Monthly Archives: May 2013

BRILLIANT PLAYERS RETURN! MARIANNE SOLIVAN and MICHAEL KANAN at SMALLS (April 21, 2013): THE SECOND SET

Genius at work. Brilliance at play. Two artists so confident and playful that they inspire each other to take risks, risks that come off. Watching the singer Marianne Solivan and the pianist Michael Kanan in duet is rather like watching great athletes, actors, or dancers — so sure of their immersion in the art that courage and wit come naturally to them.

Here’s the second set of a completely inspiring duo-performance at Smalls (183 West Tenth Street, Greenwich Village, New York City) that I recorded on Sunday, April 21, 2013.  (You can see the first set here.)

BILLY STRAYHORN MEDLEY:

Their hit!  I GUESS I’LL HANG MY TEARS OUT TO DRY:

TOO MUCH IN LOVE TO CARE:

THE LAST TIME FOR LOVE:

THOSE HUMDRUM BLUES:

THE LIES OF HANDSOME MEN:

May your happiness increase!

SPORTIELLO HONORS SHEARING. WE SMILE.

George Shearing autograph

First, some free verse:

We smile when he plays the piano,

The Maestro who comes from Milano,

He thinks it endearing 

To honor George Shearing,

Go hear him as soon as you can.  Oh!

— Author unknown, 2013

Rossano Sportiello, one of the most brilliant pianists (and one of the most genial of men) has put together a tribute to one of his idols, the late George Shearing.  “The Smiling Piano” will take place at the Cafe Carlyle, 35 East 76th Street, New York City — for a two-week run, June 11-15 and 18-24, 2013.  The trio features Frank Tate (bass, 11th-15th), Joel Forbes (bass, 18th-22nd) and Dennis Mackrel (drums), and the music begins at 8:45pm. For reservations: Tel. 212-744-1600.

If you’ve never been fortunate enough to hear the young Maestro play, let me remedy this immediately.  Here he is, recorded in 2012 at a concert at Dominican University in San Rafael, California, playing O SOLE MIO / A TIME FOR LOVE / CHOPIN IN JAZZ:

That would convince anyone.

Here’s what Rossano has to say about Maestro Shearing:

A Smiling Piano is what I think of as soon as I listen to any George Shearing recordings, when I hear the most beautiful piano playing that makes everybody smile.  His music is in tune with the way I felt since I became a professional performer at only 16. I felt I wanted to play music that could always be enjoyable and make people feel good.

When the possibility of performing at the Café Carlyle became real, I was asked to find a theme for the show, which would run for two weeks. Without any hesitation I came up with this idea.  A tribute to George Shearing means a tribute to jazz piano in general. Early in his career his style was first inspired by Fats Waller, Teddy Wilson, and Art Tatum. But Shearing soon became one the masters of that revolutionary music, be-bop. When he moved to New York City in 1946, Hank Jones and Errol Garner became his mentors and good friends and he absorbed their styles as well. Later he formed the George Shearing Quintet and the “Shearing Sound” became one of the inspirational elements for generations of musicians, and it still is.

A Shearing tribute is also naturally a tribute to “The Great American Song Book,” because he was one of its greatest interpreters and one of the most remarkable improvisers of all time — as well as a very prolific composer. Once he chose a song, he could improvise endless variations in any style: he could play a popular song and make it sound like Bach or Rachmaninoff or many others. He might start playing the second movement of the Ravel Piano Concerto and use it as an introduction to a ballad or the reverse! In the sixties he used to tour the USA playing classical concertos with local symphony orchestras in the first set of the show and bringing on his jazz quintet for the second half.

So stride piano, swing, be-bop, the Great American Song Book and classical music are the leading ingredients that will shape my tribute to George Shearing, pianist, composer, interpreter, and improviser.

I’ll be appearing with Dennis Mackrel on drums, Frank Tate on bass (the first week), and Joel Forbes on bass (the second week).  In 1983, Count Basie personally selected Dennis Mackrel to join his band, known for having the finest rhythm section in jazz. Dennis has been a sideman of choice for scores of jazz greats. George Shearing himself said, “If I ever have a record date coming up that calls for a drummer and Dennis is not available, I’ll postpone the session. He’s that good.” Dennis is currently one of the greatest jazz drummers and arrangers as well as the Musical Director of The Count Basie Orchestra.  Since the late 60’s, Frank Tate has been the sought-after accompanist for legendary musicians. Marian McPartland, Benny Goodman, Hank Jones, Dave McKenna, Wild Bill Davison, Teddy Wilson, Joe Venuti, Milt Jackson, Zoot Sims, and dozens of other jazz greats all have turned to Frank for his brilliant bass lines. Frank worked at the Cafè Carlyle every night with Bobby Short for the last 9 years of Bobby’s career until 2004.  Joel Forbes, currently a member of the Harry Allen Quartet and the Rebecca Kilgore Quartet, is one of New York best bass players, well known for is incredibly rich acoustic sound.

JAZZ LIVES suggests, quietly but fervently, “Go!”

May your happiness increase!

ROBBY AND RICKY’S EVENING OUT

All I know is that Robby and Ricky went to Eddie Condon’s in 1953*.  They heard the band — Eddie, Cutty Cutshall, Rex Stewart, Gene Schroeder, Herb Hall, Leonard Gaskin, George Wettling.  Someone took a color photograph of the band.  They asked Mr. Condon for his autograph, and he kindly obliged.  Now it belongs to eBay — and to the unnamed bidder who bought it for $42.00 plus $6.55 shipping.  But here it is for your admiration!

1953 CONDON'S WHEE

WHEE!

And here’s a soundtrack from the same period — Billy Butterfield, Rex, Peanuts Hucko, Herb Hall, Bud Freeman, Cutty Cutshall, and others performing AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL and THAT’S A PLENTY — with the leader’s delicious guitar quite audible in stereo.

*The picture is dated 1953.  But I am troubled — mildly — by the memory that the musicians pictured were playing Condon’s in 1958.  Could someone have misremembered?

May your happiness increase!

“SHAKE THAT THING” MEANS THE SAME THING IN ANY LANGUAGE: HOPPIN’ MAD at the 2013 BREDA JAZZ FESTIVAL

The wonderful band HOPPIN’ MAD made it to the 2013 Breda Jazz Festival, and happily for us, someone recorded the opening of the party and their rousing three-trumpet rendition of SHAKE THAT THING, a command to be obeyed!  That’s Lauri Lyster on drums; Katie Cavera on string bass; Josh Roberts on banjo; Evan Arntzen on clarinet; Clint Baker on trumpet and vocal; Dan Barrett on the Gillespiephone; Simon Stribling on trumpet:

If you’re not shaking THAT THING after watching this video, what’s wrong?

To delve more deeply into the world of HOPPIN’ MAD (neither unstable nor furious, just swinging), visit here for biographies, audio, video.  (Their debut CD is on the way — a treat for the ears.)

May your happiness increase.

SCOTT ROBINSON and ROSSANO SPORTIELLO at JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA 2012: FROM THEIR HEARTS TO OURS

We live at a rapid pace.  But I hope you can take two minutes for heartfelt beauty, created by Scott Robinson (taragoto) and Rossano Sportiello (piano) at Jazz at Chautauqua, September 2012: WHAT WILL I TELL MY HEART:

Here are the lyrics:

I’ll try to explain to friends, dear
The reason we two are apart
I know what to tell our friends, dear
But what will I tell my heart

It’s easy to say to strangers
That we played a game from the start
It’s easy to lie to strangers
But what will I tell my heart

When I smile to hide all the tears inside
What an ache it will bring
Then I’ll wander home to a telephone
That forgot how to ring.

I could say you’ll soon be back, dear
To fool the whole town may be smart
I’ll tell them you’ll soon be back, dear
But what will I tell my heart.

And here is the story behind the song, as told by lyricist Jack Lawrence.

WHAT WILL I TELL MY HEART

I continue to marvel at something we don’t always pay attention to — the way great creators use metal, wood, strings, breath, and fingers to make inanimate objects — musical instruments — sing with the sweet lightness and gravity of human souls.  Thank you, Scott and Rossano!

This post is for Barb Hauser, who loves this melody.

May your happiness increase!

MATTERS OF THE HEART: RAMONA (and her Grand Piano) ON FILM 1933-35

The world knew her as Ramona and her Grand Piano when she appeared and recorded with Paul Whiteman and small groups of his sidemen.  She had an intriguingly deep voice and a precise although loose piano style.  Her 1932-35 recordings are treasures (I think the ones under her own name were all contained on one TOM CD) but she isn’t as well as known as she should be.

But here she is on film, announced as THE PRINCESS OF JAZZ, singing STRAIGHT FROM THE SHOULDER (RIGHT FROM THE HEART), lifting her eyes to heaven in the most winsome manner; Con Conrad’s carpe diem, WHY NOT? (“Not to love is no existence”) after having been introduced by Robert Benchley;  in the third clip, from Dick Powell’s 1935 THANKS A MILLION, we see the entire Whiteman Orchestra, with Roy Bargy at the second piano and the King’s Men, leading to her performance of BELLE OF NEW ORLEANS.

Here she is with the Whiteman Orchestra in 1934, singing both choruses of I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO CHANGE MY PLAN:

and the 1932 LET’S PUT OUT THE LIGHTS AND GO TO SLEEP:

LOVE THY NEIGHBOR (apparently from a 1934 broadcast):

The cautionary tale, ANNIE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE (hear her lilt at the start of the second chorus):

The 1935 EV’RY NOW AND THEN (with Jack and Charlie Teagarden, Benny Bonacio, Dick McDonough):

And IF THE MOON TURNS GREEN, from the same year:

Distinctive, worldly, and sweet, no?

For an extraordinary biographical essay on Ramona — written by musician and scholar Peter Mintun — click here — one of the best pieces of enjoyable musicology ever.

May your happiness increase!

LOVE IN BLOOM AT BIRDLAND: DAN BLOCK / JAMES CHIRILLO (May 8, 2013)

May 8, 2013, was a special day in jazz lore — although the mainstream jazz media didn’t pay it any attention: the fourteenth anniversary of David Ostwald’s Wednesday early-evening gig at Birdland with the band once called the Gully Low Jazz Band, then the Louis Armstrong Centennial Band, now (appropriately) the Louis Armstrong Eternity Band.  The participants included Jon-Erik Kellso, Tom Artin, Dan Block, David Ostwald, James Chirillo, Marion Felder — and guest stars Anat Cohen and Bria Skonberg.  The joint was jumping, but here’s a sweet bit of musical romance: Dan and James duetting, becoming a tiny but fulfilling orchestra on TAKING A CHANCE ON LOVE:

Who knew midtown New York City could suddenly become so bucolic?  The pipes of Pan and a verifiable Roman lute . . .

This one’s for the Beloved, who was at my side, for Lynn and Danny, for Mar and Ricky, Noya and Eric, and all the other loving couples out there.  And if you’re currently single, be not afeard: take a chance on love!

May your happiness increase!

SCOTT HAMILTON and his AMICI in BOLOGNA, ITALY (May 22, 2013): THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE OF SWING

The brilliantly lyrical tenor saxophone Master, Scott Hamilton, is joined here by brilliantly lyrical Italian friends only a few days ago (when it works towards such results, technology is perfection): Matteo Raggi, tenor saxophone; Davide Brillante, guitar; Luciano Milanese, string bass; Carlo Milanese, drums — for five selections.  A few of the videos are incomplete, but that’s due to technical limitations rather than musical ones, as you’ll see and hear:

BACK HOME IN INDIANA:

DREAM DANCING:

BLUE CAPER:

Recorded live at the Cantina Bentivoglio, in Bologna, Italy.  And we must thank the devout, intrepid nickingos of YouTube fame for the videos!

There is also a version of COCKTAILS FOR TWO and an absolutely gorgeous reading of I CAN’T GET STARTED — with Scott playing the verse a cappella — which you can find easily on the YouTube channel noted above.

With all due respect to the blessed Mister Hamilton, I wouldn’t mind hearing a CD or a live session by Signores Raggi, Brillante, Milanese, and Milanese.  Lyricism, swing, precision and abandon personified here.  These musicians dance on the head of a pin, balancing in the present between the Idealized Past and the Exciting Future.

May your happiness increase!

‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS (October 2013): DUKE HEITGER’S STEAMBOAT STOMP

“Why not go down to New Orleans in October 2013?” said the little voice.

“What a good idea,” I thought.

NATCHEZ

And you’ll see why.  I received word from the esteemed trumpeter / singer / bandleader / friend of jazz Duke Heitger that he and other worthies had planned a “STEAMBOAT STOMP: CLASSIC JAZZ ON THE RIVER” for October 11-13, 2013.  Duke’s friends include Banu Gibson, Tim Laughlin, the Dukes of Dixieland, Butch Thompson, Solid Harmony, the Yerba Buena Stompers.  Duke promises, “We continue to secure some of the finest jazz musicians in the world” for an “intimate festival dedicated to the finest of classic jazz — on one of the last authentic steamboats still operating in the United States, the Steamboat Natchez.”  Five bands, a gospel brunch, a second line parade, and more.  Duke hopes for support from the classic jazz community that is as enthusiastic as the music he and his friends create.  Ticket prices for the event start at $200 — and one can become a more committed patron, supporter, at higher levels.

steamboat-Natchez-1

Highlights include: Friday-night concerts on a special chartered sailing of the Natchez, with simultaneous music on two stages and New Orleans cuisine cooked by the steamboat’s own chef.  Saturday afternoon performances will also take place on the Natchez; the evening concerts will be held in the ballroom and lobby of the Bourbon Orleans Hotel.  The festival will conclude Sunday afternoon with a New Orleans-style gospel jazz brunch.

I plan to be there.  I’ll let you know more of the details as they appear.  But right now I know I’ll be “‘way down yonder in New Orleans” in mid-October.

May your happiness increase! 

“THE JAZZ MAN”: A NEW FILM

Closely observed, we are all remarkable, beautiful — and eccentric.  Even the most conspicuously “normal” or “ordinary” person we might encounter is happily original in some odd way.  Keith Crombie was a shining exemplar of this — an individual who lived in accordance with what he believed, who made his devotion into an art form into a place, an idea, a grubby shrine.

the-funeral-of-keith-crombie-who-ran-the-jazz-cafe-635930427-1349306

I’d never heard of Keith before reading about a new film, THE JAZZ MAN, the creation of documentary filmmaker Abi Lewis, but I am sorry that I missed him.  He created a place for jazz in Newcastle upon Tyne, the JAZZ CAFE, and ran it for twenty-two years until his death in 2012.  The film is not only a portrait of a “bebop man in a hip-hop world,” but a candid portrayal of the worlds inside and outside the club. Lewis says that the club was like Keith’s home, his living room — where she and others were allowed in to hear and witness live jazz.

The study of jazz as an art form, as a modern phenomenon often appearing out of step with its times, has almost always focused on the musicians themselves, and rightly so.  But less attention has been paid to those devoted eccentrics who attempted to balance art and business, to make it possible for creativity to blossom in public.  I think that only Barney Josephson has been the subject of a full-scale study, so I welcome THE JAZZ MAN as a portrait of a daring individual who attempted to help musicians offer their art to the world — that often-maligned species, The Club Owner . . . in this case, the late Keith Crombie.

Here’s the trailer for the film — lively, moving, energized, unsentimental.  I look forward to its release and distribution.

May your happiness increase!

TO EXCITE THE JADED PALATE: “DINNERTIME FOR HUNGRY COLLECTORS”

Given the instant availability of musical performances that were once only to be imagined, one could excuse jazz collectors for becoming a bit jaded.  With the beautiful “complete” issues from Mosaic and Jazz Oracle, for instance, one could purchase ALL of the Louis Armstrong Deccas, the Count Basie Columbias of the 1936-40 period, the Ellington small and big bands of the Thirties . . . the Red Nichols Brunswicks.  As well, one can purchase collections of music that once were only listings of rarities in a discography: three discs of Jack Purvis’ recordings.

On smaller but equally diligent labels, such as Anthony Barnett’s AB Fable, one can hear Ray Nance, Ben Webster, Jimmie Blanton, Fred Guy, and Sonny Greer jamming in a hotel room in 1941.  If that were not enough, imagine Ben playing clarinet.  CDs on Jazzology and Delmark collecting the solo and band recordings of Frank Melrose.  Beautiful hot rarities on the FROG label.  The Masters of Jazz series — now sadly defunct — which gave us young Dexter Gordon jamming with Bill Harris and Jimmy Rowles, Lester Young on the radio in 1940-2.  (I could go back in my memory to write a long encomium about the various Jerry Valburn issues of the middle Seventies — on his collection of labels.  “It swings!”  But that is for another post. I know that my scant listing of marvels isn’t sufficient, but I trust readers can and will supply their own recollections of collectors’ dreams gratified.)

Still, as one’s collection grows, the possibility of becoming jaded — what more is there to possess? — is ever stronger.  Occasionally, I have caught myself, to my amusement, feeling like a sated Roman emperor for whom the ordinary marvels — centaurs, gryphons, gladiators, nubile virgins — are not enough.

Until today, with the announcement of a two-CD set on the Dutch Doctor Jazz label (thanks to Loren Schoenberg spreading the word on Facebook) that would keep even a drowsy jazz Emperor wide-awake.

cd-hungry

Loren nudged us all by suggesting a most marvelous explosion of possibility — 1939 live recordings, not previously known, by Louis and Sid Catlett, and others by Count Basie and Lester Young.  That would be enough for me.  But there’s more!

Don Redman and Cab Calloway soundtracks from Max Fleischer cartoons; Lionel Hampton on the air; Jimmie Lunceford transcriptions; unissued alternate takes featuring Frank Newton, Bobby Hackett, Adrian Rollini, “The Three Spades,” Spike Hughes with Jimmy Dorsey / Muggsy Spanier; Charlie Barnet; Earl Hines; Mildred Bailey with the Dorsey Brothers; Frank Trumbauer; Joe Venuti; Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald; Paul Whiteman; Jack Teagarden; Bob Crosby featuring Jess Stacy; Billie Holiday; Raymond Scott Quintette; Benny Carter and Coleman Hawkins in Europe.

Details for Disc 1 here and Disc 2 here.  And a wonderfully detailed review by Max Easterman in VJM can be found here.  Although I now buy CDs more slowly — guided by the occasional feeling of satiety, with visits from Prudence and her sister Financial Wisdom (we call her “Finnie” for short), I ordered this set yesterday.  I couldn’t resist.

May your happiness increase!

CALIFORNIA, HERE THEY COME! DENNIS LICHTMAN, TAMAR KORN, GORDON AU, JARED ENGEL (June 4 – 9, 2013)

Occasionally the mountain does come to Mohammad.  I am now situated in California — but my bicoastal friends are doing a West Coast mini-tour!  That’s Dennis Lichtman (clarinet, mandolin, fiddle); Tamar Korn (vocal explorations); Gordon Au (trumpet); Jared Engel (string bass) — some version of the Brain Cloud crossbred with the Grand Street Stompers.  Whatever you call these inventive inspired musicians, their joy is palpable, their creations heartfelt.

Here’s the tour schedule, gleaned from Dennis’ website:

June 4: Tamar Korn and Friends / Gaucho: Cafe Royale, San Francisco.

June 5: Tamar Korn and Friends / Gaucho: Amnesia, San Francisco.

June 6: Grand Street Stompers: Midweek Concert Series, Carmichael.

June 7: Grand Street Stompers: Midtown Stomp, Sacramento.

June 8: Tamar Korn and Friends / Erma Kyriakos: The Lost Church, San Francisco.

June 9: Tamar Korn and Friends / Gaucho: Brenda’s, San Francisco.

I don’t yet know all the details — show times, ticket prices, and the like — but I plan to visit a few of these happenings, and even with my tripod, there is room for you, too — no matter which coast you come from.

Here’s a song from the 2012 Lichtman – Korn – Au tour, with Craig Ventresco on guitar / banjo; Rob Adkins, string bass:

They are magical beings!

May your happiness increase!

MARTY AT THE MERMAID (Part One): MARTY GROSZ, DANNY TOBIAS, DAN BLOCK, ED WISE (May 17, 2013)

It took a great deal of energy to make the long journey from the JAZZ LIVES headquarters in suburban New York, to The Mermaid Inn in Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia — cars and bridges and tolls and service areas and heated dialogues with my aging GPS and the kindness of friends.  But it was worth it.  The result of the trek was another opportunity to see Martin Oliver Grosz, the Trolloope of Tempo, and his lyrical, imaginative friends Danny Tobias, cornet; Ed Wise, string bass; Dan Block, clarinet and alto saxophone.  Here’s a sample.

(The discerning cinematographers in the JAZZ LIVES audience may note that my musical heroes are an unusual shade of orange.  The Mermaid Inn was a cozy, friendly place lit in deep nocturnal hues.  What you see is the brightest image I could produce without added intrusive lighting.)

I’M CRAZY  ‘BOUT MY BABY:

BEALE STREET BLUES:

CRAZY RHYTHM:

JUBILEE:

Worth a trip from anywhere!  The only lapse I must note is that usually Marty invents imaginative names for his bands — the Orphan Newsboys, Destiny’s Tots, the Paswonky Serenaders.  No Homeric epithets, no Raymond Chandler monickers this time.  Marty Grosz and his Able Seamen?  His Swinging Mermen?  You’re on your own.

May your happiness increase!

THE WONDERS CONTINUE!

A few hours ago, I was able to see silent color footage of Sidney Bechet on the Eddie Condon Floor Show — check it out here — and now I can tell you that there is a Facebook page devoted to Adele Girard and Joe Marsala, harpist and clarinetist, wife and husband — created by their daughter Eleisa Trampler in honor of Adele’s upcoming centennial.  Facebook has eaten up at least ninety minutes of every day, but this is one of many reasons to join in.

What next?  Stores selling Rod Cless t-shirts?  Frank Teschemacher refrigerator magnets?  The Complete Works of Frank Melrose?

I can only imagine!  (“I ‘like’ it, I ‘like’ it!”)

May your happiness increase!

GLIMPSES OF THE GRAIL, 1949

We love the music we have — the wooden boxes of phonograph records and cassettes, the wall shelves of CDs, the iPods with thousands of songs.  But our hearts beat faster for those things imagined but not realized.  Poring over discographies, we breathe faster when reading of unissued takes, the performances rumored to exist, acetates held by someone in another country, the film footage . . .

But thanks to Lorenz Yeung and Fernando Ortiz de Urbana (I’ve had the good fortune to meet the latter in person) are a few bite-sized bits of one kind of Holy Grail: http://jazzontherecord.blogspot.com/

(Fernando’s blog, EASY DOES IT, is a wonderful cornucopia on its own.)

Who assembled this I do not know.  It is a tribute to Sidney Bechet, who well deserves such honors.  But obviously someone followed Bechet around in 1949, on his penultimate visit to the United States.  And Bechet appeared a number of times on television (think of it!) in the States — most often, I believe, on the Eddie Condon Floor Show oon WPIX.

It’s always heartwarming to be able to praise Mr. Condon, so allow me a few sentences.  Whenever he could (later with the help of his wife Phyllis and the publicist Ernie Anderson) he looked for venues where his music could be played — in mixed bands on Fifty-Second Street, at the Park Lane Hotel, at Town Hall, the Ritz Theatre, and Carnegie Hall, several incarnations of his own club . . . on records, radio broadcasts, transcriptions for the servicemen and women . . . and television.

The Floor Show was his rewarding pioneering television series, broadcast between 1948 and 1950 on WPIX-TV.  It brought together the best jazz players and singers — Louis Armstrong, Sidney Catlett, Jack Teagarden, Lee Wiley, Billie Holiday, Earl Hines, Pee Wee Russell, Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Hot Lips Page, Count Basie, Bobby Hackett, Buzzy Drootin, Ralph Sutton — alongside Rosemary Clooney and tap-dancer Teddy Hale, and fifty or so other luminaries.

Eddie was wise enough to understand that the human ear and psyche would wilt on a steady unremitting diet of Hot, so in his club there was an intermission solo pianist; there were ballad medleys, slow blues, medium-tempo pop tunes, as well as RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE.

And his understanding of “show,” of variety, developed in the visual world of early television — hot numbers interspersed with slow ballads, sweet singing, tap dancing, and more.  (I’ve seen a still photograph of what must have been a perfect jazz trio: Hot Lips Page, James P. Johnson, and Zutty Singleton.  Pardon me while I rhapsodize silently.)

Some small portion of the music survives on vinyl issues on the Queen-Disc label and in the collectors’ underground trading world, but we know that the kinescopes made at the time — films of the programs — no longer exist.  I have this on very solid authority, unless there were multiple sets made.

However . . . this YouTube surprise package has color silent footage of Sidney with Cliff Jackson, Kid Ory, Muggsy Spanier, Teddy Hale, Peanuts Hucko, possibly Kansas Fields, Gene Schroeder, Buddy Rich, Chubby Jackson, George Wettling, and another saxophonist named Charlie Parker.

You will have to watch the video several times to fully appreciate all its great gifts, including shots of Bechet acting in several French films, occasionally at the stove or battling an over-assertive shirt dickey.

About the television footage: I imagine that someone who loved Bechet followed him onto the soundstage with a movie camera (the kinescopes would have had sound and been in black and white) — blessings on this intrepid soul and those who saved the footage and shared it with us.  (I’ve written to Lorenz Yeung, the poster, to ask the source of the Condon material; he generously told me that it was part of a Bechet CD package he bought in Australia, a bonus CD (!)  I’m also quite amazed that none of the orinthologists have noticed this — and it’s been on YouTube since 2011.  Research!  In color!)

The question, is, of course, “What else is out there?”  And the answer is unfathomable.  But all things are possible.

My personal Holy Grail might no longer exist.  I can’t remember where I heard or read this story, but Ernie Anderson knew a fellow in the advertising trade, quite wealthy, whose son loved jazz.  Father wanted to give his son a present, and asked Ernie to set up a recording session for the boy: Ernie assembled Bobby Hackett, Sidney Catlett, and the fine pianist Harry Gibson (later Harry “the Hipster” Gibson), had them record some music, had the records pressed in perhaps one set, and I assume the boy was terrifically pleased.  But where are those records now?

Readers are invited to submit their own versions of the jazz Holy Grail . . . we could start with the airshots of the King Oliver band with Lester Young in it and go from there.

Thanks to Lorenz Yeung, Fernando, to David J. Weiner, Maggie Condon, Loren Schoenberg, Dan Morgenstern, and to Sidney Bechet (of course): the soundtrack is DANS LES RUE D’ANTIBES.

May your happiness increase!

GIVE IMPERFECTION A BIG HUG

I can’t forget the story that Bob Wilber tells in his memoir (MUSIC WAS NOT ENOUGH, published by Oxford University Press) of his time in the mid-Fifties Eddie Condon band.  Bob recalls that he was then trying to construct every solo so that it was all perfect.  One night Condon, somewhat intoxicated, leaned over to him on the bandstand and said, “Hey, kid!  Make a mistake!”

Even when drunk, Condon was in touch with deep wisdoms.

I encounter so many people — more often women, not men — who keep a running tally of their flaws, failures, gaffes.  They strive towards some imagined ideal of perfection and use it as a way to see themselves as lopsided, inadequate. They succeed 99% and then berate themselves for the missing 1.

In the world of jazz, our heroes were uniformly imperfect.  Hear Louis and Bix crack notes; hear Hawkins and Bird squeak and squeal.  Hear the tempo slow down or speed up on a hallowed record.  Hear the rhythm section take four bars to get itself together.  Hear the singer hit a note sharp or flat.  Hear the band come in a beat too soon.

In live performances, we’ve all heard the band start and then stop to start again.  Those who are paying attention may have heard one of the players be unsure of a particular chord change and someone in the band then says quietly, “A flat,” and things get on the right track for the next chorus.

It’s all “flawed,” but the flaws are human and thus endearing.

I remember being dismayed at my first forays into recording studios nearly ten years ago, hearing musicians I had always revered ask for “inserts” and “punches” to fix this note or that.  You could argue that they were creating artifacts for posterity that had to be as close to flawless as possible, but the process sometimes felt more like the underground laboratory of a science-fiction novel than a creative enterprise.

If Louis could make a mistake and forgive himself; if the result could be a jazz classic, why can’t we allow ourselves some of the same freedom?

Let each one reading this post follow Condon’s advice — and see that our little worlds and the big one do not fall down because we consciously made a mistake.  If we embrace our own imperfections, it seems we might be easier with the lapses of others.  And the world would be perhaps a more untidy place, but certainly a more relaxed and affectionate one.  Whether you are kind to yourself and then extend it to others, or the other way around . . . the result is tangible, sweet, and lasting.  Try it for yourself!

And here are Bob Wilber (at 84) and Ehud Asherie.  If they’re making mistakes, chasing that bunny, I can’t hear them:

May your happiness increase!

A SPY FOR DIXIELAND

Ian Fleming never gave me a thought.  I never had a specially-equipped car, dangerous gadgets.  But I was a spy for Dixieland.

In a recent seminar with one of my mentors, Prof. Figg, he asked the question, “What are your secret guilty musical pleasures?”

I think the Professor expected that I was listening to Justin Bieber or to marimba orchestras.  Toy pianos.  Singing dogs.  Kate Smith.  Anthony Braxton.  Rossini overtures.  Andrew Lloyd Webber.

And although I thought hard, I couldn’t come up with any guilty musical pleasures.  Oh, I love sentiment: Connee Boswell’s LITTLE MAN, YOU’VE HAD A BUSY DAY makes me cry.  But I am proud of my reaction to her singing, so there’s nothing guilty in it.

But then I started to remember the time when I was a jazz operative in enemy country.

When I was nine or ten, I was already seriously hooked by hot jazz.  Louis Armstrong, first and foremost.  I recall spending birthday money on a Louis record, and I was thrilled when he appeared on television.

I was in the fifth grade when the Beatles came to the United States, and I found them fascinating — but for only a short time.  They were fun, energetic, new, uninhibited.  I remember pestering my father to buy me the soundtrack album from A HARD DAY’S NIGHT.  When I could, I bought those records, borrowed them from friends, tried so hard to make them my personal soundtrack.  (Everyone else did.)

I got all the way up to RUBBER SOUL before I decided that I didn’t really like this music all that much.  What I was entranced by was the possibility of being liked because you like what everyone else likes.

I had already begun to notice, although I probably did not articulate it to myself, that one’s musical preferences were ways definitions of one’s self, stated publicly or otherwise.  One’s taste was an ideological / emotional badge.

If you liked Gary Lewis and the Playboys’ THIS DIAMOND RING (why do I remember this now?) you were possibly a member of the club that could be considered worthy of being inspected for possible admission to the clubhouse.

But walking around telling my peers that I listened to Louis Armstrong — the truth — was clearly not the way to be accepted, to be cool, to be “in” or popular.  I remember telling some adults, who looked at me indulgently.  Perhaps they thought my preference more strange than the loud music their children were listening to.  My conscious anachronism must have struck them as at best, a benign eccentricity; at worst, inexplicable.

Among my peers, anything that new and rebellious was good.  Ancient and entrenched was definitely not.  When I met the pretty granddaughter of our French-Canadian neighbors, I knew I could not tell her that I preferred Fats Waller to Iron Butterfly and expect her to swoon.  “Our” music was supposed to unsettle the old folks who fed and clothed you; it wasn’t supposed to have any comforting connections to their world.  Jini Hendrix, not Jimmie Blanton.

So I kept my love to myself.  I told very few people that I listened to Louis and the Dukes of Dixieland in my room, that I read Mezz Mezzrow’s REALLY THE BLUES (and was then violently disappointed by his playing — I was too young to appreciate those Bluebird sides).  I couldn’t really confess to anyone that I loved Bobby Hackett’s air-traceries on ballads, that “Dixieland jazz” on television — those small groupings of oddly-dressed men — thrilled me.  I even remember watching Lawrence Welk’s program for the brief “hot” interludes (not knowing at the time that I would someday see and admire Bob Havens in person).  Even my parents, who were very indulgent and loving, did not quite know what to make of my obsession: they had lived through the Depression and the Swing Era, but the depth of my ardor must have puzzled them.

In this century, a broader acceptance is the rule.  It is much easier to say, “Oh, I listen to Bulgarian hip-hop,” or “I am working on my harpsichord on the weekends,” than it was.  I know a young woman in middle school who dresses in elaborate clothing every day, plays the ukulele, analyzes 1905 Sousa records.  She seems to have gained much more flexibility to be unusual in this century than I had in mine.

My generation may have marched to Thoreau’s different drummer, but to call the metaphorical figure of independence Dave Tough did not do.   It still seems a towering irony that my nonconformist friends were obliviously conformist.

I had to go underground because I identified so strongly with the music of an earlier generation and one before that.  I didn’t dance, so I hadn’t met the swing-dance generation who would teach me the Balboa and know, instinctively, which version of SWINGIN’ THE BLUES they liked.  In 1966, had I come out of the aesthetic closet and said, “The music I like was the popular music — or at least one strain of it — in 1936,” I would be marked as even more freakish than I already was.

I could and did wear the flowered shirts and bell-bottom trousers (both of which pleased me for their own sake) but I could not admit to an admiration for Pee Wee Russell.  To do so would be to say, “I want to be just like your grandparents,” not readily accepted among my peers.

It might have been easier if I had had the ability and patience to seriously attempt a musical instrument.  Then I could have hung out in the bandroom with the other trumpet geeks and said, “Have you heard what Ray Nance does here?”  But that community was denied me.

Even when I was in an independent study program in my senior year of high school, I knew I had to practice secrecy.  It was difficult to unmask.  My friend Stu Zimny has reminded me of our being on field trips into Manhattan, and my running off during our lunch break to buy Commodore 78s.  He would ask, “What did you buy?” and I would say, “Oh, nothing really.  You wouldn’t be interested,” or some similar falsehood.

I was afraid of being laughed at if I was seen buying archaic recordings of strange music with odd-sounding players.  Red, Muggsy, Big Sid, Little T . . . these heroic affectionate sobriquets were encouraged in baseball but not elsewhere.

My affections did not transfer easily.  My seventeen-year-old self — suave, stylish, ineffably debonair, thought that Jack Teagarden’s 1954 recording of A HUNDRED YEARS FROM TODAY was the best seduction music ever.  What woman could resist his wooing?  (All of them.)

I don’t remember when and how the mists began to lift.  It may have been when I began to encounter other young men at jazz concerts.  We glanced at each other cautiously, suspiciously.  “You like this music too?”  “Yeah.”  “Don’t tell anyone, OK?”  “I like hot jazz.”  “Shhhh!  Keep it down.  They’ll hear us!”

But I only began to “come out” in college, perhaps defensively but more proud.  “Yes, I listen to Louis Armstrong records.  Do you want to come to my house and hear what I am listening to?”

It wasn’t always easy.  “Cartoon music” was often the way my records were described.  “How can you listen to that old stuff?  What do you hear in it?” “Wow, that’s old-fashioned!”

At this point in the imagined black-and-white film, calendar pages fall off the wall.  We are now in NOW, this century, where I am entirely comfortable with my own love for hot music.

It fascinates me that when the Beloved lovingly introduces me, “Oh, this is my Sweetie — he has a great jazz video blog!” I can see people’s eyelids begin to flutter — with puzzlement or tedium, it is hard to say.  I can only imagine what people think.  “Oh, no.  Jazz, for God’s sake.  One step less interesting than toy trains.  What shall I say?  I never ‘understood jazz,’ and this fellow is obviously so interested in it that he’s vibrating as he stands there.”  So they say, generously, “Jazz!  Wow, that’s interesting.  Do you like Miles Davis?”  Or “I think John Coltrane was a very spiritual being.  I like electro-fusion.  Do you like Diana Krall?”

And they are being as gracious as human beings can be, so it pains me to redirect their enthusiasm.  But I have to say, “Well, I admire Miles and Coltrane, but my heart is with older stuff.”  “Oh, what do you mean?”  “Louis Armstrong is my hero.  Billie Holiday.  Duke Ellington,” keeping it as plain as possible.  And it is clear that with those words and those names I have marked myself as An Oddity.  The most kind people say, “Did you see ANTIQUES ROADSHOW last night?  There was a woman who had a whole collection of autographed band photographs from the Big Band Era, and one of them was signed by Louis Armstrong?”  Others smile sweetly, vaguely, and head for the white wine spritzers.

Jazz still remains a mystery to most people, and those of us who truly resonate to it are destined to remain Outsiders.  It’s a pity.  Why shouldn’t everyone be able to share the great pleasures that we know?

I am now a Spy Emeritus, now able to view these episodes with nostalgia and amusement tempering my puzzlement.  Call me 0078, retired.  But I remember the feeling of being out of step with the culture of my times, and being made to feel weird.

Yet I followed what I loved, and jazz has paid me back for my loyalty a million times over.  And it continues to do so.

This one’s for my friends AJS and KD — and, as always, for the Beloved, who knew that it don’t mean a thing . . . before I ever came along.

May your happiness increase.

ADULT BEAUTY and TENDERNESS: MARIANNE SOLIVAN / MICHAEL KANAN at SMALLS (April 21, 2013)

I know that beauty and worth cannot be quantified by the amount of public appreciation they receive; in simpler terms, the most rewarding painting in the museum may not have the longest line of people who wish to stare at it.

But here is a very brief reposting of something both beautiful and honest.  My motivation, and it may be a crass one, is that I saw that this video had been seen by 22 people on YouTube.  Twenty-two seems like a small number . . . so I hope that JAZZ LIVES readers will forgive me for saying, “If you missed this, you owe it to yourselves to take a few minutes and watch and listen calmly.”

It is a medley of two love songs performed by singer Marianne Solivan and pianist Michael Kanan at Smalls on April 21, 2013.  The first, I’LL FOLLOW YOU, is — to my mind — inescapably associated with Bing Crosby circa 1932; the second, THEN I’LL BE TIRED OF YOU, is an Arthur Schwartz / Howard Dietz classic* that I first heard in Fats Waller’s jovial but loving version.

Marianne introduces them by noting that most of the love songs she knows are about new love (“Oh gee, oh gosh, oh golly, she’s a great great girl, I can’t wait until we go to the preacher!” — to conflate three or four Twenties songs) and, having listened to Marianne as often as possible, I know she is one of the most wrenching explorers of love that has failed.

But here she and Michael pay living subtle moving tribute to love that lasts, commitment without phobia, devotion.  It’s not the aging idea of Darby and Joan — I sense that the lovers dramatized in Marianne’s versions are still able to get up and do the hokey-pokey without making an appointment well in advance — but I so admire this presentation of music that dramatizes the idea that real love isn’t microwaveable.

And I would also like us all to bow low in the direction of Michael Kanan, soulful and generous — at the piano and away from it.

Please listen again, or for the first time.  Or send this posting as a love-token to your Beloved . . . perhaps even to someone you’d like to audition as one?

May your love be as rewarding as that Marianne and Michael bring to us.

*I sent a link to this video to Jonathan Schwartz: I hope he is able to observe and admire, too.

May your happiness increase!

MY MAIN MEN (ROCKIN’ IN VENTURA): CARL SONNY LEYLAND, MARC CAPARONE, MARTY EGGERS, JEFF HAMILTON (May 2013)

I had never heard of Yolie’s Fresh Mexican Grill in Ventura, California before a friend sent me these two videos.  But now I think  there should be a move afoot to declare Yolie’s a National Landmark.  I can’t speak for the food.  Whether the guacamole is fresh and not suffering from an overabundance of raw onion; whether the carnitas are properly juicy, I can’t say.  (I live in hope, however.)

But I can tell you that earlier this month they had the wonderful music of pianist / singer / barrelhouse fellow Carl Sonny Leyland, cornet hero Marc Caparone, string bass man of great renown Marty Eggers and master of the talking drums Jeff Hamilton.  Here are two performances — drawing on the lowdown blues and an obscure but sweet Twenties pop tune associated with silent comedy star Charley Chase.

Believe it!

SOMEBODY LOAN ME A MATCH:

SMILE WHEN THE RAINDROPS FALL:

May your happiness increase!

SWEET WITCHCRAFT: DARYL SHERMAN at JAZZ at KITANO — with SCOTT ROBINSON and HARVIE S (April 18, 2013)

I had my first visit to the very cozy Jazz at Kitano a few weeks ago for a delightful set by singer / pianist / storyteller Daryl Sherman, accompanied by the multi-talented Scott Robinson and the very swinging string bassist Harvie S.  Here are some of the auditory delights of the first set.  Daryl draws on all kinds of music — familiar to obscure, from show tunes to hot jazz classics, always neatly accompanying herself with great style.

(I must apologize for the slightly muzzy quality of the visual image, which puzzles me.  Was Mercury in retrograde; were there sunspots; had my camera gotten into the gin when I’d put it down on the bar for a second?  For those who object to such imperfections, please pretend that what follows is divinely-inspired radio.)

Sorcery on the East Side — another way of reconsidering WITCHCRAFT (with a musical explanation of that unusual-looking reed by Magus Robinson):

Without being in the least disloyal to her extraordinary father, trombonist Sammy Sherman, Daryl tells a story of how she might have had a different parent.  A delightful visit to the land of WHAT IF:

One of Louis Armstrong’s less-known endearing Socialist specialties, a heartfelt reading of RED CAP (with Scott on the taragota given to him by Louis-alumnus Joe Muranyi):

The very pretty MIDNIGHT SUN:

A song — quite endearing — I’d never heard before — IN APRIL.  (The melody is Bill Evans’ FOR NENETTE; the lyrics are by Roger Schore, who was in the audience):

THEM THERE EYES is from 1930 but it never gets old:

Brilliantly at play — puckish and expert all at once.

May your happiness increase!

A SECOND HELPING OF DELICIOUS HOME-COOKING: THE BRAIN CLOUD at THE JALOPY THEATRE (April 26, 2013)

Big flavors.  Never genetically modified.  Nothing artificial.  Sweet and savory.  Real pleasure.  Intensity and delicacy in one.

Here’s the first set that the Brain Cloud (featuring Dennis Lichtman, Tamar Korn, Andrew Hall, Raphael McGregor, Skip Krevens, Kevin Dorn, with guests Noam Pikelny, Rob Hecht, and Michael Gomez) created at Brooklyn’s Jalopy Theatre on April 26, 2013.

And more!  As before, notice the delight this band takes in making the familiar new and lively, and creating its own classic tunes and performances:

WE ARE NOW!:

MISS THE MISSISSIPPI AND YOU:

WHEN MY DREAMBOAT COMES HOME:

IN THE BEGINNING (Tamar’s own “gospel tune”):

LONESOME ROAD BLUES:

I dedicate this post and the one before it to the loving presence of Tadek Korn.

May your happiness increase!

ABBE BUCK, COMING BACK

Abbe Buck

A note from JAZZ LIVES’ friend, singer Abbe Buck — someone whose enthusiasm for swinging music is real.  I’d asked her to say something about herself:

Dear Michael,

I sang in New York in the late 1980s, and surprisingly, am leaving sleepy Virginia to sing in NYC. Even then I sang music from the 1920s and 1930s. I did supper club, piano bar and light jazz, the kind of songs that Sylvia Syms sang with the great pianist Art Tatum in the 1940s, or that Lee Wiley sang with her then-husband, pianist Jess Stacy. My choice of music remains rock solid. I was mentored for a time by the late, great Rosemary Clooney, whom I met at WOR radio when I was a Manager of Clearance Communications for Sid Marks “The Sounds of Sinatra”. I knew Rosemary for over ten years until her death. I was also on the Board of the Socierty of Singers, Chapter East in 2000-2002, under the aegis of the later Sy Kravitz (Lenny’s father) and Mercedes Ellington.

My love of vocalists, whom I consider teachers of song, has stuck with me through the years. I like to stay true to the way that each song was written. I adore Lee Wiley and her rendition of “Manhattan.” Her husky tones enthrall me. I so love Mildred Bailey and her high trill. I love singing “All of Me” with her in mind. “Seems Like Old Times” and “If I had You” remind me of Her Nibs Miss Georgia Gibbs and Miss Connee Boswell’s sound. The songs are lovely and simple, and perfect for a gal singer. “Deed I Do” and It’s the Talk of the Town” were done early and later by Helen Humes, who also had a higher register, which many singers had in the 1930s and 1940s, but did convey a story every time she sang. She also sang and was famous for her blues, and did a rollicking rendition with a big band of “You’re Driving me Crazy” that knocks me out! I love Helen Humes’ singing with Count Basie so much!

I have some of my own renditions of “If I Had You,” “Seems Like Old Times” and “You’re Driving Me Crazy” on YouTube. Going to the Metropolitan Room is like a homecoming. My pianist has a sound like Art Tatum on many numbers. My bass player has a clean, 1930s style, and my sax is a soprano. Who can ask for anything more?

I think you certainly might want to check out her YouTube videos, visit her Facebook page, and make your way to the Metropolitan Room for her appearance there on Sunday, May 19, at 9:30.  Here’s the information about her gig.

May your happiness increase!