Monthly Archives: February 2012

OH, HOW HE CAN PLAY! CHRIS DAWSON and “CALICO RAG”

This morning’s YouTube brought another brilliant surprise from pianist Chris Dawson — Nat Johnson’s 1914 “Calico Rag,” new to me, performed with clarity and style, and none of the stuffiness that sometimes creeps into “authentic” ragtime performance.  Chris offers the notes, but swings like mad at the same time:

Chris creates the soundtrack for our happiness.

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“TUNED UP FOR FREEDOM” with BENNY, TEDDY, LIONEL, and GENE

The caricatures aren’t subtle, and what was inclusive perhaps fifty-five years ago might seem narrow in our more diverse society . . . but the message remains true.  Before the Freedom Riders and the lunch-counter heroes, there was Hot Lips Page in Artie Shaw’s brass section — and (a story only readers of Richard M. Sudhalter’s LOST CHORDS know) Bobby Hackett gave Lips a place in his band, too.  And then there’s that Eddie Condon fellow, breaking color lines in 1929 . . . but here we can celebrate Benny, Teddy, Lionel, and Gene, runnin’ wild for freedom and tolerance:

Thanks, once again, to 1964Mbrooks, who’s got rhythm as well as taste — his other postings on YouTube are worth your attention.

“THEY THOUGHT THEY WERE LOOKING AT GOD”: RUBY BRAFF CELEBRATES LOUIS ARMSTRONG

Thanks to Jon-Erik Kellso (who embodies the truths of Louis Armstrong and Ruby Braff) for pointing us to this July 2000 Boston University public radio program where Ruby — with questions from Christopher Lydon — explains what Louis gave us.  And — just in passing — there’s some beautiful music and surprising insights: ruby-braff-on-louis-armstrong

Every day’s a holiday with music like this.

EV’RYTHING WE LOVE: CHRIS DAWSON at the PIANO

I wrote recently in praise of the Teddy Wilson School for Pianists.  Chris Dawson is a wonderful embodiment of that tradition — with his own special touches.  Here he plays Cole Porter’s EV’RYTHING I LOVE . . . music that lives up to its title.  Delicacy, strength, gentleness, melodic and harmonic subtleties all blossom forth here:

I would contribute to the Chris Dawson School for Pianists — in the name of the best, most enlightening kind of higher education — watch this and see if you don’t agree!

JIMMY RUSHING, 1958, BRUSSELS: “GOIN’ TO CHICAGO”

Mister Five by Five, absolutely assured, in his prime, at his ease — in front of the Benny Goodman band without the King of Swing, May 1958:

What I notice here is a kind of easy conviction: Rushing is not singing at the blues, nor is he working his formulaic way through his “greatest hits”; he IS what he is singing, the mark of great art.  And his phrasing is the equal of the great instrumental soloists in the celestial Basie band, his voice both glossy and rough.

The Goodman band for that tour was Billy Hodges, Taft Jordan, John Frosk, E.V. Perry, trumpet; Vernon Brown, Willie Dennis, Rex Peer, trombone; Al Block, Ernie Mauro, Zoot Sims, Seldon Powel, Gene Allen, reeds; Roland Hanna, piano; Billy Bauer, guitar; Arvell Shaw, bass; Roy Burnes, drums.

For more televised / filmed swing from Benny and friends, visit 1964Mbrooks: this YouTube channel is full of musical delights.

“NOW THE PALE MOON’S SHINING ON THE FIELDS BELOW . . .” (The EarRegulars at The Ear Inn, Feb. 26, 2012)

In the forty years that WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH was his theme song, Louis Armstrong must have sung it more than 365 times a year.  I will leave the mathematics to you.  But he never tired of it, and it was his way of saying, “Here I am, ready to bring you love!” to an audience — in Hinsdale, Illinois; Hempstead, New York; Yokohama, Japan . . . around the world.  So the song has the deep feeling for me that hymns do for other people, or perhaps the National Anthem.  I don’t stand up and put my hand over my heart, but that is the way I feel when a band plays this song.

The EarRegulars did a beautiful job of evoking Louis in a place he probably never visited — The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City — last Sunday night, February 26, 2012.  They were Matt Munisteri, guitar; Alex Hoffman, tenor saxophone; Greg Cohen, string bass; Danny Tobias, cornet.

Incidentally, while The EarRegulars were playing, millions of people were watching “the winners” be announced at the Academy Awards; others were watching an all-star basketball game.  I think the real winners were playing and listening at The Ear Inn, with no need for any ripping open of envelopes or running up and down a basketball court.

Good evening, everybody!

JOHN SCURRY’S “REVERSE SWING”: THURSDAYS IN MARCH 2012

Here’s the good news — guitarist John Scurry has announced some regular gigs for his lively band REVERSE SWING (which also features my multi-instrumentalist friend Michael McQuaid, trumpeter Eugene Ball, string bassist Leigh Barker, and singer Heather Stewart.

I looked at my calendar in the kitchen and saw that Thursdays in March were fairly free.  Ten dollars is a bargain for two hours of creative improvised music, certainly.

So how am I to get there?

I decided to check out the possible directions through Google Maps . . . and was somewhat dismayed.  I read the first two of three stern warnings: “This route has tolls. This route includes a ferry.”  I could deal with those details.  But “This route crosses through Japan.” gave me pause, as did the distance: 16, 139 miles, and the proposed time: 56 days, 7 hours.

John, I might not make it in time.

But if any JAZZ LIVES readers are closer to Melbourne, I hope they will attend, fill the tip jar (or whatever they call it in Australia) lavishly, perhaps take a few neat videos, and report back.  I can attend vicariously.