The word that comes to mind about Jeff and Joel’s House Party is a Yiddish one that has entered the common language in some places — haimisch — meaning “like home,” “comfortable,” “easy to love.” All of these things apply to the rollicking weekend that Jeff Barnhart and Joel Schiavone have created in Joel and Donna’s beautiful farmhouse in Guilford, Connecticut. I was a happy member of the group last October, and I will be there again for April 20-21, 2013. (They are already veterans at this, having hosted a successful February 2012 party)
Continuing the secular-Hebraic theme, “Why is this jazz gathering different from all jazz gatherings,” the youngest son asks.
Even the most convivial jazz parties or festivals remind the listeners that they are not at home. Most sets are played in large rooms; sometimes there is a raised stage. Yes, the barriers between musicians and fans are less obvious than at, say, Carnegie Hall, but the illusion of welcome-to-my-house is impossible to sustain.
Not so at Jeff and Joel’s House Party, which is what it purports to be. I think it might be exhausting for the musicians, but everyone hangs out in the same place — playing, listening, chatting, laughing, telling stories, snacking . . . for three sessions — a Saturday afternoon fiesta, one at night, and a Sunday afternoon cookout.
The other remarkable difference is that the musicians don’t play “sets,” which is standard practice elsewhere . . . half-hour or forty-five minute gatherings for anywhere from a duo to twelve or more players and singers. At this House Party (again, possibly exhausting for the musicians but never ever dull for anyone) there is a constant changing of the guard, as musicians come and go for each new performance. Variety is the key, and no one yawns.
And without leaving anyone under-praised, I have to say that Jeff and Joel strike a remarkable balance. Jeff — the most serious clown, the deepest philosophical trickster it has been my pleasure to know — is a splendid singer, pianist, bandleader, archivist of lost songs, sixty-second cousin of Thomas Waller you could imagine. In fact, you can’t imagine Jeff. He surpasses anything you could think up. And Joel is making the world safe for sweet / hot banjo playing and group singing. Don’t scoff: SHINE ON, HARVEST MOON softly sung by a roomful of sympathetic adults is worth decades of therapy or cholesterol-lowering drugs. (The results of a study done using IF YOU KNEW SUSIE are inconclusive. I will keep you informed.)
The April 2013 party will have many new faces — in the most gentle sense of that phrase, since many of them are heroic figures and friends to those of us in the tri-state area. Consider this list (aside from Jeff and Joel): Lew Green, Gordon Au; cornet / trumpet; Craig Grant, Paul Midiri, trombone; Noel Kaletsky, Joe Midiri, reeds; Ian Frenkel, piano; Bob Price, banjo; John Gill, banjo / vocal / drums; Brian Nalepka, Frank Tate, string bass; Kevin Dorn, Tom Palinko, drums.
With that group, you just know that things will swing — and there will be interesting side-discussions about James Bond, James Whale, and other pressing philosophical matters.
The October party was an unusual one for me. Usually, these days, I arrive with a camera, a tripod, batteries, a marble-covered notebook, and go away with an elevated sense of well-being, a stiff neck, drained batteries, and a hundred or more videos. Not this time, and for the best reasons. J&J HP already has its own videographer, Eric Devine (his YouTube channel is CineDevine), a very nice fellow and a splendid video professional. Two cameras, no waiting; a good recording system. And the fellow knows how to edit. I must apprentice myself to Mr. Devine someday. But I was free to roam around, to listen, to stand outside (the weather was lovely), to talk to people . . . knowing that Eric was on the job. His videos are super-special, and he’s posted a goodly assortment.
Here are a nifty seven videos from that October weekend . . . to make some of you recall the pleasure of that time; to make others think, “Why did I miss that?”; to make others say, “Have to get there in April.”
Musical evidence, Maestro! The noble players who amused, elated, and delighted us for three sessions in October 2012 were pianist / singer / philosopher Jeff Barnhart, pianist Ross Petot; reed wizards John Clark, Noel Kaletsky; Renaissance man Vince Giordano; trombonist / singer / euphonist Jim Fryer, trombonist Craig Grant; trumpeter / tubaist Paul Monat, trumpeter Fred Vigorito, banjoist / singer Bob Barta, string bassist Genevieve Rose, banjoist / singer Joel Schiavone, drummers Sal Ranniello, C.H. “Pam” Pameijer.
SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE, as they used to do it in old Chicago — with the law firm of Clark and Kaletsky:
DARKNESS ON THE DELTA, featuring Bob Barta:
A serious exploration into romantic cosmology, Thirties-style — WHEN DID YOU LEAVE HEAVEN?:
A heroic STEVEDORE STOMP, romping:
YOUNG AND HEALTHY: a collaboration between Jeff, a somewhat bemused Joel, and yours truly (“our blog guy”) — not yet the Lorenz Hart of the blogosphere:
Jim Fryer shows off his remarkable talents on THE GYPSY:
JAZZ ME BLUES, properly Bix-and-Rollini-ish:
You can read what I wrote about the pleasures of that party here.
Here you can find out more information about the April 20-21, 2013 shindig. You can email here or call Maureen at (203) 208-1481. For those whose day isn’t complete without a soupcon of social networking, the Party has its very own Facebook page. I know I “like” it. Seriously.
And there might even be a few seats left. But “a few” is no stage joke.
May your happiness increase.