Daily Archives: December 13, 2013

WAILING SOULFULLY IN SAN DIEGO: RAY SKJELBRED AND HIS CUBS PLAY FRANK MELROSE

I had a wonderful time at the 34th annual San Diego Jazz Fest, held over Thanksgiving weekend 2013. Thanks must go to the diligent and generous Paul Daspit and his Pals, including the heroic Jim McNaughton and Myrna Beach Goodwin, who laid out a hearty spread for us.  Incidentally, the SDJF is ON for 2014: click here!  (The 2014 schedule isn’t posted yet, but I know that Andy Schumm and Josh Duffee will be joining the West Coast luminaries for some hot music.)

Here’s some auditory proof of the 2013 delights — one of the best small bands ever, pianist Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs . . . featuring Kim Cusack, clarinet / vocal; Clint Baker, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar / vocal; Mike Daugherty, drums.

They played two delectable sets full of Chicago rhythm, something you don’t always hear these days in traditional circles — swing before Swing, hot without self-consciousness about it.

I offer one performance only (I want people to savor this!), WAILING BLUES, written by that vanished paragon of music, “Kansas City” Frank Melrose, whose music — performance and composition — always takes surprising turns, whether gutty or tender or both.

We miss him, and I am honored to have his surviving child, Ida Melrose Shoufler, as a devoted reader of JAZZ LIVES . . . so a little pre-Christmas present of her father’s particularly flavorful WAILING BLUES:

Now, that music exemplifies “tonation and phrasing.”  It gets in the gutter because from there you can really see the stars.

After this performance, Ray said, thoughtfully, “There was something dynamic and strange about everything that Frank Melrose did, which is very appealing to me.”

Frank’s physical self left the planet a long time ago in a death that has the frightening impact of Greek myth, but his spirit — whimsical, intense, curious, heartfelt — is with us today, embodied by these players and those who love him.

I hope you never have to wail, but if the spirit moves you in that direction, may this music guide and shelter you.

May your happiness increase!

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