Monthly Archives: March 2015

FACING THE MUSIC: EHUD ASHERIE, DAVID WONG, AARON KIMMEL: JAZZ AT THE KITANO (March 4, 2015)

An ideal evening in New York — or anywhere else — with the brilliant pianist / composer Ehud Asherie and his expert friends, David Wong, string bass; Aaron Kimmel, drums.  This mini-concert took place at Jazz at the Kitano on March 4, 2015.

Songhounds will notice that Ehud currently draws much of his inspiration from songs written before 1945, but that his approach is wide-ranging, “modern” yet lyrical and deeply respectful of the original inspirations. He can offer a lovely classical tribute to a jazz set-piece (as in the deliriously fine Waller interlude below) but he is not only a conservator of traditions.

Ehud never reduces a song to a stark harmonic formula; rather, he opens its doors and plays around inside and outside of it. The trio swings assertively but cheerfully; this is endearing and engaging music.

A well-deserved nod to Fred and Ginger and those glorious films, LET’S FACE THE MUSIC AND DANCE:

A whimsically titled but emotionally kind original, THE WELL-EDUCATED MOTH (Ehud explains it all):

The very tender Eubie Blake – Noble Sissle love ballad in swingtime, A DOLLAR FOR A DIME:

For this, our tour  guides are Kenny Davern, Dick Wellstood, Duke Ellington, and [stowing away in the hold] James P. Johnson — the accurately titled FAST AS A BASTARD:

Ehud’s Brazilian souvenir, SAMBA DE GRINGO:

His brilliant solo excursion into the Land O’Waller, AFRICAN RIPPLES / VIPER’S DRAG:

Who remembers Vincent Youmans?  Ehud does: FLYING DOWN TO RIO:

The Ralph Rainger / Leo Robin THANKS FOR THE MEMORY is most often played at an appropriately mournful tempo, but Ehud gives it a kind of jaunty wave as he and the trio say “Bye now!”:

And we come back to Berlin and Astaire for TOP HAT, WHITE TIE AND TAILS:

Jazz at the Kitano happens regularly in a comfortable space in the Kitano Hotel (66 Park Avenue in New York City) — worth the trip!

Thanks to Ehud, David, Aaron, our friend Maggie Condon, and the durable Gino Moratti, who helps good things like this to happen — always.

May your happiness increase!

JAMES P. JOHNSON at CARNEGIE HALL, MAY 4, 1945

Where were the people with the recording equipment?

James P program front

All that remains is this program, saved carefully by a World War Two veteran who attended the concert:

JAMES P. reverse 1945

James P. deserved so much more recognition and attention than he ever received.

A postscript.  This just in!  I don’t think James P. was recorded often enough, even though his (intermittent) discography covers more than thirty years.  And I thought I had heard all the available recordings . . . but then I found this 4-CD set on eBay, 1949 Kid Ory broadcasts from the Beverly Caverns — where James P. fills in for Buster Wilson six times.  Acquiring this set might require some active web-detective work, but it is heartening to know that there is more James P. to be heard.

ORY box set

You saw it here first.  (Perhaps.)

And here is a taste of James P. in the middle Forties:

May your happiness increase!

LIGHTLY AND POLITELY: THE SPEAKEASY QUARTET

If THE SPEAKEASY QUARTET is new to you, you might conclude that it was a vocal group, or a faux-Twenties ensemble, heavy on costume and affectation. Happily, you’d be misinformed:

Sounds very nice, doesn’t it?

A friend, knowing of my delighted reverence for the playing of jazz cellist Mike Karoub (with the Royal Garden Trio and most recently in James Dapogny’s hot string ensemble) said, “Karoub is an integral part of this quartet.  Have you heard them?”  Thus, the Speakeasy Quartet — originally a trio, formed in 2009 by rhythm guitarist — tenor rhythm guitarist — Hugh Leal, with Karoub, soprano saxophonist Ray Manzerolle, and pianist Mike Karloff.

They are unusual but they are also rewarding — mere novelty in music doesn’t win me over.  The odd instrumentation in itself would mean little if the players weren’t lyrical and swinging, which they are.  Ray Manzerolle is new to me, but I am glad to know him.  Often the soprano saxophone becomes at best an assertive instrument, at worst an assault weapon.  Ray has a delightfully centered tone, a sweet but not sugary tone, and a lightness of approach that reminds me happily of (still with us and playing) Robert Sage Wilber.  I know Ray, like Bob, draws inspiration from Bechet, but he does not adopt Bechet’s violent romanticism — and volume.

Pianist Mike Karloff is a quiet but essential member of the quartet, offering lilting melodic lines, subtle harmonic support and a modern Hines / Wilson commentary and comping.  Hugh Leal’s tenor guitar — the instrument of Eddie Condon and a young Marty Grosz — offers airy but strong support and a wonderful light swing.  He’s been playing since 1970, and his pulse never falters.

I think Karoub is one of the great multi-taskers: a swinging rhythm player without the ponderousness one sometimes finds in traditional string bass, then adding a wondrous light eloquence on swinging bowed cello. Think of Casals sneaking uptown to take lessons from Milt Hinton, and you have Karoub.  The Quartet’s sound is, be definition, silken and airy, but it’s not effete: they swing, and they swing effectively.

The group’s repertoire is a mixture of Bechet-associated classics — PREMIER BAL, EGYPTIAN FANTASY, INDIAN SUMMER — three very pleasing Manzerolle originals — TAKE ME UPTOWN TO DOWNTOWN, A LETTER FROM BECHET, CAFE ROYALE — and jazz classics covering a wide range — THE MOOCHE, EAST ST. LOUIS TOODLE-OO, JUBILEE, WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS, WILLIE THE WEEPER, WILD MAN BLUES.

Here’s the group’s Facebook page.  And their website, where you can hear more sound samples from the  CD.

The first pressing of the Speakeasy Quartet is sold out, but there is a special limited second run: the price is $18.00 including postage.  Send checks made out to Hugh Leal — to Hugh Leal, P.O. Box 681, Detroit, MI 48231.  And Hugh tells me that the second SEQ CD is coming out at the end of this June.

And here’s another taste — sweetly sad instead of frolicsome, Gordon Jenkins’ BLUE PRELUDE:

May your happiness increase!

HONORING “THE DEAR BOY”

Today, March 10, is the birthday of Bix Beiderbecke, someone I’ve admired since my childhood.  This composition, AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL, always makes me think of him.  Here’s a lovely hot version from Tim Laughlin and Connie Jones (clarinet and cornet, respectively) recorded at the 2014 San Diego Jazz Fest — with the noble assistance of Doug Finke, trombone; Chris Dawson, piano; Katie Cavera, guitar; Marty Eggers, string bass; Hal Smith, drums:

And “the dear boy” is what Louis called him, many years later.

May your happiness increase!

SWEET, WITH A KICK: MARC CAPARONE, RAY SKJELBRED, BEAU SAMPLE, HAL SMITH (SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST, Mov. 27, 2014)

Thirty years ago, I would have defined “rock and rye” musically — as a hot riff number written by Jimmy Mundy for the 1934 Earl Hines band.  Then I read a Whitney Balliett profile of Helen Humes, who was then appearing at The Cookery, Barney Josephson’s Greenwich Village Seventies evocation of Cafe Society.  In the profile, Josephson teases Humes that she has to have a drink of rock and rye, that he bought a whole case for her, and she had hardly had any. I filed that away in the cerebral spot reserved for Information You Find Fascinating But Will Never Have A Chance To Offer Because No One Else Really Is Interested In It.

At the November 2014 San Diego Jazz Fest, pianist-philosopher Ray Skjelbred — who admires Hines greatly and knew him in his later years — called the tune, and the other members of his ad hoc quartet fell right in.  They are Marc Caparone, cornet; Beau Sample, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.

Photograph by Todd Coleman for SAVEUR

Photograph by Todd Coleman for SAVEUR

But perhaps you’d like to fix yourself a drink before the music starts?  I learned that rock and rye was a cocktail in a bottle, a mixture of rye whiskey and rock candy (to take the edge off the whiskey) sometimes also served with lemon and herbs.  I imagine that it might have been not only delicious but necessary with Prohibition “rye” whose origins might have been dubious.

Here’s the band:

Even if you choose not to imbibe, the music will have the same elating effect.

May your happiness increase!

TOMORROW (SOMETHING FOR MR. MURANYI) and THE FUTURE (SEPTEMBER IN CLEVELAND)

If you are reading this in the Northeast United States, you might be coming out of a sustained depression caused by several weeks of snow and cold.  It’s all melting, and I feel a thaw in my psyche.  There’s something about seeing the sidewalk that gives me hope.

What better way to celebrate our survival — that we didn’t have to break open the pemmican — than with some free heartfelt jazz coming tomorrow, Monday, March 9, at 7:30 PM, in New York City?

I said free. But you do have to RSVP them. The venue is the JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Avenue, New York 10023, and the event is being put on by the Balassi Institute.

Here is the Facebook page for the event.

And here are the details:

FREE AND OPEN FOR THE PUBLIC
RSVP is required

Revisit the music of Louis Armstrong and Joe Murányi as interpreted by the cream of today’s trad jazz scene!
Joe Murányi (1928-2012), affectionately called “Hungarian Joe” by his bandleader, the great Louis Armstrong, was not just a traditional jazz clarinetist extraordinaire, but a record producer, activist and jazz writer. Born to Jewish Hungarian parents, his legacy is a testament to the cultural impact of immigrants of Hungary to the United States.

Joe Murányi was legendary for his skills and his kindness, no wonder that an all-star line-up of traditional jazz players has come together to commemorate him. Performing their tribute only once in New York, catch the great Scott Robinson, US Jazz Ambassador, collaborator on two Grammy-winning albums, Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri and Pat O’Leary with Béla Szalóky, standout trombone and trumpet player for the the world renowned Benkó Dixieland Band, one of the several “ambassadors” of Hungarian jazz making a visit to NYC.

The performance is free, seating guaranteed only with RSVP to the Eventbrite page.  (Here is the Eventbrite link.)

You will notice that the band is a version of our beloved EarRegulars, and it is a rare chance to hear them in a concert setting.

I’ll be there, but I take up only one seat — which means there might be room for more of the faithful.

Imagine an interval where the band plays that 1929 pop hit, LIVE FOR TODAY (But Think of Tomorrow).

To think too much of September 2015 would be to rush away the joys of spring and summer to come, but it’s always nice to make plans, to have something rare to look forward to.  So I urge you to make a small space in your thoughts for the second annual Allegheny Jazz Party — taking place September 10-13, at the Inter-Continental Hotel and Conference Center in Cleveland, Ohio.  I was a very happy audience member (and camera-operator) at last year’s event, which was just like the hallowed Jazz at Chautauqua . . . but even better — under the benignly serious guidance of Nancy Griffith and Nancy Hancock.

The musicians? How about 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, Ehud Asherie, James Dapogny, Mike Greensill, Rossano Sportiello, Jon Burr, Nicki Parrott, Frank Tate, Ricky Malichi, Pete Siers, Hal Smith, Andy Stein, Rebecca Kilgore, Wesla Whitfield, the Faux Frenchmen.  Our friend Phil Atteberry will be giving a morning talk on the music of Cole Porter.

For more information, visit the AJS website, or call 216-956-0886. And if you’re like me — an eager early adopter of such things, the Inter-Continental Cleveland Hotel is at 9801 Carnegie Avenue . . . and there is a special rate of $189 per night plus tax.  (It’s a very comfortable hotel, I assure you.)  Call 855-765-8709 and mention the Allegheny Jazz Party or Group Code YON to receive the special rate.

May your happiness increase!

 

“SWEET LIKE THIS”: The SCANDINAVIAN RHYTHM BOYS “KEEP HOT”

At the end  of last year, a wonderful CD arrived in the mail — by one of my favorite [not sufficiently well-known] small bands, the SCANDINAVIAN RHYTHM BOYS, a fertile crescent of hot jazz supervised beautifully by banjoist / singer Michael Boving.

Here are some necessary details:

CD-sweet-3a

and the front:

SCANDINAVIAN RHYTHM BOYSand the liner notes by Twenties jazz authority Matt Chauvin:

Notes for SWEET LIKE THIS SRB

The SRB has (or have) been making music since 1997, and we are all the richer for their devotion to the art.

They do not seek to reproduce precisely hallowed recordings.  Rather, they take memorable melodies and great spirit and make them their own.  And they are wise as well as swinging: songs are presented with their verses, and at tempos that feel just right.  They respect the music, but their playing isn’t pedantic; rather, one can feel an impudent playfulness bubbling up from beneath.

Some readers might wonder whether the SRB are a quartet trying to sound like a full ensemble.  Heavens, no: a deep listening session with this disc might make you wonder why other bands need those additional musicians, the overall music and musicality is so satisfying.  And the instrument-doubling comes off beautifully, giving the disc (and the band) an ever-changing variety.  In the age of extended performance, others might wonder why the SRB performances are uncharacteristically brief.  The answer is also brief: they can do more in three minutes than some bands can do all week.

Consider, for a moment, WANG WANG BLUES — which runs just over three minutes.  A brief tour, if you will allow me. The sprightly performance starts with the verse, agile clarinet taking the lead over trumpet commentary and stringed rhythm.  Then, some neat riffing by the horns.  When the band shifts into the chorus, the clarinet is still in the lead, with trumpet echoing the melody, the banjo and string bass making themselves heard and felt.  This section (the first third of the performance) is a sweet throwback to the hot dance records of the Twenties and early Thirties: let the dancers hear the melody, neatly harmonized or in unison, to dance to.  No violent improvisations, no hot polyphony.  Not yet.  At this point, many bands would launch into solos or into ensemble jamming.  But the SRB has other things, very happy ones, in mind. The instruments stop, and the four musicians sing the chorus a cappella, Michael leading them, then repeat it, adding rhythm.  It’s utterly charming, and makes me think happily of a vaudeville act where the musicians did everything to entertain.  Vocal interlude over, the horns set a Basie-out-of-Louis harmony riff behind an arco bass statement of the melody (with nice intonation) backed by banjo.  (Incidentally, Michael is a very subtle banjo artist, a model for those who choose that instrument.)  The final forty-five seconds of this performance offer a gentle mix of polyphony, trumpet in the lead, with a few passages where the horns take the famous melody lines together.

When I first heard this performance, I got stuck on it — and it wasn’t a defect in the disc.  I played it five or six times in a row, delighting in its fresh generosity. And its honesty: it continues to feel authentic to me, deep music made by people who have chosen it as their vocation.

Hear for yourself!  Click the top-right speaker icon hereI rest my case.

The SRB is busy making “old” music fresh, lively, and new.  I salute them.  To purchase the CD, please email Michael Bøving at srbjazz@srbjazz.com — or, if you feel like a chat, his phone is 0045 31230292.

And “Keep hot” is how Michael signs his letters and emails.  A good spiritual philosophy.

May your happiness increase! 

“A HEAVEN ON EARTH TO SHARE”: GABRIELLE STRAVELLI / MICHAEL KANAN at THE DRAWING ROOM (February 8, 2015)

What follows captures one of those magic times when the song, the title, the performance, and the performers can all be described in the same phrase.

SO RARE

The song, to many of us, is associated forever with Jimmy Dorsey — his last hit –but it was a pop hit in 1937.

SO RARE 45

The simple melody line has made it adaptable to all kinds of improvisers: there is an airshot by the Benny Goodman trio when it was new, and later performances by Ella Fitzgerald, Mose Allison, Anthony Braxton, and the duo of Jimmie Rowles and Joe Pass.

But I submit that the version that is now forever in my mind and heart is this one, created by Gabrielle Stravelli and Michael Kanan on February 8 of this year at The Drawing Room, 56 Willoughby Street, in Brooklyn.

Gabrielle introduces it in a touching, light-hearted way (while Michael plays gorgeously behind her) and then transforms the song.  No longer simply a piece of nostalgia, it becomes the most warm expression of happy praise and exultant joy from one lover to another.  Love never ages:

Isn’t that marvelous?  The dark beauty of Gabrielle’s voice, moving from the casually spoken to the eloquently full-throated, and the moving subtleties Michael always creates.  And that steady sweet patient tempo.

I offer another masterpiece from that evening — and there were many — here.

I propose that music like this — delicate, haunting, elegant, deep — is indeed so rare.

And I send thanks to Gabrielle’s parents.

May your happiness increase!

RICO and his RUG-CUTTERS! (WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY, Nov. 8, 2014)

One of the many highlights of the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party was a “Duke’s Men” set led by trumpeter / vocalist Rico Tomasso — where he beautifully evoked the recordings made by small Ellington units in the Thirties.

We heard music from the Jazzopators (Barney Bigard), the Fifty-Second Street Stompers (Rex Stewart), the Rug-Cutters (Cootie Williams), as well as compositions associated with Johnny Hodges, Sonny Greer, Juan Tizol.

One of the first things I did when I came back from Whitley Bay was to post Rico’s AIN’T THE GRAVY GOOD? — which has received some of the attention it deserves.  But a number of people, both musicians and fans, have asked, “Is there any more from Rico’s small-band Ellington set?” and I am happy to oblige here by presenting the entire set as it happened.

The band Rico assembled is David Boeddinghaus, piano; Malcolm Sked, bass; Henri Lemaire, guitar; Richard Pite, drums; Alistair Allan, trombone; Matthias Seuffert, Claus Jacobi, reeds.

KRUM ELBOW BLUES and DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM:

(For more about “Krum Elbow,” although the evidence is complex, click here.)

JEEP’S BLUES:

BIG HOUSE BLUES:

DRUMMER’S DELIGHT:

PRELUDE TO A KISS:

CARAVAN:

AIN’T THE GRAVY GOOD?:

FROLIC SAM:

The gravy is good!  I know there will be more delicious music this coming November 6-8 at the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party.  (The new name is an appropriate tribute to its beloved founder: the music and the guiding principles remain unchanged so, and that’s a good thing.)

May your happiness increase!

SPIKE MACKINTOSH: MEMORIES and A MANIFESTO

Thanks to trumpeter Chris Hodgkins, jazz research archivist David Nathan (National Jazz Archive – Loughton Library), and trombonist / scholar Michael Pointon for more information about Spike Mackintosh:

ORIGIN OF THE CODGERSand some priceless first-hand information from Jim Godbolt’s book:

Godbolt Two

including Spike’s aesthetic manifesto:

Godbolt OneGodbolt’s assessment is in keeping what others have said, but I think anyone who ever heard Spike, live or on record, knew that he had a particular genius. I wonder what else is contained in that Melody Maker article, and launch a possibly fantastical question.  British jazz of the Fifties seems well-documented and not only on official recordings, but radio broadcasts, location recordings, even television and film.  Even given that Spike was reticent about playing — not simply about being recorded — it may be understandable that his recorded legacy is so small.  But are there any archivists who know of more music?

I talked with banjoist Bill Dixon of the Grand Dominion Jazz Band, who had heard Spike in the UK, and Bill told me he hadn’t played with or spoken to Spike — but provided this cameo:

I was playing on the UK jazz scene late 50’s through 60’s and was aware of him. Fiery but melodic lead,always seemed to have his beret hanging from his horn. Wild Bill Davison/Henry Red Allen style.

But one should never despair.  Earlier this year, I received this wonderful email from Spike’s youngest son:

Dear Mr. Steinman,

My daughter Lauren came across your article on my father Spike. I have yet to ask why she was googling his name but nevertheless I was very surprised but delighted to see an article about him so long after his death. I am in the US at the moment but going back tomorrow to the UK.

I am the youngest of the three sons. Cameron has probably said it all and you have obviously done your research, so I am not sure if can add to your knowledge. There is of course the story of him returning to a cafe to retrieve his trumpet before boarding a boat at Dunkirk and then refusing to go into the hold with the other soldiers because he wanted a ‘fag’ ( cigarette!) on deck! Needlessly to say a bomb was dropped into the hold and dad survived to keep blowing his trumpet!

Thanks for the article.

Kind regards,

Nicky

If my fascination with Spike seems excessive, I ask only that you listen to his playing:

 and this:

I’ve written much more about Spike — here is my most recent post — and hope to continue (with friends Jim Denham and Bob Ironside Hunt assisting).

May your happiness increase!

DOT’S AUTOGRAPH BOOK (1944-47)

HAMPTON autographs 1945

These remarkable pages come from a time when big jazz bands appeared regularly at large urban ballrooms — for dancing and listening.  The assiduous jazz fan and “autograph hound” was one Dot Spokisfield, who lived in or near St. Louis, Missouri.  My source (offering the autographs for sale on eBay) writes, “Dot would encourage to the musicians to write what they pleased on the page, with most of them writing the name of the band or orchestra they were associated with most of the signatures being signed in pencil and often personalized to Dot. Dot would then write where and when the signature was obtained and adding a red asterisk next to the name.”

The perforations show that these pages were originally bound in an autograph book, the pages being 4 by 6 inches.  I have not been able to find anything out about Dot — even with her unusual name.  But the evidence of her friendly enthusiasm for the music and the musicians remains. Fortunately for us, she was a careful archivist and musicians in that era not only signed their names but indicated what instrument they played — making our twenty-first century research almost too easy.  The page at top:

4×6’ album page autographed by Teddy Sinclair, Dave Page, William Mackel, Alice Lindsey, Freddie Simon and Charlie Harris on one side, and Joe Marr, Arnette [later Arnett] Cobb and Charles Fowlkes on the back. The signatures were obtained on September 24, 1946.

LOUIS 1945

A 4×6’ album page autographed by Velma Middleton, Larry Anderson, Big Chief Moore and on the back by Norman Powe and Elmer Warner. These were signed on February 10, 1945.
DIZZY CAB 1946

A 4×6’ album page autographed by Dizzy Gillespie (signed Be-Bop, Big Diz) and two members of the Cab Calloway Orchestra in Norman Powe and Hilton Jefferson. These were signed on December 7, 1946 and August 12, 1946.

JACK T 1947

A 4×6’ album page with an affixed cut measuring 3×4’ autographed by Jack Teagarden in pencil, with a notation that it was signed at Tune Town on April 13, 1947 as part of the Cavalcade of Jazz.

COATSVILLE HARRIS 1947

A 4×6’ album page autographed by Leslie Scott and on the back by James “Coatsville” Harris, Adam Martin, Elmer Warner and Ed Swantson, all then members of Louis Armstrong’s band.

BASIE 1944
A 4×6’ album page autographed by Count Basie, Jimmy Rushing, Joe Newman, Dickie Wells, Harry ‘Sweets” Edison, Joe Newman one side, and Dickie Wells (another), Harry Edison, Al Killian, Louis Taylor and Ted Donelly on the on the back. The signatures were obtained on June 25, 1944.

KRUPA CAB 1946

A 4×6’ album page autographed by James Buxton and Keg Johnson and on the back, an affixed cut signature of Gene Krupa. These were signed on December 17, 1946 and December 9, 1946.

HINES KIRK 1944

A 4×6’ album page autographed by La Verne Barker and Bob DeVall (Andy Kirk’s valet or band manager?) on one side and Earl ”Fatha” Hines (glues to the page) on the back. The signatures were obtained on May 7, 1944, and one side had McGhee, while on the reverse are the others.

LIPS DINAH WASHINGTON 1947

A 4×6’ album page with an affixed paper autographed by 8 Jazz greats, including Dinah Washington, George Jenkins, Freddie Washington and on the back by Hot Lips Page, Carl Wilson. Ronnie Lane and J.C. Higginbotham. It is noted that this was signed at Tune Town on April 13, 1947 as part of the Cavalcade of Jazz.

CAB 1946 Milt Kansas

4×6’ album page autographed by Dave Rivera, Kansas Fields, Milt Hinton, Hilton Jefferson and on the back by Lammar Wright, Charles Frazier and Paul Webster. These were signed on December 7, 1946.

LIONEL and RED CAPS

A 4×6’ album page autographed by Lionel Hampton and on the back by The Red Caps (signature affixed within the book), and signed in 1945.

Lionel SNOOKY LEO SHEPPARD

A 4×6’ album page autographed by Snooky Young and on the back by Leo Sheppard (signature affixed within the book), and most likely signed in 1946.

KENTON 1944 in audience

Stan Kenton, in the audience, 1946.

FRED BECKETT NANCE LAWRENCE BROWN

Hamp, Duke, Ray Nance!

ANDY KIRK 1944

A 4×6’ album page autographed by Edward Loving, Jimmy Forrest, Ben Smith and Ben Thigpen on one side, and Wayman Richardson, (Art?) and J.D. King on the back.The signatures were obtained on May 7, 1944, and one side had Howard McGhee.

HAMP 1945

A lot of two 4×6’ album page autographed by Dinah Washington and three others, and on the back is signed by Milt Buckner.

SLICK JONES

A 4×6’ album page autographed by Slick Jones, dated August 19, 1944.

MILLS BROS

A 4×6’ album page autographed by The Mills Brothers, Herbert (April 2, 1912 – April 12, 1989), Donald (April 29, 1915 – November 13, 1999) and John Mills Sr.(February 11, 1882 – December 8, 1967). This was signed on September 22, 1944.

ED ROANE AL MORGAN

A 4×6’ album page autographed by Al Morgan and Ed Roane.

JUAN TIZOL

A 4×6’ album page autographed by Juan Tizol and Buddy Devito from the Harry James Orchestra and on he back by Ted (Barnett?) from the Louis Armstrong Orchestra. These were signed on February 9, 1946.

Cozy Cole Ace Harris E Hawkins

A 4×6’ album page autographed by Ace Harris, Leroy Kirkland, Joe Murphy, Ray Hogan, Laura Washington, Matthew Gee, Lee Stanfield, Bobby Smith, C.H. Jones and on the back, affixed to the page is the signature of Cozy Cole. These were signed on January 7, 1947 and March 1, 1947.
LOUIS JORDAN

A 4×6’ album page autographed by Louis Jordan on one side (dated August 18, 1944) and on the back by his piano player Tommy Thomas.

“Keep groovin”!  indeed.  There was a time when giants swung the earth. Blessings on them, and also on people like Dot, who kept them alive for us, seventy years later.

May your happiness increase!

CROSSING OVER: WILLIE FARMER MEETS FATS, RAZAF, LOUIS, and MOSE

I had never heard of Willie Farmer and his Orchestra when I happened upon this Bluebird 78 in the Food for Thought shop in Sebastopol, California, last year, but the two songs sold the disc for me.  Another version of OLD MAN MOSE by an unknown band?  (Although they cannot have been that unknown if they were recording for Bluebird.)  And FAIR AND SQUARE — connected to Fats Waller by way of Andy Razaf — was a song I knew well because banjoist / singer Lueder Ohlwein of the fabled Sunset Music Company — had performed it often.

Online research turned up nothing on Farmer or his band, and George T. Simon’s THE BIG BANDS sniffed contemptuously at Farmer, identifying him as a drummer leading a Mickey Mouse / society band.

Still, the records are more than competent, even though no one would confuse the Farmer band with Basie at the Famous Door.

Here’s FAIR AND SQUARE, with a pleasing muted trumpet paraphrase of the melody:

and OLD MAN MOSE, with Scat Powell — who turned up on some jazz records in the decade — perhaps borrowing some odd vocal effects from the (in)famous Duchin recording:

Tom Lord’s discography lists this personnel for some 1937 sides: Willie Newman, Don “Skippy” Lipsey  or Hymie Farberman (tp) Billy Pritchard (tb) Charles Reauseau, Nat Brown (as) Wes Fogel (ts) Gabby Buttafoo (p) Frank Darnada (g) Chuck Jordan (b) Leo Farberman (d) Willie Farmer (dir)

The Farmer band must have recorded more than Lord lists, but they did cross over several times more into the lands of Ellington and Waller, with SCATTIN’ AT THE KIT KAT, ALLIGATOR CRAWL, and MIDNITE AT THE MADHOUSE, which might be related to Chick Webb’s similar-sounding record. Hymie Farberman had been part of the early Twenties New York “hot”scene; Billy Pritchard turned up on a Bud Freeman V-Disc, and I suspect other members of the band had swing credentials that they kept up to date.

I offer these as pleasant curiosities, and relics of a time when music and “styles” weren’t so rigidly divided into categories that didn’t touch.

May your happiness increase! 

“DUCHESS” SWINGS BY, ON DISC AND IN PERSON

A delicious new group has made an equally satisfying debut CD.  See here!

DUCHESS — an ebullient female trio — is quirky, swinging, silly, and loose but exact.  The three “girl singers,” justly known for their own solo work, are Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner, Melissa Stylianou — listed here in alphabetical order, no ranking implied — and they are backed by swinging modernists  —  Michael Cabe, piano; Paul Sikivie, string bass; Matt Wilson, drums; Jeff Lederer, saxophone (1, 5, 6, 9, 11); Jesse Lewis, guitar (1, 2, 7, 8).  The surprising and fresh arrangements are by producer Oded Lev-Ari for their debut CD on the Anzic label.  You can read more about DUCHESS here.

Many jazz groups have clear antecedents or they follow a pattern (you can provide your own examples here).  But I don’t think there’s been any group like DUCHESS for decades.  This isn’t to suggest that they are a conscious re-enactment of the past, although they do perform one spiffy homage to the Boswell Sisters on HEEBIE JEEBIES.  They are inspired by Connie, Vet, and Martha, but in the most inventive way — their close harmony performances are startlingly alive and full of surprises, tempo changes, and sophisticated play.

Each track is a miniature symphony for voices, shifting their places in the great musical dance, and a lively improvising ensemble.  For one instance — there is a famous second bridge to P.S., I LOVE YOU (which I know from Sinatra’s Capitol version): in this new version, each of the singers takes one line in the bridge, something so pleasingly startling that I had to play the track again to be sure I’d heard correctly.

The atmosphere isn’t a re-creation of the Boswell Sisters’ recordings or of their “approach” in some mechanistic way, but DUCHESS seems — to my ears, anyway, to play with the question, “What would the cheerful radicalism of the Sisters’ elastic improvisations be like with three different singers and a new band, all of us fully cognizant of what has come after 1936?”  So one hears a rhythmic pulse that evokes the Basie band brought forward in to this century, and tenor saxophone playing that sounds like Paul Gonsalves, updated and made even more personal.  The magnificently musical drumming of Matt Wilson drives it all along, with quiet brushwork when the mood requires it.

This is one of those CDs that doesn’t fully reveal all its pleasures or exhaust itself on one hearing.  I was so delighted, listening to voices and instruments tumbling over each other in neatly acrobatic exuberance, that I haven’t yet figured everything out (who is that singing now; who’s leading the harmony?) after several listenings.  I can only say that the three voices are singular in themselves, in range, timbre, and sound, but that they blend marvelously. And the blending is anything but formulaic.  One can’t go to sleep while DUCHESS is romping.  Their simple cheerfulness blasts through LOVE BEING HERE WITH YOU, LOLLIPOP, the aforementioned HEEBIE JEEBIES, and even in the medium-tempo swaggering performance I hear the whole group grinning.  But for me the real triumphs are the more tender offerings: a melting QUE SERA, SERA, P.S., I LOVE YOU; a shape-shifting I’LL BE SEEING YOU, and BLAH, BLAH, BLAH — that most surprising comic love poem.

Speaking of BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, here’s the group’s live performance of that Gershwin opus at their home base, the 55 Bar:

This points up another facet of DUCHESS — their willingness to traverse the ground between silly and witty.  They aren’t slapsticky in their comedy, but their light-hearted approach is elevating.  And they are never blah.

Here are the songs on the CD:

1. “I Love Being Here with You” (Peggy Lee, Bill Schluger) / 2. “There Ain’t No Sweet Man” (Fred Fisher) / 3. “Que Sera, Sera” (Jay Livingston, Ray Evans) / 4. “My Brooklyn Love Song” (Ramey Idriss, George Tibbles, featuring Hilary) / 5. “A Doodlin’ Song” (Cy Coleman, Carolyn Leigh, featuring Amy) / 6. “A Little Jive Is Good for You” (Ralph Yaw) / 7. “P.S. I Love You” (Johnny Mercer, Gordon Jenkins) / 8. “Hummin’ to Myself” (Sammy Fain, Herb Magidson, Monty Siegel, featuring Melissa) / 9. “It’s a Man” (Cy Coben) / 10. “I’ll Be Seeing You” (Irving Kahal, Sammy Fain) / 11. “Lollipop” (Beverly Ross, Julius Dixon) / 12. “Blah, Blah, Blah” (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin) / 13. “Heebie Jeebies” (Boyd Atkins)

You can bring some of this joy into your life with the CD, or, if you are in the tri-state area, you should know that DUCHESS, backed by the same band as on the album, will perform an album-release show at New York City’s Jazz Standard on March 3, 2015.

In most time zones, that’s tomorrow.

Shows are at 7:30 and 10 PM, and you can buy tickets and learn more about the group here.

May your happiness increase!

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FOR THE LOVE OF SWING (AND THE SWING OF LOVE): DANIEL BARDA, LOUIS MAZETIER, JERÔME ETCHEBERRY, CHARLES PRÉVOST: JANUARY 30, 2015

This delightful swing aubade came to me — and I hope many others — through Facebook, and I learned that this is trombonist Daniel Barda’s Super Swing Project, “Hommage à Fats Waller,” performed on January 30 of this year at Jazzclub Ja-ZZ Rheinfelden (www.ja-zz.ch).

I also must thank the recordist, Peter Gutzwiller, for making this delightful effusion both permanent and accessible to us.

Aside from Monsieur Barda, whom we know from Paris Washboard, there is the superb trumpeter Jerôme Etcheberry (of Les Swingberries), the most honored Louis Mazetier, a stride monarch, and the swinging washboardist Charles Prévost.

They pay tribute to Mister Waller in a charming and convincing way — not by offering their own faster-than-light improvisations on his compositions, not by singing YOUR FEETS TOO BIG, but by jamming in medium-tempo and a little faster on three lovely early-Thirties songs that have swing built in to them.  “Here’s another good old good one that all the musicians in the house love to jam,” as Louis would say.

I think it’s no accident that all three of these songs — if you consider their lyrics, which musicians used to do — are love songs.  One declares that they eyes are indeed the windows to the soul, and both entities entranced the singer; one wishes for a more perfect union of the singer and the Love Object; one expresses delighted incredulity that the blissful union has come to pass.  It just reinforces that love is an inexhaustible subject, and that the best music is love in action. Swing out, you lovers!

I dream of a time when one would give one’s Beloved some Commodore discs for a birthday present, for Valentine’s Day.

THEM THERE EYES:

IF DREAMS COME TRUE:

I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME:

It makes me very happy to experience these videos, and to be reassured that such beauty is taking place all around the world.  Blessings on these four gentlemen and also on the man behind the camera.

May your happiness increase!