Daily Archives: November 28, 2011

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.


Who was Dorothy?

Jazz listeners, whether they acknowledge their indebtedness or voice their gratitudes aloud, celebrate Louis Armstrong in every bar of music they enjoy.  Louis lives on in his own music, whether one is tenderly playing a red-label OKeh 78 or savoring the Ambassador CDs as they pleasingly rattle one’s earbuds.  To think of Louis reverberating through the universe is one of the most pleasant thoughts I could ever have.

The tangible embodiment of the great man and his happy later life is, of course, the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens, New York.  Quite simply, it is a down-home shrine: a sacred place full of music, domestic bliss, and contentment.  Parallel to it are the Archives housed in Queens College: the repository for all things Louis — a wonderful place, where one can hear and see treasures beyond my powers to describe.

Such enterprises need our loving support.  And while this is not a “they need money” solicitation, expecting the house and the archives to go on without bucks (or “brucks,” if you have “S.O.L. Blues” in your memory) would be at best unrealistic.

The LAHM has created its first-ever gala celebration — to honor Louis, of course, through the music of Jon Faddis and a stellar rhythm section — but also to pay homage to George Avakian, at 92 our patriarch and wonderful storyteller, and Dr. James Muyskens, the president of Queens College.   The gala will be held on Tuesday, December 6, 2011, at the 3 West Club: located at 3 West 51st street, New York, NY 10019.  My friends Michael Cogswell and Ricky Riccardi will be there, too!

What began as a stack of 72 shipping cartons of “Satchmo’s stuff” has grown to become the world’s largest research archives for a jazz musician.  The Armstrong House is completely preserved, restored, and open to the public six days per week.  People from all over the world come to visit.

After providing services and programs for 25 years, LAHM will hold its first annual gala on Tuesday, December 6, 2011.  Every cent raised will go to fund operations; including the historic house tours, jazz performances, free children’s concerts, and making the archives accessible to the public at no charge. 

A who’s who of the jazz and cultural world is expected to attend.  The event will honor George Avakian, a legendary jazz record producer who recorded some of Armstrong’s greatest albums.  Jon Faddis, one of the world’s finest trumpeters past and present.  And Dr. James Muyskens, the ninth president of Queens College/CUNY, the parent organization of the Museum.  Under his dynamic leadership, the college has enjoyed a period of outstanding growth and achievement.   Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served at 6 pm followed by an awards ceremony and dinner. The evening will conclude with a performance by Jon Faddis, accompanied by David Hazeltine (piano), Todd Coolman (bass), and Dion Parson (drums). 

Tickets are going quickly!  To purchase Gala tickets and sponsorships contact Nayelli DiSpaltro at 718-997-3589 or by visiting www.louisarmstronghouse.org

If I may be so bold . . . .

I know many readers of JAZZ LIVES might be saying to themselves, “I adore Louis and admire his friends, but a Gala is beyond me.”  I understand.  But in the words of “Shoe Shine Boy” — one of my favorite Louis recordings — every nickel helps a lot.  If everyone reading this blogpost sent the LAHM one dollar, it would mean more than a lot.  Please consider this — with Louis, every day’s a holiday — at least if we remember to make it so.

Thanks to Chris Tyle for letting me know about this photograph.  Lucky Dorothy, I say.