Monthly Archives: February 2013

HOMAGE TO WILD BILL: “THE WILD BILL DAVISON CENTENNIAL CONCERT” (LEON OAKLEY, DAN BARRETT, RICHARD HADLOCK, RAY SKJELBRED, KATIE CAVERA, CLINT BAKER, J. HANSEN, BOB MIELKE: January 8, 2006)

Paying tribute to such a strongly idiosyncratic musical personality as cornetist Wild Bill Davison could be a doomed endeavor, if the cornet player in charge attempts to honor Bill by reproducing his repertoire of short phrases, growls, vocalized blurts and sotto-voce murmurs. My reaction to such things has been to turn back to Bill’s recorded legacy.  The copies are the aural equivalent of Al Hirschfeld drawings: ingenious but verging on affectionate caricature.

WILD BILL CENTENNIAL CONCERT

A band of wise players assembled in Berkeley, California, at the Freight and Salvage in early 2006 to celebrate Bill’s centennial.  The results, issued on a Jazzology CD, are a model of what energetic creative tribute should be.

The participants are Leon Oakley, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Bob Mielke, trombone guest star; Richard Hadlock, reeds and master of ceremonies (offering commentary between each selection); Ray Skjelbred, piano; Katie Cavera, guitar; Clint Baker, string bass; J. Hansen, drums.  The CD begins with an excerpt from a recording made in Britain — Bill singing a bit of IS IT TRUE WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT DIXIE? in a light, sincere, swinging voice — and it concludes with Bill, ending a set.  So the presence of the great man is immediately evident.  In between, the band plays the hot ones — THAT’S A PLENTY, COLLIER’S CLAMBAKE, I NEVER KNEW and I NEVER KNEW I COULD LOVE ANYBODY, a strong-minded BLUES FOR WILD BILL, BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GAVE TO ME.

But the sweet melodic side of Wild Bill gets equal time, with MEMORIES OF YOU, WHEN YOUR LOVER HAS GONE (very successfully evoking a 1944 Condon date for Decca where Bill wasn’t present but Billy Butterfield and Bobby Hackett were), MANDY, I’M CONFESSIN’, SAVE IT PRETTY MAMA, and a particularly moving version of BLACK BUTTERFLY on which we hear Barrett and Mielke in tandem.

The band is superb, because each one of them knows the style deeply but is committed to improvising within it.  Leon Oakley has said he was deeply influenced by Wild Bill, and occasionally he dips into the Davison grab-bag of singular effects, but for the most part he simply, eloquently plays hot cornet — in a way that would fit in at The Ear Inn in 2013 or Condon’s in 1956.  Barrett, Hadlock, and Mielke all sound like themselves (Hadlock in a particularly forceful mood) but they are all obviously overjoyed to be playing with the ideal rhythm sections, with the ghosts of Stacy, Sullivan, Condon, Walter Page, Wettling and Drootin making ectoplasmic appearances.

It may be heretical to say so, but I gave up collecting Wild Bill records because each one sounded precisely like the last (he had created his own master solos and delivered them — perfectly or slightly imperfectly) but I have not tired of this disc.  I’ve already played it several times and found new reasons to cheer each time.  (Excellent recorded sound, too.)

May your happiness increase. 

DESTINY, “SWEET WATER,” and ALTERNATE JAZZ UNIVERSES

Louis Joe

In an alternate universe, King Oliver brushed his teeth three times a day, ate salads and drank soda water, thus changing the course of the twentieth century.

I have been reading and transcribing oral histories published in CADENCE for a book I am editing.  I am deep into the conversation Louis Armstrong had with the young editor Bob Rusch at Louis’ home in Corona, Queens — February 7, 1969.  Louis happily talks about being mentored (and parented) by Papa Joe — but also that Stella Oliver would make meals for the three of them:

Any of the moments with King Oliver were always choice with me. When I first came from New Orleans to Chicago to play in King Oliver’s band, I used to have my meals with King Oliver and his wife. Whatever she cooked for him, she cooked for me. I enjoyed that, she’d fix mine the same, big pot of rice and beans. A big old tin can, like a peach can, full of water he put about a half pound of sugar in it. That’s what he called “sweet water.” That’s what he liked and I’d have sweet water, too. Every moment was choice with Joe Oliver.

When Joe Oliver went north to Chicago, and asked Little Louis to join him, the King was already in his fifties; his teeth and gums were already deteriorating: regular dental care was for the affluent.  “Pyorrhea” is the ominous name for the disease that meant the end of his reign as King.

But we can trace these events back to the genetic predisposition for all things sweet that Joe allowed to dominate his diet.  Had Oliver tended towards other dietary weaknesses; had he (like Bunk Johnson) a better dentist to make him more effective dentures . . . would he have asked Louis to come up to Chicago and play second cornet?  Louis, for his part, recognized this as the opportunity of a lifetime — and it started him on his path to worldwide fame.  Only later did he recognize that Joe Oliver’s motives were not entirely selfless; the King told other musicians that as long as he had Little Louis in his band “he can’t hurt me,” by outshining him on his own.  But what if Joe’s self-protectiveness turned out to be generosity to the world?

But young Louis seems to have been deeply grateful and perhaps a little complacent (“All I want to do is blow the horn,” he said more than once during his career).  Might he have stayed in New Orleans forever — recording in 1925 or 1927, then again twenty years later — a local legend without the global reputation?

The little things that shape our paths in life!  When you consider how you got to be where you are (however you define “where”) ask yourself: how much of it is intent, how much accident — good or bad — or things that seemed irrelevant at the time?

And here’s the soundtrack for those ruminations — courtesy of Louis, Barney Bigard, and Vic Dickenson in 1946:

May your happiness increase.

IT’S THE “Y” THAT MAKES IT

We tend to believe that artists perform only the repertoire we know from studio recordings — and when we find out otherwise, it is always a pleasant shock.  Thus, the concert program that shows Louis in Europe with HOW AM I TO KNOW? as one of his songs; the airshot from the Famous Door (1938) with the Basie band beginning — unfortunately not completing — a riotous EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY . . . and more.  One never knows if the “featured by” on Thirties and Forties sheet music means that the artist pictured on the cover actually performed the song.  I doubt that Bobby Hackett often played LITTLE SKIPPER or TINKLE TIME, but anything is possible.

Here are Connie, Vet, and Martha — pictured on the cover of a song by Bud Green and Sam H. Stept . . .

SWINGY LITTLE THINGY

Although the Sisters look quite serious — a Greek statue? — the song is a light-hearted Thirties trifle.  Perhaps, deep in the Boswell family archives, there are airshots of this?  We can hope.  Here is a 1933 recording of the song — music by Joe Robichaux, vocal by Chick Bullock — so we can imagine what the Sisters would have done with it:

May your happiness increase.

“DOUCE AMBIANCE”: DJANGOLOGIE (EMMA FISK, JAMES BIRKETT, GILES STRONG, MICHAEL SHOULDER)

This tidy Gypsy jazz quartet evokes the easy flowing lyricism of the original performances by Django and Stephane.  Hear for yourself: the melodies unfold in leisurely ways, and everything is sweetly in balance.

The UK group is called DJANGOLOGIE, but they don’t restrict themselves to the QHCF repertoire.  Emma Fisk, who made such an impression on us in a variety of musical contexts at the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, is on violin; James Birkett takes the first guitar solo; Giles Strong the second; Michael Shoulder is on bass:

Here’s the band’s Facebook page and here you can check out their CD.  Sweet ambiance indeed!

May your happiness increase.

PETER VACHER’S SUBTLE MAGIC: “MIXED MESSAGES:

The best interviewers perform feats of invisibility.  Yes, they introduce the subject, give some needed context or description, and then fade away – – – so that we believe that X or Y is speaking directly to us.  This takes a great deal of subtlety and energy . . . but the result is compelling.  Whitney Balliett did it all the time; other well-regarded interviewers couldn’t.  Peter Vacher, who has written for JAZZ JOURNAL and CODA, among other publications, has come out with a new book, and it’s sly, delightful, and hugely informative.

Vacher

MIXED MESSAGES: AMERICAN JAZZ STORIES is a lively collection of first-hand recollections from those essential players whose names we don’t always know but who make the stars look and sound so good.  The title is slightly deceptive: we are accustomed to interpreting “mixed messages” as a combination of good and bad, difficult to interpret plainly.  But I think this is Vacher’s own quizzical way of evaluating the material he so lovingly presents: here are heroic creators whose work gets covered over — fraternal subversives, much like Vacher himself.  One might think, given the cover (Davern, Houston Person, and Warren Vache) that this is a book in which race features prominently (it does, when appropriate) and the mixing of jazz “schools” is a subject (less so, since the players are maturely past such divisive distinctions).

Because Vacher has opted to speak with the sidemen/women — in most cases — who are waiting in the lobby for the band bus, or having breakfast by themselves — his subjects have responded with enthusiasm and gratitude.  They aren’t retelling the same dozen stories that they’ve refined into an automatic formula; they seem delighted to have an attentive, knowledgeable listener who is paying them the compliment of avidly acknowledging their existence and talent.  The twenty-one musicians profiled by Vacher show his broad-ranging feeling for the music: Louis Nelson, Norman ‘Dewey’ Keenan, Gerald Wilson, Fip Ricard, Ruby Braff, George ‘Buster’ Cooper, Bill Berry, Benny Powell, Plas Johnson Jr, Carl ‘Ace’ Carter, Herman Riley, Lanny Morgan, Ellis Marsalis, Houston Person Jr, Tom Artin, John Eckert, Rufus Reid, John Stubblefield, Judy Carmichael, Tardo Hammer, Byron Stripling.  New Orleanians, beboppers, late-Swing players, modern Mainstreamers, lead trumpeters and a stride pianist, and people even the most devoted jazz fancier probably has not heard of except as a name in a liner note or a discography.  Basie, Ellington, and Charlie Barnet make appearances here; so do Johnny Hodges, Jimmie Lunceford, Al Grey, Charlie Shavers, Bobby Hackett, Jimmy Smith, Sonny Red, Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Hampton, Jimmy Knepper, Lee Konitz, Ornette Coleman, Papa Celestin, Don Byas, Dexter Gordon, J. J. Johnson, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, the AACM, Freddie Green, John Hammond, Roy Eldridge, Dick Wellstood, Duke Jordan, Sal Mosca, Junior Cook, Bill Hardman, Art Farmer, Mary Lou Williams.

But the strength and validity of this book is not to be measured by the number of names it includes, but in the stories.  (Vacher’s subjects are unusually candid without being rancorous, and a number of them — Braff, Berry, Stripling — take time to point out how the elders of the tribe were unusually kind and generous mentors.)  Here are a few excerpts — vibrant and salty.

Benny Powell on working with Lionel Hampton:

He was a pretty self-centered guy.  Kinda selfish.  When something wasn’t right or he wanted to admonish somebody in the band, he would have a meeting just before the show.  He’d get us all on stage and tell us how unworthy we were.  He’d say, “People come to see me.  I can get out on stage and urinate on stage and people will applaud that.”  He would go on and on like this, and when he was finished, he’d say, “All right, gentlemen, let’s have a good show.”  I’d say to myself, “Good show!  I feel like crying.”

Pianist Carl “Ace” Carter:

. . . the drummer . . . . was Ernie Stephenson, they used to call him Mix.  He said, “Why don’t you turn to music?  You can get more girls.”  He’s passed on now but I said if I ever see him in heaven I’m gonna kill him because to this day I haven’t got a girl.” 

Trumpeter John Eckert:

I didn’t appreciate Louis Armstrong until I played a concert with Maynard Ferguson’s band, when I was. maybe, 26 years old [circa 1965].  A lot of big acts were there, including Maynard, Dave Brubeck with Paul Desmond, and three or four other modern groups.  Louis ended the concert.  I’d always seen him as this old guy, with the big smile, saying negative things about bebop, but I was just thunderstruck at how he sounded.  I couldn’t believe how powerful he was, his timing, just the authority he played with — his group wasn’t really that impressive — but he was the king.

To purchase this very satisfying book, click here.

May your happiness increase.

REBECCA and HARRY ARE COMING TO NEW YORK (March 6-10, 2013)

Becky_Kilgore

This is indeed good news.  Ms. Kilgore is not seen on the East Coast as often as we would prefer, and she will be appearing — and singing — with some favored musical friends: Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Ehud Asherie, piano; Joel Forbes, string bass; Kevin Kanner, drums . . . in a show at New York City’s Metropolitan Room.  Click I LIKE MEN for details.

I have been sworn to secrecy about the song list — to give it here would be like telling what happens during Season Four of Downton Abbey — but I can offer these hints.  Songs associated with James Bond, Peggy Lee, and Billie Holiday will be part of the bill of fare.  Harold Arlen, Leo Robin, Truman Capote, Eubie Blake, Frank Loesser, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Hoagy Carmichael, and the Gershwin brothers will drop by.

Familiar songs (the ones where the audience goes “Aaaaaaahhhhh,” as Rebecca slides from verse to chorus) and delightfully obscure ones will be treated appropriately.  And those of us wise and fortunate enough to have experienced a Kilgore-Allen evening know that it unfolds beautifully with its own shape — a small fulfilling concert rather than a bunch of songs that everyone likes at the moment.

March 6-7-8-9-10 at 9:30 PM.  The Metropolitan Room is at 34 West 22nd Street, New York 10010 (MetropolitanRoom or 212.206.0440 for reservations.  Tickets $30.)  Don’t miss it: you don’t want to be thinking about THE EVENING THAT GOT AWAY on March 11.

May your happiness increase.

“OLD-FASHIONED LOVE”: CHLOE FEORANZO, STEPHANIE TRICK, JOHN REYNOLDS, KATIE CAVERA at SAN DIEGO (Nov. 23, 2012)

Gender-neutral, cross-generational, child-friendly, organic, locally sourced, gluten-free, and hot: Chloe Feoranzo (clarinet); Stephanie Trick (piano); Katie Cavera (string bass); John Reynolds (guitar).  Recorded on November 23, 2012, at the San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Fest. . . !

OLD-FASHIONED LOVE:

CHINA BOY:

That’s the recent past.  How about a hint of what is expected for Thanksgiving 2013 in San Diego?  Here’s something to consider . . . with eagerness and old-fashioned love — the most recent list of artists invited to perform there:

If you are averse to clicking, I can tell you that I see Stephanie Trick and Paolo Alderighi, the Reynolds Brothers, Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs, Bob Schulz, High Sierra, Dave Bennett, Carl Sonny Leyland, Chloe Feoranzo,  Bob Draga, Glenn Crytzer, Grand Dominion, Jason Wanner . . . . and I know more swinging surprises are in store.

May your happiness increase.

WE RETURN TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING (February 24, 2013)

Yesterday, your grateful / intrepid videographer took his new knapsack, camera, tripod, and microphone to a live jazz event, set up, and recorded. . . . after a month’s hiatus in the schedule.

The event was the Sunday afternoon gig of Mal Sharpe and the Big Money in Jazz Band — that entertaining group no longer at the No Name Bar in Sausalito, but now taking up a serious weekend residence (Saturday and Sunday, 3-6 PM) at the Savoy Tivoli in North Beach, 1434 Grant Avenue, San Francisco, California.

Mal’s colleagues were Leon Oakley, cornet; Jeff Sanford, reeds; Si Perkoff, keyboard; Paul Smith, string bass; Carmen Cansino, drums; guest Waldo Carter, trumpet on JOE LOUIS STOMP.

I chose two selections from the afternoon’s performances not only because they felt so fulfilling, but also because I had not captured either song on video for JAZZ LIVES.  The first, a mixture of wistfulness and comedy (that’s the Mal Sharpe way!) is the song Billie Holiday and Lester Young made immortal in 1937 — FOOLIN’ MYSELF:

And the second, a walloping tribute to the Brown Bomber, Joe Louis (with a side-glance at Bill Coleman, having a good time in Paris) is JOE LOUIS STOMP:

I’m ready! — for the Jazz Bash by the Bay / Dixieland Monterey 2013 . . .  Hope to see you there.

May your happiness increase.

“IT’S WONDERFUL”: TIM LAUGHLIN – CONNIE JONES at SAN DIEGO (Nov. 24, 2012)

Imagine a small jazz band — “flexible, wasteless,” as Whitney Balliett said of an ideal group: three horns, four rhythm: trumpet, trombone, clarinet, piano, acoustic rhythm guitar, acoustic string bass, drums.   Now imagine that this group easily brought a modern lyricism — singing melodies, inspired counterpoint in the ensembles, and a lightly swinging rhythm, combining (let us say) the 1938 Teddy Wilson small groups, the Basie rhythm section, Condon in the Fifties, New Orleans seasonings — echoes of Hackett, Fazola, Jo Jones, and more.

An impossible fantasy?  No, it exists — I saw this band at the much-missed Sweet and Hot Music Festival in 2011, and in San Diego both in 2012 and 2013.  Is the suspense too much?  It’s clarinetist Tim Laughlin’s band, with cornetist Connie Jones, trombonist Mike Pittsley, pianist Chris Dawson, string bassist Marty Eggers, guitarist Katie Cavera, and drummer Hal Smith.  And although I have too many “favorites” to place one group at the apex of my listening experiences, this band shines.  See and hear for yourself.

I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME:

KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW:

WANG WANG BLUES:

IT’S WONDERFUL:

PUTTIN’ ON THE RITZ (for that wonderful rhythm section):

AS LONG AS I LIVE:

Mike Pittsley’s solo turn on STARS FELL ON ALABAMA:

JAZZ ME BLUES:

Midway through their first set at the San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival, while I was taking notes on what I was recording, I wrote the word FLOATING on the top of the page.  I still think it’s an apt title for all the music this band created over the three days of the festival (eight sets) but IT’S WONDERFUL is completely apt for them, too — the comfortable feeling of warm elation one gets from hearing the Vic Dickenson Showcase, or Jazz Ultimate with Bobby Hackett and Jack Teagarden, or perhaps a Basie small group . . . you can name your own ideals.  For now, I’m just going to think it an immense blessing that this group could be assembled and that I could be in the same place to record it . . . for myself, for all of you.

May your happiness increase.

EVERY KIND OF CURIOSITY ONE COULD IMAGINE

envelope

And the award for BEST SEARCH ENGINE TERM of February 2013 goes to . . . .the envelope, please . . . .

fats waller , hew york, meatballs, ralph sutton

Make up your own story — a late-night Italian feast in “hew york,” by Mr. Waller, later recreated by Mr. Sutton?

And the award for LEAST ATTRACTIVE PRURIENT INTEREST IN THE DEAD for February 2013 goes to . . . . the envelope, please . . . .

billie holiday naked pictures

Perhaps a long period of recovery in the fresh air might be prescribed for that writer?  (For myself, I would like all the people who are fascinated by “Billie Holiday” — and the quotation marks are accurate — to listen to her recordings.  Nothing else.)

May your happiness increase.

“I MUST HAVE IT”: YERBA BUENA STOMPERS at SAN DIEGO (Nov. 22, 2012)

The title phrase doesn’t refer to an illegal addiction, or the unquenchable desire for just one more cracker or chip.  It’s a King Oliver tune from his Victor period (1929-30) but here it sums up the fierce loyalties we feel about the Yerba Buena Stompers, captured on video one more time at the 2012 San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival, or (now) the San Diego Jazz Fest.  They are Leon Oakley and Duke Heitger, trumpet; Tom Bartlett, trombone; Orange Kellin, clarinet; Conal Fowkes, piano; John Gill, banjo; Clint Baker, tuba; Kevin Dorn, drums.

I MUST HAVE IT:

John Gill explains the cultural history behind BIG CHIEF BATTLE AXE:

The reference in the title TOO TIGHT isn’t to a constricting piece of clothing, but to a Johnny Dodds record from the old days in Chicago — when the phrase was a term of deep approval:

My lantsman, Jelly Roll Morton’s classic, WOLVERINE BLUES.  (To find out why Jelly and I are distant kin, read this):

Marty Bloom’s MELANCHOLY:

RHYTHM CLUB STOMP, another Oliver recording, poses a linguistic mystery.  The subtitle (or original title in the Victor archives) was CURWISHIP GLIDE.  What, or whom, or where . . . was [a] CURWISHIP?  Inquiring minds want to know:

JUST A GIGOLO is Duke and the band’s tribute to Mister Strong.  We know handsome Duke is no gigolo, though:

May your happiness increase.

ROBERTA AND BILLY GO EXPLORING: “SIDES, COLORS”: ROBERTA PIKET / BILLY MINTZ

Anyone who’s ever been in the same room with pianist / singer / composer Roberta Piket and drummer / percussionist / composer Billy Mintz would sense the deep emotional connection between them — a good thing, since they are married, quite happily.  But the connection is also musical.  I’ve seen it in performances in the last two years, and their 2011 CD, SIDES, COLORS, is deep proof of how well-suited they are for each other, and for us.

robertapiket

Wisely, this CD is structured as a traditional vinyl record was — two sides with six songs apiece.  And although the listener doesn’t have to get up and flip the disc, the sense of two complementary musical worlds is strong.

The disc begins sweetly and serenely with Roberta gently presenting the melody of Bill Evans’ LAURIE for us.  Soon, bass (eloquently played by Johannes Weidenmueller) and quiet drums join in — but a surprise awaits as with the gentle stirrings of a string quartet and several purring horns.  (Real musicians, I might add — not conjured up on a synthesizer keyboard.)  Is it jazz, or modern classical, Third Stream, or evocative dance music?  I gave up wondering about categories early on in the CD and simply allowed myself to be swept along by the shadings and timbres.

Billy’s brushes — quietly symphonic — bring on the Broadway standard MAKE SOMEONE HAPPY, then Roberta adds her single-note piano lines.  (I was already happy, mind you.)  Clear, contemporary music, harmonically sophisticated, but firmly rooted in Basie, Pettiford, Jo Jones.  And it subtly builds — not just in volume, but in densities, as the three lines intertwine, before settling back down to earth in a taciturn yet swinging final chorus, with a few witty small dissonances in — like spices — to remind us that we are in the land of surprises.

Roberta begins BILLY’S BALLAD in the most pensive way — letting the music speak its piece in its own time — a most leisurely yet searching exploration.  Then, a pause, and she begins the theme again, but with the most tender support and counterpoint from the string and horn ensemble.  I didn’t think, “Oh, this is jazz-piano-with-strings”; rather, I thought of Dvorak — deep yet translucent beauty.  Roberta is responsible for all the string and horn arrangements — but this one, wine-rich, is Billy’s.

MY FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS (dedicated to Sam Rivers) opens with dark woody sounds from Johannes . . . and then the gorgeous strings come on.  Neither sentimental nor abrasive, carefully delineating the traditional melody but with edges and depths.  Roberta’s solo improvisation follows; Billy adds his own voices as the piano’s exploration goes onwards . . . with strings and horns making what had been simple lines multi-dimensional, powerful, assertive, no longer serene.  But the performance has a compositional arc — coming back to a hymnlike reading of the melody for piano and strings after a dramatic climax in sound.

The venerable IF I LOVED YOU — from CAROUSEL — is revealed to us from new angles; the tempo is elastic rather than held down by the waltz (as Billy’s brushes make their own quiet patterns behind Roberta’s reverent melody and revamped harmonies).  What was reverent becomes more free, even abstract, as the horns add their own commentary and Roberta brings her pure, focused voice to the lyrics — honoring the intent of the lyrics while elongating and recomposing phrases.  She is at once girlish and adventurous: a model improvising singer . . . then taking fragments of melody and holding them to the light.

Tapping cymbals and stern piano chords begin EMPTY HOUSE.  A pause, then the horns outline a melody line, as if delineating a space through serious strokes of a brush, before Roberta joins them.  I sense that this is a meditation on two minor chords, but the spare material never seems thin.  And the four-and-a-half minutes is over too soon.

The imagined SIDE TWO begins with Billy’s SHMEAR — the emotional opposite of the pensive, spacious EMPTY HOUSE.  Not simply the musical evocation of an area of cream cheese, it vacillates between a nearly violent piano trio and a meditative piano solo passage . . . with the roles switching around among the three players.  Quiet gives way to conversation and back to quiet again.

IDY’S SONG AND DANCE (in two parts) begins with a solo meditation by Roberta on electric piano — simple but with its own searching groove . . . then moves to the longer DANCE in 5/4.  (You can see the video for the second track — a boisterous dance piece — with its own little domestic comedy — below.)

Billy’s RELENT changes the timbre of the trio — with Roberta exploring on organ over rapid-fire lines from Billy and Johannes.  UGLY BEAUTIFUL (again by Billy) returns to piano – string bass – drums, with improvisations that work off the song’s stark contours.  And the CD closes with Roberta’s DEGREE ABSOLUTE — her evocation of the famed television series THE PRISONER, where escape is impossible and rebellion thwarted — but, happily, the music isn’t as bleak as the inspiration for it.  In fact, the serene solo that begins the final track leads us back to LAURIE, which is another testimony to SIDES, COLORS being a work larger than the individual tracks.

Here let me credit the musicians by name — besides Roberta and Billy and bassist Johannes Weidenmueller; string players Fung Chern Hwei, Mikyung Kim, Charisa Rouse, Jeremy Harman; horn / reed players David Smith, Charles Pillow, Anders Bostrom, Sam Sadigursky.  The cover art is by Billy; graphic design by Roberta — and the whole effort is beautifully recorded by Michael Marciano.

Rather than being formulaic — solos / head / solos or some variation, or “free-form,” this CD is exemplary in its compositional intelligence.  The music never seems “written down,” yet each performance has its own larger shape — one that relates to the other compositions.  And the music is given many chances to breathe.  Hear, for example, the pauses on EMPTY HOUSE — music for a film not yet completed, I think.  The listener becomes part of the exploration, wondering, anticipating, delighting.

Here you can hear samples and purchase the CD (it’s also available for download on iTunes).  And here you can watch Roberta and Billy in action — recording this CD.  Here, they improvise in time and space.  And don’t despair: love conquers all!  (As it should.)

May your happiness increase.

“HELLO, LOLA!”: GRAND DOMINION JAZZ BAND at SAN DIEGO (Nov. 22, 2012)

One can only imagine the circumstances that led to the titling of the first song in the Victor studios in 1929, but Lola was Pee Wee Russell’s girlfriend in the late Twenties and early Thirties.  Legend has it she was exceedingly jealous and showed it in remarkable ways: once cutting up all of her lover’s suits with a long sharp scissors.  (Maybe Lola said to Pee Wee, “If you really loved me, you would name a song after me and record it so that everyone could see my name on the label.”)

I doubt that Lola is with us today, or that anyone named Lola was in the audience at the 2012 San Diego Jazz Fest (formerly the Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival) but the Grand Dominion Jazz Band knows its social courtesies and said “Hello!” to the crowd through hot jazz.  The players here are leader Bob Pelland, piano; Clint Baker, trumpet; Gerry Green, reeds; Jim Armstrong, trombone; Hal Smith, drums; Mike Fay, bass; and Bill Dixon, banjo.  Any band that has Clint at the front and Hal at the back can’t get off course!

HELLO, LOLA!:

BOGALUSA STRUT (recalling Sam Morgan, who never had a pair of scissors):

PERDIDO STREET BLUES (another evocation of the Crescent City):

I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU (remembering Claude Hopkins and Alex Hill, both very willing individuals, eager to please):

Good manners in hot jazz.

May your happiness increase.

MEMORIES OF CLUB HANGOVER

CLUB HANGOVER 1

I’ve heard only a few broadcasts from the famed San Francisco jazz spot Club Hangover, but the address given by the radio announcer, “Bush Street above Powell,” stuck in my head so firmly that on the rare times I have been driving in that city — helplessly in thrall to my GPS — and either Bush or Powell has been nearby, I have looked around to see if, perhaps Joe Sullivan or Earl Hines can be seen in some shadowy incarnation.  “Nothing beside remains,” to quote Shelley.

But not so fast.  Dave Radlauer’s bounteous JAZZ RHYTHM website offers a good deal of music recorded and broadcast from the club –free, for anyone to hear.  Here are the two cornucopia.

CLUB HANGOVER Archive, 1954-58

Dave explains, “These are 25 original complete unedited half-hour broadcasts from the premier nightspot for Dixieland and New Orleans music in San Francisco during the 1950s, Club Hangover. Some have been issued over the years on LP and CD, but many have not. Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Kid Ory, Muggsy Spanier, Ralph Sutton, and Jack Teagarden.”

There’s also CLUB HANGOVER Rarities — “Jazz Rhythm programs featuring exclusive highlights (just the cream) of rare broadcasts from San Francisco’s premier Dixieland Jazz club of the 1950s.”

CLUB HANGOVER 2

Listen to both so you don’t miss a hot note.  And be prepared to spend some happy hours at JAZZ RHYTHM — no carbs, no calories, but irresistible and addicting.

May your happiness increase.

“NEW ORLEANS SHUFFLE”: YERBA BUENA STOMPERS at SAN DIEGO (Nov. 22, 2012)

For me, the 2012 San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival — or whatever more informal name you might know it by, such as the San Diego Jazz Fest — started with a shuffle.  A Shuffle is a good thing when it’s created by the Yerba Buena Stompers, a band full of power and delicacy, deeply rooted in the great New Orleans traditions.

The heroes onstage are John Gill, banjo and vocals; Leon Oakley and Duke Heitger, trumpets; Tom Bartlett, trombone; Orange Kellin, clarinet; Conal Fowkes (Grammy-winner!), piano; Clint Baker, tuba; Kevin Dorn, drums.  (I have a special fondness for two-trumpet interplay: Leon and Duke light up the room.)

NEW ORLEANS SHUFFLE:

EVERY TUB:

PUT ON YOUR OLD GREY BONNET:

PERDIDO STREET BLUES:

MINSTRELS OF ANNIE STREET:

LONESOME BLUES:

It was a splendid way to start a most rewarding weekend — I look forward to spending Thanksgiving amidst jazz friends in San Diego this year!  Paul Daspit certainly knows how to make us feel thankful.

May your happiness increase.

ASAKO TAKASAKI: “ALL OF ME”

Someone who attempts to sing in a language (s)he hasn’t grown up with is brave; someone who ventures into the well-established classics of “the great American songbook” — with all those monumental icons standing at the rear of the stage — must be even more courageous.  Happily, the young Japanese singer Asako Takasaki is buoyed by the music and unfazed by what others might see as obstacles.  All of this is evident on her debut CD, ALL OF ME.  Here’s a video introduction to it, and to her — and to her colleagues, Michael Kanan (piano); Neal Miner (string bass); Michael Petrosino (drums):

Now, will Asako obliterate the memory of Frank, Billie, Peggy, Lena, Sarah, or two dozen others?  Not yet.  But she is well on her way to being a classic interpreter of these great human texts, and I applaud her efforts.  Her voice gentle and unaffected, Asako easily seeks out the small dramas found in each song — tenderness, exultation, regret, wonder — and the songs are enriched rather than deformed: IT’S ALL RIGHT WITH ME / ALL OF ME / BLUE SKIES / A NIGHTINGALE SANG IN BERKELEY SQUARE / COME RAIN OR COME SHINE / CRAZY HE CALLS ME / I CAN SING A RAINBOW / MEAN TO ME / NIGHT AND DAY / LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING – MIAGETE GORAN YORU NO HOSHI WO / THEM THERE EYES.  On this CD, Asako has the wise subtle assistance of three of the best musicians playing — who motivate her as they direct and caress these songs.

She is worth more than a casual listen, and I predict great things for her — she respects the songs and understands their meanings, no small accomplishment. And bless her for having the courage to sound like herself, rather than attempting to ‘become” Billie or Frank in tribute to their memories: she sings the songs with light-hearted feeling, certainly commendable in itself.

May your happiness increase.

THE REAL THING: JAMES DAPOGNY and his EAST COAST CHICAGOANS in CONCERT (Nov. 16, 2012)

What follows is the video record of a rewarding evening I spent observing — and being uplifted by — James Dapogny and his East Coast Chicagoans on November 16, 2012, at the Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church, Silver Spring, Maryland.

The Real Thing, as we say: a small band neatly yet passionately improvising and recreating lively hot music.

Leader James Dapogny, pianist, scholar, poet, wit, barrelhouse master, is one of my heroes — and if you don’t know his work . . . . where have you been?  He assembled a fine band: Randy Reinhart, cornet; David Sager, trombone (who did the hard work of making this concert a reality); Anita Thomas, Scott Silbert, reeds; Tommy Cecil, string bass; Craig Gildner, guitar; Brooks Tegler, drums.  No funny vocals, no gimmicks or tricks — just surging, delicate, detailed jazz.  An honor to be there!  And this post is for those of you, like the writer Gretchen Comba and Aunt Ida Melrose, and many other friends, who couldn’t make it.  It was good.

W. C. Handy’s BEALE STREET (in the arrangement that I recognize from the 1944 Commodore session that featured a front line for the ages — Miff Mole, Ernie Caceres, Bobby Hackett, Pee Wee Russell):

Jelly Roll Morton’s forward-looking (1930!) BLUE BLOOD BLUES:

Alex Hill’s DELTA BOUND:

Hoagy Carmichael’s OLD MAN HARLEM:

Roy Eldridge’s THAT THING:

Chris Smith’s TOOT TOOT, DIXIE BOUND:

A lyrical Thirties song, something I’ve only heard when Professor Dapogny is at the keys, COUNTRY BOY:

In honor of the Ellington small groups, LOVE’S IN MY HEART:

Juan Tizol’s Middle Eastern revery, CARAVAN:

The ideal state of affairs, BREEZIN’ ALONG WITH THE BREEZE:

Hill’s TENNESSEE TWILIGHT:

I’d like to see Dapogny concerts like this in every city on a regular basis.  Wouldn’t you?

May your happiness increase.

FEEL LIKE A (JAZZ) BASH? (MARCH 1-2-3, 2013, MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA)

The music doesn’t start for another ten days, give or take — but we’re excited about the 2013 Jazz Bash by the Bay (or you can call it Dixieland Monterey . . . call it what you will as long as you support it by your presence!).

The Beloved and I will be there for as much of it as possible.  The music begins on Thursday night (Feb. 28, if my dates are right) with a special benefit concert by “We3” — Jeff Barnhart, Danny Coots, and Bob Draga — and runs like an express train until Sunday, March 3, late in the afternoon.

Here‘s the schedule.  And although my counting skills are imperfect, I see 149 or so sets in that weekend — because of simultaneous action in a variety of rooms.  What this means to me: Marc Caparone, Dawn Lambeth, Jeff Barnhart, Anne Barhart, Bryan Shaw, Howard Miyata, John Reynolds, Clint Baker, Ralf Reynolds, Katie Cavera, Carl Sonny Leyland, Banu Gibson, John Sheridan, John Cocuzzi, Allan Vache, Ed Metz, Paul Keller, Sue Kroninger, Eddie Erickson, Chris Calabrese, Jim Fryer, Danny Coots, Jeff Hamilton, Virginia Tichenor, Marty Eggers, Gordon Au, Justin Au, Brandon Au, David Boeddinghaus, Jason Wanner, Ray Templin . . . and you can add your own favorites, heroes, heroines, and heartthrobs.

Here‘s ticket information.  Few people I know are moved to take positive action because of fear and dread, but the evidence speaks for itself: many jazz festivals have vanished or morphed unrecognizably before vanishing: join us at the Jazz Bash by the Bay!

And for those readers who say, “I’m not convinced.  I need evidence before I get in the car, find someone to walk the dog, and unstrap my wallet,” will this do?  Recorded on March 2, 2012 — something to provoke SMILES:

May your happiness increase. 

GONE, DONE, OVER, FINISHED: 12/27/48

In 1972, what used to be Nick’s was Your Father’s Mustache — peanut shells, sawdust on the floor, banjo bands, Sunday afternoon jam sessions.  Now, that same spot is a Gourmet Garage . . . packaged sandwiches, Brie, crackers, olives, canned tuna, leaf tea.

As much as I appreciate upscale grocery stores, I think the descent from Nick’s to Gourmet Garage can be traced in a straight downward-pointing vertical line.

NICK's 1948

Somehow I doubt that anyone will walk past that square footage on Seventh Avenue South fifty years from now and say, wistfully, “You know, when I was young, this was a Gourmet Garage.  A great cheese department.”

May your happiness increase.

“IN A SLEEPY LITTLE VILLAGE”: NORVO, MOLL, BAILEY 1932

I thought I knew a good deal about Mildred Bailey and Red Norvo — the records and sheet music (copies of IT’S SO PEACEFUL IN THE COUNTRY, ‘LEVEN POUNDS OF HEAVEN, WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH, and — less frequently — ROCKIN’ CHAIR).  But this one, from 1932, is new to me.  And that the sheet music heralds it as MILDRED BAILEY’S THEME SONG is even more of a surprise, especially since I thought that Mildred had adopted Hoagy Carmichael’s ROCKIN’ CHAIR as hers before 1932.  Was there a brief Bailey – Carmichael rift?

MILDRED == IN A SLEEPY LITTLE VILLAGE 1932

Billy Moll is almost forgotten today, but he was part of three remarkable compositions: ICE CREAM, WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS, and I WANT A LITTLE GIRL.  Mildred was Al Rinker’s sister; Rinker, Barris, and a fellow named Crosby were friends and musical partners in the Rhythm Boys — thus the trail might lead back to a Rinker – Bailey – Crosby connection by way of WRAP YOUR TROUBLES.

And here’s what I could find online — from the index to the sheet music collection of the Indiana State University Library.  The first line of the verse is: “Shadows creep to end a lonely day, and soon the stars appear above. . . .and the chorus begins, “In a sleepy little village, let me lay me down to sleep again.”

But somehow I think this song wasn’t a huge hit.  Did anyone else record it?  Or did Mildred say, “Hey, hands off!  This is my [possibly soporific] theme song!  Get your own sleepy little village!”?

May your happiness increase.

“LIVE SPORT”: A JAM SESSION AFTER HOURS IN THE VICTORY PUB, NEWCASTLE (Oct. 28-29, 2012) with the STARS of THE WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY

Once more . . . if “Mister Mike” isn’t someone recognizable to you, would you kindly take a minute and read this?  It would mean a great deal to many people, and, to paraphrase Dizzy Gillespie, “No him, no this.”

“This” turns out to be my video record of the closing notes of the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party — a jam session on Sunday night held in the Victory Pub of the Village Newcastle.  Some of the details are indistinct — I would have made a very bad spy — because a video camera, even on a tripod, is an ungainly dance partner.  I wrote down personnels on the back of two JAZZ LIVES cards, which have now vanished into that place where Things That Vanish go.  So if I’ve left out the name of a noble participant, email me at swingyoucats@gmail.com. and tell me.

Or you can simply observe musicians brilliantly at play in the dark.

LONESOME BLUES (from the Hot Five book) Thomas Winteler, soprano saxophone; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Martin Litton, keyboard — he deserves a grand piano! — ; Roly Veitch, guitar; Josh Duffee, drums):

AFTER YOU’VE GONE (Thomas Winteler, soprano saxophone; Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Martin Litton, keyboard; Martin Wheatley, guitar; Josh Duffee, drums):

I NEVER KNEW Andy Schumm, cornet; Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Jens Lindgren, trombone; Thomas Winteler, Michael McQuaid, Norman Field, reeds; Martin Wheatley, guitar; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone, and others):   

ONCE IN A WHILE (for Louis and the Hot Five — performed by Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Jens Lindgren, trombone; Thomas Winteler, Michael McQuaid, Norman Field, reeds; Spats Langham, guitar; Manu Hagmann, bass; Josh Duffee, drums, and others):

MY MELANCHOLY BABY (traditionally the dreaded request by inebriated patrons in the bar, but Spats Langham turns it into a masterpiece of tender swing here, aided by Andy Schumm, cornet; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Henri Lemaire, string bass; Matthias Seuffert, tenor saxophone; Michael McQuaid, alto saxophone, Josh Duffee, drums. The admiring watchers include Frans Sjostrom, Martin Wheatley, Stephane Gillot):

I SAW STARS (which I associate with the 1934 debut of Django and Stephane on Ultraphone — here rendered with sweet fervor by Roly Veitch, guitar / vocal; Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Matthias Seuffert, Michael McQuaid, reeds; Alistair Allan, trombone; Henri Lemaire, string bass; Josh Duffee, drums):

Then, as if by magic, the scene shifted . . . suddenly it was 1941; we were at Minton’s (or someplace north of 125th Street in Harlem, New York City; I had turned into Jerry Newman, recording swing-to-bop for posterity . . . you’ll hear what I mean.

LESTER LEAPS IN (Martin Litton, keyboard; Michael McQuaid, alto saxophone; Rico Tomasso, Andy Schumm, trumpet; Matthias Seuffert, tenor saxophone; Alistair Allan, trombone; Martin Wheatley, Roly Veitch, guitar; Manu Hagmann, string bass; Josh Duffee, drums):

TOPSY (Martin Litton, keyboard; Michael McQuaid, alto saxophone; Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Matthias Seuffert, tenor saxophone; Alistair Allan, trombone; Martin Wheatley, Roly Veitch, guitar; Manu Hagmann, string bass; Josh Duffee, drums):

After those last notes had stopped echoing, I (and some others) made our weary, happy way to bed . . . rocking gently on what we had heard, dreaming sweetly of the 2013 Party.

For Mister Mike.

And, as always, tickets are on sale to the 2013 Party, the best-organized high-spirited living jazz museum, here.

May your happiness increase.

I DON’T SPEAK SWEDISH, BUT I KNOW WHAT “Vill du ge mig adressen” MEANS (AND SO DO YOU)

When it’s played and sung by Kustbandet — solos by Bent Persson, trumpet; Jens Lindgren, trombone, Klas Toresson, reeds, and Peter Lind, vocal (and third trumpet).  Recorded by jazze1947 in February 2013.  Swing, you cats!  (No need to run away.)

For Louis, of course.

May your happiness increase.