Monthly Archives: April 2013

THE “JAZZ LIVES” CUSTOMER SERVICE WINDOW IS NOW OPEN TO DEAL WITH YOUR QUESTIONS

1.  Michael, are you in New York or in California?

That is not an easy question.  Email me at swingyoucats@gmail.com for my precise co-ordinates, updated minute by minute.  We’re working out a deal with the Doppler radar people on The Weather Channel . . . stay tuned.

2.  Why do you post so many videos?  I can’t keep up with them.  I’m overwhelmed.  It seems as though there must be two of you.

I’m sorry.  Creating stress was never my intent.  But I know all things are finite.  People, too.  Someday I won’t be able or won’t be around to do this, and some of my favorite musicians might join me . . . so I am doing what gives me pleasure now.  People who subscribe to JAZZ LIVES are under no obligation to watch or read everything . . . as long as the internet exists, I hope it will be here for you when you choose to catch up.  And there’s only one of me, which is a good thing in a one-bedroom apartment.

3.  Why don’t you post anything by my favorite band?

A blog is — for better or worse — an expression of personal taste.   I fully acknowledge that and even embrace it.  If you feel that the Caffeinated Hot Shots O’Rhythm aren’t sufficiently represented in cyberspace, I encourage you to start a blog and post some videos — the internet is wide and broad enough to encompass many people and many kinds of music.  If you’d like advice on how to create a WordPress blog, I will be happy to offer some.  

3a.  Musician X doesn’t appeal to me at all.  How can you post such stuff on your blog?  That’s not “jazz”!

See 3.  And for those viewers who find my taste annoying, I choose the restaurant analogy.  If a restaurant you have often eaten in has a dish you deplore — liver and onions, say —  on the menu as one of the daily specials, do you stalk out of the restaurant in a huff?  Perhaps you could pick something else on the menu rather than being annoyed at the chef.  And I’d rather not spend my time on the planet debating what “jazz” is . . . I’d rather do what I’m doing now.  It gives me immense pleasure.

May your happiness increase.

BE GLAD YOU ARE ALIVE AND HAVE EARS AND EYES TO HEAR AND SEE (THE CONTINUING SAGA OF GRATITUDE IN 4/4): SARA LAMHARZI, JASON VANDERFORD, CLINT BAKER

Two fellows and a gal in the park . . . something special, sweet music and sweet images for us.  Thanks to Sara Lamharzi (videographer); Jason Vanderford (banjo, vocal); Clint Baker (cornet, clarinet).

We hope for more beautiful music, so neatly captured on film — visit Sara’s YouTube channel here.

WHAT CAN I SAY, DEAR (AFTER I SAY I’M SORRY)?:

IN THE SHADE OF THE OLD APPLE TREE:

Oh, are we grateful!

May your happiness increase.

FOR NEW FOUND HAIR BEAUTY, 1945

Leave it to that intrepid scout Austin J. Casey to give JAZZ LIVES readers the ultimate fashion advice — courtesy of Hot Lips Page (and the Baltimore Afro American in 1945):

Hot Lips hair ad (1)

I feel beautified already.  Don’t you?

May your happiness increase.

GLIDING ALOFT: LENA BLOCH, FRANK CARLBERG, DAVE MILLER, BILLY MINTZ at The Finland Center (April 13, 2013)

Sometimes the best music presents us with the answers: This is how it is, and this is how it should be.  Other musical explorations seem to ask Beethoven’s question: Must it be?  Or perhaps What lies beyond?

The quartet of musicians who enlarged our horizons on April 13, 2013, at the Finland Center, asked the latter question — sweetly, not abrasively — and let us compose our own answers.  They are Lena Bloch, tenor saxophone; Frank Carlberg, keyboard; Billy Mintz, drums; Dave Miller, guitar.

I invite you to join their inquiries, to allow their music to lift you aloft.

Monk’s WE SEE:

Lena’s HIGH POINT:

Billy’s FLIGHT:

Berlin’s series of questions, HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN?:

Ted Brown’s FEATHER BED:

Lena’s TWO OCEANS OF MADNESS:

Dave’s RUBATO:

And the concert ended ALL TOO SOON:

All of these fine vibrations were created by these four eminent courageous players . . . but we also thank Janna Rehnstrom of the Finland Center Foundation for giving this music a home — for establishing a regular concert series here, at the Salmagundi Club, 47 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York — details here.

May your happiness increase.

BEAUTY AT THE BICKFORD (Part Three): RANDY REINHART, MARK SHANE, JAMES CHIRILLO, BRIAN NALEPKA, KEVIN DORN (April 8, 2013)

Here’s Part One and here’s Part Two of this glorious — although understated — musical experience that we had at the Bickford Theatre in Morristown, New Jersey.  Thanks to Randy Reinhart, Mark Shane, James Chirillo, Brian Nalepka, Kevin Dorn, and Bruce Gast for the good feelings and uplifting sounds.

ONE HOUR (a solo for Mark):

ATLANTA BLUES, also known as MAKE ME A PALLET ON (THE) YOUR FLOOR:

A very charming medley from MY FAIR LADY, delivered by our fair James:

CRAZY RHYTHM, where Brian shows us what that rhythm can do:

And a rousing closer — PANAMA:

My only regret is that there isn’t a Part Four, Five, onwards.  But I am grateful for the pleasures of this evening, and Bruce Gast has a number of fine jazz evenings planned for the future.  Check out the details in Part One or Two — worth the trip!

May your happiness increase.

CATHERINE RUSSELL SWINGS! WE SWAY (April 25, 2013)

We hold these truths to be self-evident.  Catherine Russell is a serious creator of joy — part of the pursuit of happiness.

She proved it again last night in her first set at Dizzy’s Club Coca C0la (part of Jazz at Lincoln Center, high above the Manhattan panorama).  Catherine had four of her friends in sweet support: Mark Shane, piano; Matt Munisteri, guitar and six-string banjo; Lee Hudson, string bass; Mark McLean, drums.  Their hour-long performance was varied, satisfying, light-hearted, and deep.

Much of her repertoire comes from two places: the blues, naughty, sad or springtly, from the Twenties to the Fifties; swing tunes from the great golden age.  So Catherine gave us the blues by singing songs associated with Lil Green, Little Willie John, Dinah Washington, Wynonie Harris (ROMANCE IN THE DARK, I’m STICKIN’ TO YOU, MY MAN’S AN UNDERTAKER, and WHISKEY ON THE SHELF), moving from deep intimacy to mock-threat to a Dionysiac rent party.

In her swing mode, she romped through SHAKE THAT THING, EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY, invited us into a cab for DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM, made the room tilt with Ida Cox’s YOU GOT TO SWING AND SWAY and the Ellington-Strayhorn I’M CHECKIN’ OUT, GOOM-BYE.  (Had Catherine been born a hundred years ago, she would be one of the deities of the Swing Era.)

But there’s a third side to Catherine that might be overlooked — that she is a peerless singer of love ballads — whether the object of devotion is a landscape (the touching EV’NTIDE by Hoagy Carmichael for Louis Armstrong) or a person (LUCILLE, written by Catherine’s father, pianist Luis Russell, for Louis to sing about his wife).  In these songs, we heard a deep vein of tenderness, of love without irony being conveyed directly through Catherine’s voice.

And what a voice!  She moves from a dark lower register to a trumpetlike delivery, rising to gospel / rhythm ‘n’ blues drama at her top.  It’s a delight to hear her deliver a melody, apparently as written, but with subtle reshapings that deliver it anew, improvising in ways that always serve the song.  Catherine’s swing quartet was simply delightful — starting the evening with a rocking yet leisurely exploration of ROSETTA — masters at play.

Here she is in March — with the Bohem Ragtime Jazz Band in Hungary and the great trumpeter Herbert Christ — offering us the NEW CALL OF THE FREAKS (reaching back to father Luis Russell’s searing hot band of 1929-30.  students of lyric poetry will also want to memorize the refrain: “Stick out your can / Here comes the garbage man,” words to live by:

Catherine is a treasure.  Her stint at Dizzy’s is from Thursday, April 25, to Sunday, the 28th.  She turns timid, quiet audiences into swing enthusiasts — in the most delicious subtle ways.

May your happiness increase.

FIVE LESSONS IN SWING: JOEL PRESS, TARDO HAMMER, SEAN SMITH, STEVE LITTLE at SMALLS (April 6, 2013)

Saxophone master Joel Press has decided to spend his time in New York City, and that’s very good news.  He’s an original — a soft-voiced player who can growl and moan in the best Southwestern tradition (even when it has been assimilated through Boston) but often prefers to ride the rhythm, uttering tender, looping lines.  While remaining himself, he encompasses the whole tradition — with nods to Sonny Rollins and Bud Freeman, to Herschel Evans and Lester Young.

A few weeks ago, Joel led a wonderful quartet at Smalls (183 West Tenth Street in Greenwich Village) with Tardo Hammer on piano; Sean Smith, string bass; Steve Little, drums.

THAT OLD FEELING:

THERE IS NO GREATER LOVE:

GONE WITH THE WIND:

LOVER MAN:

Bb BLUES:

New York is lucky to have you back, Joel.  Thanks for the beautiful floating sounds!

May your happiness increase.

GIANCARLO MAZZÙ and LUCIANO TROJA, JAZZ STORYTELLERS in NEW YORK

If virtue and fame went hand in hand, Giancarlo Mazzù (guitar) Luciano Troja (piano) would be much better known worldwide, for they are masters of play — of playful improvising that respects the original melody, harmonic structure, and rhythmic impulses while at the same time exploring, experimenting, and inquiring within and without.

Here’s a sample of their enthusiastic, graceful music — improvisations on ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE, recorded in London in June 2012:

I first encountered and admired this duo about four years ago, when I was sent a copy of their CD — SEVEN TALES ABOUT STANDARDS — to review for CADENCE.  

Here’s some of what I wrote:  The duets between guitarist Mazzu and pianist Troja made me sit up straight in my chair.  Inventive, probing, and winding lines are traded back and forth with lightness and wit.  I would have thought that “Bye Bye Blackbird” had long since flown off, but this CD shows that there’s life in it.  I was occasionally reminded of Jimmy Rowles and Joe Pass, but these players are outstandingly adventurous, intertwining yet never overriding one another.  This CD duet should be required listening for improvisers of all persuasions.

You can hear more of their inspired music here.

But even better: you can see Giancarlo and Luciano improvise soulfully in person in New York City on Monday, April 29, 2013 — a concert beginning at 6 PM at New York University’s Casa Italiana, 24 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10011.  It’s free and open to the public.  Details here.

May your happiness increase.

A SWINGING WEEKEND IN THE COUNTRY: JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA 2013 (September 19-22, 2013)

It’s coming.

Although it’s only the end of April, I am excited when I think about Jazz at Chautauqua, once again, which is a highlight of the musical year.  I’ve been attending these splendid parties since 2004, and have made new friends, heard excellent music, and generally had my spirits lifted.

This year, the 16th Jazz at Chautauqua will take place from September 19 to the 22nd.  For more information, click here.  For those who have never attended one of these weekends, it is marked by pleasures unique to that spot and that establishment.

It’s held in a beautiful 1881 wooden hotel, the Athaeneum, efficiently run by Bruce Stanton and a very genial staff — the very opposite of an anonymous chain hotel.  Walking around the grounds (when you’re not observing the beauties of Lake Chautauqua — which might include Scott and Sharon Robinson, canoeing) you see immaculately kept houses and cottages, mounds of hydrangeas . . . picture-postcard territory.  Inside, the guests enjoy substantial meals and an open bar . . . and music to dream about, starting on Thursday night with informal jamming in a cozy room, then moving to the parlor for Friday afternoon piano and guitar recitals, then a full weekend of jazz, hot and sweet, in a large ballroom — with all the amenities a ten-second walk away.

The best musicians, too.  The 2013 players and singers are (in neat alphabetical order for a change) Howard Alden, Harry Allen, Dan Barrett, Dan Block, Jon Burr, James Dapogny, the Faux Frenchmen, Mike Greensill, Marty Grosz, Bob Havens, Duke Heitger, Keith Ingham, Jon-Erik Kellso, Becky Kilgore, Dan Levinson, Kerry Lewis, Ricky Malichi, Randy Reinhart, Scott Robinson, Andy Schumm, John Sheridan, Pete Siers, Rossano Sportiello, Andy Stein, Frank Tate, John Von Ohlen, Wesla Whitfield.  Something for everyone.  Good men and women, loyal, faithful, and true.

Nancy Griffith, the Swing Sheriff, makes sure that the jazz train runs on time, that everyone is happy in Dodge, that the little dogies are swinging.

If Jazz at Chautauqua is new to you, I propose that you type those magic words into the “Search” box of JAZZ LIVES — and you will see beautifully relaxed performances from the most recent five years . . . then you can go here and look into the details of tickets and prices and all that intriguing (but necessary) detail.

And as the video-soundtrack to such endeavors, let me offer two performances from the 2012 Jazz at Chautauqua — never seen before! — by a strolling group: Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Frank Tate, string bass; Bill Ransom, drums:

LULU’S BACK IN TOWN:

CLOSE YOUR EYES:

May your happiness increase.

WHAT HAPPINESS LOOKS LIKE — LONDON, 1956

Here’s a man entirely in alignment, as the life coaches say — someone who understood his true purpose early, worked at it, and derived the deepest joy from it (while improving the universe in his travels).

A previously unknown candid shot taken in London, 1956, for sale on eBay.  Here’s the information.

LOUIS, LONDON, 1956

Even someone so happy in his work needs a life partner, and this man found the one he loved in 1942:

LOUIS AND LUCILLE 1956

Click here for the eBay information.  May everyone reading this post be as happy in their lives as the man and woman in these photographs!

Thanks to David J. Weiner for pointing me to these portraits.  “Solid, Pops!”

May your happiness increase.

THE FORECAST: CLOUDY AND HOT (April 26, 2013)

BRAIN CLOUD ALBUM RELEASE PARTY

The BRAIN CLOUD is coming to Brooklyn, New York — to celebrate the release of their second CD.  What could be nicer?

In case this ebullient band of joymakers is new to you, a word in your ear: they seamlessly shift from Western Swing to Thirties jam session to original compositions that have authenticity, spring, and eloquence.  The basic BRAIN CLOUD is Dennis Lichtman, clarinet, electric mandolin, and fiddle; Tamar Korn, vocals; Kevin Dorn, drums, Raphael McGregor, lap steel guitar; Skip Krevens, guitar; Andrew Hall, string bass.  (On the CD, OUTSIDE LOOKING IN, they are joined by three guests: Noam Pikelny, banjo; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Aaron Lewis, fiddle.

The new CD’s eleven tracks so neatly embody the band’s cheerful repertoire: the ancient chestnuts, still relevant, WHEN YO WORE A TULIP, I AIN’T  GOT NOBODY, and WHEN MY DREAMBOAT COMES HOME; the fairly obscure WHAT’S THE USE OF LIVING WITHOUT LOVE? (courtesy of King Oliver’s Victor recording); “American roots music” GOTTA LOT OF RHYTHM IN MY SOUL, MISS THE MISSISSIPPI AND YOU, I’M GONNA SLEEP WITH ONE EYE OPEN, and the wholly idiomatic originals OUTSIDE LOOKING IN (with very clever lyrics), TRIGGER BLUES, WE ARE NOW!, and IN THE  BEGINNING.

A personal note.  I grew up with the stereotypical notion that much “country music” was formulaic — my woman, my truck, my hound — emotionally, rhythmically, and harmonically limited.  But the BRAIN CLOUD has introduced me to repertoire I would have never heard before, far from the synthetic music I came to deplore.  This band is a romping hot organization, its enthusiasm balanced by great precision and skill.

Here’s the post I wrote — with videos a-plenty — in celebration of their March 2011 concert at Jalopy.  It will get you moving, I guarantee.

Here’s the information for their April 26 extravaganza at the Jalopy Theatre (315 Columbia Street, Brooklyn).

You can pre-order OUTSIDE LOOKING IN as a CD, download, or vinyl record (why not get all three and be safe?) at braincloud.  Better yet, come to Jalopy, hear the band, share the exuberance, and buy the disc(s) there . . . gladdening the hearts of the musicians in the most direct way.  I’ll be there.

The cover of their new CD amuses me so — artwork and design by Nicole Schulman — that here it is again, in a slightly different format:

THE BRAIN CLOUD

May your happiness increase.

BENNY IN BARCELONA, 1936

Lucky Georges Ruiz . . . he met the King, in Barcelona, 1936:

BENNY CARTER 1936

And a view of the signature:

BENNY CARTER 1936 small 2

May your happiness increase.

“IN SINCERE APPRECIATION”: TWO CROONERS WITH FOUNTAIN PENS, 1932-36

What more needs to be said?  Thanks to eBay, of course:

“They called him Al”:

AL BOWLLY autograph

and that American fellow:

BING CROSBY autograph

May your happiness increase.

BEAUTY AT THE BICKFORD (Part Two): RANDY REINHART, MARK SHANE, JAMES CHIRILLO, BRIAN NALEPKA, KEVIN DORN (April 8, 2013)

Here’s the second part of the delightful concert I witnessed on April 8, 2013, at the Bickford Theatre in Morristown, New Jersey, thanks to Bruce Gast and a stellar quartet: Randy Reinhart (cornet); Mark Shane (piano); James Chirillo (guitar); Brian Nalepka (string bass / vocal); Kevin Dorn (drums).

Randy is not only a fine brassman but a thoughtful leader in the Ruby Braff mold — given ninety minutes and a quintet, he encouraged the players to have solo features and he reinvented the quintet in a variety of even smaller bands, with wonderful results.

For ROCKIN’ CHAIR, at a nice medium tempo, we had a rockin’ trio of Randy, Mark, and Kevin:

MY GAL SAL moved speedily:

HONEYSUCKLE ROSE was a solo feature for James (with Brian and Kevin) , who began by offering his own version of the famous Dick McDonough solo chorus:

Randy and James got very pretty with I’VE GROWN ACCUSTOMED TO HER FACE:

I associate DON’T TAKE YOUR LOVE FROM ME with pop-song melancholy (all that tearing and weeping and breaking), but Brian is constitutionally more cheerful than that, so his vocal / instrumental feature on this song is very lively, although no less heartfelt:

More to come!

The Bickford Theatre/Morris Museum: On Columbia Turnpike/Road (County Road 510) at the corner of Normandy Heights Road, east of downtown Morristown.  Near Interstate 287 and the Route 24 expressway. This is a 300-seat hall with generous parking on site.  Wheelchair access.  Weeknight concerts are one long set (8-9:30 p.m.). Tickets are generally $15 in advance, but $18 at the door.  Tickets may be purchased via credit card over the phone by calling the box office at 973-971-3706.  The box office can also provide information, directions, or a simple “jazz map.”

You can keep up to date on brilliant concerts to come by emailing Jazzevents@aol.com.

For my part, I’ve made BICKFORD one of the “Favorites” on my GPS — evidence of my musical happiness.  And if you missed the first part of this concert, make yourself at home with another sample of delicious music in a wonderful environment here.  

May your happiness increase.

ZUTTY and CECIL by NAT GOODWIN

More eBay treasures . . . photographs from the late Forties (I assume) taken by Nat Goodwin.  Here is a study of Zutty Singleton:

Zutty by Nat Goodwin

Drummers will be able to tell us more about Zutty’s equipment, or fashion scholars will be able to date his suit.  I don’t recognize the venue — it doesn’t look like a club, but rather a room.  But what I do notice is that Mister Singleton did not have or did not bring his own drum throne, and is making do with a wooden chair, a flat box (perhaps part of his own percussion luggage?) and a towel to soften it.  However, it must have been uncomfortable as the evening wore on.  Could this have been taken in France, where Zutty worked circa 1952?

Here’s Cecil Scott, energetic reedman on many recordings in the late Twenties and early Thirties (he bubbles up on so many later Clarence Williams sides) — a man fully in touch with his playful self:

CecilScott by Nat Goodwin

For those who don’t know Cecil Scott, I will just say that he was featured on recordings with Billie Holiday, Alex Hill, Frank Newton, Slim Gaillard, Ed Hall, and many others.  He was also the proud father of twelve children and had lost one leg in an accident — a narrative that frankly defies belief.  (I will tell these tales in a future blogpost if there is sufficient interest.)

Remarkable portraits.  I haven’t found out any information about Nat Goodwin; the eBay seller says that the photographs were sold by his widow.  He had good taste in subjects and a good eye.

May your happiness increase.

ON THE PATH TO SONG WITH ASAKO TAKASAKI

About two months ago I heard Asako Takasaki’s debut CD, ALL OF ME, and I reviewed it here.  On April 4, Asako made her debut at the Metropolitan Room, supported by a stellar trio of players: Michael Kanan, piano, Gary Wang, string bass, Michael Petrosino, drums.  She isn’t a great singer yet, but I am certain she is on the path to that goal.  She has enthusiasm, feeling, and swing — qualities that will keep her afloat in her art.

Here are selections from her debut at The Metropolitan Room, with beautiful accompaniment from Messrs. Kanan, Wang, and Petrosino:

NIGHT AND DAY and MEAN TO ME:

IT’S ALL RIGHT WITH ME:

CRAZY HE CALLS ME:

ALL OF ME:

LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING – MIAGETE GORAN YORU NO HOSHI WO (where Jerome Kern meets a pretty Japanese ballad):

BLUE SKIES:

THEM THERE EYES:

COME RAIN OR COME SHINE:

We wish Asako well on the path!

May your happiness increase.

“TRUE FAMILY”: A FILM by TAO NORAGER ABOUT MESCHIYA LAKE, NEW ORLEANS, “POSITIVITY AND JOY”

Meschiya

In the past few years, I’ve heard a good deal about the singer Meschiya Lake from friends in New York and England, and been able to enjoy her debut CD — you can hear her music here.

A new documentary by filmmaker Tao Norager, TRUE FAMILY, is a superb evocation of this compelling musician, the changing face of New Orleans, and a group of young people utterly in tune with the deepest improvising impulses.  I urge you to visit here.  You’ll see why I am so captivated by the film.  It’s not a stodgy documentary that opens with a serious voice-over giving a history lesson.  Now is it an amateurish exercise with a hand-held camera.

Rather, Tao has gotten to the heart of things with passion and directness — while staying out of the way.  The result is warm yet unsentimental, with surprising mobility: in one scene, Meschiya Lake is eating cookies and milk at home; then she is getting ready for a gig in Berlin.  Anything is possible, TRUE FAMILY reminds us.

True Family

Watching the film, one feels transported to delightful scenes — as Meschiya and her families of musicians create remarkable art on the streets of New Orleans, visiting clubs where dancers cavort in total harmony with the band.  And Tao is a truly mobile filmmaker: we ride alongside Meschiya on her way home as she points out history and local geography.

But the film isn’t just an adoring portrait of one singer, one group of young musicians who are living fully connected to the music.  Subtly and quietly, it makes us aware of the lives of improvising artists — their history, their life in the present moment.  And the film is full of glorious music, as Meschiya and friends — hot jazz nomads, blues troubadours, spiritual guides and chroniclers  — move from site to site.  You’ll see amazing impromptu swing-dancing contests and tap-dancing buskers (frankly amazing “tap kids”) on Bourbon Street.

On one level, the documentary is an instant trip to the heart of New Orleans — but it gets beneath the surface of that brightly-colored city to show us artists honest about their lives and their music.  “It’s a life in motion.  The wheel has to constantly be turning.  If I can’t play music, then I can’t make money to live,” Meschiya says.

There is the exuberant spectacle of Meschiya and her band jamming SATAN, YOUR KINGDOM MUST COME DOWN on a summer day in New York’s Washington Square Park — but the film keeps asking the question, “Where can art be nurtured and prosper and continue to be free?”

Ultimately, TRUE FAMILY is more than a performance film; it chronicles the near-death and vivid rebirth of both its subject, Meschiya, and the city that surrounds her.

And it glows with the joy of its music she makes with her Little Big Horns, with anyone who is spiritually allied.  When she and pianist Tom McDermott are navigating through BACK WATER BLUES, we know we are in the presence of emotions and craft that come from the heart.

As the closing credits unfurl, we hear Meschiya singing MY LIFE WILL BE SWEETER ONE DAY.  It’s clear that she, her friends, and her art have buoyed many people: TRUE FAMILY is imbued with a deep sweetness.

Usually at this point in a post, I would be writing that the film might be coming to a theatre near you — someday, eventually — or that you could purchase a DVD copy for a moderate sum.  But I have better news.  Without passing the cyber-hat for hot jazz, I can direct you to the  TRUE FAMILY site where you can download and watch this engaging and quirky film for a few dollars.  I commend it to you!

May your happiness increase.

CATHERINE RUSSELL, SWING SUPER-HEROINE

Catherine Russell

I don’t know how the singer and ebullient force of nature Catherine Russell would do in combat against Lex Luthor or a fleet of intergalactic starships.  But I do know that she is the sworn enemy of Gloom and Dullness, a tireless fighter for Joy and Swing.

She proved this again last night at Symphony Space in a concert sponsored by the Sidney Bechet Society.  With her were some of her usual comrades-in-arms: Matt Munisteri (guitar and musical director); Mark Shane (piano); Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet); Dan Block (clarinet and tenor); Lee Hudson (string bass); Rocky Bryant (drums).

Catherine is not only a splendid singer, with an unerring internal pulse and gift for melodic invention; she moves easily through a variety of moods in the course of an evening.  In addition, she is a happy embodiment of living swing: flashing a gleaming smile, joking with the audience, and dancing all over the stage.

She truly has a good time, and it never seems artificial.

Rather, she is delighted to be there to make music for us and her pleasure comes through, whether she is picking just the right tempo for a bluesy slow drag or spontaneously interacting with an audience member.

After an instrumental exploration of BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME, Catherine came on to offer a varied program.  A special pleasure was observing a mature artist who has fully internalized a variety of influences — from the fierce women blues singers to Motown queens, from the dancers at the Savoy Ballroom to gospel choirs, all these influences seamless and fully developed within her own personal style.  Listening to Catherine, one never feels, “Now she’s becoming this performer or this one; now she’s acting out that recorded / seen performance.”  No, the result is fully in blossom — homage to the great influences before her but also singularly her own.

When she approached an early-Twenties blues, SHAKE THAT THING, it owned property in several universes — not only the kind of music one would grind to in 1923 Chicago but a sultry call-to-shake entirely appropriate ninety years later.  Her other blues performances — one about financial distress (the concert was, after all, held on April 15), her own evocation of Esther Phillips’ AGED AND MELLOW, and Dinah Washington’s ominious MY MAN’S AN UNDERTAKER — were just as dramatically compelling.  She wooed us with AFTER THE LIGHTS GO DOWN LOW and then hilariously dismissed us with I’M CHECKIN’ OUT, GOOM-BYE.  Other classics that Catherine has made her own — an encore of KITCHEN MAN, WE THE PEOPLE, standards SOME OF THESE DAYS and DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ BALL — had their own joyous light.  In twenty songs, she turned herself and her personality to the light as many ways, but each time we recognized her essence: soulful, experienced, thoughtful, deeply feeling and deeply amused.

Visit Catherine’s websiteFacebook page or Facebook music page.

And for the immediate future . . .

CAT DIZZY'S

Catherine will be appearing with Mark Shane, Matt Munisteri, Lee Hudson, and Mark McLean at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (Jazz at Lincoln Center) for four nights — Thursday, April 25, through Sunday, April 28 — with shows as 7:30 and 9:30 PM.

Come and be amazed by Catherine Russell, performing superhuman feats of humanity, humor, creativity, and swing, as if they were easy to do — which for her, they are.

May your happiness increase.

BEAUTY AT THE BICKFORD (Part One): RANDY REINHART, MARK SHANE, JAMES CHIRILLO, BRIAN NALEPKA, KEVIN DORN (April 8, 2013)

The concert I witnessed on April 8, 2013, was well worth the trip to Points Formerly Unknown (the Bickford Theatre in Morristown, New Jersey).

Randy Reinhart (cornet); Mark Shane (piano); James Chirillo (guitar); Brian Nalepka (string bass / vocal); Kevin Dorn (drums) played beautifully — in solo and in ensemble.

Bruce Gast made everyone more than comfortable, and the Bickford itself is a truly congenial place to hear music.

Here’s a sample — with more to come!

The quintet urged us to LINGER AWHILE — no protests here!

The venerable but still blushing-pink ROSE ROOM:

Randy growls (but doesn’t bite) on DO NOTHIN’ TILL  YOU HEAR FROM ME:

Mark offers a lovely cosmological vista with MOONGLOW:

And congratulations to Brian Nalepka — this was his first gig back after a series of medical adventures . . . he sounds beautiful!

The Bickford Theatre/Morris Museum: On Columbia Turnpike/Road (County Road 510) at the corner of Normandy Heights Road, east of downtown Morristown.  Near Interstate 287 and the Route 24 expressway. This is a 300-seat hall with generous parking on site.  Wheelchair access.  Weeknight concerts are one long set (8-9:30 p.m.). Tickets are generally $15 in advance, but $18 at the door.  Tickets may be purchased via credit card over the phone by calling the box office at 973-971-3706.  The box office can also provide information, directions, or a simple “jazz map.”

You can be kept up to date on brilliant concerts to come by emailing Jazzevents@aol.com.

For my part, I’ve made BICKFORD one of the “Favorites” on my GPS — evidence of my new courage and musical happiness.  

May your happiness increase.

OH, HOW SHE CAN IMPROVISE! (DARYL SHERMAN, April 18 / LENA BLOCH, April 17)

Maybe it’s the jazz emergence of SPRING IS HERE . . . but I’ve never seen a month in New York City so crammed with enticing opportunities to see and hear great improvisers.

Two gigs in the near future feature women instrumentalists (one of them sings, too!) in different parts of Manhattan.  As a prelude to the May showing of THE GIRLS IN THE BAND, how about some intriguing gender-neutral swing?

The uniquely playful singer / pianist Daryl Sherman will be performing at the Kitano on Thursday, April 18 — with the inquisitive Scott Robinson on reeds or brass or some combination, and Harvie S on string bass.  I know the bill of fare will be a nicely-cooked assortment of swing tunes, pretty ballads, obscure but deserving songs, witty and energized.

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A day earlier, (Wednesday, April 17) tenor saxophonist Lena Bloch will be performing at the Salmagundi Club (Finland Center) at 47 Fifth Avenue, beginning at 8 PM in the bar.  Lena will be joined by Dave Miller, guitar; Billy Mintz, drums, and the exceptional pianist / composer Frank Carlberg.  It’s billed as an International Jazz Quartet, accurately:

This international jazz quartet is a project on interactive, spontaneous, freshly performed compositional activity, where all four band members are featured as soloists and composers.  

Originally a native of Helsinki, Finland, Frank Carlberg has been involved in many crossover projects throughout the years. Some of his most notable collaborations have included performances and recordings with Steve Lacy, Bob Brookmeyer, and Kenny Wheeler. He has been commissioned to write music for big bands, small ensembles, symphony orchestras as well as modern dance companies. Carlberg also serves on the faculty at New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music.

Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door — and can be purchased here.

Two adjacent evenings of intriguing music — joyous, exploratory, gratifying.  Make a date!

May your happiness increase.

CHICAGO RHYTHMS! ANDY SCHUMM, MARTY GROSZ, BOB HAVENS, ALEX HOFFMAN, JOHN SHERIDAN, KERRY LEWIS, PETE SIERS at JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA (September 22, 2012)

I post this delicious session — held in the vaults until now — both as a nostalgic glance backwards at the joys of Jazz at Chautauqua and as a “coming attraction” for what is to come this September.

Here’s Andy Schumm, cornet; Marty Grosz, guitar; Bob Havens, trombone; Alex Hoffman, tenor saxophone; John Sheridan, piano; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Pete Siers, drums.

From the early Ben Pollack book, WAITIN’ FOR KATY:

SWEET SUE, “featuring our fantastic vocalist”:

JUST IMAGINE:

An easy-rocking JAZZ ME BLUES:

The closer!  CHICAGO RHYTHM:

This one’s for the Beloved, for Stompy Jones and Maxine, for Ray, for Geri, for Aunt Ida, for Nancie, for Laura Beth . . . all the folks I cherish.

See you in September!

May your happiness increase.

CELEBRATING THE WORLDS DOUG DOBELL CREATED

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I didn’t get to the UK until 2005, so I missed a great era in Anglo-American relations . . . not Roosevelt and Churchill, but the opportunity to go record-shopping at Dobells, 77 Charing Cross Road.  I knew about it, however, through the “77” record label — with issues featuring Dick Wellstood, Don Ewell, Pete Brown, Bernard Addison, Sonny Greer, and more.

A new gallery exhibition, lovingly assembled, celebrates that great place and time — and the music that Dobells nurtured.  The exhibition runs from April 10 – May 18, 2013 at CHELSEA space.

CHELSEA space presents a rare opportunity to view previously unseen material from the Museum of London and British Record Shop Archive collections, concerning one of the world’s greatest record shops.

Dobells (1946-1992) was a significant meeting place for fans of jazz, folk and blues. This exhibition explores Dobells position as a retail environment, information network, cultural landmark and social hub through archive artefacts, ephemera, photographs (many by the celebrated jazz-blues photographer Val Wilmer), and graphics.

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Doug Dobell began selling collectable and imported jazz records in 1946 at his family’s rare books shop at 77 Charing Cross Road. In 1957 he started up the 77 record label and was instrumental in developing, recording and marketing jazz, blues, folk and world music in the UK. At a later point 75 Charing Cross Road next door to the original store, was used to house Dobells Folk Record shop section.

Prominent US musicians could be found dropping into Dobells including Muddy Waters, BB King, Roy Eldridge, Ben Webster, Red Allen and members of the Ellington band. A young Bob Dylan recorded in the small basement studio there in 1963 and Janis Joplin would visit with a bottle of Southern Comfort as a gift for the staff of the store.

RECORDS

Dobells stocked American blues 78s, 45s and LPs and many British music fans got their first ever taste of Mamie Smith, Leadbelly and Big Bill Broonzy there. The imported US records purchased at the record shop inspired such pioneers of British jazz and blues as Alexis Korner, Cyril Davies and Chris Barber (amongst many others). All the bands of the British Blues explosion: The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Cream and Fleetwood Mac shopped there. Martin Carthy, Dave Swarbrick, Mac McGann, Bert Jansch, The Vipers Skiffle Group, Lonnie Donegan and other folk musicians raided the shop’s racks of Woody Guthrie and Cisco Houston records. David Bowie was also a regular customer during the early 1960s.

Dobells provided a network for British Jazz musicians including Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott, Johnny Dankworth, Vic Lewis, Harry Beckett, Ian Carr, Mike Westbrook and many others who would meet there to check out the new imports in the listening booths and chat about the latest sounds. Such was the standing of Dobells, that it found its way into literature with New immigrants to London from former colonies and war torn nations would also visit as Dobells as it was the only shop in London to stock African, Irish, Yiddish and music from other parts of the world.

This exhibition recalls an era when a specialist record shop helped shape the nation’s underground cultural scene.  The exhibition takes place to coincide with Record Store Day UK, which occurs on Saturday 20th April 2013.  Exhibition curated by Donald Smith with Leon Parker.  For more information, email info@chelseaspace.org or telephone 020 7514 6983.  Admission is free and the exhibition is open Tue – Fri: 11:00 – 5:00, Sat: 10:00 – 4:00.  CHELSEA space is located at 16, John Islip Street, London SW1P 4JU – behind the Tate Gallery.

Those of us who spent happy hours (and dollars or pounds or the prevailing currency) in specialist record shops — where one could converse or debate with an educated, impassioned salesperson about the course of Bud Powell’s career — will find this exhibition powerfully evocative.  The generation that has no idea of what came before invisible digital sound should be gently escorted there . . . for a greater historical awareness.

Here’s a postscript and a photograph from my UK friend Robin Aitken, someone who knows:

This exhibition is only a precursor for a more long term project which is in the preparation stage at present. This will be a book on Dobell’s Jazz Record Shop edited by myself and Brian Peerless who worked part time in Dobell’s from 1962 until its final closure in 1992. It is intended that the book will be in the same format as Nat Hentoff’s wonderful “Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya” with sections on the history of the shop, the staff, the customers, the stories , the music and of course the musicians. We are assiduously collecting material and welcome any contributions from anyone who has visited the shop over the years. In 1972 a contingent of staff and customers, myself included, made to trip to New York for the First Newport Jazz Festival there. There were ten of us on that trip – sadly only four of us survive. The Dobell’s exhibition has prompted me to finally put down my memories and those of my surviving companions of a wonderful 2 weeks in the Big Apple. I took several photographs which I hope to include in the article and I have attached one of my favourites. This was taken outside Jim & Andy’s at West 55th Street in late June 1972 just before Jim closed for the month of July. It shows from left to right the drummer Richie Goldberg, John Kendall, Manager of Dobell’s Second-hand Shop, Ray Bolden, Manager of the Blues and Folk Shop, Scoville Brown who played with Louis in 1932 and nearly everyone else thereafter – some great records with Buck Clayton on HRS in 1946, and Doug Dobell himself, the owner of Dobell’s Jazz, Blues and Folk Record shops.

(Notice the record bag Richie Goldberg is holding — the thing in itself!)

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May your happiness increase.