Monthly Archives: November 2012

HAPPY AS THE DAY IS LONG! DUKE HEITGER, RANDY REINHART, REBECCA KILGORE, JOHN SHERIDAN, JON BURR, RICKY MALICHI at JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA (September 22, 2012)

Happiness spreads through a room in seconds and tension vanishes.  And musical happiness the great artists create — see below! — is especially wonderful because it combines expertise and play.  The sounds that make us smile or weep are the result of decades of hard work but these masterful artists know that “being careful” results is flatness.  Taking risks is the only way to free and beautiful expression.

So I think of this compact musical experience as a basket of blossoms for the spirit: flowers that won’t ever die, given graciously to all of us.  It comes from a Saturday afternoon session at the 2012 Jazz at Chautauqua (September 23, 2012) and the Bringers of Bliss are Duke Heitger, trumpet and vocal; Randy Reinhart, cornet, Rebecca Kilgore, vocal; John Sheridan, piano; Jon Burr, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums.

Two trumpets with rhythm, you say?  A Battle for sure, as they “tie up like dogs” and play Faster, Higher, Louder?  Only in the movies.  Randy and Duke know Beauty and Song — as do John, Jon, and Ricky, so they daringly begin a set with the very pretty, very soulful MEMORIES OF YOU, which belonged to Louis before Benny claimed it as his own.  And these brotherly musicians listen and blend, support and exalt — not for a second deterred by the crashing of dishes at the start:

BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME? features one of the nicest vocal pairings you will ever hear.  No one needs to have the sweet subtle appeal of Miss Rebecca Kilgore’s singing explained, and she credits Mister Duke Heitger as one of her favorite singers.  I wish they could do a CD together, but perhaps that will have to wait for a hip Renaissance patron of the arts.  However, here is their 2012 Jaunt into Beauty:

NO MOON AT ALL was a request — thank you, wise Requester.  What a song and what a performance from everyone:

HAPPY AS THE DAY IS LONG reminds some of us of Ivie Anderson (and Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler and the Ellington band) but even if it doesn’t, it is an apt description of how this set by these people made us feel.  And after the playful trumpet battle, Slyboots John Sheridan starts off his solo with a nod to the dancer Taps Miller — immortalized in a Basie record of the same name.  And there are hints of the dance called THE SKRONCH — on the fourth beat, then you ree-peat, but no matter.  The grins at the end of this interlude were blinding, no fooling:

May your happiness increase.

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“PEACEMAKERS, HEALERS, RESTORERS, STORYTELLERS AND LOVERS OF ALL KINDS”: ANDY SCHUMM’S GANG at JAZZ at CHAUTAUQUA (September 23, 2012)

Reading my colleague M. Figg’s blogpost on Don Murray — meditations witty and sad — made me think, not for the first time that although the Great Hallowed Figures are dead and their recorded legacies are small (think of Frank Melrose, Frank Teschemacher, Rod Cless, George Stafford, Tony Fruscella, Leon Roppolo, Guy Kelly and a hundred others) there are vivid compensations in 2012.

We don’t have to restrict ourselves to the anguished study of too-short solos on a few records (think of Teagarden and Tesch having the sweetest conversation that you almost can’t hear on the Dorsey Brothers’ ROUND EVENING) . . . we have Living Players who bridge past and present right in front of us.  “In front of my video camera, too,” I think with unbounded gratitude.

One of these fellows is the sly, surprising, lyrical, hot Andy Schumm, already legendary.  (I know there are gatherings of listeners who are out-Schumming one another: “I knew Andy was a genius when I heard him in 1993,” “You did? I knew he was a genius before he was out of diapers,” etc.)  My own acquaintance with Mister Schumm only started in this century, but he amazes every time, on cornet, piano, clarinet, drums, comb . . . more to come!

Here are Andy and friends at Jazz at Chautauqua just a few months ago: Mike Greensill, piano; Howard Alden, guitar; Bob Reitmeier, clarinet; Jon Burr, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums — honoring the music of the early Twenties into the middle Thirties, with associations with Fats Waller, Jabbo Smith, James P. Johnson, Bing Crosby, Garvin Bushell, Phil Napoleon, Bix, Eddie Condon, and others.  Lovely subtle forceful romping hot jazz — for our listening and dining pleasure, performances one can marvel at over and over.

MY SWEETIE WENT AWAY:

PERSIAN RUG:

PENNIES FROM HEAVEN:

SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL:

Thank you, gentlemen, for so bravely creating this music for us — right out there in the open.

I take my title from sweet deep words uttered by the Dalai Lama — connected so strongly to this music: “The planet does not need more successful people.  The planet needs desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.”  Hail, Andy, Mike, Bob, Howard, Jon, Ricky . . . who fit so many of those categories in their musical generosities.

May your happiness increase.

PAGES FROM THE DIARY OF DILLON OBER

I cannot find out much information about the drummer-xylophonist Dillon Ober.  John Chilton wrote no thumbnail biography of him; he does not appear in Sudhalter’s LOST CHORDS.  I have no photograph to share with you (although Don Ingle says that Ober looked like Robert Benchley, later went to work in the Hollywood studios, and was a superb drummer).

All I can ascertain is that he recorded with a Ted Weems small band in 1922, with Irving Mills, Ben Bernie, and Jack Pettis in the latter half of the Twenties.  After that . . . ?

But a jazz scholar who wishes to remain anonymous has been able to read a diary that Ober kept in that period.  Aside from the intriguing period data (gigs played, personnel of bands, wages, names of friends, telephone numbers and addresses) there are a number of strongly worded philosophical statements: Ober was obviously someone who observed the scene closely and expressed himself wittily.

Here are two gems:

I like jazz music and my girlfriends to be SOFT and HOT.  That FAST and LOUD that other people go for does nothing for me.

and

Those people who say they “like the music” are fine, I guess.  We need them.  But they want to talk to me before I’m playing, after I’m playing, sometimes even when I have the sticks in my hands.  Do I come up to a doctor or a lawyer while he’s in the operating room or the courtroom to tell him how he should have done that operation or won that case?  I can’t stand them.

More to come.

May your happiness increase.

IN ITS GLORY: THE ALDEN-BARRETT QUINTET at JAZZ at CHAUTAUQUA (Sept. 22, 2012)

Howard Alden, guitar; Dan Barrett, trombone, cornet, arrangements, of course.  A working band is one of the great glories of jazz.  Although some prize the ideal of the jam session, where disparate musicians come together, elate and startle us, a group of players who have stood side by side for a period of time might create something more lasting.  Think of Soprano Summit, of Davern and Wellstood, of the Ruby Braff trios and quartets, the Rebecca Kilgore Quartet.  If you would like historical precedent, there’s the rapport that Bird and Diz developed or the Armstrong All-Stars.

The ABQ was nurtured by the friendship of its two California pals, then mentored even more by the aging but still very creative Buck Clayton.  It held together as a working (and recording) band for less time than it should have, but one of the delights of Jazz at Chautauqua was the ABQ reunions that its late founder Joe Boughton insisted on and made possible.  The charter members of the ABQ are Chuck Wilson, clarinet / alto; Frank Tate, string bass; Jackie Williams, drums — and in my delicious immersions at Jazz at Chautauqua beginning in 2004, I believe I saw an ABQ that was authentic in all but Jackie.  And it always swung — a neat mixture of stripped-down Ellington colors, Kirby-with-guts classicism, a Basie rock, a Kansas City Six swagger.

Here, from the 2012 Jazz at Chautauqua, are two lengthy outings for this glorious band — Howard, Dan, Dan Block on alto and tenor, Frank Tate, Pete Siers.  The first is a Buck Clayton composition and arrangement: Buck had very good times in France, so IN A PARISIAN MOOD is groovy, hardly gloomy:

Then, a beautifully realized nod to Buck’s colleague Lester with LADY BE GOOD, explained carefully by Professor Barrett:

I dream of a world where working bands of this sleek swing persuasion could work as themselves.  We’re so fortunate that the ABQ can reassemble . . . too bad it seems to be only once a year.

May your happiness increase. 

MONK’S HOMEWORK, 1933

Have you saved your high school notebooks?  If you are like me, you disposed of them at the end of the school year with no particular regret — in fact, I sent my chemistry notes into a trash barrel with only feelings of relief.  I see now that we may have been hasty, incautious.

The owner of this remarkable piece of schoolwork is asking one million dollars — or Best Offer — for it here on eBay.  And an elaborate explanation of the circumstances affecting the fifteen-year old writer is offered at the bottom of the page.  This is one page of a ninety-six page notebook.  My transcription of this essay or draft of an essay may be imperfect, but the writer’s tone and content are perfectly clear.

Mr. Marks                                                                         Thelonious Monk

E 4-7                                                                                   February 9, 1933

My Favorite Magazine

     My favorite magazine is the “Boy’s Life” magazine.  I like it because it tells a great deal which interests boys.  Forinstance: it has a great deal of stories of boy’s life, it tells you a number of camps in which you can spend up [?] the summer, it has a part in the magazine which tells you what the boys are doing in the world to become great.

     It has a section in it which teaches you necessary things while camping.  Most boy scouts read them, and I think it is a good magazine to read.  

     It is published monthly by the Manhattan Scout Council.

All the hallmarks of Monk’s later musical style are explicit here: the repetition of simple phrases — but offered at a slight slant, the insistence, the use of simple language.  If you read this essay to the rhythms of a Monk piano solo it would make perfect chiming sense.  The portrait of an adolescent Monk absorbed in tales of camping is still rattling around in my head, but I may get used to it.

May your happiness increase.

JON-ERIK KELLSO HONORS HENRY “RED” ALLEN (JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA, September 22, 2012)

Henry “Red” Allen deserves to be celebrated — a monumentally surprising individualist with deep New Orleans roots but as modern as you could want.  He demonstrated his quirky powers for four decades on record and in performance: in one phrase, harking back to street parades and the great trumpet tradition including his friend and sometime employer Louis Armstrong, then creating dancing angular phrases that came from nowhere, broke in through the side window, tap-danced in the air, and left in a flash.

If the history of jazz had not been compressed by star-makers and taxonomists (Louis to Roy to Dizzy to Miles, no local stops) more people would have noticed that Red’s phrasing and note choices are as deliciously odd as Lester’s or Monk’s — earlier.  With some splendid musicians, you can anticipate what they might play and what directions their solos might take: not Henry Red.  And as a singer. he blends the romance of an African-American Crosby and the wildness of Leo Watson, the good grease of Lips Page — always recognizable as himself.

In the Thirties, Red worked with the Fletcher Henderson band, the Mills Blue Rhythm Band, and eventually with Louis’ large band — which grew out of the 1929-30 Luis Russell Orchestra, perhaps the happiest band in jazz.  He recorded with a variety of blues singers, with Billie Holiday and James P. Johnson — but the records that many of us treasure are a series made for jukeboxes between 1933 and 1937.

Their premise was simple: get a small band of expert swing musicians (none of them famous enough to command salaries above scale), pass out current pop tunes, make sure the melody and lyrics were clear and distinct in an opening chorus, and let the fellows swing out.

Red’s cohorts on these recordings were (among others) trombonists Bennie Morton, Dicky Wells, and J.C. Higginbotham; reedmen Coleman Hawkins, Cecil Scott, Chu Berry, Hilton Jefferson, Russell Procope, Tab Smith, Buster Bailey, rhythm players Don Kirkpatrick, Horace Henderson, John Kirby, Bernard Addison, Lawrence Lucie, Walter Johnson, and others.  Many years ago these records were available in complete chronological order on vinyl and CD, but those issues are hard to find.  They rank with the best Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, and Mildred Bailey recordings.

But this is not simply a celebration of the hallowed dead.  Rather, like so many musical occasions that delight me, the music presented below merges the past and the present at once.  And if ever a musician could straddle 1933 and 2012 without ripping his suit trousers, it would be our man Jon-Erik Kellso.  He is wise enough to play himself rather than copying Red, but he loves the small band recordings Red and Coleman Hawkins created.  He and a congenial small band — Alex Hoffman, tenor saxophone; Bob Havens, trombone; John Sheridan, piano; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Pete Siers, drums — swung out in tribute to Red, Hawk, and the good music you could hear on a jukebox or at home in 1933-4 . . . at Jazz at Chautauqua 2012.

I’M RHYTHM CRAZY NOW comes from the (Horace) Henderson book, and it lives up to its title in an understated way:

THE DAY YOU CAME ALONG was a voluptuous hit for Bing Crosby at his most romantic — and it became a great showcase for Coleman Hawkins (yet another example of Crosby’s magnificent influence across “schools” and “styles”):

YOU’RE GONNA LOSE YOUR GAL, for better or worse, is purely instrumental here, so we miss out on the profound lines, “acting like a two-time lover / sneaking kisses under cover / you’ll wake up and you’ll discover”:

Fats Waller’s rhetorical urging us to joy, AIN’T CHA GLAD?:

From the very first session Red and Hawk attempted — with tuba and banjo at the orders of the recording executives — SISTER KATE:

I’VE GOT MY FINGERS CROSSED, a hot tune, might not have been recorded by Red — but Fats and Louis created memorable recordings of it (in Fats’ case, a film appearance) so it’s welcome here:

May your happiness increase.

BEAUTIFUL SOUNDS FILL THE AIR: SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST, November 21-25, 2012

My spirits are superbly high after a lovely long weekend at the San Diego Dixieland Thanksgiving Jazz Festival, now to be known as the San Diego Jazz Fest.

But first, an autobiographical digression.  Even though the mirror says otherwise, I still in some deep way think I am nineteen.  Nineteen can run from pleasure to pleasure; nineteen doesn’t need much sleep; ninteen will “be fine.”  I did achieve a major birthday recently (“I am no longer 45 but still some distance from 78” is all I will say) and I went to San Diego somewhat drained of energy and nurturing a noisy case of bronchitis.  I worry as I write this that many of my videos will have in the distance what sounds like a small terrier barking: that would be JAZZ LIVES with a cold, coughing.  (For my loving readers who worry — JAZZ LIVES will live to video another day.  I promise you.)

Because I felt physically awful, I saw and video-recorded fewer sets than I would have liked . . . fourteen or so over four days.  I spent more time sittin’ in the sun (to reference Irving Berlin) in hopes that it would make me feel better.

I’m still coughing a bit but I feel glorious because of the music.

Here I must bow low to that urbane and generous man Paul Daspit, who has a fine humane sense for the little dramas that explode beneath the surface of a large-scale enterprise such as this.  I am not sure how clearly most “jazz fans” understand how much work is involved in keeping a jazz party from self-destructing.  Of course I mean the simple business of having a comfortable space for musicians to perform and listeners to hear.  The Town and Country Convention Center, although it is mazelike by night and day, is exceedingly comfortable with a wide variety of performance spaces.

But a jazz festival is rather like a brightly-colored version of Noah’s Ark packed to the rafters with vigorous personalities.  The facilities need to be looked after: lighting and sound and chairs; doors need to be locked or unlocked; musicians need a safe place to stow instruments and (whisper it) a place to sit down in peace amidst their kind, breathe deeply, eat something.

There needs to be a well-organized corps of willing volunteers: at their most kind, they tell us how to get here or there, where the restrooms are; at their most severe, they say the icy words, “You cannot sit there.  You are not a ______.”  And the interloper flees.

The musicians, and no one can blame them, want to know where they will be sleeping, eating, playing.  The patrons have their own concerns, since each of us is occasionally an armchair general: “Why isn’t my favorite band (The Nirvana Street Joyboys) on the program this year?  Will they be here next year?  Why did the snack room run out of turkey sandwiches before I got here?  Have you seen my husband?  I left him here just a minute ago?  Why are the sets so long?  Why are the sets so short?  Why did you arrange it so that my two favorite bands are playing at the same time?  My eggs were cold at breakfast. . .” 

That Paul remains serene, amused, and kind is a great thing.  A lesser man might take up martial arts or retreat to his tent with earplugs.  He applies tact to the afflicted area; he knows what can be fixed and what cannot; he moves on to the next person who Must Speak To Him, whether the subject is hot jazz or the threat of sex trafficking at jazz festivals.

The San Diego extravaganza was bigger and better than ever.

There was a true panorama of musical sounds: walking from left to right or north to south, I could hear a small tubaish group with a woman singing that life is a cabaret; a big band walloping through SING SING SING; a Jerry Lee Lewis tribute; rollicking solo piano boogie woogie by Mister Layland; a Sunday-morning Dixieland “hymn-along,” another woman inciting the crowd to sing along with her on GOODY GOODY; young Miss Trick showing us her version of OLD-FASHIONED LOVE .

Imagine!   Two cornets are giving a properly ethnic flavor to ORIENTAL STRUT; in another room, someone is singing, “She’s got a shape like a ukulele.” In twenty-three hourlong solo piano sets, everything possible is being explored — Joplin to Bud Powell as well as James P. Johnson and Cripple Clarence Lofton.  Elsewhere a clarinetist is playing DIZZY SPELLS at a vertiginous pace; a small gypsy-jazz group is romping through MINOR SWING; Joe Oliver is still King in another venue . . . and more.  My weary math shows that there were over one hundred and eighty hours of music — although I, like everyone else, had to make hard choices.  If I stay here for the full hour of _________, then I will miss ____________.  Those choices were easy for me, because I didn’t have the energy to run around to catch fifteen minutes here and a half-hour there.  (Also, a tripod and a camera makes for an ungainly dance partner.)  So I saw / heard / delighted in less than ten percent of the jazz cornucopia here.

But — as Spencer Tracy says of Katharine Hepburn in ADAM’S RIB (I think) it was all cherce.

I saw a number of sets with my perennial favorites, the Reynolds Brothers, and they rocked the house, with and without guests.  The rocking down-home Yerba Buena Stompers (that’s John Gill, Leon Oakley, Duke Heitger, Orange Kellin, Tom Bartlett, Kevin Dorn, Conal Fowkes, Clint Baker) offered both I MUST HAVE IT and JUST A GIGOLO; Chloe Feoranzo had a sweetly giggly set with her young friends; Grand Dominion surged ahead in a most endearing way.  A dangerous (that’s a good thing) quartet of Carl Sonny Leyland, Clint (trumpet), Chloe (mostly on tenor), Marty Eggers (string bass), Jeff Hamilton (drums, just off the boat in the best way) played some deliciously greasy (also a good thing) music.

And I heard every note by the Tim Lauglin All-Stars with Connie Jones — and Hal Smith, Marty Eggers, Katie Cavera, Chris Dawson, Mike Pittsley.  They floated; they sang; they decorated the air with melodies.  People who like to trace such things would hear Teddy Wilson 1938, of the Bob Crosby Bobcats; Irving Fazola; the Basie rhythm section; the Condon Town Hall Concerts; Bobby Hackett; Abram Lincoln.  All I will say at this point is that if someone had come to me and said, “Your room has caught on fire and you must come with me now to save your clothes,” while the band was playing, I would have said, “Let me be.  I’ll deal with that when the set is over.  Can’t you see that Beauty is being made?”

You’ll hear and see some of this Beauty, I promise you.

Thanks to all the lovely people who made my experience so sweetly memorable.  The musicians!  Mr. Daspit.  Friends new and familiar: Sue, Juliet, Barbara Ann, Carol, Tom, Frank, Anna-Christine and Christer, Mary Helen, Rae Ann, Alene, Janie and Kevin, Donna . . . you know who you are.  I am grateful to people, some of whom remain anonymous, who rescued me when I needed it — Orlando the young bellman and two dozen other people — I hope that none of you went home coughing because of me.

Let us say you are thinking aloud to your partner,  “Sounds like fun.  Why weren’t we there, Honey?”  I leave the rest of that dialogue to you.  But there will be a 2013 San Diego Jazz Fest.  It will be the thirty-fourth, which is frankly amazing.  Same place (the Town and Country Resort and Convention Center): November 27 – December 1, 2013.  The invited bands include High Sierra, Bob Schulz’ Frisco Jazz Band; Reynolds Brothers; Paolo Alderighi; Stephanie Trick; Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs; Chloe Feoranzo; Glenn Crytzer; Katie Cavera; Dave Bennett . . . “and more to be announced.”  Click here for more information.

For me, all I can say is that before it was officially Autumn in New York, I searched for and bought a 2013 wall calendar I liked just for the purpose of planning my Pleasures . . . I’ve already marked off November 27 – December 1 with “SAN DIEGO.”  Carpe diem, dear friends.  See you there!

May your happiness increase.