Monthly Archives: July 2013

THEY’RE THE TALK OF THE TOWN: THE BARNHARTS, JEFF AND ANNE, COME OUT TO PLAY at MONTEREY 2013 (as IVORY&GOLD)

It might take a village to raise a child.  But it only takes Jeff and Anne Barnhart to entertain an audience for an hour.  Jeff (piano, vocals, puns) and wife Anne (flute, voice, comedy and organization) held a group in thrall at the 2013 Dixieland Monterey / Jazz Bash by the Bay — with a delightfully varied program, mixing stride piano, sweet and raucous singing, vaudeville, old songs and new, sentimental melodies (that’s a compliment), Broadway and film songs.  It all swung; it was all expertly done and masterfully improvised.

Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, I present IVORY& GOLD (named after aspects of their respective instruments), Jeff and Anne Barnhart!

BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN / PINEAPPLE RAG:

A wild and woolly version of THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU:

WATER FROM AN ANCIENT WELL:

EXACTLY LIKE YOU:

ALICE IN WONDERLAND:

IT’S THE TALK OF THE TOWN:

For the felines among us, MEMORY:

Bob Barta’s I’M IN HEAVEN:

‘S’WONDERFUL:

TENDER IS THE NIGHT / I GOT RHYTHM:

You can follow IVORY&GOLD here — Jeff and Anne are always on the move, which means you have a better-than-average chance of seeing and hearing them in person someday soon.  Jeff’s singular website can be found here.

May your happiness increase!

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PRETTY LIVELY: EXILED SWEETHEARTS, CAGED BIRDS, SAD DOLLS, RUINED MAIDS

GLAD RAG DOLL 1929Members of repressive societies are forbidden to write about the forbidden; censorship blossoms in the name of morality.  But ingenious writers and artists make their way around prohibitions. Even in the most conservative environment, sin can be explored in popular culture if the writer is lamenting the horrid effects of such behavior.  Lost virginity and illicit drugs could be the titillating subjects of early films — if they were deplored rather than celebrated.

We could go back to 1900 for A BIRD IN A GILDED CAGE, by Arthur J. Lamb (lyrics) and Harry Von Tilzer (music), a huge popular hit that depicted a young woman in a loveless marriage who has chosen money over affection. The story goes that Lamb approached Von Tilzer with the lyrics, which Von Tilzer liked — but he wanted Lamb’s lyrics to make it clear that the young woman was not someone’s mistress.  The famous refrain is: “She’s only a bird in a gilded cage, / A beautiful sight to see, / You may think she’s happy and free from care, / She’s not, though she seems to be, / ‘Tis sad when you think of her wasted life, / For youth cannot mate with age, / And her beauty was sold, / For an old man’s gold, / She’s a bird in a gilded cage.”

Girls, don’t sell your beauty and be sure not to mate with age!

Here’s a 1904 version, sung by Harry Anthony:

Forward to two late-Twenties songs, music that motivated my meditations on bad girls who wear cosmetics.

The 1928 GLAD RAG DOLL (music by Milton Ager / Dan Dougherty; lyrics by Jack Yellen) assertively states that money and flashy clothing and jewelry bring only the most shallow happiness, even asking us where and how that finery was acquired.   The verse is almost accusatory: Hester Prynne has just gotten off the train in a small town, and everyone notices the way she’s dressed: “Little painted lady with your lovely clothes / Where are you bound for may I ask? / What your diamonds cost you everybody knows / All the world can see behind your mask.”

Here is Ruth Etting’s wistful version:

“Glad rags” become “sad rags” in a day; the brightly dressed young woman will never find a proper husband “to grow old and grey with,” and her many admirers will desert her — although she can always “amend” her flashy ways.  Presumably the speaker is sedately dressed and long married — neither a boy who “plays” nor a “pretty little toy the boys like to play with” any longer.  Respectable for sure, not aimed for disgrace or disappointment, but the painted woman seems to be having more fun, even if it is transitory.

I couldn’t leave GLAD RAG DOLL without offering Earl Hines’ wordless solo — rollicking without caring for the morals expressed in the stern lyrics:

nosweet1b

Another song in the same moral mode is NOBODY’S SWEETHEART, which most of us know as a Chicago hot number.  But its initial versions had the same warning coloration: the young woman, in this case, has left all her loyal small-town admirers behind for a shady life of glamor in the big city. Music by Billy Meyers and Elmer Schoebel, lyrics by Gus Kahn and Ernie Erdman.

Here’s the sad verse: “You were ev’rybody’s sweetheart / Not so long ago / And in our home town, each boy around / Longed to be your beau / But things are diff’rent today / I’m mighty sorry to say.” Urban fashion seems to require a loss of purity, in a dichotomy. Either small-town sweetheart or Painted Woman Wearing A Bird of Paradise.

Hat with bird of paradise feathers circa 1900

Hat with bird of paradise feathers circa 1900

“You’re nobody’s sweetheart now, / There’s no place for you somehow, / With your fancy clothes, silken gowns, / You’ll be out of place in the middle of your own hometown, / When you walk down the avenue, / All the folks just can’t believe that it’s you. / With painted lips and painted eyes, / Wearing a bird of paradise, / It all seems wrong somehow, / You’re nobody’s sweetheart now!”  

It echoes Frank Norris and Theodore Dreiser: the young woman who leaves her home for the big city will be changed irrevocably — exiled, outcast.  Neither GLAD RAG DOLL nor NOBODY’S SWEETHEART suggests that the young woman has earned her clothing and jewelry through prostitution, but there seems no moral way for a single woman to earn her keep without a husband, so the worst suspicions are never contradicted.  But she is beautifully and glamorously dressed.  Vice doesn’t endure but it certainly looks good in the short run.

Nobody's Sweetheart 1924

Here is Marion Harris’ sympathetic version from 1929:

A few years earlier, Billy Murray and a tough-talking Aileen Stanley deflated the song’s moral stance from the start:

And for those who might not have seen this 1929 short film, it contains a very swinging vocal by a young man from the heartland who would later say that his singing had always been an error.  He sounds pretty good here!

(Incidentally, there were popular hits depicting small-town women, loyal and true, who would never think of wearing jewelry or painting their faces — MY GAL SAL is just one example.  And thousands of songs, it seems, that celebrate impending matrimony — “when we two are one and someday there’ll be three”.)

Thinking about all those songs that both deplore and secretly celebrate young women who have wandered from the orthodox path of marriage, prudence, and dependence, I remembered a poem (from 1901) by Thomas Hardy, called THE RUINED MAID: 

“O ‘Melia, my dear, this does everything crown!

Who could have supposed I should meet you in Town?

And whence such fair garments, such prosperi-ty?” —

“O didn’t you know I’d been ruined?” said she.

 

“You left us in tatters, without shoes or socks,

Tired of digging potatoes, and spudding up docks;

And now you’ve gay bracelets and bright feathers three!”

“Yes: that’s how we dress when we’re ruined,” said she.

 

“At home in the barton you said thee’ and thou,’

And thik oon,’ and theäs oon,’ and t’other’; but now

Your talking quite fits ‘ee for high compa-ny!” —

“Some polish is gained with one’s ruin,” said she.

 

“Your hands were like paws then, your face blue and bleak

But now I’m bewitched by your delicate cheek,

And your little gloves fit as on any la-dy!” —

“We never do work when we’re ruined,” said she.

 

“You used to call home-life a hag-ridden dream,

And you’d sigh, and you’d sock; but at present you seem

To know not of megrims or melancho-ly!” —

“True. One’s pretty lively when ruined,” said she.

 

“I wish I had feathers, a fine sweeping gown,

And a delicate face, and could strut about Town!” —

“My dear — a raw country girl, such as you be,

Cannot quite expect that. You ain’t ruined,” said she.

In theory, Hardy was writing about the hard life of the country maiden, but it seems difficult to take that as the message of THE RUINED MAID, which makes being ruined a delightful version of upward social mobility.  A Moral?  Live fast, paint your face, leave home for the city, and you’ll be the subject of popular art.

And just in case this socio-literary survey has left you melancholy, here’s a modern version of NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW by Hal Smith’s International Sextet at Sacramento in 2011.  You can sing along with Kim Cusack by now:

That’s Hal Smith, drums; Clint Baker, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar; Carl Sonny Leyland, piano; Anita Thomas, clarinet; Kim Cusack, clarinet and vocal. Uncredited appearance of a Recalcitrant Microphone Stand courtesy of the local Musicians’ Union.

May your happiness increase!

“YEAH, MAN!”: THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS / CLINT BAKER / DAVID BOEDDINGHAUS at DIXIELAND MONTEREY 2013

Warming us all up in the best ways are John Reynolds, guitar / whistle; Ralf Reynolds, washboard; Marc Caparone, cornet / vocal; Katie Cavera, string bass; Clint Baker, clarinet / vocal — at Dixieland Monterey / Jazz Bash by the Bay, March 3, 2013, with repertoire honoring Bing, Louis, Clarence Williams, Punch Miller, early Disney, and the sweet energies of the Thirties.  Guest pianist David Boeddinghaus joins in for the final three songs.

WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM:

WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK:

EXACTLY LIKE YOU

OUT OF NOWHERE:

HE’S A SON OF THE SOUTH:

CANDY LIPS:

May your happiness increase!

ALL BY HIMSELF, CARL SONNY LEYLAND ROCKS MONTEREY (March 2, 2013)

Although he is politely amused, never aggressive, pianist / singer / composer Carl Sonny Leyland is obviously a powerful force — for good.

This is especially true when he sits down at the piano, as he did in a rare solo session at the 2013 Dixieland Monterey Jazz Bash by the Bay.  It was also refreshing to see Carl in front of an audience of devout fans, who knew his compositions and wanted to hear them. Their enthusiasm made it possible for everyone in the room — and now everyone reading this blogpost — to hear more of Carl’s own compositions, which are (like their composer) spicy, surprising, and anything but formulaic.

Here comes Father Leyland!

ALMOND JOYS (with delighted dancers — a serendipitous echo of JAMMIN’ THE BLUES):

ARGYLE AVENUE BREAKDOWN:

BLUES IMPROVISATION:

WILLIE THE WEEPER:

ATLANTA BLUES:

FAST BOOGIE:

RAT CATCHER’S BLUES:

WITCHES’ KITCHEN:

FOX TAILS:

Thank you, Carl, for that seismic motion that cheers us.

May your happiness increase!

SWEET AMBIANCE: TAMAR KORN, GORDON AU, DENNIS LICHTMAN, DAVE RICKETTS, JARED ENGEL, ROB REICH, ARI MUNKRES: A SESSION AT BRENDA’S (June 9, 2013)

When she asked what I would like, “I’ll take a dozen of your best,” I politely told the waitperson at Brenda’s French Soul Food (on Polk Street in San Francisco) in the late afternoon of June 9, 2013.

Here’s what happened — along with delicious New Orleans food: swing visitations by my friends and heroes: Tamar Korn, voice; Gordon Au, trumpet; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Dave Ricketts, guitar; Jared Engel, Ari Munkres, string bass; Rob Reich, accordion.  A gathering of musically like-minded friends to be sure, but also a melding of three ensembles: San Francisco’s GAUCHO (Ricketts, Reich, and Munkres); Gordon’s GRAND STREET STOMPERS and Tamar Korn and Friends (everyone else).  Collect them, buy the set!

BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA:

BLUES EN MINEUR:

DJANGOLOGY:

I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:

THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE:

LAZY RIVER:

DOUCE AMBIANCE:

WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS:

COMES LOVE:

IT’S LIKE REACHING FOR THE MOON:

DINAH:

IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE:

Echoes of Louis, Django, Bing, Fats, Billie — all presented in entirely individual ways.

May your happiness increase!

THE REAL THING and SOMETHING ELSE

More from eBay — with a touch of caveat emptor.

First, a canvas board dating from early 1977 — whether from sessions at the Nice Festival or two American sojourns.  Signers include Muddy Waters, Pinetop Perkins, Earl Hines, Wallace Davenport, Fred Kohlman, Dick Hyman, Pee Wee Erwin, Jimmy Maxwell, Clark Terry, Johnny Mince, Zoot Sims, Benny Carter, Vic Dickenson, Teddy Wilson, Trummy Young, Milt Hinton, Joe Williams, Orange Kellin, and Barney Bigard.

$T2eC16JHJGsFFMtLsrjuBR7boGPoSQ~~60_57

Those of us who have followed a number of these artists know that the signatures are genuine.  But here are two documents advertised as being signed by Louis Armstrong.  The first is not even a convincing forgery:

LOUIS forgery

This one (context notwithstanding) is the real thing.

LOUIS diet plan real signature

No one at eBay has asked me, but I would give the seller of the first item Swiss Kriss regularly.  Perhaps that would increase his candor.

May your happiness increase!

CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND at SAVANNA: THE FIRST SET (July 10, 2013)

The jazz musicians I know get a special pleasure from playing for dancers — watching the moving figures both reverberate and reflect the music — and wise swing dancers know there’s a particular delight dancing to a live band instead of an iPod . . .

Clint Baker and his New Orleans Jazz Band proved this one night not long ago at the Wednesday night swing dance session held at Savanna in San Francisco’s Mission District –known as Cat’s Corner.

Clint, cornet and vocal, was joined by Jim Klippert, trombone and vocal; Bill Carter, clarinet; Jeff Hamilton, piano; Bill Reinhart, banjo; Marty Eggers, string bass; Steve Apple, drums.  Here’s the first of two sets — suitable for at home swing dancing as well — which draw happily on pop tunes of the remembered past:

DINAH:

ONE HOUR:

THE SECOND LINE:

SISTER KATE:

MY BLUE HEAVEN:

TISHOMINGO BLUES:

WHEN MY DREAMBOAT COMES HOME:

IT’S ONLY A PAPER MOON:

JOE LOUIS STOMP:

May your happiness increase!