From my mother, I inherited the belief that hot food should be served scalding hot, and I transferred this precept to my jazz listening. This isn’t to say that there’s no room for cool . . . but I want the music that purports to be hot jazz to pose an imminent danger to my safety. If I look at my watch during the performance, something’s not happening.
These six selections performed by a quartet during the 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival were more than adequately incendiary. And that’s no surprise, with the rocking pianist Carl Sonny Leyland at the helm, rhythm section members Marty Eggers and Hal Smith (both powerful and subtle) and their friend and mine, trumpeter Marc Caparone. Words can’t express . . . but if you need this music explicated for you, perhaps you should put away all the distractions and turn up the sound. If it doesn’t move you, something might be wrong. And not with the music.
Since Louis Armstrong used to begin his Fifties concerts with INDIANA, it’s a good precedent:
In another time, the whispered legend would have been that Carl Sonny Leyland might have sold his soul to the devil to understand and play the blues so convincingly . . . but the reverse is true. Carl’s soul is generous — even when he’s playing and singing the story of ROUTE 666, “a bad road):
What could be nicer than hearing Carl say, “Here’s an old murder ballad,” a safe way for us to vicariously release our hostilities with STACK O’LEE:
WHEN YOU AND I WERE YOUNG, MAGGIE is one of my favorite “folk” songs, since it came to me first through Vic Dickenson and friends. This quartet rocks it with great fervency:
MELANCHOLY BLUES (with the verse) — another expression of the jazz paradox . . . how music depicting misery can actually lift our spirits. And Carl sounds eerily like Jimmy Rushing on some moments in his vocal, which is the best of things:
They closed this hot outing with THEEE THING (a variation on familiar chords): happy ferocity in 4 / 4:
If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to lie down and cool off. That big plateful of hot Kansas City jazz has heated me up dangerously.