Daily Archives: July 1, 2013

RAVE REVIEWS and MEANINGFUL SILENCES

JAZZ LIVES’ readers may have noted that I am enthusiastic about the music and I write about the art I love in the most glowing terms.  But I thought I should explain some things about the ways in which my enthusiasm is shared.

First, a true story — with true identities changed or blurred as much as possible.

A musician I know — I am calling him M — plays the marimba, most expertly.  M is a poet of the wooden bars and I admire M’s work greatly.  I wrote enthusiastically about M’s new CD because it gave me great pleasure.  M was very happy; so was I.  M told M’s partner, N, about this — N is somewhat sharp of tongue although we get along well on our infrequent encounters — and N’s response was a derisive nasal explosion of air, then, “Well, Michael only writes good reviews!”  I heard this story from M, and it pained me greatly.  It has stuck in my memory for months now, and not only because I feel very sorry for M.

Another true story, with no need to change identities.

I began this blog in 2008 at the urging of the Beloved, who is very wise.  But before I took the first step, I said, “What do I do if I go to hear a performance and I don’t like it, or someone sends me a CD that seems imperfect to me?  Do I say so in print and make enemies?  I don’t want to give stars to music or musicians.”

She said, “For years, GOURMET Magazine sent its reviewers to various restaurants.  If the place was wonderful, it got written up in print.  If it wasn’t, they said nothing.”

This made sense, because silence is very powerful.  You will note, for instance, that when you email someone with a request and they do not wish to do it, some people write back and say, “No,” or they explain . . . others keep still and you get the point.

So when I write that I feel so fortunate to have heard A sing or B play or the LMNOPQ Stompers swing out, I really mean it.  And when I think to myself, “I could have died and never heard this subtle pinnacle of music,” it is coming from my heart.

I really mean that I really mean it!  The jazz world is so small and I am already so fortunate in being allowed in to it, that there would be little visible benefit in currying favor by writing falsely good reviews.  And what I think of as my credibility would erode rapidly if I praised someone really splendid and then turned around with similar adjectives to apply to a much less creative performer.

When a publicist writes me and asks me to preview a new CD for JAZZ LIVES, more often than not I listen and then write back — politely — and explain why it isn’t for me.  Some people are gracious; some say nothing; very rarely do I get a response that suggests I have hurt someone’s feelings.  I solicit very few CDs — from publicists or the artists themselves — and they are only ones I know will have some aspect that interests me.  I do not want to end up with piles of CDs I do not end up praising, and I know that artists are — for the most part — not wealthy individuals who can afford to waste money.

Speaking of money . . . . but that is another blogpost entirely.  Let me just say that if JAZZ LIVES were a corporation, it would have been bankrupt about ten blogposts after its chartering.  Enough said for the moment.

So I do not “monetize,” nor do I use JAZZ LIVES as a place to undermine anyone’s art, even if it doesn’t appeal to me.  I think we should be celebrating the Beauties we have or we recall, and that keeps me — and I hope my readers — both happy and busy.

May your happiness increase!

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“CLAYTONIA” IN BLOSSOM: THE BUCK CLAYTON LEGACY BAND

Claytonia-sibirica

I’m serious.  Rarely have I had a CD that made me so earnestly want to turn up the volume and dance around the kitchen — with the Beloved or solo.  It’s amazing music.

CLAYTONIA cover

I shall stop dancing (even metaphorically) and explain.  CLAYTONIA is the first disc issued by the UK-based Buck Clayton Legacy Band.

When I was a young jazz record collector, I sought out every record Buck played on, and I don’t remember ever being disappointed.  His Columbia JAM SESSIONS are (to me) among the most gratifying musical experiences ever put on record.  By the time I began to see jazz performances live, Buck had stopped playing — although I saw him once in a “comeback” concert tribute to Billie. But he was resilient, and channeled his energies into writing, arranging, and directing a small big band for the rest of his life — a wonderful unit in which some of my friends and heroes played.

There the story might have ended if it hadn’t been for the very special British writer, string bassist, and jazz broadcaster Alyn Shipton.  You might know Alyn in any of his roles, but I first encountered him as someone helping Buck finish and expand BUCK CLAYTON’S JAZZ WORLD — a very rewarding book, Buck’s candid and charming autobiography, written with Nancy Miller Elliott.  In his notes, Alyn recalls, “Just after Buck died in 1991, Nancy Miller Elliott contacted me, and handed over a box of his music, with a message from Buck saying, ‘You kept my memory alive with the book, maybe you can do the same with my music?'”

In 2004 Alyn and the brilliant reedman / arranger / composer Matthias Seuffert assembled this great band, and CLAYTONIA was recorded during their first British tour in 2011.

It’s a humming band — these fellows know deep in their souls how to swing, and the easeful yet intense performances tick along like well-tuned engines, hinting at great strength but never relying on volume to get their point across. Alyn and Matthias (tenor saxophone, clarinet, arrangements) are co-leaders; Norman Emberson, drums; Martin Wheatley, acoustic guitar; Martin Litton, piano, make up a splendid rhythm section — nothing artificial, nothing self-consciously “old school,” just hitting on all cylinders with sweet style.  There are no efforts to imitate anyone: they simply Rock.  And Wheatley’s single-string solos are delicious interludes . . . rather like finding a clump of ripe blackberries on your morning walk.  The rest of the band is equally stellar: soloists who have something to say but know how to say it concisely / great supportive ensemble players: Menno Daams and Ian Smith, trumpet; Adrian Fry, trombone; Alan Barnes, alto saxophone, clarinet.

CLAYTONIA has none of the “all-star” nature of some recorded gatherings, where you feel the impatience of Soloist 4 while Soloist 3 is playing.  This, dearly beloved children of all ages, sounds like a working band — and is there anything better?

And they play Buck’s compositions — which have a built-in momentum: OUTER DRIVE (memorable from the SONGS FOR SWINGERS album and 1961 live performances); I’LL MAKE BELIEVE (a priceless rhythm ballad); PARTY TIME; HORN OF PLENTY; SCORPIO; CLAYTONIA (a gritty blues, first recorded by Buck and friends for Vanguard); SMOOTHIE; SIR HUMPHREY (for Buck’s dear friend and trumpet colleague Humph).

And the sound is great, too — recorded at The Sage Gateshead by Hywel Jones for BBC 3.

CLAYTONIA is an irresistible musical offering.  You can follow the band and buy the CD here.  And the flowers at the top?  They’re Claytonia, too.

May your happiness increase! 

NOCTURNAL ADMISSIONS from CLIFF EDWARDS and OTHERS

NIGHT OWLS UNITE!

night_owl1

Here’s a wonderful song — a catchy melody and irresistible lyrics by Herman Hupfeld, who also gave us AS TIME GOES BY, and two of my favorite songs, LET’S PUT OUT THE LIGHTS AND GO TO SLEEP, and I’VE GOT TO GET UP AND GO TO WORK.

Who better to sing it than the sweetly cunning Cliff Edwards?  Here’s his studio recording of NIGHT OWL:

And this film clip from TAKE A CHANCE is just amazing — featuring Edwards, James Dunn, and June Knight, as well as a line of dancers who could learn any song and any steps instantaneously.  (Some screenwriter had a jazz sensibility — the two musical itinerants, Edwards and Dunn, are “Duke” and “Louie”):

And as an extra treat — a clever YouTube video that begins with the Edwards version and then adds on the 1933 Paul Whiteman recording:

What a joy to watch and hear this.  And the song is just as delightful in the daytime.  I can vouch for that.

I would like a few of my dear friends who sing for a living to learn this one . . . let sweet hooting fill the countryside!

May your happiness increase!

A DATE TO CELEBRATE LOUIS: MARTY NAPOLEON, BRIA SKONBERG, BILL CROW, RAY MOSCA (July 5, 2013)

I can’t make this July 5 party, being far to the West of this gig.  But you should! It’s free; it will be wonderful music; the absence of myself and my tripod will leave room for several music lovers.

So don’t forget OUR MARTY DATE.

Marty Flier

I am told there will be space for dancers.  And Marty, bless him, just turned 92.  He has all the spring and snap of a man and musician much younger — so don’t let this gig pass you by.  His friends, Bill and Ray, are esteemed veterans of this art form, and Bria shines — playing, singing, letting the music flow through her.

I know it is one day after the 4th, which Louis thought was his birthday, and one day before the 6th, the day on which he left this earthly realm, so it’s numerologically in perfect balance.  Musically, too!

May your happiness increase!