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!

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!

CELEBRATING HOWARD MIYATA, MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR, AT DIXIELAND MONTEREY 2013

I waited to post this until the British heir to the throne safely entered this world, so as not to draw attention from that monarch-to-be.  But here’s another royal event, the jazz coronation of Howard Miyata as Musician of the Year on March 2, 2013, at Dixieland Monterey / the Jazz Bash by the Bay.  His regal attendants include Susie Miyata, Gordon, Brandon, and Justin Au (nephews three), and the High Sierra Jazz Band, with special commentary by Pieter Meijers and Bryan Shaw.

Where HAIL TO THE CHIEF meets TIGER RAG, and where “catcalls” are a good thing.  Congratulations to Uncle How!

May your happiness increase!

EVERYBODY LOVES CECIL SCOTT

Photograph by Nat Goodwin

Photograph by Nat Goodwin

Clarinetist and saxophonist Cecil Scott remembered by Art Hodes:

I’ll never forget the day Baby Dodds and I visited Cecil at his home in Harlem (N.Y.C.).  He had what we referred to as “a railroad flat.”  It was a first floor apartment with a long hallway running through the length of the apartment. Cecil took us into the kitchen for a taste, then called in the family. He had 11 children, from the baby to the eldest going on seventeen. I had to ask, “Man, how do you guys operate?” To which he answered, “We eat in shifts and we sleep in tiers.”

One of the warmest people I knew, Cecil Scott.  His smile was contagious. Here’s a guy, operating on one leg (and I won’t go into how he lost the other; the only story I heard was hearsay); always jolly and passing it on. People running in and out of his home; all day. Plus a few cats and a dog. Life all around him. And the spirit of that home, unbelievable.

I had a trio at Jimmy Ryan’s that consisted of Cecil (sax and clarinet) and Baby Dodds (drums) plus Chippie Hill (Bertha) doing the vocals. There was a performer. She’d go out, a’singing, to the end of the room, and start from there.  And by the time she’d hit the bandstand she’d have “gathered her children” in; that whole audience was like in the palm of her hand. No mike. And Cecil could charm her. For when she came to work she could be in a mood; but Scott would look at her, and then say, “Chippie, where did you get that hat; you look beautiful.” And she’d wild, and beam.  And we’d be together. They were beautiful people.

There was a style of clarinet playing we used to call “dirty.” Then there was a way of playing it that would make me think of someone a’callin’ to a chicken. Cecil knew all about that. It was later that I learned that the recording by Clarence Williams that I loved to listen to, especially because of the clarinet playing on it, was something Cecil had done. Yeh! And when my boy Bob was born, Cecil sent his oldest daughter over to my house to take care of things while my wife was hospitalized. “Man, don’t mention money, what do you wanna do? Insult me? I’m your friend.” And then one scene that keeps comin’ back.

I’d gone out to Harlem to do a benefit with Scott and others.  It was a warm affair, and I partook of the goodies. In fact I “over” partook. Now we had to get to our gig (J. Ryan’s). I drove and Cecil sat beside me. It seemed bouncey, beautiful, with lights flashing on; most enjoyable. Even sirens. Eventually I got the message and stopped. I had been “bouncing” up and down on the snow-covered street, and the lights and sirens were the po-lice. I was “in a cast.” The one-legged man had to get out and talk to the gendarmes. He must have sounded convincing because I got off with a lecture. You know I’ll never forget Cecil.

EVERYBODY LOVES CECIL (by H. B. M.)

Photograph by William P. Gottlieb, c. October 1946

Photograph by William P. Gottlieb, c. October 1946

Cecil Scott was sitting on the stool before the piano, his elbow on the keys and his right leg thrust stiffly forward. I sat across from him on a metal framed settee that looked a little like a double seat on a bus. There were several similar chairs in the room, a few music stands, and a tenor sax case on top of the piano. On the walls were several posters and many photographs showing Cecil at various times in his career. His weight varied with each picture, for his hobby is food and he eats until he weighs 210, diets until he weighs 160, and starts all over again. He is about 170 now, going down.

Almost as soon as I had met him, I liked Cecil. He is as warm and companiable as a fireplace. He is an energetic man, too, despite that awkward, unwieldy, artificial right leg. He’d suddenly lunge across the room to show me something, and lunge back again. It was more like an idiosyncrasy than a handicap.

“I suppose you want to know about the children,” he said. “There are thirteen of them, and I’ve got three grandchildren, with one more on the way. They’re from my eldest daughter, the one that deserted me. She’s the only one of my girls to get married.” He seemed to be peeved about that. “I’ll bet that’s her in the hallway right now. She’s in this house most of the day.”

It was the prodigal daughter. She entered the house very spryly.

“Has he been tellin’ you ’bout my children?” she asked. “They call him ‘Big Brother.’ You trying to keep young, Daddy?”

Actually Cecil looked very young, more like a man of thirty than a grandfather, and his wife, who entered then, didn’t look old enough to be a grandparent either. A little girl, about nine years old, was with her. She looked timidly about the room. There was a large white bandage about her ankle. 

“This is Elaine,” said Cecil. “She’s always wearing bandages. This morning it was her head. Now it’s her ankle. You run along, Elaine, and don’t you come back with that bandage ’round your nose.”

“But, let’s see now. About the music. It started when I was eleven years old out in Springfield, Ohio. I wanted to be a surgical doctor; spent all my time in doctors’ offices, and I figured I could make money with music. For two years I took lessons in clarinet and theory three times a week, and never missed a day. Started playin’ home dates with my brother Lloyd’s band. When I was seventeen I got married.”

“Eating is our big problem,” Cecil informed me. “Everybody has to eat in shifts. The little ones eat first shift, the middle ones second shift, and the big ones last shift. The dogs eat every shift.”

The house was full of children now. I could hear them moving everywhere. I met some more of the family, and Cecil coninued. He had come to New York and played with Lloyd’s band at the Saratoga Club. By 1928 he had his own band, and by 1930 was quite famous, playing at the Renaissance Ball Room with a band that had Roy Eldridge, Chu Berry, Dicky Wells, Frankie Newton, and Don Frye. Then he moved to the Savoy and trouble started.

“There was a girl at the Savoy,” said Cecil. “She had a man who was takin’ care of her, but she was makin’ quite a play for me. I didn’t pay her no mind until one night she asked me to a ‘rent party’ that her landlord was giving. It was one of those parties where they sold pigmeat and ‘white mule.’ There was a crap game going on and I started to win. I began buying everybody big pitchers of that white mule. Then her boy friend came in. There was some kind of misunderstanding right away. He slapped her, and she slapped him, and a fight started. Pitchers of while mule started flying through the air. Well, I had a big name, I had a reputation. I had to get out of there. I ran to the front door, but it had six locks I couldn’t open, so I ran to the back door. That had six locks too.

Well, I was a very active man in those days, so I jumped out the window, but it was a three story drop and I broke my ankle real bad.

Gangrene set in and they had to amputate several times. For a while the doctors didn’t have much hope. Chu Berry, my pupil, held the band together for me. Everyone was real nice. But, when I got out I didn’t feel like playin’. I was a very active man, used to jump off the piano with my saxophone and do a split on the floor, and things like that. I didn’t feel right standing with that band, a a cripple. So I disbanded it, although the boys sure didn’t want me to.

Then the neighbors started doing things for me. They brought me soup and stew, and stuff like that, and started sending me their kids to teach. First one, then two, then seven, eight, ten. I soon forgot about playing. For four and a half years I taught twelve to eighteen kids a day, and never had to advertise. At the same time I studied theory with Clarence Hall three times a week and took up weight lifting. I was too busy, and liked it that way.

It wasn’t until Albert Socarras, a flute player with a Latin band, came to see me that I started playing again. He needed a sax player real bad. I didn’t want to go but he and his wife finally persuaded me. I played three days, and they gave me leader’s pay. I’ve been playin’ off and on ever since.

I think that my wife is the real reason for most of my success. When I lost my leg and became sensitive, afraid to face people, she was the one who revived me and gave me confidence again. She’s always encouraged me. We were born in the same town, in the same month, in the same year. We went to the same school together! Why, she’s been with me all my life!”

from SELECTIONS FROM THE GUTTER, edited by Hodes and Chadwick Hansen, pp. 214-16.

May your happiness increase!

“THANKS FOR EVERYTHING,” WRITES BILLIE

I offer these signatures as correctives . . .

$(KGrHqIOKpMFG7DQipwcBR4fG2B!2w~~60_57and . . .

$(KGrHqR,!lgE8iceHDsgBPZ5S7Nq,!~~60_3and an expression of gratitude:

!B61EsDg!Wk~$(KGrHqUOKi0EyY0lY7,YBMyep)3wcg~~-1_12

“Correctives to what?” you might ask.  To the people who find JAZZ LIVES as part of their search for “billie holiday drugs” or “billie holiday nude.”

I’d prefer to think of Miss Holiday this way, her voice full of dramatic arching passion that none of her emulators has ever captured.  We should be thanking her:

May your happiness increase!

IN THE SWING OF THINGS at MONTEREY 2013: ALLAN VACHE, JOHN SHERIDAN, JOHN COCUZZI, PAUL KELLER, ED METZ (March 2, 2013)

Here’s a masterful swing session recorded on March 2, 2013, at Dixieland Monterey / Jazz Bash by the Bay, featuring Allan Vache, clarinet; John Sheridan, piano (and leader for this set); John Cocuzzi, vibraphone / vocal; Paul Keller, string bass; Ed Metz, drums.

Characteristically, they draw inspiration from the best sources: Goodman, Ellington, Ray Noble, Lunceford, Charlie Christian, jazz and pop classics from the Swing Era and earlier — for leisurely yet intense performances solidly based on smooth rhythmic propulsion and logical melodic improvisations.  For this set, John Sheridan was appointed leader: a role he takes to modestly yet with style — like his approach to the piano.  You’ll also have the pleasure of a few of John Cocuzzi’s slyly irresistible vocals, Allan Vache’s fluid clarinet playing, and superb rhythmic playing from Paul Keller and Ed Metz.

IN A MELLOTONE:

YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO:

I MAY BE WRONG:

MARGIE:

MOONGLOW:

SEVEN COME ELEVEN:

THE TOUCH OF YOUR LIPS:

EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY:

May your happiness increase!

GOODWILL, NOVATO, CALIFORNIA, JULY 21, 2013

Someone had taste.

RECORDS 7 21 13 001And on the other side . . .

RECORDS 7 21 13 002You could say that again.  1935 solos by the Master.

RECORDS 7 21 13 003These discs were in a cardboard album labeled PIANO / WILSON and OTHERS — and the original owner had handled them tenderly.

RECORDS 7 21 13 004I did have to search through more than a hundred more popular records from the late Forties and early Fifties to uncover these, but a little Perry Como never hurt anyone on a mission.

RECORDS 7 21 13 005and her cousin . . .

RECORDS 7 21 13 006And now for something completely different — Tavern Tunes!

RECORDS 7 21 13 007And another hot one:

RECORDS 7 21 13 008How about some big band classics?

RECORDS 7 21 13 010and the reverse:

RECORDS 7 21 13 015More old chestnuts from a vocalist with a small group in 1936:

RECORDS 7 21 13 011On SAL, Chick sings the verse (new to me) and there’s a bright short solo by Jack Jenney.

RECORDS 7 21 13 012And a pair of Classics — thanks to George Avakian as well as to Mister Strong:

RECORDS 7 21 13 013I’ll keep following the advice on the label: it works well —

RECORDS 7 21 13 014No, I don’t quite believe that this happened, either.  But I am enjoying the experience as well as the music.

May your happiness increase!

ABIGAIL RICCARDS: HER HEART IS IN HER SONG

Two years ago, the pianist Michael Kanan invited me to hear and video his duo-recital with the singer Abigail Riccards, who was moving from New York to Chicago.  I had not heard of Abigail, but Michael’s endorsement of any artist is an unshakable statement of the artist’s deep value.  I was immediately impressed with Abby’s steady pace, her wise understanding of lyrics, her ability to evoke feelings in us with even the most familiar song, and her light-hearted swing.

Here they are with a prayerful ALL THE WAY: you’ll get the idea of what so struck me, and everyone else listening — the warmth, openness, intelligence, and empathy of Abigail’s singing.

I’ve been waiting for a CD that would show Abigail at her best, and EVERY LITTLE STAR is it.

abigailriccard_everylittlestar_cmb

Co-produced by Jane Monheit and Abigail herself, it is a consistent delight.  Some of that is due to the musicians she asked to join her: Michael on piano, Peter Bernstein, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass; Eliot Zigmund, drums.  Some of it is due to the sprightly mix of songs Abigail has chosen: old favorites made new — I’VE TOLD EV’RY LITTLE STAR / SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN / IF I HAD YOU / HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN / A SLEEPIN’ BEE / I DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT YOU / I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE / SMILE / BYE BYE BLACKBIRD / WALTZ FOR DEBBY — and an original by Jeannie Tanner, ENDLESS JOY, and Joni Mitchell’s CIRCLE GAME (a duet for Abigail and Jane).

But this isn’t another program of a youthful singer offering up songs everyone knows in predictable ways.  You will quickly admire the easy, conversational way Abigail delivers the lyrics — words uttered as if the thoughts were hers — and her sweet improvisations, which shed light on the song rather than superimposing her ego on the composer’s.  Her generous spirit comes through in the substantial space she gives to Michael, Neal, Peter, and Eliot — so that when she returns after their instrumental interludes, it is as if she is now being carried triumphantly on their shoulders.

The tempos chosen are also deliciously insightful: ballads never drag and the quicker songs don’t rush.  Little arranging touches raise each performance well above the familiar: a wordless prelude to IF I HAD YOU; a nifty beginning to HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN?; the way Abigail and Jane intertwine on CIRCLE GAME; the tender way she and the band approach I DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT YOU; the bouncing scat chorus with which she begins I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE before shifting to another key. . .

My current favorites — instant classics! — are a Riccards / Kanan duet of SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN that begins with an slow rubato reading of the verse, then slowly tumbles into the chorus . . . where we hear singer and pianist discovering this 1929 classic as if for the first time.  I couldn’t immediately place where I had heard such intimacy before, then it hit me — the Fifties duets of Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins.  The same qualities are evident throughout A SLEEPIN’ BEE, a Riccards / Kanan duet.  And in the Riccards / Bernstein SMILE, tender and rueful without being melancholic.

On the dozen songs that make up this varied program, Abigail Riccards proves herself not only a splendidly intuitive singer, but an artist who is the equal of the fine improvising instrumentalists around her.

Now, hearing this, you could choose to explore the banquet of live performances Abigail Riccards has on YouTube, and I wouldn’t blame you a bit.  But I would urge you to take the leap forward into purchasing this CD here.  All CD sales go to ArtStrides (a nonprofit program for special needs and financially disadvantaged children) so you benefit them by your generosity and you benefit yourself by having this music to listen to often.  

May your happiness increase!

CHAUTAUQUA JOYS: SEPTEMBER 19-22, 2013

I am writing this in high summer 2013.  Pardon me if it seems ungrateful to say that I don’t usually look forward to September. Summer is over; I will need to make friends once again with my alarm clock.

athenaeum_hotel

But September means that Jazz at Chautauqua will be, once again, a great pleasure.  For me, it’s getting to hear my heroes play and sing in the most comfortable surroundings, with the guarantee that great things will happen. That it takes place in the comfortable Athenaeum Hotel, with good food and drink, where one is surrounded by cottages, hydrangeas, and substantial views of a huge blue lake. Some jazz parties present uplifting music but once one ventures outside the ballrom, all is a manufactured cement void. Not at Chautauqua.

I’ve been going to Jazz at Chautauqua every year since 2004, and that weekend is a musical high point of the year.

You can find out all you need to know here.

Here’s some evidence — videos I shot last year. If you search “Jazz at Chautauqua” in my YouTube channel, swingyoucats, you’ll find dozens more.

WAITIN’ FOR KATY, with Andy Schumm, cornet; Marty Grosz, guitar; Bob Havens, trombone; Alex Hoffman, tenor saxophone; John Sheridan, piano; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Pete Siers, drums:

Something pretty: WHAT WILL I TELL MY HEART? — a duet for Scott Robinson, taragoto, and Rossano Sportiello, piano:

Swinging and whimsical: Bob Reitmeier, clarinet, and Keith Ingham, piano, UMBRELLA MAN:

MOONGLOW, featuring Jon Burr, string bass; Howard Alden, guitar; Paul Patterson, violin:

Bill Evans’ FUNKALERRO, by Howard, Scott Robinson, Frank Tate, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums:

In keeping with the cosmological theme, Becky Kilgore, vocal; Dan Barrett, trombone; Rossano, Frank, and Ricky perform I SAW STARS:

The Faux Frenchmen swing out on a theme from RHAPSODY IN BLUE:

Howard Alden’s Brazilian summit, with Duke Heitger, trumpet; Jon Burr, and Pete Siers rhapsodizing on DOCE DE COCO:

Jon-Erik Kellso, Rossano Sportiello, Alex Hoffman, and Kerry Lewis explore TOPSY:

Pianist Mike Greensill, Harry Allen, tenor; Randy Reinhart, cornet, suggest: WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS:

Duke Heitger, Dan Block, Rossano Sportiello, Marty Grosz, Kerry Lewis, and Pete Siers offer WHEN DAY IS DONE and PENTHOUSE SERENADE:

That’s only a small sample of what happens at Jazz at Chautauqua.

This year, the players and singers will be 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.

Hope to see you there — September 19 to 22!

May your happiness increase!

A BIG BEAR COAT AND A CREAM PITCHER OF GIN: GOOD TIMES, CHICAGO 1928

Young Art Hodes

Young Art Hodes

Art Hodes recalled:

Wingy [Manone] had a big bear coat that we both took turns wearing. Louis would greet us with “Who’s the bear tonight?”  Joe Oliver would drop in to see Louis regularly.  Louis and the boys in the band kept a flat especially for themselves, to be able to drop in at all hours and relax.  You know the conversation that takes place on the record by Armstrong called “Monday Date” where Louis says to Earl Hines: “I bet if you had a half pint of Mrs. Circha’s gin . . . . ” (and I’m spelling her name the way it sounds, I’ve never seen it in print) – well, that was the name of the woman who kept the flat for the boys.  For a half-buck you got a cream pitcher full of gin which was passed around as far as it would go.  In those days that was what the boys drank.

From SELECTIONS FROM THE GUTTER, edited by Hodes and Chadwick Hansen.

UNMISTAKABLY BUNNY

Mister Berigan, if you please.  “The Miracle Man of Swing.” With neat handwriting, too.  The photograph went for $178.00 on eBay today.  (I wasn’t bidding.)  But you can admire it here for a small fraction of that sum.

BUNNY verso

and back:

BUNNY recto

Bunny Berigan, much missed.

May your happiness increase!

DAY INTO NIGHT, WITH SWEET SWING: TAMAR KORN, GORDON AU, DENNIS LICHTMAN, JARED ENGEL, JIMMY SPERO, JUSTIN AU, BRANDON AU (Conclusion): SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA / June 6, 2013

All good things must come to an end, so here (with regrets) are the last five performances from a magical evening of music.

George Esposito (georgeespo@sbcglobal.net) — well-known on KXJZ Sacramento public radio as a jazz host — has been staging lovely outdoor concerts for a long time: this is the ninth year of his Midweek Sunset Jazz Series. Email him to get on his mailing list for future concerts. On June 6, 2013, I and a large crowd enjoyed a singular concert in George’s spacious backyard, where the music was presented against the changing canvas of the sky, as afternoon shaded into night. And the music mixed sweetness, inventiveness, and surprise.

The creators: Tamar Korn, song; Gordon Au, trumpet / composition / arrangement; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Jared Engel, string bass; Jimmy Spero, guitar. And, on the final two tunes, the Au Brothers leaped in — Justin, trumpet; Brandon, trombone. The repertoire: three classics; two originals by Gordon (one with lyrics I’d not heard before).  

HEARTACHES:

Gordon’s evocation of Louis, Duke, and avian splendor, PAVONIS:

His romantic rhythm ballad, ONCE, DEAR:

And the family of Swing enlarges for OLD FASHIONED LOVE (with a remarkable first chorus):

LET YOURSELF GO:

May your happiness increase!

MILDRED, TWICE

MILDRED autograph 2It seems an authentic signature because of the ornate little flourishes.  But the next one, from a book signed by various luminaries (Harry Richman, J. Fred Coots, and Huey Long among them) in 1933 — celebrating the start of Ozzie Nelson’s band — has its own sly message about the Rockin’ Chair:

MILDRED autograph

Words to live by.

May your happiness increase!

DAWN LAMBETH: MOONBEAMS AT MONTEREY

Polka

POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS, by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen, was Frank Sinatra’s first big hit record.

Although the lyrics take odd turns — initially one stumbles over the idea of a “pug-nosed dream” as the brand-new Love Object, it remains an endearing song.  Lester Young, Clifford Brown, Paul Desmond, Glenn Miller, and Wes Montgomery recorded it, among others.

The song seemed especially endearing this past March when Dawn Lambeth sang it during a Van Heusen tribute set at Dixieland Monterey / Jazz Bash by the Bay, accompanied by Yve Evans and friends.

One of my favorite singers, Dawn is a sophisticated artist who manages to make the dream-castles she creates seem real, withour straining.  Easy and casual; she summons up deep emotions without feeling the need to act them out.  A performance by Dawn lingers in the memory with sweet swing.  Her song winds its way into our hearts.

Incidentally, the song has a verse that no one sings — a very brief prelude to introduce the story of love found in a garden:

Would you care to hear the strangest story? / At least it may seem strange to you. / If you saw it in a moving picture / You would say it couldn’t be true.  

But Dawn makes it perfectly true.

May your happiness increase! 

SPREADIN’ RHYTHM AROUND, 2013: MIKE LIPSKIN STRIDES!

I’d heard pianist Mike Lipskin in New York City in the Seventies, and treasured his recording with his mentor Willie “The Lion” Smith, CALIFORNIA HERE I COME — appropriately — but what the Beloved and I heard tonight at San Francisco’s Pier 23 was a delightful revelation.  Mike led a trio with Clint Baker, trumpet and clarinet, and Paul Mehling, leader of the Hot Club of San Francisco, guitar.  Their interplay was delicious — a gleeful tossing back and forth of phrases and musical ideas — but Mike has remained one of the contemporary giants of Harlem stride piano.

Stride playing is an athletic art (ask anyone from Stephanie Trick to Dick Hyman to Rossano Sportiello) and even the greatest players occasionally falter as they come out of middle age.  Mike Lipskin’s fastball still blazes.

It’s not simply that he plays rocketing tempos, but his time is steady (no matter what the groove) and his inventions dazzling without being exhibitionistic.  And his style is his own — not simply a collection of mannerisms learned from the Lion and the great players he heard and followed — Donald Lambert, Cliff Jackson, and others.  So although he may whimsically offer a Fats gesture or a Lion roar, he is always creating small surprises, key changes and small modulations in the manner of a far less rococo Tatum.  He doesn’t call attention to such things, and they could slide by listeners absorbed in the greater aural picture, but his playing is a series of small explosions that serve the song rather than detract from it.

Mike, Clint, and Paul offered music that was at once complex, endlessly rooted in the traditions and common language, but remained sweet and clear.  Special pleasures were several Ellington medleys, a rocking SPREADIN’ RHYTHM AROUND, a somber I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA, a sweet MEMORIES OF YOU and IF I HAD YOU, and a few hallowed but little-played Thirties songs, ZING! WENT THE STRINGS OF MY HEART and I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU — all played in ways that were both witty and heartfelt. Clint and Paul distinguished themselves by deep melodic playing, taking risks, and swinging out in ensemble and solo.

Someone as devoted to his video camera as I am occasionally takes a rest: I’d decided it would be a refreshing way to spend an evening with the Beloved where I wasn’t staring at the viewfinder, so there is no video evidence to accompany this.  But anyone willing to spend an extra minute on YouTube can find videos of this trio captured by the assiduous RaeAnn Berry . . . and I might have some good things for JAZZ LIVES in future.  Mike will be playing solo at Bix Restaurant in San Francisco this coming Saturday and two Sundays a month (call ahead) and you can visit here to keep up with his schedule and recordings.

He’s absolutely genuine: a true explorer of those sacred arts.

May your happiness increase!

THE AU BROTHERS “TAKE OFF!”

Readers of JAZZ LIVES know Gordon Au (youthful brass Maestro / composer / arranger / occasional vocalist) but may be less familiar with his gifted younger siblings — Justin (trumpet) and Brandon (trombone).  They’ve played jazz festivals as the Au Brothers Jazz Band, keeping family ties strong with the addition of Howard (Uncle How) Miyata on tuba.  Friends who round out the band are guitarist / banjoist / vocalist Katie Cavera and swing percussionist Danny Coots.  On paper, especially for those used to the “traditional” line-up, this combination might look unorthodox, but it works beautifully.  I can prove it!

They’ve just released their debut CD, aptly called THE AU BROTHERS TAKE OFF! (with witty art by Molly Reeves of the Red Skunk Gipzee band, and characteristically literate liner notes by Gordon).

AU!

The CD features a few chestnuts given new life — JELLY ROLL (with a vocal by Uncle How that is reminiscent of a good bakery) and LIMEHOUSE BLUES, several songs from a century ago — WHEN FRANCIS DANCES WITH ME (vocal by the choreographic Katie) and CENTRAL, GIVE ME BACK MY DIME (a song new to me but one that gives Brandon an opportunity to rail at the limitations of the “new” technology when it’s involved in romance) — and originals by Gordon which show his range from wooing to hilarious, from swing to comedic grotesquerie: PISMO BEACH PARADE, STINKY FEET BLUES (not what you might expect), CAPITAL-BOUND, HOW COULD I SAY THAT I LOVE YOU, TANGO OF LOST LOVES, BROOKLYNBURG RAG — and a wonderful collage of themes from jazz classics, BIG CHIEF DADA’S AXE OF PLENTY STRAIN.  The interplay between the horns is marvelous; the rhythm section rocks, and the whole enterprises sits comfortably somewhere between the Hot Five, Gil Evans, Tom Lehrer, and Spike Jones, the balance shifting from song to song.

You can find out more about the band (their schedule of future appearances) and the CD here, and the Brothers have generously posted many videos of the band on this site.

I will take this opportunity to add to the Brothers’ video hoard — for current watchers and future generations as well as life forms on other planets who might be vibrating to the gigabytes in interstellar space — with some engaging evidence of the ABJB in action at the 2013 Jazz Fest by the Bay in Monterey, California. Gordon’s casual wardrobe was especially arranged by American Airlines’ baggage handlers.

PISMO BEACH PARADE:

PENNIES FROM HEAVEN:

BROOKLYNBURG RAG:

HOW CAN I SAY THAT I LOVE YOU?:

TANGO OF LOST LOVES:

WHEN FRANCIS DANCES WITH ME:

CAPITAL-BOUND:

In the words of the 1933 LAUGHIN’ LOUIE, “Take off, Gate!”

May your happiness increase!

MORE FROM THE NATIONAL ATTICS: BG, GENE, LEE, LOUIS, EDDIE and FRIENDS

Artifacts and relics and remembrances!

BG autographs 1935

A very prescient autograph collector captured Benny, Gene, Helen, and Frank Froeba (at the “piana”) in mid-1935.

Lee Wiley 1933 frontFor a newspaper story, Miss Lee Wiley in 1933, billed as “Indian radio singer.”

Lee Wiley 1933 back

The other side of the news story: “Just as I finally learned how to knit.”THE FIVE PENNIES Israel poster

An Israeli film poster!

CONDON'S postcardFrom Facebook, thanks to Stephen Hester: someone made a pilgrimage!  Cutty Cutshall, Freddie Ohms, Walter Page, Wild Bill Davison, Edmond Hall, and the Master himself.  “Good luck” for sure.  And “Best regards.”

May your happiness increase!