Daily Archives: April 12, 2014

ESSENTIAL READING: “THE BALLAD OF GEESHIE AND ELVIE,” by JOHN JEREMIAH SULLIVAN

I don’t write “essential reading” casually. I had no idea who Geeshie and Elvie were before I read John Jeremiah Sullivan’s extraordinary extended research piece in the New York Times Magazine Section: here it is, with the relevant music included.

The sub-headline of this piece is “On the trail of the phantom women who changed American music and then vanished without a trace.” That in itself piqued my curiosity, and a recommendation from the superb writer Amanda Petrusich urged me on.

I won’t give away the stories Sullivan and others have for us.

But it’s as engrossing a piece of non-fiction as you are likely to read this year or perhaps this decade: warmly human, full of unmistakable personalities, beautifully written by someone who keeps his story in full view, taking no detours into ideological warfare or autobiographical preening.

Jazz has had many “writers” and “critics” and “researchers,” but I wish it had another dozen with the beautiful tenacity and style of John Jeremiah Sullivan.

“Read this!” is all I can say.

May your happiness increase!

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MAY WE? THE SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL IS COMING (May 23-26, 2014)

Although I’ve been coming to California on a regular basis only since summer 2010 (which hardly makes me a native plant) I’ve been attending the Memorial Day jazz weekend at Sacramento every year I could.

In fact, I seem to have brought my video camera and notebook with me in 2011 and 2012, too.  Evidence below.

But before any reader gets engrossed in Recent Glories, may I direct your attention — as the attorneys always say in courtroom dramas — to what is happening in May 2014?

Here is the Festival’s site.

Jazz purists, please don’t be alarmed if you don’t recognize all of the headliners: the SMF has taken a broader view of “Americana” and “roots music” than it did in earlier years, but there is a wide variety of pleasing sound for all.  The complete list of artists is available here.

I’ll simply note a few JAZZ LIVES’ favorites (in an ecumenical alphabetical order): the Au Brothers, Gordon Au, Bob Schulz Frisco Jazz Band, Clint Baker, Dave Bennett and the Memphis Boys, Eddie Erickson, the Freebadge Serenaders, Grand Dominion, High Sierra, Katie Cavera, Kim Cusack, Meschiya Lake and the Lil Big Horns, Marc Caparone, Midiri Brothers, Mike Daugherty, Pat Yankee, Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs, Red Skunk Gipzee Swing, Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, Stephanie Trick, Vaud and the Villains, Vince Bartels All-Stars . . . and more.

The thought of all that, even spread out over multiple venues from Friday through Monday, is both elating and exhausting.  While I lie down, perhaps you’d like to peruse Years Gone By . . .

Hal Smith’s International Sextet

 
 
 
 
 
Come celebrate at the Sacramento Music Festival with us this year.
May your happiness increase!

A WARM PRESENCE: KITT LOUGH SINGS

The appealing singer Kitt Lough has the right idea.

“I just try to make the song the star, because it really is about what came out of the writer. I’m just the delivery girl, so I try to find the meaning and sentiment in a song and convey that. For me it’s short story-telling; I just happen to be singing it.”

KITT LOUGH

In our era of self-absorption in 4/4, it’s delightful to find someone who understands singing so well and then turns around and converts artistic theory into refreshing practice. She is nicely old-fashioned in that she doesn’t obliterate the melody with improvisations; she loves the songs she sings.  Her voice in itself is a pleasure: rich and warm with a conversational directness.

And since musicians are known by the company they keep, Kitt has a full folder of explicit recommendations from New Orleans players who look forward to working and recording with her: Tim Laughlin, Connie Jones, David Jellema, Larry Scala, Kris Tokarski, Ed Wise, Tom McDermott, and more.

Here is Kitt’s Facebook page.

A BLOSSOM FELL, her second CD, is a modern version of the great swinging tradition, where singer and band graciously honor each other.  She has a wonderful band: Tim Laughlin, clarinet; Connie Jones, cornet; Larry Sieberth, piano; Jim Markway, string bass; Todd Duke, guitar; Herman LeBeaux, drums.

And she’s chosen great lilting songs: BEYOND THE SEA / DREAMER’S HOLIDAY / YOU CAN’T LOSE A BROKEN HEART / YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO / SWAY / IT’S A LOVELY DAY TODAY / NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT / TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT / A BLOSSOM FELL / AM I BLUE / TAKING A CHANCE ON LOVE / DREAM A LITTLE DREAM OF ME.  Her intelligently chosen repertoire says that she’s done her singer’s homework — but she is no copycat in thrall to her earbuds.

I swore I could not sit through another version of YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO, but I delighted in Kitt’s sensitive intelligent reading of the lyrics; her DREAMER’S HOLIDAY is a wonderfully lighter-than-air invitation; A BLOSSOM FELL is poignant without being maudlin.

I urge my readers to look out for Kitt Lough and her CD, A BLOSSOM FELL. You can purchase the disc and hear samples from it here — or if you like your music in downloadable form, it’s available at the usual places.

Do be sure to investigate what she is up to: Kitt is natural and a natural. The music she creates is very easy to listen to but it is never featureless, dull, or “smooth.”

Here’s a video of Kitt with pianist Kris Tokarski and bassist Ed Wise, wringing every drop of possible music — in a swinging light-hearted way — from ONE NOTE SAMBA:

May your happiness increase!