Daily Archives: July 12, 2012


On the surface, the two performances that follow are very simple, possibly hackneyed: a fast blues with a boogie-woogie underpinning and some Basie riffs at the end, followed by a slow blues.

But for those willing to listen deeply, these two familiar recordings are astonishing evidence of the vocalized sounds the great instrumental masters obtained through wood, metal, animal skins and taut strings.  The players worked for Barney Josephson at his Cafe Society Downtown and Uptown in 1943, and recorded these 12″78 sides for Milt Gabler of Commodore Records.  The label credits the Edmond Hall Sextet: Edmond Hall (clarinet), Emmett Berry (trumpet), Vic Dickenson (trombone), Eddie Heywood (piano), Billy Taylor (double bass) and Big Sid Catlett (drums)

DOWNTOWN CAFE BOOGIE and UPTOWN CAFE BLUES are marvelous syntheses of the music of this century — and they seem vivid in ours as well.  In these performances, I hear country blues figures older than records, and Bessie Smith and the singers of the Twenties.  I hear Louis Armstrong and Hot Lips Page, the Sunset Cafe and the Reno Club, the piano figures of Cow Cow Davenport and sleek intensity of Charlie Christian.  And more.  Marvel!

May your happiness increase.


James Dapogny — pianist, composer, arranger, scholar, wry and thoughtful — is one of my heroes.  But the eminent Professor doesn’t have much patience for hyperbole, so I will keep it to a low murmur.

He didn’t learn his Swing from a book; rather, he embodies it in playing that is both bluesy / funky / downhome / greasy (these are the highest compliments) and lyrical / singing.  He can call to mind the dark-blue shadings of Jess Stacy or Frank Melrose; he can evoke Jelly, Little Brother, Hines, Sullivan, Fats . . . but what he’s best at is off-handedly creating his own singular worlds that resonate in the mind long after he has stepped away from the piano.

We can’t ask Sippie Wallace or Frank Chace for testimonials anymore, but if you run into Jon-Erik Kellso or Kim Cusack, ask them what they think of Professor Dapogny — who is both a Professor emeritus and a “professor” in the old New Orleans definition of the term.

Trombonist and scholar David Sager, who admires Dapogny as I and many others do, has created an opportunity for the Professor and eminent friends to become his East Coast Chicagoans in a concert in Silver Spring, Maryland, on Friday, November 16, 2012.  The musicians David has assembled are stellar team players and soloists: Randy Reinhart, cornet; Anita Thomas and Scott Silbert, reeds; David Sager, trombone; Craig Gildner, guitar; Tommy Cecil, bass; Brooks Tegler, drums.

Details can be found here— a Kickstarter campaign to fund the concert, to pay the musicians (what a delightful idea), and to record the proceedings.

I know that some readers will groan — silently or otherwise — at the mention of Kickstarter, because it occasionally seems that every improvising artist is asking for financial support through it, but times’ getting tougher than tough . . . and with all the things that we are urged to buy that will give us only the most brief pleasure (at best) supporting James Dapogny and his East Coast Chicagoans will not only benefit the listener but the musicians.

So I encourage you to consider supporting this enterprise, even if you can’t get to Silver Spring.  I have hopes of attending, and the District of Columbia is not my usual Friday destination . . . but this is important.

Don’t forget this Friday date!

May your happiness increase.


Harry Allen — and the people he chooses to improvise with — sets such a consistently high standard that I think listeners might unintentionally take him for granted.  This would be a mistake.  Ask any musician of any school or style if what is seen in the videos below is easy or unremarkable.

This session took place at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Party, where brilliance flourished in the most genial surroundings.  Harry took the stage on Friday evening, April 20, 2012, with Chuck Redd (vibraphone); Rossano Sportiello (piano); Frank Tate (string bass); Ed Metz (drums).  Most of us thought we knew what was coming — swing, ballads, something Latin — but we didn’t know what Harry and Company had in mind.  While it was happening, I sat amazed.  “They’re not stopping,” I thought.  “My goodness, how long can they keep this up?”  You will see that Harry and his colleagues slid from one song to the other (much in the manner of Ruby Braff, who loved to join a ballad to a swinger for dramatic effect) for thirty-six minutes.


My video is in two parts for mechanical reasons only: I feared that YouTube would have trouble ingesting and uploading my HD video, full of information, that was over a half-hour.  So I stopped filming, took a breath, and started again.

I think the results are marvelous.  No strain, no histrionics, no flagpole-sitting or showing-off.  Just perpetual motion in Swing.

Here’s the first part:

The closing fourteen minutes plus:

Why did Harry choose to play his set in this fashion? Because he could?  Because it was fun?  Because it got the most music into his allotted time?  I don’t know.  But it certainly was an achievement!

May your happiness increase.