BELIEF and GOODNESS (in SWING)

Here’s a taste of something good — easy and spicy, honestly in the tradition but not copying any famous recording robotically.

The very endearing song, I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME (Jimmy McHugh and Clarence Gaskill) has been recorded and performed by many jazz musicians, beginning with a 1927 hot dance record by Roger Wolfe Kahn.  The song truly took off with memorable records by Louis, Red McKenzie (a favorite swooning tempo), Billie, Basie, Cootie, Ed Hall, Marty Grosz, and so on.

Here is an outdoors performance by Austin, Texas pianist / bandleader Floyd Domino and his All-Stars, featuring Alice Spencer, vocal; David Jellema, cornet; Jonathan Doyle, tenor sax; Brooks Prumo, guitar; Ryan Gould, string bass; Hal Smith, drums. Recorded at Central Market North in Austin, Texas on Aug. 3, 2014:

The very adept videoing is thanks to  Luke Hill (Austin guitarist / vocalist / bandleader) and it came to YouTube thanks to percussionist, scholar, instigator, video creator Hal Smith.

The virtues of this performance should be immediately apparent to any listener who can feel the good vibrations. But I would point out that Domino’s quirky piano lines are engaging and always surprising, and the rhythm trio is always energetic but never obtrusive.  Jellema and Doyle (the former serious; the latter on springs) know what Louis, Buck, Ruby, Lester, and others have done with this song, but they cut their own lyrical paths through the familiar thickets of imitation. And Miss Spencer delightfully avoids the temptation of becoming yet the fifteen-hundredth Billie clone, dragging behind the beat in “meaningful” ways. She sounds like herself, with no postmodern ironies, and if I heard any Swing Goddess with a dainty hand on Miss Alice’s shoulders, it would be Lena Horne, and that is not a bad invisible guide through the song.  The band swings and they are having a subtle good time — instantly transmittable to us through the flat screen.

I believe it.  Don’t you?

And (as they say on the news) THIS JUST IN!  The same band, without Miss Spencer (although you can see her nimbly seat-dancing), performing LADY BE GOOD:

Nicely!  And in one of those moments that couldn’t be staged for anything, at about 3:53 an unidentified bird flies across the scene from right to left and contentedly perches in a branch above and behind the band, happily enjoying the swing.  Is it the ghost of Bill Basie or of the Yardbird, who knew the Jones-Smith record by heart, by heart?  I leave it for the mystically-minded to assign their own identities to this Bird.

May your happiness increase!

4 responses to “BELIEF and GOODNESS (in SWING)

  1. If I was there and they played all day, I wouldn’t move!! I love the easy swing tempo, and the ease that all of these great musicians have while entertaining, A definite swinging band! How nice to see Nephew Hal at the drums! Thanks a million, NM.

  2. Thanks for circulating, Michael. This 21st Century Austin Gang has some fine members.

    And, like the best of the rest, they seem familiar with the recorded tradition. Ms. Spencer, in her second time through, twice evokes Benny Morton on the Ed Hall version you mentioned.

  3. Thanks for expanding my musical universe once again with the intro to Alice Spencer. One phrase in your commentary really grabbed me: “…with no postmodern ironies.” This expresses perfectly one of the reasons I’m so moved by some of the (otherwise ironic) hipster generation neo-trad bands like Smoking Time, Baby Soda and especially (and one of Jon Doyle’s other groups), Tuba Skinny. It would be of great interest to me if you ever get the chance to hear and comment on this New Orleans-based street band, currently on tour in New York, and soon headed for Australia.

  4. Don "Zoot" Conner

    Michael, you’re all over the place,with assistance, of course. This is a nice group with kudos to the piano player who understands the era well.

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