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

er tA

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!

 

ALEX BELHAJ’S CRESCENT CITY QUARTET: “SUGAR BLUES”

ALEX B playing

Photograph by Jocelyn Gotlib

You may not have heard of young guitarist / singer / composer Alex Belhaj, unless you live near Ann Arbor, Michigan.  And for some readers, “guitarist / singer / composer” may be slightly unsettling, suggesting a musician more like Leonard Cohen than Leonard “Ham” Davis. But these sounds should quell any anxieties:

and the same band, live in 2011:

Both of these performances were the work of Alex’s CRESCENT CITY QUARTET, which has released its debut CD, “SUGAR BLUES,” on the Raymond Street Records label.

The quartet is Alex Belhaj, guitar; Jordan Schug, string bass; Ray Heitger, clarinet; Dave Kosmyna, cornet — each of them adding “vocal refrain” or backgrounds as noted below.  Yes, the tunes are familiar, but these performances are deeply felt and vivid: WEARY BLUES / MY BUCKET’S GOT A HOLE IN IT [RH] / SUGAR BLUES [AB] / CARELESS LOVE / VIPER MAD [RH and the Quartet] / HIS EYE IS ON THE SPARROW [RH] / FOUR OR FIVE TIMES [AB / DK] / MY MAN ROCKS ME (WITH ONE STEADY ROLL) / TIGER RAG / SITTING ON TOP OF THE WORLD [AB] / YOU DON’T LOVE ME [DK] / TAKE MY HAND, PRECIOUS LORD [RH].

ALEX B cover

I confess that when I first saw this CD, I felt a mild skepticism: I admire Ray Heitger, but he was the only player I knew.  I had no idea that Alex had connections with a number of my heroes and friends, James Dapogny, Michael Karoub, Erin Morris, Laura Wyman among them.

But hearing the music was a wonderful conversion experience.  It’s not as if there aren’t other New Orleans-imbued small improvising jazz groups, and there are other versions of the songs on this disc.  But the CCQ understands and inhabits the music in the best way — not turning each song into a nearly violent joust in the fashion of the hallowed Spanier-Bechet sides, or choosing to offer only a series of solos . . . but making each selection its own entrancing emotional drama, with an emphasis on sweetly rocking ensemble interplay.  Each of the four players is a convincing instrumentalist (and singer) so I floated from track to track, from spiritual to swinging multi-strain instrumental, in a satisfying music-dream.

The disc is one of those rare creations that seems too brief.  I’ve heard new things every time I’ve played it.  SUGAR BLUES feels genuine: these musicians know and feel what this music is supposed to sound like, simultaneously rooted in tradition and as fresh as the moment.

SUGAR BLUES is also beautifully recorded, with liner notes by “arwulf arwulf,” an Ann Arbor music scholar and broadcaster, that I would have been pleased to have written myself.

In his closing lines, he refers to VIPER MAD as a defiantly hedonistic number premiered by Noble Sissle and Sidney Bechet in 1938.  The CCQ’s realization of this ode to Mezz Mezzrow’s favorite herbal analgesic features a spirited group vocal similar to what Ann Arborites have come to expect from Phil Ogilvie’s Rhythm Kings.  Impressionable souls may feel the need to stand up and strut around with one index finger in the air.

I’m impressionable and proud of it.  Here’s VIPER MAD:

Now, JAZZ LIVES does not officially espouse the use of such substances, but in the words of that song (slightly altered) I urge you to “wrap your chops / around this new CD.” Here is Alex’s site and his Facebook page.

May your happiness increase! 

GOOD FOR WHAT AILS YOU: STEVE WRIGHT, RAY SKJELBRED, DAVE BROWN, MIKE DAUGHERTY (January 24, 2015)

I am sitting in my suburban New York apartment awaiting a predicted blizzard, which means reacquainting myself with my essential inanimate pals, Ms. Down Parka and Mr. Snow Shovel.  The thought fills me with dread and gloom.

But there are always palliatives, and what I offer you requires no prescription, no copay, no trip to the pharmacy.  And it works just as well if the sun is blazing in through your windows.

Hot jazz — performed and recorded in this century — is the organic remedy offered here.

The thermodynamic healing practitioners are known both as the First Thursday Band and the Yeti Chasers: Ray Skjelbred, piano, vocal, leader; Steve Wright, cornet, clarinet, alto and soprano saxophones, vocal; Dave Brown, string bass, vocal; Mike Daugherty, drums, vocal.  They created these sounds at the Royal Room in Seattle, Washington.

CARELESS LOVE is often performed as a dirge — a cautionary tale, “You see what careless love can do / has done?” but here it’s a swinging romp, with no weeping or moaning:

Another romp built on the threat of impending doom (thanks to Henry “Red” Allen for this and so many other inspirations), YOU’RE GONNA LOSE YOUR GAL.  Watch out for that cymbal (Mike’s performance-art piece in tribute to Zutty Singleton, 1928)!

And another tribute to the Red Allen small-band recordings, ROLL ALONG, PRAIRIE MOON, which is the only song that can make me think of J. C. Higginbotham and Bob Hoskins at once.  Steve Wright reminds us that this approach to the alto saxophone, so satisfying, did not utterly vanish in 1945:

Improvisers have always loved the subversive challenge of taking apparently inappropriate material (sweet love ballads) and making them swing.  Here’s a fine example: the Yeti Chasers’ LOVER, COME BACK TO ME:

In honor of Mister Morton, who didn’t like snow either, the BLUE BLOOD BLUES:

Andy Razaf had it right — the world can’t do without THAT RHYTHM MAN (especially when he uplifts us at such a swinging tempo):

THE TORCH — evoking memories of Turk Murphy (commentary below*). It sounds as if it was written in 1885 to be performed in a barroom, which is emotionally although not factually correct:

Say the word.  You’ll be heard.  Ray’s always touching performance of ANY TIME, ANY DAY, ANYWHERE:

My favorite DIGA DIGA DOO, with a lovely leap into its second chorus before Ray’s Stacy ecstasy:

Finally, SKID ROAD BLUES, which I hope isn’t prophetic for future driving:

I don’t think this band needs a serious explication of its virtues, individual and collective.  Don’t they sound fine?  I feel better, and hope you do, too.

*Thanks to generous and erudite Bill Haesler, I now know everything worth knowing about THE TORCH:

“The song is called variously:
The Torch That Didn’t Go Out
The Kansas City Torch
The Torch of Kansas City
When You Carry The Torch
and was, allegedly, taught to Turk Murphy by Patsy Patton (cabaret
singer and wife of banjo player Pat Patton. We know him from when he
came to Sydney on the Matson Line ships). The first ‘jazz’ version was recorded by Turk Murphy for a Columbia LP on 19 Jan. 1953. The notes by George Avakian to that ‘Barrelhouse Jazz’ LP says that Turk came to it from the Castle Jazz Band (who recorded it later in Aug 1957) via Don Kinch and Bob Short, ex Castle band members).

It was composed (music and lyrics) in 1928 by the great Harry Warren
(we all know him) using the name Harry Herschel and originally
published by Robbins Music Corp.

WHEN YOU CARRY THE TORCH
[Verse]:When the gang has turned you down,
And you wander ’round the town,
Longing for someone in sympathy.
As you go from place to place,
Looking for some friendly face,
You can hear the old town clock strike three;
Then you wish you had your old gal back again.
You’re lonesome, oh, so lonesome,
And your poor hear cries in vain:

[Chorus]:
Oh, gee, but it’s tough,
When the gang’s gone home;
Out on the corner,
You stand alone;
You feel so blue
With nothing to do;
You’re cravin’ someone’s company.
The gang leaves you there
With an old time stall,
While you go home and gaze
At the four bare walls.
Ev’ry tear seems to scorch,
When you carry the torch
And the gang’s gone home.

[2nd Verse]:
When you haven’t got a friend,
And your worries never end,
When the future doesn’t look so bright.
As you sit there in the gloom
Of an empty silent room,
As the hallway clock ticks through the night,
Then you long to hear a knock upon your door.
You’re weary, oh, so dreary,
And your poor heart cries once more:

[Chorus]”

May your happiness increase!

MODERN SWINGMATISM RETURNS: MICHAEL BANK SEPTET at SOMETHIN’ JAZZ (Jan. 20, 2015: Part One)

I first heard pianist Michael Bank play a decade ago, in a situation that would have unsettled a lesser musician: he was set up behind a keyboard — with three or four other players — in a Brooklyn bar / restaurant.  The clientele, well-heeled young men and women enjoying their Sunday brunch, talked loudly and incessantly about their possessions: “my architect,” “Emily’s play group,” “the worst cleaning service we’ve ever used,” “our financial advisor.”  But Michael’s beautiful individualism cut through the self-absorption.  He knew his swing well: when the leader called ALL OF ME, Michael immediately started off with Teddy Wilson’s introductory passage from the 1956 PRES AND TEDDY — before moving into inventions of his own.  Michael had studied with Jaki Byard, a master of surprises, and Michael’s own work, although never written in capital letters, goes its own happily quirky ways.

That refreshing quirkiness (that’s a deep compliment) is even more in evidence when Michael leads his own small band, usually a septet, playing his compositions and arrangements.  I always think his bands have the good stomping feeling of the Johnny Hodges small bands of the Fifties (I think Panama Francis would approve of this music for dancers) but there are quiet delicious explosions of color throughout that evoke Byard and Mingus.

I offer six performances from a recent (January 20) evening at Somethin’ Jazz (212 East 52nd Street, New York City), a congenial harbor for all kinds of improvised music, where Michael had with him these fine players (ensemble, solo, and reading charts): Charlie Caranicas, trumpet; Noah Bless, trombone; Tim Lewis, Mike Mullins, saxophone; Kelly Friesen, string bass; Steve Little, drums.

AZTEC TWO-STEP:

I SHOULD CARE:

LOWER LEVEL 3:

Q Q:

FOR JAKI:

ONE NOTE:

For those of you who want to hear and learn more, I offer three previous blog-celebrations of Michael Bank and his bands.  From 2012, here.  Then, some words about Michael’s CD, aptly titled THE DAO OF SWING, here, and a 2013 session here.

More to come in Part Two.

May your happiness increase!

LIVING ABUNDANTLY (Nov. 27, 2014)

The 2014 San Diego Jazz Fest was the living embodiment of jazz abundance (an overwhelming assortment of choices!) so it’s appropriate that it featured one of my favorite bands — the truly abundant Yerba Buena Stompers, here closing a jubilant set with a song that speaks of overflowing largesse. The Stompers are Leon Oakley, cornet; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Tom Bartlett, trombone; Orange Kellin, clarinet; Conal Fowkes, piano; John Gill, banjo; Clint Baker, tuba; Kevin Dorn, drums.  Everyone can be heard — I find the two-trumpet conversation thrilling, but the band rocks. But that’s no surprise:

May your happiness increase!

SONGS OF LOVE, JUST FOR US: JANICE DAY and MARTIN LITTON (November 9, 2014)

If you wonder what happens when the last official notes are played or sung, when the audience and musicians have gone to sleep, to the restaurant, or the bar — sometimes remarkable things happen.  Here are two performances by the very sensitive and swinging pair, Janice Day and Martin Litton, recorded on November 9, 2014, after the conclusion of the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party — no audience, just the three of us, delighting in the relaxed solitude.

WHEN A WOMAN LOVES A MAN:

AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’:

Janice calls herself an “entertainer,” which is certainly true: she is an actress, comedienne, writer, musical comedy performer, but she is a genuine singer, at ease with all kinds of material, emotive without overacting, gently swinging and improvising while staying true to the song.  Her art is subtle but she hides its complexities.  I had heard her on recordings — with Keith Nichols and others — where she was expertly summoned up a Twenties girlishness, but when I heard her singing as herself at the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, I was delighted and moved.  You can find out more about her here or politely petition to be her Facebook friend here.

The reserved-looking man at the piano may be better known to jazz fans for his Jelly Roll Morton scholarship-in-action with his own Red Hot Peppers, his swinging evocations of Fats, Teddy, and Tatum, his recordings with Kenny Davern, Wally Fawkes, Humphrey Lyttelton, and other notables.  But Martin Litton is so much more than a channel to the past.  Listen closely as he performs the often selfless task of accompanying Janice, as if spreading tapestries for her to walk on in music.  And when he solos, he is offering so much more than a pastiche of the great recordings of the past.

I look forward to seeing this pair in performance again at the 2015 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party (November 6-8; details here) but UK fans can enjoy Martin’s work even sooner, at the Jennings Keswick Jazz Festival (May 4-10).  I know they also do a variety of gigs — unfortunately so far none in the US — so look for them.

May your happiness increase!

BEAUTIFUL IMPROMPTUS: DAN LEVINSON, BOB HAVENS, KEITH INGHAM at the ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY (September 20, 2014)

In my deepest jazz self, I hold to what I would call the Condon aesthetic: that nothing beats a group of like-minded musicians assembling for a common purpose — creating swinging lyrical improvisations — on the spot, with no arrangements, nothing more formal than a mutually agreed-upon song, tempo, key, and perhaps someone volunteering to play lead in the first chorus.  After that, the players live utterly in the moment.  Sometimes this freedom makes for collisions, but more often it results in the kind of pleasure one lives for, the moments when the tight collars have been unbuttoned, the painfully fashionable shoes have been kicked off.

Last September, at the Allegheny Jazz Party (debuting with great success in Cleveland, Ohio) these impromptu delights happened many times in the three-day banquet of sounds.  But one session has remained in my mind as a high point of playful unfettered collective improvisation — a trio set led by Dan Levinson, clarinet and tenor, with two of The Singular Elders, Bob Havens, trombone; Keith Ingham, piano.  The combination of a reed instrument and trombone works beautifully but isn’t often attempted these days.  There were bebop precursors and swing ones, but the tonal ranges of the two instruments are delightfully complementary.  The trio of piano and two horns requires a certain orchestral approach to the piano, although I am sure that Monk or Herbie Nichols would have done splendidly here, too — but Keith is a full band in himself.

With pleasure, then —

(WHAT CAN I SAY, DEAR ) AFTER I SAY I’M SORRY:

SEPTEMBER SONG:

A SHANTY IN OLD SHANTY TOWN:

Thank you, Messrs. Dan, Bob, and Keith.

And, although it’s only January, the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party is a sure thing for September 10-13, with a delightful lineup (although there is the asterisk that indicates “All programs subject to change”: Duke Heitger, Jon-Erik Kellso, Randy Reinhart, Andy Schumm, Harry Allen, Dan Block, Ken Peplowski, Scott Robinson, Bill Allred, Dan Barrett, Howard Alden, Marty Grosz, Andy Stein, Ehud Asherie, James Dapogny, Mike Greensill, Rossano Sportiello, Jon Burr, Nicki Parrott, Frank Tate, Ricky Malichi, Pete Siers, Hal Smith, Rebecca Kilgore, Wesla Whitfield, Faux Frenchmen.  To keep up to date with what’s happening at the AJP, visit here.

May your happiness increase!

DEEP FEELING WITHOUT WORDS: JAMES DAPOGNY WITH STRINGS (Ann Arbor, January 10, 2015)

Here’s another gem — the rueful Thirties novella of love, that although ended, is undying — THAT OLD FEELING.  This performance, which I find so moving, comes from the appearance of the James Dapogny Quartet at the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on January 10, 2015 — captured for us by Laura Beth Wyman.

The Quartet is, for this occasion, Professor Dapogny on piano, arrangements, and moral guidance; Mike Karoub, cello; Rod McDonald, guitar; Kurt Krahnke, string bass.

I love this performance for many reasons — not the least of which is the opportunity to hear Mister Karoub, unequalled in swing lyricism, play at length. There’s also the sweet but practical exchange of whispered instructions and commentary at the beginning, as the Professor kindly shows the way.  But what pleases me most is the emotional complexity of the performance.  In other hands, THAT OLD FEELING might be merely sad or wistful.

That emotion isn’t neglected in this rendition, but the Quartet beautifully evokes the Thirties tradition of playing ballads just a bit faster — perhaps to distinguish them from sweetly gelatinous readings by more staid orchestras, or perhaps to give the players an extra chorus for improvising.  I think of Billie’s TRAV’LIN’ ALL ALONE and Mildred’s WHEN DAY IS DONE as two vocal exemplars — but even though no words are uttered, listeners of a certain age will hear the story of the lyrics unfold as the band plays.

Old feelings made new:

Two other delights from this session can be found here.  And there is the promise of more from this concert.

May your happiness increase!

“BLACK BEAUTY”: JON-ERIK KELLSO and EHUD ASHERIE and WILL ANDERSON at MEZZROW (December 16, 2014)

Beauties indeed: the music that Jon-Erik (trumpet) and Ehud (piano) create in many situations.  Here, as an utterly empathic duet, they make their way through Ellington’s BLACK BEAUTY in a performance that melds tenderness and gentle swing.  One for Artie Whetsol.  But wait.  There’s more — a surprise appearance by Will Anderson on clarinet:

I’ve posted videos of other performances from this session at Mezzrow — a new jazz club on West Tenth Street, full of energy and love — here — and I am delighted that this new club is thriving.  I hope it is always full of attentive listeners.

May your happiness increase!

THE VERY AIR TURNED BLUE: RAY SKJELBRED, MARC CAPARONE, BEAU SAMPLE, KATIE CAVERA, HAL SMITH (San Diego Jazz Fest, Nov. 30, 2014)

This little but majestic ad hoc group that performed one memorable set at the 33rd annual San Diego Jazz Fest on November 30, 2014) had a talent for evoking celestial phenomena.  Check out their MOONGLOW.  Here, they make the very air turn blue.  I don’t mean that in the older sense of the phrase — filling our ears with curses — but in imbuing the very atmosphere with a rocking blues performance.

BLUE AIR BLUES is a Skjelbred reduction: the first phrase of Sidney Bechet’s BLUES IN THE AIR, treated as a rich utterance in itself:

The noble participants, besides Ray at the piano, are Marc Caparone, cornet; Jim Buchmann, saxello, Katie Cavera, guitar; Beau Sample, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.  They deserve many sets.  Or a CD.  Or their own concert.

May your happiness increase!

HIS HOBBIES ARE SWIMMING AND READING

Circa 1936-7, and indicative of his essential humility.  Gene Krupa to an aspiring journalist (a letter now available on eBay):

GENE KRUPA letter

 

May your happiness increase!

ROCKING BEAUTIES: JAMES DAPOGNY WITH STRINGS (Ann Arbor, Michigan, Jan. 10, 2015)

JAZZ LIVES is very fortunate to have Laura Beth Wyman as head of its Michigan Division.  An acclaimed musician, Laura recently added the video camera to her gig bag (which usually carries flute and piccolo) and we are the happy recipients of her latest work, recorded on January 10, 2015, at the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The James Dapogny Quartet was, for this occasion, Professor Dapogny on piano, arrangements, and spiritual leadership; Mike Karoub, cello; Rod McDonald, guitar; Kurt Krahnke, string bass.  Here are two transcendent performances from that evening: beautiful and stirring music.

Here is a performance of MY DADDY ROCKS ME that reminds me of a 1939 Basie small group.  Is there higher praise?

On RUSSIAN LULLABY, the Quartet becomes a Quintet (all things are possible), with the rewarding addition of violinist Priscilla Johnson:

So, although I am now ensconced in chilly in New York, and I don’t have the energy to fly back and forth to Ann Arbor, Michigan, I can enjoy the best seat in the house, thanks to Laura.  You come, too.

Is there a Jazz Angel in the house who will underwrite a DVD of Dapogny With Strings?  I’d buy multiple copies.

May your happiness increase! 

I DECLARE! A BLOG HOLIDAY

Two days ago, my reliable California computer, pal of many keystrokes, sputtered and moved on . . . the monitor went black and stayed that way.  After rigorous testing in the JAZZ LIVES independent laboratory, it was pronounced defunct.  I am now using an aged laptop whose capacities for fun and frolic are limited . . . so this blog will be sitting in the sun until January 19, when I return to New York.

Talk among yourselves.  Since I have published more than 3000 posts and shared more than 4000 videos in the last six years, I suggest that there might be something to amuse or divert.  And I look forward to discovering what amusements there might be for me in the week to come with fewer hours at the computer.  I’ll be back in a week, I promise.

May your happiness increase!

LYRIC POETRY: TIM LAUGHLIN, CONNIE JONES, DOUG FINKE, CHRIS DAWSON, KATIE CAVERA, MARTY EGGERS, HAL SMITH at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (Nov. 29, 2014)

I must be candid here.  Other bands make more of a ruckus.  Other bands have better-coordinated bright polo shirts.  Other bands have more memorable gimmicks.

But I don’t know other bands that make such beautiful lyrical floating jazz, song after song.

I hear in them a gentle mingling of all sorts of influences: as if Kenny Davern and Bobby Hackett and Teddy Wilson and the Basie rhythm section were their guardian angels, as if the Thirties Bobcats — with the Blessed Irving Fazola — decided to play music for dancing — sweet pastoral swing of the highest order.

The musicians I am extolling are Tim Laughin, clarinet; Connie Jones, cornet; Doug Finke, trombone; Chris Dawson, piano; Katie Cavera, guitar; Marty Eggers, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.

Here are three examples of what they give us unstintingly, without fanfare — as they offered their art so generously at the 33rd annual San Diego Jazz Fest in November 2014:

I’M SORRY I MADE YOU CRY:

AUNT HAGAR’S BLUES:

SUNDAY:

Please notice the easy tempos, so beautifully maintained, the delicious translucent ensemble interplay, the distinctive tone each musician gets on his / her instrument, the impeccable rhythmic flow, the rocking outchoruses, the overall elegance, the avoidance of cliche . . . the overall singing sound of this band.

Reviewing these videos, if I close my eyes and listen deeply, I think this band the equal of many with larger reputations from the Thirties onwards.  See if you don’t agree.  I have learned from them at every San Diego Jazz Fest since 2010, and I think it an honor to be in their presence.

May your happiness increase!

A DREAM WE CAN SEE — JATP IN EUROPE: ROY ELDRIDGE, COLEMAN HAWKINS, DON BYAS, BENNY CARTER, LALO SCHIFRIN, SAM JONES, JO JONES (November 25, 1960, Paris)

Recorded at the Salle Pleyel in Paris on November 25, 1960 — directed by Jean-Christophe Averty. Roy Eldridge, trumpet; Benny Carter, alto saxophone; Don Byas, Coleman Hawkins, tenor saxophone; Lalo Schifrin, piano; Sam Jones, string bass; Jo Jones, drums.

Brought to you through the kind diligence of the indefatigable Franz Hoffmann.

TAKE THE “A” TRAIN:

BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA:

I don’t have my Verve recordings of the JATP in Europe tour to compare these with, but even if the television broadcasts are identical to the recordings, what rapture to see these men in their prime!  (And even if Jo’s lengthy solo on INDIANA was by this time a set-piece, how remarkable to have it on film to see and study.)

Yes, giants did walk the earth.  Tell it to the children.

May your happiness increase!

HAPPY BUCKY, BIRTHDAY! (with ED METZ, ALLAN VACHE, JOHN COCUZZI, PAUL KELLER at the ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY, April 26, 2014)

Bucky Pizzarelli was born on January 9, 1926.  Ordinarily I don’t devote JAZZ LIVES to birthday celebrations — but it seems right to celebrate Bucky at 89.

I have experienced the several sides of Mr. Pizzarelli: the man who likes to play tender unaccompanied ballads; the great duet player who summons up a whole guitar tradition from its Italian roots to Dick McDonough, Charlie Christian, and his once-partner George Barnes; the swinging rhythm wizard . . . and the showman who is not happy until the audience is standing and hollering.  It is this last Bucky (a beloved and infallible rabble-rouser) that I celebrate here, with a version of SING SING SING recorded at the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party, with the help of Ed Metz, drums; Paul Keller, string bass; Allan Vache, clarinet; John Cocuzzi, vibraphone:

Bucky played often with Benny Goodman, so he knows the routine.  I might also mention Gene Krupa (celebrated by Mr. Metz) and the much-missed Jess Stacy and Harry James.  But Bucky directs traffic — and we are all glad. Thank you for being so entertaining and so durable.  Bucky won’t see this blog . . . but he knows he’s well and truly loved.

May your happiness increase!