Daily Archives: January 6, 2012

TODAY’S MUSIC IS SWING: HOWARD ALDEN / ANDY BROWN QUARTET at THE GREEN MILL (November 12, 2011)

I haven’t yet made it to Chicago to hear guitarist Andy Brown in his native habitat (although he travels well), but this extended romp on the theme song from the 1959 film classic will do for now.  It finds Andy in the company of one of his musical friends and idols, Howard Alden, with bassist Joe Policastro and drummer Bob Rummage.

This isn’t “nostalgia” or “repertory” jazz — it shines in its own ways.  First admire the ease of the soloists as both Andy and Howard intuitively build their solos, moving from quiet single-note lines to percussive chords.  Notice their wise use of space (hear the phrase with which Howard begins).  Then move back a bit and listen to the thoughtful, rocking support each guitarist gives the other, and the strong sweet heartbeat of the bass and drums.  Who needs a piano, a big band, or amps turned way up high?  What we need to make us happy is contained within this remarkable subtle quartet.  Any CD producers out there?  Seems to me many of us would enjoy a whole hour of this music . . .

And there are two other performance videos by this group on YouTube: Tal Farlow’s METEOR and Barney Kessel’s BERNARDO.  Click here to enjoy them:

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“RHYTHM IS MY BUSINESS”: AN EVENING WITH MARTY GROSZ

In the last year, whenever I encountered Marty Grosz at a jazz party, he would tell me that someone good was doing a documentary with him as the subject.  Since we know that many projects never get completed, I didn’t dare to anticipate that I would ever see the results.  But the DVD is out and it’s a thorough pleasure.  Here’s a six-minute plus excerpt — Marty and the Hot Winds urging us to be candid, honest, and frank in all things:

RHYTHM IS MY BUSINESS: AN EVENING WITH MARTY GROSZ is a superb hour-long performance film / documentary by filmmaker / acoustic guitarist Jay Brodersen, capturing Marty, Dan Block, Scott Robinson, and Vince Giordano in concert.  It’s available from Jay himself for $25 (including first-class mail shipping) and you can contact him at jaybrodersen@yahoo.com., or at 6859 N Road, Escanaba, Michigan 49829.

Most of the film is the music — Marty and the Hot Winds in a small concert hall swinging through eleven songs — many of them Grosz classics, and a few surprises: I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU / I’M BUILDING UP TO AN AWFUL LET-DOWN / EMALINE / I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY / JUST A GIGOLO / IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE / YOU BROUGHT A NEW KIND OF LOVE TO ME / WABASH BLUES / IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN – JUBILEE / JUST FRIENDS . . . and the strains of DREAM MAN can be heard as the credits roll.

The beauty of this film is that, from the first minute, it presents experiences that even those intent listeners in the front row do not have.  First of all, the sound and lighting are terrific: everything’s audible and the audience is quiet yet appreciative.  Then there’s the wonderful camerawork.  As an amateur videographer, I know the limits of the single camera, which can (at best) follow the photographer’s eye, and zoom in or out.  Of course, such videos are often marred by extraneous noise or real-life distractions.

Jay has used a multi-camera setup to show us things we would never see, and he’s done this with restraint and taste.  Some multi-camera videos are always on the move: the camera rests only a few seconds in any shot.  The result can seem dizzying, all in the name of novelty.  But this film isn’t afraid to patiently watch something that’s interesting, yet (in the manner of THE SOUND OF JAZZ) it takes us to surprising places: things we would never see if Jay had simply aimed one high-quality camera at the stage and switched it on.  In addition, Jay has interviewed the members of the band and expert admirers — so there are very short interludes, always relevant to the music at hand, where Dan, Scott, and Vince talk about what Marty creates; where Marty speaks about his background and his father’s art.  But the “talking heads” are entertaining and they never dominate the film.

Every time I’ve watched it I’ve seen something new: the expression on one musician’s face when someone else is soloing, a fantastic duet in WABASH BLUES (which has delightful playing by Dan on baritone sax) between Vince and Scott, making beautiful music in unorthodox ways: Scott buzzing through a clarinet with the mouthpiece removed and Vince playing his bass sax with the tuba mouthpiece . . . or so it seems.  And although the concert is greatly devoted to swing numbers, Marty offers a sweetly convincing reading of EMALINE and a mournfully tender exploration of JUST FRIENDS that once again shows what a great balladeer he is.

The DVD has received a showing on the local PBS channel: I’m hoping that someone at the national level gets a chance to preview it.  It’s just that good, and not only because it features one of the best bands we will ever hear.  Kudos to Jay Brodersen for creating this film, and to the musicians for playing so splendidly.

TWO VIEWS OF KANSAS CITY JAZZ: KEITH NICHOLS’ BLUE DEVILS at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Elin Smith)

Often we associate “Kansas City jazz” with the free-flowing style of the middle Thirties.  But there was a regional style even before John Hammond heard the Basie band at the Reno Club on his car radio.

Here are two examples, brought to life at the 2011 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party by pianist /arranger Keith Nichols and his Blue Devils — a band consisting of  Bent Persson, Rico Tomasso, Andy Woon, trumpets; Steve Andrews, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Matthias Seuffert, reeds; Alistair Allan, trombone; Richard Pite, string bass; Martin Wheatley, guitar; Nick Ward, drums.  You might also catch a glimpse of dancing couples — one unidentified and vigorous; the other Bridget Calzaretta and Paul Asaro, off to the right.

Before there was Basie, there was Moten — in whose band Basie was the second pianist.  Here’s a sample of what Bennie Moten’s band was recording in 1925, KATER STREET RAG, with solos by Jean-Francois Bonnel (baritone), Alistair Allan, Bent Persson, and Rico Tomasso:

Four years later, there was Walter Page’s Blue Devils, here embodied in BLUE DEVIL BLUES, with solos by Bent, Steve Andrews (clarinet), and Andy Woon:

There’s no sense in talking about “progress” in art, otherwise art criticism becomes a staged wrestling match, Stravinsky vs. Mozart, and both performances here make perfect aesthetic sense.  But in four years the rhythmic feel had certainly changed. . . . moving towards the Basie band at the Famous Door and onwards.

WE LIVE IN HOPE (WITH RECORDS)

Whenever we go into an antique store, thrift store, Goodwill or the like, I hope that there is a pile of records.  Most often the results are drab: the Dean Martin Christmas Record, the Hollyridge Strings Play (fill in the blank), 12″ disco hits.  When there are albums of 78 rpm records, often they are middle-of-the-road classical sets, early Fifties red-label Columbias and Deccas.  Something like a sunburst Decca Bing Crosby or a canary-training record is a bombshell in the midst of this assortment.

Who knew that the wine country and environs in Northern California would be so full of possibilities?

Mind you, no Gennetts or Paramounts; nary a Steiner-Davis in the lot.  But I want to report two successful treasure hunts.  (An older generation used to call this “junking,” but somehow the name — to me — suggests pawing through piles of trash.

Here are the gems (ninety-nine cents each plus tax) from a visit last night to the Goodwill in Petaluma, out of a plastic crate full of 78s that, for the most part, were either pre-electric or postwar pop.

The first one:

All I know about this is that “Ed Blossom and His New Englanders” is a pseudonym for the California Ramblers, and from the issue number I would date it as late 1928.  The other side — a familiar tune — was more promising. (I left the sticker on for proof):

But when I looked online for more information (neither side appears in Tom Lord’s discography), this is what I found.  Different label but the same matrix number:

That’s a perfectly amiable dance record, neatly played — but for someone like myself waiting for Jack Purvis to make himself known in the next-to-last bridge, a bit of a letdown.  Still, it serves as a reminder of just how much we should value those hot interludes, because they didn’t appear at every session.

Here’s the second find, and although I have no idea of the accompaniment (again, no listing in Rust), I wasn’t disappointed.  This disc had been well-played, a tribute to its singer:

Not only a Lee Morse record, but one of her originals!  And here is the thing in itself: a fascinating exercise in history in reverse, or influence looking in a mirror.  On the second chorus, Miss Morse sounds like Tamar Korn; on the third, she anticipates Connee Boswell:

The flip side:

And it’s testimony to Miss Morse’s stardom that she was able to change the lyrics of this pop hit to be gender-appropriate, something few artists could do at the time.

We move forward to this afternoon and an antique store on Grant Avenue in Novato — SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY — where I purchased three of these marvels for two dollars each:

These are eight-inch home recording discs, with five of the six sides grooved — three of them divided in two.  None of the discs has any writing on the label, and the store did not have a three or four-speed phonograph, so I paid my money and live in hope — or in Emily Dickinson’s “Possibility.”  What are the odds that these discs contain recordings of a 1943 after-hours jam session?  Slim, I admit.  More likely they are someone playing LADY OF SPAIN or Grandpa’s speech to the Rotary Club.  (In past encounters, I’ve seen those discs — Sister Susie’s hymn recital.)  But one must take risks in this life . . . !

The prize that accompanied these discs was the paper sleeve for a ten-inch Recordio disc — it was also in the pile, but blank and with the coating eroding and cracking.  But you should know that RECORDIO DISCS were manufactured by Wilcox-Gay (of Charlotte, Michigan), and that they were ALUMINUM BASE, PROFESSIONAL QUALITY — meant FOR THOSE BETTER RECORDINGS.

“WILCOX-GAY offers a selection of 6 1/2″, 8″and 10″ sizes in RECORDIO DISCS for your recording needs. Aluminum base discs are manufactured to precision standards and are surfaced with a long-life, mirror-clear coating . . . combined with low surface noise this gives them preferred ratings on all markets.  Fibre base discs are the original RECORDIO DISCS, famous for their long life and excellent reproduction.  They are light, flexible and can be mailed without fear of damage.  Genuine RECORDIO DISCS in aluminum or fibre base can be obtained from your local RECORDIO dealer.  Always ask for them by name.”

“SUGGESTION     Your recordings will last longer if you always keep them in this envelope when not in use.  CAUTION    Do not place RECORDIO DISCS on furniture or any laminated surface.  Under some climactic conditions the dyes used in the manufacture of these discs will discolor certain surfaces.”

Recordiopoint curring and playback needles are the perfect companion for RECORDIO DISCS.  Always insist on Recordiopoint needles and RECORDIO DISCS for use with your Recordio.”

If there’s exciting news in a few weeks when I place these RECORDIO DISCS (they do demand all capital letters, don’t they?) on my phonograph, I will surely let the JAZZ LIVES readership know . . . we live in hope!