Monthly Archives: August 2013

FOUR MORE BEAUTIES BY MEREDITH AXELROD and TAMAR KORN at CAFE ATLAS (August 10, 2013)

Here are four more magical explorations into the deep heart of song by two wonderful singers and improvisers — Meredith Axelrod and Tamar Korn, flying free at San Francisco’s Cafe Atlas on August 10, 2013.

Not only did they use their voices to sing the lyrics and chart the melodies in most harmonious ways; they became a small orchestra of trumpets without brass or mouthpieces, a violin of the soul — needing no strings, rosin, or bow, and tweeting ensemble of airborne birdcalls.

I thought of the words that appeared on the label of the Mills Brothers’ early Decca records:  No musical instruments or mechanical devices used on this recording other than one guitar.

Who needs more?

And fittingly, here’s a song the Mills Brothers recorded early on — NOBODY’S SWEETHEART:

The 1920 classic, MARGIE, with a verse that explains it all:

For Bing and Louis and all the dreamers, WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS:

And Tamar lets us know it with JEALOUS HEARTED ME:

Thank you once more, Meredith and Tamar, for reminding us how light-hearted yet how deep beauty really is, and for encouraging us to be as free in our lives as you are in your song.

May your happiness increase!

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STRIDE PARADISE FOUND: DICK HYMAN, MIKE LIPSKIN, STEPHANIE TRICK, DINAH LEE, CLINT BAKER, PAUL MEHLING, and SURPRISE GUEST PAOLO ALDERIGHI

Last Saturday and Sunday, the Beloved and I were privileged to see and hear three wonderful concerts — Stride Piano Summits — at the Lesher Arts Center in Walnut Creek, California, and the new SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco.  The eminent players and singers are as shown in my title.  If you were there, I think you are still smiling; if you weren’t, you will feel forlorn when reading about the performances you missed.

A very brief summary follows: Dick and Mike began with a duet on Fats’ HANDFUL OF KEYS; Stephanie frolicked through Eubie’s TROUBLESOME IVORIES; Stephanie and Mike paid tribute to James P. with OLD FASHIONED LOVE and KEEP OFF THE GRASS; Dick and Mike offered SNOWY MORNING BLUES and Porter’s IT’S ALL RIGHT WITH ME; Mike created delicious variations on LOVER; Dinah Lee sang her way right into our hearts with Fats’ THERE’S A MAN IN MY LIFE and the pretty (but rarely heard) ZING WENT THE STRINGS OF MY HEART.  Stephanie began to rock the house with Pete Johnson’s DEATH RAY BOOGIE but Dick, Clint, and Paul crept onstage to join in; Dick offered a solo piano interlude that (depending on the concert) covered AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ – JITTERBUG WALTZ – STEALIN’ APPLES, or James P.’s ECCENTRICITY and Hyman’s own SCRABBLE.  Mike became both Fats and Andy Razaf for one of his own evocative, funny compositions, COULD IT BE YOU’RE FALLING IN LOVE?  Mike and Dick again joined forces for an evocation of the Louisiana Sugar Babes’ THOU SWELL; a seismic I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS by Dick and Stephanie followed; a wildly creative Hyman solo set — LULLABY (early Gershwin, from his first string quartet), I GOT PLENTY OF NUTTIN’, and HONEYCUKLE ROSE, had us cheering; Dinah returned for a beautifully focused HARLEM BUTTERFLY and SUGAR (with two verses, no less); Mike transformed the Beatles’ YESTERDAY into something worthy of Don Lambert; a trio jam on SWEET GEORGIA BROWN by Clint, Paul, and Dick was followed by a real delight, a duet on RUNNIN’ WILD by Stephanie Trick and a young man very close to her heart, Paolo Alderighi.  This gave way to a more expansive jam session — complete with bench-swapping and musical hijinks from everyone on I NEVER KNEW; the encore, I’M GONNA SIT RIGHT DOWN AND WRITE MYSELF A LETTER, brought Dinah back, tender and witty.

Are you breathless yet?  (And I might have missed a song or two.)

A few words.  The well-paced and remarkably-paced evenings are thanks to Maestro Lipskin, who has a very good idea of what is needed to keep an audience happy.  (Some stride events are all Allegretto — solo, duo, or all-hands-on-deck — and the pace is quickly wearying.) He’s also a wonderfully authentic player on his own: you could close your eyes and feel transported to Fats Waller’s house in St. Albans, Queens, for an afternoon: no rush, no fuss, nothing out of place.

Stephanie Trick has continued to blossom as an artist who not only can duplicate the leaps and entrechats needed for this style, but can invent her own caprices.  Her TROUBLESOME IVORIES was anything but, and she kept Eubie’s spirit alive while swinging out in her own terms.  Her pianistic partner, Paolo Alderighi, has been justly praised in this blog, and he didn’t disappoint in person: his amazing technique is matched by a swooping but right-on-target improvisatory sense, no matter what end of the keyboard he is at.

Dinah Lee was warm, funny, sweet, and salty — all in good time and with a large honeyed voice that honored the songs.  Clint Baker swung out on string bass, clarinet, and cornet (as he always does), and Paul Mehling’s rhythmic swing and single-string solos were a treat.

That leaves the Patriarch, Dick Hyman — who is somewhere in his eighth decade, playing astonishing music: inventive, startling, rangy, energized . . . the art of a great musical thinker, athlete, and instant composer who can imagine other musical worlds and gently transport us there.

Individually, these musicians held us rapt: in combinations, they created new synergies that left us open-mouthed or grinning widely.  I only hope that the Lesher Arts Center and SFJAZZ understood what marvels had taken place, and invite these magicians back in 2014 to amaze us again.

May your happiness increase! 

SIXTEEN WORDS TO GENTLY NUDGE THE HESITANT TOWARDS PLEASURE, THE 2013 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY

SIXTEEN SEATS REMAIN for the 2013 WBCJP.  

Hesitate and miss something special.  

There’s nothing like it. 

(My title is also sixteen words long; I hope the numerologically-minded will admire this.)

Some words in a slightly more expansive vein.  Last year’s party sold out and people were turned away, with “wailing and gnashing of teeth.”  Tickets can be ordered at whitleybay.

Quite simply, the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party — the creation of the much-missed Mike Durham — continues to strive for musical authenticity while making sure everyone has a good time.  The players and singers do a wonderful job of hot time-travel, taking us to musical stages and situations we’ve only dreamed of.

The musicians invited for the 2013 party include:

Trumpets: Bent Persson (Sweden), Enrico Tomasso (UK), Andy Schumm (USA), Ben Cummings (UK), Andy Woon (UK)

Trombones: Kristoffer Kompen (Norway), Alistair Allan (UK), Graham Hughes (UK)

Reeds: Aurélie Tropez (France), Stéphane Gillot (France), Claus Jacobi (Germany) , Matthias Seuffert (Germany), Lars Frank (Norway), Mauro Porro (Italy)

Piano: Keith Nichols (UK), Jeff Barnhart (USA), Morten Gunnar Larssen (Norway), Martin Seck (Germany)

Banjo/Guitar: Spats Langham (UK), Henry Lemaire (France), Martin Wheatley (UK), Jacob Ullberger (Sweden), Keith Stephen (UK)

String Bass: Richard Pite (UK), Henry Lemaire (France), Malcolm Sked (UK)

Brass Bass: Phil Rutherford (UK), Jean-Philippe Palma (France)

Drums: Josh Duffee (USA), Richard Pite (UK), Julien Richard (France), Nick Ward (UK)

Bass Sax: Frans Sjöström (Sweden)

Violin: Mike Piggott (UK)

Vocals: Daryl Sherman (USA), Caroline Irwin (UK), Spats Langham (UK)

Obviously, a trip to Newcastle might be beyond the resources of many of my United States readers.  But if you can get there, you won’t regret it.  Here’s just one sample of what happened last year:

I think you’d have to be deeply ECCENTRIC to not feel those good vibrations!

May your happiness increase!

A FEW BEAUTIFUL SECONDS OF LESTER YOUNG ON CLARINET: THE FAMOUS DOOR, 1938

The sound of Lester Young’s clarinet is beautiful and elusive.  Whitney Balliett, I think, who always had the right word, called it “lemony,” and it lingers on the mind’s palate in just that way.  There isn’t enough of it on record: a few solos with Basie, on record and live; the Kansas City Six session . . . but now we have about nineteen seconds of beauty — thanks to Loren Schoenberg, Bill Savory, and Herschel Evans, whose BLUE AND SENTIMENTAL (a close relation to CAN’T WE TALK IT OVER) is the foundation for this wistful, too-brief piece of music.

Play it once, play it a dozen times: music when soft voices die lives long in the memory.  We celebrate Lester Young as we say a sad goodbye to him.  A tender man, a joyously elliptical soul, too tender for this rough world, he blazed and left.  “What made us think he would comb grey hair?” said Yeats of another man, dead too soon.

May your happiness increase.

VANESSA TAGLIABUE YORKE: “THE RACINE CONNECTION”

What it looked like at the 2012 Bix Fest, thanks to Tom Warner, Phil Pospychala, Andy Schumm, Dalton Ridenhour, Josh Duffee, and the engaging singer Vanessa Tagliabue Yorke:

This performance and ten others are now available on a Rivermont Records CD called “Vanessa Tagliabue Yorke: The Racine Connection,” and it’s a thorough pleasure.

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When most people go to a jam session, club, concert, or festival, if the music is superb, there’s often the regret mixed with the joy: “Wow, that was wonderful. Wish I could hear that again!” The new Rivermont Records CD makes it possible, and a delight.  For one thing, Vanessa isn’t simply a record-copyist (although she does a very effective Annette Hanshaw homage on IF YOU WANT THE RAINBOW).  Rather, she comes to this music with a winning combination of heartfelt emotions and deep understanding.

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She has a rangy, eloquent voice — no squeaky-girl Betty Boopisms for her — and at times she evokes the raw yet controlled passion of Piaf.  And her musical range is equally spacious, as evident in the songs selected: BLUE RIVER / WE JUST COULDN’T SAY GOODBYE / THOU SWELL / BACK WATER BLUES / THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU / IF YOU WANT THE RAINBOW / BLACK BOTTOM / LOVELESS LOVE / PETITE FLEUR / IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS OF THE MORNING / THEM THERE EYES / NEBBIA.  That three or four of those songs go beyond what one might expect at a Bix Festival — and that they are rendered with great feeling and depth — is tribute to Vanessa’s artistic honesty and breadth.

And when this earnest swinging singer is accompanied by great musicians Andy Schumm, Dalton Ridenhour, Yves Francois, John Otto, Dave Bock, Frank Gualtieri, Jason Goldsmith, Leah Bezin, MIke Waldbridge, and Josh Duffee, you know there is fine playing in solo, ensemble, and accompaniment to go along with Vanessa’s voice.  Ten of the twelve selections were recorded “live,” in performance, which is all to the good: I’ll choose that “live” sound, which makes a listener feel as if (s)he is right there, over the pure — and sometimes tense — acoustic environment of a studio any day.

You can find this CD — and many more refreshing ones, present and historical — here.  I predict that Vanessa is at the start of a long and rewarding series of performances and CDs.

May your happiness increase!

HOT JAZZ, FRESH AIR, GOOD TIMES: THE BLACK DIAMOND BLUE FIVE at the CLINE CELLARS WINE and DIXIELAND FESTIVAL, JULY 13, 2013: CLINT BAKER, LEON OAKLEY, ROBERT YOUNG, MARTY EGGERS, BILL REINHART

Hot jazz sounds very good if you are crouched in front of the speaker of your Victrola; hearing it through earbuds connected to your iPod; having it come through the car speakers.

But best of all is sitting in front of the musicians themselves, and although some prefer the hard chairs, uneven food and drink of a nocturnal jazz club or bar, there is a good deal to be said for hearing hot jazz in the outdoors on a beautiful day.

The 2013 Cline Wine and Dixieland Jazz Festival neatly filled all those requirements, as this compact set by the Black Diamond Blue Five proves.  The BDBF is or are Clint Baker, banjo, vocals; Robert Young, reeds, vocals; Leon Oakley, cornet; Marty Eggers, piano; Bill Reinhart, tuba.

You will notice who is on Leon’s binder of music: the very singular Clarence Williams, and his ebullient spirit illuminates the music of this set.

I don’t ordinarily post snippets of performances, but the Williams PAPA DE DA DA is a favorite of mine, and it would have pained me to leave it out (I was setting up my camera for the opening portion of this video):

BOTTOMLAND (which I assume is a reference to rich dark fertile soil, beloved of farmers, rather than an equally admirable posterior. Research?):

Our delight, doing things right, FOUR OR FIVE TIMES:

CUSHION FOOT STOMP:

NEW ORLEANS HOP SCOP BLUES — which always makes me think of Bessie Smith’s extraordinary recording.  Slide, glide, prance, dance, take it easy!

CAKE WALKING BABIES FROM HOME — for Louis, Sidney, Alberta, and all the heroic illuminators:

Hot music in the open air — couldn’t be nicer.

May your happiness increase!

DUSTING THE DISCS, or MILDEW BEGONE! (WITH A POSTSCRIPT)

Several times this summer, I have come back from thrift or antique stores with a small collection of vintage 78s.  The Beloved, who loves hot jazz and loves to see me happily in my element, encourages such pastimes.  But her nose is sensitive to mildew, mold, dust, and the aromas that accompany elderly objects (records, paper sleeves, albums, and sheet music) stored for decades in basements, attics, closets.

Do any readers have suggestions for de-funkifying such precious artifacts?

Because the rainy season here is not yet upon us, I have left the records and albums and sheet music outdoors at night and for part of the day (watching them carefully so that they do not bake and warp in hot sun) but I would welcome other advice. One thought is to discard the paper and purchase new 10″ heavy paper green sleeves for the discs.

For the moment, I thought some of my readership would appreciate the view of Roger Wolfe Kahn, Ray Miller, Philip Spitalny, Gene Austin, “Chester Leighton,” the Light Crust Doughboys, Buddy Rogers and his Famous Swing Band, Mildred Bailey, Fats Waller, and a few others*, lazing in the Novato sun, with the Beloved’s beautiful garden as a backdrop.

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*You can’t see it, but there’s a real oddity, presumably from the late Forties, there — an RCA Victor promotional disc, with the singer Mindy Carson warbling the timeless ditty I WANT A TELEVISION CHRISTMAS.  Same song, both sides.  Could I resist such weirdness?

Several hours later.  I have disposed of all the aromatic paper sleeves and washed all the records in perhaps a rudimentary way. From top: clean, almost-entirely dry discs, rinse water, soapy water, clean, much-wetter discs, arrangement of succulents (courtesy of the Beloved);

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And for those collectors who are horrified that I would be doing this outdoors, and without a toothbrush, I understand.  But I watched the records carefully (it was cloudy) so they didn’t bake and warp, and my sole toothbrush is right now used for dental purposes. The result is several piles of clean — or less dirty — records, so with luck Hooley and Helen Rowland, Lee Wiley and Ray Miller, Helen Rowland and Dale Wimbrow, Bob Howard and Stirling Bose . . . will be happier and sound better.

May your happiness increase!