Monthly Archives: January 2012

“AN OLD OFFENDER,” JANUARY. 2, 1913

Perhaps you’ve seen this already — courtesy of http://www.nola.com — an excerpt from the police blotter of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE of Jan. 2, 1913:

Our lives take unusual paths.  At twelve, the “negro” Louis Armstrong was already excited by the possibility of entertaining people in public.  The impulse to celebrate was strong.  But the Waif’s Home was where Louis was — eventually — given a bugle, then taught to play HOME SWEET HOME.  Would he have found his way to jazz so quickly had he not shot off the revolver?  One never knows; it is possible he would have continued as a singer — part of a quartet — or would have become a world-altering clarinetist.  We can’t say.  But it is the only time I can think of that I am grateful beyond words for one of my heroes being arrested, going to jail . . . especially as “an old offender.”

Louis offended no one, but journalism never quite gets the facts right.

THE REAL THING: HOT CLUB PACIFIC

Wonderful music awaits!  Explanations follow:

The very swinging performers are Jack Fields, rhythm guitar; Marc Schwartz, guitar; Matt Bohn, bass; Dale Mills, clarinet.

Here’s Ginny Mitchell, sweetly singing AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ with three-quarters of the band above:

Here’s a nod to Django Reinhardt, with SWING 42:

And something a little more unusual — the Latin-flavored FOR SEPHORA (by Stochelo Rosenberg):

This band is called HOT CLUB PACIFIC, and I confess that others have discovered them already — but to me they are the best news of 2012 so far.  Their website (complete with bios, a calendar, and more) is here: http://www.hotclubpacific.com/contact.html

and they play every Monday from 7-9 PM at the Soif Wine Bar, 105 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz, CA.  From what my friend told me, it’s a scene — the joint is jumping in the nicest pacific way:  www.soifwine.com (831)-423-2020.

Now for the lengthy introduction.  I don’t hold with most sweeping declarations about jazz, but a few have never failed me: it should be played “sweet, soft, plenty rhythm,” said Mr. Morton.  “If a pianist can’t play like Count Basie, he shouldn’t play,” according to Mr. Braff, and (in parallel), “Anyone who doesn’t play like Lester Young is wrong,” noted Brew Moore.  “Start swinging from the beginning!” opined Jake Hanna.

For me, a certain gentle steady rhythmic pulse is essential.  Swing is, indeed, the thing.  There are other ways to get there, but Basie is and will be the model.  So when my friend Helen called me and said, “I have a really swinging group I want you to hear,” I was excited.  When she told me it was a Hot Club. my enthusiasm diminished slightly — not that Hot Clubs are all bad or “wrong,” but some adopt the more virtuosic extremes of what they believe to be “Gypsy jazz,” and get even more enthusiastic as they go, forgetting that Django and Stephane were swinging melodists who knew the value of space.

But I trust Helen’s taste, and when she advised I begin with JIVE AT FIVE, I was willing.  I was very happy within the first eight bars, and my pleasure only grew.  It is perhaps appropriate that PACIFIC, in this case, doesn’t only refer to the West Coast, to the ocean that embraces California, but to a certain peaceful way of being.  And the gentlemen of the ensemble don’t aspire to be Gypsies; they don’t smoke Gitanes and affect accents: their jazz is frankly American, and it draws so deeply on the best swing of the Thirties — when you sink deep into JIVE AT FIVE, you know you are listening to players who have absolutely internalized the Kansas City Six, the Basie rhythm section —  a sweet kind of perpetual motion that never wears on the listener.

I look forward to hearing the HCP this summer.  And for the moment (or “the nonce,” as someone once wrote) I will go back to JIVE AT FIVE.  Today has been a lovely day; repeated listenings will make it just about perfect.

BEAUTY IN THE CORNER: ROSSANO SPORTIELLO and NEAL MINER (Jan. 25, 2012)

Harold Ross, who edited THE NEW YORKER, once wrote, “Talent doesn’t care where it resides.”  I think of jazz improvisation as a secret beautiful art.  Although the players are happy to have a receptive audience, often the audience’s inattention matters not at all, for the players are creating something that we happen to eavesdrop on. 

This was the feeling that the Beloved and I had listening to pianist Rossano Sportiello and string bassist Neal Miner last Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, at Sofia’s Ristorante (211 West 46th Street).  I had originally entertained thoughts of going there as a civilian — an ordinary listener with nothing more complicated in his hands than his drink, but the music was so quietly eloquent that I started videotaping and then asked permission of Rossano and Neal when they took a breather.

Photograph by Lorna Sass. All rights reserved. Copyright 2012.

Listening to Rossano, one hears his delicate touch, his rhythms (romping or subtle), his orchestral sense of the piano balanced with crystal-clear lines, his unerring ear for what Coleman Hawkins called “the choice notes.”  And Neal Miner embodies swinging persuasiveness.  Bass players usually get less attention than people with shiny horns.  Understandable in a way: the bass is in the lowest register and it stands to the rear of the background.  But the horn players I know admire the shape and scope of Neal’s lines and would be delighted to have invented them. 

On some of these performances, the audience is somewhat interactive.  You’ll hear someone’s comment when Rossano began to play a dreamy Liszt piece, “What is this, classical music?”  Yes, sir.  Classical and classic in the best senses of the words.  And rather than be annoyed at the people who chatted while the music was being created, I would simply hope that they went home subliminally elated by the fine loving sounds.  Maybe, with luck, someone might think, “At that bar there’s really nice background music . . . ” 

Early in the evening, a breezy optimism prevailed — even in the face of current economic reality, as the duo swung into THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE:

A Basie improvisation on I GOT RHYTHM changes that began as JUMPIN’ AT THE WOODSIDE and then went its own merry ways:

Indecision was never so pleasantly propulsive as in this UNDECIDED:

And the unexpected high point of the two sets — Liszt’s CONSOLATION # 3 in Db . . . a sweet musing exploration . . . then Rossano took a breath and turned the corner with Neal — uptown — to STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY:

And this set concluded with Tadd Dameron’s GOOD BAIT:

Talent, taking up temporary residence on 46th Street.  Beauty in the corner.  Much to be thankful for.

“JAZZ LIVES” GOES TO BROADWAY: “PORGY AND BESS,” January 2012

I approached the new production of PORGY AND BESS with some mildly-suppressed skepticism, expecting it to be a star turn for the glorious Audra McDonald, who would shower the rafters with operatic splendor while the inhabitants of Catfish Row waited for her lovely upper register to stop reverberating.

I was entirely wrong.  I had an ecstatic theatrical experience.

I am a restless spirit at most Broadway musicals — finding them unsubtle (overamplified music played luridly) — the books seem thin, the gestures hyperbolic.  And in the case of PORGY AND BESS, I had heroic voices in my mind — Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, and Louis Armstrong.  Especially Louis.  I have been listening — physically and mentally — to his and Ella’s version of the score for more than forty years.  (Another Louis — my father* — brought home a copy of the lp for me when I was in my teens.)  These performances of the arias by George and Ira made me feel as if PORGY AND BESS would be a series of musical performances with some unidentified threads in between the singing.  Since I think no one possibly sings with the emotional power of Louis, I was waiting to be disappointed.  Again, wrong.

I told a friend, “Ten minutes into the production, I lost my heart to what was going on onstage.”  My enchantment — the hallmark of great theatrical experiences — was a combination of many things.  Rather than feeling, “Oh, this is A PLAY,” I felt that the actors on Catfish Row, dragging boxes and chairs and fishnets, were utterly natural.  They were there and we were permitted to watch them being themselves.   Yes, the analytical part of my brain did think, “What lovely sets and what beautiful lighting — a mass of orange-yellows,” but I accepted it as real.  And when Clara and Jake began to sing SUMMERTIME to their baby, I felt tears welling up — not because the singing was so extraordinary or because it washed away my memories of Billie et al., but because it seemed the most wonderful melding of the familiar and the new: the beloved but over-familiar piece of music placed into an utterly right context, part of the plot, part of the dialogue moving forward inexorably.  Casually right, not calling attention to itself as a “great song.”

(I know that more experienced theatre-goers might think these perceptions naive — but my naivete, if you want to call it such, is a kind of openness, and although I kept making notes on my pad to write this for JAZZ LIVES, I was part of the experience.  I didn’t look at my watch once.)

I was continually absorbed by the way in which the staging and the music suggested larger ideas — the way little communities formed and broke apart on the stage, in duets and trios and more.  Consider, for instance, the group of young fishermen led by Jake — remember this name:  JOSHUA HENRY, a wondrous singer and actor — who form a small supportive group to sing and enact IT TAKES A LONG PULL.  It held true for the dancing as well.  And although the book has its own thinness — Bess as a woman torn between Goodness and the allure of Evil — so much was happening among the cast in terms of their relations between one another, suspicious of or accepting the outsider, that I put my English-professor mind aside and sunk into the show.

I admired the dramatic lighting — the undersea blue-green of the scene where we learn of Jake’s death in the second act; the way in which we are compelled to watch the huge dark shadows the actors create above and behind them (perhaps a homage to German Expressionism or the great films of the Thirties, to CITIZEN KANE).  I admired the shifting of moods — always carried along by the music that hinted at country-dance music of the teens, at Black vaudeville — when Mariah, NaTASHA YVETTE WILLIAMS, takes the stage, I thought, “This is what TOBA must have been like — echoes of Butterbeans and Susie, of young Moms Mabley — hilarious and taking no stuff from any man alive” — to gospel, to keening laments for the dead.

And what of the principals?  AUDRA McDONALD gave generously of herself as a member of the ensemble — being many women in one, from the hard-edged temptress in a red dress, to the woman who learns what love is, to the victim of Crown’s brutalities, to the woman who cannot help herself but follow Sportin’ Life to New York.  And her voice rang and chimed — but was in character.  I knew DAVID ALAN GRIER from television comedy, but was delighted by his strutting, his insinuating nasal singing, with strong overtones of Cab Calloway and of Louis — but in his bulky gracefulness and the way he held his hat, a very effective two-dimensionalizing of Fats Waller, who would have played the role perfectly although without the necessary evil.  My strongest praise goes to NORM LEWIS, who made Porgy so much more than a victim, so much more than a cripple — but the moral center of the play, the man who gives himself for love, the man who grows stronger in his desire to protect someone who needs it.  His affect, his singing voice — entirely convincing.

The curtain came down, but PORGY AND BESS is very much alive in my head.

Here is a video that shows a great deal about the process, and the progress, of this particular production — very revealing and a great pleasure:

It’s at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, on 46th Street — and JAZZ LIVES readers who don’t often go to Broadway will feel themselves right at home: Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks play Monday and Tuesday nights at Sofia’s across the street, and Sofia’s also features fine jazz Wednesday through Saturday.

For more information, here’s the official website for the show:   http://www.porgyandbessonbroadway.com/

*My father remains alive in my head, as well: January 29, 2012, is the thirtieth anniversary of his death.  A whimsical man who loved music, he not only gave me physical life but encouraged me to be joyous — one Louis who gave me the ears to hear another Louis.  I miss him but that is the tribute we pay the dead, and he knows this.

FIFTY-FOUR SECONDS OF BLISS

Someone took his or her phone / camera to California Adventure Disney and caught the Ellis Island Boys in action — Ralf Reynolds, washboard, vocal; John Reynolds, guitar, vocal; Marc Caparone, trumpet; Westy Westenhofer, sousaphone (sitting in for Katie Cavera, string bass). 

SADIE GREEN (The Vamp of New Orleans) from 1926 — a delicious miniature of hot jazz, hokum, and hilarity — and listen to the way Marc ends his bridge.  Mother, mother, pin a rose on me!

Pssssst.  The Ellis Island Boys are usually known as The Reynolds Brothers or The Reynolds Brothers Rhythm Rascals when they perform elsewhere . . . they will be at the 2012 Dixieland Monterey Jazz Bash by the Bay . . . will you?

ZELDA: THE MAGAZINE OF THE VINTAGE NOUVEAU

This post is about a charming magazine you ought to know — ZELDA: THE MAGAZINE OF THE VINTAGE NOUVEAU — whose fifth issue has just appeared.

If you are instantly taken by that cover, you may skip what follows and leap into http://www.zeldamag.com — why waste time with descriptions when you could become a subscriber right away?  ZELDA is published twice a year, and its issues are not the kind of thing you would want to throw out.

ZELDA (named for the brilliantly creative and underacknowledged bride of F. Scott Fitzgerald) was the creation of the very talented Diane Naegel — who died far too young after battling breast cancer.  Her fiance Don Spiro and the people who love her and her vision have kept ZELDA afloat — feeling, I think, that to do anything else out of grief would be the wrong thing entirely.  I learned about the magazine from Lynn Redmile, who has a fine eye for detail — current and vintage.

For three years, Diane and Don (a fine photographer) have also produced a series of monthly evenings (held in a former Manhattan speakeasy) called “Wit’s End,” Jazz Age-themed evenings “with Prohibition-era cocktails and a dress code.”  At these events, friends of Don and Diane played hot jazz — including Dan Levinson, Molly Ryan, Baby Soda, The Red Hook Ramblers, Cynthia Sayer, Gelber and Manning, and others.*

Not irrelevantly, the first Wit’s End party of 2012 is coming up in a few days — and it features the music of the Big Tent Jazz Band (where you can hear Lucy Weinman swing out) in a tribute to Texas Guinan.  Here’s the Facebook link.

But back to ZELDA itself.  It is not a museum catalogue of ancient clothing that one might look at but never put on.  Rather it is a vivid tribute to all things “vintage,” a term that includes the music.

In the best way, ZELDA celebrates living artistically in a style which continues to be strikingly fashionable if one understands it.  “Vintage” here is not just a kind of antique Halloween getup to be applied when the time is right, but an entire way of being — something that Oscar Wilde would have approved of: creating oneself as a living work of art.

But it’s not all about black-and-white shoes.

Well-written features in past issues have included a recalled interview with Ginger Rogers, current interviews with actress Marsha Hunt (then 92), Charles “Buddy” Rogers, and Ziegfeld showgirl Doris Eaton Travis, profiles of Janet Klein, Jesse Gelber and Kate Manning, features on vintage cocktails, neckties, fingerwaving, pincurling, profiles of various cities for their vintage appeal, advertisements from shops and online sellers of everything from rare records to vintage jewels, an advice column . . . and more!

The newest issue contains articles and features on Fanny Brice, cosmetics, the Sweet Hollywallians, KING KONG, and more.  It’s beautifully laid out and a pleasure to read . . . and you’ll find yourself returning to older issues for witty, arcane yet pertinent information.  For myself, I will never be a vintage fashion icon — but I take great pleasure in learning about the art and its practitioners.

*For more information about the Wit’s End gatherings, visit    http://clubwitsend.com/

But these events are serious about vintage attire, so be forewarned: “ABSOLUTELY NO ENTRY WILL BE PERMITTED TO THOSE WEARING JEANS, ATHLETIC SHOES, ZIP-UP JACKETS, OR CASUAL ATTIRE.”  Elegance asks only that we leave our sneakers at home for one night — to recall a time and place where one dressed differently for, say, gardening, and going to an evening dance.

TAKING RISKS, HAVING A BALL: TWO CINEMATIC MASTERPIECES from “THE SOUND OF JAZZ” (1957)

Next to JAMMIN’ THE BLUES and HOT HOUSE, the 1933 footage of Louis in Copenhagen, Duke in CHECK AND DOUBLE CHECK, the silent newsreel film of the Randall’s Island Carnival of Swing, the 1957 THE SOUND OF JAZZ might be the most famous film of jazz performance extant.  I’ve seen it in various forms: on a muzzy VCR copy, an improved DVD, and in bits and pieces on YouTube.

And I hope everyone has seen it so many times that it has the gleam of photographs of a dear old friend — lovingly glimpsed from many angles in a leisurely way.

But when the generous collector Franz Hoffmann opened his Henry “Red” Allen box of wonders, I thought, “What if there are some people who haven’t seen ROSETTA and WILD MAN BLUES — ever?”  So in the same way we return to stand awestruck in front of a Sargent portrait or we settle in for a long night with KING LEAR, let us return to these two magical filmed performances.

The first thing, of course, is the music — music made by titans at the peak of their casual achievements.  Henry “Red” Allen, trumpet and vocal; Rex Stewart, cornet; Vic Dickenson, trombone; Pee Wee Russell, clarinet; Coleman Hawkins, tenor sax; Nat Pierce, piano; Danny Barker, guitar; Milt Hinton, string bass; Jo Jones, drums.

Let us be frank about this band.  It was a gathering of strong personalities — players who demanded space for themselves (perhaps with the exception of Pierce and Barker) who — given the wrong audience, could caricature themselves.  To some this will seem like heresy, but the evidence exists.  But what remains here is an exuberant jostling in the name of the music:  the combat between Red and Rex is subtle and sly, and Jo’s solo — although perhaps a digression — is constrained rather than a show-stopper.

Careful observers will note that in a program ostensibly devoted to the blues, neither ROSETTA nor WILD MAN BLUES is one, although the latter descends into those emotional depths with great fervor.

So one could watch these clips over and over, marveling at the balance between individual ego and cohesion.  What Red Allen does is also an advanced course in leadership.  I know that the band had had a “rehearsal” for the purposes of recording the music for Columbia Records (more about that later) but it’s clear that not much had been worked out aside from the basics: who solos first and for how long.

But I would propose another reason to marvel at these clips, and it’s a silent one — almost in the name of moving sculptures and shadows.  The director of the program, Jack Smight, was a great jazzman himself — not that he played an instrument, but in the chances he took.  This was live television, so his decisions were made on the spot and there were no retakes.  He had five cameramen — their names Bob Heller, Harold Classen, Joe Sokota, Jack Brown, and Marty Tuck.  And Smight moved from one to the other with great logic, sensitivity, and freedom.  Musicians hard at work — in love with their art — are great studies, and these five cameras captured not only the usual visual cliches: the sweating face, distended cheeks, intake and outflow of breath, but the musicians listening and responding to one another.  And to their own creations: one of the most memorable seconds of this is the expression on Rex Stewart’s face after he has pulled off what he understands is a particularly felicitous epigram in WILD MAN BLUES.  It’s self-congratulatory but in a sweetly hilarious way, “Hey, Ma!  Look what I just played!”  And who would deny Rex his pleasure in his own art?

In an era where multiple-camera setups often lead to restlessness that is difficult to endure (even before everyone had a video camera) these cuts and chance-takings are both beautiful and highly rewarding.  I propose something nearly audacious: one could watch these films with the sound off and marvel at the faces and their expressions.  Truly rewarding film of a musical performance is not only the soundtrack, but the way the players present themselves to us, as we see here.

WILD MAN BLUES:

ROSETTA:

And a purely aural note.  In the vinyl era, both a monaural and a stereo record were issued.  They captured the music at the “rehearsal,” December 5, 1957.  (I assume that this session also captured the disembodied voices we hear on the television program, explaining what the blues meant to them.)  Both of those issues were slightly different: at one point in the last minutes of DICKIE’S DREAM, the brass and reeds got out of synch with one another; on one issue, the raggedness is documented (very reassuring for those of us who are not giants on the scale of these players!); on the other, a neater passage and a different Basie piano bridge have been spliced in.  George Avakian was apparently not involved with this project, but Irving Townsend seems to have picked up some of George’s skill with a razor blade.  But — even better! — the CD issue, now possibly difficult to find (Columbia Legacy CK 66082) includes a previously unissued take of WILD MAN BLUES that runs almost nine minutes.  (Much harder to find is the late Bob Hilbert’s vinyl issue on his own Pumpkin label, THE “REAL” SOUND OF JAZZ, which presents the audio from the television show.)

Even if you think you know these performances, I will wager whatever you like that something will come and surprise you in a repeat viewing.  Bless these musicians; bless Whitney Balliett and Nat Hentoff; bless Smight and his cameramen; bless Franz Hoffmann, too.

HAVE YOU HEARD?

Upon hearing the news, Chloe Lang (the West Coast JAZZ LIVES mascot) was suddenly wide awake and wanted to know more!

What news?

How about a new CD compilation of live recordings  featuring pianist Ray Skjelbred and hot cornetist Jim Goodwin from Port Costa, CA gigs?  The CD is called — simply — RAY SKJELBRED ABD JIM GOODWIN / RECORDED LIVE IN PORT COSTA, and it’s issued on Ray’s own label, “Orangapoid,” number 104.  All the music was recorded at the Bull Valley Inn.

So far it’s available only at Ray’s gigs — which is a good thing: you get to see him and take this home, too! — but I wonder if he would be willing to sell it to those not likely to get to the West Coast soon.  Postage and packing are a nuisance, but you could ask — sweetly — at http://www.rayskjelbred.com.

Lovely songs: SLEEPY TIME GAL, PLEASE BE KIND, THE DAY YOU CAME ALONG, RUSSIAN LULLABY, THE RIVER’S TAKING CARE OF ME, LAZY BONES, EVERYONE SAYS “I LOVE YOU,” CHARLESTON, TWO SLEEPY PEOPLE, BLACK AND TAN FANTASY, SWEET SUE, MY DADDY ROCKS ME, LIVIN’ IN A GREAT BIG WAY, HOW LONG HAS THIS BEEN GOING ON?

You’ll notice some lovely ballads and rhythm ballads, early Ellingtonia, rocking dance music, nods to the Marx Brothers, Red Allen, Bing Crosby, Fats Waller, the blues, Bill Robinson . . . good bones, as they say!

The players — of course Ray and Jim, but also Mike Duffy, string bass; Tom Keats, rhythm guitar; Brett Runkle, washboard, Lueder Ohlwein, banjo; Dan Barrett, trombone; John “Butch” Smith, soprano sax; Norvin Armstrong, piano.  Ray sings — wonderfully — on EVERYONE and IN A GREAT BIG WAY.

What’s so special about this disc, all sixty-nine minutes of it?

This is the kind of music that great jazz players create for themselves when there is a congenial audience or none at all: relaxed, swinging, small intense masterpieces of hot architecture where the second chorus builds in elegantly rough-hewn ways upon the first.  It’s the kind of music that rarely makes it whole into the recording studio — and since the Bull Valley Inn is no longer anyone’s music mecca (we drove serendipitously through Port Costa in the summer of 2011: it looked like the set for a Western that hadn’t been completed) . . . . and since Jim is dead, this CD is priceless evidence of days gone by.  And the past leaps to life in our speakers!

Even Chloe thought so.

For Goodwin in searing hot form, here’s the Sunset Music Company from 1979 romping through I NEVER KNEW with

The band was led by banjoist Ohlwein, with Goodwin, Barrett, clarinetist Bill Carter (temporarily filling in for John Smith), bassist Mike Fay, drummer Jeff Hamilton: every one of their recordings on Dan’s BLUE SWING FINE RECORDINGS is worth hearing.

And in case you’ve never seen or heard the eloquent Mr. Skjelbred, here’s a sample, TISHOMINGO BLUES, recorded by Rae Ann Berry in 2009:

Imagine them together — musing, cracking private musical jokes, digging deep into the songs they are playing.  Heart-stirring music from the first note to the last.

P.S.  I count myself very lucky: having met and / or heard Barrett, Hamilton, Smith, Fay, Carter. Norvin Armstrong – – – and I’ll get to shake Ray Skjelbred’s hand at the Jazz Bash by the Bay this March 2.  Wow!

GRATITUDE IN 4/4 (Part Eight): THE GRAND DOMINION JAZZ BAND at the 2011 SAN DIEGO THANKSGIVING DIXIELAND JAZZ FESTIVAL (thanks to Rae Ann Berry)

Here’s another helping of spicy gumbo from the Grand Dominion Jazz Band:  Bob Pelland, leader, piano; Clint Baker, trumpet, vocal; Jim Armstrong, trombone; Gerry Green, reeds; Bill Dixon, banjo; guest Marty Eggers, bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums.

Brought to you thanks to Paul Daspit, who combines organization, swing, and a sense of humor, and “SFRaeAnn,” Rae Ann Berry, who couldn’t be any deeper in the music without sitting in: visit her up-to-date list of hot jazz gigs in the area on www.sfraeann.com and her YouTube channel here.

I like a band what takes its time!  Here’s Ma Rainey’s JELLY BEAN BLUES with that deep gutty Twenties flavor:

Then, a stomping MY LITTLE GIRL with a vocal by Clint (a song new to me but surely not to the scholars in the JAZZ LIVES audience?) and a fine solo by guest Marty Eggers:

And another “new” song, BRIGHT STAR BLUES, which builds up a serious head of steam:

Hot music and unusual tunes — a fine combination platter!

GRATITUDE IN 4/4 (Part Seven):TIM LAUGHLIN – CONNIE JONES NEW ORLEANS ALL-STARS at the 2011 SAN DIEGO THANKSGIVING DIXIELAND JAZZ FESTIVAL (thanks to Rae Ann Berry)

“Tonation and phrasing,” Louis said.  “Let the people hear that lead,” Joe Oliver reminded him.

Both of those heroes would have been very pleased with the music created by this band — Tim, clarinet; Connie, trumpet; Bob Havens, trombone; Chris Dawson,piano; Katie Cavera, guitar; Marty Eggers, string bass; Hal Smith, drums — on November 27, 2011.

Here’s a sweet song with its own special niche in jazz history: Earl Hines was playing this one day in 1924 at the Chicago Musicians’ Union headquarters when a stocky young fellow with a cornet came in, unpacked it, and began to play — THE ONE I LOVE (Belongs To Somebody Else):

Bechet’s haunting SI TU VOIS MA MERE:

From Irving Berlin’s score for CALL ME MADAM, here’s THE BEST THING FOR YOU (Would Be Me):

Alas and alack!  MAMA’S GONE, GOODBYE:

Hey, Mister — STRIKE UP THE BAND:

YOU’LL NEVER KNOW was a romantic hit of the Second World War; here Bob Havens brings rhythm and romance to us:

A vocal feature for the least surly woman in Dixieland, Miss Katie Cavera, ANGRY:

And a seriously delicious investigation of the classic AUNT HAGAR’S BLUES:

All of this good music comes to us because of Paul Daspit, who made sure this weekend was a happy place for the players and the audience.And particular thanks go to “SFRaeAnn,” Rae Ann Berry, who works tirelessly for the music she loves: see her up-to-date list of hot jazz gigs in the area on www.sfraeann.com and her YouTube channel here.

JAZZ WORTH READING: AN INTERVIEW WITH MARK LOPEMAN

Although the fine saxophonist and musician Mark Lopeman is articulate in person, I don’t think he has been interviewed much if at all.  Now there’s a particularly good reason: his first CD as a leader, NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT, which I have written about in JAZZ LIVES here.

This brief interview of Mark in ALL ABOUT JAZZ does what the best ones do: provides a tangible sense of its subject, his voice, and his ideas in a compact uncluttered way.

http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/news.php?id=92300

So, if you’ve already purchased the CD, the interview will add more to your understanding of this gifted, modest man and musician.  If all of this is new to you, I propose a visit to Mark’s site (http://www.marklopeman.com) to hear some of the music from the CD, then to the interview, and back to get your own copy of the CD. Trust me on this.

ONE MORE FROM THE JAZZ TREASURE CHEST: MIKE POINTON, TOMAS ORNBERG, BENT PERSSON: ASKERSUND JAZZ FESTIVAL (July 1994)

Thanks to Franz Hoffmann!

From June 18, 1994, at the Askersund, Sweden Jazz Festival: Bent Persson, cornet; Mike Pointon, trombone, vocal; Tomas Ornberg, clarinet, alto sax; possibly Ray Smith, piano; Tom Stuip, banjo; unknown (perhaps Bo Juhlin?), brass bass.

Flying all the way, they do HEEBIE JEEBIES — a very funny version for those who know the “original story”; a rousing CHATTANOOGA STOMP from the Creole Jazz Band book — with great Mortonish emphatic playing from the pianist; a loose and easy FOUR OR FIVE TIMES.

And thanks to Mister Strong, who lives on in this music.

WE MISS RICHARD M. SUDHALTER: THE NEW PAUL WHITEMAN ORCHESTRA, 1974, LONDON

Thanks again to Franz Hoffmann, dispersing gems lavishly to us.  Here is a twenty-one minute excerpt from a concert recorded in autumn 1974 and broadcast on UK television as BIX BEIDERBECKE AND THE KING OF JAZZ.  The New Paul Whiteman Orchestra was made up of the best British jazzmen old and young: Duncan Campbell, Freddy Staff, Tommy McQuater, John McLevey, Dick Sudhalter, trumpet and cornet; Johnny Edwards, Harry Roche, Ric Kennedy, Keith Nichols, trombone; Harry Smith, Al Baum, Graham Lyons, Derek Guttridge, Ken Poole, reeds; Paul Nossiter, clarinet; John R.T. Davies, alto sax;  Harry Gold, bass sax; Pat Dodd, piano, celeste; George Elliott, guitar, banjo; Peter Ind, string bass; Martin Fry, tuba; Jock Cummings, drums, percussion; Reg Leopold, John Kirkland, Louis Harris, Kelly Isaacs, Bill Reid, George Hurley, violin; Chris Ellis, vocal; The New Rhythm Boys : Paul Nossiter, Keith Nichols, John R.T. Davies, vocal; Alan Cohen, conductor.  The songs performed are BIG BOY (by a small group); LOUISIANA, ‘T’AIN’T SO, HONEY, ‘T’AIN’T SO, I FOUND A NEW BABY, THERE AIN’T NO SWEET MAN THAT’S WORTH THE SALT OF MY TEARS, and SINGIN’ THE BLUES.

Thanks go — in plenitude — to the late Richard M. Sudhalter, playing new solos and encouraging his bandmates to do the same . . . and making these arrangements come alive again.  Without him . . . . none of this would have happened.  We miss him.

HOTTER THAN THAT: KUSTBANDET PLAYS “PANAMA” (1985)

Thanks once again to Franz Hoffmann, this more contemporary treasure — the Swedish band KUSTBANDET performing its own very rocking evocation of the 1929-30 Luis Russell Orchestra (original stars Henry “Red” Allen, J. C. Higginbotham, Charlie Holmes, Albert Nicholas, Pops Foster, Paul Barbarin) playing the living daylights out of W.H. Tyers’ atmospheric piece, PANAMA:

Franz dates this as September 27, 1985 for NDR-TV, and thinks the personnel is Claes-Goran Faxell, Bent Persson, Ola Palsson, trumpet; Jens Lindgren,trombone; Goran Eriksson, Jan Akerman, Erik Persson, reeds; Ake Edenstrand, piano; Hans Gustafsson, banjo; Bo Juhlin, brass bass, bass trombone; Goran Lind, bass; Christer Ekhe, drums.

Bent Persson plays Red Allen; Jens Lindgren does Higgy.  I don’t know the reed section by name, or else I would surely credit them.  Two questions: can anyone read the autograph / inscription on Goran Lind’s bass?  It looks like a real treasure.  And it may just be my point of view, but I am astonished at how serene . . . calm . . . impassive this television audience is.  One fellow, at about 2 minutes in, to the bottom right of the frame, is fanning himself.  That reaction I understand.

I never leap to my feet and shout YEAH! because I have a video camera in my hand, but this performance made me want to do just that.

WISHING WILL MAKE IT SO, PERHAPS?

I always remember how Wild Bill Davison responded to an audience member’s request that the band play a particular tune, “Get your own band!”  So I write what follows with some amusement and some hope.

I have been able to post some extraordinary videos from the 2011 San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Festival thanks to Rae Ann Berry, and she hasn’t completely gotten down to the bottom of her hoard by any means.  But there is one set that has eluded both of us, and since the air seemed to be thick with video cameras at that festival, I am asking my readers to think of JAZZ LIVES kindly.

The set I am trying to find (and post) took place on Saturday night — around 9 PM.  It was originally scheduled as a Reynolds Brothers set, but word must have gotten around, as it does, and by the end of the whole glorious riotous enterprise, the quartet of John, Ralf, Marc, and Katie, had become an All-Star Orchestra, with visitors Brian Casserly, Jeff Hamilton, Tim Laughlin, Dawn Lambeth, Chloe Feoranzo, Peter Meijers, Howard Miyata, Bryan Shaw, Justin Au, Brandon Au, and Nik Snyder* — all on a tiny rectangular bandstand.

They played THREE LITTLE WORDS, FAT AND GREASY, I CRIED FOR YOU, an astonishing MY LITTLE BIMBO, and closed with ‘DEED I DO.

Did anyone capture this set, and (more importantly) are you willing to upload it to YouTube so that it can be posted here?  I would be eternally grateful — and if the music surfaces, other readers of JAZZ LIVES will truly understand why.

Imagine Bing and Eddie Lang working their way through PLEASE, and you’ll get the general idea of my current state of mind.

*Had Dave Frishberg been there, he could have created a wonderful song lyric from just those names alone.

GRATITUDE IN 4/4 (Part Six): THE UPTOWN LOWDOWN JAZZ BAND at the 2011 SAN DIEGO THANKSGIVING DIXIELAND JAZZ FESTIVAL (thanks to Rae Ann Berry)

Uptown and Lowdown . . . not only but also!  Recorded at the 2011 San Diego extravaganza on November 25, 2011.  Bert Barr, leader, cornet; Tom Jacobus, trombone; John Goodrich (on left), reeds; Paul Woltz, reeds; Rose Marie Barr, piano; Al Latourette, banjo; Paul Hagglund, tuba; Sue Fischer, drums.

The band has a diversified repertoire — and to prove it, here’s BOMBAY:

And how about a brisk BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA that begins with an adept exposition of the melody by Paul Hagglund:

Paul Woltz gives the rather vindictive lyrics of GO BACK TO WHERE YOU STAYED LAST NIGHT a very cheerful reading:

Finally, here’s the theme song for all the eager videographers (including myself) in the JAZZ LIVES audience, I MUST HAVE IT — a performance that has special pleasures in Paul’s bass sax solo and the muted cornet / tuba duet:

As always, thanks to Paul Daspit, who assembled these sets into a very rewarding weekend.  More of the same to our own “SFRaeAnn,” Rae Ann Berry, whose reverence for the music comes through in her up-to-date list of hot jazz gigs in the area on www.sfraeann.com and her YouTube channel here.

GRATITUDE IN 4/4 (Part Five): THE KATIE CAVERA TRIO at the 2011 SAN DIEGO THANKSGIVING DIXIELAND JAZ FESTIVAL (thanks to Rae Ann Berry)

This is music both propulsive and soothing — and the experience was communal, as the audience joined in very sweetly.  The Katie Cavera Trio — Katie and John Gill on banjo and vocal, with the steadfastly swinging Marty Eggers on acoustic bass — were the opening act of the 2011 San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival, and they set the right mood.  Affectionate, approachable, and fun — without being ashamed of any of those qualities.  Add a little vaudeville and some old-fashioned patriotism of a non-sectarian kind, and you have a very unassuming but rewarding interlude.

All of this was made possible by Paul Daspit, who brought these musicians together and made sure everyone on and off the stand was beaming. Thanks also to “SFRaeAnn,” Rae Ann Berry, who shares the music in her up-to-date list of hot jazz gigs in the area on www.sfraeann.com and her YouTube channel here.

Here’s a quartet of pastoral Americana with a distinct jazz flavor.  First, CAROLINA IN THE MORNING:

Then, two parts of a George M. Cohan medley — you’ll want to watch it all the way through to hear John become Jimmy Cagney, perfectly:

And YOU’RE A GRAND OLD FLAG — one or two of the little sisters here had learned the song in school and she belted it out:

A perennial (I might even have requested it?) by James P. Johnson — ONE HOUR, or, if you’re exacting, IF I COULD BE WITH YOU ONE HOUR TONIGHT where John suggests Louis, Jolson, and Bing in the nicest ways:

Thanks to Katie, John, Marty, Rae Ann, Paul, and the little girls!

ONCE THERE WAS A HOUSE ON FIFTY-SECOND STREET (Henry “Red” Allen, 1946)

The Soundies — a kind of early video jukebox — seem very primitive today.  Watch more than two at a time by the same band, and it’s clear they were done rapidly, cheaply, and without much emphasis on variety.  The same sets and presentation continue throughout a series,  and the musicians are clearly miming to a pre-recorded soundtrack.  But how else would we see Henry “Red” Allen and his sidekick J. C. Higginbotham in performance in 1946?

This Soundie — HOUSE ON 52nd STREET — was not intended as a follow-up to Red’s moody THERE’S A HOUSE IN HARLEM, but it seems an extension of songs like GIMME A PIGFOOT and THE JOINT IS JUMPIN’ — efforts to invent a party scene in less than three minutes.

Its rather thin melody and lyrics already must have seemed nostalgic for a scene rapidly slipping away. By 1946, I think “the Street” was in decline: the returning servicemen had already decided to take their girlfriends to the suburbs, own some lawn, raise families — and I do not scoff at these activities, for they delineate aspects of my early life . . . but domesticity meant that you didn’t stay up late listening to jazz in the city.  And then there was television, a few years later . . .

In Manhattan, I believe that the block between Sixth and Seventh Avenues on Fifty-Second Street is called SWING STREET on the green-and-white sign, but that’s possibly the only thing swinging there now.

But we can return to this invented scene — sixty-five years ago now! — and hear Red, Higgy, Don Stovall, alto; Bill Thompson, piano; Benny Moten, string bass; Alvin Burroughs, drums; Johni Weaver and Harry Turner, dancers.  And Red obviously didn’t develop his stage presence only at the Metropole: he has it here, exuberantly selling this song:

Thanks again to Franz Hoffmann for delving even deeper into his treasure-chest and letting us see and hear these prizes.

JAZZ PARADE AT PISMO (October 2011) with the AU BROTHERS JAZZ BAND and GUESTS

The family that plays together . . . creates beautiful music.  Here are some more performances by the Au Brothers Jazz Band from their October 28, 2011, appearance at the Pismo Beach “Jazz Jubilee by the Sea”: for this occasion, the band was Gordon Au, trumpet; Justin Au, trumpet; Brandon Au, trombone / English baritone; Howard Miyata, tuba.  (That’s “Uncle How” to those in the know.)  The friends were Katie Cavera, banjo / guitar; Danny Coots, drums — with a few added surprises.

Let’s start with Gordon’s own PISMO BEACH PARADE — a rollicking march which keeps its flavor no matter if it’s performed far from Pismo — say in Brooklyn, New York:

The Brothers welcomed the hot pianist Jeff Barnhart for a little meteorology in PENNIES FROM HEAVEN — sweetly expounded by Uncle How:

I WOULD DO MOST ANYTHING FOR YOU was an occasion to welcome other playful folks to the stand: Bob Draga and Peter Meijers, clarinet; Jeff Beaumont, alto sax — a reed section to match the Au /  Miyata brass:

Two satires follow — a slightly modified version of ROCKIN’ CHAIR (“Fetch me that ginseng,” is what I believe we hear):

and I’M GONNA SIT RIGHT DOWN AND WRITE MYSELF A LETTER, its Thirties lyrics updated and reconfigured:

Here’s a groovy SHE’S CRYING FOR ME — with an unidentified young washboardist, stage right, in dialogue with Gordon:

In memory of the Eddie Condon Town Hall concerts, a key-changing OLE MISS:

Although this is a thoroughly mischievous band, they play KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW (beginning with the tender verse). And, as for the vocal, it’s Crosby, Columbo, and Miyata:

Let’s conclude with a mellow Fiesta for Brass on the theme of STARDUST:

I doubt that I will ever organize a jazz festival in this life — but this band seems supremely good music and good value.  Is anyone listening?

All these nice videos were created by Gene Mondro: thanks and applause to Gene!  The comings and goings of the Au Brothers are ly documented here on “Dolphinhunter,” their YouTube channel.

IF SOMETHING’S WRONG, THIS WILL FIX IT. GUARANTEED OR YOUR MONEY BACK!

Do you have food allergies?  Night terrors?  Has your psychic armor been attacked by moths?

Do you suffer from timor mortis, tempus fugit, or do you feel like terra incognito?

A cure is within your reach– locally sourced, grain-fed, definitely not approved by the FDA, organic, and swinging.

Doctors Ralf and John Reynolds, Katie Cavera, and Marc Caparone are in their office, waiting to take your call:

The Ellis Island Boys (and an E.I.Girl) performing THE SCAT SONG at California Adventure Disney on January 15, 2011 — recorded by recusatio

Take as often as needed!

“LOVER, COME BACK TO ME”: HENRY “RED” ALLEN, CLARK TERRY, RUBY BRAFF: Newport Jazz Festival Trumpet Workshop (July 1966)

Another treasure from Franz Hoffmann — featuring these three great idiosyncratic weavers of sound in fascinating solos and ensembles that suggest ballroom dancers expertly maneuvering on a crowded floor.  We don’t even mind that the silent images of Braff and Terry are reversed: it’s a boon to hear this performance again.  In the early Seventies, it was reshown on WNET as a filler: I tape-recorded the soundtrack (which has of course vanished) but it was too early for home video recording.

Festival performances that mix players of “different”styles sometimes are less than the players arranged on stage: this one shows us how these three great players were rooted in swing and melody — and how they knew about leaving space for the other players.  I would make this required listening for those youths (no matter how old they are) who naively presume that all jazz before Coltrane was simplistic, everyone following meekly in the same narrow paths.

LENA BLOCH, VLADIMIR SHAFRANOV, PUTTER SMITH, MARK FERBER — in NEW YORK!

I don’t know when and where I first encountered the superb saxophonist Lena Bloch: perhaps she sat in at one of the Michael Kanan – Ted Brown – Joel Press gigs at Sofia’s?  and I recall her joining Brad Linde on the stand — happily!  However, she impressed me there as someone with a gentle lyricism and a pulsing inventiveness.  And Lena surrounds herself with equally surprising players who aren’t as well known as their music would deserve.  So I humbly suggest you take note of Lena’s two gigs at the end of this month and the start of the next.  You’ll go out into the winter night feeling warmed by the music she and her friends create.

Lena’s not the only reason to don your scarf (if this unpredictable weather requires it): another is pianist Vladimir Shafranov, who lived and worked in New York City more than a decade ago — with associations with George Coleman, Clifford Jordan, Dizzy Gillespie, Al Foster, George Mraz, Cecil McBee, Idris Muhammad, and many others.  The January 2012 HOT HOUSE describes him as “sinfully underrated.”

Here are two examples of Vladimir, improvising on familiar material: Watch him dance through HOW ABOUT YOU?

and a lyrical but harmonically deep WARM VALLEY:

Lena, Vladimir, and the fine bassist Putter Smith will be performing at Smalls Jazz Club on Monday, January 30, Monday, at 7 pm.  And on Thursday, February 2, they will be at the Kitano Hotel (joined by drummer Mark Ferber) at 8 and 10 PM.  Smalls has a music charge of $20 — for which one can stay all night, and the Kitano requires a $15 minimum spent on beverages or food.  Reservations are strongly suggested at the Kitano, so call 212 885 7119 ti assure yourself a space.

And if the name Lena Bloch is new to you, you might want to listen to this, where she and pianist Evgeny Svitsov make winding paths through EVERYTHING HAPPENS TO ME (recorded in May 2011):

She’s a special player, and she attracts others who think and feel deeply.