Daily Archives: December 3, 2011

MARTY GROSZ’S FIGPICKERS at JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA (Sept. 18, 2011)

Martin Oliver Grosz, or Marty to his intimates, is a scholar of many arcane subjects — not just music.  He buttonholed me once at Chautauqua to speak about Ben Jonson’s play THE ALCHEMIST.  Since my areas of concentration in graduate school were more recent, I told Marty I hadn’t read the play.  He was undeterred, and told me happily that a memorable line in Jonson had one character angrily offering “a Spanish fig” as his response to an idea he disliked deeply.  A “Spanish fig,” Marty then went on to explain, was a hand gesture — the thumb thrust through the fingers of a closed fist: some non-verbal Esperanto for “Up yours.”

I introduce this to suggest that Marty’s newest band title has less to do with fruit or the men and women who harvest it for us than with his own private comedy, although I could be wrong.  Surely MARTY GROSZ AND HIS “UP YOURS!” BOYS would have looked poorly on the marquee, although Jazz at Chautauqua has no marquee.

But to the music, recorded on September 18, 2011, at Jazz at Chautauqua, music that has no hidden imputations: it’s just lovely inventive jazz.  Surrounding Marty, the Players were Duke Heitger, trumpet; Dan Block and Scott Robinson, reeds (Marty’s “Hot Winds”); Bob Havens, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; John Von Ohlen, drums.

In this brief set, Marty chose not to sing but showed off his talents as a shape-changing arranger / recomposer / bandleader.  One thing he particularly likes is to offer material in new stylistic guises — moving songs slightly out of their expected stylistic niches (as he’d done in his BIXIANA set, which I’ve also posted).  And aside from ROSE OF THE RIO GRANDE, I think these songs and arrangements are new for Marty — at least I don’t recall hearing them frequently.  Marty is such a splendid arranger: his charts offer soloists space amidst nifty ensemble passages that show off varied voicings, the lead being passed around.  It’s the very opposite of one chorus in — solos — a jammed ensemble out, the formula for many bands.  And against these shifting backgrounds, the soloists shine so brightly!

Harold Arlen’s musical insistence on cheering up, GET HAPPY:

A familiar mournful Twenties blues (with a vengeful cast) kicked forward two decades — ALL THE WRONGS YOU’VE DONE TO ME — given a sweetly pastoral cast:

SHOUT ‘EM AUNT TILLIE (does that have a comma) coming from Ellington at the end of the Twenties.  May I say that they don’t write tune titles like that anymore?  I understand why Aunt Till was shouting, I do:

And the closer, Harry Warren’s ROSE OF THE RIO GRANDE:

It’s fitting that Marty should reference THE ALCHEMIST.  He is one.

BIG SID SPEAKS, or KNOW YOUR WORTH

An excerpt from HOT MAN: THE LIFE OF ART HODES (by Art and Chadwick Hansen, University of Illinois Press, 1992).  The subject is ostensibly the Chicago jazz club, Jazz Ltd., run by Bill and Ruth Reinhardt, but I think you’ll agree it opens up to greater vistas:

Someone once asked Big Sid [Catlett] why he would play a joint like Jazz Ltd., and Sid promptly answered, “It’s not a joint.  When Big Sid plays there it’s the spot in town.”

I know many people who undervalue themselves; their mental soundtrack is “Oh, I’m so incompetent,” and their opposite numbers, who inflate themselves out of proportion to the evidence.  Sidney Catlett knew who he was and what he did, and wasn’t afraid to acknowledge it: neither false modesty or immodesty, a lesson for all, even those who don’t play drums.

THE ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (April 2012) IS ON THE WAY!

It’s only the beginning of December 2011 but I am fortunate enough to know where I will be on the weekend of April 20-22, 2012.  The 32nd Atlanta Jazz Party!

If you need to ask WHY . . . .

How about this brass section: Jon-Erik Kellso, Duke Heitger, Ed Polcer, Bob Schulz, John Allred, Russ Phillips; Allan Vache, Harry Allen, reeds; John Cocuzzi, Freddy Cole, Mark Shane, Rossano Sportiello, piano; Ed Metz, Chuck Redd, percussion; Matt Munisteri, Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Richard Simon, Frank Tate, bass; John Cocuzzi, Becky Kilgore, Freddy Cole, Ashley Locheed, Bob Schulz, vocals.

I can already imagine the bands I would like to hear, and one of the nice things about the AJP is that everyone gets a chance to lead sets.

It will take place at the Westin Atlanta North — clean and friendly — and there will be a profusion (or perhaps a satiety) of hot jazz, tender ballads, and good feeling.

You can purchase tickets here — either online or fill out the form and mail it in.

My own story is that I have a deeply sentimental attachment to the AJP: the first time I went there was in 2007, because many of my heroes were playing.  I got to meet Eddie Erickson face to face (and of course receive the first of many hugs) and to hear the world-shaking rhythm quartet of Mark Shane, Matt Munisteri, Vince Giordano, and Kevin Dorn.  But I have personal, romantic memories of my Atlanta experience.  I had met the Beloved about three weeks before and recognized that she was far beyond the ordinary.  And of course she liked jazz.  So one of our nice early shared memories was my opening my cellphone during a Becky Kilgore set so that the Beloved could come home, check her voicemail, and hear Miss Kilgore sing ALL I DO IS DREAM OF YOU.  Right place, right time.  Amor vincit omnia, you cats!

Oh.  I will be bringing my camera, but don’t let that stop you.  I believe that the best seats go to those who sign up early . . . so don’t wait for the end of March to make up your mind.  I didn’t.

And as for the ATLANTA BLUES — I don’t expect to have them at all.  The Westin is very plush: no pallets on the floor for us!