Monthly Archives: November 2011

FOUR LETTERS FOR BIX AND LESTER: ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, ANDY SCHUMM, RANDY SANDKE, DAN LEVINSON, JOHN VON OHLEN (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 17, 2011)

Not every successful jazz group has to have an orthodox shape or instrumentation: in fact, the absence of a crucial or expected instrument often galvanizes the other players into something rich and rare, as was the case on September 17, 2011, at Jazz at Chautauqua.

I don’t know if anyone started out playing with Bix or Lester in mind, but the results summon up those two quiet geniuses most beautifully.  And when we remember that Lester learned so much about lyricism — in addition to his own singular impulses — from listening to Bix and Tram records with Eddie Barefield — the connection isn’t far-fetched.

Here we have Rossano Sportiello on piano and quiet aesthetic leadership; Randy Sandke on soaring trumpet; Andy Schumm on hot introspective cornet; Dan Levinson on sweet clarinet and tenor sax; John Von Ohlen on subtly propulsive drums.

I associate MARGIE with Bix Beiderbecke in 1928, with Duke in 1935, and with a wonderful rarity — a collector’s tape of Jack Teagarden soloing over that very same Bix recording.  It’s an old-fashioned song that doesn’t get old, and this performance has some of the rattling good humor of the Ruby Braff – Mel Powell – Paul Quinichette – Bobby Donaldson trio recordings for Vanguard:

THESE FOOLISH THINGS, to me, always summons up Lester Young — and Rossano’s piano playing evokes Ellis Larkins and Nat Cole without copying them.  Dan’s tenor solo shows that he might be thinking about the President as well:

SUNDAY hadn’t come yet, but this cheerful Jule Styne 1927 hit always evokes memories of the happy past — and the Jean Goldkette Victor.  (“Wanna see you next Sunday!  Ah-ha!  Ah-ha!” or words to that effect).  Some stride and a swinging wire brush solo do no one any harm:

Most jazz sets close with something quick, dramatic, loud.  If the audience isn’t standing and cheering, what went wrong?  But not this evocative group of brave explorers.  Rossano started off at a lovely slow tempo — seeming to creep sideways into a slow, slow blues — so reminiscent of the Lester / Nat Cole BACK TO THE LAND.  But we’ll just call it a BLUES:

Remarkable and unhackneyed.

Advertisements

SO LITTLE TIME (A Shopping Pilgrimage to the Louis Armstrong House Museum, Corona, New York)

I was very excited to read all the good press surrounding yesterday’s blogpost by Elvis Costello where he urged his fans to buy the ten-CD Louis Armstrong box set, SATCHMO: AMBASSADOR OF JAZZ, instead of his own (overpriced) one.

Hooray for Mister Costello’s candor and love!

But I didn’t own a copy of SATCHMO.  And that bothered me.  I have some of the music on other sources, but I felt like a hypocrite.  How could I urge my readers to get to the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, New York, if I wasn’t ready to go there myself, unsheath my trusty credit card, and walk out with a box for myself?

This afternoon I made a Jazz Pilgrimage to the LAHM, and I can report that the Universal Music box is sitting next to me (like a well-trained rectangular puppy) as I write this.  I feel richer rather than poorer.  That’s the good news.

The less-than-good news is that the LAHM is the only place you can buy the box — it was produced in the United Kingdom in limited quantities, and they bought the remaining stock from the distributor.  Today I found out that there are fewer than forty copies for sale.  And when they’re gone . . .

So don’t wait for January 2012 to lament that the boxes are no longer available (although I am sure someone is planning to buy a few to sell on eBay at inflated prices).  The LAHM opens at 10 AM!  Here’s the link to contact them:

http://www.louisarmstronghouse.org/visiting/overview.htm

Now, what’s in the nifty box seen above?  The first seven discs are a comprehensive survey of Louis’s recorded career, from the Creole Jazz Band’s 1923 JUST GONE to two tracks recorded at the 1970 Newport Jazz Festival.  Then, there’s a seventy-five minute segment from Louis talking with friends Dan Morgenstern and Jack Bradley in 1965, with some assistance from Papa Slivovice.  And — courtesy of our very own Ricky Riccardi, there are two discs of material — unissued and alternate takes — no one’s ever heard before, including scorching material from a Hollywood Bowl concert that concludes with a version of WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN that has the All-Stars joined by the Norman Granz JATP troupe; much new material with Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson . . . and on.  I have attached Ricky’s marathon blogpost about the set — complete with track listings and explanations — for your dining and dancing pleasure:

http://dippermouth.blogspot.com/2011/07/satchmo-louis-armstrong-ambassador-of.html

And if you can’t get to Corona, can’t afford the set, but love Louis, call the LAHM anyway.  They are wonderful people down there, full of ideas on how to make the legacy of Louis continue in soaring shape.  (There’s the gala on December 6, and any monetary contribution would come in W.C. Handy.)

JOEL PRESS and SPIKE WILNER and DWAYNE CLEMONS at SMALLS (Nov. 17, 2011)

It’s always a delight when reedman Joel Press comes to town, and he proved that once again in his duets with pianist Spike Wilner at Smalls (West 10th Street, Greenwich Village, New York City) on November 17, 2011.

I’ve admired Joel’s playing for some time — first on record, then live — his soulful way of exploring a melody without being tied to familiar harmonic patterns . . . but he never loses the thread.  And although he denies this (“How could a Jewish boy from Brooklyn sound like a Southwest tenor player?”) he has deep roots not only in Lester but in Herschel and that moaning saxophone sound.

Spike was a mature player when I first heard him perhaps six years ago — lithe, swinging, witty, surprising — but now he sounds like a pianistic version of 1957 Coleman Hawkins: he knows the risks and rewards of throwing away the polite rulebook of jazz-school-piano and he often sounds like someone who has decided to let his deepest impulses guide him — without a life vest — and those impulses take him and us to wonderful surprising places.

Both players, also, have a fine sense of the past: Joel lives in 2011 but sneaks glances back at 1944 and 1956, and Spike is always playing / playing with walking tenths and stride bass patterns (as well as hilarious glances at the Swing repertoire, such as I FOUND A NEW BABY seen out of the corner of his eye).

Here are two performances — complex, surging but delicate — by this duo, a pair of masterful conversationalists who point the way for each other and for us at every turn.

A strong-willed reading of IT’S YOU OR NO ONE:

An improvisation on OUT OF NOWHERE:

Spike and Joel invited trumpeter Dwayne Clemons up to join them for a leisurely look at Sonny Rollins’ BLUE SEVEN — both forward-looking and affectionately Basie-flavored.  At times I thought I was listening to Nat Cole, Illinois Jacquet, and Harry Edison time=traveled to Greenwich Village, Autumn 2011.  And that’s a compliment, even though none of the players had any desire to imitate anything:

This is one version of what improvisation is supposed to sound like!

CHRISTMAS COMES EARLY WITH JOHN SHERIDAN, REBECCA KILGORE, HARRY ALLEN and FRIENDS: MONDAY NIGHT JAZZ at FEINSTEIN’S (December 5, 2011)

The Beloved and I had a wonderful time at our October 2011 visit to Feinstein’s at the Regency for Harry Allen’s Monday Night Jazz — a monthly series featuring the finest jazz musicians, sponsored by Arbors Records.  The music was splendid; the room was comfortable and the atmosphere warm; the drinks huge (for those who need to know such things).

Feinstein’s (at the Loew’s Regency Hotel) is located at 540 Park Avenue — at 61st Street, New York City.  You may dine and dance from 7 to 8 PM; the concert will continue from 8-10 PM.   The music charge is $20 and there is a one-drink minimum.  For reservations, telephone 212-339-4095

December 5:  Hooray for Christmas show with Bob Wilber and John Sheridan, Rebecca Kilgore, Jon- Erik Kellso, Randy Sandke, John Allred, Tom Artin, Dan Block, Scott Robinson, James Chirillo, with The Harry Allen Quartet

And the good news is that the series has been extended into 2012 — as they used to say, “by popular demand,” which is a nice way of saying that the room was filled.  (So don’t wait to reserve!)  I hope to see you there!

A footnote.  I wouldn’t recommend an ordinary Christmas show to my readers — because I am an aesthetic Scrooge about the music that starts everywhere even before Christmas.  So much of it is frankly hackneyed that it gets by on pure sentiment rather than virtue — at least to my ears.  But Sheridan’s HOORAY FOR CHRISTMAS project is the very opposite of hackneyed.  Rudolph takes a nap, and Velcro keeps those infernal bells from jingling.  Based on Sheridan’s Dream Band of the same name, the repertoire is full of surprises — lonely love ballads, growly blues, pretty heartfelt songs by Harry Warren and Irving Berlin (but not the one you’d expect from the latter genius) — a whole bagful of variety.  If there is no way you are going to make it to Feinstein’s, you might want to investigate the CD — it’s a present that won’t end up in the closet:

http://www.arborsrecords.com/recordtemplate.html?ProductID=19397.

LUCY’S SECRETS

If you saw this young woman on the street, you would think, “She has a nice smile,” but you might not know that she has several secret lives.

All will be revealed about Lucy Weinman in this post.  She doesn’t have multiple-personality disorder, her own lingerie business, nor a quiz show with Garry Moore.  Her Columbia University transcript would show that she is majoring in biology, is a research fellow at the Kelley Lab — far beyond the high school biology I knew.  You might also encounter her as an enthusiastic swing dancer at a number of venues or a delighted audience member at jazz concerts by people like Dennis Lichtman and Gordon Au.

But this is how I first encountered Lucy.  In full flight and in good company — with Dennis Lichtman and Chloe Feoranzo, Kevin Dorn and other notable souls:

Notice the trumpet attached to our Miss Weinman.  To quote Eddie Condon, she owns it and she plays it.  In fact, Lucy is a really impressive hot trumpeter with a large sound, a truly swinging conception, and a good deal of spice.  She, Jeff Weinman (guitarist / pianist / and also Lucy’s father) and Miss Cherry Delight (vocals) make up the Big Tent Jazz Band with a variety of ringers and sitters-in.  Their Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Miss-Cherry-Delight-and-The-Big-Tent-Jazz-Band/343542389217?v=info&sk=info.

That should be enough.  BIO WHIZ GIRL ALSO HOT TRUMPETER would be a nifty headline on an imagined newspaper in a Thirties movie.  But Lucy has more surprises for us.

One is the Columbia University Semi-Formal Swing Dance — coming up on December 9, 2011.  Here (in excited prose I didn’t dare edit) are the details:

CU Swing Dance – This Joint is Jumpin’
: a stompin’ swing dance fiesta featuring New York’s own Grand Street Stompers. Feel-good New Orleans jazz, lovely dancing, lovelier company, and good times will abound. Show up in your semi-finest attire and stretch out those hamstrings cause THIS JOINT’S GONNA BE JUMPIN’!
How it’s gonna go down:
8:30- 9pm – A beginner swing dance lesson provided by CU Swing Dance (No prior experience or partner necessary, ya dig? You got no excuse!)
9pm-12am – The band JUMPS and so do we. It’s that simple.
CUID holders: $8
Non-CUID: $10
*The Grand St. Stompers is a swinging-hot traditional jazz band led by rising young trumpeter Gordon Au and featuring the evocative and joyous vocals of Tamar Korn. With one foot stomping in vintage tradition and the other in modern style, they’ll throw down everything from Louis Armstrong hits and New Orleans standards to Gordon’s exciting originals to surprisingly swinging adaptations of classical pieces and Disney tunes. The bottom line is this: whenever they play, it’s a helluva show.
**Directions: Take the 1 train to 116th St. Walk north on Broadway to Barnard’s Gates at 119th St. Enter campus, turn right, and look for the orange building (The Diana Center). Go down one floor to LL1. Give money to the smiling Columbia students, get your hand stamped, and dance to your heart’s content!

But wait!  There’s more.  WKCR-FM (the radio station of Columbia University, also accessible streaming live on the web at http://www.wkcr.org) is known for seventy years of jazz programming.  One of its long-standing programs — I remember listening to it as far back as the early Seventies — is OUT TO LUNCH, a weekday jazz show from 12-3.  This radio station plays the whole range of recorded jazz from 1917 to the present, from the ODJB to the world of free.  Splendid!  But often — not surprisingly — what’s known as “traditional jazz,” loosely defined as New Orleans, Chicago, early Swing — is left to the very scholarly divagations of the Dean of New York Jazz Radio, Phil Schaap.

Some weeks ago, I was driving home in the early afternoon on a Tuesday, and I turned on my car radio, whose first preset is 89.9, WKCR.  I forget what exactly was coming out of the speaker — was it I MUST HAVE IT by King Oliver or was it FAREWELL BLUES by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings? — but it was a delicious jolt.  The “disc jockey,” the archaic term for the person choosing what records to play, stayed out of the way of the music for a good long time.  Then she announced herself as “Lucy,” and the veils dropped from my eyes.  I am not embarrassed to say that I called the station and said, mock-ominously, “WHAT are you doing playing all that good hot jazz?  What’s the matter with you?” or words to that effect.  Then I introduced myself — Lucy and I know each other from Radegast and The Ear Inn — and we both started laughing happily.

Lucy Weinman is on the air every other Tuesday — her next show is December 13.  She has a clear voice, can pronounce the musicians’ names correctly, and her love for the music comes right through the speaker.  Today, when she was through playing a nice long set of Louis and Earl from 1928, including KNEE DROPS, she began her commentary with a hushed, “Oh, my God.  Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines,” which is proper reverence.

She has at least three or four brilliant careers in front of her, and JAZZ LIVES salutes her varied endeavors — while unmasking her secrets, which is the privilege of Hot Jazz Journalism.  Find out more about her lives at http://www.facebook.com/Lucy.Rae.W.  And if you’re lucky, she’ll bring her horn to a gig.  Pleasant surprises await!

ELVIS COSTELLO in JAZZ LIVES? YES, DO READ ON . . .

My friend Bobby Hacksaw (known as “little Bobby Hacksaw” to Louis) put down his Special Cigar long enough to email this to me.  I never cared much for Elvis Costello, but Mr. Costello’s recent blogpost, STEAL THIS RECORD, has caused me to change my thinking.  He’s gone up, up, up in my estimation: skip forward to the boldface if you’re an impatient reader:

A Pastoral Address From The Right Reverend Jimmy Quickly

There was a time when the release of a new title by your favourite record artist was a cause for excitement and rejoicing but sadly no more.

6th December 2011 sees the issue of “The Return Of The Spectacular Spinning Songbook” by Elvis Costello and the Imposters.

This beautifully designed compendium contains all manner of whimsical scribblings, photographs and cartoons, together with some rock and roll music and vaudevillian ballads.

Tape and celluloid were rolling at the Wiltern Theater, Los Angeles in April this year and present a vivid snapshot of the early days of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook show on “The Revolver Tour” of 2011.

The live recording finds the Imposters in rare form, while the accompanying motion picture blueprints the wilder possibilities of the show, as it made its acclaimed progress across the United States throughout the year.

Unfortunately, we at http://www.elviscostello.com find ourselves unable to recommend this lovely item to you as the price appears to be either a misprint or a satire.

All our attempts to have this number revised have been fruitless but rather than detain you with tedious arguments about morality, panache and book-keeping – when there are really bigger fish to filet these days – we are taking the following unusual step.

If you should really want to buy something special for your loved one at this time of seasonal giving, we can whole-heartedly recommend, “Ambassador Of Jazz” – a cute little imitation suitcase, covered in travel stickers and embossed with the name “Satchmo” but more importantly containing TEN re-mastered albums by one of the most beautiful and loving revolutionaries who ever lived – Louis Armstrong.  The box should be available for under one hundred and fifty American dollars and includes a number of other tricks and treats. Frankly, the music is vastly superior.

If on the other hand you should still want to hear and view the component parts of the above mentioned elaborate hoax, then those items will be available separately at a more affordable price in the New Year, assuming that you have not already obtained them by more unconventional means.

Tickets are currently on-sale for the Spectacular Spinning Songbook appearances in the U.S., U.K. and Europe during April, May and June in the Spring of 2012. More dates will be announced in the very near future.

If I ever meet Elvis Costello in the flesh (unlikely) and I get past the expected security guards (even more unlikely) I will deliver a most embarrassing hug of thanks.  You can depend on me!

I CAN EAR IT NOW!: “JAZZ ME BLUES” (The Ear Inn, Nov. 20, 2011)

I tend to hold myself back from making requests of jazz musicians — you know, “would you play _____ in the next set?” because I often see the brief flicker of pain in the hearer’s face or — in more severe cases — note the sudden attack of temporary deafness when someone requests a favorite song that is in some way not right for the band, the venue, the collective mood.

But even though I don’t come from a family of aristocrats — at least in the sense of official genealogies — I have this small fantasy of having the band play “songs I like.”  Of course this is specious, because the reality of improvisation is that even if I dread another rendition of, say, MUSKRAT RAMBLE, a fine band can make me forget my initial dread and even reproach myself silently for those vestiges of judgmental small-mindedness.

This brings us to The Ear Inn, always a good thing.  In my previous post, CONN MEN AT THE EAR INN, I shared some of the delights of that evening.

Here’s another, taken from the second-set-EarRegulars-and-friends celebration.  (If you ask, “Celebrating what?” one answer might be, “The joy of being alive and making music for people who are listening to it,” not small things.)

The Regulars were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Scott Robinson, trumpet, metal clarinet, tenor sax; Chris Flory, guitar; Joel Forbes, string bass.  The Visitors were Dan Block, tenor sax; Simon Wettenhall, baritone horn.

When they assembled in their corner (sprawling out in a line past the telephone booth) there was a momentary pause for thought: what should they play next?  I forgot my cautious self and said aloud, “JAZZ ME BLUES?”  And because the stars were in the right alignment and the EarRegulars know I am Friend, not Foe, it was taken up as the common theme.  Part Bix, part Eddie Condon, part Lester Young, part Goodman Sextet, part Basie at the Famous Door 1938 — all the parts coalescing into something romping and glorious — at an especially sweet medium tempo (with breaks and riffs and a real surprise at 8:47).

Come on, Professors, come on and Jazz Me!

I heard the music of the spheres at The Ear.