Monthly Archives: January 2015

SAD SONGS SWUNG: TAMAR KORN, MARK LOPEMAN, JON WEBER at CASA MEZCAL (January 25, 2015)

When asked why his writing was so melancholy, Philip Larkin quoted the French dramatist Montherlant — “Happiness writes white” — which I take to mean that bliss is not an enthralling subject for fiction or drama.

Montherlant’s aphorism has been embodied in what we call the Great American Songbook, where (on a rough guess) songs of desolation outnumber those of elation by 2 or 3 to 1.  But from the early Thirties onwards, jazz improvisers — vocal and instrumental — figured out that what a musician friend calls “draggy ballads” were not always restorative . . . so they kept the sad words and lifted the tempo.

Here are three examples of this wonderful melding — as enacted on the spot in this century by the brave explorer Tamar Korn, with the assistance of the multi-talented reedman Mark Lopeman (one of the secret heroes of the New York jazz scene) and the adventurous pianist Jon Weber.  All of this happened last Sunday, January 25, 2015, at my Sunday oasis on 86 Orchard Street, Casa Mezcal.

If you studied the words deeply for themselves, could you keep from weeping? But these musical dramas blend sorrow and swing.

A homage to Bing, the lovely JUST ONE MORE CHANCE:

Desolation indeed, in WHEN YOUR LOVER HAS GONE:

That yearning, returning, in WHEN DAY IS DONE:

I especially admire Tamar’s elasticity of phrasing — how she stretches the lyric and melodic line into new shapes without ever obliterating their sense or emotional impact.

I hope you have only short bursts of sadness, if at all, and that they can be made to swing. And if you haven’t seen it, here is the sweetly brave Korn-Lopeman improvisation on MOOD INDIGO that concluded this January 25 session.

May your happiness increase!

“RHYTHMOODS,” 1940

Browsing in my favorite antiquarian second-hand store, eBay, I encountered a 1940 music folio that I’d never seen.  Now, I know that the music in these books is often suspect: “compositions” by a famous artist that (s)he had only a tenuous link to, solos created over songs owned by the publisher of the folio, and so on. Of course, anything connected to Irving Mills is a touch more suspect . . . but here’s the cover:

DUKE Rhythmoods frontWithout being a deep Ellington scholar, I recognized those titles: aside from SOPHISTICATED LADY and CARAVAN, which date from the start and end of the Thirties, the rest come from the Twenties.  But what of RUB-A-TUB-LUES? Did Ellington whistle a blues line to Mills while he (Duke) was bathing?  It’s a mystery. Here’s the first page of the folio, to substantiate even more solidly:

DUKE Rhythmoods inside

It’s perplexing . . . can any Ellington scholars ride to the rescue?

Were I even an amateurish pianist, I would purchase the book (several copies are for sale on eBay) in hope of solving the mystery myself.  But I have to be realistic.

May your happiness increase!

TOMORROW NIGHT: “LET ME OFF UPTOWN”: A LISTENING SESSION on FEBRUARY 24, 2015

I don’t usually see JAZZ LIVES as a place to promote myself, but I hope you’ll forgive me if I invite you to a Listening Session, a Musical Interlude, a Platter Party — whatever term you like — on Tuesday, February 24, 2015, from 7-8:30 PM.

Here’s the location — a place that should be both well-known and loved:

NJMH banner

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I look forward to meeting old friends and making new ones. Thanks to Loren Schoenberg for offering me this opportunity.  And if you want to join the party via Facebook, just click here.

May your happiness increase!May your happiness increase!

 

IMPROMPTU FOR VOICE AND CLARINET: “MOOD INDIGO,” TAMAR KORN / MARK LOPEMAN at CASA MEZCAL (January 25, 2015)

At the conclusion of last Sunday’s brunch at my new musical oasis Casa Mezcal (86 Orchard Street, New York) pianist Jon Weber had to rush off to another gig.  But the other members of the ad lib trio, Tamar Korn and Mark Lopeman, still had music bubbling up inside of them, so they launched into this lovely impromptu duet:

Creating such beauty is a brave and wonderful act.

I imagine an intimate concert, perhaps in someone’s house, devoted to Tamar and friends — an evening of duets with a changing cast of characters.

Until that day, we have MOOD INDIGO.  Magic.

May your happiness increase!

EYES, HANDS, SONGS: JON-ERIK KELLSO and EHUD ASHERIE at MEZZROW

I’ve been parcelling out the videos from a wonderful night at Mezzrow when trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso and pianist Ehud Asherie played magnificently yet casually for two sets. (For those taking notes for the JAZZ LIVES final, it was December 16, 2014, and Mezzrow is below street level at 163 West Tenth Street in Greenwich Village, New York.)

Here are two more beauties:

A good request from the audience, Maceo Pinkard’s THEM THERE EYES, memorably sung and played by Louis and Billie, many times:

And the bittersweet, melancholy MY FATE IS IN YOUR HANDS, by Fats Waller and Andy Razaf.  I don’t know if I believe the story that Fats was driving, got pulled over by an officer, and said, meekly, “My fate is in your hands,” but it’s a nice story:

And other gems from that evening can be found herehereherehereand finally here.

My advice?  Look at the gig schedules at Mezzrow, at Jon-Erik’s site, and on Ehud’s.  Something good will happen.

May your happiness increase!

QUIETLY IMPASSIONED: RAY SKJELBRED, MARC CAPARONE, BEAU SAMPLE, HAL SMITH at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (Nov. 28, 2014)

This is a performance I keep coming back to, and if you observe it closely once, I suspect you’ll understand why once isn’t enough.  Part of it is the melding of individual voices into something larger that at the same time honors the individuals making those sounds.  Part of it is the quiet intensity of feeling: there are no sharp noises, nothing to scare the pets, but the performance quietly builds. The four masters here are Ray Skjlebred, piano (thinking of Bing Crosby and Joe Sullivan); Marc Caparone, cornet; Beau Sample, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.  This small marvel took place at the 35th San Diego Jazz Fest, on November 28, 2014:

The song, SOMEDAY SWEETHEART, is a trustworthy classic: I can’t think of a bad performance of it on record or in person, and it is one of those creations that holds two selves within it — as if it were a hologram, greeny-orange when held one way to the light, and blue-mauve from another angle.  The melody itself is caressing and could be an endearing love song; the lyrics are another matter, stating plainly that the wandering / cruel lover is going to be punished for his / her acts.  Quite a combination.  But I encourage you to warm yourself by this performance.  The light and feeling these four players generate, properly appreciated, will last.

(My only question about the song itself is a small one: is there a comma between the two words?  I’ve seen it both ways.)

May your happiness increase!

A MOVING EXPERIENCE: MISS IDA PLANS A SOUTHERN TRIP (November 27, 2014)

Back in November, at the San Diego Jazz Fest, Miss Ida Blue, a Brooklyn native, sang of her plans for a southern trip.  Did she know something about the recent weather?  Here she is, singing W. C. Handy’s ATLANTA BLUES — an improvisation on MAKE ME A PALLET ON THE FLOOR — on November 27, 2014, aided by the Yerba Buena Stompers: John Gill, banjo; Conal Fowkes, piano; Clint Baker, tuba; Kevin Dorn, drums; Orange Kellin, clarinet; Tom Bartlett, trombone; Leon Oakley, cornet; Duke Heitger, trumpet:

To hear more from Miss Ida, click here, or follow her here.  Maybe she’ll invite you along next time.

May your happiness increase!