Daily Archives: December 25, 2011

THE JAZZ CORNUCOPIA WITH RAY SKJELBRED’S FIRST THURSDAY JAZZ BAND (December 18, 2011)

A few days ago, I re-posted a few videos by this wonderful band  in performance at the Puget Sound Traditional Jazz Society, and I had hopes of more.  Now, thanks to Steve Wright and Candace Brown, the cornucopia has overflowed . . .

As I write this, twenty — twenty — new video performances have emerged on YouTube.  Not only are they notable for good clear sound and clear videography — the band is sweetly spectacular.  The jazz heroes on the stage are Ray Skjelbred, piano, vocal, leader;  Chris Tyle, trumpet and vocal; Steve Wright, reeds and vocal; Jake Powell, banjo and guitar; Dave Brown, acoustic string bass (arco and pizzicato); Mike Daugherty, drums and vocal.

I won’t post all twenty here: the cornucopia overwhelms emails and I receive puzzled comments. You can visit Steve Wright’s channel

There, you’ll get the good stuff first-hand: romping ensembles, lyrical solos, swing from the first note, and a rhythm section that just won’t quit . . . but here are three tastes:

a musing, Commodore Records-in-mind JADA:

Who’s that coming down the street?  Looks like a boy from my home town — that’s Charlie Alexander.  How about a surprisingly swinging WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH (all those people are wide awake and cutting a rug in Puget Sound):

Feel like a drive?  Take the Goldkette band — I mean the First Thursday Jazz Band along — no matter how small your car is.  IN MY MERRY OLDSMOBILE (remember, “you can go as far as you like with me”):

I could explain why these performances are so life-enhancing, but you’d gain more by watching them — more than once, perhaps.  Students of what is called “jazz history” in “the academy” should put down their textbooks and enroll for this very lively, totally enlightened intensive workshop in swing: this is music aware of the traditions but happily situated in 2011: nothing antiquarian here.  Not nostalgic — just superb.  And I know “the state of the jazz economy” is just as dismal as you imagine it to be — but this band should be starring at festivals and have a shelf of CDs . . .

Why not?

“WHAT A DAY!” (June 1929: Carl Fenton’s Orchestra with Benny Goodman)

Benny Goodman has been viewed with such prejudice — as a selfish eccentric, a musician devoid of originality, a great “popularizer” of other people’s ideas, a wealthy Caucasian exploiter — that it is time, once again, to listen to what he could create.  Notice the beautifully rounded sound, the easy phrasing, the lyricism (on what is not exactly harmonically demanding material), the graceful swing. . . . years before he was named the King of that same cultural phenomenon.

The record is WHAT A DAY! by Carl Fenton’s Orchestra (I suspect that other fine New York studio musicians are playing in the uncredited personnel here) — an unexceptional song with unambitious lyrics sung by Eddy Thomas.  But listen to our Benny and consider the beauty of what he tosses off so lightly.

This record (and so many others) is the gracious gift of “Atticus70,” the very generous collector-scholar Emrah Erken, whose other fancy is the great beauties of the silent film:

And Happy Christmas, as they say in the UK and Ireland, to all!