Monthly Archives: July 2013

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!