Monthly Archives: December 2013

KEEPING JAZZ LIVELY: THE FAT BABIES, “18th AND RACINE”

For some musicians and many audience members, honoring the innovative music of the past is a nearly academic matter.  To them, one should treat a 1927 McKenzie-Condon recording as if it were a Mozart score, and make it come alive in this century through absolute idiomatic fidelity to the original.

This approach, a heartfelt reverence for the past, can have electrifying results. Hearing a trumpet player exquisitely reproduce a Louis solo has always made me want to cheer, and I am sure that Louis would have seen this as an act of love — a love that took skill, expertise, and hours of diligence.

But I wonder if all the truly innovative musicians of the past would have delighted in this form of reverence.  Would Bix be cheered to know that somewhere, right now, a cornet player is reproducing his solo on SINGIN’ THE BLUES?  I have my doubts; after all, he told Jimmy McPartland that what he liked most about jazz was its innate unpredictability, that no one knew what was going to happen next. Lester Young said that he felt hemmed in by the players who had copied his every mannerism and then presented it as a style.

For me, the most rewarding music balances its obeisances to the past (often encapsulated in recordings) with freshness, the delicious uncertainty of surprise, of risk, of invention within an idiom.

My readers may not agree with this, and I won’t demean the contemporary player who, in honoring an idol, reproduces his every nuance as a tribute and a beautiful piece of “acting.”  And innovation has to be aware of context: the young tenor player in the 2014 “Swing Era” big band, soloing on STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY, who launches into a Wayne Shorter meditation, pleases me not at all.

I offer here another energized example of how one might honor the past without dishonoring the present — the second compact disc by the Chicago-based hot band, THE FAT BABIES (Delmark Records):

MI0003675022

I thought their first CD, CHICAGO HOT, was superb — you can read my encomium here, and this one is even better.

The musicians are Beau Sample, string bass; Alex Hall, drums; Jake Sanders, tenor banjo, Paul Asaro, piano / vocal; Dave Bock, trombone; John Otto, clarinet / alto saxophone; Andy Schumm, cornet / alto saxophone — with incidental singing by the members of the ensemble and arrangements by Schumm, Asaro, and Otto.  The songs are LIZA (Condon-Rubens), TILL TIMES GET BETTER, THE STAMPEDE, MABEL’S DREAM, NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW, I CAN’T DANCE (I GOT ANTS IN MY PANTS), 18th AND RACINE (an original by Andy), KING KONG STOMP, EL RADO SCUFFLE, OH BABY, STARDUST, I’LL FLY TO HAWAII, OH ME! OH MY!, THE CHANT, BLUEBERRY RHYME.  Experienced jazz listeners will be able to tick off the associations here: James P. Johnson, Jelly Roll Morton, the Washboard Rhythm Kings, Joseph Robichaux, Jimmie Noone, Fletcher Henderson, Jabbo Smith, Eddie Condon, Brad Gowans, Hoagy Carmichael, Bix Beiderbecke, and more.

But the Fat Babies do more than reproduce old records.  They invent within the familiar architectures; honoring hallowed introductions and endings, they create energetic, personal statements — so that the results sound both idiomatic and fresh, with influences and shadings in motion on every track.  The ensemble is lively and flexible; the solos are rewarding; the rhythm section swings along mightily.  And there’s a group vocal on I’LL FLY TO HAWAII — more than anyone could ever ask for.

The CD doesn’t sound like a brilliant history lesson.  Rather, it sounds like a happy gathering of the faithful who have understood that “going for yourself”  — as Fats and Billie, Chick Webb, and Freddie Keppard did — is the true jazz gospel.

Whether or not you share my sentiments about recreation, repertory, innovation, originality, or not, you owe it to yourself to investigate this session.  It’s alive, and that’s always a good thing.  Revering the dead by making sure what they created never moves again might not be what the dead, once living, wanted for themselves.

May your happiness increase!

SHE’S GOT A HEART FULL OF RHYTHM

Portions of this musical self-portrait are not entirely accurate.  The ebullient singer, improviser, and comedienne Banu Gibson has very fine shoes as well as something to eat. So the dramatic lyrics of the 1937 Louis Armstrong song I’VE GOT A HEART FULL OF RHYTHM don’t apply in a self-pitying way.

But as this performance shows, the title is absolutely the truth, and Banu makes everyone feel comfortable in a matter of seconds: swing can do that!

Her Swing Band is on the same jubilant wavelength: Randy Reinhart, cornet; Mike Pittsley, trombone; Nick Ellman, reeds; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Kevin Dorn, drums. This brief life-enhancing experience took place on October 12, 2013, at Duke Heitger’s first Steamboat Stomp in New Orleans.

Vitamins for the soul:

May your happiness increase!

BLUES BY BUTCH (at the 2013 STEAMBOAT STOMP in NEW ORLEANS)

I think of the slow (or medium-slow) blues, too rarely performed these days, as homeopathic medicine for our own ills.  If you listen to something serious and sad, pensive music with its own rhythmic momentum, a few clouds of your own might lift.

Here are two classic blues performances by a master of jazz improvisation with a steady lilt, someone who understands “sweet, soft, plenty rhythm” deeply — Butch Thompson.

I had the honor of meeting Butch for the first time last October at Duke Heitger’s inaugural Steamboat Stomp in New Orleans.  Of course, like many others, I felt as if I’d known Butch for years through hearing his live performances and beautiful recordings — but the man in person was even more delightful: serious, light-hearted, and generous all at once.  (A good unofficial guardian, and a fine man to share late-night red beans and rice with!)

WORKING MAN’S BLUES:

HOW LONG (BLOOSE):

And a bit of New Orleans laginappe — Butch says a few words about the amazing player and teacher Manuel Manetta, who later opened a teaching studio at his Algiers, Louisiana home and had a tremendous influence on generations of players:

May your happiness increase!

THE NEWTON-LEACOCK PAPERS

Having good friends is a delight in themselves.  When the friends are generous, that’s more than one can hope for. Here’s evidence: Jeanie Gorman Wilson, who took very good care of the singer Barbara Lea in Barbara’s last years, shared these pieces of paper with me . . . and with the readers of JAZZ LIVES.

What you’ll see below is admittedly a small collection but absolutely irreplaceable: two 1951 missives from trumpeter / composer Frank Newton to the youthful but impressive Miss Barbara Leacock.  These aren’t simply rare pieces of paper, but artifacts from a gifted man, his life too short — but testimony to his humanity, his affectionate wisdom.

The envelope, please:

NEWTON letter 1 envelope

And the contents:

NEWTON letter 2 first

Dear Barbara:

     Here’s thanking you for whatever contribution you made toward the wonderful birthday party.

     Let me wish you lots of success with your singing. Don’t be discouraged by a lot of your friends’ opinions, neither feel too exalted by their compliments, but try to work as hard as time will allow, out of which will come something of which you are deserving and will be proud of.

     Give Larry [Eanet] my regards.

     As ever, your well-wishing friend.

                                          Frankie Newton

Eight months later, when Newton was working as a counselor at KIDDIE KAMP in Sharon, Massachusetts (the postcard’s motto is “Thanks feller, for the swell vacation!”):

NEWTON letter 3 front of Kiddie Kamp

And his note, which ends “hurry and write”:

NEWTON letter 4 Kiddie Kamp

Hello Barbara: — Just to let you know where I am, and what I am doing. I am counsler at this camp for kids and I am having a ball.  I shure wish you could drive over here and see the camp it is only 20 some miles from Boston George Wein and the band were up here last week. If you can write me and tell me what’s what is happening to you

hurry and write

love

Frankie Newton

Yes, Newton’s handwriting, spelling, and punctuation are much more informal, but I imagine him dashing off this note, leaning against a tree, while children around him demanded his attention.

More information on KIDDIE KAMP can be found here — thanks to the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

Thanks to Jeanie for allowing us to read some of Newton’s words.  He has been gone for nearly sixty years. If his sound isn’t distinctive in your ears, here is a deep, mournful sample: his 1939 THE BLUES MY BABY GAVE TO ME (with Mezz Mezzrow, Pete Brown, James P. Johnson, Al Casey, John Kirby, and Cozy Cole — the session supervised by Hughes Panassie):

Barbara Lea is nearer to us: December 26 was only the second anniversary of her death, but it’s always a privilege to hear her remarkable voice once again. Here she is, with Dick Sudhalter and James Chirillo, performing the uplifting IT’S ALL IN YOUR MIND:

And since we can all dream of hearing Mr. Newton and Miss Leacock together, I offer here (yet unheard) evidence of such a musical meeting. Newton’s actual birthday was January 4, so it is possible that this disc was cut at the birthday party he mentions in his first letter.  Someday . . .

May your happiness increase!

“MATTRESS TO YOU”

Cyberspace continues to be an ever-expanding playground.  An hour ago, idly, I Googled “Sidney Catlett” to see if anything new to me had emerged, and found this — a photograph of Sidney, inscribed to Ben Webster, which the consignor said had come from the Webster estate.  (Bidding on this item ended in 2012, which means, perhaps, that some fortunate collector has it on his / her wall.)

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I have no problem with “my boy” as a term of affection.  “Blow on King,” even though I note the missing comma, is very clear to me as both affectionate urging and reverent salutation in one.  But “mattress to you” is new to me, and I suspect to many of my readers. Might I guess that it is a slang expression — from the Forties or earlier — hinting at “May everything be very comfortable for you”? “May you always sleep blissfully.”

If anyone knows more from digging into their own Jive Dictionaries, I would appreciate elucidation.  Until then, “mattress” to all of you. Until I learn otherwise, I am going to assume that this new expression and this blog’s sign-off mean much the same thing, whether they come from JAZZ LIVES or from Sidney Catlett.

May your happiness increase!

LIFE, MEMORIES, YOUTH, HAPPINESS: DUNCAN SCHIEDT AT THE PIANO (September 2013)

Even if many jazz fans don’t know his name, we’ve all seen the photographs of Duncan Schiedt, who began chronicling the music in 1939.

I’ve been encountering Duncan at the Athenaeum Hotel — for the annual September Jazz at Chautauqua (now the Allegheny Jazz Festival) — for the past nine years, and have always enjoyed his impromptu solo piano recitals in the parlor.

Undismayed by whatever might be going on around him — consider the wedding party trotting through the scene during YOUTH — Duncan moves easily from one song to another, keeping his left hand gently moving, modestly embellishing the melodies as he goes, making the piano sing in an understated way.  I had my camera with me this last September, and at the Beloved’s urging, I recorded a few minutes of an informal Schiedt recital.

Piano aficionados will hear the kind of sweet melodic homages we associate with Jess Stacy and with the more obscure Chicagoan Jack Gardner (with touches of Bix and Joe Sullivan also!) — a style that is tenderly respectful yet always moving along. I like to imagine that Duncan, without camera or notebook, himself embodies a great tradition by playing piano the way it used to be played, the common language of song in motion.

AS LONG AS I LIVE / MEMORIES OF YOU:

BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH:

SOMETIMES I’M HAPPY:

Now, knowing that Duncan goes back to 1939 in his jazz photography, one might guess that he is an Elder of the Tribe, and we know him to be an honored one.

But I offer him as proof that music — making it or being absorbed in it wholly — is a sure way to stay young.  The man at the piano was born in 1921, which would make him 92, more or less, at the time of these performances.

And whether subliminally or intentionally, his song choices come back to the verities of our and his existence: Life, Memories, Youth, and Happiness.  Thank you, Duncan, for reminding us of the beauty that never grows old.

May your happiness increase!

MARITAL RELATIONS, RESUMED

All I know is what I see here.  1933, The Boswell Sisters, three names on the sheet music — one of them, Gerald Marks, famous for his part in ALL OF ME.

SECOND HONEYMOON

Thanks to the unlimited online resources of YouTube and more (posted by enthusiasts worldwide), we can now hear a 1932 recording of this song by Enric Madriguera and his orchestra, vocal chorus Tom Low.  It’s a rather formulaic “We broke up and are now back together again” lyric, although the bridge has some witty touches:

If Connie and the Sisters had been able to record all of the songs they were associated with, how much larger their musical legacy would have been! If I listen hard to the Madriguera version, I can almost — but not entirely — create an imagined Sisters’ version in my head. Almost.

May your happiness increase!

THE SWING WE HEARD LAST SUMMER (Part One): CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS SWING BAND at EPIC SWING (July 13, 2013)

Remembering the past is a good thing, especially when the evidence is so rewarding and swings so well.  Here are some performances from the evening of merriment and hot music performed by Clint Baker and his New Orleans Swing Band at Epic Swing, San Mateo, California, July 13, 2013.

The band sounds wonderful and I am especially enamored of the Hopperesque lighting afforded everyone onstage.

The participants?  Clint, trumpet, reeds, vocal; Robert Young, reeds, vocal; Ray Skjelbred, piano; Jason Vanderford, guitar / banjo; Tom Wilson, string bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums.

CRAZY RHYTHM (with an astonishing extended Skjelbred interlude):

COQUETTE:

PUT ON YOUR OLD GREY BONNET:

SARATOGA SWING:

SOME OF THESE DAYS:

EPIC SWING:

ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:

SWEET SUE, JUST YOU (in a Noone-Poston-Hines mood):

To get the full effect, set the YouTube “toothed wheel” or “gear” to 1080, watch in full screen with sufficient volume, gather the family, roll up the rug . . . .

More to come! And I don’t mean simply another set of videos, but Clint and friends will be playing the Wednesday Night Hop in Mountain View, on January 8, 2014 — a very good way to welcome the New Year in.  Details here.  (And on the 15th, Emily Asher’s Garden Party will take the stand!)

May your happiness increase!

THROUGH MANY LANDS, BECKY AND RANDY JOURNEY, BRINGING MELODY

From Portland (Oregon) to Oakland (California) to be precise.

Rebecca Kilgore and the fine pianist Randy Porter are coming south for a duet concert on Friday, January 31, 2014, at 8 PM.  They will present “a wide variety of songs from the Thirties to the present, celebrating the musicians they love, including Billie Holiday, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Dave Frishberg, Lyle Ritz, honoring composers famous or obscure. Tender or exuberant, Rebecca and Randy team up for a memorable program.”  The place? Piedmont Piano Company, 1728 San Pablo Ave. (at 18th), Oakland, California. To reserve tickets, please call (510) 547-8188.  Their website is www.piedmontpiano.com.  Tickets are $20.

I’ve only heard our Becky for the last fifteen years or so — which is enough to form an opinion of her as a peerless singer and interpreter of songs. I just met Randy in his home town, heard him play, and admire him immensely.  These two have been working together and their concert promises to be a treat for Californians — or denizens of other states as well.

And, by the way, a concert in a piano company will feature a spectacular instrument, good sound, a small, quiet audience . . . so don’t wait, because these events sell out, as I can testify.

May your happiness increase!

MINIMUM, TWO DOLLARS

Worth every penny!  The eBay seller suggests that this dates from 1965, but I would say a good many years earlier.  But no quibbling.  I’d go.

CONDON'S TABLE CARD front

Tuesday was jam session night, hence the higher price.  Join me, Messrs. Dorn, Caparone, Baker, Smith, Burgevin?

CONDON'S TABLE CARD back

May your happiness increase!

LESSONS FROM MR. RUSSELL

CHAUTAUQUA, LAURA SMITH, SAN DIEGO, PWR 056

Back by popular demand, as promised — solos played by Charles Ellsworth “Pee Wee” Russell. Several reed players found the previous Russell post intriguing and there has been an enthusiastic reaction to the most recent Eddie Miller interlude.  So here are the complete Russell solos: consider them well.  And then go for yourselves!  As he always did.

EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 031

Slow.  Don’t rush.

EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 027Slow Swing!

EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 026

Fast Swing!

EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 025

At the end of the day, consider this:

EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 024

Stick around, why don’t you?

EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 023

A classic.  Fast!

EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 022

The Spanish tinge:

EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 021For the Barnharts, especially Anne:

EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 020

When whip-poor-wills call:

PEE WEE RUSSELL 001

And finally:

PEE WEE RUSSELL 002

These are for Jeff in the UK, Stan, Ben, Hal, Andrew, and myself in the US. Anyone who can play these convincingly is encouraged to make a little video — we might like to hear them come to life.

May your happiness increase!

UNDER WESTERN SKIES, JAZZ HORIZONS

Long-Beach-California-Sunrise

With great pleasure, I have transplanted myself from one coast to the other, from suburban New York to Marin County in California, where I will be for the next eight months.  So what follows is a brief and selective listing of musical events the Beloved and I might show up at . . . feel free to join us!

Clint Baker and his New Orleans Jazz Band will be playing for the Wednesday Night Hop in San Mateo on January 8: details and directions here.

Emily Asher’s Garden Party will be touring this side of the continent in mid-January, with Emily’s Hoagy Carmichael program.  On January 16, she, friends, and sitters-in will make merry at a San Francisco house concert: details here.  On the 17th, the Garden Party will reappear, bright and perky, at the Red Poppy Art House, to offer another helping of subtle, lyrical, hot music: details to come here.

Clint and Friends (I don’t know the official band title, so am inventing the simplest) will be playing for the Central Coast Hot Jazz Society in Pismo Beach on January 26.  Details are not yet available on the website, but I have it on good authority that the band will include Marc Caparone, Dawn Lambeth, Mike Baird, Carl Sonny Leyland, and Katie Cavera.

A moment of self-advertisement: I will be giving a Sunday afternoon workshop at Berkeley’s The Jazz School  — on February 9, called LOUIS ARMSTRONG SPEAKS TO US.  Details here.’

And, from February 21-23, the Beloved and I will be happily in attendance at the San Diego Jazz Party — details here — to be held at the Del Mar Hilton, honoring guitar legend Mundell Lowe and featuring Harry Allen, John Allred, Dan Barrett, John Cocuzzi, John Eaton, Eddie Erickson, Rebecca Kilgore, Ed Metz, Butch Miles, Nicki Parrott, Houston Person, Bucky Pizzarelli, Ed Polcer, Chuck Redd, Antti Sarpila, Richard Simon, Bria Skonberg, Rossano Sportiello, Dave Stone, Johnny Varro, Jason Wanner.  The sessions will offer solo piano all the way up to nonets, with amiable cross-generational jazz at every turn.  In a triumph of organization, you can even see here who’s playing with whom and when, from Friday afternoon to Sunday farewell.

In March, the Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey . . . make your plans here!

And — a little closer to the here and now — if you don’t have plans for a New Year’s Eve gala, check out ZUT! in Berkeley.  Good food — and Mal Sharpe and the Big Money in Jazz (with singer Kallye Gray) will be giving 2013 a gentle push at the stroke of midnight.  Details here.

We hope to see our friends at these events!

May your happiness increase!

KEY NOTES

I bought myself a truly gratifying holiday present:

KEYNOTE BOX

For details from the Fresh Sound website, click here.

It’s possible that some readers might be unfamiliar with the Keynote Records catalogue, so if the tiny portraits above don’t pique your interest, here are a few words.  Between 1941 and 1947, with the bulk of its sessions taking place in 1944-6. this independent jazz label produced a wide sampling of the best jazz records ever made — from the New Orleans jazz of George Hartman to the “modern sounds” of Lennie Tristano and Red Rodney.  Keynote was the expression of one man’s intelligent taste — the Javanese jazz fan and producer Harry Lim (1919-1990).  Lim’s records neatly balance written arrangements, head arrangements, and improvised solos.  Many of the Keynote issues were recorded for issue on 12″ 78s, thus giving musicians room to create in more leisurely ways.  In fairness, the Keynote sessions were not the only ones taking place in the wartime years: Lim’s issues ran parallel with Commodore, Blue Note, Hot Record Society, Signature, and even smaller labels — Asch, Jamboree and Wax among them.  Keynote featured jazz players who were already stars: Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge, Lester Young, Red Norvo, Benny Carter, Sidney Catlett, Teddy Wilson, Johnny Hodges, Slam Stewart, Jack Teagarden, Earl Hines, Count Basie (pseudonymously), as well as improvisers of equal worth who were often not given their due: trumpeter Joe Thomas, Milt Hinton, Bill Harris, Willie Smith, Kenny Kersey, Jonah Jones, George Barnes, Johnny Guarneri, Emmett Berry, Aaron Sachs, Herman Chittison, George Wettling, Hilton Jefferson, Tyree Glenn, Gene Sedric, Juan Tizol, Rex Stewart, Pete Brown, Cozy Cole, Charlie Shavers, Nick Fatool, Bujie Centobie, Irving Fazola, Allan Reuss, Dave Tough, and many others.  Three particularly remarkable sessions brought together like-minded but singular horn players: trumpeters Eldridge, Thomas, and Berry; saxophonists Hawkins, Don Byas, Tab Smith, Harry Carney; trombonists Vic Dickenson, Harris, Claude Jones, and Benny Morton.

Several things need to be said about the new Fresh Sounds reissue.  For one, it is a “European bootleg,” which will repel some collectors of this music, and I think rightly so.  However, the Keynotes have never been issued in any systematic way on compact disc — in their home country or otherwise.  And the Fresh Sound set concentrates, with a few exceptions, on issued material.  I don’t know whether this was a choice designed to entice listeners who find alternate takes annoying, or to keep the set’s price attractive.  (I bought mine on Amazon for $94, which seems a good value for 243 sides.)  The sound is good, although I haven’t compared it to any 78 or vinyl issues.  True Keynote devotees will, of course, have their own copies of the comprehensive vinyl issue of the label’s offerings, and the Fresh Sound box won’t replace that.

The reissue history of the Keynote recordings is characteristically odd — leaving aside the comprehensive vinyl set — with early vinyl assortments assembled by instrument (trumpet, trombone, or saxophone), then later ones featuring stars Hawkins, Young, Woody Herman sidemen, Norvo, Tristano, etc.  As I write this, I am taking great pleasure in the sixth disc — selected at random — hearing sessions led by Barney Bigard, Horace Henderson, Bill Harris, Willie Smith, Corky Corcoran, and Milt Hinton — a fascinating cross-section of timeless jazz recorded in 1945.  “Fresh Sound” is an apt description for these sides recorded more than half a century ago.

Fresh Sound producer Jordi Pujol made an intriguing and ultimately rewarding choice when looking for documentary material to fill the 125-page booklet.  He included a careful history of the label — sources unknown — which tells a great deal about how these sessions came to be.  (I feel, once again, that we should all give thanks to selfless men such as Harry Lim.)  Then, rather than reprint the enthusiastic, empathic notes written by Dan Morgenstern for the Keynote vinyl box set, Pujol returned to the archives of DOWN BEAT and METRONOME for contemporary reviews and session photographs.  The photographs — although many of them have been reproduced elsewhere — offer a few treasures: Lester Young, Johnny Guarnieri, Slam Stewart, and Sidney Catlett at their December 1943 session, and photographs from the jam sessions Lim created before Keynote began recording regularly: one, in particular, caught me: a 1940 Chicago session featuring Rex Stewart, Lawrence Brown, Earl Hines, John Simmons, Tubby Hall . . . and the elusive Boyce Brown.  The reviews from the contemporary jazz magazines are both grating and revealing.  One might forget just how hard those writers and editors worked to appear breezy, slangy, hip — Catlett is referred to as a “colored tubman” in one review — and how severe they were in assessing what now seem masterpieces, using “uneventful,” “nothing distinctive,” “routine,” “pleasant,” “don’t emerge as anything too special.”  Lester Young is referred to as “Les,” his tenor sound as “muddy-toned.”  That the music survived this critical approach from writers who were its advocates says much about its durability.  Here, by the way, is a side DOWN BEAT termed a “fiasco” and gave it a grade of C.  I rest my case:

I think I got more than my money’s worth.  You might agree.

May your happiness increase! 

MORE LIGHTNING IN THE DARK: JAMMING AT WHITLEY BAY 2013 (Part One)

I don’t quite know what it is like when the music isn’t being created there, but the Victory Pub in the Village Hotel Newcastle (UK) has become a small shrine for Hot music when the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party is in session — a once-yearly transformation into a place where dreams come true.

Here’s the second half of WASHBOARD WIGGLES, with Jeff Barnhart, keyboard / vocals; Bent Persson, Torstein Kubban, cornet; Graham Hughes, trombone; Lars Frank, reeds; Jacob Ullberger, banjo; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone:

Then, the Master stopped in — Norman Field and his clarinet — for a romp on LITTLE GIRL (with the verse and a characteristically buoyant Jeff Barnhart vocal):

We don’t like to talk about Buddy behind his back, but we must — BUDDY’S HABITS:

More of the good stuff — The Good Stuff — is on the way. And a cinematographic postscript: if you can, while watching on YouTube, boost the settings (where the little gear or toothed wheel is) to the highest — 1o80 — and watch full screen. That way you will find, no matter what Gertrude Stein said, there is a there there!

May your happiness increase!

ADRIAN SENDS BEST WISHES

A precious artifact.

ROLLINI and RUSSELL 001

Thanks to generous David J. Weiner!  And to Adrian, and to Gloria.

May your happiness increase!

MUSIC, BUSINESS, ZIGGY and NONI

Where shall we start?  With the music, of course.

Here is an engaging record with the spontaneous energy and lilt of the best small-band swing, but with neat arranging touches. The players were from the Benny Goodman Orchestra of 1939:

This performance was recorded December 26, 1939 with Ziggy Elman, trumpet; Toots Mondello, Elmani “Noni” Bernardi, alto sax; Jerry Jerome, Arthur Rollini, tenor sax; Johnny Guarnieri, piano; Ben Heller, guitar; Artie Bernstein, string bass; Nick Fatool, drums.

From a splendidly informative profile by Christopher Popa (including an interview of Martin Elman, Ziggy’s son) we learn that Bernardi created the arrangements for the sides Ziggy did for Bluebird Records, Victor’s budget label. The profile — superbly done for Popa’s BIG BAND LIBRARY, can be found here.

This post had its genesis in something not a recording or a performance, but the result of a record session and the hope of making money from a hit. On eBay, I found this two-page contract between music publisher Bregman, Vocco and Conn, and Elman and Bernardi — for this song, then called I’M TOOTIN’ MY BABY BACK HOME.  (This title is a play on Maurice Chevalier’s 1931 hit WALKIN’ MY BABY BACK HOME — recorded by, among others, Louis and Nat Cole.)

NONI and ZIGGY contract

From this vantage point, the contract seems anything but lavish, although the format is standard and the terms might have seemed a good deal at the time.  I don’t think this venture made anyone richer.  I’ve never seen a copy of the sheet music?  And if one wishes to perceive BVC as exploitative, I am sure there is reason, but they at least published this folio, a good thing:

ziggyelman50trumpetlicks“Ziggie” is both nearly forgotten and much missed.  Like Charlie Shavers, he could forcefully swing any group in many ways (consider his work on sessions with Mildred Bailey and Lionel Hampton).  Harry Finkelman (his birth name) could do much more than play the frailich for AND THE ANGELS SING.  Those Bluebird records are understated delights (with a beautiful rhythm section for this session).

May your happiness increase!

THE RUBAIYAT OF MARTY GROSZ

Tidying one’s apartment has unforeseen benefits.  Not only can one find things that should be disposed of, but objects forgotten or unknown bob to the surface. Domestic archaeology.

This little piece of paper has been on my kitchen counter for some time now: who would throw out a scrap of paper handwritten (a holograph manuscript) from the Most Revered Martin Oliver Grosz?

With the help of the experts at the British Museum and the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library, who offered their best carbon-dating and electron-microscope expertise, their deep analysis of paper fibers and ink, we have an approximate date of early 2011.  I could have told them that . . . but experts must be allowed to play.

Marty and Co. (including Jon-Erik Kellso, Dan Block, Scott Robinson, James Dapogny, Vince Giordano, Arnie Kinsella, and “Panic Slim”) had recorded a CD called THE JAMES P. JOHNSON SONGBOOK (Arbors).  I had been allowed to attend the recording sessions in Union City, New Jersey — on October 27, 28, 29, 2010. Here’s a link to find out more. Some months later, when the finished CD was ready but not yet released to the eager public, Marty sent me a copy and enclosed this gnomic utterance:

MARTY GROSZ WRITES

In the presence of such wisdom, any commentary would be profane.

In the illustration below, Omar Khayyam is being serenaded by Saki.  Historians are uncertain whether she is using the Carl Kress tuning. Research!

omar-khayyam-and-saki-AE05_l

May your happiness increase!

WELCOME, NICOLE HEITGER!

I had the pleasure of hearing Nicole Heitger for the first time at the 2013 Jazz at Chautauqua (now the Allegheny Jazz Festival: read more here) — and I was devastated, in a good way.  What a voice!  And her unaffected stage presence.  Marvelous.  Yes, she comes from a noble lineage: her father, clarinetist Ray Heitger, founded the Cakewalkin’ Jass Band; her brother, trumpeter / singer Duke Heitger, is well known to JAZZ LIVES.

The players here are Ray, Jon-Erik Kellso, James Dapogny, Kerry Lewis, and John Von Ohlen.  And I’ve intentionally left more than two minutes of preliminary chat and setting-up because I think it’s witty and sweetly candid:

TROUBLE IN MIND:

WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO:

I asked Nicole to tell us a little about herself:

My life is simple.

I started singing at 16 with the “Cake Walkin’ Jass Band” (my father’s band) and became a full time member around six years later. I sing with the “Easy Street Jazz Band” in Ann Arbor once a month and have recorded with them recently. This band includes Paul Klinger, Jim Dapogny, Paul Keller, Pete Siers, and more. I have also recorded with a local band “New Orleans Party Asylum” (NOPA) on 2 of their CD’s.  

Growing up with the music was fabulous.

The highlight of my early years was going to “Tony Packo’s Café” with my dad every weekend. This is where the CJB played for over 30 years. I listened to Bessie, Ma Rainey, and Billie in the beginning. As I got older, Ella Fitzgerald became one of my favorites.

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and have been working at the East Toledo Family Center for 16 years now. I supervised several grant funded programs. I am married to Aaron Shetterly and we have two amazing children, Elijah and Ella.

I feel honored to have been in that room to hear and record Nicole, and to share her music with you on JAZZ LIVES.  She’s got it — the real thing.

May your happiness increase!

WHAT HAS EIGHT HANDS, FOUR HEARTS, AND SWINGS?

Easy.  Carl Sonny Leyland and Eeco Rijken Rapp, stompin’ em down at one piano with the noble assistance of Marty Eggers, string bass; Mike Daugherty, drums.  Better than any pharmaceutical for raising serotonin levels, letting joy be unconfined.  Recorded at the San Diego Jazz Fest on November 29, 2013:

There now, isn’t that better?

May your happiness increase!

IN HIGH SOCIETY: GORDON AU’S GRAND STREET STOMPERS at THE CAFE CARLYLE (Thursday, December 19, 2013)

GRAND STREET STOMPERS CARLYLE

I’m delighted by this swinging manifestation of upward social mobility!  Usually, the Grand Street Stompers — the tidy yet exuberant small band led by Gordon Au — has been glimpsed downtown, at small clubs and beerhalls, at dance extravaganzas.

Here you can see many videos that I and other enthusiasts have created.

Yes, there have been marvelous occasions north of Forty-Second Street (two delightful holiday stomps at Columbia University) but the GSS are breaking new ground, migrating north for an evening.

On Thursday, December 19, 2014, The Grand St. Stompers will be playing at the Cafe Carlyle (35 East 76th Street), beginning at 10:45 PM.  $25 + minimum. Reserve your seat online or at 212-744-1600.  Here is the Facebook event page. Thanks to event host Michael Katsobashvili, it’s the beginning of another chapter in GSS history, so biographers and cultural theorists take note.

The evening will feature the extraordinary vocal improviser Tamar Korn, trumpeter / composer Gordon Au, clarinetist Dennis Lichtman, trombonist Matt Musselman, guitarist/banjoist Nick Russo, bassist Rob Adkins, percussionist Kevin Dorn.  A gathering of superheroes worthy of Marvel Comics.

I’ll be there, and I hope you are too.

May your happiness increase!

GOODMEN, NOT HARD TO FIND (in LONDON SW1)

BENNY 1938 repertory

The wonderful jazz drummer and string bassist Richard Pite — whom I’ve met and admired at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party — told me about this upcoming concert, and it sounds quite exciting.  (My friend Sir Robert Cox has attended these romps in the past and is an enthusiastic supporter.)

On Sunday, January 26, 2014, the Jazz Repertory Company presents an afternoon concert — beginning at 3:30 PM — recreating Benny Goodman’s 1938 Carnegie Hall concert.  Jon Hancock, the authority on that original musical / cultural landmark, has this to say: “Pete Long and his musicians have gone to great lengths to recreate this concert, including original arrangements, period instruments, and even the stage seating plan. The result is an evening of fabulous music that swings like crazy, it’s a great night out, not to be missed!”

Here’s a link to the concert — where you can learn more about the Jazz Repertory Company.  And as evidence of the joyous energy that’s in store, here’s a video of Pete Long and his Orchestra (Richard on drums) in 2010, wailing through SING SING SING in a dance date:

The concert will take place at Cadogan Hall, Sloane Terrace, London SW 1. The box office phone is 020 7730 4500, and their website is www.cadoganhall.com.  Tickets are £ 30, 25, 20, 15.  Since very few people who attended the original concert are still with us (I know of one who attended the previous recreation and was utterly delighted — a true story) this might be as close as we will get in this century.

Far into the future: on Friday, November 14, 2014, at 7:30 PM, the same orchestra at Cadogan Hall will present a partial recreation of Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller at Carnegie Hall 1939 — with the extra added attraction of Enrico Tomasso as Louis Armstrong.  (He will, of course, answer the perennial question, WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED SWING?) In addition, a small group will recreate the music of the Basie band and the Kansas City Six as first played at the 1939 From Spirituals to Swing concert.  If you can purchase tickets for both the January and December 2014 concerts at the same time, there will be a twenty percent discount.  Good deal!

May your happiness increase!

EXCELLENT MEDICAL ADVICE (from DOCTORS McHUGH, FIELDS, OPPENHEIM, and WALLER)

YOUR SPEED

Yes, I know we are all important people with critically important time-sensitive tasks to accomplish, but still I inquire:

What’s the rush?

Where’s the fire?

Who’s chasing you?

TAKE IT EASY.

Instead of my telling you, here is the message in musical form . . . delivered by the best shamans I know.

It was snowing this morning: I suspect that a good number of the accidents I saw were caused by hurry.  My students, eager for the semester to be over, rush through their final explications and are then puzzled when their grades are low.  Life is meant to be lived in a leisurely way — a steady rocking medium tempo.

TAKE IT EASY.  Thanks to Jimmy McHugh (melody); Dorothy Fields and George Oppenheim (lyrics); Fats Waller and his Rhythm (1935).

May your happiness increase!