Monthly Archives: August 2012

TEN EASY LESSONS: THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS, CLINT BAKER, and PIETER MEIJERS at the SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (May 25, 2012)

I could easily have titled this blogpost ‘S’WONDERFUL, the title tune and an apt capsule review of this performance by the Reynolds Brothers.  In case you’ve just come to this party, the Reynolds Brothers are John Reynolds (guitar, banjo, vocal, whistling); Ralf Reynolds (washboard, vocal, keeper of the peace); Marc Caparone (cornet, vocal); Katie Cavera (string bass, vocal); guests and friends Clint Baker (trombone); Pieter Meijers (clarinet).  Here they are at the 2012 Sacramento Music Festival, spreading all kinds of joy.

‘S’WONDERFUL:

GOT A BRAN’ NEW SUIT, that sweetly joyous 1935 song recorded by both Fats and Louis.  And it’s a “Tecla pearl” in the lyrics, something that I need more information about:

“Fetch me that gin, son.”  Hoagy’s ROCKIN’ CHAIR:

NEVER SWAT A FLY (with lyrics that should be common knowledge in most educational endeavors):

OUT OF NOWHERE (thanks to Bing, Russ, Don Byas, and many others):

Feeling peckish? Beans and cabbage, but I like PEPPER STEAK:

Having eaten, we feel remorse.  And the question becomes WAS THAT THE HUMAN THING TO DO?:

Carpe diem, Sisters and Brothers — grab someone while you’re still YOUNG AND HEALTHY:

Even if you’re no longer young and healthy, LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER:

And to close, this swing affirmation, ALL GOD’S CHILLUN GOT RHYTHM:

If you were to ask, “Ten easy lessons in what, Michael?” the answers come out in a rush: How to swing.  How to let the heroes of the past live through you.  How to create a warm sound and a warm rapport with the audience.  How to make people feel happier than they were an hour earlier.  How to play and sing with heart, mixing precision and abandon.  But you can add your own responses to my list.

May your happiness increase.

ETSY MEETS TD, FRANK, BUNNY, BUDDY (1940)

That’s Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra, Bunny Berigan, Buddy Rich, and John Huddleston, caught by a fan at Frank Dailey’s Meadowbrook in 1940.  All of them — or their signatures — can be yours here!

Thanks to hot man Chris Tyle for pointing me to this rare piece of paper, and to Berigan scholar / biographer Michael P. Zirpolo, who says  it’s authentic, based on calligraphy.

May your happiness increase.

THEIR SHINING HOUR: ALLAN VACHE, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, PHIL FLANIGAN, DANNY COOTS at the SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (May 27, 2012)

Swing is here to stay, and this quartet offers living proof!  Allan Vache, clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Phil Flanigan, string bass; Danny Coots, drums are the all-stars having an expert / casual good time for our enjoyment.  This set is full of lovely improvisations on hip tunes — many of them having YOU in their titles.  “Who, me?  Yes, YOU!”

This video production is for Miss Stella Coots.  JAZZ LIVES wishes that she will always be able to wave her hand and say “Bye bye, blues!

MY SHINING HOUR:

MORE THAN YOU KNOW:

I REMEMBER YOU:

Rossano, Phil, and Danny honor William Basie with BLUE AND SENTIMENTAL / BLUES:

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU:

THE NEARNESS OF YOU:

BYE BYE BLUES:

May your happiness increase.

FIVE BY FIVE (Part Two): THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS and CLINT BAKER at the SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (May 2012)

My heroes, and that’s no stage joke.

Ralf Reynolds, washboard, vocal; John Reynolds, guitar, vocal, whistling; Marc Caparone, cornet, vocal; Katie Cavera, string bass, vocal; Clint Baker, trombone, clarinet, vocal — live at the Sacramento Music Festival, May 25, 2012.

Irving Berlin’s I’LL SEE YOU IN C-U-B-A wasn’t a stab at capitalism, but a very witty response to Prohibition.  Katie Cavera, whom I nominate for Best Swing Actress in a Motion Picture, handles the deft lyrics nimbly:

You could deconstruct THE OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN as a lie in swingtime fed to the hungry and desolate unemployed (“Hey, fellas and gals, an empty stomach is what God meant you to have!” or as a sweet-natured rebuke to materialism, asking in 4 /4, “How much land does a man need?”  Either way, John sings it wonderfully:

If he struts like a king, HE’S A SON OF THE SOUTH.  He’s their delight.  He’s so polite.  One of my favorite songs, letting Louis shine through Marc Caparone:

Pretty!  DREAM A LITTLE DREAM OF ME:

Our caravan is red-hot in HINDUSTAN:

I will bet you thirteen dollars of my money (as Lester Young used to say to his JATP colleagues) that the Reynolds Brothers would go over gangbusters at a swing dance . . . or in a club . . . at a European jazz party . . . at an East Coast venue.  At present they are delighting people right and left at Disney California Adventure (as “the Ellis Island Boys”) but I want other people to have this experience.  I’m willing to share them with the world, you know.

May your happiness increase.

THE HOME OF SWEET ROMANCE

Nowhere but the Savoy Ballroom in New York City:

Let’s go this Thursday!  My air-step is earth-bound, but we could listen to the bands and watch the people who can really dance.

Another treasure for sale on eBay, thanks to mdt141mike.

For the real story of the Savoy Ballroom and its King, visit here to learn more about Jeff Kaufman’s brilliant and moving film, THE SAVOY KING: CHICK WEBB AND THE MUSIC THAT CHANGED AMERICA.

May your happiness increase.

“The REAL and ORIGINAL King of Swing!”

The truth, for once, expressed in print!

Circa 1937, this flyer is on sale on eBay — thanks to mdt141mike, who has other remarkable posters and advertising material.

Right now, I’m setting aside Friday nights, forsaking all others.  You’ll find me in front of my Philco console radio with my Presto disc cutter, recording those Fleischmann’s Yeast shows . . .

May your happiness increase.

JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA 2012 IS ALMOST HERE!

Four little reminders.

1.  Jazz at Chautauqua begins on Thursday evening, September 20, 2012, and concludes on Sunday afternoon, September 23.  (The Traditional Jazz Workshop precedes it — details below.)

2.  I have been attending Jazz at Chautauqua every year since 2004, and it is one of the high points of my year.  It’s not simply the music, which is superb and varied.  It’s the lovely Hotel Athenaeum overlooking Lake Chautauqua, the beautiful surroundings (think old-fashioned houses with awnings and hydrangeas), and seeing old friends — meeting new ones, too.

3.  I think these are magical names (in alphabetical order, for a change): Howard Alden, Harry Allen, Dan Barrett, Dan Block, Jon Burr, Faux Frenchmen, Mike Greensill, Marty Grosz, Bob Havens, Duke Heitger, Alex Hoffman, Keith Ingham, Jon-Erik Kellso, Rebecca Kilgore, Kerry Lewis, Ricky Malichi, Bill Ransom, Randy Reinhart, Bob Reitmeier, Scott Robinson, Andy Schumm, John Sheridan, Pete Siers, Rossano Sportiello, Lynn Stein, Frank Tate.  

4.  In case all of this seems financially overwhelming (and I understand that feeling, really) Jazz at Chautauqua has now arranged something they call single-event pricing . . . which means that you can buy a ticket to attend one or more of four lengthy sessions (Friday night, Saturday afternoon, Saturday night, Sunday afternoon) for $120 each.  Details can be found here.  And it is not too late to sign up for the Traditional Jazz Workshop: imagine taking a master class with personalized instruction from Dan Barrett, Becky Kilgore, Duke Heitger, Scott Robinson, and the others — the stuff that dreams are made of.

I consider it a stroke of great good fortune to be attending Jazz at Chautauqua again this year, and I would like everyone I know who loves this music to share the pleasure . . . although they’d then have to build a much larger hotel ballroom.

May your happiness increase.

“PANIQUE” SWINGS OUT at The Red Poppy Art House (August 16, 2012)

The band PANIQUE is a rare group, subtle and inventive, as their appearance at the Red Poppy Art House in San Francisco proved.  Click PANIQUE to be transported — in every possible way — back to their beautiful first set!

This imaginative quartet is Vic Wong, guitar; Benito Cortez, violin; Nick Christie, rhythm guitar; Daniel Fabricant, string bass.

Here is their second set.  I so admire the conversational eloquence of their solos, delightful ensemble interplay; their dynamics, tempos, and shadings, their love 0f melody.

WALTZ in C# MINOR / TOPSY (combining Chopin and Eddie Durham favors both of them):

MA PREMIERE GUITARRE:

Accordionist Gus Viseur’s SWING VALSE:

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY / THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU:

SUITE YUGOSLAV:

DANSE NORVEGIENNE:

MINOR SWING:

Learn more about PANIQUE and their live CD here; visit Vic Wong on Facebook there.  And The Red Poppy Art House is a remarkable place, full of friendship and inspirations: click Poppy to find out more.

May your happiness increase.

SOMEONE’S BIRTHDAY IS AROUND THE CORNER

Even the most open-minded jazz fans are hard to buy presents for . . . we already have that new CD or we want the obscure Japanese issue of the music instead.

So if you love the music and its players and their relics, or you love someone who does . . . take a look.

This is the eBay site of a British jazz musician who is doing a friend a favor.  The items for sale come from the astonishing collection of the jazz scholar Mike Hazeldine and the proceeds are going to Mike’s widow, someone I know and admire.

Much of “banjolouis”‘s material currently available is rare photographs of New Orleans musicians — Alphonse Picou, the Brunies brothers, Willie Humphrey’s autographed flyer for a UK tour, a collection of business cards — and some surprises.  I won’t list all of the treats: you might want to look and leap before they are all gone!

I even bought myself a birthday-present-in-advance from Louis . . . !

May your  happiness increase.

FIVE BY FIVE (Part One): THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS and CLINT BAKER at the SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (May 25, 2012)

In an early set of jubilant performances at the 2012 Sacramento Music Festival, John Reynolds (vocal, whistling, guitar); Marc Caparone (cornet, vocal); Ralf Reynolds (washboard, vocal); Katie Cavera (string bass, vocal), and Clint Baker (trombone, vocal) created enthusiastic elation in every song — the proven antidote for gloom or what passes for “news” of “current events.”

For Bix, Bing, and Red Allen, OL’ MAN RIVER:

I’LL NEVER BE THE SAME:

In my note to this Clarence Williams tune CANDY LIPS (the subtitle is I’M STUCK ON YOU) I wrote one word, “scorching”; see if you don’t agree:

One of those lucky Thirties songs recorded by both Billie and Fats, SPREADIN’ RHYTHM AROUND:

Did you know the Boswell Sisters had a connection with the song BLACK-EYED SUSAN BROWN?  Here we have the Reynolds Brothers:

More to come.  Oh, my, yes!

May your happiness increase.

MAKING MELODY COME ALIVE: ROSSANO SPORTIELLO and DAN BARRETT at the Sacramento Music Festival (May 2012)

I find these performances from the 2012 Sacramento Music Festival very moving — a solo and duet from players who know the truth of Bobby Hackett’s assertion, “Melody is a must.”

The Maestro, Rossano Sportiello, brings Western classical music and hot jazz together in a matter of minutes, making his extraordinary light shine through the notes.  His solo feature begins with a reading of Lizst’s Consolation # 3 — unusual material for a jazz festival, but it produced an attentive hush in the audience . . . then Rossano segued into a swinging stride exploration of the 1931 pop tune, LITTLE GIRL.  I don’t think the two compositions are linked by their possible alphabetical proximity — or, as Sylvia Fine wrote and Louis sang, “Put Lizst on that list!” — they are just both awe-inspiring music with different shadings and approaches to beauty:

Then Rossano invited the splendid Dan Barrett on stage for a searching, tender performance of Billy Strayhorn’s CHELSEA BRIDGE.  (Dan begins by thanking Rebecca Kilgore for this interlude — Miss Kilgore knows all their is to know about making melody come alive, as you will see if you don’t already know):

Here is missionary work for my readers: why not forward this post to all the people you know who say, “Well, I really like music.  But I don’t like / don’t understand / don’t get what you hear in jazz.”  Perhaps Maestri Sportiello and Barrett could do some subtle enlightening and make more people open themselves to this music — spreading the good word without seeming to preach.

May your happiness increase.

SIX SURPRISES: MAL SHARPE and BIG MONEY IN JAZZ at the NO NAME BAR in SAUSALITO (August 19, 2012)

Since the school year will soon be upon us, here is a one-question jazz quiz on the recent content of JAZZ LIVES.  Please turn your phones off — the answer won’t be found there — and those of you who have been paying close attention have nothing to worry about.

1.  On a Sunday afternoon at the No Name Bar in Sausalito (extra credit if you can accurately recall the street address and the hours that the band plays), when Mal Sharpe and the Big Money in Jazz Band take center stage, the results can best be described as:

a.     swinging

b.     hilarious

c.     unpredictable

d.     all of the above.

Make sure you’ve written your name at the top, and please hand them in.  The correct answer is D, although I will give partial credit for A, B, or C.  Extra credit?  757 Bridgeway, 3-6 PM.  I’ll see you all next week.

Mal and his Colleagues in Swing had a good time last Sunday and they shared the pleasure with us.  Mal offered some Dickensonian trombone asides, loose-limbed singing and comic commentaries; trumpeter John Dodgshon was mellow, on the horn and in his vocals; Tom Schmidt continues to delight and surprise on clarinet and Hodges-inspired alto (I think of Charlie Holmes, a real compliment) — he sang memorably,  too.  The rhythm section worked together splendidly, with Our Lady of the Trap Kit, sweetly pungent Carmen Cansino, tersely rocking Bill De Kuiper on guitar, and quietly eloquent Paul Smith (another videographer!) on string bass.

Here are six movements from the monumental Big Money in Jazz Suite, Opus 8.19.12.

Mal is the most generous of men, but this Sunday his resources might have been low, for he chose I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE:

August 21 is a national holiday, although you didn’t see the appropriate sales in mattress stores — it’s Count Basie’s birthday.  Here’s a version of LADY BE GOOD that starts with a Kansas City Six rhythm section chorus:

John Dodgshon seemed entirely trustworthy, reliable to the end, when I spoke with him at the start.  Thus I believed him utterly when he sang YOU CAN DEPEND ON ME:

For Louis and Benny and Bing, SHINE, with special cadenzas for Carmen near the end.  And if you still think of that song as having deplorably racist lyrics, please read this:

I have noticed how most requests from audience members make the players sigh behind their affable smiles, so I try to restrain myself.  But when asked (as I was here) I will often propose SWEETHEARTS ON PARADE, perhaps because I’ve been so transformed by hearing Louis, Ruby Braff, and Doc Cheatham play it.  And Perry Como stayed quietly in the back room (the fans tend to mob him when he comes to the No Name Bar, so Nancy and Scarlet make him comfortable there):

There was a large and enthusiastic Texas contingent in the No Name Bar that Sunday, so perhaps this edged John Dodgshon away from the TIN ROOF BLUES to the 1918 DALLAS BLUES.  I didn’t know the verses that Tom Schmidt sang with such easy fervor. . . .thank you, Tom!  And pay special attention to Bill De Kuiper, the Troubadour of the Silver Subaru, as he takes an inspiring off-the-harmonies solo, immensely refreshing:

Now, don’t you wish you had been there?

May your happiness increase.

“I’M DONE”: EDDIE HUNTER, ALEX ROGERS, LUCKEYETH ROBERTS

I first heard this piece of ancient but still witty vaudeville thanks to Allen Lowe’s massive CD box set, THAT DEVILIN’ TUNE . . . and although my emotional life is far more tranquil and gratifying, this is one of my favorite recordings.  Perhaps it appeals to my deep inner silliness; I find it ingenious all the way from the introduction to the two singers in harmony for a few seconds at the end.

And what’s just as remarkable is the flexible, varied, lightly swinging stride piano accompaniment by C. Luckeyeth Roberts — Luckey to those more casual — that is as light, bright, and sparking as anything Fats or James P. ever recorded.  (It has the same lovely distracting quality of a Jess Stacy accompaniment, pulling my attention away from what is supposed to be the main event.)  Early on: December 17, 1923.

Enjoy this little frolic — first for the mock-serious indignation of Hunter and Rogers, then for the lacy twining of the piano — delicious and never over-done.

Here, courtesy of the Library of Congress and the “National Jukebox,” is a comic swinging pleasure.  Remember to “make a wush”!

May your happiness increase.

RYAN TRUESDELL PRESENTS “CENTENNIAL: NEWLY DISCOVERED WORKS BY GIL EVANS”

Most tribute recordings or projects labor under several burdens.  The musicians who made the original recordings are, in most cases, no longer alive and playing . . . .although one could make the case that Louis playing POTATO HEAD BLUES thirty years after its issue, Ellington revisiting IN THE SHADE OF THE OLD APPLE TREE, Billie singing WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO in 1952 . . . are all paying tributes to their earlier selves.

But, in general, artists who choose to “play old records live” in the studio or in concert have the towering presence of those accessible sounds to deal with.

Some tribute projects attempt to impose a modernist sensibility on established repertoire and style . . . with results that require equal parts love, understanding, and daring to pull off — STRANGE FRUIT remixed over techno rhythms wins points for novelty, but to me it feels blasphemous.

Ryan Truesdell’s Gil Evans Project has none of these self-created burdens to carry up the mountain.  For one thing, Truesdell, a composer and scholar, did not — as others have chosen to do — assemble an orchestra to reproduce recordings everyone knows well.  Rather, he took as his starting point ten compositions — only three of them Evans’ originals — that Evans had arranged but (in most cases) had not recorded.  The details of Truesdell’s discoveries and research are contained in the intriguing and immensely readable booklet for the CENTENNIAL CD. (In my life as a literary researcher, I spent many hours filling in the gaps and appreciating the warmth of otherwise unread first-hand materials — unpublished manuscripts of Frank O’Connor’s short stories and Yeats’ poetry, letters between O’Connor and William Maxwell, between Maxwell and Sylvia Townsend Warner . . . and I immediately saw that Truesdell was honest and searching in his investigations.)

For a number of sessions, he assembled a series of dream orchestras, featuring saxophonists Steve Wilson, Donny McCaslin, Scott Robinson; brass players Greg Gisbert, Laurie Frink, Ryan Keberle, Marshall Gilkes, rhythm section players James Chirillo, Joe Locke, Frank Kimbrough, Jay Anderson, Lewis Nash; singers Kate McGarry, Wendy Gilles, Luciana Souza, and many other brilliant musicians.

Initially I was intrigued by the project because I so admired the Evans arrangements for Claude Thornhill and the work he did for Miles Davis, most memorably MILES AHEAD and PORGY AND BESS.  The Evans sound I cherish suggests floating clouds, many-hued, that are ever-changing,never static, leaving impressionistic traces as they move across our consciousness.  About the Evans who organized lengthy electric-flavored orations devoted to Jimi Hendrix compositions, I know little.

But once the disc arrived, I was initially delighted by the perceptive diligence Truesdell showed in the research that got him and his orchestras to perform these otherwise “unheard” works.  Some might say that his efforts are no different from a conductor faced with a score of a “new” work, but Truesdell has managed to balance the pull of individualism — assembling an orchestra of mature soloists and section players who can create appropriately within an idiom without offering pastiches of others’ solos — and staying faithful to what is written in the score.

I knew I had to write this post when there were certain tracks on the CD –THE MAIDS OF CADIZ, HOW ABOUT YOU, DANCING ON A GREAT BIG RAINBOW, BARBARA SONG, and — most memorably, WHO’LL BUY MY VIOLETS? — that I wanted to play over and over.  I had been hesitant at first — did I know Evans well enough to appreciate this music?  Would I find it too outre for my well-nourished narrowness?  I need not have worried: the music’s beauty broke through any imagined walls.

This CD honors Evans’ essential spiritual brilliance without getting confined within an idea of “repertory” that is ultimately imprisoning.  I found much to love in this music . . . and I will keep and replay this disc into the future.

For more information about the project, the CD, and future appearances by Truesdell and his master musicians, click here.  Many pleasures await!

May your happiness increase.

BOB WILLOUGHBY’S REMARKABLE PORTRAITS

Because they give themselves to what they are creating, jazz musicians make splendid photographic subjects.

Bob Willoughby, who died in 2009, wasn’t the first to capture their intensity, lack of self-consciousness, and energy on camera.  But his beautiful volume of photographs and recollections, JAZZ: BODY AND SOUL, shows on every page that his work is superbly moving.  (Evans Mitchell, 2012, 192 pages, hardbound.)

Since musicians — in the act of creation — aren’t standing still, some photographs begin to look like versions of poses we have already seen a thousand times before: the horn player, face distended, sweating, looking like a runner just before crossing the finish line; the intimate relationship between the singer and the vertical microphone; the drummer, moving so quickly that the sticks blur.  Other photographs entrance us because they are the only visual evidence we have that an otherwise obscure musician was ever seen.

Willoughby’s work goes well beyond these formulas, although some of his images have been reproduced so widely that they are now the way that we mentally identify the subject.  But even his most famous pictures have something to offer us, a half-century after they were created.

The book is divided into two sections: one of Wlloughby’s West Coast photographs from 1950 to — Billie Holiday, Wardell Gray, Miles Davis, George Shearing, Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Krupa, Roy Eldridge, Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Ventura, Billy Eckstine, Louis Armstrong, the Stan Kenton Orchestra, Duke Ellington, Ray Nance, Paul Gonsalves, Johnny Hodges, Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Paul Desmond, Dave Brubeck, Peggy Lee.  Particularly absorbing is a series of dramatic photographs catching the emotional interplay between saxophonist Big Jay McNeely and a crowd in hysterical rapture.  Willoughby photographed Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Stan Getz, Buck Clayton, Martha Tilton and friends during the recording sessions for the soundtrack of THE BENNY GOODMAN STORY.  An extended photo-essay on Frank Sinatra tells us more than any biography.

The second section of the book offers photographs Willoughby created in Germany in 1992 and 1994 — fascinating portraits of Lee Konitz, Marcus Roberts, Jon Faddis, Art Farmer, Wynton Marsalis, Pat Metheny, John Lewis, Mulligan much transformed by the years, and many others.

Having purchased many volumes of photographs of jazz musicians, I tend to look at the book with fascination immediately after their purchase . . . but not often after.  Willoughby’s book has proven itself an exception.  In tne month that I have had a copy, I have come back to it over and over, drawn by what his eye captured — tantalizing wordless dramas that open deeper each time I stare into the pages.

And the appeal of the book is wider than the allure of the musicians portrayed there.  Without being precious or coy, Willoughby created small paintings full of feeling, emotion coming through the lovely blacks, greys, and whites.  He was a master of seeing, of shaping line and angle, shape and focus.  I look at these portraits and I can feel Louis’ happiness, imagine the words passing between Bing and Frank on the set of CAN-CAN, hear Billie’s voice.  In addition, Willoughby’s photos are idiosyncratic master classes for photographers: what to emphasize, what to leave out. . . all the more remarkable because he captured his subjects in the moment.

Marc Myers, of JAZZ WAX, knew and spoke with Willoughby, and the essays Marc has created about the man and his work are rewarding (with photographs that will astonish): read more here and here.   The book’s website — with even more beautiful pictures — can be found here.  Willoughby’s photographs reward the eye.

May your happiness increase.

“PANIQUE” MEANS JOY (Part One, August 16, 2012)

Don’t let this band’s scary French name make you run for the closet.

They are truly generous in their offerings of joy, as they proved lavishly last Thursday at the Red Poppy Art House in San Francisco.

This imaginative quartet is Vic Wong, guitar; Benito Cortez, violin; Nick Christie, rhythm guitar; Daniel Fabricant, string bass.

And in their mix of standards and less-known material, they embody the great virtues of memorable swing improvisation: a speaking eloquence in their solos, delightful ensemble interplay; extraordinary subtlety in their dynamics, tempos, and shadings, and a real understanding of how deeply listeners need melodies.  Although the members of the group look youthful, they are mature improvisers with well-developed imaginations, ears, hearts, and wit.  But I will let the music speak for itself:

An opening built from two songs, played back-to-back (something other bands could learn from PANIQUE): DOUBLE WHISKY and J’AI CHERCHE APRES TITINE:

NUAGES, a little more briskly than it is often played, the change bringing the song into sharper focus:

DINETTE, so much more than a little table in the corner of the kitchen:

TROUBLANT BOLERO, Reinhardt — not Ravel:

COQUETTE:

An exploration of BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS that slowly unwraps itself:

JE SUIS SEUL CE SOIR (“I am alone tonight”):

I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:

Learn more about PANIQUE and their live CD here; visit Vic Wong on Facebook there.

May your happiness increase.

STRIKE UP THE BANDS! SACRAMENTO 2012: THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS and CLINT BAKER (May 25, 2012)

I hope the pleasure I take in attending jazz festivals, parties, concerts, clubs, comes through as strongly as I feel it.

In many ways, being able to move around to hear the jazz musicians I so admire is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.  That many of these musicians have become friendly to me is a wonderful gift, and that I am allowed to bring my video camera and record the music (until my neck hurts) feels like a marvelous present.

And my only responsibility in all this is to let everyone know what a wonderful time I had and to post videos that make my words superfluous.

All of this came true once again at the 2012 Sacramento Music Festival, which took place over Memorial Day weekend this past year.  I saw, heard, and delighted in performances by the Reynolds Brothers, Clint Baker, Rebecca Kilgore, Dan Barrett, Rossano Sportiello, Pieter Meijers, Bryan Shaw, Justin Au, Brandon Au, Howard Miyata, Earl McKee, Charlie Castro, Stan Huddleston, Bruce Huddleston, Stephanie Trick, Vince Bartels, Nicolas Montier, Russ Phillips, Jeannie Lambert, Allan Vache, Jennifer Leitham, Phil Flanigan, Danny Coots.

I couldn’t see everyone, because the SMF is such a lively cornucopia of sounds.  If anyone is disappointed that I did not video-record Kid Jalapeno, come to the 2013 Sacramento Music Festival and get that pleasure first-hand!

Here are my heroes: Marc Caparone, cornet; Clint Baker, trombone; Ralf Reynolds, washboard; John Reynolds, guitar, whistling; Katie Cavera, string bass.  At one time or another during the SMF, each one burst into song, gloriously.  Together they form a pocket-sized version of the Luis Russell band plus plus plus . . . .

Appropriately, STRIKE UP THE BAND:

I’VE GOT MY FINGERS CROSSED:

SUNDAY, for Bix and the Keller Sisters and Lynch, Eddie Lang and Jean Goldkette:

IF I HAD YOU, with the multi-talented Mister Baker on clarinet:

DARK EYES, with Soviet riffin’ this evening:

Bless them all.

May your happiness increase.

LOVE’S REFRAINS: TAMAR KORN AND FRIENDS IN CONCERT (Part Two): August 4, 2012

Happiness filled the room at the Porto Franco Art Center when Tamar Korn, vocal improvisations; Craig Ventresco, guitar and banjo; Gordon Au, trumpet; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet and violin; Rob Adkins, string bass, had a friendly gathering on August 4, 2012.

Even if you closed your eyes and listened, you would know that the musicians and audience were deeply happy.  It was a privilege to be there and a deeper one to be able to share this experience with you.

Here is the second half of that concert, and my only sadness is that there isn’t a third and a fourth half . . . .

I GET THE BLUES WHEN IT RAINS:

OLD-FASHIONED LOVE:

THE SONG IS ENDED:

MISS THE MISSISSIPPI AND YOU:

WHILE THEY WERE DANCING AROUND:

STARDUST:

Oh, memory!  Oh, memory!

May your happiness increase.

CHRIS DAWSON, DAN LEVINSON, MOLLY RYAN, and FRIENDS (August 23-24, 2012)

A word to the wise should suffice!

THURSDAY, AUGUST 23:

Molly Ryan, vocals; Dan Levinson, clarinet/saxophone; Chris Dawson, piano.

Doors open at 7 PM; dinner from 7-9 PM (chew slowly); music begins at 9 (joy reigns supreme).

Gardenia Restaurant and Lounge, 7066 Santa Monica Blvd. (at La Brea Ave.), Los Angeles, CA (West Hollywood).  Reservations (strongly recommended): (323) 467-7444

FRIDAY, AUGUST 24

6:30 – 9:30 PM

Chris Dawson, piano; Dan Levinson, clarinet/saxophone; Jay Stock, clarinet.

Deluca Trattoria, 225 Richmond Street, El Segundo, CA.  Reservations: (310) 640-7600.  http://www.delucapasta.com

To keep track of Mister Dawson’s swing comings and goings, you could easily visit his Facebook page here.   Chris and his gang make wonderful music.

May your happiness increase.

SWINGING WITH GAUCHO at YOSHI’S (July 9, 2012)

A little more than a month ago, the Beloved and I were invited to the very beautiful jazz club Yoshi’s in Oakland, California, for an evening with the singular Gypsy jazz group GAUCHO — in celebration of their newest CD, PART-TIME SWEETHEART.  For this performance, GAUCHO was a sextet of Dave Ricketts, guitar and composer; Michael Groh, rhythm guitar; Ari Munkres, string bass; Rob Reich, piano and accordion; Ralph Carney, saxophone and clarinet; Elizabeth Goodfellow, drums.  And there were special guests: Leon Oakley, trumpet; Georgia English, vocals; Vic Wong, guitar; Marty Eggers, tuba.

You’ll hear instantly that GAUCHO, although paying homage to Django Reinhardt, goes its own engaging way with deep feeling, never offering speed-of-light copies of treasured Thirties records in lieu of inventiveness.

COQUETTE:

MISS MYSTERY / I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:

SOME OF THESE DAYS:

PART-TIME SWEETHEART:

NOBODY KNOWS YOU WHEN YOU’RE DOWN AND OUT:

TIN MAN WALTZ:

To find out more about this fine band, both swinging and subtle, visit gauchojazz.  And to buy their new CD, PART-TIME SWEETHEART, you can have the double pleasure of hearing them in person, or you can find Dave on Facebook here.

What a delightful band!

May your happiness increase.

EMMETT BERRY’S BUESCHER TRUMPET, 1952

This Buescher trumpet, the advertisement tells us, is the model Emmett Berry plays with Johnny Hodges.  For tremendous power and range, which Mr. Berry would have had on any horn.

Emmett Berry came from the tradition of individualistic players — with an intense near-ferocity no matter what the context . . . with Fletcher or Horace Henderson, Don Byas, Coleman Hawkins, Cozy Cole, Edmond Hall, Bennie Morton, Buck Clayton, Dickie Wells, Buddy Tate, Count Basie, Jimmy Rushing, Walter Thomas, Ben Webster, Budd Johnson, Oscar Pettiford, Harry Carney, Johnny Guarneri, Illinois Jacquet, Billie Holiday, Teddy Wilson, Benny Carter, Eddie Heywood, Vic Dickenson, John Kirby, Gerald Wilson, Betty Roche, Helen Humes, Johnny Thompson, Jimmy Witherspoon, Al Sears,Al Hibbler, Lem Davis, Dodo Marmarosa, Slim Gaillard, John Simmons, Zutty Singleton, Sidney Catlett, Sammy Price, Milt Hinton, Jo Jones, Eddie Bert, Lucky Thompson, Bennie Green, Lawrence Brown, Sidney Bechet, Ruby Braff, Art Farmer, Claude Hopkins, Pee Wee Russell, Bob Brookmeyer, Andy Gibson, Paul Gonsalves, Cannonball Adderley, Shorty Baker, Chu Berry, Earl Hines, Joe Williams.  On Keynote he was the third trumpet player with Joe Thomas and Roy Eldridge.  He was in the trumpet section for a Miles Davis and Gil Evans session.

Between 1937 and 1967, he seems to have been active on gigs and in the recording studio, even if some of that work had him playing second trumpet to Buck Clayton or as part of the brass section behind a singer.  But this record of activity says to me that various people (Harry Lim, John Hammond, Count Basie, Jimmy Rushing, Buddy Tate) valued him as a powerful, reliable, creative player — someone who could swing, improvise, blend with a section, sight-read music the first time he saw it.

Buck Clayton’s story of Berry whacking Jimmy Witherspoon in the head with his trumpet when Spoon had been particularly out of line suggests that Berry was not someone to be trifled with, and his phrasing does suggest an expert boxer and dangerous counterpuncher.

But no one seems to have interviewed him during his playing career, and I have it in my memory (true?) that he suffered some sort of late-life mental collapse and retired from music.  (What does anyone know of him in the years from 1967 to 1993?)

His sound– so vehement — remains in my ears.  On the early Clef sessions with Hodges, on THE SOUND OF JAZZ, backing Rushing on Vanguard — unmistakable.

Here’s “a little good blues” with Earle Warren, Sir Charles Thompson, Gene Ramey, and Oliver Jackson, from 1961:

Berry doesn’t take enough space, and his vehemence is hinted at rather than fully released, but his sound and physical presence are fully evident.

He’s someone I miss.

May your happiness increase.

A GREAT HUMAN STORY: “THE SAVOY KING: CHICK WEBB and the MUSIC THAT CHANGED AMERICA”

We have all seen our share of documentaries, perhaps beginning in elementary school.  The least successful are tedious although well-meaning, taking us year-by-year, serving up moral lessons.  Although they strive to inform and move us, often they are unsatisfying and undramatic in their desire to present us with facts.

Jeff Kaufman’s brilliant feature-length portrait is a soaring antidote to every earnest, plodding, didactic documentary.  It is full of feeling, insightful without being over-emphatic.  It tells several stories in affecting, subtle ways.

Chick Webb was a great musician — a drummer other drummers still talk about with awe and love.  He guided and lovingly protected the teenaged Ella Fitzgerald, helping her grow into a mature artist.  Crippled from childhood — he would never grow much taller than 4′; he was in constant pain; he died shortly after turning thirty — he was fiercely ambitious and ultimately triumphant in ways he did not live to see.

But this is far more than the story of one small yet great-hearted man.  It is much larger than the chronicle of one jazz musician.  It is the story of how Webb’s love, tenacity, and courage changed the world.  That sounds hyperbolic, and I do not think that any American history textbook has yet made space for the little king from Baltimore, who deserves his place alongside Rosa Parks and Jackie Robinson.  This film will go a long way towards correcting that omission.  For Chick, tiny yet regal behind his drum set, helped create an environment where Black and White could forget those superficial differences and become equal in the blare of the music, the thrill of the dance.

Without Webb, would there have been a Savoy Ballroom where American men and women could have forgotten the bigotry so prevalent, lost in the joy of swing?  I like to imagine someone, trained into attitudes of racism from birth, hearing HARLEM CONGO on the radio and feeling transformed as if by a bolt of lightning, not caring that the players were not Caucasian, making the shift in his / her thinking from cruel derision to admiration and love.  How may people moved to an acceptance of racial equality because they were humming Ella’s recording of A TISKET, A TASKET?  We will never know . . . but just as the sun (in the fable) encouraged the stubborn man to shed his heavy coat where the cold wind failed, I believe that jazz and swing did more than has ever been acknowledged to make White and Black see themselves as one.

And the film documents just how aware Webb was of the reforming power of his music.  The idea of him as a subtle crusader for love, acceptance, and fairness is not something imposed on him by an ideologically-minded filmmaker: it is all there in the newspaper clippings and the words he spoke.

Here is Candace Brown’s superb essay on the film — with video clips from the film.

I must move from the larger story to a few smaller ones.  Put bluntly, I think filmmaker Kaufman is a wonder-worker, his talents quiet but compelling — rather like the person in the tale who makes a delicious soup starting with only a stone.  It took six years and a great deal of effort to make this film, and the result is gratifying throughout.

Making a documentary in this century about someone who died in 1939 has its own built-in difficulties.  For one thing, the subject is no longer around to narrate, to sit still for hours of questions.  And many of the subjects friends and family are also gone.  Chick Webb was a public figure, to be sure, but he wasn’t someone well-documented by sound film.  Although his 1929 band can be heard in the rather lopsided film short AFTER SEBEN, the director of that film cut Chick out of the final product because he thought the little man looked too odd.

I don’t think so.  Here is a still from that film (with Chick’s dear friend John Trueheart on banjo and my hero Bennie Morton on trombone):

But back to Kaufman’s problem.  Although there are many recordings of Chick’s band in the studios and even a radio broadcast or two, other figures of that period left behind more visual evidence: think of the photogenic /  charismatic Ellington, Goodman, Louis.  Of Webb and his band in their prime, the film footage extant lasts four seconds.

So Kaufman had to be ingenious.  And he has been, far beyond even my hopes.

The film is a beautifully-crafted tapestry of sight and sound, avoiding the usual overexposed bits of stock film and (dare I say it) the expected talking heads, droning into the camera.  The living people Kaufman has found to speak with love of Chick Webb are all singular: jazz musicians Roy Haynes (swaggering in his cowboy hat), Joe Wilder (a courtly knight without armor), Dr. Richard Gale (son of Moe, who ran the Savoy), dancers Frankie Manning and Norma Miller . . . their affection and enthusiasm lifts up every scene.

And Kaufman has made a virtue of necessity with an even more brilliant leap.  Webb wasn’t quoted often, but his utterances were memorable — rather like rimshots.  Ella, Gene Krupa, Ellington, Basie, Helen and Stanley Dance, Artie Shaw, Mezz Mezzrow, and twenty others have their words come to life — not because a serious dull voiceover reads them to us, but because Kaufman has arranged for some of the most famous people in the world to read a few passages.  Do the names Bill Cosby and Janet Jackson suggest how seriously other people took this project?

THE SAVOY KING is a work of art and an act of love, and it desrves to be seen — not just by “jazz lovers” or “people who remember the Big Band Era.”

It has been selected to be shown at the 50th annual New York Film Festival, tentatively on September 29, which in itself is a great honor.

That’s the beautiful part.  Now here comes four bars of gritty reality.  In the ideal world, no one would ever have to ask for money, and a major studio would already have done a beautiful job of exploring Chick Webb’s heroism, generosity, and music by now.  But it hasn’t happened, and we know what results when the stories we love go Hollywood.

Filmmaker Kaufman is looking for funding through INDIEGOGO to arrange a “proper launch” for this film — the goal being $5000 to cover the extra work of our PR team (media, publicity, sales, etc), and other key expenses that will help lead to a commercial release.  All levels of support (ideally $75 and up) will make a real difference.  Here is the link.

Think of a world made better by swing.

See and support this film.

May your happiness increase.