Monthly Archives: November 2014

OUR BUDDIES: DUKE HEITGER, ANDY SCHUMM, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, HOWARD ALDEN, JON BURR, PETE SIERS at the ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY (Sept. 22, 2014)

In the jam session scenes of films of the preceding century, the two or three trumpet players are always competitive, their horns extending towards the sky, solos played faster, louder, higher. I’m sure this assertive display still goes on somewhere, but the true masters of collaborative creation understand that music is an enterprise where you welcome other players and thus make an audience welcome from the start.

You can experience it here: at the Allegheny Jazz Party, on September 22, 2014: featuring Duke Heitger, trumpet; Andy Schumm, cornet and clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Howard Alden, banjo; Jon Burr, string bass; Pete Siers, drums — and the text for the mellow sermon was, appropriately, Walter Donaldson’s MY BUDDY:

Making lifelong friendships in and through music.

May your happiness increase!

BRILLIANCE TIMES THREE (Part Three): TAL RONEN, MARK SHANE, DAN BLOCK at CASA MEZCAL (Oct. 26, 2014)

The bright and comfortable Casa Mezcal (86 Orchard Street, New York City) has become one of my favorite haunts for Sunday-afternoon jazz, with good food, friendly staff . . . and tremendously restorative music.  Often, our heroine Tamar Korn is in charge of the spiritual festivities, but when she can’t make it, her friends fill in superbly.

On October 26, 2014, string bassist Tal Ronen brought together two other heroes, pianist Mark Shane and reed virtuoso Dan Block.  Here are the first four videos from that magical afternoon, and this is the second offering — magical music that never calls attention to itself through melodrama or histrionics. It’s art we can be thankful for, and it’s better for you than a trip to the mall.

PERDIDO:

SERENADE IN BLUE:

TEA FOR TWO:

ILL WIND:

LADY BE GOOD (ALMOST) — with apologies for the abrupt ending, my fault entirely (and thanks to Coleman Hawkins):

It is easy to take beauty for granted, to multi-task our way through the marvelous, but consider this: if this music turned up as a set of unidentified acetates from Jerry Newman’s uptown recordings, would we not marvel at the discovery?

May your happiness increase! 

MAKING IT NEW: DAWN LAMBETH, CARL SONNY LEYLAND, MARTY EGGERS, JEFF HAMILTON (Jazz Bash by the Bay, March 9, 2014)

“Make it new” was the compact artistic manifesto of Ezra Pound, and jazz has always taken it to heart.  “What can you do with that very familiar song?” has always been the question I imagine improvisers asking themselves, whether the time-honored material is a Bb blues (Basie and his flock, Bessie Smith), JINGLE BELLS (Fats Waller), or a hundred other standards in danger of being obliterated through repetition.

Dawn Lambeth has always understood the artist’s responsibilities — a delicate balance between honoring the original’s lyrical impulse, both melody and lyrics and at the same time illuminating it from within so that audiences can say, “Yes, I’ve heard I’M CONFESSIN’ a thousand times, but Dawn actually sounds as if she is telling the story of the words — and behind the words — with sweet convincing grace.”

Here, Dawn is joined by Carl Sonny Leyland, piano; Marty Eggers, string bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums, at the 2014 Jazz Bash by the Bay — for three favorite songs she and they make new:

BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME?:

I’VE GOT A FEELING I’M FALLING (with a little comedy to start):

I’M CONFESSIN’:

Even though it was the first set of the day, the trio sounds superb.  And Dawn has a faithful following — as she should — but there’s always room for new admirers! She’ll be appearing at Jazz Bash by the Bay next March 6-7-8, 2015.  To find out more about her upcoming gigs, visit her website or become a Facebook friend.

May your happiness increase!

BY POPULAR DEMAND: MORE FROM RAY SKJELBRED AND THE CUBS (Napa Valley Dixieland Jazz Society, July 13, 2014)

Every time I post some new videos of music by Ray Skjelbred and the Cubs they get an enthusiastic response . . . so here’s some more, recorded on July 13, 2014, as part of their Northern California tour.  These performances happened thanks to the Napa Valley Dixieland Jazz Society (which met at Grant Hall in Yountville, California) — with dancers!  The performers, the creators, are Ray, piano; Clint Baker, string bass; Kim Cusack, clarinet; Katie Cavera, guitar; Jeff Hamilton, drums.  And they swing.

We begin with a bit of early Thirties meteorology — asking Aeolus to bring one’s baby back, or BREEZE:

Lessons in remorse, contrition, and forgiveness.  WHO’S SORRY NOW?:

A slow-drag, cozy version of MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS for the happy pair:

That venerable invitation to hedonism, DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ BALL:

Even if funds are low, you can still woo with this declaration, I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE:

I think it was appropriate to play SWEETHEARTS ON PARADE when the Society members broke out their parasols, but then again this song is one of my favorites, no matter how simple the chord sequence:

SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL, with vocal by Clint:

SQUEEZE ME, Mister Waller’s first hit:

JAZZ BAND BALL, which is what we were having:

Another bit of Wallerizing, KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW:

And the Whiteman-and-Henderson rouser, HAPPY FEET:

Ordinarily I don’t post so many videos from one performance at the same time, but these sounded so good that I couldn’t help myself.  You understand. (I send the usual apologies to Jeff and Katie for making them invisible, but they certainly are delightfully audible — which is what counts.)

May your happiness increase!

THE INK HAS FADED BUT THE MUSIC REMAINS (1948-9)

From an eBay seller — here is the link to the picture below — comes this photograph of Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden, Barney Bigard, and Sidney Catlett in action, autographed by Louis, Sid, Earl Hines, and Barney . . .

LOUIS HINES BARNEY SID autographsI can hear them loud and clear.  Can’t you?

May your happiness increase!

“IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD” AT THE SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST: TIM LAUGHLIN, CONNIE JONES, MIKE PITTSLEY, CHRIS DAWSON, KATIE CAVERA, MARTY EGGERS, HAL SMITH

You don’t have to write Odes to Nightingales to be lyrically poetic. In this century, we have Tim Laughlin, clarinet; Connie Jones, cornet and vocal; Mike Pittsley, trombone; Chris Dawson, piano; Marty Eggers, string bass; Katie Cavera, rhythm guitar; Hal Smith, drums, to prove this.

The song on which they wax poetic is IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD, performed at the 2012 San Diego Jazz Fest:

(Connie — a great unheralded singer — embodies a special optimism. Bless him and his colleagues.)

While you are basking in the good sounds and good feeling, think of this: Tim and Connie, with their New Orleans All Stars — Doug Finke, trombone; Chris, Marty, Katie, and Hal — will be playing more than a few sets at this year’s San Diego Jazz Fest, November 26-30.

And they are certainly not the only band: click here.

If you can live joyously, it’s always a wonderful world.

May your happiness increase!

TEN MINUTES OF SPIRITED PLEASURE: RAY SKJELBRED and THE CUBS at SACRAMENTO (May 24, 2014)

Just that.  Ray Skjelbred, piano; Kim Cusack, clarinet; Katie Cavera, rhythm guitar; Clint Baker, string bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums.  Recorded at the Sacramento Music Festival on May 24, 2014 — in a cozy room where I sat so close to the band (my preferred position) that I couldn’t get all of the quintet in at one time.  I hope Jeff Hamilton will forgive me for rendering him temporarily invisible (is this his superpower?) but he surely is delightfully audible.

The tunes — a 1922 Vincent Rose pop-song-turned-jazz-standard, LINGER AWHILE, and a pretty song that we might not have known had not the Jean Goldkette band recorded it, at a faster tempo, a few years later — IDOLIZING:

There’s no other band quite like this one, and we are so fortunate that they exist.

May your happiness increase!

“A BIT O’HARLEM” 1933

The acetates have not turned up, but, thanks to an eBay seller, we have the program that documents the 1933 appearance of the Earl Hines Orchestra at the Chicago World’s Fair.

EARL at 1933 Worlds Fair 1

The Hines band was identified by their prestigious radio broadcast affiliation — but that they were only one act of a long evening:

EARL at 1933 Worlds Fair 2

The seller describes this as “Original program from a concert titled “A Nite of Centuries” at the Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, June 12, 1933, four pages, 8.75 x 5.75 in. One clipped corner (not affecting any text), and a very faint vertical crease, otherwise clean and very good.”

EARL at 1933 Worlds Fair inset
A “Sizzling Study in Sepia” indeed.  I won’t be content with the home-recorded discs of this; I want to see the newsreel footage as well, so that I can enjoy “3 Lightning Flashes and an ensemble of singers and dancers.”

It must have been a spectacular evening: note the appearance of Sophie Tucker, Martha Raye; Vincent Lopez; The Radio Rubes, “radio’s famous hill-billies”; Baby Rose Marie, “remarkable child artist of the stage, screen, and radio”; World’s Fair Frolics, “a dazzling ballyhoo of Chicago World’s Fairest”; and others.

I doubt that anyone who saw this show still walks this earth, which is (to me) a sobering thought.

May your happiness increase!

THEY’RE SWEET ON SUE: CARL SONNY LEYLAND, MARTY EGGERS, JEFF HAMILTON (JAZZ BASH BY THE BAY, March 8-9, 2014)

I admire improvisers who can return to familiar material and approach it with freshness — in the way the great forebears did, playing the same tunes night after night.

Here are two very energizing examples of that kind of creative improvisation — performed in 2014 at the Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey, California, by Carl Sonny Leyland, piano; Marty Eggers, string bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums — variations on a 1928 pop tune, Victor Young’s SWEET SUE, JUST YOU.

The first gallops, nearly violently; the second (offered in the first set of the morning) is more gentle but no less swinging. Carl said he had played SWEET SUE at every set: had there been no other bands competing for my attention, I would have liked to record and present all six or seven versions. These two will act as evidence of the beautiful living music that Carl, Marty, and Jeff offer so generously.

SWEET SUE (late in the evening of March 8, 2014):

SWEET SUE (perhaps fourteen hours later, March 9, 2014):

I remind you that the Jazz Bash by the Bay is delightfully in gear for March 2015. Here is their Facebook page, and here is their band lineup for that happy event, with the Carl Sonny Leyland trio fourth from the top.  A good thing.

For those who have no intention of waiting until March, Carl and his trio will be at the San Diego Jazz Fest a week from now — details here. Hope to see you in both places.

May your happiness increase!

“FORTY AND TIGHT”: THE JOHNNY DODDS JUBILEE at the WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (November 8, 2014)

I present to you — with pride and gratitude — one of the many ecstatic moments of the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party — the finale to the Johnny Dodds tribute set, which featured an astonishing assemblage: cornet, three reeds, three banjos, washboard, piano, string bass, hot violin . . . without ever getting messy.

The song is FORTY AND TIGHT (for once I will leave the etymological questions* to others) and the players Rico Tomasso, cornet; Claus Jacobi, alto; Matthias Seuffert, Thomas Winteler, clarinet; Martin Litton, piano; Malcolm Sked, bass; Emma Fisk, violin; Nick Ball, washboard; Martin Wheatley, Spats Langham, Jacob Ullberger, banjo.

I love this.

Exact and abandoned at the same time, and a triumph of community — notice the musicians’ smiles and tapping feet as well as their common language of signs and experience: a nudge or a shoulder-lean that says “You take the next break,” the circling motion that indicates “let’s conclude this with an ensemble chorus — the language of brothers and sisters who know the tribal signs for joy — people who embody joy as well as understanding it. Look at the happiness on the face of one Nicholas D. Ball, percussionist, to feel that emotion.

Two afterthoughts.  FORTY AND TIGHT was obviously a way of signifying the highest level of approval.  Whether the unspoken references were to physical attributes that gave erotic pleasure or something else I do not know.  Was “forty” in the Chicago Twenties the equivalent of a more recent “a perfect ten”?  In-group dialogue, cherished and partially submerged, hidden from us.

And something technical.  To watch my videos in the best visual fidelity (preferably on a screen even larger than your iPhone 6!) find a tiny icon of a gear  — a toothed wheel — at the bottom right of the YouTube screen.  Click on it and raise the number displayed to the very highest, 1080, for the clearest image.  I also encourage viewers to watch this in “full screen,” preferably on a monitor the size of the living-room wall, but that last bit may not be possible.

Can you see and hear from this video what a wonderful time we had at the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party?  (A purely rhetorical question, I assure you.) And there will a 2015 Party . . . let joy be unconfined!

May your happiness increase!

BOB HAVENS PLAYS IRVING BERLIN at the ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY (Sept. 19, 2014): KEITH INGHAM, FRANK TATE, RICKY MALICHI

One of our heroes, the indefatigable trombonist Bob Havens, out in the open — melodic and extravagant — playing Irving Berlin’s ALWAYS at the first Allegheny Jazz Party (September 19, 2014) with the brilliant fraternal help of Keith Ingham, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums:

I especially admire Bob’s interplay with Frank about midway through. Don’t you wish we could have these gents playing ALWAYS?  I know I do.  “Meet you next year at the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party” is what I say.

May your happiness increase!

THE THINGS YOU MISS

I am not nostalgic for my adolescence.  If you offered me time-travel back to my seventeenth year, I would rapidly although politely turn down the offer.

But the experience of encountering music in days beyond recall (before the computer, before the internet) is something I miss because of its communal nature.

I grew up in suburbia, and found perhaps a half-dozen people my age (all male) who were interested in jazz.  And when I had gotten my driver’s license, it was not difficult to go to someone’s house with a new record or a particular track one wanted to share or to hear.  Someone had bought a new Lester Young record from Sam Goody; someone had picked up a hot 78 at the Salvation Army; someone had a 12″ 78 of Whiteman and Bix; someone had tapes of everything Bing recorded between 1926. Another friend had a new rare record which he wouldn’t let out of his sight, but would make a cassette copy of it.

I heard new music, new old music, in the company of other people.  We sat on the bed or the floor, getting up to change a record or to put the needle back, saying energetically, “Did you hear THAT?!” and looking to the other person for shared joys, empathy, understanding.

I have more jazz friends in 2014 than I ever would have dreamed possible in 1974.  They are very dear to me.  Through YouTube and videos, we share music internationally.  I can send someone an mp3 of an exciting track, or get one in my email. I just came back from a jazz party in England where there was so much music I occasionally felt perforated by hot music. I do not lack for sounds; if I turn ninety degrees from this computer, there are boxes of tapes and a wall of CDs.

But the human connection — two or three people in a room, perhaps drinking soda and eating supermarket potato chips, getting into a delighted frenzy about three Jo Jones accents after Tommy Ladnier’s particularly declamatory phrase* — is nearly gone.  In the last decade, I’ve been part of perhaps four or five such listening sessions, and I miss them.  I don’t mean a formal “collectors’ group,” with everyone guessing the soloist or the like or showing off that their N- copy is more shiny than your V+; I mean friends getting together to share their musical joys.  Yes, there’s Facebook, but it isn’t quite the same.

I have had a few musical sessions at my house, where I’ve probably overwhelmed my visitors with jazz — in my eagerness to play everything delightful I could think of — and, oddly enough, have been part of a few sessions on wheels, where my driving host played music from his iPod, which is always gratifying. But it’s a rare pleasure.

That’s our century: we have an intense intimacy or faux-intimacy with constant accessibility through the internet.  Physically, we exist at immense distances, too busy to be in the same room to rejoice over the things and heroes we love.

Of course, it could just be me. But somehow I doubt it.

*I am referring specifically to WEARY BLUES from the Spirituals to Swing concerts, with Ladnier, Jo, Sidney Bechet, Dan Minor, James P. Johnson, and Walter Page. Hear it here (amidst a 49-track playlist; such are the ways of YouTube):

May your happiness increase! 

GOT WALL SPACE FOR HEROES?

Clint Baker told me about this photograph — a reproduction for sale on eBay, inexpensively.  I am trying to figure out where it might go, but so far haven’t solved the decor problem.  The hero portrayed here is Sandy Williams — a wonderfully expansive trombonist who was one of the true stars of the Chick Webb and Fletcher Henderson bands, recorded with Sidney Bechet, Buck Clayton, Bunk Johnson, Ethel Waters, Art Hodes, Duke Ellington, Don Redman, Stuff Smith, Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins, Hot Lips Page, Red Allen, Ella Fitzgerald, Fletcher Henderson, Roy Eldridge, Rex Stewart, and many others.

Where he is, and why he is wearing a parade uniform — these mysteries are for others to solve.

Here is where you can find your own copy to adorn that bare wall.  Bedroom, living room, or foyer?  Your choice. Operators are standing by.

SANDY WILLIAMS

This photograph is one-of-a-kind, so it was offered for sale for three hundred dollars (I believe) and it is — no doubt, as Mister Morton would say — already in someone’s collection.  But it is a dream in itself: a photo portrait of Hot Lips Page, circa 1937, inscribed to Jimmy Rushing:

LIPS PAGE TO RUSH

And a close-up of the inscription:

LIPS TO RUSH closeup

Finally, something very touching — I lifted this from Facebook, and its source is Michelle Fey, granddaughter of Bobby Hackett.  Here is the earliest photograph of Robert Leo Hackett with his sister Dot — very touching (even if you ignore the tiny coveralls and the way he is holding her hand).  In that serious gaze I see the beloved person who, with cornet, mustache, and bow tie, gave us imperishable music for almost forty years:

Grandpa with Aunt Dotty

I could find wall space for Sandy Williams, Hot Lips Page, Bobby Hackett and his family.  Couldn’t you?

 May your happiness increase!

MEMORIES FOR SALE: WILLIE, MILDRED, BASIE 1939

I call eBay one-stop jazz shopping.  Type in “jazz,” click on “Entertainment Memorabilia,” and watch the hours — and sometimes the dollars — fly.

Treasures abound.  Of course, one has to pick delicately through the signed photographs of Sir Laurence Olivier in THE JAZZ SINGER, the forged Louis Armstrong signatures, the absurd pricing (“MEGA RARE!”) but surprises and delights await. Here are a few recent ones.

Willie Lewis (leader of the Entertainers, a band most of us know because of its work with Benny Carter and Bill Coleman) — a silhouette inscribed to his friend, trumpeter George Brashear.  I am not planning to buy this, but think the image would make a perfect Twenties-jazz-geek-scholar t-shirt:

A WILLIE LEWIS 3.29.29 NICE

Here’s a particularly delicious Entertainers recording — a nice stroll through STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY with a glorious Bill Coleman solo and a closing bridge given over to Herman Chittison.  (The YouTube site offers more than thirty of the band’s sides — all mislabeled, so you will have fun figuring out which tune goes with which title):

Then, an autographed picture of Mildred Bailey — her particularly loopy girlish handwriting makes me sure that this one is authentic:

A MILDRED signed front

How anyone could fold such a treasure in thirds is beyond me. And the reverse is equally interesting to scholars of Thirties music:

A MILDRED signed backSomeone was delinquent and did not RETURN THIS PHOTO, but I approve, because how else would we have seen this?

And now . . . autographs from the Basie band of 1939.  Most of them are easy to decipher, and I think the bottom one is arranger Andy Gibson:

$_1The price the seller is asking is high — over three thousand dollars — but we can enjoy Lester Young’s childlike handwriting for free.

 May your happiness increase!

“SEMPLICEMENTE PERFETTO!”: MATTEO RAGGI, PAOLO ALDERIGHI, DAVIDE BRILLANTE

We live in a clangorous world.  You don’t have to live across the street from a dance studio specializing in zumba (as I do) to know this.

The collective tempo we have created for ourselves is very quick, the volume level is high, the intensity is fierce.  Often all I want to hear is the sound of people singing through their instruments, leaving those rapid-fire flurries of notes for another time.  I don’t mean “smooth jazz”; rather, Ben Webster or Teddy Wilson playing a ballad; the Basie rhythm section; a Herb Ellis blues.

This is not a grumpy complaint about these dratted Modern Times, for many living musicians understand and exemplify this principle in their art, in the face of the tyrannical sixty-fourth note.

Matteo

A new CD — two sets of duets by three masterful musicians, recorded in 2013 — is one answer to this hectic world, evidence that swinging beauty is still within reach. It is simply perfect — hence my title.

Here’s a sample, Cole Porter’s I LOVE YOU, SAMANTHA (think of Bing, Grace Kelly, and Louis):

and the leisurely swinging EV’RYTHING I’VE GOT BELONGS TO YOU:

Sounds beautiful.

The tenor saxophonist is MATTEO RAGGI; the pianist is PAOLO ALDERIGHI; the guitarist DAVIDE BRILLANTE.  (I’ve had the immense good fortune to meet and record Paolo and Davide — Mario and I remain separated by several thousand miles, but this CD is as good as having him come to visit.)  You can hear more of Matteo on YouTube — he’s on there alongside Scott Hamilton, which is a high peak to be standing on — as well as Davide and Paolo, but this disc is special.

Each of the three is a lyrical player, a melodist at heart.  As you’ve heard, each one is skilled in constructing logical solos on his own, and masterful in the delicate art of duet playing — more subtle than verbal conversational dances but built on the same principles of individuality giving way to harmonically sensitive teamwork.  The music is the very opposite of soporific, because something is always happening rhythmically, even on the slowest ballad, but it will not make you feel as if you have stepped into the supercharged urban world.

Lester Young would have loved these sessions, and no one here is copying him, but the spirit is much the same.  (On that note: those readers who listen and want to play what Barbara Lea called “the game of Sounding Like” can get ready with their names.  Matteo sounds just like A, or perhaps B; Paolo like C or D; Davide like E or F — definitely!  But why not listen to these players on their own, rather than painting them as small living figures in the shadows of dead giants?)

Half of the ten selections are duets with Paolo (CHINATOWN; GHOST OF A CHANCE; I LOVE YOU, SAMANTHA; I’M PUTTING ALL MY EGGS IN ONE  BASKET; ON THE ALAMO); half with Davide (THE RED DOOR; COME RAIN OR COME SHINE; JITTERBUG WALTZ; POW-WOW; EV’RYTHING I’VE GOT BELONGS TO YOU).

Beautiful recorded sound (much better than on the YouTube videos) and casually erudite notes.  Now all that’s left to do is for you to find out more about Matteo and to buy the CD.  Try here!

Fratelli, grazie — for the fine sweet floating music.

May your happiness increase!

MASTERING THE ART OF HOT CUISINE: ENRICO TOMASSO and HIS RUG-CUTTERS at the WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (Nov. 8, 2014)

It’s difficult for me to comprehend that one week ago (the time difference notwithstanding) I was at the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, held in the Village Hotel Newcastle, recording this performance.  I and others were having the time of our lives.

PLS-00003755-001Why is there a picture of a gravy boat on JAZZ LIVES?  All will be revealed.

This singular performance took place late in a set, led by Rico Tomasso, devoted to “the Duke’s men,” specifically the small-band recordings (with one 1930 exception) done between 1936 and 1939 under the leadership of Barney Bigard, Johnny Hodges, Rex Stewart, and Cootie Williams.

Cootie is responsible for this most delicate of compositions, AIN’T THE GRAVY GOOD? — which doubles as a culinary disquisition with platefuls of double-entendre implications.  To me, it’s also a late-Thirties take on a Twenties vaudeville song.  I can imagine it onstage sung by a team, one sitting at a table full of food, the other one in an apron . . . but I leave the staging to you.

As I mentioned, the leader of the set was noble and gregarious Enrico Tomasso — friends are invited to call him Rico — a wonderful trumpeter, singer, entertainer (that’s a compliment) and improviser.

He begins this number with one of the best explanations of the subtleties of plunger-muted trumpet that I’ve ever heard, and then moves on to the main course.

Rico is joined by Alistair Allan, trombone; Claus Jacobi, alto saxophone; Matthias Seuffert, clarinet and saxophones; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Henri Lemaire, guitar; Malcolm Sked, string bass; Richard Pite, drums:

Had this been the sole performance I had witnessed at Whitley Bay, I would have been more than satisfied.  But it wasn’t, and I came home with more than three hundred video-recordings.  Will I share them?  You can count on it.  I couldn’t attest to the quality of the gravy — we have to take Rico’s word for it — but the music was beyond delicious.  And there will be a 2015 Party . . . so plan ahead.  Details to follow as I know them.

May your happiness increase!

MICHAEL KANAN and NEAL MINER at MEZZROW (Part Two): September 16, 2014

One of the recent pleasures of living in or near New York City has been the emergence of new places to hear music, and one of the most restorative of these places is the downstairs oasis MEZZROW, at 163 West Tenth Street.  I haven’t been able to be there as often as I’d liked, but so far I’ve been delighted by the ambiance, the quiet, the good piano, the sweetly natural sound.

On September 16, 2014, which seems so long ago, I was able to experience the floating musical energies of two of my heroes, pianist Michael Kanan and string bassist / composer Neal Miner. Here is the first part of their performance that night, and I am pleased to offer you five more selections.

Neal’s TIMELINE (cleverly, a line built on the harmonies of TIME ON MY HANDS):

ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE — which segues into Neal’s AT THE BISTRO:

THE BEST THING FOR YOU (WOULD BE ME):

BALLAD MEDLEY (EV’RY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE and I GUESS I’LL HANG MY TEARS OUT TO DRY):

Neal’s BLUES OKURA:

Beautiful music, complex and direct at the same time — the result of deep study and deep feeling, but aimed at our hearts and landing there gently. Human warmth, generosity of spirit: du holde Kunst indeed.

May your happiness increase!

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: MARK SHANE REMEMBERS AL HAIG

Since jazz musicians know how to improvise on their instruments and their voices, it’s no surprise that many of them are great homespun comic talents as well — the world is their stage for instant improvisation.

In case you don’t know the wonderful pianist Mark Shane, here is a recent on-the-spot example of his swinging melodic mastery:

Yesterday, Mark told me this story about the revered Al Haig:

Al Haig was playing with Chuck Wayne at Gregory’s and I used to sit in.

One night, Al sneaked up in back of me and I heard him say sotto voce right in my ear, “Would you sit in a while longer while I park my car?”

“Sure,” sez I.

“Do you know where I want to park it?”

“No, Al, where?”

“At home.  Goodnight!!”

I never saw Al Haig again. He was sublime on those Bird recordings!! The great Al Haig … indeed, indeed!!

May your happiness increase!

BRILLIANCE TIMES THREE (Part Two): TAL RONEN, MARK SHANE, DAN BLOCK at CASA MEZCAL (Oct. 26, 2014)

I was simply transported, I tell you.

The transporters were three eloquent yet casual musicians — Tal, string bass; Mark, piano; Dan, clarinet and tenor — at work and play in the pleasing surroundings of 88 Orchard Street, on the lower East Side of New York City, their creations captured by my camera on Sunday, October 26, 2014.

Here are the first four videos from that afternoon, which have lost none of their charm.  And four more, floating, lyrically Basie-style, making the air vibrate so sweetly.

I’LL ALWAYS BE IN LOVE WITH YOU:

LINGER AWHILE:

YACHT CLUB SWING:

MOTEN SWING (with a brief camera malfunction during Tal’s solo where the camera suddenly got excited by the tin ceiling and had to be reminded of its proper function. I apologize for it, Tal):

For my first post, I wrote, “This is living synergy, a translucent acoustic orchestra. Such music blesses us,” and I think those words are even truer here.

May your happiness increase!

A GLORIOUS EVENING, PART THREE: TAMAR KORN, DENNIS LICHTMAN, MATT MUNISTERI, CRAIG VENTRESCO, MEREDITH AXELROD, JERRON PAXTON, TAL RONEN (JALOPY THEATRE, September 28, 2014)

By the end of this utterly satisfying musical evening (September 28, 2014) at the Jalopy Theatre in Brooklyn, New York, the stage was filled with happy individualists — not a repeater pencil or copycat in sight. The cast of characters was Tamar Korn, vocal; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Craig Ventresco, guitar; Meredith Axelrod, vocal and ukulele; Jerron Paxton, piano; Tal Ronen, string bass.  I think that’s an accurate census of the people, not all of them appearing on each number, and some of them audible rather than visible.

In retrospect, it feels like a combination jam session – hootenanny – revival meeting – improvisational theatre piece. . . . unique and fulfilling. And even though those of us who have followed Tamar for the past five years or more know these songs (the first three: NEW YORK is a new favorite) the stage was alight with fresh energies.

For those who missed this glorious constellation of musical comets and asteroids, whether live or on video, here are the first two parts of this evening.

SUGAR BLUES:

THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE:

WHEN YOU WORE A TULIP (Ms. Korn in bliss, announced freely):

DO THE NEW YORK:

Rarely do I use the word “unforgettable” about an event I’ve attended, but this evening solidly fits that description.  Blessings on the artists and the generous people at Jalopy who made this evening happen.

May your happiness increase!

THE LONELINESS OF SPIKE MACKINTOSH

Trumpeter Spike Mackintosh — glorious, elusive — has been on my mind for months.  As soon as I read about him (thanks to Dave Gelly) and heard his few recordings, I wanted to know more about this shadowy figure.

My quest began here in July, and continued a month later here and finally here.  (Readers fearful of hyperlinks will find that these posts have homemade videos of Spike’s masterpieces — WHY CAN’T YOU BEHAVE and HIGH TIME, so you can delight in his inspired music.)

In my efforts to learn more about Spike, I face the dilemma of the biographer whose subject and his circle are dead or reclusive.  (I have written to Sir Cameron Mackintosh, Spike’s son, and to Wally Fawkes, but Wally is 91 and Sir Cameron has larger subjects on his mind.)

At the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, which just concluded, I was surrounded by British musicians, but I had little hope that any of them had encountered Spike. He had died in 1986, and his recordings had been done thirty years earlier.  But a kind friend, Sir Robert Cox, found a UK musician who had played with Spike, twice, and would speak with me.  I will call this musician — in honor of Ian Fleming, M, although that initial is not part of his name.  What follows is what I wrote down over breakfast.

M said that what Spike’s “decline” was “so sad,” seen first-hand in the early Seventies.

M was part of a “nice Dixieland band,” with “tasteful players,” with a regular club gig.  One evening, in mid-session, Spike came in, “always nicely turned out, in blazer and flannels, well-spoken.”

He took the place of the band’s trumpet player.

“Spike didn’t look drunk but he wasn’t playing well. In fact, his playing was a mess. But the man had been a superb Louis Armstrong trumpet player — even in his cups he was a wonderful stylist.  You could hear little subtle things he would do.”

Spike finished the set and left.  The band’s trumpeter said, “Thank God he’s gone.”

The second meeting took place at a club that featured pianists. This night it featured a pianist I will call P, someone M admired and knew.  The club treated P well, and when M visited, P was in the dressing room eating a steak.

There was a knock on the door. Someone said, “Come in,” and Spike entered.  P was aware of him but kept eating his steak, saying nothing.

Spike asked, “Any chance of a blow?” [Translation: “May I sit in with you?”] P remained silent.

After a pause, Spike said, “Ah.  I see.  Bye,” and left.

M understood, though nothing was said, that Spike was unwelcome, not only for that night.

At its best, the community of jazz musicians is a living embrace, brothers and sisters lovingly allied against an unsympathetic world. They ask only, “Can you make genuine music?  We will protect you.  We will take you in.”  To be rejected by one’s peers, ostracized by that community must feel a fatal blow.

I do not doubt that Spike, intoxicated, could not create the luminous music he had once done.

But how sad to think of “Thank God he’s gone,” even if Spike was no longer there to hear it.

What must P’s cold silence, his reaction to Spike’s appeal to be admitted to the tribe once again, have felt like? Could anything be sadder than being cast out of jazz?

May we never find doors shut against us.  I find it hard to close as I always do, but —

May your happiness increase.

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

Here is the first part of a delightful swing interlude, scored for four masters, at the Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) on September 14, 2014.

The Masters were (and are) Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Chris Flory, guitar; Joel Forbes, string bass.  Here are the three remaining etudes from the set I recorded:

TOPSY (Eddie Durham’s irresistible minor rocker):

AS LONG AS I LIVE:

SWINGIN’ THE BLUES, which brings back the Famous Door and lives up to its name:

Great things happen at The Ear Inn on Sunday nights.  Here’s your proof.

May your happiness increase!