Monthly Archives: April 2012

JOSEPHUS: BY NANCIE BEAVEN

I’ve met the effervescent Nancie Beaven only once in person, but through a long cyber-correspondence we have become the best of friends.  It’s not only because of the music, but she has an indefatigable graciousness and grace.  I count myself lucky to know her!

But I never thought that Nancie would become one of the many (unpaid) JAZZ LIVES roving correspondents.

When we all learned of Joe Muranyi’s death, Nancie sent me these candid shots of Joe, playing with Jon Seiger’s All-Stars at the Hot Steamed Jazz Festival — either 2008 or 2009 with among others, bassist Lynn Eberhardt and drummer Russ Debona . . .

Photograph by Nancie Beaven. Copyright 2012.

Imagine that sound.

Photograph by Nancie Beaven. Copyright 2012.

As you can hear Louis say on concert recordings, “Come on, Joe!”

Photograph by Nancie Beaven. Copyright 2012.

We miss Josephus!

Thank you, Joe Muranyi.  Thank you, Nancie Beaven.

May your happiness increase.

SMILING WITH GOOD REASON: JON-ERIK KELLSO and EHUD ASHERIE in DUET at SMALLS (April 5, 2012)

Musicians onstage at Smalls jazz club (183 West Tenth Street, Greenwich Village, New York City) perform in front of a large poster of Louis Armstrong, smiling, fashionably decked out in his new London togs, circa 1932.

It wasn’t my imagination — you can see for yourself — Louis was smiling even more blindingly for the first two sets of April 5, 2012, when trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso and pianist Ehud Asherie — deep musical friends — created one delightful improvisation after another.  (Echoes of Louis and Earl Hines!)  And seated near me was portrait photographer Lorna Sass, who has generously shared two portraits with JAZZ LIVES.

Jon-Erik and Louis. Photograph by Lorna Sass. Copyright 2012

Here’s the first set.

The Rodgers and Hart THOU SWELL — for Bix or just for fun:

Something very sweet and heartfelt, by Sissle and Blake — LOVE WILL FIND A WAY:

Did you see a bunny?  It’s our pal COTTON TAIL:

THANKS A MILLION (for Louis — and only Jon-Erik plays the sweet verse):

More Sissle and Blake!  A romping I’M JUST WILD ABOUT HARRY:

James P. asks one of the few questions really worth asking: AIN’T CHA GOT MUSIC?

Ehud Asherie -- both of him -- at the piano. Photograph by Lorna Sass. Copyright 2012

Second set:

Something for and from Tom Waller: UP JUMPED YOU WITH LOVE:

Did you go shopping?  I FOUND A NEW BABY:

Another delicacy from Louis — IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN:

Let’s swing a while with SWEET SUE:

You knew CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS.  But I’ll bet your fourth-grade history teacher never taught that C.C. “used the rhythm as a compass”:

I was smiling broadly, too.  You can see and hear why, can’t you?

May your happiness increase.

BOSTON, SATURDAY, AUGUST 19, 1950

One of JAZZ LIVES’ attentive readers, pointed me to this fascinating piece of paper.  I assume that the people who wrote down the details for the poster were doing it by telephone (hence the spelling errors) but “The Greatest Jazz Stars in the World” seems just about right.  The contemporary auction house that has this artifact up for bids has listed it in their “Rock & Roll/Music” category . . . no comment here.  Bidding will conclude on May 12, 2012 here.

May your happiness increase.

“A FORCE OF NATURE”: RICKY RICCARDI TALKS about LOUIS on AL JAZEERA (April 29, 2012)

Louis Armstrong was Ambassador Satch, spreading joy and enlightenment throughout the world.  An ambassador inspired by him, our own Ricky Riccardi — the Louis Armstrong House Museum Archivist and author of What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years –appeared on Al Jazeera English this afternoon to discuss the new recording “Satchmo at the National Press Club,” the Louis Armstrong House Museum, and Louis’s role as a civil rights pioneer:

Good deal!

Please remember to keep voting for the Louis Armstrong House Museum at www.partnersinpreservation.org daily through May 21 to help restore Louis’s garden!

May your happiness increase.

PHYLLIS GER RECALLS HER FATHER, MORT STULMAKER

Can you identify the players in this 1939 Charles Peterson photograph?

Readers will recognize (from left) Eddie Condon, exhorting; Bobby Hackett and Jimmy Dorsey, keeping an eye on their leader, Zutty Singleton, peering around the corner; Pee Wee Russell, aiming for the clouds.

But the left-handed and bespectacled string bassist in the rear of the ensemble is less familiar.  His name?  Mort or Morty Stulmaker.  Although his jazz career was brief, he played and recorded with the best musicians and vocalists of the time: Bunny Berigan, Red McKenzie, Condon, Joe Marsala, Stan King, Jack Teagarden, Dave Tough, Max Kaminsky, Bud Freeman, Brad Gowans, Billy Butterfield, Lee Wiley, Red Nichols . . .

I thought he would be one of the mysterious, shadowy figures of jazz, not only because he was a bassist, but because apparently no dramatic story attached to his life.  I was delighted to meet Phyllis Ger, a jewelry designer who also volunteers at the Louis Armstrong House Museum — and to find out that she was Mort’s only child.

Phyllis and her father, 2012

Here is what Phyllis told me on a pleasant afternoon recently.

My father liked to be called Mort or Morty. His first name was Morton, but the only person he allowed to call him that was his sister. The family name is German, practically always misspelled with an “H” (Stuhlmaker) which would always aggravate my mother but never seemed to bother Dad.

He was born in Albany, New York, in 1906 and had two brothers and one sister. Dad came from a musical family. His mother played piano, his father and two brothers played the violin. There must have been piano lessons because Dad was a trained musician. He started his career playing piano accompanying silent movies when he was in his teens. I don’t know how he made the transition to bass from piano. He was a left-handed bassist which was not that common.

Both sides of my family were from the Albany-Troy, New York area. But, of course, Dad could not make a living as a musician up there, so he moved to New York City. Although I was born in Manhattan, I was two years old when we moved to Albany. Dad would spend weekends at home and travel back to the city during the week to pick up some gigs. After six years of a fabulous time growing up in Albany surrounded by all my cousins, aunts, and uncles, my parents made the decision to move back to NY where we could all be together permanently.

Dad was very unpretentious. He didn’t speak about his life as a musician to me very often. He said it wasn’t a profession that he was that proud of even though he played with some of the greats. He felt that musicians were never given the credit they deserved. But, he never said that there was anything else he had wanted to do; you make a living at something and you stay with it. So, when he married at age 39, he left the life of a traveling musician and became an organ teacher and salesman at Macy’s 34th Street in  New York City. Dad also taught at Aeolian on 57th St. for several years. In addition, he had many private students.

My Dad was a very sensitive and compassionate person. He was not good with handling financial matters and left that to my mother. I could never see him actively promoting himself. That was just not his personality. He was devoted to Mom and me. I am an only child (and not spoiled). They were determined not to spoil me. When I asked Mom why she waited until she was 39 to marry, her response was: “I was waiting to meet your father.” And, so, a marriage of 44 years resulted.

Mort and Ruth on their wedding day

I started to do research about my Dad about five years after his death in 1988 at the age of 82. Since I knew so little about his background, I was amazed at the amount of material I discovered. I didn’t know he played bass with Benny Goodman, Eddie Condon, Red McKenzie, Bunny Berigan, and many others. When Did did speak sparingly about his background, Bunny’s name came up quite frequently. As part of my discoveries, I was fortunate to get to know Bob Dupuis, author of the first biography about Bunny entitled: BUNNY BERIGAN: ELUSIVE LEGEND OF JAZZ,. From 1998-2001 I attended the Bunny Berigan Jazz Jubilee in Fox Lake, Wisconsin (Bunny’s hometown). This tribute weekend was originally organized by Bunny’s daughter, Joyce and her husband, Ken Hansen. What a thrill it was for me to be a part of that weekend! Sadly, both Joyce and Ken have passed. But, the Jubilee is still taking place each year (May 18th-20th, 2012) under the very capable leadership of Julie Flemming. I will be attending this year after an absence of 11 years. Even though I do not play an instrument, I got Dad’s creative genes in another way. I am a jewelry designer and will be displaying my music-themed pieces at the Jubilee. Please come and join us for a wonderful weekend of jazz.

I knew Dad played with Artie Shaw. I contacted Mr. Shaw who was in his eighties at the time. An assistant to him answered my letter but unfortunately Mr. Shaw had no recollection of my father. I think I may attribute that to the aging process. I also spoke with Joe Dixon when he was presenting a concert at a library on Long Island. I was able to visit with Buddy Koss and his wife for a lovely visit and that was very nostalgic for me. But, sadly, nobody’s left now. Dad was very much respected by other musicians. He played at Hoagy Carmichael’s wedding, who had handpicked the musicians he wanted. Dad was part of the first mixed band to play on 52nd St. with Joe Bushkin, Eddie Condon, Joe Marsala and Red Allen. Dad was quite friendly with Joe. That’s me proudly pointing to my Dad in the photo.

Mort, smartly dressed, in later life

Here’s Mort as a member of the Tempo King band — clearly a Fats Waller-inspired group, oddly enough, recording for Bluebird in 1936 (Waller’s label) with Marty and Joe Marsala, Queenie Ada Rubin, Eddie Condon, Mort, and Stan King:

And with the pride of Fox Lake, Wisconsin, Bunny Berigan, late in 1936 — where you can really hear his strong rhythmic pulse on THIS FOOLISH FEELING:

I’m hoping that some JAZZ LIVES readers have other information to add to our knowledge of Mort Stulmaker: send it here as a comment or if  you’d like to get in touch with Phyllis, email me at swingyoucats@gmail.com. and I will pass it along to her.

May your happiness increase.

HOTTER THAN THAT: HENRY “RED” ALLEN AND FRIENDS, 1932-33

Thanks to the indefatigable jazz scholar Franz Hoffmann, here are four hot records featuring Henry “Red” Allen and Pee Wee Russell, Fats Waller, Tommy Dorsey, Eddie Condon, Zutty Singleton, among others.  The band name was the RHYTHMAKERS and Philip Larkin was not alone in thinking this series of hot records the apex of Western civilization.  You can see a variety of 78 record labels and photographs and read the personnel in Franz’s videos, but the real substance is the joyous music, unbridled but expert. 

OH, PETER:

YES SUH!:

SOMEONE STOLE GABRIEL’S HORN:

And an amazing 1933 jam-session-on-record on SWEET SUE, under the nominal leadership of UK composer / string bassist Spike Hughes — the participants are Allen, Dicky Wells, Coleman Hawkins, Chu Berry, Benny Carter, Wayman Carver (flute), Nicholas Rodriguez, Lawrence Lucie, and Sidney Catlett —

May your happiness increase.

THE THINGS WE LOVE, or ROMPING AT RADEGAST: GORDON AU’S GRAND STREET STOMPERS with TAMAR KORN (April 18, 2012)

How lucky we are to have these young cats swinging out for us!  Those of us who can get to Radegast know what I mean — the delicious combination of hot music among friends, with a side order of swing dancing, uplifting food and drink.

If you’ve never been to Radegast, it is well worth the trip — a spiritual oasis of its own singular kind, where the ambient music is often Sidney Bechet, Walter Page, and Jonah Jones.  The Radegast Hall and Biergarten — to give it its formal appellation — is located at 113 North 3rd Street  Brooklyn, NY 11211 — parking is easy at night.  Click here to see their schedule of hot bands.

Here are four performances from Wednesday, April 18, 2012 — to lift you up and get you in the groove in the best way.  The Elevators are Gordon Au, trumpet, compositions, arrangements; Matt Musselman, trombone; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Peter Maness, string bass; Davy Mooney, guitar; Tamar Korn, vocal.

Let’s start with a genuine Thirties love song written by Gordon Au in the twenty-first century, SOMEHOW THE WORLD HAS TURNED UPSIDE-DOWN, with vocalizing by Tamar:

Then, a sweetly romping 1931 favorite — uplifting even if you put stevia in your latte: WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA:

A spicy Latin-flavored MUSKRAT RAMBLE:

And an encouragement to be candid.  IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE, you know:

Good deal!

These musicians are playing gigs all over — so be sure to get on their email lists / websites / Facebook pages to keep up with them.  The people who lament the aging audience for jazz, the sad necrology of the music . . . come hear this band: they are the past, present, future rolling on!

May your happiness increase.