Daily Archives: August 15, 2012

LITTLE WONDERS at AMOEBA MUSIC (The Next Chapter)

August 14, 2012.  Amoeba Music.  1855 Haight Street, San Francisco.

Flash!  Money can’t buy happiness, but money can buy the music that creates it.

Six vinyl records = $15.14.

JOE SULLIVAN: NEW SOLOS BY AN OLD MASTER (Riverside, 1953)

RAY SKJELBRED / HAL SMITH: STOMPIN’ EM DOWN (Stomp Off, 1985)

HARRY JAMES: DOUBLE DIXIE (MGM, 1962)

BUTCH THOMPSON / MIKE DUFFY / HAL SMITH: LITTLE WONDER (Triangle Jazz, 1987)

AL “JAZZBO” COLLINS: SWINGING AT THE OPERA (Everest, 1960)

THE SAINTS AND SINNERS “CATCH FIRE” (Seeco, 1960)

Explication du texte herewith.

The Sullivan is a famous record — I believe I had the music in poorer sound on a Classics CD, but the sentimental value of this disc in its crinkly wax-paper inner sleeve was something I chose not to resist.  And Sullivan’s sweet violence at the keyboard — filling A ROOM WITH A VIEW with ferocious right-hand splashes and mad Waller right-hand tinkling ornamentations — continues to astonish.  And if that weren’t enough, the disc is NON BREAKABLE, LONG PLAYING MICROGROOVE, HI FI.  What more could I ask for?

Ray Skjelbred deserves to be mentioned in the same breath, and Hal Smith’s intuitive empathy is splendid.  All I will say about STOMPIN’ ‘EM DOWN is that the duo’s performance of LOVE ME TONIGHT is another delightful version of sweet violence, honoring Bing Crosby and Earl Hines simultaneously.

I haven’t heard a note of DOUBLE DIXIE yet, but it is an intriguing experiment: the whole James band of the time, with Willie Smith and Buddy Rich, surrounding the “Dixie Five” of James, Dick Cathcart, Eddie Miller, Matty Matlock, Ray Sims.  How could I pass up a record that had TWO DEUCES on it, and all the arrangements by Matlock?

On my most recent trip to Amoeba Berkeley, I bought a Prairie Home Companion lp featuring the Butch Thompson Trio with Red Maddock on drums — and it has been giving a great deal of pleasure, both now in the present moment and reminding me of my 1981 self, listening to PHC live and waiting for those trio sessions.  This trio recording with Butch, Mike, and Hal is going to be a treat . . . a special little pleasure was in looking at the back-cover photograph of the trio, smiling . . . and reading that the photographer was none other than our friend and wondrous singer Becky Kilgore.

For me, a little “hipsterness” goes a long way, but Al “Jazzbo” Collins always had good taste.  What could be wrong with a big band recording of melodies from famous operas — when the band includes as soloists Harry Edison, Phil Woods, and Bob Brookmeyer . . . when the rhythm section is Hank Jones, Barry Galbraith, Joe Benjamin (Milt must have had a conflict that day), and Jo Jones?  Plus Harvey Phillips and Eddie Costa, arrangements by Fred Karlin, the whole thing supervised by Raymond Scott.  Can’t beat that!

Any record by the SAINTS AND SINNERS is rare these days — a compact group co-led by Red Richards and Vic Dickenson, it featured Norm Murphy or Herman Autrey, trumpet; Joe Barifaldi or Rudy Powell, reeds, and a solid rhythm section (this issue has Barrett Deems, drums).  I remember hearing Vic play TEACH ME TONIGHT from a program Ed Beach did on the S&S and so this was a superb find.  “My heart stood still,” to quote Larry Hart.

Now, there is no hidden ideology here about the goodness of vinyl over any other medium of sound reproduction; I amnot urging anyone to buy a turntable or to begin collecting more stuff, to quote George Carlin.  But there are Wonders out there for those who seek them!

P.S.  And as an added bonus, the cheerful young woman behind the counter had family that had grown up on Long Island and had gone to the high school I had graduated from when buying records was what you did.  The young woman had made it to San Francisco by way of Brooklyn, and she had wonderful instincts: when I said, in closing, “May your happiness increase,” she answered immediately, “Thank you very much!  You, too!”

May your happiness increase.

DELICATELY INTENSE: TAMAR KORN and FRIENDS in CONCERT: PART ONE (August 4, 2012)

I’ve been listening, entranced, to Tamar Korn four almost four years now, and I first recorded her in November 2008, at the East Village bar, Banjo Jim’s.  She was then a charter member of the Cangelosi Cards, a group that mixed Twenties hot jazz, Quintette of the Hot Club of France, Fats Waller, Jimmie Rodgers, and what I think of as barn-dance music.  It is possible that the first time I heard her was at the end of a Sunday night at The Ear Inn, where everyone was entranced by her singing.  Later, she has appeared with Dennis Lichtman’s Brain Cloud, Gordon Au’s Grand Street Stompers, and with small groups of her own.

Tamar was not merely a singer who had chosen to mimic an assortment of unusual vocal breaks and yodels, adding to this a muted trumpet simulation that would have won the hearts of the Mills Brothers, and an air-violin that was both another way to get to the heart of the melody and a loving evocation of her father, an expert violinist.  Her background was originally in theatre, so she delighted in experimenting with the possibilities of her voice, a remarkable instrument in itself.  Her approach is deceptively delicate but intense, and she makes each song into a small drama, arching from quiet expositions to near-operatic climaxes, her improvisations becoming more and more brave.  But she always swings.

I usually saw and recorded Tamar in places where people were chatting, drinking, laughing . . . understandable but distracting.  So when I had the chance to capture her and the Cards at the Shambhala Meditation Center in New York City (February 27, 2010), it was a cherished experience.  (Thanks to Paul Wegener!)  Here is one segment of that evening.

I thought that the concert at the Shambhala would be the only time I would be able to see and hear Tamar and friends in such a peaceful place.

But I am happy to report that through the good offices of all the musicians and the Varshavsky family, I was able to bring my video camera to the Porto Franco Art Center at 953 Valencia Street in San Francisco . . . and share the divine music with you.

Tamar was joined by her New York friends Gordon Au, trumpet; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet and violin; Rob Adkins, string bass, and SF’s remarkable Craig Ventresco, guitar and banjo.

LAZY RIVER:

A fast SOMEDAY SWEETHEART:

I’VE GOT A FEELIN’ I’M FALLIN’:

IF YOU WANT THE RAINBOW (You Must Have The Rain):

ANNIVERSARY WALTZ:

WHEN YOU WORE A TULIP:

Miss Korn is amazing.  But so are Messrs. Au, Lichtman, Adkins, and Ventresco, each of them a sweet explorer, searching deep into the music.

Another set awaits.

May your happiness increase.