late 1935 in Paris:

The band was billed as “Garnet Clark and his Hot Club’s Four,” with Bill on trumpet and vocal; George Johnson, clarinet and tenor; Clark, piano; Django Reinhardt, guitar; June Cole, bass.

Here’s Bill in 1972 — playing fluegelhorn, his sound heavier, and darker, but still masterfully light.

We have this clip from a French television program, “Jazz Harmonie,” thanks to trumpeter and film scholar Bob Erwig.  Bill is joined by Marc Hemmeler, piano; Jimmy Gourley, guitar; Pierre Sim, bass; Michel Silva, drums.

And — thanks to eBay — Bill signs in, too:

Postscripts: I realized, perhaps too late, that this blogpost was seriously indebted to that of my friend Michael McQuaid, hot musician from Australia, who had recently paid homage to Bill with THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION.  The evidence of the borrowing is here, but the theft was purely imitation as the sincerest form of flattery.  And — also from Oz — the trumpet player who most reminds me of Mr. Coleman is the equally dazzling Bob Barnard.

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO JAKE

An update from Jake Hanna’s niece, Maria Judge:

As you know, I’ve been compiling material for more than a year, and it is shaping up nicely into If It Didn’t Swing It Wasn’t Jake: The Rhythm and Wit of Drummer Jake Hanna.  So far I have reached out to 111 people, 65 of whom have sent me something, 38 of whom have promised something, and 8 of whom I’m still waiting to hear from. I hope to connect with and hear from those 46 outstanding contributors within the next few weeks.  I have so enjoyed speaking with all of you and hearing your great Jake stories, most of which I hadn’t heard before. So please don’t worry if you think someone else has already told me what you were planning to share. And please don’t feel like you have to tell me something funny. I welcome your stories of how he inspired you and mentored you, how you enjoyed working together, and what an all-around great guy he was.

Here’s a quick description of the way the book is taking shape: Jake’s life doesn’t lend itself to a standard `story of his life’ format so this book is not structured along typical biographical lines. Instead, stories and tributes from fellow musicians, friends and family are woven throughout the chronology of his career as he progressed from big band drummer of the 1950’s and 60’s, through his role in the last era of studio orchestras, to working independently with singers,  instrumentalists and small groups, including several of his own.

My plan is to finish the manuscript by the end of October and then prepare for publication. I’ve sent out proposals to several publishers and am waiting to hear back. If I don’t get someone else to publish it I’ll do it myself – that was my original plan, anyway – and aim to have it in print by this winter. I hope that timeline works for those who would like to send me something.

I’ve set up a blog where I will post occasional information about the progress of the book.  You can subscribe to it to receive periodic updates, and please don’t worry about being overloaded with them. I won’t be doing too many updates for now.

 http://jakehannablog.blogspot.com/

Thank you so much for being a part of this, and I look forward to hearing back from you with more additions to the collection.

THRIFT as a VIRTUE

The record collectors used to call it “junking,” but it’s more elevated (cleaner, brighter lighting, safer environs) these days.  Goodwill and the Salvation Army are usually well-stocked with Andy Williams and Donna Summer vinyl, although oddities still pop up — SONGS OF THE RED ARMY, for one.

But the Beloved and I like thrift stores — for wardrobe choices that go beyond the Ralph Lauren racks at Macy’s, for odds and ends (a salad spinner, an unusual coffee mug, intriguing books).  And their supply of records is usually more interesting.

Here are the rewards from a tour of thrift shops in the Mill Valley – Larkspur – Fairfax – San Rafael area in California, the records ranging from the common to the unusual, one dollar or less each:

As Marc Myers would say (he loves the subtexts of odd Fifties record covers), we hope she is enjoying the music — another bachelor pad fantasy, but the woman who liked Clyde Hurley playing a ballad would be a real keeper.

A very different approach to female pulchritude and the male gaze, no?  I might have this music on CD, but felt it would be terribly disloyal to be in the SF area and pass this record by.  Madam here likes jazz piano!

With this one, we’re clearly into the unusual — even though it seems to be a supermarket label and I’ve never heard Billy Franklin play.  (Is it possible that it was a pseudonym?)  But the accompanying band is first-class: Mousey Alexander, drums; Hank D’Amico, clarinet; Hary DiVito, trombone; Whitey Mitchell, bass, and a very young Johnny Varro, piano.  I don’t think I’ll be sufficiently organized to bring this disc to the Sweet and Hot festival to show Johnny, but perhaps.  And the songs are hopeful, too: I’LL ALWAYS BE IN LOVE WITH YOU / INDIANA / SOUTH OF THE BORDER / THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER / SHINE / ROYAL GARDEN BLUES / WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS / MEMORIES OF YOU / SWEET SUE.

In many thrift and second-hand stores, the 78 rpm records there are often ancient classical, overpriced Edisons, Teach Your Canary To Sing, 4 Top Hits, or the like.  One of the stores had three paper albums and a number of loose records — the usual Sinatra and Gene Autry, but someone’s favorites from 1930-1, which I bought indiscriminately.  Who knows which Columbia or Victor dance band record is hiding a yet-undiscovered Jack Purvis bridge?

Oscar Grogan?  But the other side is Richard Whiting’s HONEY, which is usually performed at a medium tempo, so it’s hopeful.

Now, there’s a prize!  The reverse is MY MAN.

Probably quite sweet rather than hot, but for a dollar, everyone might take a risk.  The other side is INDIAN LOVE CALL, and I hope it’s a precursor of Louis with Gordon Jenkins, Tony Pastor with Artie Shaw.

One other photographed poorly, so the titles will have to suffice:  ME AND MY SHADOW (Johnny Marvin: “The Ukulele Ace,” with Clarinet Accompaniment) / MY SUNDAY GIRL (Charles Kaley, with Violin, Saxophone, and Piano): Columbia 1021-D.  The heart imagines Jimmy Dorsey, Joe Venuti or Matty Malneck, Arthur Schutt . . .

And two ringers — in that I paid more than a dollar for each one in an actual used record store.  But you’ll understand the reason for this sudden profligacy immediately:

I had this a long time ago, and it disappeared under unhappy circumstances: although Willie “the Lion” Smith and Jo Jones should have recorded in every decade prior to this, it’s a blessing that Hughes and Louis Panassie got them into a studio for this and another session as well.

I have heard the music from this two-band-spectacular, but it’s nice to have it on disc — with George Wettling, Nappy Trottier, Jack Maheu, Georg Brunis, Pee Wee Russell, Johnny Frigo, and Vic “Dickinson.”  The photograph of Jimmy and Art giving each other some skin is a good one, even if it’s a tossup whether the pretty model at rear left or the “redcap” looks less convincing.  Maybe Method acting hadn’t hit the Chicago studios yet?

I can’t wait until I encounter a three-speed turntable!

THE HARLEM UPROAR HOUSE, 1937-8

Last week, the Beloved and I were in a highly-recommended multi-dealer antique store in Sebastopol, California, picking up this, commenting on that.  Happily we don’t “need” to buy everything, so we aren’t faced with housefuls of antiques.

A dull brown folder about the size of a ten-disc 78 record album caught my eye.  It contained more than a hundred matchbook covers glued to black scrapbook pages.

Its owner, I am guessing, had been a traveling salesman or the like in the late Thirties and early Forties — a cosmopolitan fellow, eating fried chicken in Utah, having drinks in Buffalo.  Some of the matchbooks were clearly early World War Two, urging the holder to do something that would take a whack at Hitler.

Many of the covers featured mildly naughty illustrations: the one at top wasn’t the most enticing, but it did stop me in my survey.  It wasn’t just the scantily clad young woman or the pun on Roosevelt’s New Deal, but I remembered the “Harlem Uproar House,” paradoxically located seventy-five blocks south in midtown, as a place with serious jazz connections.

Late in 1937, Milton “Mezz” Mezzrow, a man with large dreams, rehearsed and led a mixed jazz band — Caucasian and African-American players, which he modestly called the DISCIPLES OF SWING.  I don’t  have my copy of REALLY THE BLUES nearby, but I recall the band had Frank Newton, Sidney deParis, Zutty Singleton, Gene Sedric, George Lugg, Willie “the Lion” Smith, Elmer James, and perhaps Happy Caldwell in its ranks.  But the world — even the sophisticated Broadway audience — was unwilling to countenance black and white playing together, and swastikas painted on the club ended the engagement in a week.  (It’s painful to recall, but New York was full of such sentiment: the potato farms on Long Island made room for meetings of the German-American Bund, and “America First” was part of the current dialogue.)

I wanted to offer JAZZ LIVES readers their own “nude deal,” and some online research was enlightening.  When you went to the Harlem Uproar House, there was a minimum charge of $1.00 after 10:00 PM; the drink menu started at fifty cents and went up to ten dollars for a quart of champagne.  A shrimp cocktail was fifty cents; broiled Maine lobster $1.50.

This wooden postcard obviously dates from the same time as the matchbook:

I found two other images at the blog of the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History (101 Auburn Avenue NE, Atlanta GA 30303-2503,
404.730.4001.  Archives Division – ext. 200.  http://www.afpls.org/aarl)

http://aarlarchives.blogspot.com/2010/10/treasures-from-vertical-files-harlem.html

I note that the blue image suggests that the club offers A NEW DEAL IN NIGHT LIFE, a more well-behaved advertisement suggesting that you and your girl could go there and swing out — especially if she is so beautifully dressed.  Did NEW DEAL replace NUDE DEAL, or the reverse?  My fashion-conscious readers can tell me the name of her outfit; the dance historians among my readers can no doubt identify the swing dance they are doing.

Aside from imagining how Mezz’s band sounded and wishing for a menu with 1937 prices, this is where my research came to an end.  More information, anyone?  and if anyone has any airchecks of the Disciples of Swing, those wouldn’t do us any harm, would they?  Although I have dark imaginings that Mezz took most of the solo space or at least he played along with the other improvisers, as was his habit.  Oh well.  Anyone who even envisioned a band with Frank Newton and Zutty Singleton in it can be forgiven a great deal.

JAZZ FOR FREE: 2011 SAVANNAH JAZZ FESTIVAL (Sept. 18-24, 2011)

I’m not a big fan of “free jazz,” but “jazz for free” is entirely a different matter.  And it’s happening this September in Savannah, Georgia.  The festival has been going on since 1983, built by local talent (Teddy Adams and Ben Tucker) and has featured international jazz stars as well, from Carmen McRae and Lionel Hampton to Jimmy Knepper and Art Blakey . . .

All events are free and open to the public.  Here’s the schedule:

Sept. 18 — 5-8 p.m. – Jam Session led by Teddy Adams  

Sept. 19 — 7-9 p.m. – “Ninety Miles” — a movie on Cuban Jazz (cosponsored by Psychotronic Film Society)

Sept. 20 — 7-10 p.m. – Howard Paul Quartet w/Scott Giddens & Jody Espina

Sept. 21 — 7-10 p.m. – George Petit 4 & Bob Masteller & Jazz Corner Quintet

Sept. 22 — 7-11 p.m. – Forsyth Park BLUES NITE

Bottles and Cans, Eric Culberson and Super Chikan

Sept. 23 – 7-11 p.m. Forsyth Park

Huxie Scott & Friends (Hall of Fame Members), Stan Killian Quartet and UNF Band w/Allan Harris

Sept. 24 – 4-11 p.m. Jazz Composers Sextet

Robert Lewis, Sax; Randall Reese, Sax AASU; Bill Schmid, Trumpet GSU; Dave Springfield, Piano VSU CofC; Frank Duvall, Bass CofC; Steve Primatic. Drums AASU; JB Scott/Lisa Kelly Quintet and Deborah Brown Quartet

Savannah Jazz Orchestra Featuring Wycliffe Gordon & Ron Wilkins, Pat Martino Trio w/Pat Bianchi (B3) and Shawn Hill (Drums)

For more information, visit http://www.savannahjazzfestival.org/main.html

HAIL, KING LOUIS!

It’s always a good time to celebrate Louis Armstrong.  What would have been his true 110th birthday is coming up on August 4, 2011 — but why wait?  The photograph below was taken on March 1, 1949, while the All-Stars were in New Orleans.  Louis was feted as King of the Zulus then (a great honor) and ended up on the cover of TIME (an equally great honor).  In the photo, you’ll see Jack Teagarden, Louis, Sidney Catlett, Barney Bigard, and Arvell Shaw.  Earl Hines and his piano, possibly to the left, have to be imagined.

This photograph comes from the Louisiana State Museum Digital Jazz Collection:

http://louisdl.louislibraries.org/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/JAZ&CISOPTR=2005&DMSCALE=50&DMWIDTH=600&DMHEIGHT=600&DMMODE=viewer&DMTEXT=%20catlett&REC=17&DMTHUMB=1&DMROTATE=0

Now, just to make the whole experience more than silent, I propose that you click on this link —

http://dippermouth.blogspot.com/2011/07/listening-to-book-chapter-3.html

which will take you to Ricky Riccardi’s extraordinary blog, THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF LOUIS ARMSTRONG.  Ricky’s new book on Louis is a treasure (you haven’t bought your copy yet?  It fits perfectly well in your beach bag) and he has been providing a soundtrack to the book on his blog.  Sounds strange if you haven’t got the book, but the music is priceless.  At the link above, you can hear Louis being interviewed on WDSU about being King of the Zulus, as well as two performances from the session depicted above.  The two songs are among Louis’s greatest performances, and I don’t say that lightly: an impassioned, sweetly empathic reading of SHOE SHINE BOY and an explosive ROYAL GARDEN BLUES with some of the most ferocious Catlett drumming ever recorded . . . .

Hail, King Louis!

SOMETHING FOR MR. STACY

During his lifetime, Jess Stacy seems to have received less attention than his subtle talents merited — a commentary on what happens to popular art that doesn’t paint with broad strokes.  Musicians knew how remarkable he was, and many listeners . . . but here are several pieces of sheet music (found on eBay) that suggest someone was paying attention.  Even if “paying attention” meant that  Robbins Music saw something salable in Jess Stacy’s talent.

The first transcription notes that Jess is a member of the Bob Crosby Orchestra, which would place it in the very early Forties.  JOHNSON RAG was a big hit for many bands — and someone thought that people would pay forty cents (not a small amount) to attempt to play as Jess did:

The second transcription is initially copyrighted 1939, then 1945 . . . around the time Stacy led his own short-lived big band with his then wife Lee Wiley:

And here, for the brave, the nimble, and those who know how to play a Modern Piano Transcription of a Famous Rhythm Standard, is the first page:

Master this and be the star of the annual JAZZ LIVES recital.

TOO GOOD TO IGNORE: CONDON’S WEST: HAL SMITH and FRIENDS at SACRAMENTO (May 29, 2011)

I published this post slightly more than five years ago, and the music remains so delightful that I thought it would be a sin not to offer it to the eager public once again.

hal-6-2011

My title isn’t hyperbole.  For when the band hit the first four bars of LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER, I felt as if I had been time-and-space transported to the original Eddie Condon’s on West Third Street . . . even though I’d never been to the actual club.

This was the penultimate set I saw and recorded at the 2011 Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, and it was one of the high points.  I had been enjoying Hal Smith’s International Sextet through the Memorial Day weekend, but this version hit not one but many high notes.  The regulars were there in splendid form: Hal on drums, Katie Cavera on guitar and vocals; Anita Thomas on clarinet, alto, and vocals; Kim Cusack on clarinet, tenor, and vocals.  But Clint Baker had shifted from string bass to trombone (sounding incredibly like a gutty evocation of Sandy Williams and Jimmy Harrison, taking tremendous chances throughout), and Austin, Texas, native Ryan Gould played bass.  And — as a special treat — Bria Skonberg joined in on trumpet and vocal.

Here’s what happened.

Hal called LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER (always a pleasant thought), surely inspired by the memory of that famous Commodore session in 1938 with Pee Wee, Bobby, Brunis, Bud, Stacy, Condon, Shapiro, and Wettling: the 2011 band had a similar instrumentation and the same drive:

How about something rocking and multi-lingual for the charming Ms. Skonberg to sing and play — like BEI MIR BIS DU SCHOEN:

Something for our canine friends?  LOW DOWN DOG, featuring Carl Sonny Leyland, is reminiscent of both Big Joe Turner and Pete Johnson — a neat trick!

The next selection — deliciously low-down — poses a philosophical question.  When Katie Cavera sings and plays about SISTER KATE, is it meta-jazz, or M.C. Escher in swingtime?  Puzzle me that.  Anyway, it’s a wonderful performance complete with the tell-it-all verse:

Then a jazz gift from Hal and the band — a POSTCARD TO AUNT IDA, celebrating one of the warmest people we will ever know, Ida Melrose Shoufler of Farmer City, Illinois, the surviving child of Chicago piano legend Frank Melrose, a pianist, singer, and deep-down jazz fan herself — here’s Kim Cusack to tell us all that THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE.  Today!

Anita told us all how everything would be make-believe if love didn’t work, in IT’S ONLY A PAPER MOON:

Then, some hi-jinks.  Jazz and comedy have always gone together, even if Gunther Schuller sneered at “showmanship,” and what follows is hilarious impromptu choreography.  I don’t know which of the happily high-spirited players noticed that this was a two-camera setup (independently, Rae Ann Berry on the band’s right, myself on their left) and said, “Do something for the camera.  So you have Clint exuberantly singing DINAH while the rest of the band plays the most musical of musical chairs:

I’d like to see that video get international exposure: could we start the first (and last) JAZZ LIVES chain letter, where readers send this clip of DINAH to their friends?  The world needs more joy . . .

Finally, Bria sang and played her own version of LULU’S BACK IN TOWN to close off this exultantly satisfying performance:

It was a big auditorium, with advertisements for a Premier Active Adult Community behind the band, but it looked and sounded like the original Eddie Condon’s to me. . . .

THE SWEET AND HOT CORNUCOPIA (September 2-5, 2011)

How about spending Labor Day weekend 2011 with these musicians:

Howard Alden, John Allred, Dan Barrett, Chris Calabrese, Marc Caparone, Katie Cavera, Chris Dawson, Bob Draga, Eddie Erickson, Yve Evans, Chloe Feoranzo, Joel Forbes, Jim Galloway, Banu Gibson, Connie Jones,  Rebecca Kilgore, Janet Klein and her Parlor Boys, Dave Koonse, Sue Kroninger, Tim Laughlin, Dan Levinson, Carl Sonny Leyland, Russ Phillips, Randy Reinhart, John Reynolds, Ralf Reynolds, Molly Ryan, Mark Shane, Ed Shaughnessy, John Sheridan, Richard Simon, Hal Smith, Putter Smith, Allan Vache, Johnny Varro, Westy Westenhofer . . . and others to be announced?

It can be done!  (The Beloved and I have made our plans.)

The players and singers above will be appearing at the Sweet and Hot Music Festival, September 3-5, 2011, at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel.  For information about the hotel: http://www.sweethot.org/hotel.html

I am a self-confessed jazz snob, with a happily narow range (although I tell people my immersion is deep).  But many people want much more variety.  They will find it easily at Sweet and Hot, which has a broad range.

There will be The Mills Brothers – not the foursome we knew from 1936, but a group led by John Mills (son, grandson, and nephew of the original Brothers) their descendents, performing their classic hits.

Singers Ernestine Anderson and Barbara Morrison will perform, and perhaps the patriarch of 1940-1 Ellingtonia, Herb Jeffries, will be there.

A Classic Classical piano set will feature Warner Bros recording artist Yolanda Klappert, joined in a four hand-one piano extravaganza by thirteen-year old Lucas Crosby.

Those who can’t get enough of Gypsy swing will revel in the playing of the Argentinian Gonzalo Bergara Quartet.

The Cunninghams will appear for the first time, playing and singing the Great American Songbook — straight from Vegas.  Alicia and Don duet, and he plays the sax and vibes.

The irrepressible Banu Gibson will bring her band as well as an eighteen-year old trumpet player who is that is the city of New Orleans’ Junior Satchmo Ambassador.

Speaking of the future of jazz, there will be the Jazz America of 2011: a group from 11 to 18.

Cajun music from Gator Beat, four dance bands, and many special sets to be announced . . . from boogie woogie to Broadway, Oscar-winning performers and writers including Sean Callery and John Altman, as well as the Hues Corporation of Rock the Boat fame.

All of this sounds expensive, right?  I wouldn’t presume to tell JAZZ LIVES readers how to spend their savings, but I will quietly point out that someone can buy an all-events badge — covering all the music for four days straight — for $100.  Individual day badges are priced accordingly, with discounts for youth:

http://www.sweethot.org/tickets.html

Something for everyone!

HUSK O’HARE’S PEACOCK STRUTTERS, JULY 1926

eBay continues to amaze.  Any comments from the hot cognoscenti?

SEPT. 16, 1963: ASPEN, COLORADO

I can hear it now.

From the left, that’s Danny Barker, guitar; Ed Hall, clarinet; Wild Bill Davison, cornet; a trombonist I don’t recognize.  And the unseen guiding spirit is one Dick Gibson.

Do you think it’s AS LONG AS I LIVE or perhaps THAT DA DA STRAIN?  It sounds good from where I am in 2011.

VINCE BARTELS’ SWING QUARTET PLUS at SACRAMENTO (May 29, 2011)

Drummer Vince Bartels knows how to put together assertively swinging groups, and this one — at the 2011 Sacramento Jazz Jubilee — was no exception.  The session began with pianist Johnny Varro, bassist Jennifer Leitham, saxophonist Pete Christlieb, and trombonist John Allred — playing SOFTLY, AS IN A MORNING SUNRISE exuberantly rather than tentatively crepuscular:

LIMEHOUSE BLUES began as a slow drag then romped:

Before the fire marshals were called in, Pete offered the pretty CLOSE ENOUGH FOR LOVE:

and Vince (a proud grandfather) gave twelve-year old Mackenzie Rose Sullivan her chance in the spotlight for ALL OF ME:

The PLUS became apparent when vibraphonist John Cocuzzi joined the group for a rocking TOPSY:

Another delicate interlude — THE NEARNESS OF YOU — featured Cocuzzi, Varro, and Leitham:

And John stayed around for a frankly dangerous CHEROKEE:

Ferociously hot!

“PEARL”: TAMAR KORN and GAUCHO

Thanks to Peter Varshavsky of Porto Franco Records, here is a fascinating video documentary of the musical meeting of the San Francisco band GAUCHO with Tamar Korn and friends.  Tamar sings “PEARL,” (music by Dave Ricketts, lyrics by Tamar) aided by Dave Ricketts and Michael Groh, guitar; Rob Reich, accordion, Pete Devine, drums, Ari Munkres, bass; Leon Oakley, cornet.

The session happened on January 24, 2010, and is captured here in lovely black and white.  It took place at Cafe Amnesia on Valencia Street in San Francisco, where Gaucho has been appearing for nine years.

Music from this session can be found on the Porto Franco CD of the same name: details available at  http://www.portofrancorecords.com.

BEWARE! GRANDPA MUSSELMAN AND HIS SYNCOPATORS

I’m very suspicious and I’ve contacted the authorities.

Does this man look old enough to be someone’s grandfather?

I thought not.  In fact, I have verifiable information that trombonist Matt Musselman, born in Maryland and currently at large in New York City with Tamar Korn, Gordon Au, and Vince Giordano, just celebrated his twenty-fifth birthday.  So the “Grandpa” moniker is clearly a ruse to bewilder the unwary.  Maidens, beware.  Lock your doors!

But let’s get to the music:

Here, Grandpa Musselman & His Syncopators perform a King Oliver arrangement of Jelly Roll Morton’s “Froggie Moore Rag” at Iridium Jazz Club in New York City on Saturday, July 10th, 2010.  The Syncopators are Vince Nero, saxophones; Russell Moore, trumpet; Matt “Grandpa” Musselman, trombone; Bryan Reeder, piano; Dan Peck, tuba; Will Clark, drums.

The band’s website is http://www.grandpamusselman.com

And here, courtesy of “VerdiSquare” and YouTube, is a 2009 video profile of the band and its players, performing SWEET MAMA, PAPA’S GETTIN’ MAD:

Here’s a link to the band’s Facebook page:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Grandpa-Musselman-His-Syncopators/156382456552

And their MySpace page, with performances from their CD:

http://www.myspace.com/grandpamusselman

Wait.  Did someone say “a CD”?

Yes, that’s its cover — worth buying for the graphics alone.  It features the band seen on the videos in a riotous bunch of improvisations on everything from a 1905 rag to a Sidney Bechet classic to an Iggy Pop song.  The selections are MISS TROMBONE / JAZZ ME BLUES / SINGIN’ THE BLUES / HARLEM NOCTURNE / I REMEMBER WHEN (also called SI TU VOIS MA MERE) / POSIN’ / WASHINGTON POST MARCH / I NEED SOMEBODY / STARDUST.

“How can I acquire one of these artifacts of twenty-first century creativity?” I hear my audience saying.  Not so fast.  Because Grandpa Musselman and the Syncopators clearly have criminal affiliations, there doesn’t seem to be a legitimate distribution network . . . however, Matt has some copies left and if you meet him at a gig (the best place to say hello) he might have a few in his trombone case.

Seriously, he’s a wonderful musician and improviser — someone who’s impressed me wherever I’ve seen him, and the occasions have been numerous.  And his band is spookily good!

Once the CD — evidence  of the imposture — is safely in your possession, then you may turn the perpetrator over to the local authorities.

Here’s another view of the culprit, contributed by crime photographer John Herr:

ANDY SCHUMM MAKES A RECORD!

Cornetist Andy Schumm doesn’t do things the usual way — so, with the help of pianist Bryan Wright (the head of his own Rivermont Records), he has made his first record, something we’ve been waiting for . . .

a two-sided 10″ microgroove 78 — a limited edition of 500 copies.

Andy’s chosen two pieces of Twenties esoterica, DOWN IN GALLION (from John Williams’ Synco Jazzers) and THE SWING (really WASHINGTON AND LEE SWING).  Here’s more information about the disc, and a YouTube video that shows that both the performance and the sound are wonderful:

http://www.rivermontrecords.com/592.html

And if “limited edition” makes you think that this 78 will be out of your price range, it’s $16 plus shipping (complete with whimsically ornamented sleeve).

CHARLES and WILLIAM, AN ALTERNATE TAKE (Chicago Tribune, December 1957)

Take one or take two?

Who knew?  Twenty-four hours ago, I thought that the photograph of Count Basie and Pee Wee Russell in connection to THE SOUND OF JAZZ was unique.  Now eBay has (from another seller) a less-formal version — although the two players look rather stiffly posed, even though their suit jackets are off.  What will tomorrow bring?

RAY SKJELBRED LIGHTS THE WAY

There’s electric power, wind-driven energy, solar power, and then there’s Ray Skjelbred.

I first heard this intelligently swinging pianist when my California friend and musical guide John L. Fell sent me cassettes of the Berkeley Rhythm band — a loosely floating jazz ensemble held together by goodwill, the desire to swing, and the gentle force of Mr. Skjelbred at the piano.

When you hear Ray improvise, you think of the great players: Stacy, Melrose, Hines, Sullivan . . . but his musical wisdom exhibits itself in the same way that Basie’s did — a gentle, understated reminder of The Way . . .

Since then, I’ve bought Ray’s CDs (solo and as a member of various ensembles, with everyone from Hal Smith and Becky Kilgore to Melissa Collard and Dawn Lambeth — most recently The First Thursday Jazz Band with Steve Wright) and always found myself uplifted.

Ray doesn’t have a collection of gestures and motifs, suitable for every time the band turns the corner from C7 to F at a medium-tempo.  Rather, he merges with the music and it pours through him: his energies becoming part of the band and vice versa.

For the past few years, people who don’t live close enough to Ray to see him in person have been able to do the next best thing through the generosity of Rae Ann Berry, who has been toting her video camera and tripod to festivals and jubilees where she knows Ray and his colleagues will be playing.

Most recently, Rae Ann drove from San Francisco to Oregon to capture Ray and his Cubs (named for his beloved Chicago Cubs) live at the 21st Annual Greater Olympia Dixieland Jazz Festival in Lacey WA.  Rae Ann is a woman of discernment and diligence, so she’s posted forty-two video performances by the Cubs, which to my way of thinking isn’t one too many.

The Cubs are Kim Cusack on reeds, Katie Cavera on guitar, Clint Baker on bass, and Jeff Hamilton on drums.  (Before you dive into the videos, you should also know that this band has made a wonderful CD, GREETINGS FROM CHICAGO, for the Jazzology label.)

Here’s some of the Good Stuff:

BREEZE (BLOW MY BABY BACK TO ME):

And for the Goldkettians in the audience (I know there are many) here’s a slow-drag IDOLIZING:

One of my favorite songs is SWEETHEARTS ON PARADE.  (I do, however have a logical problem with the lyrics as delivered by Kim Cusack.  Can you imagine an army of lovers that would push Kim aside?  for the life of me, I can’t):

I purposely chose the three videos above — not because they’re especially good — because they find Ray performing on a keyboard, not a full-size acoustic piano.  Did you notice?  He makes that electronic object sound like a baby grand.

Here he is on an instrument more suited to his talent, even though it’s a spinet — rocking through SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE:

The good news is that there are thirty-eight more videos of the Cubs to savor.  And the Cubs have gigs for 2011 and 2012.

The bad news?  I’ll let Ray tell you himself, concisely:

“I broke my hip July 2, had surgery later that day, must put no weight on it for six weeks. I sadly had to cancel all my work in July and August. I believe I will be able to get back to it in September, if everything heals as it should.”

It pains me to offer that news — but I hope that for Ray and for those of us who admire and love him, those six weeks pass in the space of a George Wettling four-bar interlude.

And I would like to ask JAZZ LIVES readers to do something — not for me, but for one of our musical heroes.  Send no money and no boxtops — but if you’ve drawn joy and delight from anything Ray has ever played, would you send him some healing vibrations in return?  I would like to imagine the esteemed Mr. Skjelbred surrounded by love and empathy from every corner of the musical globe.  Although he’s a modest man, someone seriously unconcerned with the weight of “Western ego,” I don’t think Ray would mind if we wrapped his troubles in healing dreams.  And if you prefer to send your affection in the form of an email, then there’s rayskjelbred@gmail.com.

Thank you, Ray, Kim, Katie, Clint, Jeff, and Rae Ann — our generous heroes!

“TAMAR KORN AND FRIENDS”: A BALANTIC PRODUCTION

The Sage says: “Give a man a computer and he will watch videos.  Give a man a video camera and he will spread music and joy near and far.”

Such is the case with my friend Jim Balantic — whose new corporation, Balantic Productions (CEO, Jim; CFO, Grace) has blossomed into cinematic generosity of the first rank.

Yesterday, July 24, 2011, Jim and Grace took their equipment to Harefield Road, a small venue in Brooklyn, New York, to record Tamar Korn, vocals and inspiration; Gordon Au, trumpet; Matt Musselman, trombone; Vinny Raniolo, electric guitar; Rob Adkins, bass — here, performing IDA, SWEET AS APPLE CIDER:

Yes, the crowd chatter is loud at first, but as soon as the music begins, I get lost in the aura that these musicians create — a kind of private communal joy that we are allowed to witness.  I imagine an unwritten children’s book — call it THE MAGIC CORNER for want of a more imaginative title — where creative spirits like these gentle heroes can go off by themselves and make beauty, weave improvisatory spells that enchant us. 

Thank you, Jim, Grace, Tamar, Rob, Vinny, Matt, and Gordon!

CHARLES AND WILLIAM, December 1957, New York City

Yes, Charles Ellsworth Russell (clarinet) and William Basie (piano) in the CBS television studio, December 1957, probably for the rehearsal for THE SOUND OF JAZZ. 

There is only one other photograph I’ve ever seen of the two great individualists together — at the Leadbelly Memorial Concert.  Here’s the reverse of the 1957 candid portrait:

It makes me wonder how many other previously unseen photographs (this one isn’t by Milt Hinton but by a CBS staff phogorapher) exist.

But I don’t have to wonder about the composition Pee Wee Russell and Count Basie are embarking on — no, I’d bet my 2012 salary that it’s a Bb blues.  And I wish I’d been able to hear it . . .

“THIS IS IT”: BILLIE HOLIDAY, LYRICIST

More from the bottomless treasure-chest of eBay.  A British seller is offering a copy of Billie Holiday’s lyrics for a song called THIS IS IT.  Her handwriting is distinctive, but I know nothing about the possible melody (and I’ve never heard a recording of her performing this song).  It seems in parts a collage of conversational phrases from a wounded soul and includes YOU CAN’T BE MINE AND SOMEONE ELSE’S TOO, which she did record in 1937.

Did she write these lyrics with the most sought-after Louis McKay in mind?  Do any JAZZ LIVES readers know more about this particular opus?