Monthly Archives: November 2012

I’M THANKFUL FOR HOT MUSIC (San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Festival, November 21-25, 2012)

My plans for the holiday weekend include very little turkey but plenty of hot jazz and good feeling — at the 33rd San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Festival.  The music begins Wednesday night (November 21) and goes breathlessly through until Sunday afternoon (November 25).  Here’s the tentative schedule, vibrating with good sounds.

Off the top of my head, I think of Ralf Reynolds, John Reynolds, Katie Cavera, John Gill, Duke Heitger, Tom Bartlett, Leon Oakley, Orange Kellin, Clint Baker, Conal Fowkes, Kevin Dorn, Hal Smith, Chris Dawson, Connie Jones, Mike Pittsley, Chloe Feoranzo, Stephanie Trick, Marty Eggers, Carl Sonny Leyland, Tim Laughlin, Lorraine Feather, Sue Fischer, Dave Bennett, Justin and Brandon Au, and about four dozen more bands and soloists.  Apologies to any of your favorites I’ve neglected to mention here . . . but the whole schedule is available for real or fantasy planning.

I feel immensely fortunate to be getting on a plane Thursday morning with San Diego as my eventual goal.  Look for me in the front row: notebook and pen, intently gazing into the viewfinder, aloha shirt . . . the JAZZ LIVES official regalia.  And for those of you who can’t make it, I will do my best to take you along through the magic of video.

So much to be thankful for!  More details here.

May your happiness increase.  

 

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SERENE EARTHLY MUSIC: REBECCA KILGORE and KEITH INGHAM at JAZZ at CHAUTAUQUA (Sept. 22, 2012)

For me, this was one of the high points of the long jubilant weekend that was the 2012 Jazz at Chautauqua — the duet of Rebecca Kilgore and Keith Ingham on the Jimmy Van Heusen – Johnny Burke song, IT’S ALWAYS YOU.

Keith’s sweet harmonies, his rhythmic steadiness, his intuitive sense of the right notes — he is a brilliant accompanist — go so well alongside Rebecca’s convincing underacting, her gentle sincerity, her creamy tone and delicate rubatos.

And, like all great art, it looks easier than it really is.

Thank you, Keith and Rebecca.  This gracious fervent music touches the heart.

May your happiness increase.

ROSES IN DECEMBER: TED BROWN, THE EARREGULARS GO NORTH, LENA BLOCH (December 2 / December 9 / December 13, 2012)

“Mark it down.”

Rather than spending your energies on Black Friday hysteria, how about some inspired music?

The memorable tenor saxophonist / composer Ted Brown will be celebrating his eighty-fifth birtthday in December . . . in the best possible way, avoiding the sheet cake and M&Ms but choosing instead to give us all thoughtful, sweet-natured lessons on what improvisation is all about.  Two gatherings deserve your attention.

One — on Sunday, December 2, will take place at Michael Kanan’s serene studio in Brooklyn, The Drawing Room, on Willoughby Street.  The musical gathering will also celebrate the release of two new Ted Brown CDs — POUND CAKE, with cornetist Kirk Knuffke, and TWO OF A KIND with reedman Brad Linde.  The gala starts at 7:30 PM; admission is a mere $10, and the location is 70 Willoughby Street, # 2A.  Also appearing will be Matt Wilson, Murray Wall, Taro Okamoto, Sarah Hughes, Michael Kramer, Michael Kanan, and special guests.  Here’s the Facebook event page.

Cornetist Kirk Knuffke is someone new to me — but as you’ll hear, he has a deep lyricism reminiscent of Tony Fruscella.  With pianist Jesse Stacken, he explores Ellington’s SUNSET AND THE MOCKINGBIRD:

Two — On Thursday, December 13, the eloquent trumpeter Bob Arthurs will be hosting a continuation of the party for Ted — with Ted himself — at Somethin’ Jazz Club 212 East 52nd Street, third floor, from 7 to 9 PM.  The Facebook event page is here.  Joining Ted and Bob will be Jon Easton, piano; Joe Solomon, bass; Barbara Merjan, drums.

Here are Ted and Michael Kanan in duet at the Kitano (January 12, 2011) creating a tender, searching PRISONER OF LOVE:

Moving right along, in swing time . . .

For those who find it difficult to be at The Ear Inn on a Sunday night (a problem I have never been troubled by), the EarRegulars are playing a rare off-site gig on Sunday, December 9 — at 2 PM at the Rockland Center for the Arts.  This edition of the EarRegulars will have Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet (the co-founders); Pete Martinez, clarinet; Neal Miner, string bass.  Not to be missed!  Details / reservations as noted above.

Here’s a near-match: the EarRegulars in 2011, playing RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE  joyously — Kellso, Munisteri, Martinez, and bassist Greg Cohen:

On that same Sunday, the coolly intent, always swinging tenorist Lena Bloch will be playing at the Firehouse Space in Brooklyn, with Dan Tepfer, piano; Dave Miller, guitar; Billy Mintz, drums.  The gig starts at 8 PM, and the Space is at 246 Frost Street in Brooklyn, New York: more details here.

Here’s Lena with Dave Miller, Putter Smith, and Billy Mintz from 2012 — appropriately playing Ted Brown’s FEATHER BED:
I would like to be at all four of these gigs and will do my best — but my presence and my video camera (when permitted) can’t fill the room or the tip jar — is that sufficiently subtle? — so I hope friends of the music will join me to celebrate these happy occasions.
May your happiness increase.

“SHE INHABITS HER SONGS”: MARIANNE SOLIVAN’S ONGOING ART

Midway through Marianne Solivan’s first song, the Beloved turned to me and whispered, “She inhabits her songs,” which I immediately took as a truth so self-evident that it deserved to be the title of this blogpost (copyright 2012 Lorna Sass).

We were celebrating at the second set of a jazz brunch at North Square (in the Washington Square Hotel, at the northeast corner of Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, New York City) with the constantly-energizing singer Marianne, guitarist Ethan Mann, and her long-time associate, bassist Dmitry Ishenko.  (For the schedule of jazz brunches, click here.)

In the space of an hour, Marianne Solivan showed herself not only a great improvising actress — a brave musical creature making up deeply moving scripts as she goes along. producing and directing them as the rhythm rolls underneath her — but an elaborately gifted musical architect.  Each song felt like a new room in a previously unvisited house, full of surprising angles and turns, bathed in shifting lights.  Her creations felt absolutely authentic: there was no practiced effect, no planned-out “surprises,” but we felt as if we were hearing and watching someone simultaneously inventing and inhabiting expansive spaces.

Some of the magic came from her choice of repertoire — she makes familiar songs new through daring tempo choices (a racing I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE that shook some of the familiar affectionate dust from those familiar words and notes; a very slow HEART AND SOUL that showed off Loesser’s lyrics for the first time, rescuing that song from generations of amateur pounding duo-pianists).  Some of her magic is in witty shifts of phrase, where expected clusters of words fall in places we don’t expect, elongated or compressed.  In ALL OF NOTHING AT ALL, she took the “Please” that begins the bridge and stretched it out to dramatic length — making it a true heart-entreaty.

The highlights of her set were her reinvention of HEART AND SOUL at a tempo so slow that in other hands it would have come to a stop — making that song a painfully exultant exploration of love found — and a slow inquiry into Bobby Troup’s YOU’RE LOOKING AT ME, in which the singer takes “I’ve been such a fool — I can’t believe it,” to new heights . . . or new depths.

In all of her songs, Marianne was beautifully accompanied (in the most true sense of that word) by Ethan Mann, spinning out slightly lopsided-on-purpose single-note lines, and by bassist Ishenko, a fluid, flexible foundation of rhythm.  It was an astonishing afternoon, but we expect no less from Marianne Solivan, a brave explorer jumping off into the unknown and spreading carpets out for herself and us to land on.

May your happiness increase.

INCANDESCENCE: THE REBECCA KILGORE / JOHN SHERIDAN TRIO at JAZZ at CHAUTAUQUA (September 23, 2012)

It’s the middle of November, and the days are getting shorter.  Darkness comes before dinner, and the sky is a steel-gray when my alarm clock goes off.  Like many other people, I feel this darkness keenly, although I manage to get through it every year.

But two friends of ours — friends of the music, deep masters of its power to exalt without ever speaking in capital letters — offer us the cure for any darkness.  The music they make is bright, even at slow tempos; it illuminates the spirit long after they have left the stage.

Rebecca Kilgore and John Sheridan light the way as they always do . . . here on a quiet Sunday morning at Jazz at Chautauqua near the end of September 2012.

Even though this set began at around 10 AM, Becky and John embarked on the saucy, sly THE FIVE O’CLOCK WHISTLE — is it a tale of increased wartime productivity or a cautionary saga of the dangers of workplace romance?  All I know is that both Duke Ellington and Count Basie tried this one out in 1940.  Wait for Becky;s witty dramatic interpolation near the end:

Yes, ‘T’IS AUTUMN could have had more ambitious lyrics, but the song is a sweetly memorable hymn to the change of seasons:

WITH A SONG IN MY HEART is one of Richard Rodgers’ melodies with operatic yearnings and lyrics by Lorenz Hart without his usual edge.  Becky and John take it at a faster clip — it becomes the song of a deeply romantic wooer who also has things to do and places to get to — but the result still convinces us:

THERE AIN’T NO SWEET MAN (That’s Worth the Salt of My Tears) reminds us of Bix and Tram, Bing and the King of Jazz — an ebullient remembrance of high good times:

GET OUT AND GET UNDER THE MOON is from the same time period, with the lovely conceit that Romance under the night sky is easier than playing cards at home.  More rewarding, surely . . . but easier?  One wonders at such optimism, but it’s worth cherishing such illusions:

HE’S A TRAMP comes from the Peggy Lee score for the movie LADY AND THE TRAMP, and it’s a peerless casual love song:

I LOVE BEING HERE WITH YOU is another Peggy Lee affirmation, as well as the way we feel about John Sheridan and Becky Kilgore, our swing heroes:

We are immensely lucky to be in the light-hearted, generously illuminating company of Rebecca and John.  Long may they shine!ider

P.S.  And if my title poses a logical problem — where’s the trio? —  consider.  A trio here is made up of a singer, a pianist, a swing guitarist.  Anyone have a problem with that?

May your happiness increase,

DO WHAT ORY SAY: “CREOLE TROMBONE: KID ORY AND THE EARLY YEARS OF JAZZ,” by JOHN McCUSKER

It’s always a pleasure to encounter a new jazz book that’s not a rehash of overexposed source materials or burdened by academic ideologies, and John McCusker’s fresh look at the life and music of trombonist / composer / bandleader Edward “Kid” Ory (1886-1973) is just such an engaging book.

In CREOLE TROMBONE, McCusker carefully documents Ory’s roots, his development as an artist, and the scenes in which he lived and workd — not only rural Louisiana and New Orleans, but California in the early years of the twentieth century and Chicago in the Twenties.

We learn a great deal about a variety of subjects — life on a sugar cane plantation, New Orleans band battles and etiquette, early recordings and the music business.  And there are portraits, some of them from an unusual angle or an unexpected perspective, of Joe Oliver, young Louis Armstrong, Mutt Carey, Jelly Roll Morton, Freddie Keppard, Buddy Bolden, and others.

McCusker is praised for his “meticulous research” in three of the back-cover blurbs, and the book does not disappoint here.  Not only does he make use of published work by scholars including David Sager, Henry Kmen, Al Rose, and interviews with the surviving musicians held in the Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University, but he has spoken to Ory’s relatives and drawn liberally on Ory’s unpublished autobiography (made available to him through the generosity of Ory’s daughter Babette).  As usual, there are brief “historical” passages in which the author works to set the scene for those unfamiliar with it, and the expected use of census and baptismal records.

The book offers thirty pages of endnotes, contains twenty photographs of Ory, his family, and the bands — only three of which will be familiar.  CREOLE TROMBONE also reproduces lead sheets from six unpublished Ory songs — the most intriguing being MUSSOLINI CARRIES THE DRUM FOR HITLER and DON’T FORGET THE SANTA FE TRAIN AND BUS.  (Do I hear a CD project, “The Unrecorded Kid Ory,” in the works?)

I came away from the book with an increased awareness of and respect for Ory — not only as independent and ambitious, but someone with a keen eye for making his musical activities pay off.  I was struck by Ory the entrepreneur (circa 1912-13) who not only booked his own dances — arranging for his band to play in a hall he had rented — but because he was worried about competition, paying to rent a hall two blocks away and keep it dark that night.

The most animated parts of the book, of course, are the first-hand recollections of the musicians: a leisurely word-picture of the worst place Ory ever played, Spano’s, that catered to prostitutes and “freakish” men and women; his depiction of life in a Storyville brothel, where a customer who hung his trousers over a chair would find himself wishing he had been more cautious.  McCusker’s research delves into the musical communication between more formal ragtime-dance music and hotter jazz, between Ory and his colleagues and the Original Dixieland Jazz Band.  Ory and Joe Oliver were advertising their band as playing “Jazz” as early as November 1917; in 1922, “Ory’s Sunshine Orchestra” was broadcasting on the radio in California.

McCusker is by profession a photographer and journalist, someone obviously wanting to add to the record and to make it accurate, so that Ory would not be overshadowed, forgotten, or ignored — very good reasons to research and write a book.  McCusker clearly admires Ory but the book is not worshipful.  His writing is lively and the book moves quickly; although he relies greatly on sources, it does not resemble an academic thesis.

Because McCusker sees Ory as a seriously influential figure, I was not surprised to find a great deal of study devoted to the years before Ory made his first recordings in 1922.  Ory’s musical career continued until 1933 or so, then — after a decade of non-musical work) it resumed for nearly two decades.  But CREOLE TROMBONE covers the years from 1943 to Ory’s death in a few quick pages.

Had Ory retreated into an old man’s obscurity, I could understand this, but in that period Ory made more than two-thirds of his recordings, many for major labels (Columbia, Decca, Victor, and the Norman Granz conglomerate) toured Europe several times — and was more popular than ever before.

Since I first encountered Ory’s music in this period — as a member of a 1946 Armstrong group and on two Verve recordings that paired him effectively with Henry “Red” Allen, I find the omission curious, and the book feels to me hurried or deflating.  This could have been an economic decision (a press choosing a manuscript of X words only and its author deciding to concentrate on the less explored early period), but the last pages of this otherwise rewarding book feel truncated.

But here’s my offering to make up for it:

Another view of the authorship of MUSKRAT RAMBLE from Louis himself — twice (thanks to Ricky Riccardi) — here.  Who knew that fried muskrat had such powers?

May your happiness increase.

AN IDEAL NEIGHBOUR: PETE NEIGHBOUR PLAYS “‘DEED I DO”

I would be very happy to have clarinetist Pete Neighbour move in next door — with his pretty tone, fearless swing, neat melodic embellishments, I know I would be entertained all the time.  Here are Pete, Richard Pite, drums; Murray Salmon, string bass; Colin Goode, piano, embarking on ‘DEED I DO in London (October 2012) at Boisdales, Canary Wharf:

Visit / subscribe to Pete’s YouTube channel here.  And for more of his music, or  keep up with him on Facebook here.  Although he was born in London (and he gigs there with his UK pals) he makes his home in Columbia, South Carolina — which means that swing lovers on both sides of the ocean should have ample opportunity to hear him play.  And here you can hear excerpts from (and purchase!) one of his CDs, IT’S ALL RIGHT WITH ME.

‘Deed he does!

May your happiness increase.