Daily Archives: November 11, 2012

SWING NOIR in THE BACK ROOM: SVETLANA SHMULYIAN, LOLLO MEIER, ADRIAN CUNNINGHAM, TED GOTTSEGEN, BRANDI DISTERHELF, GEORGE MEL (October 15, 2012)

The Back Room Speakeasy (102 Norfolk Street, off of Delancey Street, New York 10002) is authentic in several ways.  One is that you need to know the password to enter — for one of Svetlana Shmulyian’s Monday night gigs, the password is issued that day and you may message Sveltana for it.  Alcoholic beverages are served in porcelain coffee cups (with saucers) to give the illusion of Prohibition-era behavior.  “The room prefers classy — though not formal — attire and there is a no-fur policy,” which brings us into this century.  And vigorous swing dancing is encouraged.

When I visited there for the first time, on October 15, Svetlana was delighted to have the gypsy jazz guitar master Lollo Meier with her — as well as the native guitar wizard Ted Gottsegen, reed master Adrian Cunningham, the fine bassist Brandi Disterheft and drummer George Mel.

Here are two classic selections that will give you a flavor of the scene, of the enthusiastic band, and of Svetlana’s fine graceful singing.

EMBRACEABLE YOU:

I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE:

Tomorrow, Monday, November 12, Svetlana will be back with her Delancey Five and special guest Stéphane Séva (the splendid washboard virtuoso and romantic singer).  Adrian Cunningham will return; Jesse Gelber will offer his own individualistic piano stylings; the excellent rhythm section will feature guitarist Ilya Lushtak, string bassist Tal Ronen, and drummer Stephan Schatz.

Svetlana and her Cast of Characters are there every Monday — except the first Monday of the month — so knock three times to enter an authentic Scene.

Ask Svetlana for the password (you won’t get in without it — and, regrettably, it’s not “JAZZ LIVES sent me”) and have a Singapore Sling in my honor.

And when you come out onto the street, you can resume your normal shade, whatever it might be.

P.S.  Troy Hahn, who runs the Monday night soirees at the Back Room, tells me that the password and photographs are posted on the room’s Facebook site every Monday night . . . so check it out here.

May your happiness increase.

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“A LOST JAZZ TREASURE”: TURK MURPHY’S SAN FRANCISCO JAZZ BAND / LIVE 1973

A child of the East Coast, I didn’t grow up listening to Turk Murphy — and I retained a New Yorker’s mild disdain for “that style” because the sounds that first made their way into my heart were more Commodore and Teddy Wilson, more Basie and Hackett.

But on my most recent California stay, I bought a copy of the Columbia NEW ORLEANS SHUFFLE (with trumpeter Birch Smith and the most exalted Don Ewell) and my disdain began to drop away.  Emboldened, I also acquired a “new” Turk Murphy CD — unissued live material from 1973 — which had the dual imprimatur of Leon Oakley and John Gill (whose notes are delightful).

The band had a powerful front line — Turk, Leon, and the magnificent Bob Helm — supported by Pete Clute, piano; Bill Carroll, tuba; Carl Lunsford, banjo on NEW ORLEANS STOMP / SEE SEE RIDER / DUSTY RAG / SILVER DOLLAR / SUGAR FOOT STRUT / KANSAS CITY MAN BLUES / BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME / TOM CAT BLUES / WOLVERINE BLUES / CHIMES BLUES / DOCTOR JAZZ / THE PEARLS / THE TORCH / NEW ORLEANS JOYS / TEXAS MOANER / WILLIE THE WEEPER / RAGGED BUT RIGHT / SIDEWALK BLUES / DIPPERMOUTH BLUES / BAY CITY.

Obviously the repertoire owes a good deal to Oliver and Morton, but the overall effect is what I think of as mid-Twenties Chicago, with Leon’s powerful attack being matched by Helm’s sinuous, graceful lines.  Turk’s trombone is reliably gutty, marking out the bottom.  And there are little subtleties: the way the horns support the tuba melody on SEE SEE RIDER; the prancing motion of DUSTY RAG, the easy romp of SUGAR FOOT STRUT.  The rhythm section on KANSAS CITY MAN BLUES has every note, every nuance in place.  Although the band charges into DOCTOR JAZZ (with the verse), the performances are varied in tempo and dynamics — this isn’t a band playing at the top of its range on every song.  All the strains and breaks in WOLVERINE BLUES, NEW ORLEANS JOYS, and THE PEARLS are beautifully in place, with not a hint of the museum around them.  And THE TORCH is a peerless piece of Americana.

For those who are wary of “unissued” “live” recordings, the sound on this one is first-rate — recorded close to the band with all six instruments nicely balanced, not drowned out by audience enthusiasm — and it’s a generous seventy-two minutes.

To purchase this CD (MMRC-CD-48) contact the Merry Makers Record Company at their toll-free number, 1-866-563-4433, or click here.

May your happiness increase.

HEARTFELT: MORE FROM THE SUNNYLAND JAZZ BAND at BONNIE JEAN’S (October 18, 2012)

2012 has been brimming over with wonderful music, but one of the real delights of my jazz life has been the opportunity to hear and meet and record Bob Barta’s Sunnyland Jazz Band.

Here’s what I wrote about them — and here is some more sweet evidence of their affectionate look at the world . . . chamber jazz of the highest order, recorded on October 18, 2012, at Bonnie Jean’s in Southold, New York.

The players?  Bob, banjo and vocal; John Lovett, tuba; John Klumpp, trumpet and vocal.

Here are a half-dozen more examples of what the SJB does so well.

PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (with that endearing, wise verse):

That aquatic MINNIE THE MERMAID (a wet dream?):

A very tender reading of I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:

EGYPTIAN ELLA — with new lyrics:

EVERY EVENING:

SUNDAY:

The SJB website is here.  On it, you can purchase their superb CD, IN ONE ERA AND OUT THE OTHER (Jazz Alive JACD 1009)  — which also features Vince Giordano, Dan Levinson, Lew Green, Russ Whitman, Jim Fryer, Art Hovey, Jeff Barnhart, Jim Mazzy, Jeff Furman, Sal Ranniello, and Scott Black — on a variety of wonderful songs, including HOW COULD CUPID BE SO STUPID?, AN EV’NING IN CAROLINE, YOU’RE MY DISH . . . . it is a consistent pleasure.  Click here for one or several.

The Sunnyland Jazz Band will be appearing as part of MONDO VAUDE on Saturday, December 1, at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead . . . no one under seventeen admitted!

May your happiness increase. 

“DO SOMETHING, PLEASE!”: ANDY SCHUMM, MARTY GROSZ, JOHN SHERIDAN, FRANK TATE, RICKY MALICHI at JAZZ at CHAUTAUQUA (Sept. 21, 2012)

As good a group as you’ll hear . . .  everyone pointed in the same direction, playing solid songs that have a great deal of life in them, with lilt, wit, and swing.  That’s Andy Schumm, cornet; Marty Grosz, guitar and vocal; John Sheridan, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Ricky Malichi.  Recorded on September 21, 2012, at Jazz at Chautauqua.

Taken at a stomping tempo, DO SOMETHING (without its wooing lyrics) is more of a swinging command to the shy lover:

I have a deep fondness for PLEASE — having heard Bing’s versions, early and late, and the passionate Ruby Braff-Ellis Larkins exploration.  We are welcome to silently analyze Andy’s calling these two songs in this order — but I’d rather savor the melodic beauty here:

One of the delights of Jazz at Chautauqua is a splendid array of sheet music — and there were many copies of WEARY RIVER.  Andy knew the song but copied out the verse for John Sheridan — their rubato episode is beautiful indeed.  (If I recall correctly, the song comes from a First National film, circa 1929, starring Richard Barthelmess — one of the delights of sheet music as opposed to simply hearing the song on a recording):

INDIANA might seem a very tired choice, but not when you have scholars like Schumm and Grosz on the case, sniffing out the chord changes from the late Twenties recording by Red Nichols — a series of small pleasurable shocks, even before Marty (paying tribute to vocalizing Eddie Condon) sings for us about Middle Western nostalgias:

May your happiness increase.