Monthly Archives: January 2013

THE MUSIC of GRAEME BELL / HUMPHREY LYTTELTON at the WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (Oct. 27, 2012): MICHAEL McQUAID’S BIG TEN

One of the many pleasures of the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party has been its generous presentation of “new” “old” music — the recordings and repertoire we know about but may not have by heart.  One delicious example is the music made by Graeme Bell — often in collaboration with Humphrey Lyttelton.  It pulls off the neat trick of sounding original and familiar at once — far from the usual “originals” that are thinly disguised versions of chord changes and motifs we all know by heart.

The very articulate Michael McQuaid, who knew Graeme, was the ideal person to lead this set, and the music was consistently rewarding.

And with this band, that is no surprise: Duke Heitger, Bent Persson, trumpets; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Michael McQuaid, Stephane Gillot, Thomas Winteler, reeds; Martin Seck, piano; Henri Lemaire, banjo / guitar; Malcolm Sked, brass bass / string bass (off-camera but indispensable); Nick Ward, drums.

Michael — clearly at home in front of an audience, for many reasons, introduces each number better — with facts and wit — than I ever could:

CZECHOSLOVAK JOURNEY:

TAKE A NOTE FROM THE SOUTH:

OPEN HOUSE:

SMALL HOUR FANTASY:

MIDNIGHT CREEP:

SWEET MUSCATEL:

NULLARBOR:

HOPPIN’ MAD (a kind of Luis Russell Down Under extravaganza, no?):

May your happiness increase.

“EVERY NICKEL HELPS A LOT”

If you’ve been reading the dolorous saga of the Red Knapsack, you know that I have come to a decision.

Against the advice of my invisible accountant and my nonexistent financial staff, I have ordered another (identical) camera, batteries, tripod . . . the minimum.

Frankly, I have become so attached to the idea of video-recording the best music for JAZZ LIVES and for posterity that if I thought I couldn’t do it, I would be seriously depressed.

More than a dozen of my pals have suggested that I should start a Kickstarter program to raise money; I should solicit contributions.  “If there’s anything I can do, please let me know,” a number of dear people have written.

I am so uncomfortable asking people for money that it is nearly a phobia.  It may be that I am truly aware that I am a member of a privileged class, and that millions of people across the world would consider my privations to be an indescribable luxury.  How many people, after all, don’t have computers, cameras, blogs — you can finish the list.  A video camera is a serious luxury to people who aren’t warm or well-fed or well-housed.

But enough people have asked me to set something up, so I have.  It is a PayPal account, and I’ve seen that it works.

Now — in deep seriousness and sincerity — I am not counting friendship and love in dollars.  I will love you no less if you can offer nothing.  But I can promise you gratitude for anything you can do, comfortably.

So here it is.  And I will say no more about this subject.  Except THANKS TO EVERY ONE OF YOU.

Extra credit if you can identify the source of the title, too.

Here’s an appropriate soundtrack, I think — Henderson’s jaunty 1925 MONEY BLUES — with help from Louis, Joe Smith, and Hawkins:

TO MAKE A DONATION, PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW!

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=VBURVAWDMWQAS

And my readers and listeners and emailers have already increased my happiness a millionfold, so it is natural to write

May your happiness increase.

ANDY BROWN ADDS BEAUTY

What is the task of the Artist?  One answer is Joseph Conrad’s: “I want to make you see,” which to me means a clarity of perception, a heightened awareness of patterns and details never before observed.  I applaud that, but my parallel idea may strike some as more sentimental: that the Artist’s job / chosen path is to make the world more beautiful, to bring beauty where there was none a moment before.

In these two quests, guitarist Andy Brown succeeds wonderfully.  When he is playing the most familiar melody, we hear it in ways we had never thought of before — not by his abstracting or fracturing it, but because of his affection for its wide possibilities.  And we go away from a note, a chord, a chorus, a whole performance, feeling that Andy has improved our world.

Andy Brown CD cover

He is obviously “not just another jazz guitarist” in a world full of men and women with cases, picks, extra strings, and amplifiers.  For one thing, he is devoted to Melody — understated but memorable.  He likes to recognize the tune and makes sure that we can, also.

This doesn’t mean he is unadventurous, turning out chorus after chorus of sweet cotton for our ears.  No.  But he works from within, and is not afraid to apply old-fashioned loving techniques.  A beautiful sound on the instrument.  Space between well-chosen notes and chords.  An approach that caresses rather than overwhelms.  Swing.  A careful approach to constructing a performance.  Wit without jokiness.  Medium tempos and sweet songs.

His TRIO AND SOLO CD — pictured above — offers a great deal of variety: a groovy blues, a Johnny Hodges original, Latin classics, a George Van Eps original, some Thirties songs that haven’t gotten dated, a nod to Nat Cole, and more.  Although many of the songs chosen here are in some way “familiar,” this isn’t a CD of GUITAR’S GREATEST HITS, or the most popular songs requested at weddings.  Heavens, not at all.  But Andy makes these songs flow and shine — in the most fetching ways — with logical, heartfelt playing that so beautifully mixes sound and silence, single-string passages and ringing chords.

In the trio set, he is wonderfully accompanied by bassist John Vinsel and drummer Mike Schlick — and I mean “accompanied” in the most loving sense, as if Andy, John, and Mike were strolling down a country lane, happily unified.  The CD is great music throughout.  You’ll hear echoes of great players — I thought of Farlow, Van Eps, Kessel, Ellis, and others — but all of the influences come together into Andy Brown, recognizable and singular.

And he’s also one of those players who is remarkably mature although he is years from Social Security.  We hops he will add beauty to our world for decades to come.  To hear more from this CD — rather generous musical excerpts — click here.  To see Andy in videos, try this.

May your happiness increase.

MR. LANGHAM CELEBRATES MR. BOWLLY at WHITLEY BAY: ENRICO TOMASSO, JENS LINDGREN, NORMAN FIELD, EMMA FISK, MARTIN LITTON, MANU HAGMANN, RICHARD PITE (Oct. 27, 2012)

Al Bowlly was a memorable singer and guitarist.  Thomas “Spats” Langham is a memorable singer and guitarist.  Does anyone see a pattern here?

The musical connections were warmly evident at the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, when Spats took to the little bandstand to celebrate Al — with the best friendly assistance from Enrico Tomasso, trumpet; Jens Lindgren, trombone; Norman Field, reeds; Emma Fisk, violin; Martin Litton, piano; Manu Hagmann, string bass; Richard Pite, drums.

Spats crooned sweetly, earnestly, and with lovely humor — and the band rocked or serenaded around him.  On the first tune (and others) I thought, “My goodness, this is how Al Bowlly might have sounded if he had ended up in the (U.S.) Brunswick Records studios in 1936 with a Teddy Wilson small band,” and the combination was inspiring.

GOT A DATE WITH AN ANGEL:

THE OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN:

THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (oh, so sweet):

MY SWEET VIRGINIA:

BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME? (Readers, I apologize for the missing eight bars at the end.  It is possible that unintentionally shut the camera off because I was trying too hard to hold back tears, and I am serious):

One other selection, performed beautifully, GUILTY, will show up in another form.  Immensely touching music.

I write this post with my father in mind.  Born in 1915, this was his music — and I learned the lyrics to BROTHER from him, very early.  He would have admired Spats very much.

May your happiness increase.

HANDS-FREE IN JAZZLAND (Jan. 27, 2013)

Yesterday, Sunday, January 27, was my first venture back into live jazz — since I lost my video equipment (a saga chronicled elsewhere on this blog) — and I was mildly worried.  About me, I mean.

How would it be to come back to my this very familiar situation without a camera in my hands?  (Someone at the first gig who knows me well asked me how I was feeling, and I said — without thinking — “denuded,” a telling choice of words.)

But I managed to keep my composure and enjoy myself, not thinking too much that the music was vanishing into the ether without passing through me, JAZZ LIVES, and cyberspace to you.

The first session — held at the  Music Conservatory of Westchester — was very sweet and to the point, a celebration by trumpeter Bob Arthurs and guitarist Steve LaMattina of their new CD, JAZZ FOR SVETLANA (also chronicled on this blog).

Bob and Steve kept up a glorious yet understated musical conversation, switching roles — when Steve soloed, Bob gave him plenty of space for a few choruses, and then would begin to play encouraging backgrounds and riffs, his hand half over the bell of his trumpet.  At times I thought I was listening to some version of the Basie band distilled down to its essences.  They began with a medium-tempo BLUES FOR LONNIE, a trotting I THOUGHT ABOUT YOU (on which Bob sang in his husky unaffected way), I REMEMBER YOU (fast), and HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN (introspective).  Then Svetlana Gorokhovich and Irena Portenko took the stage — at two pianos! — to perform a tribute to the late Dave Brubeck, POINTS ON JAZZ, which began in plain-spoken elegiac simplicity and escalated in intensity before settling back down again.  Bob and Steve returned for NIGHT IN TUNISIA, a “nostalgic,” slow reading of BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA, with Bob’s vocal, and what was for me the highlight of the session — a beautiful one-chorus reading of Jackie Gleason’s MELANCHOLY SERENADE.  Quite a lot of music packed into a small space!

The second gig was a return to old beloved haunts — The Ear Inn — to hear Jon-Erik Kellso, John Allred, Howard Alden, and Pat O’Leary — this week’s version of The EarRegulars — swing out.  They began with a fast SUNDAY, then moved forwards in time for an even more vigorous FROM MONDAY ON, and secretly kept the theme going with a much more leisurely THE MAN I LOVE, which refers to Tuesday in the lyrics, a deep inside joke.  Two classics of the ER repertoire concluded the set — WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM and a key-changing HINDUSTAN.  The four EarRegulars are great conversationalists — chatty fellows, you know — so the two horns kept exchanging comments (“passing notes,” if you will) on each other’s playing — with Allred providing the punchline or topper to a Kellso musical witticism.  Alden and O’Leary kept up a sweet flow of rhythm that reminded me so much of the Braff-Barnes Quartet of 1974 with noble forbears Michael Moore and Wayne Wright floating the planet.

It helped me a good deal that I was among friends — Will and Pete Anderson, Emily Asher, Dan Block, Mike Gilroy, Michael Waterhouse, the talented J.P., and others . . . and many of them sweetly tendered heartfelt camera-condolences, which mean a lot.  My pal Nan said, “You know, you’re much more fun without a video camera,” which I took as a compliment — I was at play more than at work, and it was a pleasure to be able to applaud freely — but I pointed out that I felt somewhat rudderless without the ability to make sure these good sounds were captured for posterity.

All of this once again posed the philosophical question, “If a band is swinging like mad or playing melodies sweetly and Michael is not recording it with a videocamera, does the music still enthrall and elate?”  You know the answer to that one.

May your happiness increase.

“ON WITH THE DANCE” (Part Two): CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND at the WEDNESDAY NIGHT HOP in MOUNTAIN VIEW (Jan. 3, 2013)

Here is the second part of an extraordinary evening — a swing dance with hot music provided by Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band, with beautiful playing from Clint (trumpet / vocal); Jim Klippert (trombone, vocal); Bill Carter (clarinet); Jason Vanderford (guitar, vocal); Bill Reinhart (banjo), Sam Rocha (string bass), J Hansen (drums).  I had a wonderful time.  Although you can’t see them, the dancers were explosively happy — and I think these video performances will rock and shout their way through the smallest computer monitor, the most tiny speakers.  Or your money back.  The first part of this hot bacchanal can be found here.

Is it too whimsical — in this age of physical aloneness and cyber-community –to suggest that these video performances are a good reason to invite the neighbors over for a party, push the furniture aside, and encourage everyone to dance like mad in the living room?  It’s just a thought.

ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:

OLE MISS:

COQUETTE:

BUGLE BOY MARCH:

ST. LOUIS BLUES:

WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE?:

JOE LOUIS STOMP:

THE BUCKET’S GOT A HOLE IN IT / JOE AVERY’S PIECE:

Californians are so lucky — not only for grapefruit trees and Meyer lemon trees, delicious local kale, and Amoeba Music — but they can go to a Wednesday Night Hop more often than I can.  I went to one where Clint’s band (with almost the same personnel) rocked the room — in 2012, and it was memorable indeed.  Part One and Part Two.

Here you can find out information about future Wednesday Night Hops.  (Thank you, Audrey Kanemoto!)

This post is dedicated to thoughtful Julius Yang, with thanks.

AND.

The universe doesn’t always have a sense of humor, and our best-laid plans oft gang agley.  But I am delighted to be able to wish Mister C.T. Baker a happy birthday, because this posting will appear on January 27.  He deserves our love and commendation — not just for the Mountain View gig, I assure you.

May your happiness increase.

THE SEQUEL TO “LOST. AND FOUND?”

In case you haven’t followed this short story, here is the first installment.  A week has passed (minus a few hours) and no sign of the Red Knapsack.  It hasn’t called or sent a card, and I am assuming that it was destroyed or its contents have gone into other hands.

But those expecting a tirade on human wickedness will be disappointed.

In the post I wrote after my loss, I asked for people to send out positive energy. And wonderful things happened: some fifty people, in comments and emails, sent the most heartening expressions of love, enthusiasm, and compassion. Immediately after posting, I began to get verbal hugs from people (as far away as Australia) I’d never heard from before.  Love in all shapes and sizes came to me.

It would have been very easy to write an angry / mournful one-week-later post about how bad I feel.  And the loss makes me very unhappy.  (I have been good about putting the Second Arrow in the closet where no one can get hurt.  I’d give myself an A-.)

But I have received so much love, empathy, and good feeling that I am delighted by it.

I am in the process of replacing the equipment, which is costly.  But that act — of purchasing THINGS — is easier than finding people who love you and what you do.  I send love back to each of you, and gratitude larger than WordPress could contain.

Love in itself can’t shoot a video or upload it to YouTube.  But without that love, there would be no reason to have a camera or get on a plane to hear some music.

And the phone still might ring, even though the young-but-world-weary policeman who came to my apartment looked politely at me as if he thought I had lost track of my senses when I expressed hope.  But one never knows, do one?

And while I’m at it — although some of you might find my optimism excessive, which is your choice — I will celebrate a few other things.

In about a month, this blog will be five years old.  I won’t post about it with a picture of a cupcake, but you can tell how happy JAZZ LIVES makes me, and the joy I get from sharing beauty with you all.

A week later, I get to cheerily say, “I’ve been alive for another three years after falling down in 2010!”

And a few months later, I can look at the Beloved and say, “You know, six years ago we had lunch for the first time at a little Japanese restaurant that no longer exists?”

All good things.  Better to smile, inside and outside, than to weep and gnash.

May your happiness increase.