Daily Archives: January 10, 2013

“DECIDED,” I WOULD CALL THIS: JONATHAN STOUT, CASEY MacGILL, CHRIS DAWSON, JIM ZEIGLER, ALBERT ALVA, WALLY HERSOM, JOSH COLLAZO in SEATTLE (January 2013)

UNDECIDED — by Charlie Shavers — evokes a certain ambivalence.  “What do you want to call this tune, Charlie?” “UNDECIDED” comes back in a telegram — or so the story goes.  I remember Bobby Hackett, Vic Dickenson, Dave McKenna, Jack Lesberg, and Cliff Leeman playing it in such a manner that you knew there was no dithering at all.

Here’s a more current example: Jonathan Stout and the Campus Five, with guest Casey MacGill on guitar and scat vocal; Jim Ziegler on trumpet; Albert Alva on tenor saxophone; Chris Dawson on piano; Wally Hersom on string bass; Josh Collazo on drums; Jonathan himself on guitars.  It was recorded just a few days ago — January 4, 2013, at Rusty’s Rhythm Club – a weekly swing dance at an Elks Lodge in Playa del Rey, California.  Rusty’s also has live music on the first Fiday of the month: details here.

I like music that knows its own mind.  Even though the video is somewhat informal, it’s a gift to have it.  To see more of Jonathan’s bands, you need only visit here.

May your happiness increase.

AN ELEGANT RECITAL: “PARTNERS IN CRIME” by CHRIS HOPKINS and BERND LHOTZKY

PARTNERS IN CRIME cover

Don’t let the title upset you: there are no victims here.  And the mournful basset hounds are misleading: this isn’t morose music.  It is a two-piano recital by the sterling players Hopkins and Lhotzky.  And it’s almost an hour of absolutely gorgeous music.  What distinguishes this from other discs in the idiom is something rare and irreplaceable.  Taste.

Chris and Bernd are not only astonishing technicians who can scamper all over the keyboard and make joyous noise.  But they are wise artists who know that a rich diet of auditory fireworks soon palls.

(How many people, listening to a gifted player “show off” — a stride pianist play at dazzling speed, a horn player careen around in the upper register — have thought, “That’s really impressive.  Could you stop doing it now — we’re all convinced that you can!”  I know these radical thoughts have entered my mind more than once, and I suspect I am not alone.)

Although they are harmonically sophisticated musicians, Bernd and Chris know that melody and variety are essential.  “Sweet, soft, plenty rhythm,” said Mr. Morton, and he hasn’t been proven wrong.

So this disc doesn’t wallop us with pyrotechnics — there is a James P. piece, JINGLES — but it roams around happily in the land of Medium Tempo with delicacy and precision.  It isn’t Easy Listening or music to snooze by, but no crimes are committed against Beauty here.  What’s more, these players have understood how to plan a concert — even when the imagined audience may be driving or doing the dishes — so there is never too much of any one approach or style.  The disc begins with the Ellington-Strayhorn TONK (which, once again reminds me of Gershwin in Paris and Raymond Scott in his studio), then moves to a lacy reading of Fud Livingston’s IMAGINATION, Arthur Schutt’s GEORGIA JUBILEE, Thornhill’s SNOWFALL, I GOT PLENTY O’NUTTIN’, the aforementioned JINGLES (a masterpiece at a less-than-frenzied tempo but swinging hard), a lovely Hopkins solo rendition of SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME, Bernd’s SALIR A LA LUZ (dedicated to Isabel Lhotzky, the Lion’s SNEAKAWAY as a solo for Bernd, Bernd’s FIVE 4 ELISE (whimsically based on FUR ELISE), Chris’ PARTNERS IN CRIME, DOIN’ THE VOOM VOOM, RUSSIAN LULLABY, I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES (for Mr. Waller), and  Nazareth’s APANHEI-TE CARAQUINHO.

Discerning readers will note the absence of AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ and other songs that have been played many times in the last ninety-plus years, but this disc isn’t devoted to the esoteric for its own sake.  Each of the songs has a strong melodic line: the listener never gets bored, for even the most familiar one here — say, SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME — is handled with great tenderness, elegance, and a spacious intelligence, as if the players already knew what cliches and formulaic turns of phrase were possible, and had discarded them in favor of a loving, deep simplicity.  Even their 5 / 4 version of FUR ELISE is delicately hilarious.

And — as an added bonus — the disc is beautifully recorded in the old-fashioned way: two Steinway pianos and one pair of Sennheiser omni-directional microphones.  It’s music for the ears, the heart, and the mind — and (without meaning any acrimony here) the disc is a quiet rebuke to pianists who pound their way through the same tired repertoire and record producers who make it sound artificial.

It’s a beauty, and it celebrates Beauty.

You can buy the disc here.  Or hear samples of Amazonian mp3s here.  Or the EyeTunes version here.

May your happiness increase.

“IT’S SO GOOD”: HONORING JIMMY McPARTLAND AND FRIENDS at WHITLEY BAY 2012 (ANDY SCHUMM, MICHAEL McQUAID, ALISTAIR ALLAN, NORMAN FIELD, SPATS LANGHAM, KEITH NICHOLS, FRANS SJOSTROM, PHIL RUTHERFORD, RICHARD PITE: October 26, 2012)

If you simply showed me this personnel, as a kind of jazz Rorschach test — Andy Schumm (cornet), Michael McQuaid,  Norman Field (reeds), Alistair Allan (trombone), Keith Nichols (piano), Spats Langham (guitar / banjo), Frans Sjostrom (bass saxophone), Phil Rutherford (brass bass), Richard Pite (drums) — and asked me what I expected, or how I reacted, I would say that HOT JAZZ was coming, abandoned and accurate.

My experience at the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party will show you that my perception is correct.  This band, under Andy’s leadership, assembled on October 26 to honor cornetist Jimmy McPartland and his friends — specifically, the recordings they made under a variety of pseudonyms in the late Twenties and the first two years of the next decade as refugees from Ben Pollack’s large, often sweet orchestra.  Irving Mills’ Merry Makers.  Jimmy Bracken’s Toe Ticklers.  Mills Musical Clowns, Jimmy McHugh’s Bostonians.  And more.

Here is their very hot set — with commentary by Andy and searing playing by everyone.  (My wisdom tooth says YES.)

IT’S TIGHT LIKE THAT:

BLACK BOTTOM:

DIGA DIGA DOO:

BEND DOWN, SISTER

BEND DOWN, SISTER ( a song about physical exercise and diet — lyrics below — in case Andy’s mom is truly worried about what her son is up to):

FUTURISTIC RHYTHM:

MY SWEET TOOTH SAYS ‘I WANNA’ (But My Wisdom Tooth Says No):

SHAKIN’ THE BLUES AWAY:

IT’S SO GOOD (with Andy and Michael switching instruments, expertly):

FRESHMAN HOP:

Red hot Chicago (and New York) visits Newcastle!  For more of the same in autumn 2013, be sure to visit here while there are seats and rooms available.  The 2012 Party sold out early.

“You’ve got to bend down, sister / Bend down, sister / If you want to keep thin / No more messing / With French dressing / Sister, you’ll have to bear it and grin / You can flirt with noodle soup / Sniff but don’t dare give in / Bend down, sister / Bend down, sister / If you want to keep thin.”  Second chorus variations: “Don’t be hasty / With French pastry / If you never should eat at all / You’re a cinch to win.”

May your happiness increase.