Monthly Archives: May 2012

EMILY ASHER’S DREAMS TAKE US ALOFT

Something good.  And about time!  It’s trombonist / singer / composer / arranger / bandleader Emily Asher’s debut CD, sweetly titled DREAMS MAY TAKE YOU.

Along with Emily, you will hear Wycliffe Gordon, on sousaphone and trombone; Bria Skonberg, trumpet, vocal; Philip Dizack, trumpet; Dan Levinson, tenor sax, clarinet; William Anderson, alto sax; Nick Russo, guitar, banjo; Gordon Webster, piano; Kelly Friesen, bass; Rob Adkins, bass; Kevin Dorn, drums; Rob Garcia, drums.  For those of you familiar with the hot New York scene, those names are a guarantee of fine swinging inventive jazz.

Much of the repertoire would appear to be “good old good ones,” including SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET and SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY, but the CD is anything but by-the-numbers.  Emily is more than a fine trombonist and a sweetly winning singer: she is an imaginative musician, so the CD doesn’t bog down in the same thing; every track is its own vignette.

It begins with a romping version of ORY’S CREOLE TROMBONE, which Emily delivers with a fine gutty fervor (and her own version of a trombone cadenza).  The soloists share Emily’s high-flying enthusiasm, and the rhythm sections couldn’t be better.  So the chestnuts have a delightful 2012 Condonite bounce and looseness.  The CD’s title comes from an Asher original — by Emily’s father — called LULLABY FOR A LITTLE ONE, on which Miss Asher sings with winsome charm.  (And she knows when to leave an audience wanting more: the LULLABY is a delicious cameo, slightly over two minutes.)  It’s followed by a New Orleans “second line” version of CHANGES MADE, which would cause the sedentary to start dancing.  The original SWEET PEA is part cowboy-ballad, part rocking barcarolle, with touches of Fifties West Coast cool arranging.  HEY, LOOK ME OVER is Emily’s childhood party piece — which begins in an easy waltz-time before morphing into sleek swing — that won me over when I saw her do it (with apt choreography) at Radegast.  A streamlined EMPEROR NORTON’S HUNCH has shed all its two-beat trappings, and bursts forth gracefully.  SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET features the duet stylings of Asher and Skonberg — neatly warbling the hip variations I associate with John Birks Gillespie — before the ensemble gives way to a piano / trombone duet.  Emily’s original GREAT BIG WALL will be the only song you know (I would guess) that mixes Latin rhythms and Middle Eastern tonalities.  Successfully, I must add.  YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE begins with a slide guitar / trombone duet and then blossoms, lyrically.  MUSKRAT RAMBLE begins with the Hot Five introduction and rocks from the first note (not too slow, not too fast, either) — with a splendidly tapping drum solo by Kevin Dorn in the middle.  SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY, taken at a brisk clip, is another trombone-piano outing, very delicate in its earnestness, with a straight-from-the-shoulder vocal by Emily, taking the lyrics with a gentle seriousness that would have pleased its creator.  And the disc ends with LIMEHOUSE BLUES, a version that had the energy of the World’s Greatest Jazz Band of fabled memory.

Nothing’s dull or forced on this CD: it’s one of those rare creations where you want to play it over again when it ends.

I couldn’t attend Emily’s May 29 CD release party at Radegast — a true Garden Party, I hear — but the CD is its own jubilant party.  You can purchase one here — either as a digital download or a physical CD.

And the GP will be strolling around the New Jersey Jazz Society’s JAZZFEST on Saturday, June 16, which begins at noon and ends at 9 PM.  And when Emily and company need a rest, you can hear Jon Burr,  Lynn Stein, Andy Farber’s Swing Mavens featuring Champian Fulton, the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra, the Tony DeSare trio, Eddie Monteiro, Swingadelic, and more.  Tickets can be ordered at 908.273.7827 or online at http://www.njjs.org.

Look out, world: here she comes!

May your happiness increase.

THERE’S LIFE IN (AND BEYOND) THOSE GROOVES: THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF JAZZ RECORD COLLECTORS

I suspect that most people, asked to describe “a jazz record collector,” would create at best a gentle caricature.  It wouldn’t be too far from the general stereotype of someone who assorts, covets, arranges, and studies any kind of ancient artifact.  In the imagined cartoon, the man showing off his prize collection of mint Brunswick 78s by the Boswell Sisters is simply a cousin of the museum curator, happily dusty.

But stereotypes are meant to be exploded by reality, and many jazz record collectors have seen the daylight and know that there is life beyond the shelves, beyond their notebooks of sought-after discs.  One sign of life is the refreshing friskiness of the Journal of the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors.  I would have written this blogpost a few weeks ago but I kept on finding new things to read in the March 2012 Journal . . . so I apologize for my tardiness but it is another sign of life.

I was entranced immediately by the cover — a comic portrait of trombonist Miff Mole, taken in Chicago in the early Fifties (courtesy of the jazz scholar Derek Coller): boys and girls, don’t try this at home without adult supervision.

Inside I found Bert Whyatt’s discography of the rough-and-tumble West Coast pianist Burt Bales (including recordings with Bunk Johnson and Frank Goudie), a chapter in Don Manning’s novel SWING HIGH! — its subject being an insider’s look at life on the road with a big band in the Forties.  I read an extensive affectionate report by Perry Huntoon on Jazz Ascona, and made my way through many CD reviews.

And that’s not all.  In an initial offering of jazz research done by Dr. Ian Crosbie — who sent questionnaires to many musicians and got remarkably candid answers, we learn from the Paul Whiteman reedman Charles Strickfadden that (in his opinion) Bill Challis’ arrangements for the Whiteman band were “melodic, uncomplicated, non-swinging . . . No affect on trend.”

In another section of the Journal I read a fascinating long letter by the scholar and current IAJRC President Geoffrey Wheeler — its focus on Charlie Parker’s RELAXIN’ AT CAMARILLO.  To give this its proper context, the previous issue of the Journal (December 2011) had an intriguing study of Parker’s actual stay at  the mental hospital located in Camarillo — written by William A. Pryor.  Wheeler adds this, which surprised me: “During a stay at Bellevue Hospital in New York City in the early 1950s, Parker was interviewed by a resident psychiatrist regarding his use of drugs.  At one point, the psychiatrist asked Parker if he wanted to give up drugs.  Parker’s response was an emphatic ‘no’!  . . . . This was related to me by a personal friend who was later on the staff at Bellevue and was told this by the attending psychiatrist.”

There’s more.  The IAJRC will be holding its annual convention in New Orleans (Sept. 6-8, 2012) and in addition to scholarly presentations and the opportunity to buy records, chat with fellow jazz enthusiasts, and tour the city, there will be live music, video presentations by Tom Hustad, Ruby Braff expert and author of the new book BORN TO PLAY, film scholar Mark Cantor, and jazz researcher Sonny McGown (the last one having as its subject the eccentric clarinetist Irving Fazola).  The banjoist and singer Michael Boving (of the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys) will speak about Eva Taylor touring Scandinavia in the Seventies — with filmclips, photos, recordings never heard — and he will be joined by Clarence Williams’ grandson, Spencer.   

To join the IAJRC and get in on the fun, click here.  To learn more about the convention, click here.

May your happiness increase.

THE PAST GIVES THE FUTURE A PRESENT: EHUD ASHERIE, JON-ERIK KELLSO, ALEX HOFFMAN at SMALLS (May 10, 2012)

The casually affecting improvisations that Ehud Asherie (piano), Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet), and Alex Hoffman created at Smalls (183 West Tenth Street, Greenwich Village, New York) a few weeks ago don’t need much explication.

But to me they prove, once again, that improvisations on familiar chord sequences over a swinging 4 / 4 aren’t outmoded.  This music looks backwards as far as recorded jazz can — Ehud’s stride playing is deeply aware of ragtime and Fats Waller . . . but it also exemplifies the spiky brilliance of Bud Powell and Monk — while sounding just like Mr. Asherie.  Jon-Erik’s winding phrases shine with his admiration of Louis, Roy, and Ruby, but no one would mistake him for a player stuck in the grooves of recordings.  And Alex’s sweetly easeful tenor evokes Lester Young — but Alex knows the present and future.

The wonderful legerdemain of this performance is that it summons up an imagined 1938 Basie jam session brought whole into May 2012.  Delineations between Now and Then blur as these three masters savor the joys of serious play.

They began the second set with I NEVER KNEW — to me an empty statement, for these players certainly do know, no matter how much they protest otherwise:

Eloquent, romantic, pretty — James P. Johnson’s IF I COULD BE WITH YOU ONE HOUR TONIGHT (to give it its full title):

Explicitly for Basie — Eddie Durham’s TOPSY (with superhero Kellso and his Magic Mute):

Equal time for Ellington, Webster, and Beatrix Potter — COTTON TAIL:

And — to close the session — a funky, slow-motion blues that pays homage to Bird and to “rhythm and blues,” NOW’S THE TIME:

An inspired trio!

May your happiness increase.

SHALL WE RAMBLE? (The EarRegulars at The Ear Inn, May 20, 2012)

In the land of Creative Improvised Music — let’s avoid the narrow little definitions for a moment* — all sorts of delightful cross-pollinations take place.  In this wonderful performance of MUSKRAT RAMBLE that you are about to hear and see, of course the guiding spirits are Louis Armstrong and Kid Ory, Chicago, 1926 . . . but I hear a delightful simultaneous current of the Kansas City Six, 1938: Lester Young, Charlie Christian, Buck Clayton, Walter Page.  See if you don’t agree.

The living creators playing MUSKRAT are, of course, Bria Skonberg, trumpet; Scott Robinson, metal clarinet; James Chirillo, guitar; Kelly Friesen, string bass.

Thank you, beloved EarRegulars, for filling the air so beautifully!

May your happiness increase.

*About those “definitions.”  Some listeners like their cozy boxes.  “I only listen to “Trad.” “Mainstream.” “New Orleans.”  What difference does the name make if the music lifts you up?  On my recent trip to the Sacramento Music Festival, I was suggesting to a new friend that she go to see one of my favorite bands, the Reynolds Brothers.  “Oh,” she said, “I don’t know them.  Are they Dixieland?”  I smiled and said the first thing that came to me, “Gee, I don’t use that word.”  I doubt that my reply acted as an effective inducement to hear the band, but I didn’t want to start defining terms . . . not while there was actual music to be heard.

GOOD NEWS FROM OUR FRIEND, JOHN GILL

TONIGHT!  May 30, 2012.  10 PM.  The National Saloon Band.

John Gill is a profoundly gifted musician — but someone who wears his substantial talents lightly.  Catch him as a singer, raconteur, banjoist, guitarist, drummer, trombonist . . . .

And here he is, with bells on, back for our listening and dancing pleasure.

John will be starting his own once-a-month gig at The National Underground on May 30th at 10pm.   He calls the band The National Saloon Band or just The Saloon Band.  The band members on May 30th will be Simon Wettenhall-trumpet, Will Anderson- reeds, Kevin Dorn -drums, Steve Alcott- bass and John on banjo, guitar and vocals.  I’m going for a old time concept and will be avoiding swing and mainstream cliche.  The repertoire will draw from many sources including pop music, jazz, ragtime, blues, gospel, and country.  While the band will perfrom instrumental hot and sweet numbers, most of the material will feature vocals by John and other band members.

And John says, wryly, “So that’s the story and we’ll run it up the flagpole and see if anybody salutes.  I don’t know if I can garner any support from the youngster/hipster/jazz world so I have no idea if this will suceed or not; it will be good musically, however.”

The National Underground is located at 159 E. Houston Street, New York, NY 10003 (212) 475-0611.  I could use a good deal more sleep but I would like to be there!  (Can anyone loan me a nap?)

May your happiness increase. 

A NIGHT FOR JOE MURANYI

I took a few inutes out of my absorption in the Sacramento Music Festival (hooray!) to write this.  Tomorrow night, Tuesday, May 29, 2012, I will be at St. Peter’s Church on East 54th Street in New York City . . . to honor and praise our friend Joe Muranyi.  (Save two seats down front — the Beloved might be there too!)

Joe was greatly loved by several generations of musicians and jazz scholars for his playing, his wit, his generosity of spirit.  As Louis had learned so much from Joe Oliver, Joe Muranyi became this century’s own “Papa Joe” to many.  So I encourage you to do homage to the man and his sounds.

But there’s more.  Many people will speak about Joe, but there will be music.  Appropriately!  Among the players: David Ostwald, Mike Burgevin, Marty Grosz, Chuck Folds, Terry Waldo, Scott Robinson, Chuck Wilson, Marty Napoleon, Sal Mosca, maybe a few more. Ricky Riccardi will talk about his friendship with Joe and show two videos of Louis and Joe together.  I expect Michael Cogswell will have his own heartfelt memories of Joe.

I hope to see you there.

May your happiness increase.

ASHERIE-KELLSO, UNLIMITED (Smalls, May 10, 2012)

Wonderful music from a duet session (with noble guest in the second set!) on May 10, 2012 — pianist Ehud Asherie and trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso at play, brilliantly, at the happy space that is Smalls, 183 West Tenth Street, Greenwich Village, New York City.  They made, as they always do, timeless music: you hear echoes of Louis, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Dizzy, and Ruby Braff — but ultimately what they create is heartfelt and so personal.

In honor of the charming bartender (guess her name?), Ehud and Jon-Erik swung into a rendition of MARGIE:

Ehud is a friendly fellow — why else would his fingers turn to a few measures of SOCIAL CALL? — but both players were thinking about the Eternal Feminine, and a deeply felt SWEET LORRAINE was the result.  How wonderfully Jon-Erik expresses himself and that familiar melody at once in the opening chorus and then moves deeper.  Lovely!

I thought the set might turn thematic — Songs Named for Women (i.e. DIANE, ROSETTA, and so on) but my idle silent guess was wrong; Jon-Erik suggested they talk about the larger metaphysical subject of Knowing and Not-Knowing, with Jimmie Noone as spiritual guide . . . thus, I KNOW THAT YOU KNOW:

Something new for this inspired duo — a 1940 Swing Era favorite recorded by Basie and Duke, THE FIVE O’CLOCK WHISTLE — its theme being the lame explanation of a factory worker who stays out until 2 AM and then tells his wife that he is late because that whistle never blew.  Don’t try this one at home!  And I keep returning to Ehud’s “Yeah!” at 1:05.  Notice that Jon-Erik has a new mute?  It’s Spring, you know — a new season for trumpet fashion.  But he is the Onlie Begetter of this invention: its main assembly is the top of a metal cocktail shaker with other secret ingredients to create a growly buzz.  Call the Patent Office!  And while you’re on hold, enjoy this:

And these two Heroes of Swing closed their first set with a tribute to the smiling man in back of them — Mister Strong — with a 1928 composition called HEAR ME TALKIN’ TO YOU.  I especially enjoy the trading of phrases near the end:

I hear them talkin’ to us, I say.  And there’s another set to come!

May your happiness increase.