Monthly Archives: March 2014

MORE FROM FABULOUS FRIDAY at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ PARTY (February 21, 2014)

Here is the first installment of my delighted reportage from the San Diego Jazz Party, complete with music.  I had a wonderful time there, and I wasn’t alone: the audience was happy and the musicians likewise. The collective pleasure is reflected in the music.

I present three more living examples.

SOLITUDE (John Allred, trombone; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Chuck Redd, vibraphone; Jason Wanner, piano; Dave Stone, string bass; Butch Miles, drums):

CHEROKEE (as above):

IN A LITTLE GYPSY TEAROOM (Eddie Erickson, vocal / guitar; Dan Barrett, trombone / vocal; Becky Kilgore, vocal; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Ed Metz, drums):

A moody evocation of a classic Ellington ballad, a swinging version of a timeless jazz standard (thanks to Ray Noble), and a Thirties romantic romp, complete with impromptu group harmony, lots of fun, and a nice cup of tea.  Who would ask for more?

And, for those keeping track — Fabulous Friday had more than these six performances to offer, to enthrall . . . it was succeeded by Super Saturday and Sublime Sunday.  If you had any doubts.

May your happiness increase!

“JUST IMAGINE: CLASSIC JAZZ AT CLASSIC PIANOS”: REBECCA KILGORE, DAN BARRETT, PAOLO ALDERIGHI

Stampa

I am very happy to announce a new CD by the Rebecca Kilgore Trio (Rebecca, vocal and rhythm guitar; Dan Barrett, trombone, piano, arrangements; Paolo Alderighi, piano) — on Blue Swing Fine Recordings 014.  Recorded at the end of 2013 in Portland, Oregon, it’s called CLASSIC JAZZ AT CLASSIC PIANOS, the latter half of that title referring to the congenial place where the Trio performed and where the disc was masterfully recorded by Randy Porter.  Click here to hear samples.

It’s a delicious session, with Rebecca singing (and playing rhythm guitar on a track or two), Dan on trombone, piano, and providing arrangements, Paolo holding everything together on piano for these selections: OH, LOOK AT ME NOW / DADDY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME? / JUST A LITTLE BIT SOUTH OF NORTH CAROLINA / SONG OF THE BLUES / JUST IMAGINE / THIS IS MY LUCKY DAY / ALMOST IN YOUR ARMS / I’M IN A LOWDOWN GROOVE / I’M RHYTHM CRAZY NOW / THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN / CRY ME A RIVER / SERENADE TO SWEDEN / SOFT WINDS / MIS’RY AND THE BLUES.  Connoisseurs of Song will note the wonderfully varied repertoire, with loving connections to Billie Holiday, Sammy Cahn, Jack Teagarden, Charles LaVere, Annette Hanshaw, Jean Goldkette, Joe Bushkin, Frank Sinatra, Lester Young, Anita O’Day, Sophia Loren, Fletcher and Horace Henderson, Julie London, Jim Goodwin, Duke Ellington and more, but this isn’t a history lesson.  Rather it is fresh buoyant Music — a rare commodity.

I was doubly privileged to be at the recording session and to be asked to write something for the CD, which also has notes by Dan and Becky. Here’s what I wrote:

More often than not, jazz is asked to blossom forth in inhospitable places: the noisy club where musicians must compete with the bartender’s blender, or the recording studio, a maze of headphones and wires. Imagine a quiet room, shaded as if an Edward Hopper nightscape, with three musicians, two grand pianos, the only other people a recording engineer, himself a musician; another man taking notes. It was no fantasy, for this all happened during two December 2013 sessions in Portland, Oregon, in a back room at CLASSIC PIANOS, where three friends gathered for warm, intimate musical conversations in the name of classic jazz.

Becky, Dan, and Paolo believe that music, created on the spot, can bring joy in the moment and renew us in the future. They gave each of the songs they had chosen its own life, reflective or ebullient: the poignancy of DADDY, the bounce of CAROLINA, the swagger of RHYTHM CRAZY, the romance of COINS, the melancholy of MIS’RY AND THE BLUES. Many of the songs have associations with Annette Hanshaw, Anita O’Day, Jack Teagarden, Julie London, Billie Holiday, Ellington, Charlie Christian, Trummy Young, Sophia Loren, Joe Bushkin, Lee Wiley, Fletcher Henderson. But these sessions were no “tribute,” no “repertory” re-creation, for the musicians brought their own personalities to this project, adding new melodies to the ones we know.

When Becky sings, we hear a gently compelling honesty. Yes, we admire the way she glides from note to note, the creamy naturalness of her voice, the way her smallest melodic embellishments enhance the song, her infallible swing. But what sets her apart is her quiet determination to share the song’s emotional message candidly, fully. Becky doesn’t overstate or dramatize. She doesn’t place herself in front of the material, but she opens the song for us, so that we feel what its creators hoped for.

Hearing Dan, I think, “That is how any creative player should sound: forthright, assured, subtle, inventive.” Like a great musical conversationalist, he always knows the right epigram to add at the right time. I can guess what some other musicians might play in their next phrase, but Dan’s imagination is larger and more rewarding than we expect. His reading of a melody is a joy; his improvisations are witty, pungent. The trombone can be a buffoon or a bully; in his hands it can be divinely inspired, even when Dan’s aural messages are earthy indeed.

Becky and Dan could float or soar all by themselves, and they’ve proved that many times in concert and on recordings since they first met in 1994. CRY ME A RIVER on this disc, majestic and mournful, is proof. But recently they have called in an Italian sorcerer, Paolo Alderighi, who generously spreads rich sound-weavings, Garneresque threads glittering – lovely orchestral tapestries, neither formulaic nor overemphatic. His solos gleam and chime.

In duet, Dan and Paolo are a model of creative conversation in jazz – empathic, intuitive, concise yet fervent. And when they sat down at the two pianos to accompany Becky for MIS’RY AND THE BLUES their contrasting textures were a delight. Completely original, too – neither Evans and Brookmeyer nor Ferrante and Teicher, but splendidly themselves.

What we call The Great American Songbook sometimes weaves helplessly towards songs that, if their lyrics were actual speech, would be legal documentation of domestic abuse, self-inflicted destruction. Over time, Becky has turned away from these famous masochistic outcries. But this disc shows her playing bravely in the dark, getting in a lowdown groove, calling out to an absent lover, creating rueful and vengeful tears. This isn’t a major life-shift in all things Kilgore, but a willingness to expand her repertoire into classic songs based on real life-experiences. She is having a good time being so sad for a few minutes: like Basie, she keeps the blues at bay by playing them. Or it might be her own particular jazz homeopathy practice, where dark cures dark.

These sessions produced lasting music, the rare kind that emerges from a devotion to the art. What a gift to us all!

JUST IMAGINE is now available here.  You can also purchase copies directly from Becky, Dan, or Paolo at their gigs — the most personal way to do it.  I’ve seen them with Sharpies after a session, so going home with an autographed copy is a real possibility.

I understand that JAZZ LIVES readers sometimes skip the text and look for the tasty music video. In this case, the sound that Randy Porter recorded of Rebecca’s floating voice was so lovely that it would do everyone a disservice to post one of my session videos.  But I think I will be forgiven if I post Dan and Paolo’s memorably dark and lovely SERENADE TO SWEDEN as a musical appetizer.  Thanks to Randy, it sounds even more glorious on the CD:

Intimate, refreshing, and warm music.

May your happiness increase! 

LOOKING AND LISTENING CLOSELY: “IN SEARCH OF RAG-A-JAZZ,” by ANDREW SAMMUT

One of the pleasures of the last few years has been that I have met a whole host of jazz people younger than myself — sometimes seriously younger.

The musicians I cherish and celebrate you all know, and I dare not start the list because a) it would be very long, and b) I surely would leave someone out and hurt her / his feelings.  I’m talking about people who write about this music.

I’ve recently reminded people of the fine heartfelt work Ricky Riccardi is doing — in print, in person, online, on the media — and he is someone I admire and trust, when he speaks about Louis Armstrong and about jazz in general.

You may not know the other young man I am about to celebrate, because he doesn’t have the ebullient public profile of our Mr. R.

But you should know him and his work.  He’s Andrew Jon Sammut, and he thinks deeply but not ponderously about a variety of “early musics,” Vivaldi as well as The Georgians, Locatelli and Larry Binyon. He admires Louis and Bix and the Masters whose names we all know, but he also writes intelligently and with feeling (with research, too) about the people who sometimes get ignored.

His blog is called THE POP OF YESTERCENTURY — Andrew is witty — and the most recent posting is wise and thoughtful, an investigation into that not-well-studied music that draws from ragtime and early ensemble jazz, dubbed later “rag-a-jazz.”  He’s done some serious homework here — in a modern vein — talking with jazz scholar-players Dan Levinson, Vince Giordano, Chris Tyle, Jon-Erik Kellso, David Sager, Hal Smith, and others.

I hope you can read Andrew’s piece: IN SEARCH OF RAG-A-JAZZ. He asks good questions, and invites others to add what they know: the hallmarks of an honest and humane scholar.  I read the piece with pleasure when it came out, and I am proud that he and I can discuss shared passions and questions.  (“What would Don Murray have been like at a dinner party?”  “Is this an important question?” and more.)

May your happiness increase! 

JUST PEACHY: THE 2014 ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY

I’m in the mood for the Atlanta Jazz Party, and it’s coming up — April 25 through 27, 2014.  Here’s the appropriate song from the 2012 Party (played by Harry Allen, Rossano Sportiello, Richard Simon, and Ed Metz):

The Atlanta Jazz Party promises — and delivers — delightful music over the course of a weekend.  I’ll name the esteemed musicians in a few lines, but I want to say something about what goes on above and beyond.

A jazz party is more than a series of performances: for the party to satisfy, the patrons and musicians must be happy and comfortable.  The patrons need variety, comfortable seating, a well-lit room, good sound, good sight lines, easy access to high-quality food and drink in a clean, hospitable hotel.  The AJP provides all of this with great style. And as for the music: the musicians are not tied down by restrictions; each player or singer gets to lead at least one set, and the stylistic range goes back to CHIMES BLUES or KEEP OFF THE GRASS up to ANTHROPOLOGY or SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY, with surprising digressions along the way.

This is the AJP’s twenty-fifth anniversary, so you know they understand the fine arts of pleasing both patrons and musicians.

I’ve joined the Party twice and found it a banquet each time, supervised with generosity and common sense by Pualani and Philip Carroll.

Details! Here is  the Facebook site for the AJP.

The musicians at this year’s Party (as always) are professionals, enthusiastic, swinging, and surprising: Ed Polcer, Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, cornet / trumpet and an occasional vocal; Allan Vaché, Dan Block, reeds; Dan Barrett, Bob Havens, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; John Cocuzzi, vibes, piano, vocal; Freddy Cole, vocal, piano; Randy Napoleon, Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Frank Tate, Paul Keller, string bass; Ed Metz Jr., Danny Coots, drums; Rebecca Kilgore, vocal.

I anticipate thirty sets of beautifully-conceived jazz: ballads, New Orleans, mainstream, small-band swing, offered in four sessions: Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, Sunday afternoon. Guarantors and Patrons get to attend all four sessions plus the exclusive Saturday morning jazz brunch just for patrons, guarantors and musicians.

More details can be found at the AJP site. You can sign up for a single session or for all four.  The hotel (the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North*) is exceedingly comfortable.

*The hotel is located at 7 Concourse Pkwy. NE, Sandy Springs, Georgia, 30328 — about thirty minutes from downtown Atlanta. Be sure to mention the Party for the best room rate! Click here to reserve rooms.

Here are two examples of uplifting jazz I recorded at the 2012 AJP.

STEALIN’ APPLES, performed by Allan Vache, John Cocuzzi, Rossano Sportiello, Bucky Pizzarelli, Richard Simon, Chuck Redd:

Bucky, solo, tenderly considering TRES PALABRAS:

As I;ve said before, if you need tres palabras from me, they could be “Mark your calendars,” or “Make your reservations,” or “Don’t miss this.”

May your happiness increase!

A VALENTINE STOMP, or THE NINE-TWENTY SPECIAL (Part One): CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS SWING BAND with NICOLE FRYDMAN (Feb. 13, 2014)

Love was in the air at the Nine-Twenty Special — at the Russian Center on Sutter Street in San Francisco the night before Valentine’s Day 2014 when Clint Baker and his New Orleans Swing Band (with the wryly independent singer Nicole Frydman) played a swing dance in honor of Cupid.

When I write “love,” I don’t know actually how many couples went home smitten; how many new alliances were forged across the crowded room.  (No one kept tabs, and no one came up to the balcony where I was shooting videos to announce their new happiness.  Why, I don’t know.)

But I do mean love of melody, of melodic improvisations, of great songs, or bouncing buoyancy.  You can hear and see for yourself. I am very fond of these videos not only for the music but for the ambiance: from my second-story perch, I was able to capture the whole band and that sweet rumble you hear is the sound of the dancers moving, their shoes making graceful arcs, their whispered conversations and giggles.

The band was our man Clint, trumpet, clarinet, vocal; Robert Young, saxophone, vocal . . . and a lovely rhythm section of Jeff Hamilton, piano, gloriously; Tom Wilson, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar; J Hansen, drums.

Here are the highlights of the first set.  Love it?  Love it!

CRAZY RHYTHM, with a vocal explication by Robert:

ONE HOUR, with endearments by Clint:

VALENTINE’S DAY JUMP:

EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY, as described by Nicole, and an enthusiastic Mr. Baker:

THEM THERE EYES, with charms delineated by Ms. Frydman:

A double-header . . .

I DON’T WANT TO SET THE WORLD ON FIRE (Clint at his most Swing Romantic) with a quick segue into BOURBON STREET PARADE:

SWING, SISTER, SWING, with Nicole giving us the embodiment:

AFTER YOU’VE GONE:

“Had a good time every time I went out.”  True indeed, if Clint Baker has a hand in the music.

May your happiness increase!

“HE CONQUERS THE WORLD”

Don’t let the commercial at the start put you off . . . here is a young hero, Ricky Riccardi, speaking on television about our shared Hero, Louis Armstrong and his House, here.

Doing it “for posterity.”

And if you’re looking for a good book, I suggest this.

May your happiness increase!

FEATHERY MUSIC, GENTLE QUESTIONS: LENA BLOCH

I’ve always heard that attorneys only ask questions to which they know the answers. I have nothing against them individually or as a group, but this seems like a closed loop of an endeavor.  The tenor saxophonist Lena Bloch is on a more inspiring track: she asks questions for which there might be no simple answer, no single answer.  Asking the question is the purpose and the rewarding result. I have been admiring her musical inquiries as often as possible during the last few years our paths have intersected in New York City, and have seen her as a very authentic player — someone devoted to melodic explorations that, while gentle, have weight and seriousness to balance off their soaring possibilities.

ajazz bloch

Lena has a wonderful new CD, FEATHERY — it’s her debut CD as a leader, and as you read this it will be available, as a physical CD or as downloads, with sound samples, hereShould you prefer to voyage up the Amazon, you can ask your own questions and purchase a copy here. It’s on Thirteenth Note Records, and Lena’s curious, inventive colleagues are drummer Billy Mintz, string bassist Cameron Brown, guitarist Dave Miller.

Knowing can easily be confused with wisdom. Lena Bloch, Dave Miller, Cameron Brown, and Billy Mintz are deeply aware that real wisdom is in the tireless asking of questions, not an irritable straining to come up with the one right answer.  Their willingness to inquire, this gentle wondering, informs their music.   Rather than treat this grouping of players and voices as it usually is done (ensemble line, solos, drum fours, ensemble), they often take the opportunity to ask questions of the music itself.

The music created by these four artists is far more subtle and affecting than hearing another jazz quartet working its own variations on Playing What We Already Know.  The art – for let us call it by its right name – is feathery-light and durable.  I hear Lester Young and Brahms, sorrows and exultations, Eastern meditation and collective invention.

The music is strong and sweet, dense and welcoming.  The musicians have sensations to share with us, secrets made tangible, their language too deep for words.

Lena Bloch does not announce herself as courageous, and I think she would start giggling if you told her this was the case.  But she surely is.  Her artistic courage is not a matter of being big, bold, and loud. She approaches the music with tender reverence.  But she is not afraid to venture into new spaces in pursuit of beauty.  Her models and mentors  knew that the cosmos could be dark and terrifying, but the only human response to the void was to speak, through playing and composing, know how to keep terrors at bay.  I will fill the air with floating sounds. I will be brave enough to say WHO IS OUT THERE? I will soar above on feathers of melody.

Lena’s friends and colleagues on this disc are equally inspired. They trust themselves, and their loving energy comes through in every note sounded.  They fly happily. No sun dares to melt their wings.

And the music on this disc continues to resonate once the disc has concluded.  Billy, Dave, and Cameron are great painters of sound. They listen to their hearts; they listen to their instruments; they listen to each other. They create a world where Beauty is not only possible, but inevitable. Their sounds will guide us into the darkness and into the light.  Hear them, and be uplifted.

I’m not the only one who admires Lena’s questing spirit and FEATHERY: here is Dan McCleneghan’s review in All About Jazz.

Once you’ve visited Lena’s website and seen more of the videos there, once you’ve heard FEATHERY, you could attend a quartet gig at the most convivial of spaces, The Drawing Room, on 56 Willoughby Street in Brooklyn, New York: Sunday, March 30, at 7:30, and the group will be Lena, Putter Smith, string bass; Dave Miller, and Billy Mintz.

Whatever ways you can, find and find out more about Lena Bloch.

May your happiness increase!

SWING STREET COMES TO NICASIO (Part One): THE IVORY CLUB BOYS: PAUL MEHLING, EVAN PRICE, CLINT BAKER, SAM ROCHA, and MIKE LIPSKIN (March 2, 2014)

On Sunday, March 2, 2014, while the rest of America was watching the Oscars, the Beloved and I were muggin’ lightly with the Ivory Club Boys (presented by the Hot Club of San Francisco) paying tribute to Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys, at Rancho Nicasio in Nicasio, California.

The Ivories were (for this occasion) Paul Mehling, guitar and vocal; Evan Price, violin; Clint Baker, trumpet, euphonium, clarinet, and vocal; Sam Rocha, string bass, and guest star Mike Lipskin, piano.

And before we proceed: the Ivories aren’t a repertory band devoted to reproducing Stuff and Jonah’s hot ecstasies right off the record — so the scholars among us may find a certain liberty in their improvisations.  My goodness, they even perform songs Stuff never recorded!  But they don’t want to make history; they just want to swing. Four-four, if you don’t mind. Charlie Christian and Teddy Bunn are at the bar, too.

Here are eight rocking numbers from their first set:

CRAZY RHYTHM:

SARATOGA SWING:

I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY (vocal by Paul Mehling):

DESERT SANDS (a Stuff original, very atmospheric):

CHINA BOY (Mike strides in):

I’M CONFESSIN’ (with commentary by Mister Lipskin at the start):

JEEPERS CREEPERS (ditto and likewise — hear the band shift into tempo after the verse!):

ONE HOUR (vocal by Clint Baker after Mike’s lovely exposition of the verse):

We were with them two hours that night, and the band was so very rewarding.  I’m looking forward to their next gig, their CD, their DVD, the world tour, the t-shirts, keychains, their own Facebook page. Until the real thing comes along, enjoy this set — and there’s more to come.

May your happiness increase!

ANOTHER KIND OF TRIBUTE TO DUNCAN P. SCHIEDT: DUKE HEITGER, BOB HAVENS, DAN LEVINSON, ANDY STEIN, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, JON BURR, RICKY MALICHI at JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA (Sept. 21, 2013)

I’ve spent the last few days grieving for Duncan P. Schiedt.  And my mourning and appreciation is not something I can put away neatly in the closet of emotions and say, “Oh, well, we must move on.” But I wondered if there was a way I could honor Duncan with some joy leavened into the loss . . . and I present my own version of the eternal flame of hot jazz.

What follows is not “just another set of videos I took.”

“Nay nay,” to quote the Master.

Aside from the mail — and then email and telephone — the only place I ever encountered Duncan in person was at Jazz at Chautauqua, nine years in a row (2004-2013).  And I saw him at an adjacent table (with Liz) having a fine time enjoying the music. I know that Duncan was in the room while this set was being created, and it doesn’t take much imagination to add his smiling countenance to the mostly-unseen audience.  I don’t think the musicians will mind.

Incidentally, “Jazz at Chautauqua” has now been reborn as the Allegheny Jazz Party — I’m making plans for my maiden voyage to Cleveland in mid-September.

But back to September 21, 2013.

Those musicians! Duke Heitger, trumpet; Bob Havens, trombone; Dan Levinson, clarinet; Andy Stein, baritone saxophone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Jon Burr, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums — in a session of Condonesque good-old-good ones going back to Porter Steele and forward to Frank Loesser, in the best way.

ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:

A SLOW BOAT TO CHINA:

MY GAL SAL:

STARS FELL ON ALABAMA (by Mister H for Mister T):

HIGH SOCIETY (wait for the riotous version of the Alphonse Picou chorus):

Our lives are so finite . . . but what we do in those brief spans is so beautiful.

May your happiness increase!

DUNCAN P. SCHIEDT (1921-2014): LIVING AND DYING GRACEFULLY

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I first met the jazz scholar / writer / photographer / researcher / pianist / all-around dear man Duncan P. Schiedt at Jazz at Chautauqua, almost ten years ago. Like many people who love this music, I already knew his name and work from dozens of photo credits and his writing.

Here is a biographical sketch for those who would like facts before proceeding.

The most significant fact and the reason for this blogpost is that Duncan died on Wednesday, March 12, 2014, at his home in Pittsboro, Indiana. He was 92.

At Chautauqua, I knew Duncan as a sweet-natured man, ready to talk about his heroes and the photographs he’d taken or collected of them. He laughed easily and was generous with his praise.

In addition, Duncan was very happy to sit down at the piano in the parlor and work his way through standards and obscure songs in a gently swinging manner which I told him reminded me of the lesser-known wonders Tut Soper and Jack Gardner.  My praise embarrassed him, but it was well-deserved.

I knew Duncan was aging, but he was cheerfully mobile and unhampered by his years. He always seemed to be having a good time (smiling and talking quietly with his companion Liz Kirk) whatever he was doing.

Last year — September 2013 — when Duncan began one of his informal recitals, I had my video camera with me.  The Beloved gently elbowed me and said, “Why aren’t you recording this?” I am grateful to her and to her elbow.  Here is the result.

The man and the music, the easy conversational style, and the plain-spoken elegance, are all the same.

Please delight in these performances before moving on: they are casual and eloquent, soft-spoken and melodic.

I took Duncan for granted and expected that I would see him again at the 2014 Allegheny Jazz Party. But I found out that this would not happen. On March 3, as the result of an email conversation with my friend Tom Hustad (the Ruby Braff scholar), Tom sent along this letter that Duncan was asked to posted on the website of the Indianapolis Jazz Club:

Ordinarily, I enjoy writing letters (so close to being a lost art), but today I am writing you with regrets, for this one bears bad news. Just within the past two weeks I have been told that I have terminal cancer in my abdomen, and survival through this year is not to be expected.

This whole thing came upon me all too suddenly. I spent 4-5 days in the hospital, as they sought the original site location, draining amounts of fluid accumulation caused by the tumor and thereby helping relieve shortness of breath and my abdominal discomfort. It became obvious to the doctors that is would not be practical to either radiate, or give chemo, considering my advanced age and the estimated time left to me. The idea is to make the best of what I have. At least I have some time to get my affairs in some sort of order.

I am quite accepting as it stands, and grateful for a long and healthy life, great parents, a loving sister who is six years my junior, my late wife Betty, who passed away in 1987, and two very special “kids,” Leslie and Cameron, of whose loyalty and genuine love I cannot say enough. Two splendid grandsons, Kalen and David Schiedt, complete the family circle I am now going to leave. A great companion for the last fifteen years or so has been Elizabeth (Liz) Kirk, whose breadth of cultural interests has served to enrich my life in my old age much as Betty complemented me in our thirty-seven years together. What luck this has all been for one man – who could have ever asked for more.

Some of you know of my other passions, photography, documentary films in fund-raising pursuits (about 100 of them over forty years) and my pet hobby, jazz photography and exhibitions. As for piano, it was a great release and comfort especially when playing in a small combo with friends. Golly, I never got around to reading music, did I?

That’s about it for now. Maybe we’ll have a chance to meet again before the man in the cloak and scythe comes a-calling. Meanwhile, my phone and e-mail is at your disposal. Next time you decide to hoist the glass, have one for me. Somehow, I have a feeling that we are going to have a reunion down the road, accompanied by a musician we both have loved.

Is it a date?

Duncan concluded this letter-to-his-friends with his two phone numbers and his email.

That morning, I read the letter to myself several times, on the verge of tears, and went to tell the Beloved the news.  I tried to read her the last sentences but didn’t have a voice to do so.

When I was sure I could speak, I picked up the phone and called the number — Duncan’s daughter picked up and after a few words, passed me over to Duncan.  I was concentrating on avoiding the usual pieties, but he was happy to speak and more at his ease than any person in his situation could have been.  

And he didn’t want to talk about himself.

No, he wanted to talk about a scrapbook of photographs and jazz memorabilia he knew I was interested in, and he was seriously concerned about what should be done with it — generously thinking of me and my desires first! — and the logistics of getting it to me and then my passing it on to the Smithsonian, where his collection will find another home.  

His easy graciousness was amazing on this telephone call, and he apologized for having the scrapbook at all.  “I was too old to take it,” he said.  In the course of the conversation, I found out that he had never seen the videos I’d taken the year before, “I saw you with your video camera,” he said. I was shocked that he had never seen what I had recorded and written, and promised to send him the link.  A day later I received this email:

Michael: A thousand kudos for the three cuts from Chautauqua. I have saved them for family and friends, and more as I think of them. Most of all I treasure the music of your prose accompanying the video.

Now I want to help you about the scrapbook [conscientious details followed]. 

Gratefully,

How loving it was for Duncan to turn the spotlight away from himself. How gracious.    

Another email — about related matters — he signed “Yours in friendship,” and his last email to me — a light-hearted one about postal matters — he sent on March 11, a day before he died.  

I look back on these events and his beautiful way of dealing with them with admiration and amazement.  How could he have taken so much painstaking loving care with what must have been a peripheral matter — at this time in his life, when other people might have understandably concerned themselves with themselves?

I don’t know how he found the grace to act this way in his final days, but I marvel at it.

Duncan P. Schiedt lived his life the way he wrote and the way he played the piano: with a delicate touch, a reverence for what was important — the deep melody of taking care of other people.  His modesty and sweet humility are remarkable. I am both lamenting his death and thinking, “How proud I am to know this man.”

I know some of you might think, “When you are that close to death, all the trappings drop away, and your true essential self emerges.” I can’t argue with that. But dying didn’t ennoble Duncan, nor did it imbue him with some new depths of feeling and spirit. He was that way in life.

Knowing how to live graciously and kindly and unselfishly — with love! — is the most valuable gift we can possess, and one we can share with others. Duncan had that gift well before I met him in 2004, and he showed it — without showing off — every time I encountered him, in person or in print.

But perhaps the gift, the skills, the delicate strengths of character necessary to live so beautifully are small compared to the rare art and wisdom of knowing how to leave the party with grace, with gratitude, with lightness.

If you think I am exaggerating or being sentimental, I urge you to reread Duncan’s original letter.  And then listen to his piano playing.

I know that Duncan has left this tangible world, and I will catch myself looking around for him at the Allegheny Jazz Party, but I will always feel that he is here with us.  And I will attempt to live up to his easy, loving model of how to behave. His light will continue to illuminate and warm.

I ended my telephone conversation with him with the only words I could say without bursting into tears, “Thanks for everything, Duncan.”

Yes.

VIBRATING WITH PASSION, CECILE McLORIN SALVANT SINGS “BODY AND SOUL” (WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY, November 1, 2013)

I first heard Cecile McLorin Salvant sing at the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival — I think it was 2010 — and she made a powerful impact.

Three years later, the band supporting her at this set was Ben Cummings, trumpet; Alistair Allan, trombone; Jean-Francois Bonnel, tenor saxophone; Martin Seck, piano; Spats Langham, guitar; Malcolm Sked, string bass; Nick Ward, drums.

Admirable and empathic fellows, one and all, but our focus is on Ms. McLorin Salvant, fully immersed in this “torch song,” perhaps the most famous of them all, BODY AND SOUL, allowing the song to flow through her . . . to reach us:

A powerful expression of emotions.

May your happiness increase!

BLISSFULLY ROCKING THE ROOM at THE 2014 JAZZ BASH BY THE BAY in MONTEREY: RAY SKJELBRED and CARL SONNY LEYLAND (March 9, 2014)

They promised they would do anything for us, and they did.

I had an extraordinarily fine time at the 2014 Jazz Bash by the Bay — the congenial jazz weekend held in Monterey, California that just concluded. Friendship and fine music blossomed in a very comfortably sweet environment.

Today I feel overwhelmed, but in the same way one feels after finishing a wonderful meal: all senses both stimulated and gratified. The good sounds and happiness from this year’s Bash will linger.

Thanks to the kind, generous people I encountered; not all of them singers or players: I celebrate Sue and Betsy and Al and Rebecca and Michele and many gracious folks.

If you were there at the Bash, no matter what bands you were listening to, you know that my enthusiastic words are more than an ad for a product, an inducement to join, to buy. If you weren’t in attendance, you might need some evidence — an initial taste of pleasure and authenticity.

Here is the final performance I caught at the Bash — Sunday afternoon, March 9 — the concluding song of an hour-long set. 

Music for Twin Pianos as Imagined, Created, and Performed by Ray Skjelbred and Carl Sonny Leyland.

Nothing less than remarkable!

The song?  Quite fitting.  Alex Hill’s declaration of love, of fidelity, of devotion — even with the MOST in the title —

I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU:

I will have much more to say and share about the 2014 Bash in the days to come. For the moment, I invite you to regard this video and share my feelings — delight and awe and delight again.

May your happiness increase!

THE SOUNDS FROM JOHN HAMMOND’S CAR RADIO: “MOTEN SWING”: THE IVORY CLUB BOYS (Presented by THE HOT CLUB OF SAN FRANCISCO): PAUL MEHLING, EVAN PRICE, CLINT BAKER, SAM ROCHA, and MIKE LIPSKIN: March 2, 2014

THE IVORY CLUB BOYS (presented by the Hot Club of San Francisco) played wonderful music on Sunday, March 2, 2014, at Rancho Nicasio in Nicasio, California.  They are Paul Mehling, guitar / vocal; Evan Price, violin; Sam Rocha, string bass / vocal; Clint Baker, trumpet, euphonium / vocal.  And for this session, stride master Mike Lipskin joined them with delicious results.  The band is dedicated to the hot music of violinist Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys — but it’s not a tribute band or a jazz repertory ensemble: they live to swing, and swing they did.

The closing performance of that evening was MOTEN SWING, that Kansas City streamlining of Walter Donaldson’s YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY.

For me, the most memorable improvisations deeply evoke an Elysian past while standing comfortably in the present.  MOTEN SWING does just that. A small bit of history.  Count Basie and his fellow musicians changed the world as we know it, with their approach to improvisation.  But perhaps the course of history would have been so much different had John Hammond not been a child of privilege with a very expensive radio in his car in 1935.  Bands broadcast live on the radio all over the United States, and a powerful AM radio could pick up these sounds from far away (there were fewer stations on the dial and the time zones made it possible to hear a band broadcasting hundreds of miles away, in another state).  Hammond heard the nine-piece Basie unit broadcasting from the Reno Club in Kansas City, and — properly inspired — went to meet them in person.

I imagine that MOTEN SWING is an evocation of what Hammond heard — sweetly swinging music that makes me impossibly happy, because if I am not watching the video I can imagine the small Basie band signing off one of those 1935 broadcasts that John Hammond heard on his car radio.  Listen!  That’s Hot Lips Page on mellophone and trumpet, Bill Basie himself on the rickety piano taking us to NAGASAKI, Fiddler Claude Williams, guitarist Eddie Durham, and bassist (spiritual father) Walter Page.

Close your eyes and come to the Reno Club with the Ivory Club Boys:

I’m not a demanding person (you could ask the Beloved) but I want this band to have a regular gig where I can visit them.  You will hear more from and about them, and it won’t only be from JAZZ LIVES. Thank you, Evan, Clint, Paul, Sam, and Mike, for this lovely trip to joy.

May your happiness increase!  

JAMES DAPOGNY and his LYRICAL FELLOWS

One of the highlights of the jazz weekend formerly known as “Jazz at Chautauqua” — now the Allegheny Jazz Party — is the opportunity to hear and admire the music of James Dapogny.  Here he is on September 20, 2013, with a small group of like-minded creators, waxing poetic on three jazz classics. I mean no disrespect to the other four luminaries onstage by writing that a particular pleasure of my vantage point is being able to see and hear the pianist so clearly. All hail!

The Lyrical Fellows are Andy Stein, violin; Dan Levinson, reeds; Jon Burr, string bass; Pete Siers, drums.

SOMEDAY SWEETHEART:

EXACTLY LIKE YOU:

SHINE:

Shades of Joe Venuti and Jimmy Dorsey, of Joe Sullivan and Fats Waller, among others, with a healthy dose of homeopathic Chicago barrelhouse.  To be taken as needed.  Renew your prescription here.

May your happiness increase!

“RUMP STEAK SERENADE”: JEFF BARNHART and HIS CONTINENTAL RHYTHM PLAY FATS WALLER, SPLENDIDLY (The Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party 2013)

Pianist, singer, and jazz scholar Jeff Barnhart is in better shape than Thomas “Fats” Waller, which is a good thing for him, for his wife Anne, and for all of us.  But Jeff has a good deal of Waller’s two great qualities: his ebullient swing (the joint can always be encouraged to jump) and his less-acknowledged tenderness.  Both qualities and more were in evidence throughout a very joyous set of music Jeff and friends performed at the 2013 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party on November 1, 2013.  His Continental Rhythm (my title) here is comprised of Richard Pite, drums; Henri Lemaire, string bass; Spats Langham, guitar and vocal on SAY IT WITH YOUR FEET; Matthias Seuffert, reeds; Duke Heitger, trumpet.

And the Wallerizing includes some beautiful compositions you rarely hear — not the usual two or three that, although memorable, get done to death:

HOLD MY HAND:

AT TWILIGHT:

PLEASE TELL ME WHY:

RUMP STEAK SERENADE:

SAY IT WITH YOUR FEET:

MOPPIN’ AND BOPPIN’:

KEEP A SONG IN YOUR SOUL:

DO YOU HAVE TO GO?:

TWELFTH STREET RAG:

Tender and juicy.  Just like Mama made!

May your happiness increase!

THE ASTONISHING MISTER AVAKIAN in NEW ORLEANS (2013)

There are the great artists — such as Louis Armstrong — without whom our lives would be incomplete.  But there are other great artists who make so much possible.  They don’t play or sing.  And they are always loved by the people in the know — but they aren’t always brought to the forefront, aren’t always celebrated for their remarkable imaginations, ingenuity, and love.

One such man is George Avakian, now 95, who has done so much for jazz since 1939 or 1940 up to the present day.

Here he is, in an hour-long interview / conversation with two younger saints of the music, Ricky Riccardi and David Ostwald, at the 2013 Satchmo Summerfest in New Orleans.  Towards the end of the interview, the 94-year-old Avakian listens to audio of a conversation he had with Armstrong in 1956, resulting in a beautiful moment and a magnificent standing ovation:

We are grateful than people like Mister Avakian exist.  He has increased our happiness in so many ways. And JAZZ LIVES readers know how much we owe to Young(er) Masters Riccardi and Ostwald. For more information on George Avakian, see here.

May your happiness increase!

A WARM CANDID MUSICAL INTELLIGENCE: “RENDEZVOUS”: MARY ANNE ANDERSON with DOUG MacDONALD

Singer Mary Anne Anderson might not be familiar to you, but once you have heard her sing you will welcome her.

rendezvous_body_pic

In a world of singers who try too hard to be casual, who affect certain dramatic mannerisms, who draw out the lyrics rather than honoring them, Mary Anne is both deep and light-hearted, and her CD, RENDEZVOUS, is a pleasure.

I was disarmed by the speaking freshness and candor of Mary Anne’s voice and vocal delivery. When she approaches a vocal line, she allows the words to proceed in the natural order (thus the thoughts make sense), gliding from note to note without making a fuss over it (a total absence of LOOK AT ME), breathing in the right places.  She sounds like a subtle singer who knows her material but is not in the least tired of it, someone who has important things to tell our hearts without beating us over the head with her own Originality.

Here’s proof:

She and the song hold hands, delicately yet meaningfully, and proceed lightly along, having a resonant effect on our feelings. Mary Anne is respectful of the composer’s and lyricist’s intentions, and her tempos fit the material (no turning SEPTEMBER SONG into a double-time romp for her), but she is never tiptoeing her frightened way through the Museum of Great American Song, terrified that the guards will throw her out.

Her voice is a simple pleasure — emotionally-charged but never overdramatic, tenderly exploring what the song has to offer us.  She scats infrequently, but it develops naturally out of her gentle improvisations.  I am not a native French speaker, but her singing in that language seems easy, confident, idiomatic.

But all of this is more than Easy Listening: she has the poise and the lightness of a great musical truth-teller, someone delighting in simplicity. On RENDEZVOUS, she is brilliantly accompanied (in all the good meanings of that word) by the very subtle yet affecting guitarist Doug MacDonald, who never gets in the way but always, like a wonderful conversationalist, offers just the soft-voiced epigrammatic phrase that points up meaning, reminds us of the melody, deepens the harmony, swings out the underlying rhythms. They are a wonderful team, and I have written admiringly of him before.

The songs on this (excellent-sounding) disc range from the familiar I’M CONFESSIN’, AZURE-TE, HAUNTED HEART, IT MIGHT AS WELL BE SPRING (with English and French lyrics), and MY ONE AND ONLY LOVE, to newer songs that run the gamut of situations. Being someone who thinks there is still room for glorious exploration of the classics and unheard classics of the last hundred years, I sometimes grew a little restless with the “newer” songs — not their melodies so much as their lyrics . . . but my restlessness was a very good thing because in ignoring the words I could bathe or bask in the purely delicious sounds that Mary Anne and Doug were creating. I would love to hear her sing IT NEVER ENTERED MY MIND or P.S., I LOVE YOU . . . perhaps on the next CD?

Here is Mary Anne’s website, where you can purchase this CD and learn about many of her other artistic endeavors. There, you can hear more, and individual tracks from the CD can be downloaded as MP3s from Amazon, should one like that kind of music-delivery.

The CD has become a good friend on my listening orbits; when it concludes, I always start it up again.  That should tell you something.

May your happiness increase!

SEARCH ENGINE TERMS, CONTINUED (MARCH 2014 EDITION)

Questions or search engine terms in bold. These entries, I promise you, are recorded verbatim, not embellished or invented.

 was fats waller in it’s a wonderful life?

(No, but he improved ours.)

who were turk murphy’s wives

(“Mrs. Murphy, Mrs. Murphy . . . ” I long to respond.)

did billie holiday die

Define your terms.

autograph of not that famous deceased guitar teachers 1987

(Possibly the only response here is “Huh?”)

connie boswell reserved

(Ditto.)

thelonious monk and moms mabley

(If there’s a recording of that duet, I want it now.)

louis armstrong uncle tom

(Some people who didn’t understand Louis might have called him that, but you won’t find those four words linked in any equation on this blog.)

and here, a rash of Holiday-fetishism, all in the space of a half-hour one night:

louis mckay 5

louis mckay pictures 2

billie holiday drug use 2 (a constant search for this)

billie holiday husband 2

louis mckay’s death 2

billie holiday funeral 1

billie holiday funeral photos 1

billie holiday weight 1 (this one recurs)

lewis mckay 1

louis mckay and billie holiday 1

louis mckay photos 1

louis mckay and billie holiday obituary 1

was there really a louis mckay in billie holiday’s life? 1

what happened to lois mckay, billie holiday’s third husband 1

louis mckay husband 1

what happen to louis mckay husband of billie holiday 1

billie holiday father

billie holiday’s husbands

I wait for the search engine term “billie holiday music,” but that must be my naivete.

Following on the same logic: great singer = great addiction, we have this question:

was ella fitzgerald a heroin addict

and my current inexplicable favorite:

have you ever heard anything about jazz we are sure you have

perhaps because that was too unwieldy, it returned a week later as:

have you ever heard anything about jazz

Keep searching, Sisters and Brothers!  Do let me know what you find.

May your happiness increase!

ON THE ROAD TO MONTEREY (March 2014)

I am not readjusting Kipling’s famous lines for the twenty-first century, simply reminding everyone that the Jazz Bash by the Bay (a/k/a Dixieland Monterey) is almost here.  Think of this blogpost as a public service announcement, more exciting but just as necessary as those reminders to change the battery in your smoke detector.

Here is the schedule of sets for Friday / Saturday / Sunday (that’s March 7-8-9) . . . very good news indeed, with music from Rebecca Kilgore, Marc Caparone, Carl Sonny Leyland, Jeff Barnhart, Dan Barrett, High Sierra, Dawn Lambeth, Jeff Hamilton, Marty Eggers, Paolo Alderighi, Stephanie Trick, Bob Draga, Gordon Au, his brothers and uncle How, the Ellis Island Boys, Katie Cavera, Le Jazz Hot, Paul Mehling, Sam Rocha, Bob Schulz, Ray Skjelbred, Jason Wanner, Bob Draga, Danny Coots, Yve Evans, Frederick Hodges, Sue Kroninger, Virginia Tichenor, Steve Apple, Chris Calabrese, Don Neely, Eddie Erickson, Ed Metz, Phil Flanigan . . . . and I know I am leaving out a multitude here. But the music starts on Thursday night, so be sure to get there early!

Here is information on ticket pricing, ordering, and all that intriguing data.

I think JAZZ LIVES readers who live in California know all about the Jazz Bash by the Bay, for it has been generously offering hot music of all kinds for three decades.  If the festival is new to you, and you can consider being there, you should: it has been a consistent pleasure for me since the first deliriously good one I attended in March 2010. I won’t belabor the subject, but if you search this blog for “Monterey” you will find enough wonderful improvisatory evidence; if you go to YouTube and type in “Dixieland Monterey” or “Jazz Bash by the Bay” the same thing will happen.  A powerful series of advertisements for those who can carpe the diem while the diem is still hot, or something like that.

May your happiness increase!

“OUCH, MY TOOTSIES!”

We’ve all worn difficult clothing in an attempt to be considered suitable as a Love Object.

I don’t know how far back the songwriters’ conceit of “I’m getting dressed up for my date with someone I’m crazy about and I have to put on shoes that hurt my feet” goes — although “My new shoes hurt” is part of the Ted Shapiro – Gus Kahn WAITIN’ FOR KATIE — in the savory 1927 recording by the Ben Pollack band, solos by young men in scuffed shoes (Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Jimmy McPartland, and Larry Binyon):

and the words show up at almost the same time in the 1928 “hot” recording of WAITIN’ FOR KATY by Guy Lombardo:

In 1935, another song developed this idea, most charmingly: the Sam Stept – Dave Franklin – Ned Washington BREAKIN’ IN A PAIR OF SHOES.  I offer three versions for your consideration.  The first is by the most lively and endearing Miss Cleo Brown with splendid rhythmic support from Vic Berton, Manny Stein, and Bobby Sherwood:

 

That recording I only discovered in the last year, however I knew the tune by heart because of this wonderful instrumental exploration by Teddy Wilson in his prime.  Where Cleo’s version is a sassy romp, Teddy’s is a sweetly logical exploration — mixing melodic embellishments and deeper improvisation all the way through, swinging gently but never racing, delicately balanced from first to last. . . not only a beautifully intricate solo piano performance but a delightful “dance record” in Thirties parlance:

And if your new shoes had the virtue of being flexible, you might want to dance some more — to the youthful Benny Goodman Orchestra:

No deep moral here, just an offering of good music. I hope you are surrounded by people who love you even if you wear unfashionable shoes.

May your happiness increase!

FABULOUS FRIDAY at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ PARTY (Part One): FEBRUARY 21, 2014

A week ago (that would be February 21) I was ready to have fun at my first-ever San Diego Jazz Party.  And I certainly did.  The music below will speak — and play and sing — for itself, but the SDJP was a real pleasure . . . comfort all around, the details managed gently and wisely, the musicians smiling.  As were we.

Here are a few shining examples of how fine the music was, how comfortable the musicians were . . . couldn’t ask for more!

If you need more words — data, information, facts —   here is what I wrote about the party as it was in progress.  But I think you’ll want to hear and see some of the joyousness first.

WABASH BLUES (Ed Polcer, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Antti Sarpila, soprano saxophone; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; John Cocuzzi, piano; Richard Simon, string bass; Ed Metz, drums):

ROBBINS’ NEST (John Allred, trombone; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Chuck Redd, vibes; Jason Wanner, piano; Dave Stone, string bass; Butch Miles, drums):

THE FIVE O’CLOCK WHISTLE (Rebecca Kilgore, vocal; Eddie Erickson, guitar; Dan Barrett, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Ed Metz, percussion and miscellaneous instruments):

That, dear friends, is just a sample of how delicious the whole weekend was.  And my videos — which I am proud of — can’t convey the whole experience.  You’ll just have to be there in 2014.

May your happiness increase!