Monthly Archives: October 2014

I WISH I WERE TWINS: AN OPEN LETTER TO PAUL DASPIT of the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (November 26-30, 2014)

First, these musical introductions.

Coleman Hawkins, 1935, in Holland:

Henry “Red” Allen, Buster Bailey, Hilton Jefferson, 1934:

Art Tatum, 1937:

Dear Paul,

I know you as the witty, beautifully-dressed, generous organizer of that jazz banquet called the San Diego Jazz Fest. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend this Thanksgiving banquet of sounds every year since 2010, and I’ve found it more rewarding than any turkey dinner.  And I like turkey.

This year, as you well know, the Fest will start on Wednesday, November 26, and go rollicking straight on through Sunday afternoon / early evening, November 30.

I gather that you created the schedule — the reason you are receiving this letter.

On any day or night during that the 26th through the 30th, multiple opportunities for pleasure are bursting all around the listener or viewer.

I’m picking examples at random: at 4:00 on Friday, there’s a solo piano concert. At 3:30, three other bands are playing in separate rooms.  At 4:15, the same thing.

Now, a good number of “favorite bands and musicians” are performing at the SDJF.  I’ve been coming back to the schedule since it was created, always with a nearly-queasy feeling.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I must ask you in all seriousness, “Paul, are you trying to do us in through a surfeit of pleasure?”

I once read about an experiment conducted by researchers trying to analyze how people dealt with making choices. They assembled children around a table, empty cereal bowls in front of each.  The researchers offered the children two boxes of cereal from which they could choose.  They added another, different box of cereal.  And another.  And kept on increasing the number.  When there were a dozen boxes on the table, the children were sobbing.

I don’t need a tissue yet, but I understand this.

It’s not only the problem of choice-making.  (“If I go to see the Wildroot Sliders then I have to miss the Shearling Fleecers as well as not hearing Petite Priscilla and her Clawfoot Tub Band!”).

For me it’s also the added problem of trying to video-record everything I and others pine for so that I can share it on JAZZ LIVES.

True, I do now have two cameras and could bring two tripods, but where is the Second Assistant Cameraperson for this blog?  No fame, no health benefits, perhaps only a free breakfast. References and prior experience a must.

Paul, I thought we were friends.

What have you got to say for yourself?  Look closely here.  Is that fair?

Yours,

Michael

May your happiness increase!

MARMALADE. YES, PLEASE. (Nov. 3, 2013)

Not this.

Marmalade jar

Or these.

Marmalade kittens

You’re getting warmer.

Marmalade ODJB

Almost there.

Marmalade Bix

But what follows is nothing historical, and it exists in the twenty-first century: CLARINET MARMALADE, played with exuberant Bix-and-Tram-and-Rollini brilliance at a jam session.

To me, this performance is so hot that it should have CAUTION! in its title — near the end of the 2013 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, a hot session in the Victory Pub of the Village Hotel Newcastle, featuring Torstein Kubban, cornet; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Andy Schumm, C-melody saxophone; Lars Frank, clarinet; Claus Jacobi, bass sax [the one and only belonging to Frans Sjostrom], Morten Gunnar Larsen, keyboard; Jacob Ullberger, banjo; Josh Duffee, drums; various unidentified dancers and pedestrians.

Recorded on November 3 or perhaps the morning of November 4, 2013 — I cn no longer remember!

I know that this exuberance will happen again at this year’s Party — which is coming around the corner in fourth gear — as it has happened every year I’ve been there. (It begins on the evening of Thursday, November 6, 2014, which is a week away.  I should begin to pack now.)

Since absurdity appeals to me almost as much as does hot jazz, I have to tell JAZZ LIVES readers that when I was documenting this video on YouTube, various helpful terms appeared at the bottom of the page to be considered as tags.  One of them (understandably) was “fruit preserves.”  Indeed.

See you in the Victory Pub, I hope.

And for another three minutes of Torstein, Lars, and Kris, here’s this lovely hot too-brief interlude on MELANCHOLY (with a serenely self-absorbed still photographer to bring the fun to an abrupt close):

May your happiness increase!

FOR IVIE: CECILE McLORIN SALVANT / DARYL SHERMAN at the WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (Nov. 3, 2013)

Jazz parties sometimes are stereotyped as loud — raucous affairs where one high-energy band or singer succeeds another.  This isn’t true, and I offer this tender interlude from last year’s Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party — in honor of Miss Ivie Anderson.  The very expressive Cecile McLorin Salvant is joined here by the underrated pianist (and much-loved singer) Daryl Sherman to summon up a vanished era and the entire Ellington band of 1937 in the Mack Gordon – Harry Revel THERE’S A LULL IN MY LIFE:

And although you may be completely captivated (and rightly so) by Cecile’s singing on a first hearing, I would draw your attention to Daryl’s perfectly subtle accompaniment — with the verse.  I think Daryl’s final chord is as touching as anything that has preceded it.

LULL IN MY LIFE sheet

Thank you, dear Cecile and Daryl.  And of course, Miss Ivie.

May your happiness increase!

 

LET ME OFF DOWNTOWN: REBECCA KILGORE, EHUD ASHERIE, JOEL FORBES at MEZZROW (Sept. 23, 2014)

Rebecca Kilgore doesn’t come to New York as often as I would like, so her September 2014 visit was a real pleasure.  Fortunately, I am able to share some of that pleasure with you, with four performances from her gig at the wonderful new jazz room Mezzrow (at 163 West 10th Street, New York — phone 646.476.4346).

Becky had imaginative support from Ehud Asherie, piano, and Joel Forbes, acoustic unamplified string bass.  And her delicate floating emotional intelligence gleams even more brightly in the evocative darkness.  See what you think in these four performances: one asking a favor of the cosmos; one sweetly astonished at the power of love requited; one ebullient and joyous; one optimistically cheerful.  All four are, to me, delicately embroidered masterpieces that — by the way — swing no matter what the tempo.

MOON RAY:

ISN’T IT A PITY:

ALL I DO IS DREAM OF YOU:

I’M SHOOTING HIGH:

We’re “on a rainbow rafter” with this wonderful trio.

And just in case you’ve missed Becky’s recent triumph — recorded one day earlier at the Allegheny Jazz Party, en francais, here it is.

May your happiness increase!

SWINGTIME IN SOHO (Part One): JON-ERIK KELLSO, DAN BARRETT, CHRIS FLORY, JOEL FORBES at THE EAR INN (Sept. 14, 2014)

At The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City), the Sunday-night sessions by the EarRegulars — now in their eighth year — are always delightful. But when Dan Barrett comes back east for a visit, they’re spectacularly rewarding.  Here is the first half of the first set performed on September 14, 2014, by Messrs. Barrett (trombone and instant head arrangements); Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Chris Flory, guitar; Joel Forbes, string bass.

I could write at length about the swinging brotherhood of this quartet, about Jon’s exuberant energy, about Dan’s slippery ensemble work and brilliant solos, about Chris’ immense bluesy conviction, about Joel’s eloquent subtle simplicities, but the music can say all that and more, without words.

COQUETTE:

OUR MONDAY DATE:

THEY SAY IT’S WONDERFUL:

I SURRENDER, DEAR:

Three more to come.

May your happiness increase!

SAY FORWARD, THEY’LL SWING: MORE FROM THE IVORY CLUB BOYS AT ARMANDO’S (MAY 31, 2014): PAUL MEHLING, EVAN PRICE, MARC CAPARONE, SAM ROCHA, ISABELLE FONTAINE at ARMANDO’S

A New York jazz friend just wrote me, “Michael, are there any more videos from that Ivory Club Boys gig you posted from May 2014?  That is such a great band!”

Happy to oblige, dear NYJF, with more from that spectacular evening at Armando’s in Martinez — featuring Paul Mehling, guitar, vocal; Evan Price, electric (and electrifying) violin; Marc Caparone (sitting in for Clint Baker), cornet; Sam Rocha, string bass, vocal; Isabelle Fontaine, guitar, vocal.  They paid tribute, in their own way, to the mighty swing and joyously eccentric humor of Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys.

One kind of crazy?  Yes, a second take of CRAZY RHYTHM:

Something searching and melancholy, I COVER THE WATERFRONT:

And another type of crazy, as in YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY / MOTEN SWING:

And here, for those of you unaware of the ICB, here are the other selections from that night that I’ve posted on JAZZ LIVES:

endless-summer-in-swing

double-your-fun

rhythm-crazy

from-spiritual-to-swing

bugle-call-rag

Forget the morning news for a moment.  It’s a benevolent world that has this music in it.

May your happiness increase!

FIVE BEAUTIES FROM AN AFTERNOON AT CASA MEZCAL: ROB ADKINS, DAN BLOCK, EHUD ASHERIE (October 5, 2014)

I’ve written before about my new jazz oasis, Casa Mezcal, 88 Orchard Street, which has a Sunday jazz brunch from 1-4 PM with some of my friends (who also happen to be the finest players and singers in New York).  So far I’ve been there exactly twice, but it is now my Sunday-afternoon port of call.  It is a rare pleasure to see and hear music in daylight, to have interestingly non-formulaic Mexican food, and to encounter a gracious staff.  And then there’s good lighting for the videographer who eats my food.

Two Sundays ago, the trio led by string bassist Rob Adkins (a modest, endearing fellow who plays beautifully) was pianist Ehud Asherie and reedman Dan Block, two of my heroes. Ordinarily, the ethereal and always surprising Tamar Korn is in charge (as she was on October 19 — more about that in a future posting) but this afternoon was strictly instrumental, and beautifully so.

Here are five delicacies from that afternoon:

JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS, an early-afternoon romp:

HOW ABOUT YOU? — a song I associate with Judy Garland’s sweet early version.  And New York in October has been as warm as it might be in June:

MISTY, which requires a little explanation.  Most musicians I know loathe this song or play it with much reluctance.  Their reaction has nothing to do with Erroll Garner or with Johnny Mathis, but the song has been pulped by overexposure.  Listen, however, to the tender beauty Dan brings to this (after Ehud’s comic interlude ends):

DREAM, that Johnny Mercer classic, is usually taken as a sweet lullaby, but Dan reimagines it (with great flair) at a walking Basie tempo:

SHOE SHINE BOY was my request, since I’d heard Ehud playing the Lester solo as a swing exercise before the first set began:

I may be weary from trying to find parking, and I may get turned around on Delancey Street and have to ask for directions, but I plan to spend my Sunday afternoons at Casa Mezcal until further notice.  The music is fresh and lively (and so is the guacamole).  See you there!

May your happiness increase!

“WEE WEE,” “LOVE ME,” and MORE: COVERS AND LABELS

I’ve been eBaying once again — cyberspace’s version of going to antique stores in person — and I found four intriguing objects, all musical.

A song Mildred never recorded:

MILDRED 1932

but the intriguing part of this cover (it might have been a very good song, given the credits of Isham Jones and Charles Newman) is the store listing, bottom right — a jewelry store that sold victrolas, records, and music in a town in Wisconsin.  Evidence of a wondrous and now vanished past.

One year later, a song Lee Wiley should have recorded (music by her paramour Victor Young):

LEE WILEY 1933

The jazz versions I know are Jack Teagarden and Art Tatum — both contemporaneous.

Now, two discs.  Autographed ones, from the collection of Bill Thompson.

Mister Mercer and Mister Teagarden, if you please:

MERCER and JACKThey were a wonderful team (I think not only of these duets but THE BATHTUB RAN OVER AGAIN, and LORD, I GIVE YOU MY CHILDREN).

And the prize.  Was George French or was Louis being Louis?

WEE WEE LOUISI think that is positively begging to be made into a t-shirt, but I picture people coming too close, squinting at it, and asking for explanations, so this idea may have to go in the basket where the almost-good ideas are kept.

May your happiness increase!

“NEW YORK CITY HAS A RHYTHM ALL ITS OWN”: GORDON AU’S GRAND STREET STOMPERS’ DEBUT AT DIZZY’S CLUB COCA COLA / JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER (October 22, 2014)

I was there, and I saw it for myself — five floors up, against a glorious dark Manhattan skyline, closer to the stars than any jazz club I know.

On Wednesday night, October 22, 2014, courtesy of the New York Hot Jazz Festival (thank you, Misha Katsobashvili!) and Jazz at Lincoln Center, Gordon Au and the Grand Street Stompers made their debut appearance — two sets, two sold-out crowds — and thrilled everyone.

Those who have been following the GSS weren’t surprised, but I think some of the international visitors in the room went away with a new appreciation for New York hot.

Here are two highlights: Gordon’s own RIDGEWOOD STOMP, and Tamar Korn’s ecstatic performance of DO THE NEW YORK.* The band was Gordon, trumpet, arrangements, compositions; Josh Holcomb, trombone; Matt Koza, clarinet / soprano saxophone (subbing for the temporarily under-the-weather Dennis Lichtman); Nick Russo, banjo / guitar; Andrew Hall, string bass; Rob Garcia, drums, with vocals by Tamar and by Molly Ryan.

Thanks also to Danielle Bias of JALC and Desmond Prass (a jazz scholar who recognized Big Sid Catlett!) of Dizzy’s for making it possible for me to video and share these with you. (Among friends, too — Neal, Kevin and Barbara, Kelsey, and a number of new converts.)

What next, O Stompers?

*There is a singularly unsubtle edit in this video, linking one song to another. You’ll know it when you stumble over it.

May your happiness increase!

LAURA HITS THE ROAD: CHICAGO SALTY DOGS (October 5, 2014)

My friend Laura Beth Wyman, flutist and videographer, is blazing new trails, with camera, microphone, tripod, and notepad, boldly capturing hot jazz in Michigan and bringing it back alive for everyone.

Her YouTube channel is still in its youth, but the music she’s captured so far is deliciously mature.  Vintage, in fact.

I encourage you to subscribe, and after doing so you can enjoy two performances from an October 5, 2014 West Shore Jazz Society concert by the Chicago Salty Dogs, who were for this occasion Kim Cusack, leader and clarinet; Art Davis, trumpet; Frank Gualtieri, trombone; James Dapogny, piano; Mike Walbridge, helicon tuba; Jack Kuncl, banjo; Steve Torrico, drums. These performances took place at the Oak Ridge Golf Club, Norton Shores, Michigan.

Something for Jimmie  Noone and Earl Hines (honored but not imitated by Cusack and Dapogny), APEX BLUES:

And for Mister Morton, a rollicking version of the WOLVERINE BLUES complete with two piano and one tuba solo:

Thanks to the Dogs and to the intrepid Ms. Wyman, climbing apexes and on the lookout for wolverines.  I hear tell there will be more music captured in its native Michigan habitats in future.

May your happiness increase!

HONEY IN THE GARDEN: CHRIS DAWSON, MIKE LIPSKIN, ROBERT YOUNG, PAUL MEHLING at FILOLI (August 10, 2014)

Sweet, hot, romantic, and vernal: another delicious performance from Mike Lipskin’s Stride Summit at Jazz at Filoli on August 10, 2014, featuring Chris Dawson, piano; Mike, piano; Robert Young, soprano saxophone; Paul Mehling, guitar.  The song is MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS, which I first heard on Bing Crosby’s recording (“A cozy Morris chair / Oh, what a happy pair!”) and later in various Eddie Condon joy-fests (trombonist Cutty Cutshall called it MAHONEY for short, I have heard).

But here’s some honey-love in the garden for all of you:

For more performances from this wonderful concert (some featuring Dick Hyman) and more information about Jazz at Filoli, click here.

May your happiness increase!

RAGS, STOMPS, BLUES, JOYS, and a CRADLE: MORTEN GUNNAR LARSEN’S RED HOT PEPPERS at the WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (Nov. 2, 2013)

Care for some Jelly Roll?  I certainly do.

Both as pianist and scholar, Morten Gunnar Larsen knows his Jelly Roll Morton, and his knowledge and love show in his playing.

This Morton tribute comes from the 2013 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, and it is an especially rewarding one because it gently and effectively combines a reverent approach to the originals with on-the-spot improvisation.  So what you experience is more than a series of scroll Victor 78s played live

Morten was able to assemble a fine band: Josh Duffee, drums; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Jacob Ullberger, banjo; Lars Frank, clarinet / soprano; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Bent Persson, cornet; guest star Aurelie Tropez*, clarinet.

THE SUPERIOR RAG:

MILENBERG JOYS*:

DEAD MAN BLUES*:

WOLVERINE BLUES* (a quartet of Morten, Lars, Aurelie, and Josh):

KANSAS CITY STOMPS:

Another previously unknown Morton composition, a “SLOW STOMP” called CROCODILE CRADLE:

BLACK BOTTOM STOMP:

Morten plays Morton.  What could be nicer?

And to make the point I have been making throughout this year: at the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, starting on Thursday, November 6, sessions like this are the rule, not the exception.

May your happiness increase!

IN THE GARDEN OF SWING: MIKE LIPSKIN, DICK HYMAN, PAUL MEHLING at FILOLI (August 10, 2014)

Take a contemporary evocation of Eden, add some inspired jazz in front of an enthusiastic, attentive audience . . . and you have the 2014 Stride Summit at Jazz at Filoli, featuring Mike Lipskin and Dick Hyman, guitarist Paul Mehling, and a few other like-minded friends.  Here are a few more highlights from that wonderful afternoon, where the swinging music honors the present artists’ originality while casting affectionate glances back to Fats Waller, Art Tatum, Al Casey, and Django Reinhardt.

HANDFUL OF KEYS (Mike and Dick):

COULD IT BE YOU’RE FALLING IN LOVE? (Mike and Paul):

CARAVAN (Dick):

WILLOW WEEP FOR ME (Dick):

JUST YOU, JUST ME (Mike and Dick):

AFRICAN RIPPLES (Mike):

Thanks to the inspired gentlemen of the ensemble for such glowing pastoral music, and special thanks to Merrilee Trost for making Jazz at Filoli a happy, memorable gathering year after year.

May your happiness increase! 

BECOMING ENLIGHTENED: CECILE McLORIN SALVANT and DARYL SHERMAN SING ELLINGTON at WHITLEY BAY (Nov. 3, 2013)

Here’s an energized romantic song, a Forties Ellington hit, performed by two “hip chicks” and a swinging band (unfortunately off-camera) at the 2013 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party.

They are Daryl Sherman (in mauve) next to Cecile McLorin Salvant, and the band is Richard Pite, drums; Malcolm Sked, string bass; Jacob Ullberger, guitar; Morten Gunnar Larsen, piano; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Matthias Seuffert, reeds.

I’m posting this not only because of its delightful savor, but because I can count the days (about fourteen) until the next Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party. It begins on the evening of Thursday, November 6, and runs until late Sunday night, November 9 . . . possibly into Monday morning.  Tickets may still be available: you can check here. It might be costly for those not close to Newcastle, UK, to attend, but it is eminently worth the trip. There’s no festival like it, nor (in my decade of serious study of the matter) has there ever been.  In the ancient dialect of the area, “Get thee hence, if thou canst.”

May your happiness increase!

NOT TO THE SENSUAL EAR

Collectors of sheet music know that famous artists allowed their portraits to be part of the cover design of songs the artists never got to record.  (I believe some artists paid for the privilege of having their portrait in the little box — as good publicity.)  In fact, one may have a dozen copies of a song sheet with a dozen different artists portrayed on the covers.

The artists may have performed the song without recording it, or may simply have negotiated something to have their portrait on the cover.  It doesn’t stop people like myself from dreaming, though.  What if there were, for instance, a recording of Louis singing and playing LIGHTS OUT, a 1936 song I saw once with his picture.  Or Bobby Hackett playing LITTLE SKIPPER?

Or these two, by these three Sisters:

OLD SPINNING WHEEL BoswellsThis could have been another record much like HAND ME DOWN MY WALKING CANE, a “folk song” (Billy Hill made a good deal of money in the rural-song line, as in THE LAST ROUNDUP).

Or this, a much better song:

I DON'T KNOW WHY BoswellsI can almost hear the collaboration now — possible but evanescent.

I also understand, in some vague way, why there aren’t a hundred more Boswell Sisters recordings (the whole story awaits it in Kyla Titus’ book and the upcoming Sisters’ documentary) . . .  but I can refuse to acknowledge their absence, can’t I?

May your happiness increase!

A GLORIOUS EVENING, PART TWO: DENNIS LICHTMAN, MATT MUNISTERI, TAMAR KORN (JALOPY THEATRE, September 28, 2014)

This is the second portion of a Saturday night performance at the Jalopy Theatre, one of those musical evenings I don’t think I will ever forget, featuring Craig Ventresco, Meredith Axelrod, Dennis Lichtman, Tamar Korn, Matt Munisteri, Jerron Paxton, and Tal Ronen.

Here are some highlights of the first set.

And here are six more magical performances by Dennis, Tamar, and Matt in varying combinations.  No posturing, just deep feeling for the particular idiom of each song,great unaffected expertise, a sweet intensity.

Hoagy Carmichael’s SKYLARK:

Irving Berlin’s RUSSIAN LULLABY:

Willard Robison’s WE’LL HAVE A NEW HOME IN THE MORNING:

RISONHA (by Luperce Miranda, the Brazilian mandolinist and composer, 1904-1977):

TIME CHANGES EVERYTHING (from Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys):

SO BLUE (a gem by De Sylva, Brown, and Henderson 1927):

WHAT’S THE USE OF LIVING WITHOUT LOVE? (thanks to a late King Oliver record):

Part Three will be arriving soon.

May your happiness increase!

JAKE, JESSE, JAZZ (Casa Mezcal, October 19, 2014)

My ears tell me when something extraordinary has happened during a musical performance.  But my feelings are confirmed when musicians turn to me after the last note has been played and say, “WOW.  Did you get that?” and are happy when I can say I did.

This happened just yesterday, Sunday, October 19, 2014, at Casa Mezcal, a very pleasant Mexican restaurant (88 Orchard Street) that has been featuring jazz at its Sunday brunches for some months now.  The musicians were Tamar Korn, pianist Jesse Gelber (whom I’ve known for almost a decade), and trombonist Jake Handelman (new to me although I’d seen his name in worthy contexts).

Tamar asked the gentlemen if they would care to play an instrumental, and they began JAZZ ME BLUES — bobbing and weaving back and forth between 1920 and 2014, playing hilarious games without words as they went along:

Good fun without being too silly, and great romping music.  Gentlemen, I salute you!

May your happiness increase!

WE CELEBRATE MISTER MORGENSTERN!

Dan Morgenstern turns 85 on Friday, October 24.  But we celebrate him every day.  I know I have learned so much from reading his quiet, straightforward prose (I can recite passages from his Louis liner notes, his Hot Lips Page ones, and a hundred more), his magazine articles and Mosaic notes, his voice coming through the radio (“Jazz From the Archives” on WBGO-FM), and in person. He’s been generous to me and thousands of other researchers in his time at Rutgers, and his generosity didn’t stop when he retired.

He is a model of perception, and his range is never limited.  If it’s good, you’ll find him in the audience.  Yes, he is a link to the past (ask about naby hallowed musicians from 1947 onwards and he saw them and sometimes spoke with them) but he is also very much living in the present, someone who is excited about the gig he went to last night — not an elder who thinks all the glories are gone.

You will have two special opportunities to celebrate Dan, and to celebrate with Dan, this week.

On Wednesday, David Ostwald and the Louis Armstrong Eternity Band (that Birdland perennial) will be celebrating Dan with one of their special late-afternoon / early evening gigs. The musicians David has lined up for this celebration include Bjorn Ingelstam, Adrian Cunningham, Marion Felder, and Vince Giordano — but I’m sure that other notables will be in the house and on the stand to celebrate Dan.

Morgenstern Birdland

On Thursday, Will Friedwald is hosting one of his inimitable CLIP JOINT presentations of video performances that Dan has picked out himself as well as a few surprises . . .

Morgenstern clip

To reserve your seat, RSVP to Levis4402@yahoo.com — it’s $10 to join in.

I know both of these events will sell out, so make your reservations early so you aren’t left on the sidewalk.  And if you can’t make either one, a simple, “Mister Morgenstern, happy birthday and thanks so much!” will do when you encounter Dan at a gig.

May your happiness increase!

JAMES DAPOGNY’S CHICAGO JAZZ BAND at the EVERGREEN JAZZ FESTIVAL (Part Three)

Rainbow Two

The opportunities to hear James Dapogny’s Chicago Jazz Band at the July 2014 Evergreen Jazz Festival were delightful — a high point of the year for me.

That band neatly balances thoughtful arrangements and solos, and the result is hot, sweet,  eloquent, satisfying.

They are James Dapogny, piano and arrangements; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Chris Smith, trombone, vocal; Kim Cusack, clarinet, alto saxophone, vocal; Russ Whitman, clarinet, tenor and baritone saxophone; Rod McDonald, guitar; Denver native Dean Ross, string bass; Pete Siers, drums.

For those who might have missed the earlier posts in this happily extended series, here is the first part and here is the second.

And here are five more delights.

A serenade to a beloved Irish lass (with a tempo change, in honor of the 1944 Commodore recording featuring Miff Mole), PEG O’MY HEART:

The very optimistic paean to the Golden State, CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME:

A 1936 romper, SWING MISTER CHARLIE (recorded by, among others, a youthful Judy Garland backed by the Bob Crosby band):

“Another show tune,” this one from a Dick Powell film — more memorable in Fats Waller’s recording — here warbled by Mr. Cusack, LULU’S BACK IN TOWN:

And a mournful revenge song, JUNK MAN (1934, with unheard lyrics by Frank Loesser):

More to come — all equally rewarding.

May your happiness increase!

GOOD ADVICE FROM DANNY HEP-CAT (1947)

I can’t remember how I first learned of a children’s record, SYLVESTER THE SEAL, which featured Bobby Hackett and other jazz players. (It is not in any discography I know.) But I was terribly excited to find a copy of the two-disc set (two 10″ 78s in a paper sleeve) at an estate sale this summer.  I think it is not only an endearing story but a musically satisfying experience.

SEAL

Charles Grean gets credit for the music (several short blues excerpts, variations on YANKEE DOODLE and AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL); Irving Townsend the story — in part an introduction to jazz, but also a fable with an encouraging moral.

The narrator, Eddie Mayehoff, was a radio star and comic actor; I presume that one of his routines involved speaking in his version of a seal’s voice, which sounds rather like a person talking with his face half-submerged in the bathroom sink. If any seals read JAZZ LIVES, they can write in and comment on his authenticity.

Through the research efforts of Hackett discographers Bert Whyatt (now deceased), George Hulme, and Derek Coller, I found out the personnel of the seriously impressive band.  (Thanks to Derek for sharing the facts; the original data was uncovered by Vince Giordano.)

EDDIE MAYEHOFF with All-Star Orchestra (Eddie Mayehoff, narration; Bobby Hackett, trumpet; Will Bradley, trombone; Joe Marsala, clarinet; Peanuts Hucko, tenor saxophone; Sanford Gold, piano; Bob Haggart, bass; Cozy Cole, drums). New York, New York: Monday, December 29, 1947.

(It is intriguing — or odd? — that they recorded Parts 2, 3, 4, and 1 in that order.) I note that Hackett, Hucko, Haggart, and Cole had worked and recorded with Louis Armstrong that year; in addition, SYLVESTER was completed just before the second Petrillo recording ban of 1948.

The records start off inauspiciously, with a stiffly formal trumpet that bears no resemblance to Hackett’s beautiful arabesques, but the atmosphere warms as we hear more from the band.  The fourth side is especially rewarding.

And although amateur brass players know that it is impossible to sound like Bobby Hackett in the space of fourteen minutes, that shouldn’t stop anyone from trying.  I wish more people would take up this challenge, whether or not a job with Benny Bunny and his Broadway Band was at stake:

Here, thanks to a site called “The technicolor Dreams of Perri Prinz – Furry Jazz,” I offer the inside covers with four of the eight charming illustrations from the RCA Victor issue for listeners who wish to follow along:

SEAL inside 1

and

SEAL inside 2

Thanks, “Furry Jazz,” which can be explored here.

That moral?  Anything is possible for those who are fervently committed to their goal, who are truly willing to work for it, who will “put the time in,” which is never this easy. But I hope this story encouraged some young listeners on their own paths. It also helps to have wise, kind friends, willing to share what they know.

“You could, if you tried,” says Danny Hep-Cat — help we all could use.

May your happiness increase!

FRESH-SQUEEZED (Version Two): DAN BLOCK, DUKE HEITGER, BRIA SKONBERG, ED POLCER, JOHN COCUZZI, PAUL KELLER, ED METZ (Atlanta Jazz Party, April 23, 2014)

Another delicious version of Mister Waller’s SQUEEZE ME — this time from the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party, with a cast of characters: Dan Block, clarinet; Duke Heitger, Ed Polcer, Bria Skonberg, trumpets; John Cocuzzi, piano; Paul Keller, string bass; Ed Metz, drums:

Here was the first of the series — for those who haven’t had their daily ration of beautiful music.

May your happiness increase!

PERFECTLY CRAFTED: “PLAYGROUND” by the UNACCOUNTED FOUR

I am delighted to share with you the debut CD of an inspired quartet — the Unaccounted Four — a disc called (appropriately) PLAYGROUND, where the arranged passages are as brilliant as the improvisations, and the two kinds of expression dance beautifully through the disc.

playground_front

Menno plays cornet, wrote the arrangements, and composed three originals; David plays clarinet and tenor saxophone; Martien plays guitar; Joep is on string bass; Harrie ven de Woort plays the pianola on the closing track, a brief EXACTLY LIKE YOU.  The disc was recorded at the PIanola Museum in Amsterdam on four days in May 2014 — recorded superbly by bassist Joep.

The repertoire is a well-stirred offering of “classic” traditional jazz repertoire: STUMBLING, CHARLESTON, LIMEHOUSE BLUES, ROYAL GARDEN BLUES, JUBILEE, EXACTLY LIKE YOU; beautiful pop songs: AUTUMN IN NEW YORK, JEANNINE (I DREAM OF LILAC TIME), ALL GOD’S CHILLUN GOT RHYTHM, LULLABY OF THE LEAVES; originals: WHAT THE FUGUE, UNGUJA, PLAYGROUND; unusual works by famous composers: Ellington’s REFLECTIONS IN D; Bechet’s LE VIEUX BATEAU; and Ravel’s SLEEPING BEAUTY.  Obviously this is a quartet with an imaginative reach.

A musical sample — the Four performing JUBILEE and LULLABY OF THE LEAVES:

Here is Menno’s own note to the CD:

A few years ago, I wanted to have my own jazz quartet to play what is known as “classic jazz.” Besides being nice to listen to, I intended the quartet to be versatile, convenient and different. That is why I bypassed the usual format of horn + piano trio. Our instrumentation of two horns, guitar and bass allows for varied tone colors. The venues where we play don’t need to rent a piano, and we don’t have to help the drummer carry his equipment from the car. As for versatility, David Lukacs, Merien Oster and Joep Lumeij are excellent readers and improvisers. They are also great company to hang out with (convenience again).

Our repertoire dates from the 1920s and 30s. The earliest piece is the adaptation of Ravel’s Pavane de la belle au bois dormant (1912); the latest is Ellington’s Reflections in D (1953), not counting my own tunes. While writing the charts, I chose to frame the familiar (and not-so-familiar) tunes in a new setting, rather than following the original recordings. So, for better or worse, the Unaccounted Four sounds like no other band. I promise you will still recognize the melodies, though!

The recording was made at the Pianola Museum in Amsterdam by Joep Lumeij with only two microphones. Minimal editing and postprocessing was done (or indeed possible).

On the last track, Harrie van de Voort operated a pianola which belted out Exactly Like You while we joined in. It is the only completely improvised performance on this disc. Autumn in New York is at the other end of the spectrum with every note written out.

I hope you will enjoy the Unaccounted Four’s particular brand of chamber jazz.

Menno’s statement that the Unaccounted Four “sounds like no other band” is quite true.  If I heard them on the radio or on a Blindfold Test, I might not immediately recognize the players, but I wouldn’t mistake the band for anyone else. I think my response would be, “My goodness, that’s marvelous.  What or whom IS that?”

Some listeners may wonder, “If it doesn’t sound like any other band, will I like it?”  Fear not.  One could put the Four in the same league as the Braff-Barnes quartet at their most introspective, or the Brookmeyer-Jim Hall TRADITIONALISM REVISITED.  I think of the recordings Frankie Newton made with Mary Lou Williams, or I envision a more contemplative version of the 1938 Kansas City Six or the Kansas City Four.

But here the CD’s title, PLAYGROUND, is particularly apt. Imagine the entire history of melodic, swinging jazz as a large grassy field.  Over there, Bobby Hackett and Shorty Baker are talking about mouthpieces; in another corner, Lester Young, Gil Evans, and Miles Davis are lying on their backs staring at the sky.  Billy Strayhorn and Claude Thornhill are admiring blades of grass; Frank Trumbauer is introducing Bix Beiderbecke and Eddie Lang to Lennie Tristano and Oscar Pettiford; Tony Fruscella and Brew Moore are laughing at something witty Count Basie has said. Someone is humming ROYAL GARDEN BLUES at a medium tempo; another is whistling a solo from the Birth of the Cool sides.

You can continue this game at your leisure (it is good for insomniacs and people on long auto trips) but its whimsical nature explains PLAYGROUND’s particular sweet thoughtful appeal.

It is music to be savored: translucent yet dense tone-paintings, each three or four-minute musical interlude complete in itself, subtle, multi-layered, full of shadings and shifts.  The playing throughout is precise without being mannered, exuberant when needed but never loud — and happily quiet at other times. Impressionism rather than pugilism, although the result is warmly emotional.

Some CDs I immediately embrace, absorb, and apparently digest: I know their depths in a few hearings.  With PLAYGROUND, I’ve listened to it more than a half-dozen times, and each time I hear new aspects; it has the quiet resonance of a book of short stories, which one can keep rereading without ever being bored.

For me, it offers some of the most satisfying listening experiences I have had of late.

The CD can be downloaded or purchased from CDBaby, downloaded from iTunes or Amazon; or one can visit Menno’s own site here, listen to sound samples, and purchase the music from him.

Enjoy the PLAYGROUND.  You have spacious time to explore it.

May your happiness increase!