Daily Archives: January 4, 2012

SWINGING GENEROSITY: “BLUE SKIES”: SID CATLETT and THE REGIS ALL STARS (1944)

Let’s get the carping out of the way instantly: I’ve never yet seen a copy of this 78 that didn’t have surface noise; the recording studio sounds cramped; the piano could use some home improvement.  But here’s some of the best jazz you can imagine, from Sidney Catlett (drums / leader); Oscar Pettiford (string bass); Eddie Heywood (piano); Frank Socolow (tenor saxophone); Edmond Hall (clarinet); Charlie Shavers (trumpet), improvising on Berlin’s BLUE SKIES:

The record begins with a typical rippling / echoing bit of virtuosity from Heywood — who had been recording with Coleman Hawkins, Ed Hall, and Billie Holiday, among others, for a few years: fast company!

The ensemble chorus that follows is reminiscent of Shavers’ previous employer, John Kirby — but looser, less mannered.  There are many opportunities for Heywood to shine through, in the manner of a more powerful Billy Kyle.  Because of the surface noise and the nature of the studio, Sidney doesn’t come through powerfully — we hear some brush accents — but he’s saving his force for what follows.

We hear him push Socolow into his solo chorus (the tenorist employing swoops and glides from Ben Webster) as Heywood’s comping is spare and propulsive.  But listen to how Sidney shadows and urges Socolow on at the bridge, a musical “Go on, man!  I’m right behind you and I agree with everything you play here!”

But Sidney doesn’t need to be the whole show, and he doesn’t upstage Hall and Shavers by echoing each rhythmic emphasis they present: in the best old-fashioned way, he plays time, supporting their efforts.

It’s only in the last chorus that he comes out into the open, in trades with Heywood (and an interlude for Pettiford) before the band takes the last eight bars.  I couldn’t notate what Sidney plays, but it’s dance music of the most exalted kind.  And — rather like a solicitous parent who makes sure everyone’s plate is full before helping himself — he’s made sure that everyone gets a solo, first.

Such generosity is rare and should be celebrated.  Sidney Catlett sounded extraordinary by himself, but made sure that everyone else sounded better than they would otherwise.  And it’s audible even through the mid-Forties surface noise.

Good deal!  And thanks to “cdpix” for posting this delight, and to another Sidney for the inspiration for this posting.

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THAT RHYTHM MAN: BENT PERSSON PLAYS LOUIS at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Flemming Thorbye and Elin Smith)

Even though I think he finds it mildly embarrassing, I hold the cornetist / trumpeter / bandleader / jazz scholar / occasional singer Bent Persson in awe.  He isn’t the only brassman who has studied and emulated Louis Armstrong — but when he plays, young and middle-period Louis comes alive, gloriously.

In this set at the 2011 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party (on Friday, November 4) he and an all-star band evoked some music from 1929, when Louis was often accompanied by the Carroll Dickerson and Luis Russell — a period of his career that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.

The band had Bent, Andy Schumm, and Michel Bastide on trumpets; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Michel Bescont, Matthias Seuffert, and Mauro Porro, reeds; Martin Seck, piano; Mike Piggott, violin; Jean-Pierre Dubois, guitar; Richard Pite, sousaphone and string bass; Debbie Arthurs, drums; vocals by Rico, Cecile McLaurin Salvant, and Michel Bastide.

SYMPHONIC RAPS is more good-natured than symphonic, although it occasionally gives the impression of a Hot Seven line scored for large orchestra. I admire the way the sections play off each other at the start, then the exchanges between Seck’s properly skittering Hines-styled piano and the band.  Because this band isn’t constrained by the recording studio, Bent opened up the arrangement for a few more solos — the first being the nimble Matthias on alto, then an off-camera Kristoffer on trombone (catch Debbie Arthurs rocking the proceedings all through this), before he comes on with some organic, locally sourced Louis. Bent knows Louis so well that he seems to move around freely in the great man’s imagination, leaving the impression of a newly-discovered alternate take, say, on Argentinian Odeon — before Debbie wraps this package up neatly with comments on the temple blocks:

The Waller-Razaf lament about what they now call “colorism,” BLACK AND BLUE, remains deeply moving.  Everything here is in place, with the comfortable feeling of musicians who know the original so well that they can bring to it their own individualities — Bent, Kristoffer, that reed section, and an understated but impassioned vocal from Rico that summons up the Master, leading to an early-Thirties Hawkins interlude from Bascont, and Bent rising above the band and Debbie’s most empathic drumming:

Another Waller-Razaf song, THAT RHYTHM MAN, its basic conceit going back to Renaissance poetry, that the whole world is an orchestra, is clearly a dance number.  The band swings out from the start, with Kristoffer doing his special J.C. Higginbotham magic on the bridge. Michel Bastide shows that rhythm can triumph over every obstacle, even a recalcitrant microphone; he’s followed by rocking solos from Kristoffer, Bascont, Bent, and Matthias, before the whole rollicking performance winds down.  I wonder how many jazz players and singers across the country had this black-label OKeh in their collection, a record worn to a low gravy:

The most famous of the Waller-Razaf trilogy is of course AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ (Elin) and this version follows the less well-known Seger Ellis small band recording, which featured Joe Venuti, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Eddie Lang, Arthur Schutt, and Stan King — here the compelling Cecile McLorin Salvant stands in for Ellis, to great effect:

DALLAS BLUES (Thorbye) shows the band ready to swing — propelled by Debbie and her colleagues — even before Kristoffer and Richard play the blues and Bent sings them.  An inspired Kristoffer returns for a substantial outing and wows both the crowd and the band, before the trick ending that catches almost everyone by surprise:

I AIN’T GOT NOBODY (Thorbye) is given a performance at odds with the melancholy lyrics. Rocking interludes for the band, Rico, Mauro Porro and his metal clarinet, and Bent, suggest that everyone here indeed has somebody:

THANKS A MILLION (Elin), with both Rico and Bent invoking and evoking Louis, makes me feel so grateful for this set of music.

Thanks, once again, to Flemming Thorbye — check out his treasures   here

and Elin Smith, whom you can visit here

ONCE AGAIN, IT HAPPENS IN MONTEREY — the 2012 JAZZ BASH BY THE BAY is COMING!

I’m a late-adopter but a deep convert to California jazz.  My first exposure to it in the flesh took place a year ago at the Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey, and — since tempus fugit at an alarming rate, the 2012 edition will be here in two months.  Here’s a link to the site:

Sue Kroninger, who not only runs the show but also sings and plays the washboard, tells me, “The theme of the year is variety, diversity, mix and match.  We’ve got a whole bunch of exciting and unexpected pairings from within the core bands and it is my fondest wish that guests will have a tough time deciding among all the choices.”

I know this is true from my one experience last year: I had a long session with the schedule and a highlighter, thinking, “I want to go here, but if I do that, I can’t go there.”  We should all have such problems.

Between 11:30 AM Friday, March 2, and late afternoon Sunday, March 4, you’ll have more than one hundred and sixty sets to choose from, from solo piano to the Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, and dance lessons from Dave & Linda Dance Company.

Some of the other players and bands are John Sheridan, Katie Cavera, Eddie Erickson, Bob Draga, Hal Smith, Bill Allred, Doug Finke, Bob Schulz and his Frisco Jazz Band, Take Two, Old Friends, Reynolds Brothers, High Sierra, Marc Caparone, Hal Smith, Carl Sonny Leyland, Josh Colazzo,  Mary Eggers, Virginia Tichenor, Titan Hot Seven, John Cocuzzi, Allan Vache, Ed Metz, Side Street Strutters, The Barehanded Wolfchokers, Yve Evans, Gonzalo Bergara, Jeff Barnhart, Anne Barnhart, Jerry Krahn, Tom Hook, Bill Dendle, Shelley Burns, Westy Westenhofer, Jason Wanner, Howard Miyata, Bryan Shaw, Mark Allen Jones, Frederick Hodges, Crown Syncopators Ragtime Trio, Chris Calabrese, Dave Gannett, the Rhythm Hounds, Grant Somerville, Reedley River Rats, Crazy Eights, Bob Phillips, George Young, Saxaphobia, Danny Coots (Musician of the Year at the festival, with good reason), sets of gospel music for Sunday, tributes to Bix, Nat Cole, Fats Waller, Harold Arlen, the washboard, Scobey and Clancy . . . duo-piano sets, lots of solo and group ragtime, and many surprises, as people sit in and have a good time, on and off the bandstand.  Most sets run an hour, giving us leisurely mini-concerts.

To purchase tickets, visit here.

Children under 12 are admitted free with an adult, as are high school students with an ID.  Discounted tickets are also available for college students, so if you have a music major in the house or just someone glued to his or her iPod oriPhone, the discounted tickets make a meaningful gift — perhaps the beginnings of a conversion experience.

Dear grandparents who lament that the young people “aren’t coming to hear our kind of music”: now’s the time to take steps to reverse the trend!  Jazz, like charity, begins at home.

Here’s some vivid evidence from 2011.  First, A KISS TO BUILD A DREAM ON, featuring Marc Caparone, Bryan Shaw, Howard Miyata with High Sierra:

And another kind of romantic serenade, SENTIMENTAL GENTLEMAN FROM GEORGIA by the Reynolds Brothers:

And 2012 promises even more!  So — to refer back to a song performed by Clarence Williams around 1933 — I hope you’ll come over and say “Hello”!  I’ll be juggling a video camera and a notebook. And I’ll be happy as the day is long.

NORMAN FIELD AND FRIENDS at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Flemming Thorbye)

Norman Field is a treasure, no matter what instrument he’s playing (he also sings and annotates with equal ease).  Here are three too-short proofs of his hot mastery.

SOME OF THESE DAYS, from a tribute to Venuti, Lang, and Rollini, features Mike Piggott (violin), Keith Nichols (piano), Martin Wheatley (guitar), Frans Sjostrom (bass saxophone), Raymond Grasier (vibraphone), Josh Duffee (drums), Bridget Calzaretta and Jonathan David Holmes (terpsichorean urges):

THAT’S A PLENTY is Norman’s tribute to the youthful Benny Goodman.  Here he’s expertly accompanied by Keith, and the astonishing drummer Nick Ward — every move a picture! — doing his own version of Twenties Chicago drumming, with four on the floor for certain:

and THE MAN FROM THE SOUTH is the official tribute to Rube Bloom and his Bayou Boys (it’s the law — every jazz party has to have one) by “The Three Pods of Pepper,” here Norman on alto as well as clarinet; Martin Wheatley (banjo); Frans Sjostrom (bass sax); the ebullient Debbie Arthurs (percussion):

Thanks once more to the generous Flemming Thorbye for these videos: you can see more here.