“MUSIC IS A MIRACLE”: RAY SKJELBRED and HIS CUBS at SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (November 29, 2013)

I agree with Ray Skjelbred, whose words I’ve taken as the title of this post.  (He says this, and more, before the first performance.)

I also think that he and his Cubs make miraculous music.

Here they are at the 2013 San Diego Jazz Fest on November 29, 2013 — Ray on piano, spiritual enhancement, and vocal; Kim Cusack on clarinet and vocal; Clint Baker, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar and vocal; Mike Daugherty, drums.

Remembering Henry “Red” Allen and Coleman Hawkins in 1933 with MY GALVESTON GAL*, a pop tune made immortal by way of swinging creativities:

A SAILBOAT IN THE MOONLIGHT, for Billie Holiday and Lester Young.  I hold my breath during the lovely thirty-second trio interlude from 4:22 — watch Messrs. Skjelbred and Daugherty, caught up in the same sacred currents:

Romping Chicago-style with NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW — vocal by Brother Cusack (I’ve left in the introductions of the band members because they deserve our applause as well as what was evoked in the room):

There were four more songs performed at this concert, but this music is so good that I am parceling it out in bites rather than gulps, for I will be sad when these videos from San Diego come to an end . . . even though there will be other opportunities to see Ray and his Cubs: click here.

In case you missed the magnificent — and I do not use that word lightly — WAILING BLUES (evoking Frank Melrose and Frank Teschemacher) — here it is again.

This band brings together in the present moment so much that is beautiful from the past — as if the Basie band had paid a visit to 1931 Chicago and stayed awhile. Ray and his Cubs create timeless music, a breathing space where the great spirits can relax and have their say, gently allowing us to listen in.

A postscript on MY GALVESTON GAL.  It is not the most subtle of popular tunes, with an up-and-down melodic / rhythmic / harmonic waveform, and lyrics that require the most nimble singer to squeeze in all the syllables, some of those words being lifted from other 1933 hits.  But it is a remarkable creation simply because of Henry “Red” Allen and Coleman Hawkins — not only because it is the only example I know on record of Henry Allen beginning a vocal with the word, “Yowzah!”  (It pops up later, too.)  To fully appreciate the alchemy of Allen and Skjelbred, first hear a quite good “dance band” rendition of the tune by Harry Reser:

Then, Ray’s inspiration, the Allen-Hawkins Orchestra — with an utterly entrancing Benny Morton solo and an adventurous Hawkins one, as well as Allen’s vocal:

May your happiness increase!

3 responses to ““MUSIC IS A MIRACLE”: RAY SKJELBRED and HIS CUBS at SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (November 29, 2013)

  1. One of those opportunities to hear Ray & his Cubs is coming right up! Fresno! I’ll BE there!! I agree with your assessment of this band completely! 🙂

  2. Ida Melrose Shoufler

    My favorite band,,All of the musicians are great,,Their music, I enjoy every song so much I can’t just listen to them once. I can’t say enough about Ray Skjelbred. There isn’t another piano player like him. No one can emulate him or out play him. I’m sure he would have been my dad’s kind of musician. I also feel sure that he would have had the same admiration for Michael Steinman and JAZZ LIVES THAT i DO, AND THATS A LOT! Thank you so much NM… I love you dearly.

  3. Well, maybe I am attempting to be the Frank Melrose of jazz blogging? I have to think about this! Love back . . . as always!

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