Daily Archives: May 25, 2013

“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.

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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!

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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.

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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!