Monthly Archives: September 2015

DO YOU HAVE A JOB TO OFFER THESE YOUNG WOMEN?

WOMEN ON BENCH 1928 Paris

I know the economy is improving, but even the most gifted job applicants sometimes have trouble finding the work they seek. This distressing situation was dramatized in music by Tamar Korn, vocal; Craig Ventresco, guitar; Joanna Sternberg, string bass; Wanda Seeley, the Singing Pride of Bozeman, Montana –July 26, 2015, at Casa Mezcal on Orchard Street in New York City — through this song:

I'M AN UNEMPLOYED SWEETHEART

I imagine the scenario: the songwriters at their desk in the Brill Building, 1931:

“Look at this.  So many people unemployed.  But people don’t want to sing about that.  People want songs that make them forget their troubles.”

“Yeah, but how many songs can we write about moonlight on my canoe with you — when those poor slobs are hungry?”

“Wait.  I NEED A JOB IN LOVE.  No.  I NEED THE JOB OF BEING YOUR SWEETIE.”

“How about I NEED A JOB UNDER THE COVERS WITH YOU AND I’M A HARD WORKER“?

Long pause for cogitation and regrouping.

“How about I’M AN UNEMPLOYED SWEETHEART“?

And an obscure masterpiece — made famous by Lee Morse — was born.

Fortunately for us, the four people in the video have jobs that they do so splendidly.  We cherish them.

May your happiness increase!

 

IN THE JAZZ BOROUGH: DENNIS LICHTMAN’S QUEENSBORO SIX, PART ONE (August 29, 2015)

Manhattnites think theirs is the jazz borough: Harlem, Fifty-Second Street, the Village.  Sorry, but no.  It’s Queens, home to Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Bix Beiderbecke, James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, Clarence Williams, Count Basie, Milt Hinton . . .

QUEENS map

And the jazz glories of this borough aren’t only historical (read: dusty).  Dennis Lichtman proved that vividly in his concert — with his Queensboro Six — at the Louis Armstrong House Museum (34-56 107th St, Corona, Queens, by the way) on August 29, 2015.  The band was Dennic, clarinet, compositions, arrangements; Gordon Au, trumpet; J. Walter Hawkes, trombone; Nathan Peck, string bass; Dalton Ridenhour, keyboard; Rob Garcia, drums; Terry Wilson, vocal, with guest stars Ed Polcer, cornet; Tamar Korn, vocal.

And there were luminaries not on the bandstand: Michael Cogswell and Ricky Riccardi (who does the introduction), Brynn White, Cynthia Sayer, Jerome Raim, among others.  Dennis, and we, thank the Queens Council on the Arts for their support that made this concert possible.

DENNIS LICHTMAN poster

Here’s the first half of the concert.  Dennis explains it all, so watch, listen, and savor.

CAKE WALKIN’ BABIES FROM HOME:

ROAD STREET PLACE COURT AVENUE DRIVE:

FOR BIX:

BLUE, TURNING GREY OVER YOU (vocal Terry Wilson):

SQUEEZE ME (vocal Terry Wilson):

WALTZ FOR CAMILA (Dennis, Dalton, Nathan):

7 EXPRESS:

SWING THAT MUSIC (add Ed Polcer):

The second half will arrive (on the express track) shortly.

May your happiness increase!

WISTFUL, THEN HOT: ROB ADKINS, MIKE DAVIS, CRAIG VENTRESCO at FRAUNCES TAVERN (July 25, 2015)

String bassist Rob Adkins doesn’t hang out a sign that says BANDLEADER in large letters, but it’s one of his great talents.  Aside from being an uplifting musician, he assembles groups that work together splendidly.

Rob Adkins

Here’s another sample from one of his triumphant afternoons: the Saturday gig of July 25, 2015, that put together the guitar wizard Craig Ventresco and trumpeter / aspiring trombonist Mike Davis for a good time at Fraunces Tavern on Pearl Street.

I’ve posted good music from this gig before, hereherehere, and [in part] hereand I’m not through yet.  (That’s how much fun it was.)

Here are four more, harking back to Bix, Red Nichols, Miff, and other stars of the late Twenties.

SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY:

ALICE BLUE GOWN:

LOUISIANA:

MY MELANCHOLY BABY:

Thank you, Rob, Mike, and Craig.  Age cannot wither nor custom stale this music.

May your happiness increase!

 

ARE YOU LOST?: CRAIG VENTRESCO and JOANNA STERNBERG TEACH THE LESSON (July 26, 2015)

NY map

I’ve known Deacon Craig Ventresco for more than a decade now, and learned a great deal from his moral teachings at Bar Tabac, the Cajun, and other pulpits on both coasts.

CRAIG

But I’d never heard him deliver such a serious sermon on the dangers of being destabilized in the cosmos as I did on Sunday, July 26, 2015, at Casa Mezcal on Orchard Street (that’s the Lower East Side of New York City).  In his stern peroration, he was supported nobly by another great teacher, Joanna Sternberg (to be precise, Craig plays guitar and sings; Joanna accompanies him on the string bass).  In their efforts to uplift the community, they are assisted by members of the congregation Tamar Korn and Meredith Axelrod.  Heed the words of Deacon Ventresco.  Take them to heart:

The song was a 1908 hit for Bert Williams, composed by Chris Smith and Cecil Mack:

RIGHT CHURCH BUT THE WRONG PEW 1908Given the ubiquity of the GPS and the smartphone, to say nothing of those antiquities, paper maps . . . don’t let this happen to you.  And — if a less serious moral statement of mine may be permitted — I think Craig should sing more often. He has noble stories to impart to us.

May your happiness increase!

AN AUTUMNAL RHAPSODY (in CLEVELAND): EHUD ASHERIE, HARRY ALLEN, DAN BARRETT, FRANK TATE, RICKY MALICHI (Allegheny Jazz Party, Sept. 10, 2015)

basket-of-apples

I know when summer starts to ebb away, no matter what the temperature, because the classes I teach begin again and I must assume the identity I have put away for months.

Soon there are local apples for sale, Halloween pumpkins (everything is done in a rush in this country), and the nights grow cooler.

Musicians begin to offer us AUTUMN NOCTURNE, ‘TIS AUTUMN, and AUTUMN SERENADE . . . but the one closest to my heart is the song by Kurt Weill (music) and Maxwell Anderson (lyrics) that is theoretically about September but really about time and our attempt to lose not a glorious minute. The lyrics suggest that the singer is male, aging, and fully aware that time is flying — but those words limit us.  What I hear is Weill’s melody: warm, aching, melancholy, yet hopeful.  Music, the notes say, can make the inexorable path to death an exultant one, whether we are making the music or absorbing it:

SEPT SONG ONE

I was fortunate enough to hear, see, and capture a touching performance of this song at the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party, held in Cleveland, Ohio, two weeks ago (beginning with a Thursday night jam session on September 10, 2015).  The noble participants here are Ehud Asherie, piano; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Dan Barrett, trombone; Frank Tate, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums:

They make us realize how precious these days, and these sounds, are. Savor them while they are here.

May your happiness increase!

ONE BLACK BEAUTY, TWO RIBBONS, AND A RIFF

This post is intentionally a little mysterious, since I am not at liberty to reveal certain details in public.  A dear and trusted friend has asked me to help offer certain treasured items for sale — something I do not often do on JAZZ LIVES, but since the friend and I have a decades-long relationship, I am happy to do it.

To begin: a 1920’s 5 1/2 x 15 Ludwig Black Beauty Snare Drum
Pat. 1924 on snare throw
Engraved Leaf Design with “Ludwig Chicago” on shell
“Super Ludwig” engraved on bottom rim
All snare tension adjustment screws, all lug screws in place
Condition includes small dimple, one snare damaged:

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and

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and

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and

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and 2 Original RCA 77DX Microphones in excellent condition, includes yoke stand mount:

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and

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and

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and some music to help you consider purchases.  Without drums and microphones, this record would never have existed:

Interested serious buyers may contact me at swingyoucats@gmail.com — I’m Michael Steinman — and I will pass along those inquiries to the owner of these beauties.

May your happiness increase!

HILARY GARDNER and EHUD ASHERIE at MEZZROW: BEAUTY IN THE NOW (September 29, 2015)

 

MEZZROW door

Singer Hilary Gardner and pianist Ehud Asherie have created consistently gratifying music on their appearances — most recently at Mezzrow (163 West Tenth Street, New York City, just east of Seventh Avenue South).  I offer evidence below.

That’s cheering news to say the least.  But the best news is that they are returning for two performances on Tuesday, September 29, 2015:  shows at 7:30 and 9 PM, $20 music charge for each show. You can buy tickets here, and I urge you to do so promptly, because Mezzrow is a small space.  (That’s a wonderful thing, by the way: it is the ideal of New York City jazz clubs, with apologies to the others.)

Now, here’s the evidence.  Most recently, Ehud and Hilary appeared at Mezzrow in May 2015, gloriously:  here.  And in March of the same year: here.

I first heard Hilary and Ehud in duet at Smalls in April 2013 — which seems so long ago that the videos are in black and white: here.

As you can see and hear, their repertoire stretches back to the early collaborations of Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers, and forward to the present. But the beauty they create is always NOW.  And you might consider immersing yourself in it, if you can, before it becomes the THEN.  See you there.

May your happiness increase!

FINE CALLIGRAPHY AND RARE EBULLIENCE IN ONE BEING

He composed, played piano and organ, sang, clowned — and had beautiful handwriting.  The eBay link is here — should anyone want this for their own:

FATS 1940 second try

But calligraphy was the least of his talents:

That record — slightly less than three minutes — is an encapsulation of his ebullient spirit: solo piano, ensemble piano, rollicking singing, and just good fun. Fats is still with us, and heaven knows we need him.

May your happiness increase!

IN A WARM EMBRACE

BEN in color

Imagine a sound that conveys love to the listener without a single syllable. Then, look at this man, who — by his physical aspect — might seem an unlikely prophet of such deep feeling.

BEN

He is Ben Webster, Ellingtonian, swing star, ballad player supreme.  You can find out about him in many ways, and I don’t intend to write his biography here, or even an appreciation.  But I will share a small story.

Last night I was on a plane from New Orleans to New York, where I had enjoyed a glorious weekend of friends, music, and food, because of Duke Heitger’s STEAMBOAT STOMP.  (Long may it stomp.)  Seated next to me was a cheerful woman perhaps in her forties, travelling with her husband and son in the row behind us; I asked if she wanted one of them to switch with me, but she didn’t.)

Planes are claustrophic and air travel is tedious, so in the past decade when I’ve been flying more often than ever before, I’ve drifted into conversations with the stranger sitting next to me.  I usually don’t start the conversation, but once it begins it is often surprisingly deep and open.  My theory about this is that in the dark confines of the plane, somehow untethered to the earth and all that’s familiar, we feel safe to tell others our secrets.  The plane becomes a flying confessional, with no penance and no expectation that the conversation will continue once we land.  The woman and I spoke of colleges, of education, of jobs, of modern life — all familiar territory — and then she said her son played the saxophone, currently the alto, but might be switching to tenor.

“OK,” I said, “I have a name for you.  [She took out her iPhone and went to the page for notes.]  BEN WEBSTER.  Ben Webster With Strings.  Imagine a huge warm sound.  In fact, imagine being in the warm embrace of a huge stuffed bear. That’s what those records sound like.”

[For the jazz-fetishists out there, I do know that Ben’s nickname was FROG and that BEAR was the satiric monicker for Jimmie Blanton, who might have weighed a hundred pounds, but somehow I thought explaining Ben’s sound as the loving embrace of an amphibian might not be so effective.]

This morning, as I awoke from a dream of dear friends and a bowl of shrimp with grits — the food the down-home angels eat — I thought, “I would bet that some people who read JAZZ LIVES have never heard Ben Webster with strings. Inconceivable!  Impossible!”  So this post is to send Websterian love all around. The original recording (as you will see) was called MUSIC FOR LOVING, and never was a title more apt:

May your happiness increase! 

 

ROCKING THE COSMOS: MARA KAYE SINGS THE BLUES AT JOE’S PUB, PART ONE (with JOHN GILL, KEVIN DORN, EVAN ARNTZEN, DAN BLOCK, JAY RATTMAN: August 29, 2015)

IDA BLUE. Photograph by Philip Schnell

MARA KAYE. Photograph by Philip Schnell

A little poem: She / and they / just blew me away.

I’m speaking of Mara Kaye’s recent appearance at Joe’s Pub, which was a phenomenon rather like the Aurora Borealis as redesigned by Robert Johnson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and a dozen others.  With Mara at the helm: she is not simply someone who is producing microwave renditions of old records.

And then there was the band: Kevin Dorn, driving it all with subtlety and ferocity mixed, drums; John Gill, National steel resonator guitar, played as only he can; three reed virtuosi: Dan Block, baritone sax, bass clarinet; Evan Arntzen, clarinet, tenor sax; Jay Rattman, bass sax.  Dan Block said of this band, after the fact, “We were like three 747’s!” — no collisions, but much delightful polyphony and energy.  Here’s what I wrote about the evening when it happened.

And here are highlights from the first half of this delightfully seismic event:

LITTLE DROPS OF WATER (originally recorded by
Edith North Johnson):

Memphis Minnie’s I’M NOT A BAD GAL:

W.C. Handy’s YELLOW DOG BLUES:

SKINNY LEG BLUES (by the elusive Geeshie Wiley):

Something different but entirely apropos, Mitchell’s Christian Singers’ YOU GOT TO MAKE A CHANGE:

Chippie Hill’s SOME COLD RAINY DAY:

What joy — even in sadness — and what beautifully focused, expertly powerful emotional intensity.  A second half of this program will arrive soon.  Until then, feel the oceanic surges.

May your happiness increase!

THE DOCTOR’S SECRET

DOC CHEATHAM

From James Dapogny:

Did I ever tell you about Doc Cheatham’s radio interview in St. Louis?  I was playing there with my band and Doc was too.  It was a milestone birthday of this, and a St. Louis radio station sent a reporter to interview him.  I saw this live, didn’t hear it on the radio.

The interviewer, mentioning Doc’s birthday and that he was still playing great, asked him what “his secret” was. Doc said, “My rule is to listen to a Louie Armstrong record every day of my life.”

This isn’t a difficult prescription to follow.  No co-pay, no sitting in the office reading magazines from 2012; no driving to the pharmacy.  Just take your daily infusion, your tincture of Joy and Warmth.

The potion for today is . . .

TRUE CONFESSION is a tender ballad (I also know Connee Boswell’s version, just as sweet as anyone could imagine) even though the lyrics borrow pop-song conceits from four or five other songs.  If you disdain this as “not jazz,” I suggest you listen to Louis here in the spirit you’d listen to Brahms or Schubert — great impassioned melody.  Louis’ complete love of Melody and of Romance comes through in every note.  And, by coincidence, the lyrics have “secret” in them, too. But the love that Louis exudes is always with us, always restorative, never hidden.

May your happiness increase!

“WAS THAT THE LONE ARRANGER?” or ALLEGHENY JOYS (2014 and 2015)

arranger

In the hot music I and many people gravitate to, there is a certain disdain for music written — tabulated as little signs — on lined pieces of paper.  Real (wo)men don’t read charts.  “Can you read?” goes the joke, “Yeah, but not enough to mess up my playing.”  In the memories of some fans, Pure Jazz is a group of people somewhere jamming on a familiar tune — anything more complicated than that seems an impudent intrusion.

Today’s homework — I am a college professor by profession, and the semester has begun, so put those smartphones away immediately, please — is to watch this glorious video twice, each time concentrating on a different aspect of its splendor.  Once, as I think is usual, bask in the solos.  Then, note how beautifully those solos are framed, encouraged, and sent off into improvisatory paradise by the arrangement.  The arrangement, by the way, is by JAZZ LIVES’ hero, Jim Dapogny, who also doth bestride the mighty piano like a colossus.

The tune is CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME (a relic of those days when the Westward migration made people think not only of gold but of oranges) and the band is Jim, piano [spectacularly], arrangements; Dan Block, Scott Robinson, Andy Schumm, Dan Barrett, Marty Grosz, Frank Tate, John Von Ohlen.  I recorded this on September 17, 2014, at the first Allegheny Jazz Party in Cleveland, Ohio (more about that below):

I know that these gifted people could have created something delightful on this tune without straining a muscle.  But when you listen closely, the balance (or the necessary alternation) of written passage and arranged passage is what makes this performance even better, more memorable.  So those who groan silently when they see a band spread out manuscript paper on their stands might want to re-evaluate this ancient prejudice.  We all need road maps, and framing the picture sensitively only enhances it.  (And we need to mix metaphors in a sentence: it’s good for the muscles.)

On to a related subject.  I have just returned from the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party, both tired and elated.  All I will say is that my face now has new lines in it, but they are from smiling.  With all respects to every other jazz-party organizer, I think  it is the best-run and the kindest party of them all.  And the music soars. I will have more to say and to show about this in future.  Right now I am simply grateful that the AJP exists, and exists so beautifully.

May your happiness increase! 

 

SWINGIN’ IN THE RAIN: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JIM DAPOGNY (Part Two)

Double rainbow, Evergreen, Colorado, 2014. Photograph by Michael Steinman

Double rainbow, Evergreen, Colorado, 2014. Photograph by Michael Steinman

On September 3, James Dapogny (“Jim” to some, “Prof” to some of his devoted students) celebrated a major birthday.  I can’t remember what the number is, and I don’t quite care, but JAZZ LIVES wants to return the compliment and celebrate Jim.  It is perhaps offensive to value one mortal over another, but he’s been giving us musical presents — and presence — for a good long time now, as a pianist, arranger, bandleader, scholar, researcher {Jelly Roll Morton and James P. Johnson primarily] trumpeter, valve trombonist . . . on recordings from 1975 on and in person before that.

Many people know Jim as a stomping yet subtle pianist on records and now on videos, and we cherish that.  But I’ve been privileged over the past decade to encounter him as a friend, and in that role he is someone I deeply value: under an occasionally gruff or satiric exoskeleton, there is someone wise, generous, and thoughtful, someone I am proud to know.

But back to the music.  Last year, at the Evergreen Jazz Festival, Jim brought his “A-team” Chicago Jazz Band: Pete Siers, drums; Rod McDonald, guitar; Dean Ross [a Denver native], string bass; Russ Whitman, Kim Cusack, reeds, Christopher Smith, trombone; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet.  They played a number of sets and I’ve posted a good deal of the music on JAZZ LIVES.  But one set was particularly dear to my heart.  Jim is a master arranger — one way he makes the hallowed music of our shared past come alive in this century — but this set was outdoors, and it was raining seriously.  As a result, no music and no music stands.  The Chicago Jazz Band wailed — on six glorious romping selections. “The way it used to was,” came to my lips then and now.

Here are the first three performances from that set.  And here are the remaining three.

OH, LADY BE GOOD:

I WANT A LITTLE GIRL:

HINDUSTAN:

Jim is atypically modest.  When I asked him whether he was OK with my making these videos public, he wrote back:

These show what a wonderful group of musicians this is.  I can take no credit for how well these guys play as individuals.  And here, unfettered by my jottings and scribblings, unreasonable demands and Draconian discipline, is the band as a group, just playing nice material without preparation–in a conversation in the rain.  I listen to these and gasp at the ingenuity here, laugh out loud at the fun and interaction, and realize why, every day, I lament the lack of opportunity to play more with them.  No matter whose name is on the posters, a band like this has eight de facto leaders who make things happen.

Thank you, Professor Jim, for being.  You improve our world.

May your happiness increase!

MUSIC FOR THE TUESDAY AFTER LABOR DAY (September 8, 2015)

alarm clock

For all those people lamenting the end of the long weekend, who will be complaining when the alarm goes off and they have to resume their lives as adults, here is a more cheerful ditty — circa 1933, words and music by Herman Hupfeld, performed here by Marty Grosz and the Hot Winds in 2009 (Dan Block, Scott Robinson, Vince Giordano, Rob Garcia) for Arbors Records:

I confess that my favorite recording of this optimistic ditty is the one featuring Red McKenzie with Adrian Rollini’s Orchestra . . . and that I pestered Marty to record his own version, since he and I share an obsession with Mr. McKenzie. But the Rollini version is not on YouTube, although it is on a beautiful Jazz Oracle double-CD set devoted to Adrian.

Here is the source — an excerpt from a 1933 film, MOONLIGHT AND PRETZELS (two of my favorite things) with a good deal of Busby-Berkley-esque waving of attractive bodies and body parts [choreography by William Miller], then a positively stimulating rendition of “Are You Makin’ Any Money?” by Lillian Miles.  That second question is directly relevant to the going-to-work scenario I’ve chosen to describe:

For more about MOONLIGHT AND PRETZELS, visit this entrancing site devoted to pre-Code films, also the source for the film poster:

MoonlightandPretzelsPoster

I hope that all of you who want jobs have them, that you are treated nicely, that the work suits you — that even after you shut off that obscene noise in the darkness, you are OK with going to a place where they give you some money for doing some thing.

May your happiness increase!

“A VINTAGE SOUND THAT’S ALWAYS FRESH”: THE MINT JULEP JAZZ BAND’S NEW CD

MINT JULEP in action

Jake Hanna would often say, “Start swinging from the beginning!”  He would have loved the Mint Julep Jazz Band and their new CD, BATTLE AXE.  Jake isn’t around to embrace them, but I will and do.

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Hear and see for yourself: OLD KING DOOJI, live, from June 2015:

ROCK IT FOR ME, from the previous year:

The musicians on this CD are Paul Rogers, trumpet;  Keenan McKenzie, tenor saxophone/clarinet/soprano saxophone;  Aaron Hill, alto saxophone/clarinet; Aaron Tucker, drums;  Jason Foureman, string bass; Ben Lassiter,  guitar; Lucian Cobb, trombone; Laura Windley, vocal.

Why I love the Mint Julep Jazz Band (unlike a Letterman list, there are not ten items, and they are presented here without hierarchical value):

One.  Expert, accurate, relaxed swinging playing in solo and ensemble.  No matter how authentic their vintage costumes; no matter how gorgeous they are personally, for me a band must sound good.  I can’t hear cute.

The MJJB has a wonderful ensemble sound: often fuller than their four-horn, three rhythm congregation would lead you to expect.  Their intonation is on target, their unison passages are elegantly done but never stiff.

And they swing.  They sound like a working band that would have had a good time making the dancers sweat and glow at the Savoy or the Renny.

They are well-rehearsed but not bored by it all. They have individualistic soloists — the front line is happily improvising in their own swinging style always.  And a word about “style.”  I’ve heard “swing bands” where the soloists sound constricted: Taft Jordan wouldn’t have played that substitute chord, so I won’t / can’t either — OR — let me do my favorite 1974 Miles licks on this Chick Webb-inspired chart.  And let me do them for four choruses.  Neither approach works for me, although I am admittedly a tough audience.  Beautiful playing, folks.  And a rhythm section that catches every nuance and propels the band forward without pushing or straining.  I never feel the absence of a piano.

Two.  Nifty arrangements.  See One.  Intriguing voicings, original but always idiomatic approaches to music that is so strongly identified with its original arrangements.  I played some of this disc for very erudite friends, who said, “Wow, a soprano lead on that chorus!” and other such appreciative exclamations.  Sweet, inevitable surprises throughout — but always in the service of the song, the mood, the idiom.

Three.  Variety in tempos, approaches, effect.  When I listen to BATTLE AXE, I’m always startled when it’s over.  Other CDs . . . I sometimes get up, see how many tracks are left, sigh, and go back to my listening.

Four.  They honor the old records but they do not copy them.  They do not offer transcriptions of solos, although a listener can hear the wonderful results of their loving close listening.

Five.  Unhackneyed repertoire: YOU CAN’T LIVE IN HARLEM / DUCKY WUCKY / SIX JERKS IN A JEEP / SWINGTIME IN HONOLULU / OLD KING DOOJI / EXACTLY LIKE YOU / THAT’S THE BLUES, OLD MAN / NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN / TWO SLEEPY PEOPLE / WHEN I GET LOW I GET HIGH / EVERYTHING’S JUMPIN’ / SAY IT ISN’T SO / BETCHA NICKEL / BATTLE AXE — affectionate nods to Sammy Cahn and Saul Chaplin, Noble Sissle, the Andrews Sisters, small-band Ellington (yes!), Artie Shaw, Lunceford, young Ella, and more. But obviously chosen with discernment.  And the originals by Keenan McKenzie are splendid — idiomatic without being pastiche, real compositions by someone who knows how to write singable melodies and graceful evocative lyrics: TREBUCHET and THE DWINDLING LIGHT BY THE SEA.

Six.  Laura Windley.  There are so many beautiful (male and female) earnest almost-singers in the world.  Audiences admire them while they are visually accessible.  I listen with my eyes closed at first.  Laura is THE REAL THING — she swings, she has a splendid but conversational approach to the lyrics; her second choruses don’t mimic her first.  And her voice is in itself a pleasure — a tart affectionate mixture of early Ella, Ivie, Jerry Kruger, Sally Gooding.  I think of her as the Joan Blondell of swing singing: sweet, tender, and lemony all at once.  And once you’ve heard her, you won’t mistake her for anyone else.

Here is the band’s website — where you can purchase BATTLE AXE, digitally or tangibly.  And their Facebook page.

And I proudly wear their dark-green MINT JULEP JAZZ BAND t-shirt (purchased with my allowance) but you’d have to see me in person to absorb the splendor.  Of the shirt.

Here‘s what I wrote about the MJJB in 2013.  I still believe it, and even more so. BATTLE AXE — never mind the forbidding title — is a great consistent pleasure.

May your happiness increase!

THE ELECTRIC MAN RINGS TWICE

glowingsocket

So let him in!

ELECTRIC MAN, Irene Sanders and Buddy Burton, in 1936.

Try this at home, if you are insulated properly.

But good ideas never get old, hence this modern version of the same direct, current conceit: Marty Elkins’ FUSE BLUES:

Marty’s friends here are Herb Pomeroy, Houston Person, Tardo Hammer, Greg Staff, Dennis Irwin, Mark Taylor.  And Marty has a wonderful new CD that gives all sorts of delicious shocks.

May your happiness increase!

RUBY, LOUIS, BUCK, ME (1954, 1983, 1989, 1996)

Ruby Braff, December 7, 1980. Photograph by Michael Steinman

Ruby Braff, December 7, 1980. Photograph by Michael Steinman

Ruby Braff remains one of my heroes: brave, curious, exploratory, full of lyrical warmth in his music — and one of those people I had many opportunities to observe between 1971 and 1983, at close range, in New York City.

Here is something new to me and I think absolutely remarkable — an interview with Ruby, done August 18, 1989, at the Newport Casino.  Ruby is remarkably patient with a somewhat inept questioner, but the subject is Louis Armstrong, so Ruby was very happy to speak about his and our hero:

Ruby despised his earlier recordings — and said so often, loudly and profanely.  I have no idea if he would have winced and swore at this one, but I am safe from his anger, so I present the 1954 Vanguard session (thanks to John Hammond) that paired him with Buck Clayton, Bennie Morton, Buddy Tate, Jimmy Jones, Steve Jordan, Aaron Bell, and Bobby Donaldson.  The shift into 4 / 4 at the start is one of my favorite moments in recorded jazz.  And the song is, of course, also.

LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER:

Much later, in 1996, Ruby created a gorgeous and irreplaceable Arbors CD, BEING WITH YOU, in honor of Louis and of Ruby’s recently-departed friend, the great reedman Sam Margolis. Along with Ruby, there were Jon-Erik Kellso, Scott Robinson, Dan Barrett, Jerry Jerome, Johnny Varro, Bucky Pizzarelli, Bob Haggart, Jim Gwin.  Ruby gave everyone a spot, and the results are glorious. And if you didn’t know what a magnificent singer he could be, savor LITTLE ONE.

I apologize for the intrusive advertisement that begins the final two videos:

LITTLE ONE:

And my own Ruby story, very brief and elliptical.  I had followed Ruby around with cassette and reel-to-reel recorder, with notebook and (once) camera — so much so that my nickname was “Tapes,” as in “Hey, Tapes!” — from 1971 on. This was not embarrassing to me; rather, it was an honor.

He played a concert at the New School with Dick Hyman early in 1983, and I, recently married, asked my new wife to come along.  She did not particularly like jazz, but it was a novel invitation and off we went.  We sat down in the middle of the auditorium — early, as is my habit — and I looked around for Ruby.  Surely, I thought, I could make eye contact and he would come over, exchange pleasantries, and I could not-so-subtly suggest to my new bride that I was Someone in this jazz world.  Ruby emerged from somewhere, and I stood up.  Perhaps I waved to catch his eye, or said, “Hey, Ruby!”  He looked at me, grinned, and pointed a forefinger.  “You!” he said.  “I remember you when you were in diapers!”  That was not the effect I had hoped to create, so I sat down and the deflated encounter was over.  He played beautifully.  As he always did.

Ask me about lyrical improvisation, and I might play you this as a glowing exemplar.

ONE HOUR:

I miss Ruby Braff, although, like Louis, he is always with us through his music.

May your happiness increase!

 

PLEASE DON’T WIGGLE. PLEASE KEEP STILL!

I hope the title of this blogpost causes someone to consider looking for a moment before sniffing out the newest Facebook notifications.  What follows is an intriguing recording from April 7, 1930 — made for the prestigious Victor company at the start of the Great Depression, aimed at the African-American market and also (I presume) the market for slightly salacious “party records,” material that one would hear on a Black vaudeville circuit.  The ostensible narrative is about a chicken and a worm, but I suspect that other messages are and were being sent . . . beyond the farm.

Here’s the label of another side from that session:

IT'S SWEET LIKE SO

The participants are Spencer Williams, vocal and perhaps composer; Teddy Bunn, guitar, vocal; Clarence Profit, piano.

I confess I have a hard time with some of the lyrics, but PLEASE DON’T WIGGLE. PLEASE KEEP STILL! is or are words to live by in so many situations.

And just for another visual representation . . . a literal one to be sure:

CHICKEN AND THE WORM

There are few enough opportunities to hear Teddy Bunn in this period, and fewer to hear the very short-lived Clarence Profit.  So listen closely to the merriment going on around and behind the vocals.  And spare any worms you might encounter.

May your happiness increase!

 

 

SWINGIN’ IN THE RAIN: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JIM DAPOGNY (Part One)

Rainbow One

Rainbow over Evergreen, Colorado, late July 2014

Today, James Dapogny (“Jim” to some, “Prof” to some of his devoted students) celebrates a major birthday.  I can’t remember what the number is, and I don’t quite care, but JAZZ LIVES wants to return the compliment and celebrate Jim. It is perhaps offensive to value one mortal over another, but he’s been giving us musical presents — and presence — for a good long time now, as a pianist, arranger, bandleader, scholar, researcher {Jelly Roll Morton and James P. Johnson primarily] trumpeter, valve trombonist . . . on recordings from 1975 on and in person before that.

Many people know Jim as a stomping yet subtle pianist on records and now on videos, and we cherish that.  But I’ve been privileged over the past decade to encounter him as a friend, and in that role he is someone I deeply value: under an occasionally gruff or satiric exoskeleton, there is someone wise, generous, and thoughtful, someone I am proud to know.

But back to the music.  Last year, at the Evergreen Jazz Festival, Jim brought his “A-team” Chicago Jazz Band: Pete Siers, drums; Rod McDonald, guitar; Dean Ross [a Denver native], string bass; Russ Whitman, Kim Cusack, reeds, Christopher Smith, trombone; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet.  They played a number of sets and I’ve posted a good deal of the music on JAZZ LIVES.  But one set was particularly dear to my heart.  Jim is a master arranger — one way he makes the hallowed music of our shared past come alive in this century — but this set was outdoors, and it was raining seriously.  As a result, no music and no music stands.  The Chicago Jazz Band wailed — on six glorious romping selections. “The way it used to was,” came to my lips then and now.

Here are the first three:

THREE LITTLE WORDS (yes, Jon-Erik does reference Ravel’s BOLERO):

JAZZ ME BLUES:

LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME (with a musical in-joke at the start and a chorus of DICKIE’S DREAM at the end):

Jim is atypically modest.  When I asked him whether he was OK with my making these videos public, he wrote back:

These show what a wonderful group of musicians this is.  I can take no credit for how well these guys play as individuals.  And here, unfettered by my jottings and scribblings, unreasonable demands and Draconian discipline, is the band as a group, just playing nice material without preparation–in a conversation in the rain.  I listen to these and gasp at the ingenuity here, laugh out loud at the fun and interaction, and realize why, every day, I lament the lack of opportunity to play more with them.  No matter whose name is on the posters, a band like this has eight de facto leaders who make things happen.

Thank you, Professor Jim, for being.  You improve our world.

May your happiness increase!

TRAVELS WITH MOLLY: “LET’S FLY AWAY”

Molly Ryan by Don Spiro

Molly Ryan by Don Spiro

I’ve been admiring Molly Ryan’s singing — and her instrumental bandmates — for almost a decade now.  Her latest CD, her third, LET’S FLY AWAY, is a beautifully elaborate production, consistently aloft.

Molly Ryan CD cover

Here are the details.  The CD features a theme (hooray!) — the delights of travel, with some ingenious choices of repertoire:  WANDERER / BEYOND THE BLUE HORIZON / FAR AWAY PLACES / LET’S FLY AWAY / FLYING DOWN TO RIO / A RAINY NIGHT IN RIO / SOUTH SEA ISLAND MAGIC / THE GYPSY IN MY SOUL / THE ROAD TO MOROCCO / UNDER PARIS SKIES / TRAV’LIN’ ALL ALONE / IT’S NICE TO GO TRAV’LIN’ / ANYWHERE I WANDER . . .

and alongside Molly (vocal and guitar) some of the finest jazz players on the planet:  Bria Skonberg, Randy Reinhart, Dan Barrett, Dan Levinson, Adrien Chevalier, John Reynolds, Joel Forbes, Mike Weatherly, Mark Shane, Dick Hyman, Kevin Dorn, Scott Kettner, Raphael McGregor, with arrangements by the two Dans, Levinson and Barrett.

When I first heard Molly — we were all much younger — I was immediately charmed by her voice, which in its youthful warmth and tenderness summoned up the beautiful Helen Ward.  But Molly, then and now, does more than imitate. She has a gorgeous sound but she also knows a good deal about unaffected swing, and in the years she’s been singing, her lyrical deftness has increased, and without dramatizing, she has become a fine singing actress, giving each song its proper emotional context.  She can be a blazing trumpet (evidence below) or a wistful yearner, on the edge of tears, or someone tart and wry.

The band, as you’d expect, is full of great soloists — everyone gets a taste, as they deserve, and I won’t spoil the surprises.  But what’s most notable is the care given to the arrangements.  Many CDs sound as if the fellows and gals are on a live club date — “Whaddaya want to play next, Marty?” “I don’t know.  How about X?” and those informal sessions often produce unbuttoned memorable sounds.  But a production like LET’S FLY AWAY is a happy throwback to the glory days of long-playing records of the Fifties and Sixties, where a singer — Teddi King, Lena Horne, Doris Day, Carmen McRae — was taken very good care of by Neal Hefti or Frank DeVol or Ralph Burns, creating a musical tapestry of rich sensations.

Now, below on this very same page, you can visit the page where LET’S FLY AWAY is for sale, and hear samples.  But Molly and friends have cooked up something far more hilariously gratifying — a short film with an oddly off-center plot, dancers, visual effects, hard to describe but a pleasure to experience:

Yes, it does make me think of Mildred Bailey’s WEEK-END OF A PRIVATE SECRETARY, but perhaps that association is my own personal problem.

And tomorrow — yes, tomorrow, Thursday, September 3, at 9:30 PM — Molly and friends are having a CD release show at Joe’s Pub, with Dan Levinson, Mike Davis, Vincent Gardner, Dalton Ridenhour, Brandi Disterheft, Kevin Dorn.  You may purchase tickets (they’re quite inexpensive) here.  Details about the show here, and Molly’s Facebook page.

Purchase a digital download of the CD (with two hidden tracks) OR the physical disc itself (with twenty pages of liner notes and wonderful art / photographs) OR hear sound samples here.

Airborne, delightful swing.  Why not FLY AWAY?  Let’s.

May your happiness increase!

A STEAMBOAT, HOT JAZZ, THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER, A STEAM CALLIOPE, STRIDE PIANO, THE BLUES, and FRIENDS (September 18-20, 2015)

My title is, to me, the best one-line description of the Steamboat Stomp — happening in New Orleans, on the Steamboat Natchez, from September 18-20, 2015.

640_steamboat-natchez-new-orleans-reviews

Some of the performers who will be on the boat are Duke Heitger’s Steamboat Stompers, Steve Pistorius, Evan Christopher, Banu Gibson, Tim Laughlin, Solid Harmony, Yerba Buena Stompers, Miss Ida Blue, New Orleans Classic Jazz Orchestra, Stephanie Trick, Paolo Alderighi, Debbie Fagnano on the steam calliope, and more.

The schedule is here, and I can see myself fretting over it on the plane ride.  “If I see X now, I can’t see Y.  But I can see Y the next day.”  Jazz fest calculus, or perhaps chess.  But it’s always delightful to have more than one can handle rather than having long stretches of time.  However, on the Natchez, it’s entirely delightful to cruise up and down the Mississippi.  If one ignores the oil rigs outside, one can think of Huckleberry Finn.  Or, better, Fate Marable.

Here  is another site (the Stomp’s Facebook page) that offers different perspectives.

Finally, the hard facts one needs to know: prices, tickets, packages, reservations.

But here’s the best evidence, taken from the 2013 Stomp.

The official Jelly Roll Morton anthem of this carnival of joy:

Yes, you’ll have to pay something to board the Natchez, but your dollars will feel like dimes:

The way you’ll feel as soon as the music begins:

As Justin Wilson used to say, “I guarantee it!”

May your happiness increase!

JUMP IN AT WOODSIDE! STEPHANIE TRICK, PAOLO ALDERIGHI, MARTY EGGERS, DANNY COOTS (September 13, 2015)

Jammin' at Filoli 2012 with Stephanie Trick, Rossano Sportiello, Nicki Parrott, Hal Smith

Jazz at Filoli ’12: Stephanie Trick, Rossano Sportiello, Nicki Parrott, Hal Smith

No, this isn’t a post about Count Basie’s marvelous 1938 swing number.  Rather, I want to let people know about a concert soon to take place — Sunday, September 13, 2015 — at the gorgeous green space  / park / horticultural paradise / mansion called FILOLI in Woodside, California featuring the Stephanie Trick and Paolo Alderighi Double Trio.  The noble music-makers are Stephanie and Paolo, piano; Marty Eggers, string bass; Danny Coots, drums.

Visit here for all the needed information.  There are tickets for a 12:55 seating, a 1 PM seating; one can buy a lunch (up to Wednesday, September 9), and the host will be the very remarkable Alisa Clancy, known to all who can hear KCSM.

And Fioli — Jazz at Filoli,  that is — is such a wonderful corrective to all the places in which one usually hears jazz: you don’t need me to describe their discomforts. When I’ve been there for music, I could immerse myself in the gorgeous pastoral without straining my neck.  Hot Music, Green Shade.  Wonderful.

But back to Stephanie, Paolo, Marty, Danny.

What’s a Double Trio?  It really means that these four players — dear friends and happy long-standing colleagues — know how to play nice.  Infinite variety.  Solo piano by two of the finest, a piano duet, two piano-bass-drums trios, a romping quartet.

Suppose the whole concept is new to you and thus intimidating.  Imagine if I could transport you to a lovely hall (indoors) and wonderful music by this group at the Rossmoor Jazz Club in Walnut Creek, California, in March 2014.  How about here and here.  And, as Jack Teagarden sang on SAY IT SIMPLE, “If that don’t get it, well, forget it for now.”

Don’t be the last one on your block to experience Pleasure — in the shape of Stephanie Trick, Paolo Alderighi, Marty Eggers, and Danny Coots, this September 13, at Jazz at Filoli.  Your nervous system will thank me.

(And if you can’t make this one — like me, because I’ll be at the Allegheny Jazz Party — catch Stephanie and Paolo at the 2015 Steamboat Stomp in New Orleans, which begins on September 18.)

May your happiness increase!