Monthly Archives: September 2011

HOT NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND: TERRY WALDO’S GOTHAM CITY BAND (featuring DAN BARRETT) at FAT CAT (Sept. 25, 2011)

Fat Cat is a large underground room located at 75 Christopher Street (off of Seventh Avenue South) in Greenwich Village, New York City.  Without much fanfare, it has been featuring jazz at night — sometimes three different bands performing each evening — as well as Sunday afternoon sets by pianist / singer Terry Waldo and his Gotham City Band.

Last Sunday, September 25, 2011, was a special afternoon, because Dan Barrett, the Pride of Costa Mesa, California, brought his trombone and cornet to the session.  Early on, the band included Peter Ecklund on trumpet; Pete Martinez, clarinet; Terry himself; John Gill, drums and banjo; Alexi David, string bass — with guest appearances from singers Barbara Rosene and Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton.

As always, Fat Cat is known for “atmospheric lighting,” which means deep darkness (but you can always pretend you are listening with your eyes closed to the world’s best live radio broadcast) and occasional irrelevant shouts of triumph from the young folk playing foosball or other games . . . but even with these distractions, the music remained focused, stirring, and swinging.

The session began with a very happy — even joyous — MILENBERG JOYS:

Be it ever so humble, there’s no song like HOME — with deep associations to Louis Armstrong (early and middle-period) and an irreplaceable Keynote recording by Jack Teagarden, Joe Thomas, and Coleman Hawkins:

A groovy, slow-drag BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME was next, suggesting that the Sweetie in question was exceedingly Naughty to inspire such music:

Pete Martinez, Terry, Alexi, and John took a different tack with the RUBBER PLANT RAG:

I hadn’t seen or heard the fine singer Barbara Rosene in a long time, but she sounds wonderful, here CONFESSIN’ her inward thoughts to us in the darkness:

And to show off her cheery side, her sunny-side-up, she chose ‘S’WONDERFUL to follow:

Terry chose the venerable Berlin song ALL BY MYSELF for his feature, with Dan taking over Peter Ecklund’s lead by playing hot cornet:

The delightfully enigmatic Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton sat in for DIGA DIGA DOO — singing and clowning and having a fine time:

Then, a highlight for me — John Gill’s performance of the most satirized song in pop music of the last hundred years, MY MELANCHOLY BABY, which he sang with casual sincerity, the mark of a genuine performer:

MARGIE, ninety-plus years old, is still entrancing us:

Barbara Rosene told me that IF I HAD YOU is one of her favorite songs: her sweet conviction comes through in every bar:

Jerron returned to sing WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS, and the band agreed that optimism of this sort is never out of style.  (The young gamers were shouting at the start, but I could dream those troubles away with ease):

And the session closed with a frankly riotous CHINATOWN, Jerron mugging while Dan and Pete played superb improvisations:

Music worth descending into the depths for . . . and the cover charge at Fat Cat is a very tidy three dollars, a rare pittance in New York City.

Advertisements

“SWING, BROTHERS, SWING!”: MORE FROM THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS, ED POLCER and FRIENDS at the 2011 SWEET AND HOT MUSIC FESTIVAL

When I was happily whirling around the 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival, over the long Labor Day weekend, I circled every Reynolds Brothers set on the schedule.  Happily for us, there were nine . . . and I was only sorry the schedule didn’t break out into double-digit territory.

If you’ve been following my entirely understandable devotion to this sublimely hot band, you don’t need an explanation.  If you’re new to the Reynolds Brothers, latch on, as Fats Waller would say.  They are Ralf on washboard, refereeing, and exhortations; John on guitar, vocals, whistling, and commentary; Marc Caparone on incendiary cornet; Katie Cavera on string bass and sweet-hot singing; Larry Wright on alto saxophone, ocarina, and interpolations.

For this set, the Brothers were joined by their friend and ours, Ed Polcer, who turned up the flame right away for this September 3 set.  He wasn’t the only surprise guest, as you will see.  The Brothers began with something logical: the evergreen and always-delightful LADY BE GOOD:

The next selection suggests that the lady in question is very, very good — WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA:

The swinging pianist David Boeddinghaus, who loves to sit in with the Brothers, did just that on ALL GOD’S CHILDREN GOT RHYTHM, proving the song’s title true:

The sweet singer Molly Ryan, who (legend has it) sat in with the Brothers when she was very young, joined the throng for MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS:

And Dawn Lambeth, having settled young James Arden down for a moment in congenial hands, came aboard to sing one of her classic numbers, BLUE ROOM.  The fellow on clarinet to Ed’s left?  Allan Vache, of course:

And the set closed off with a too-brief but also accurately-titled I GOT RHYTHM, with Marc taking over the string bass and Katie picking up her National steel guitar:

“Deep rhythm capitivates me,” whenever the Brothers take the stand.  Don’t you agree?

BRAZILIAN BREEZES IN NEW YORK CITY (Sept. 25, 2011)

Last Sunday, the Beloved and I had a lovely experience while having brunch at the Antique Garage Restaurant, 41 Mercer Street, New York City.  Good food and pleasant service in a comfortable environment would have been enough — but add to it the lilting improvisations of the Banda de Antique Garage, and the afternoon was a memorable one.

The Banda de Antique Garage plays lovely Brazilian music — its secret is that no member of this casually accomplished trio is from South America, but you’d never notice.  From the left, you’ll see Debbie Kennedy on bass, Davy Mooney on guitar, and Laura Dreyer on alto saxophone and flute.

The three members lead the active lives of free-lance New York City jazz musicians: I hadn’t known Laura’s work before, but her musical associations are wide-ranging (visit http://www.lauradreyer.com).  Debbie first impressed me sometime in 2005 when she was a charter member of Eddy Davis’s Wednesday night band (eventually called WILD REEDS AND WICKED RHYTHMS) at the Cajun in New York City.  Davy Mooney knocked me out when I heard him performing with Gordon Au’s Grand Street Stompers.

Brazilian music is entrancing and hypnotic, but it’s also difficult to float through in the same way one of these musicians could comfortably deal with I GOT RHYTHM changes . . . so the music stands in the videos testify to this band’s desire to expand their already large repertoire.  Each member of the trio brings new songs and new arrangements to every gig, with very pleasing results.

Here are four videos from last Sunday afternoon by a compact little group that makes the warm breezes of Brazil come to New York City.  Although they call themselves the Banda de Antique Garage (not the same thing as a garage band) I am sure that they are available for gigs elsewhere . . .

Here’s the rhapsodic, rocking MENINA FLOR:

Jobim’s INUTIL PAISGEM (“Useless Landscape,” the song of a broken-hearted lover who says the landscape means nothing without the departed one):

QUEM TE VEM, QUEM TE VAO, sinuously winding:

And the ruminative FROM THE LONELY AFTERNOONS (by Milton Nasciamento):

No afternoon would be lonely spent listening to this band: catch them in person when you can!

HIS HONOR IS ON THE BENCH: RAY SKJELBRED PLAYS! (September 2011)

Ray Skjelbred is back in his element and playing better than ever — full of the real down-home spirit.

Here’s BLUESIANA (by Frank Melrose) — dedicated to his daughter, Aunt Ida Melrose!  And this video (taken September 13, 2011 at San Francisco’s Pier 23) has a real rarity enclosed: a casual conversation between the subject, Mr. Skjelbred, and the diligent videographer from north central Texas, Ms. Rae Ann Berry:

And an older, sadder tune — one I associate with Clarence Williams and King Oliver, WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO? (the eternal question):

Two days earlier, Ray and his Cubs performed in Sacramento, California, for the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society.  Here are a few videos from that date — with Ray joined by Katie Cavera on guitar, Kim Cusack on clarinet, Clint Baker on bass, and Hal Smith on drums.

Here’s BULL FROG BLUES:

One of my favorite songs — for the musical line, the hopeful romance of the lyrics, and the echoes of Louis and Ruby Braff, HUSTLIN’ AND BUSTLIN’ FOR BABY:

MY GALVESTON GAL will never win awards for folk poetry, but Henry Red Allen, Benny Morton, and Coleman Hawkins recorded it in 1933 — that’s good enough for me:

That sweet zephyr in the air?  That’s BREEZE (BLOW MY BABY BACK TO ME):

And to send you out in the right mood, here’s a stomping SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE (it was a dance):

Hot Chicago jazz for this century and for all time — thanks to Ray, Rae Ann, Clint, Kim, Katie, and Hal.

“KEEP UP THE GOOD WORKS”: GOSTA HAGGLOF’S LOUIS ARMSTRONG COLLECTION IS HERE!

Earlier this year, the Louis Armstrong House Museum held the world’s largest archives dedicated to a single jazz musician.  But those holdings have just been enlarged substantially with an astonishing collection of rare recordings, videos, photographs, and unique memorabilia — the collection of a man who devoted sixty years to celebrating Louis.

Gosta Hagglof might not be familiar to those who don’t collect Louis Armstrong’s music or know something about superb international hot jazz.  But Gosta, who died in 2009,  proved again that you don’t have to be a performing artist to advance the cause of the art you love.  And he kept learning how to be generous from the example of Louis — so that he left his entire collection to the LAHM.

From 1949 until his death, Gosta (born in Sweden) devoted himself to Louis Armstrong because of “the heartfelt beauty of his music.”  A few days ago, on Sept. 22, 2011, the fine jazz scholar Ricky Riccardi gave a presentation on the riches of Gosta’s collection which now reside in the Louis Armstrong Archives at Queens College.  Typically, Ricky’s presentation was witty, pointed, full of new stories and music even I had never heard before.  (Don’t let the oddity of watching a video of a man playing music through a computer scare you off: I can promise you a short segment of Louis, Jack Teagarden, and Sidney Catlett that few have ever heard.)

The mention of Jack Teagarden leads me to point out that there, in the front row, was a fellow intimately acquainted with Big T — his son Joe, a charming and gracious man visiting New York for a few days from his native Atlanta.  I felt honored to meet him — a man as friendly and unassuming as his famous father.

The presentation was for the jazz press only, but (if you don’t tell anyone) I can sneak you in through the medium of my video camera.

And where did all this take place?  In Corona, Queens, in the house (now a museum) where Louis and Lucille lived from 1943 to 1971 — and where Lucille continued to live until her death.  It’s a National Historic Landmark administered by Queens College — the only historic site devoted to a jazz musician that is warm, welcoming place, and the news is that people can get married there . . . what a wonderful idea!  To be married in the garden of Louis Armstrong’s house . . . what a way to begin wedded bliss!  For details, contact Deslyn Dyer (deslyn.dyer@qc.cuny.edu) or Baltsar Beckeld at the Louis Armstrong House Museum (they will make sure everything is festive — and I am sure they would make great witnesses).  Don’t forget to book a swinging band — I can suggest some likely suspects.

I’ll have more to say about the LAHM in a future post — for now, make sure that you’re free December 6, 2011.  You won’t be sorry, now or someday.

And now — here’s a wonderful chain of devotion, music, scholarship — from Louis to Gosta to Ricky to us:

And the conclusion:

And for those of us who want to hear every scrap of the music Louis made, one of Gosta’s generosities was his own Ambassador CD label: he issued more than a dozen CDs that document Louis’s work from 1935 into the early Fifties — primarily the Decca recordings (which no less an authority than Ruby Braff thought Louis’s finest work).  The Decca period has been well-documented on the Mosaic label, but Gosta’s CDs can be bought one at a time, and they include broadcasts and other rarities — including an entire CD of material, rarer than rare, featuring the best of Louis’s big bands from 1939-1943, spurred on by Big Sid Catlett, and a more recent release of the All-Stars in Philadelphia (Jack Teagarden, Barney Bigard, Earl Hines, Arvell Shaw, Catlett, and Velma Middleton) with the best sound I’ve ever heard and accurate speed-correction.

The Louis Armstrong House Museum is at 34-56 107th Street in Corona, Queens, New York, and it’s open every day except Monday.  The staff conducts forty-minute tours through the house Louis and Lucille lived in — worth the trip from far away.  And the Museum is creating a Vistors’ Center across the street from the house — $15 million has already been raised for design and construction: it will begin to take shape in early 2012.  If you think that Louis — man and musician — helps make this a wonderful world, please consider joining the LAHM: visit www.louisarmstronghouse.org. 

EASY TO LOVE: MARIANNE SOLIVAN, MICHAEL KANAN, BARAK MORI, DAN ARAN at SMALLS (Sept.13, 2011)

Jazz isn’t meant to be timidly conventional music: the jazz that moves us has an essential sweetness but takes risks.  

The September 13, 2o11 performance at Smalls by singer Marianne Solivan, pianist Michael Kanan, bassist Barak Mori, and drummer Dan Aran is a living example.  The quartet’s repertoire wasn’t ostentatiously “experimental”: no odd time signatures or eccentric tempos, nothing self-consciously cerebral. 

But in every song these four musicians were doing their best to take the material on its own terms, as if no one had ever sung or played these songs before.  The chances they took came off — their daring and expertise was subtle improvisation of the highest order.  

If you haven’t heard Marianne Solivan sing before, prepare yourself for brave beauty — an open-hearted approach to each song, supported nobly by Michael Kanan, Barak Mori, and Dan Aran.

By now, I THOUGHT ABOUT YOU is familiar territory.  Without distorting its emotional center, Marianne and the trio made it new, bending phrases around bar lines, testing the waters:

The quartet performs the same levitation on THE MORE I SEE YOU:

GONE WITH THE WIND (a song I love) reached hew heights:

DAY IN, DAY OUT had a lovely bounce:

I’d never heard IF YOU GO (written by a French composer, the lyrics translated) but it held us transfixed:

A more hopeful approach to the eternal passions, LOVE WALKED IN:

Marianne told us that THE LONELY ONES was an Ellington song — a new discovery:

Cole Porter’s AFTER YOU, WHO? was full of emotion but without melodrama:

I’LL NEVER BE THE SAME is more than eighty years old, but its bittersweet message has never aged:

EASY TO LOVE — the best title for this music, this impassioned performance:

JO JONES CENTENNIAL FESTIVAL (Oct. 2 -8, 2011) on WKCR-FM

Jo Jones, Coleman Hawkins, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Sir Charles Thompson, Jimmy Woode — London, 1964: CARAVAN

News from a great jazz radio station — WKCR-FM, emanating from Columbia University in New York City:

Tune in to for the Jo Jones Centennial from October 2nd at 2:00 p.m. to October 8th at 12:00 noon. Throughout the day, you’ll be able to hear presentations of the work of Papa Jo Jones by theme, with each show focusing on particular instrumentations, groupings, or musical qualities. Even if you’re an extreme Basie-ite, or know Jones better than most, you’re likely to hear something fresh this week: live performances and airchecks, music from the West End, recordings from Jones’ film appearances, and other stellar rarities. 

Jonathan “Jo” Jones (b. 10/7/11), nicknamed “Papa” to avoid confusion with jazz drummer Philly Joe Jones, stands as one of the most accomplished, influential, and innovative practitioners of his art in the history of jazz. Born in Chicago and raised in Alabama, Jones eventually made his way to Kansas City, Missouri, where he first recorded with Hunter’s Serenaders in 1931. His next recording, the Smith-Jones Inc. session in 1936, began his epochal work with William “Count” Basie, as well as a relationship with Lester “Pres” Young that would last into the ’50s. By the time Basie began recording under his own leadership, Jones was a part of a rhythm section that would redefine jazz and help usher in the pinnacle of the Swing Era. Jones played with Basie nearly continuously until 1944, when he was drafted for two years just at the end of the war. During this pre-war era he also worked with Teddy Wilson in the band for many of Billie Holiday’s greatest recordings. After his return, Jones continued to influence his peers, using his sound to balance Illinois Jacquet’s ferocious swing, Sonny Stitt’s ecstatic lines, and the melodies of singers like Jimmy Rushing and Joe Turner. Jones appeared as part of Jazz at the Philharmonic and at Newport as the guest of Basie and the Oscar Peterson Trio in ’57 and ’58, respectively. Eventually, he began recording as a leader with musicians like Ray and Tommy Bryant and old friends like Roy Eldridge. After his time with Basie, the great breadth of his work ensured that his sound persisted through the changes of bebop and beyond. Jones’ method of supporting swing, his talent for adding depth to the human voice, and his consistently impressive conception and execution live on. His sound provided the necessary backbone upon which so much great music was built. Join us in celebrating what would have been his 100th birthday, October 7th, 2011, with nearly a week of his music.

I spent many happy hours listening to and tape-recording the astonishing jazz festivals that WKCR-FM (89.9) had in years past . . . sometimes setting my alarm during the night to wake up at three-hour intervals to turn the tape reel over and go back to sleep, sometimes scheduling my daily activities around what would be broadcast that day.  Because of Phil Schaap, one of the station’s most diligent and enduring members, Jo Jones and WKCR have been linked for many years, with Jo speaking on-air to honor other jazz greats.  The station also broadcast live jazz from the West End Cafe (now no longer a music mecca) with Jo leading small groups that included Harold Ashby, Don Coates, John Ore, Sammy Price, Taft Jordan, Paul Quinichette, and others — even a teenaged Stanley Jordan.  Jo Jones deserves a week-long tribute of this depth and scope, and I’m only sorry that it had to wait for his centennial — after his death.  Listeners outside of the New York metropolitan area should visit WKCR’s online site — http://www.wkcr.org — where (through RealPlayer — the installation takes about six or seven minutes) the broadcasts can be heard without a radio, streaming.  I disposed of my reel-to-reel recorder years ago, but the good news is that RealPlayer entices me: click on a little red button, bottom left, and record the signal “to my library.”  I wonder how many external hard drives the centennial would fill up?  At least I could now get an unbroken night’s sleep.