Monthly Archives: July 2012

HOP TO IT! (A SWING DANCE PARTY with CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND) August 1, 2012)

I know it’s short notice for anyone who’s not reasonably close to San Francisco . . . but Wednesday night, August 1, 2012, will reverberate with jazz fireworks in Mountain View, California, because Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band will be playing a swing dance party at the Wednesday Night Hop — from 9:30 to midnight.

The participants?  Clint on trumpet; Jim Klippert, trombone; Bill Carter, clarinet; Jason Vanderford, guitar; Bill Reinhart, banjo; Tom Wilson, string bass; Steve Apple, drums.

Here’s where you can find out all the essentials: the street address, the admission cost, directions . . . but find your dance shoes and your best Lindy Hop getup and get down there!

Why?

Here’s a selection from Clint’s appearance at a Wednesday Night Hop in August 2011.  Different personnel for the most part — but Clint’s bands are seismic phenomena: Clint, Jim Klippert, Jason Vanderford will be returning — the rest of last year’s crew were Robert Banics, clarinet; Jeff Hamilton, piano; Sam Rocha, bass and tuba; J. Hansen, drums.

Come over and say hello at this WNH!

May your happiness increase.

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GET READY FOR THANKSGIVING JAZZ (Nov. 21-25, 2012)

It might seem odd to be thinking about Thanksgiving at the end of July, but this post has very little to do with heavier clothing or sitting down with the family to a traditional holiday meal.  In fact, what I’m suggesting might be the way to escape the predictable festivities, or at least to make them festive in a different way with more lively music.

Why not run off to the 33rd annual San Diego Thanksgiving Jazz Festival — beginning on Wednesday night, November 21, 2012, and continuing until Sunday afternoon, November 25?  There will be over forty hours of live music — with several bands playing simultaneously in different locations.  The location is the comfortable Town and Country Resort and Convention Center, 500 Hotel Circle North, San Diego, California 92110.  Rates start at $105 per night, and you can call 800-772-8527 or 619-291-7131 to reserve.  A badge enabling you to see and hear everything for five days and nights is $95.  For more information about the festival, visit here.

But I can hear you saying, “If I’m going to run off from a family gathering, there had better be hot music in profusion to make it worth my while.”  No worries, as the children say.  How about Katie Cavera, John Gill, the Reynolds Brothers, Carl Sonny Leyland, Uptown Lowdown, the Yerba Buena Stompers, the Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra, Grand Dominion, Tim Laughlin and Connie Jones and their New Orleans All-Stars, Chloe Feoranzo, Red Skunk Jipzee Swing, Nannette and her Hotsy Totsy Boys, Stephanie Trick, Cornet Chop Suey, Dave Bennett, and many others?

One special attraction — appearing on Friday night only — is Nouveau Stride, which pairs singer Lorraine Feather and pianist Stephanie Trick in a program of compositions by Fats Waller, Dick Hyman, and James P. Johnson — to which the Grammy-nominated Ms. Feather has put original lyrics . . . to be sung to the accompaniment of Stephanie’s romping piano.  For more information about this group, visit here.

And as our friend Hal Smith writes, Nouveau Stride will make its debut at San Diego in a multi-media presentation: “The show includes a ‘piano cam’ (enabling the entire audience to watch Stephanie’s flying fingers) and Lorraine’s lyrics projected onto a screen.  Also included is a “soundie” of Fats Waller (the soundie was the pre-MTV version of a music video) and an award-winning stride cartoon produced by Lorraine in 2009.”

And guests at the San Diego Thanksgiving Jazz Festival can dine on traditional holiday fare on Thursday night . . .

We savor the rituals . . .

but one can always invigorate the familiar with a new tradition.

May your happiness increase.

ATLANTA 2012: CHUCK REDD, HARRY ALLEN, MARK SHANE, RICHARD SIMON, ED METZ (April 21, 2012)

Vibraphonist and percussionist Chuck Redd has fine taste, whether he’s leading a small group at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Party or — more informally — keeping time on the paper tablecloth with his wire brushes at The Ear Inn.  Here’s a sample of the former — with saxophonist Harry Allen, pianist Mark Shane, bassist Richard Simon, and fellow percussionist Ed Metz.  On the menu, a Rodgers and Hammerstein ballad from ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, a swing perennial that I associate with Lester Young, a Cole Porter love-in-swingtime song from HIGH SOCIETY (Bing sang it to Grace Kelly while Louis played a memorable obbligato . . . Ruby loved it, too), and a hard-bop version of the everlasting blues.  Hear for yourself.

THEY SAY IT’S WONDERFUL:

JUST YOU, JUST ME:

I LOVE YOU, SAMANTHA:

Billy Strayhorn’s THE INTIMACY OF THE BLUES:

May your happiness increase.

DUKE’S APPLE, OR ADVENTURES IN SOUND

IN THE SHADE OF THE OLD APPLE TREE, composed in 1905 by Williams and Van Alstyne, may have seemed nostalgic even when it first appeared.  The lyrics describe some caressing and blushing and a promise of pastoral fidelity although they are now apart.  But no one has been thrown out of the Garden.

To establish the song, here’s a 1929 Max Flesicher SCREEN SONGS cartoon — a whole show in itself, with a comic prelude, the cynical vaudeville patter (is the singer Billy Murray?), then two verses, two choruses.  The satire of the cartoon jostles the innocence of the lyrics and melody.  (As the lyrics describe pastoral pleasures — the birds, bees, and flowers — the sandwich refuses to be eaten, the dachshund is nearly caught in the shrinking building: slapstick proliferates.)

Here’s Duke Ellington’s version from August 15, 1933:

This has been one of my favorite recordings for years, showing once again how beautifully jazz improvisers take the most simple material and make it spacious, relaxing in the freedom that simple melodies and harmonies afford.

It begins with the reed section stating the first notes of the melody against a simple stride figure from Ellington’s piano — a stripped-down Willie “the Lion” Smith motif, perhaps? — that suggests both a vaudeville vamp and someone ambling down the street.  The reeds and piano (over Wellman Braud’s happily prominent string bass) converse in a most pastoral manner . . . suggesting that a sweet band is taking the stand (although Duchin could never have managed that piano figure with such swing) until ominous rumblings are heard in the background.

Did a large dog make its way into the Brunswick studios?  No, it’s just Cootie Williams with his plunger mute.  I think in the second half of the chorus either Freddy Jenkins or Rex Stewart takes over to continue the sweet satire.  If, in the first thirty seconds, the Jungle Band was peeking sideways through the sweet foliage, the second half of the first chorus is more raucously comic — the apple tree gets connected to horse racing, to a repeated blues phrase, and the trumpet soloist ends his chorus with what sounds like a genuine guffaw.  Obviously more than “the dull buzz of the bee” is evident here.

So far, by the way, one might think this a small band recording — a three-piece rhythm section, a reed section, and one or two trumpeters at most.  None of the annunciatory “big band” power of trading sections.

The next eight bars suggest that satire — or at least a distinctively mocking voice — has taken the upper hand.  Could anyone mistake the half-muted plunger sound of Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton, offering his own wry commentary on what exactly might be going on in the wildwood — certainly blushing and caressing are the least of it, for the imagined lovers have given full vent to their animal passions!  Then Tricky (in the next eight bars) seems to jam his plunger mute fully into the bell of his horn, sounding like another musician completely, ending his chorus with a huge guffaw or Bronx cheer.

So far we’ve had the counterpoint between the decorous (although swinging) reeds delineating the melody and the much naughtier brass voices.  Ellington saves his most dramatic soloist for the next chorus — the golden sound of Johnny Hodges, turning this simple melody into a blues, then adding a Louis-inspired upwards phrase to move us completely away from melodic embellishment.  There is no satire here — rather a mixture of the blues and a dramatic aria.

One more chorus remains.  What sounds like the whole ensemble (did Ellington have all his thirteen players in the studio for this or was it a smaller band?) — muted brass playing staccato phrases, supported by the reed section . . . but wait!  A beautiful embroidery of woody, swooping phrases (“that’s Barney Bigard on clarinet / you ain’t never heard nothing like him yet”) decorates the clipped phrasing.  That phrasing, to my ears, is so reminiscent of music for a tap-dance routine that I wonder if Ellington began playing this piece in theatres for a group like the Four Step Brothers.

And after a decorous, rather formal ending, the piece closes with a reiteration of those brass mockeries, doo-wahs that look backwards to the Jungle Band and IT DON’T MEAN A THING.  Whatever happened under the Old Apple Tree might have been less nostalgic, in Ellington’s imagination.

On paper, this is a very simple series of inventions: the reed section (and then the brass) keeps stating a pared-down version of the melody, while a small number of soloists improvise over it.  But what a variety of sounds!  And although I may have heard this recording several hundred times, and I know who and what is coming next, it never fails to be a delightful surprise.  No drama in volume, just a beautiful series of dance-vignettes celebrating individual sounds.

Twelve years later, Ellington returned to the piece and offered it regularly as part of his 1945 radio broadcasts from theatres.  One such version, recorded on May 26 in Chicago, made its way onto a V-Disc, which is how we have it here.  The band is larger: Rex Stewart, Shelton Hemphill, Taft Jordan, Cat Anderson (tp) Ray Nance (tp,vln,vcl) Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton, Claude Jones, Lawrence Brown (tb) Jimmy Hamilton (cl,ts) Johnny Hodges (as) Otto Hardwick (as,cl) Al Sears (ts) Harry Carney (bar,cl,b-cl) Duke Ellington (p) Fred Guy (g) Junior Raglin (b) Sonny Greer (d).

The outlines of the original performance are still visible, but the whole recording has a rather leisurely — even lazy — feel to it, as if this was a piece that Ellington’s band didn’t have to work too hard to perform:

And just in case you’d like another taste of the Apple . . . here’s my own personal Paradise, a sublime quintet:

May your happiness increase.

ATLANTA 2012: BUCKY PIZZARELLI, FRANK TATE, CHUCK REDD (April 21, 2012)

From the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Party, a little interlude from Bucky, Frank, and Chuck — full of feeling and swing.

THESE FOOLISH THINGS:

Bucky loves to play Django Reinhardt’s NUAGES, making those clouds become ominous, stormy.  But this time he prefaces it with ninety seconds of a piece whose title has proven elusive, even to my Song Sleuths.  I’m betting it’s Chopin or a Forties movie theme.  Any better answers?

Beautiful unhackneyed music!

May your happiness increase.

ATLANTA 2012: THE JOE GRANSDEN BIG BAND (April 21, 2012)

Very few jazz parties have their own big band — but the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Party had this one, a well-rehearsed swinging one led by the engaging trumpeter / vocalist Joe Gransden.  Here are a few highlights from their feature set last April.

DO NOTHIN’ TILL YOU HEAR FROM ME:

CHARADE:

WILD WOMEN DON’T HAVE THE BLUES, with convincing testimony by Francine Reed on this still-viable sermon from Ida Cox:

LOVE FOR SALE:

Benny Carter’s VINE STREET RUMBLE:

May your happiness increase.

FACES, VOICES, PAGES

The first song is famous — and someone loved and played this sheet music:

Mildred even autographed another copy:

I couldn’t find any evidence that Mildred had ever recorded this song, but for those of you who don’t know it, here’s a sultry 2011 version by Tamar Korn with Mona’s Hot Four: Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Gordon Webster, piano; Nick Russo, guitar; Rob Adkins, bass:

A Young-Washington-Wiley team effort, new to me:

A little online research led to Ted FioRito’s recording of this song (vocal chorus by Muzzy Marcelino) — http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x9ywcs_ted-fiorito-his-orchestra-i-d-be-te_music — not the most distinguished Victor Young creation.

But now, as you go through your errands, you might be able to hear / imagine Mildred singing DELTA and Lee assure us of her essential honesty.

May your happiness increase.