Daily Archives: December 2, 2011

LOVELY AND SPACIOUS: SERBIAN FOLK-JAZZ RHAPSODIES by PAT O’LEARY

Most of us  know Pat O’Leary as a stellar bassist, a swinging jazz cellist, someone with a quick verbal wit and an untrammeled imagination.  But our Patrick (as I’ve already discussed on this blog) is someone with wider visions, going deeper into his own combination of creative improvisation (jazz for soloists and ensemble) and Serbian folk-melodies.  Here is a wonderfully moving segment from his latest work, called Trojanka:

What expansive music that is — and I don’t mean loud or overblown.  Rather, Pat has merged the three or four worlds: the jazz quartet of himself, Stjepko Gut, trumpet;  Renato Chicco, piano;  Dennis Mackrel-drums, the lovely symphony orchestra, the choir, and those deeply melodic folk strains to create something new and lovely, where one element doesn’t overpower the other.  Musical synergy at its best.

This performance was recorded (also beautifully!) at the Sava Centar, Belgrade, Serbia, on June 4, 2011.

In two days, I hope to see the eminent Mr. O’Leary swinging out with the EarRegulars at The Ear Inn — but to know what else he is capable of makes me very proud to know such a creative fellow.

THE ELUSIVE PAUL GONSALVES (on eBay)

I no longer would speculate on the relationship between ignorance and bliss, but it fascinates me when sellers on eBay have only a tenuous relationship with the items they put up for sale.  Sometimes it works greatly to the advantage of the knowing buyer: years ago, I bid on and bought a photograph of Bobby Hackett, taken in the early Seventies at a local jazz festival — he was smiling while being embraced by a non-musician, male, wearing a velour top . . . and Hackett had autographed the photo in an unusually angular scrawl, suggesting that he was not seated or comfortable at the time.  But the seller didn’t recognize Hackett or his autograph, so the photo was undervalued — although not by me.

These photographs are intriguing studies of the tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves, who spent much of his performance career in the Ellington sax section.  The earliest one is autographed, which gave the seller a clear clue:

I would guess that is a high school graduation photograph.

Because the seller didn’t know that Gonsalves also played guitar quite well (he even soloed on a 1961 Stanley Dance session) this photograph went unidentified.  But you’ll notice the saxophone on the floor near his right foot — a clue of sorts.

Looks like the same fellow to me, much more mature.

Could this also be our man?  I have my doubts, but Gonsalves was obviously light-complected (he had “Portuguese” in his background, even though his Ellington colleagues facetiously called him “Mex”) and holding your saxophone in a Lestorian way was probably very common in the Forties.  Fascinating and still elusive.

I JUST FLEW IN FROM SAN DIEGO!

. . . and boy, are my arms tired!  But my ears are still full of wonderful music.  I don’t mean “San Diego” as a city, but the 32nd annual San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival, which began for me on last Thursday night and continued into the middle of Sunday afternoon.

Festivals and parties take on the personalities of their organizers, and this one benefited so much from Paul Daspit, who stepped in after the death of the much-loved trombonist Alan Adams.  Paul is tall, soft-spoken, carefully-dressed, usually sporting a nifty hat (no beanie with a propeller for this gent), and his demeanor is both calm and amused.  Even when he was dealing with a series of flooded hotel rooms, he seemed to know that getting all flurried would do him — and us — no good.  So it was a great delight to see Paul come in, savor the music with a quiet smile on his face, and move on to something else.  His generosity of spirit made it possible for me to attend, for the musicians to play their best.  By the way, when I asked Paul about this, he said he was only carrying on Alan’s philosophy: to establish a space where everyone would be so comfortable and easy that the music would flow out and around everyone.

And it did.  I am a devoted follower of a few bands — my heroes are the Reynolds Brothers and the Tim Laughlin-Connie Jones All-Stars, the Yerba Buena Stompers, High Sierra, as well as the individual musicians Clint Baker, Jeff Hamilton, Sue Fischer, Bryan Shaw, Dawn Lambeth, Hal Smith, Carl Sonny Leyland, Marty Eggers, Kevin Dorn, Marc Caparone, the amazing Paul Woltz, and a dozen others . . . but I looked at the schedule more than a dozen times and figured that if I had been able to see all the sets I’d wanted to, the number would have been more than fifty . . . not possible for one person.  Because the festival was unashamedly a cornucopia, with six or more bands playing at once in different venues, I would have had to be willing to run from the middle of one set to the middle of another, which I wasn’t willing to do.

Too many highlights, and I won’t list them here for fear of leaving something out that was good, better, best.  I think I liked the surprises, though: being outside the main building, coming back from dinner, and hearing a band — it turned out to be Grand Dominion — and recognizing, “My goodness!  That’s Clint Baker — on trumpet — beating out JOE LOUIS STOMP!”  Or, again, hearing music from afar of a small group, around 9 AM, working its way through MUSKRAT RAMBLE — with an absolutely spine-tingling trombone solo . . . none other than tne Saint of Dixieland, Uncle Howie Miyata, playing that thing.  I also had my spirits lifted by people who don’t play instruments, at least not professionally: Jane Lynch and husband Kevin; Allene Harding; Frank Selman; Susie Miyata, Yvonne and Bill Au, Brandon and Justin of the same lineage.  I got to sit between Jane, Laurie Whitlock, and Carol Andersen . . . fun times in SoCal!

I’ll be posting my videos in a few weeks (I have Whitley Bay to share with you) but would point out that my newly-mobile West Coast doppelganger Rae Ann Berry had her video camera, her tripod, and many batteries . . . and she’s already posted a great many videos which would warm the coldest day.

But I’ll just say that there was a Reynolds-Brothers-plus jam session on Saturday night . . . where fourteen musicians got onto a tiny bandstand to wail — and I don’t use that word lightly — on MY LITTLE BIMBO and DIGA DIGA DOO.  You could hear the angels stomping.

More to come . . . . but I have already made a mental space for Thanksgiving 2012.