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:
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.