Marty Grosz is known for many things aside from playing the guitar and singing. He always looks for new ways to present what looks to some like a tradition fixed — if not in stone, then in shellac. He reveres Frank Teschemacher’s scant recorded work, for instance, but doesn’t want living musicians to be copying and reproducing those notes from 1928.
Thus, when Marty was found himself considering a performance of music associated with Bix Beiderbecke for the 2011 Jazz at Chautauqua party, he left slow. elegiac readings of SINGIN’ THE BLUES and I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA alone . . . and reinvented a handful of Bix-favorites in styles that didn’t always come from 1923-31.
And he certainly saw to it that any resemblances between the original recordings and what happened on the stage on Sept. 17, 2011, were coincidental. Marty surrounded himself with players who know Bix and his world deeply, but understand that they have their own songs to sing: Andy Schumm, cornet; Dan Block and Scott Robinson, reeds; Dan Barrett, trombone; Jim Dapogny, piano; Jon Burr, bass; Pete Siers, drums.
They began with one of the happiest bits of good cheer I know (which Bix recorded with Jean Goldkette for Victor), I’M LOOKING OVER A FOUR-LEAF CLOVER. But, Toto, it certainly doesn’t sound like that scroll 78. Does anyone recognize the source of the romping phrase that begins this performance (somehow I think it’s a closing riff . . . which would suit Marty’s obstinate whimsies) — a performance full if little surprises:
A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND has associations with Eddie Condon, Milt Gabler, and the Commodore Music Shop — but this lovely performance reminds me just as much of the John Hammond Vanguard sessions of the early Fifties, in the way it takes its time. Up until the double-time passages (after the bass solo), you could easily be in 1953, in a Masonic Temple in Brooklyn:
OL’ MAN RIVER came from 1927, but this performance floats along from the start with borrowings from everywhere (isn’t that a mid-Forties “Keynote” riff I hear at the start — or is it the opening fidget from the ROUTE 66 television show theme, circa 1961?). The overall feel here, with Pete Siers’ swishing hi-hat, is that of a Buck Clayton Jam Session, either the early ones supervised by Hammond or the later Chiaroscuros (thanks to Hank O’Neal for such blessings). And the musicians float over those neat charts, sounding like themselves (or like Lester and Higgy, when the spirit moves them):
Finally, after some official Grosz-talk, we have COPENHAGEN, named for the Midwestern delicacy. And look out for letter C! This performance sounds more like the 1939-40 Bud Freeman band (“Summa Cum Laude” or “his Famous Chicagoans”) which doesn’t do anyone any harm:
One, two . . . they know what to do!