Monthly Archives: November 2015

THE MAIL; THE PROBLEMS; THE BREEZES: ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, NICKI PARROTT, HAL SMITH at the ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY (Sept. 10, 2015)

Two beautiful exercises in swing and feeling from the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party, created by Rossano Sportiello, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.  The first is a Thirties song so associated with Fats Waller than some believe him to be the composer, which isn’t the case:

I'M GONNA SIT RIGHT DOWN

I deplore the current use of “gonna,” but here I accept it without flinching.

The second is one of Rossano’s wonderful medleys — joining EVERYTHING HAPPENS TO ME (a song I cherish for its mixture of self-pity and self-mockery) and the Charlie Christian blues, SOFT WINDS:

What beautiful merging of three individual sounds!  Rossano and Nicki appear often as a duo, and have made several wonderful CDs, but I believe this is their first collaboration with Hal — who fits them delightfully.  I delight in his swinging brushwork throughout, shades of Jo and Sidney especially as SOFT WINDS shifts into its highest gear without getting any faster.

Such music happens regularly at the Allegheny Jazz Party . . . and will again in September 2016.

May your happiness increase!

GETTING SENTIMENTAL WITH JANICE DAY (November 8, 2015)

JANICE DAY

One of the real pleasures of the 2014 and 2015 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party is getting to hear the delightful song stylist Janice Day at length.  She has her own style, and that’s a very good thing: a kind of delicate intensity that harks back to the girlish singers of the Twenties without being a copy of their most recognizable gestures.  She’s instantly appealing — without trying too hard.

Here’s a sweet vignette from this year’s Party — with Janice in front of a small band: solos by Matthias Seuffert and Duke Heitger, over a rhythm section of Keith Nichols, Henry Lemaire, Richard Pite, and Nicholas Ball.  The song is a 1938 pop hit by Johnny Burke and James V. Monaco, who wrote consistently for Bing Crosby’s films, ON THE SENTIMENTAL SIDE:

ON THE SENTIMENTAL SIDE

I think that Billie Holiday’s version has made the deepest impression, but for a song to have been recorded by Bing, Billie, and Louis (his version at a much brisker tempo) in the same year says something about its tender qualities. Here’s Janice’s sweet exploration — under three minutes, but she gets her sentimental message across with ease and clarity.  Beneath the glamour, there’s a deeply engaging artist:

I will be sharing more of Janice’s music in the weeks to come — but you can also visit her Facebook page and the website devoted to her collaborations with the wonderful pianist Martin Litton, here.  On that site, you can see a number of charming videos of Janice and Martin in performance — several of which I was fortunate enough to record.  More to come!

May your happiness increase!

“TIMME’S TREASURES,” PART TWO

TIMME'S TREASURES

 

 

 

I’d written about this exciting new CD — of material that is both “old,” recorded in 1944-45, and “new,” as in previously unheard — here.  But now I’ve had a chance to hear the disc, and I can recommend it enthusiastically.

It may be difficult for some readers to envision a time and place where everything cannot be instantly recorded on one’s iPhone or Android – through the magic of Instagram and other such phenomena. But these inventions are very recent, and those individuals who actually recorded live jazz performance from the Thirties onwards are my idea of secular saints: Jerry Newman, Jerry Newhouse, the many anonymous home recordists who had their microphones pressed to the radio speaker (no doubt shooing other people out of the room while their Heroes played and sang) and the Baron, Timme Rosenkrantz.

Timme took it especially seriously, apparently inviting musicians to his apartment to play and sing at leisure, in peace and quiet.  He had taste, and an ear for those musicians who were not always in the public eye.  This CD is but a brief sampling, but what it has to offer us is rich and rewarding, music that has not grown old.

Timme loved pianists and tenor saxophonists, so we have precious glimpses of the most subtle Jimmy Jones — one of the music’s forgotten individualists — fifteen minutes of Thelonious Monk, eleven minutes of Garner.  That would be enough for anyone — but add in some new Sidney Catlett, some Stuff Smith (only issued before on Anthony Barnett’s AB Fable label), and gorgeous tenor work from Don Byas and Lucky Thompson — and this disc is one to cherish and revisit.

Through the kindness of Mark Cantor, jazz film scholar extraordinaire, we now know that the singer on EMBRACEABLE YOU, sweetly crooning in the best Eckstine manner, is Kenneth Jackman, who is still with us.  I hope to have an opportunity to speak with Mr. Jackman about these sessions: coming soon to a blogpost near you if all goes well.

Sharp-eyed readers noticed some printing errors both inside and out (they will be corrected in the next batch) and some gaps in the personnel listings, so I offer below a complete, corrected personnel: thanks to, among others, Anthony Barnett, Dan Morgenstern, Mark Cantor, and Fradley Garner:

TIMME ROSENKRANTZ

That Old Black Magic (Harold Arlen) 4:43
Johnny Come Lately (Billy Strayhorn) 3:32 
Tea For Two (Vincent Youmans – Irving Caesar) 2:56

Personnel: Jimmy Jones (p), John Levy (b) on 2, 3, Slam Stewart (b) on 1, 2.

Recorded September 25, 1944 at Timme Rosenkrantz’s apartment, 7 West 46th St., NYC.

Embraceable You (George & Ira Gershwin) 9:25

Personnel: Don Byas (ts), Sammy Benskin (p), Harold McFadden (g) Kenneth Jackman (vo).

Recorded November 20, 1944 at 7 West 46th St., NYC.

Lady Be Good (George & Ira Gershwin) 4:30

Personnel: Don Byas (ts), unidentified (p), unknown (brushes).

Recorded at 7 West 46th St., NYC, probably late 1944.

These Foolish Things (Holt Marvell-Jack Strachey-Harry Link) 6:02
‘Round Midnight (Thelonious Monk) 3:37

Personnel: Thelonious Monk (p).

Recorded November 11, 1944 at 7 West 46th St., NYC.

Swing Test 2149 (Stuff Smith) 3:38

Personnel: Stuff Smith with Frank Froeba and His Back Room Boys.
Stuff Smith (vln), Frank Froeba (p), Dick Kissinger (b)?, Terry Snyder (dr)?.

Radio broadcast, WNEW Sunday Afternoon Swing Session, January 21 or February 11, 1945, Art Ford (mc).

Variation on Rockin’ In Rhythm (Duke Ellington) 5:50

Personnel: Don Byas (ts), unidentified (as) Thelonious Monk (p), Al Hall (b), unidentified (dm)

Recorded at 7 West 46th St., NYC, probably late 1944.

I Got Rhythm (George & Ira Gershwin) 4:10

Personnel:; Stuff Smith with Frank Froeba and His Back Room boys.
Stuff Smith (vln), unknown (tp), Nat Brown (cl), Frank Froeba (p)?, Al Caiola (g), Dick Kissinger (b)?, Terry Snyder (dr), Art Ford (mc).

Radio broadcast, WNEW Sunday Afternoon Swing Session, January 21 or February 11, 1945, Art Ford (mc).
Note: Art Ford introduces the number as “I Got Rhythm”, but Stuff Smith begins playing “Bugle Call Rag”, that afterwards develops into “I Got Rhythm”.

Swing Test Sarah Bell Cuckoo (Don Byas) 2:45

Personnel: Don Byas (ts), Frank Froeba (p)?, Dick Kissinger (b), Sidney Catlett (dm).

Radio broadcast, Art Ford Sunday Afternoon Swing Session, July 15, 1945, Art Ford (mc).

All The Things You Are (Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II) 11:42

Personnel: Lucky Thompson (ts), Erroll Garner (p), Inez Cavanaugh (vo).

Recorded December 1944 at 7 West 47th St., NYC.

TIMME’S TREASURES lives up to its name.  And the holidays are coming.

May your happiness increase!

“WHERE THE LIGHTS ARE BRIGHTER THAN DAY”: DAN BARRETT, HARRY ALLEN, DAN BLOCK, EHUD ASHERIE, FRANK TATE, RICKY MALICHI at the ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY (Sept. 10, 2015)

BROADWAY OKeh

BROADWAY — first recorded in 1940 by the Count Basie band — was composed by Henri Woode (the real author of ROSETTA, I am told), Teddy McRae (tenor saxophonist) and the little-known Bill Bird.  An irresistible riff tune, it had lyrics put to it — probably by Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks.

BROADWAY

It’s a familiar jazz song, one that most people would identify as exemplifying a certain kind of cool swing — and it’s durable, as this 2015 performance shows — part of the common language for a core of sympathetic well-versed players.

Such a group concluded the Thursday-night informal session that began the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party — a loose, expert group with a Woody Herman feel, perhaps because of the double saxophones of Harry Allen and Dan Block.  They were joined by Dan Barrett, trombone; Ehud Asherie, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums. . . . for a nice leisurely exploration of BROADWAY:

I am told that Hot Lips Page would say — about jazz repertoire — “The material is immaterial.”  True enough, and he would have opened his case, taken out his horn, and joined this session.

May your happiness increase!

“COULD IT BE?” A SWING SEMINAR IN ROMANTIC INCREDULITY at the ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY: JON-ERIK KELLSO, DAN BARRETT, DAN BLOCK, SCOTT ROBINSON, EHUD ASHERIE, NICKI PARROTT, HAL SMITH (September 11, 2015)

I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME is one of my favorite songs, and not only because it’s so infused with romantic delight.  But it was originally a love ballad (check out Red McKenzie’s 1931 version, then move to Billie’s and Louis’s).  Generations of later players, frolicking in the song’s possibilities, speeded up the tempo so it became a Condon-style romp . . . but my heart belongs to slower renditions that still have a swing pace.

I CAN'T BELIEVE larger

Late Saturday night at the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party, a collection of heroes took the stand for a happy long set.  The leader was Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; he was joined by Dan Block and Scott Robinson, reeds; Dan Barrett, trombone; Ehud Asherie, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Hal Smith, drums — an all-star team if ever there was one.

A lovely song, a lovely performance . . . and a lovely state of mind.

May your happiness increase!

WHEN TECHNOLOGY MET ROMANCE (1929): SPATS LANGHAM, ROBERT FOWLER, MARTIN LITTON, MALCOLM SKED at the MIKE DURHAM CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (November 6, 2015)

Before Facebook, before Instagram, before online dating apps that said YES or NO with a simple movement of one’s finger, technology and romance were always allied — perhaps uneasily, but connected.  Imagine the impact of inexpensive quick mail, or the telephone.  And then, the photograph.  And the moving image.  Hence this imaginative conceit:

TALKING PICTURES

Here’s a delightful version from the 2015 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party — with Spats Langham, banjo and vocal; Robert Fowler, clarinet; Martin Litton, piano; Malcolm Sked, brass bass:

The bounce and optimism of the song might make us forget, for a moment, that the singer is sitting alone in his room, adoringly contemplating a photograph of the Love Object, wishing that he could move closer to an actual encounter — but the closest he can get is an imagined sound film of the one he yearns for, speaking from the screen.  And bliss?  Being able to run the film over and over.

I hope that the imagined lovers get to move from the realm of image into tangible reality, and that this song is “their” song —  now that they’ve been able to shut off the projector.

If you were there at this year’s Party, you’ll remember this delightful musical cameo.  If not, make plans for 2016 . . . I will share details when I know them. And for those keeping track: in the start of this video, we see and hear Thomas Winteler, preparing for the next set, and the many-talented Joshua Wyborn, who made the live sound come across to us so clearly.

May your happiness increase!

THERE’S A PARTY AT CARL’S!

Relaxing at Pier 23, San Francisco

Relaxing at Pier 23, San Francisco

I present to you one of the finest CDs I’ve ever heard.  But it’s also one of the least-known.

It is a House Party.  And Carl is pianist / singer / composer Carl Sonny Leyland. He invites all of us to share the joys with Marc Caparone, trumpet / string bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums; Clint Baker, string bass / clarinet.

CSL cover

This exact group has not been videoed, but you can hear a good deal of the exuberant spirit Carl, Marc, and Jeff bring to the music — with the help of Butch Smith, alto saxophone, and Mike Fay, string bass:

Now, I know that some listeners pigeonhole Father Leyland as an eight-to-the bar wizard, a boogie-woogie marvel.  And in this they would be correct.  But he is a musician and a fine jazz improviser whose talent is not constricted by a label, so he goes where the music takes him, most often to the land of Swing.  The sounds you’ll hear on this CD make me think of Kansas City — the small-band music made by Hot Lips Page, Pete Johnson, Walter Page, Jo Jones and their friends.  And when Carl starts to sing the blues . . . we could be back at the Reno Club in 1935.  (The original premise was, I think, a contemporary evocation of Pete Johnson’s 1944 add-an-instrument “Housewarming” records — a good lively model to have.)

Many jazz recordings hew to a certain stylistic definition (I think of the pigeonholes in which one inserts mail) and that’s fine if that is what you’re in the mood for.  Here’s the reproduction of Fly and his Swatters; here’s the tribute to “Unknown White Teenager”; here’s the solo xylophone recital of early Sondheim.  (My examples are satirical but not too far from CDs now on my kitchen counter.)

Carl and his friends have a different end in view, which is why this CD is a House Party — recorded in Marc Caparone’s living room in Paso Robles, California. Carl explains, “Armed with good faith and plenty of liquor, the four of us got together and made the music you are hearing now.  There was no rehearsing, and in most cases I just launched directly into whatever came into my head at that moment.  Spontaneous creativity is what really turns me on in music and I will gladly take it over ‘tight,’ ‘clever,’ and ‘refined,’ every time.  I believe the results we attained that day combined spontaneous creativity with honest emotion.  Unrestricted by notions of trying to please anyone than ourselves, we played without inhibition.  Chances were taken, nothing was held back, and in addition to being artistically gratifying, it was a heck of a lot of fun.” 

I find the music that Carl, Marc, Clint, and Jeff make on this disc wholly life-affirming, whether it’s a groovy slow blues with a dark theme or a romp on a time-honored standard . . . but I also support the philosophy stated above.  This is honest music, aimed at our hearts.  So in my ideal world, this band would be headlining at festivals and concert halls, appearing at schools across the world. Until that happens, I urge you to invite yourselves to Carl’s House Party.

To buy the CD (and to hear and see much more of Carl), visit his website.

May your happiness increase!

DUCHESS IS TWO (AND WE ARE GLAD)

Happy Birthday, Duchess! That's Amy, Hilary, and Melissa.

Happy Birthday, Duchess! That’s Amy, Hilary, and Melissa.

DUCHESS is two.  If you know them, that is cause for celebration: they are a witty, swinging, tender, hilarious vocal trio: Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner, Melissa Stylianou.  Their repertoire is inspired by the Sisters Boswell and Andrews, but they are far from a repertory company of old-records-brought-to-life, and they have singular energy and snap.  If DUCHESS is new to you, prepare to be cheered and elated.

At their October 16 concert at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City (a most congenial place to wander in as well as a comfortable venue for music) they were supported by Jeff Lederer, reeds; Michael Cabe, piano; Elias Bailey, string bass;  Jesse Lewis, guitar.  The show was billed as DUCHESS UNPLUGGED, so (with regrets) they left their percussionist at home and performed with very little electrical or electronic assistance.  I was thrilled to be invited to the Rubin concert and brought back for the JAZZ LIVES audience four new videos of DUCHESS doing what they do best — enthusiastic, expert harmony and solo singing, beautifully and warmly accomplished.

Remembering the Rhythm Boys, Bix and  Bing, THERE AIN’T NO SWEET MAN (THAT’S WORTH THE SALT OF MY TEARS):

For those three Greek women who went before, THREE LITTLE SISTERS:

And those harmony masters from New Orleans, EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY:

Finally, by special request (mine) the very tender P.S., I LOVE YOU:

And since you’ll now want to learn more about DUCHESS, follow them to other gigs, and buy their wonderful CD, some cyber-data.

Here is their YouTube channel; here is their website; here is their Facebook page; here is my enthusiastic review of their debut CD.

Two other thoughts.  I am always moderately proud of my videos as one kind of representation of an experience, but DUCHESS is a more vivid experience than even the best cameras could capture.  They do that rare thing — sometimes lost in this century — of providing inventive music while entertaining us.  And I don’t think “entertainment” is a negative word.  So you could take someone to hear DUCHESS even if that person steadfastly says, “I don’t like jazz.  I don’t understand it,” and there would be a sweet (subversive) conversion experience before the night was through.  If this sounds like a not-terribly subtle encouragement to see DUCHESS live, it is.  We wish them many more birthdays.

May your happiness increase!

PROPINQUITY COULD BE BLISS, AND AFTER THE FIRST SIXTY MINUTES ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE

IF I COULD BE WITH YOU

A short series of blissful interludes, courtesy of James P. Johnson and Henry Creamer (1930).  First, Bobby Hackett floating over an orchestra “conducted” by Jackie Gleason:

Ruby Braff, cornet; Dick Hyman, Baldwin organ — with a closing chorus of great majesty:

and for the historians among us, where it all started, with thanks to Red McKenzie, Coleman Hawkins, Pee Wee Russell, and Glenn Miller (note that the label of the Bluebird reissue credits the song to “McKenzie-Kruppa”: when asked, did one of them tell the recording supervisor that the composition, ONE HOUR, was theirs?):

and the 1930 recording by McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, with vocal refrain by one of my favorite singers, George Thomas:

Eva Taylor’s very tender version:

Near the end of Vic Dickenson’s life, he created this touching performance — holding up TWO fingers:

And — at the end  because nothing could follow it — Louis, explicated by our very own Ricky Riccardi here.

Who knew that the state of yearning, of wanting a complete love and not yet attaining it, could be the source of such healing music?

May your happiness increase!

THE GENEROSITY OF A GREAT ARTIST

My friend Kris Bauwens will be one of the great collectors of jazz paper ephemera — and he already has an astonishing collection.  He recently purchased this  gem, and generously shares it with us.

The envelope is an unassuming document in itself, but what is inside is astonishing:

SID Envelope

We don’t have Jack’s admiring letter to Sidney Catlett, but it says so much about Sid that he would take the time to write a five-page letter to a young drummer, and take him so seriously, with such great humility:

SID ONE

and

SID TWO

and

SID THREE

and

SID FOUR

and

SID FIVE

“P.S.  Photo coming up.”

SID photo for Jack 1941

I have shared this with a dear jazz percussionist friend, who says that the advice is wise and deep.  But for me, the most moving sentence in these beautifully written and generous pages is this: I assure you I will do my best to hold the admiration you express toward my work.  That is a sweet and humble statement, nearly Shakespearian, with Sidney saying to his young fan, “I will strive to be worthy of the picture you have created of me,” which shows an openness of heart, with Sidney reversing the roles of Master and Student . . . deep humility and generosity of spirit.  And if you wonder what Sidney was doing in Chicago, he was midway through his emotionally stressful period as drummer to Benny Goodman.  That he would have the time and desire to write to Jack in this fashion speaks so highly of his character.

Here’s some more evidence of Catlett generosity: recorded on January 16, 1944 at the Metropolitan Opera House: a quartet of Sid, Barney Bigard, clarinet; Art Tatum, piano; Oscar Pettiford, string bass — playing ROSE ROOM — as well as Sidney’s spoken introduction to the V-Disc:

Sidney Catlett wasn’t just tall: his spirit was Big.

May your happiness increase!

SWING, BROTHERS, SWING: ROB ADKINS, DAN BLOCK, EHUD ASHERIE at CASA MEZCAL (October 25, 2015)

Dan Block, Rob Adkins, Ehud Asherie at Casa Mezcal, October 25, 2015

Dan Block, Rob Adkins, Ehud Asherie at Casa Mezcal, October 25, 2015

Rob Adkins (string bass and catalyst) brought two of his illustrious friends to Casa Mezcal on Orchard Street in New York City for a Sunday afternoon gig on October 25th — the inventive pianist Ehud Aherie and the very lyrical swinging reedman Dan Block.  Here‘s the first part of that afternoon’s Hymn to Beauty.

And four more.

WHO? (rarely played in jazz, but certainly linked to Lester via the odd and wonderful Glenn Hardman 1939 session):

I COVER THE WATERFRONT (from Louis to Billie to Lester to everyone):

BABY BROWN (written by Alex Hill but forever identified with Fats Waller):

I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA (Tram, Bix, and many more, including Jimmy Rushing):

Couldn’t be better.

May your happiness increase!

I’M GETTING MY BONUS IN STRIDE: JAMES P. FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Everyone who follows jazz devotedly has theories about why some musicians become Stars and others remain Obscure.  It clearly isn’t artistic quality, as one could find out quickly by playing recordings of famous and neglected artists. No, other factors interfere.

In that wonderfully uplifting sub-genre known as Harlem stride piano, the pantheon seems to have room for only one man, Fats Waller.  His fame is well-deserved: his genial embellishments, his rhythmic drive, his delicious pianistic surprises.  But we also have to consider the effect of Fats as a Personality (many recordings and some film appearances) and a Composer.  (In the jazz mythology, he is also remembered as a joyous Dionysiac child who died young — elements that stick in our minds.) Willie “the Lion” Smith seems a collection of delightful eccentricities — melodies, derby hat, cigar, scraps of Yiddish, an elegant braggadocio.  In our time, pianists Dick Wellstood, Ralph Sutton, Don Ewell, and their current counterparts have (or had) the advantage of being accessible.

But what of the man who came first (leaving aside Eubie Blake and Luckey Roberts), Fats’ teacher, James P. Johnson?  He was not a Personality; the one or two times he sings on record he seems uncomfortable; a quiet man, almost shy, he did not thrust himself forward.  It would seem that he didn’t record sufficiently, but the discographies prove otherwise.  Wellstood once said in print that James P.’s recordings didn’t always document his greatness — although for those of us who didn’t see and hear James P. at all, that would be a moot point.

Mosaic Records, blessedly, has seen fit to put Wellstood’s casual assertion to the test.

JAMES P. Mosaic

This box set will be available in mid-December; it offers the usual Mosaic largesse spread over six CDs; rare material (eleven sides not previously issued), beautiful photographs; a lengthy essay by Dr. Scott Brown, James P.’s biographer, familiar material in the best sound.

And should some worry about six CDs of stride piano, fear not: we hear James P. accompanying blues and pop singers (including Bessie Smith, Ida Cox, Clara Smith, and Ethel Waters) and as a sideman in bands that include Frank Newton, Jabbo Smith, Clarence Williams, Garvin Bushell, Louis Metcalf, Fats Waller, Cootie Williams, Arthur Whetsel, King Oliver, Jimmy Archey, Teddy Bunn, Lonnie Johnson, Roy Smeck, Tommy Ladnier, Sidney DeParis, Mezz Mezzrow, John Kirby, Cozy Cole, Sidney Catlett, Henry “Red” Allen, J. C. Higginbotham, Gene Sedric, Al Casey, Hot Lips Page, Charlie Christian, Ed Hall, and others.

Here‘s the discography, for those who (like myself) find listings of music we are going to hear very enticing.  And if you haven’t heard James P. recently — someone Thelonious Monk admired — scroll down on this Mosaic page and listen.

My holiday shopping list is now complete — my gift to myself, I mean.

May your happiness increase!

A DEEP STUDY OF SWEE’ PEA

Strayhorn

Jazz scholar Michael Zirpolo, who created the rewarding biography of Bunny Berigan, has also written a fine study of Billy Strayhorn for the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors (IAJRC)  Journal.  It’s not a simple reiteration of biographical information;  rather, the essay covers the early years of the Strayhorn / Ellington musical association (1939-1942), and it disentangles to a large degree, who wrote what in those years, Duke or Billy, or Duke and Billy.

With characteristic generosity, Mike wants to make his Strayhorn piece, ten thousand words long, available to any interested readers — no fuss, no muss, no cost.  You may email Mike at mzirpolo@neo.rr.com and he will send it to you in PDF form for you to read at your leisure.

A portrait of the jazz scholar:

Zirpolo

And while you’re reading the latest Zirpolo opus, listen to the Billy Strayhorn Orchestra (directed by Michael Hashim) here.  Are you going to their November 20 concert?

May your happiness increase!

TAKING ROOT IN OUR HEARTS: SAM TAYLOR, AIDAN O’DONNELL, TARO OKAMOTO (OCTOBER 15, 2015)

In his liner notes to his debut CD, MY FUTURE JUST PASSED, Sam Taylor, a tenor saxophonist who creates subtle, searching music that resonates long in the mind, has written this brief credo:

Sometimes, a song enters our life at the perfect moment. It gives clarity and meaning to seemingly random events. It speaks and gives voice to our feelings of love, heartache, joy and jubilation. It taps into our memories, both personal and collective, taking root in our hearts, stirring our imagination.

In August 2015, I heard Sam’s CD and was immediately captivated by what he did — and didn’t — do.  Here‘s what I wrote (under the title of BRAVE, PATIENT BEAUTY).

I was more than a little excited to learn that Sam, bassist Aidan O’Donnell, and drummer Taro Okamoto — the trio on this CD — would be giving a CD release concert on October 15th (at the beautifully welcoming Marc A. Scorca Hall at Opera America, 330 Seventh Avenue).  Sam graciously welcomed me and my camera, and here are a few highlights of that evening of wonderfully rewarding music.

But first.  Many musicians — for whatever reasons — fill the air with notes.  This isn’t, in itself, wrong or offensive.  But the masters, to my way of thinking, use fewer notes to sing their song, to tell their story.  At first, Sam’s playing may seem spare, restrained.  But then, if you are willing to follow him, you realize that his approach is that of a great artist who has refined and pared down what he offers.  It’s like having a conversation with someone who so beautifully self-edits speech that the two sentences you hear are forever memorable.  Sam’s playing rings in my ears and continues to do so as he sculpts his solos, offering deep candor, heartfelt truths.

EVERYTHING I LOVE:

YOU ARE TOO BEAUTIFUL:

MY FUTURE JUST PASSED:

SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY:

Hearing Sam, Aidan, and Taro, I am in the presence of great beauty, serene yet intent, beauty that does not need to blind us with flourishes and special effects, a wise, poised art that never needs to raise its voice to be heard and felt.

May your happiness increase!

JUST ANOTHER “DIXIELAND TUNE,” BUT OH HOW GOOD IT SOUNDS: DAN BARRETT, ED POLCER, DAN BLOCK, JOHN COCUZZI, FRANK TATE, ED METZ at the 2014 ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY

Even though now and again I feel the signs of a ROYAL GARDEN BLUES overdose approaching, there’s new life in “old music” that nobody can deny.

JAZZ ME BLUES

The JAZZ ME BLUES is surely an old chestnut, a “Dixieland classic,” a “good old good one” that some listeners and musicians assume comes from the era of faux-jazz: straw hats and striped jackets, jazz half-recreated rather than created.  But no material is in itself alive or dead; it depends on the energy, wit, ingenuity, and feeling that musicians can bring to it.

Thus, this artifact —

JAZZ ME BLUES 78

became something quite vivid and lively in an April 25, 2014 performance at the Atlanta Jazz Party by Dan Barrett, trombone; Ed Polcer, cornet; Dan Block, clarinet; John Cocuzzi, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Ed Metz, drums (and a cameo appearance by Chair):

Notice the nice relaxed tempo, the little ingenuities, the backing figures, the eloquent but understated playing.  Nothing’s dead unless we choose to make it so is the moral of this particular story.  Also that the Atlanta Jazz Party is alive and well in 2016!  More details as the date approaches.

May your happiness increase!

STRAYHORN AT 100: A CONCERT BY THE BILLY STRAYHORN ORCHESTRA (November 20, 2015)

Strayhorn

I hope that by now, in 2015, people know Billy Strayhorn as more than the composer of LUSH LIFE and of TAKE THE “A” TRAIN, more than half of a team with Duke Ellington out front.  This year is Strayhorn’s centenary (his birthday is November 29) and he is receiving some well-deserved attention, although perhaps there will never be enough compensation for the limited attention he received while on this planet.

The Billy Strayhorn Orchestra will be performing a concert of Strayhorn’s music — with, as always, some surprises — on November 20, 2015, at Baruch College Performing Arts Center in New York City.  The very creative and energetic saxophonist Michael Hashim leads the orchestra, which includes Kenny Washington, Mike LeDonne, Art Baron, Bill Easley, Lauren Sevian, Shawn Edmonds, Ed Pazant, David Gibson, Kelly Friesen, Joe Fiedler, Tad Shull, Marty Bound, Jordan Sandke, and Charlie Caranicas.

Here are extended samples from concerts given in 2013 and 2014 by the Orchestra:

PENTONSILIC:

STRAYHORN IN THE FOREGROUND:

The events page for the November 20 concert is here.  Beautiful and rare music awaits those who can attend.

May your happiness increase!

AT RICO’S BARBECUE: WHERE I’VE BEEN, AND WHAT I HEARD (November 8, 2015)

For Part One of these delights, please click here.

Rico CD front better

Trumpeter / singer / bandleader / composer Enrico Tomasso, “Rico” to the legions of people whom he’s adopted and vice versa, is an endearing human being (fully embodying the spirit of Louis) and stellar musician. What might not be immediately apparent is that he is also a superhuman trumpet player.  What you will see and hear below is the final performance of a four-day marathon party (Thursday through Sunday) where Rico had often been playing lead trumpet in front of large ensembles.  And he ended the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party on a high note, no a series of high notes, with his rendition of Louis’ 1938 Decca recording of STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE.

BBQ Decca

I will leave the discussion of the song’s authorship to others, and merely point out that the title is then-contemporary slang for walking proudly down the street with one’s stunning woman partner, not eating a dripping meat sandwich on the run.  And the arrangement you’ll hear is by the brilliant Chappie Willet, whose work has been extensively explored by John Wriggle — and is the subject of John’s forthcoming book.

But to the music.

Rico is joined by and supported by Duke Heitger, Andy Schumm, Kristoffer Kompen, Alistair Allan, Michael McQuaid, Lars Frank, Matthias Seuffert, Robert Fowler, Keith Nichols, Spats Langham, Malcolm Sked, Josh Duffee:

That’s superhuman but also delicately beautiful.  Thank you, Rico, and friends. And as I said in my previous post, the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party is scheduled once again for 2016, but it would be terribly nice if you were there. Since all human enterprises are finite, do what you can to attend this fiesta of music while it’s accessible, rather than saying, “Oh, I’ll get there some day!” and then saying, “I wish I had gone.”   It can be done.  Class dismissed.

May your happiness increase!

WHERE I’VE BEEN, AND WHAT I HEARD (November 5, 2015)

There won’t be much prose in this blogpost: a seventeen-hour travel day has a way of overpowering ordinary cognition (Newcastle to Amsterdam to New York to home, including a taxi, two planes, two airports, a shuttle, and a drive home in rush hour).

But I wanted to let the JAZZ LIVES faithful know that I hadn’t decided to abandon them or the blog.   I will have something to say about the glorious cabaret evening that singer Janice Day and pianist Martin Litton put on in Hay-on-Wye.  And I assure you I will have much more to say about the Mike Durham Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, which is still ringing beautifully in my ears.

Nick Ball and Josh Duffee in the Victory Pub, November 2015, at the Party

Nick Ball and Josh Duffee in the Victory Pub, November 2015, at the Party

But music speaks louder than words, as Charlie Parker reminded Earl Wilson. So here’s a sample from the Thursday, November 5, 2015, after-hours jam session at the Victory Pub in the Village Hotel Newcastle . . . on RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE.

The energized participants are Torstein Kubban, cornet; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Thomas Winteler, clarinet; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Jacob Ullberger, banjo; Nick Ball, drums:

The Party will go on in 2016, but it needs you to survive and flourish.  So do make a note of that, in honor of hot jazz, in honor of Hoagy and Bix too.

May your happiness increase!

FOR BIRD, BASIE, FATS, EUBIE: ROB ADKINS, DAN BLOCK, EHUD ASHERIE at CASA MEZCAL (October 25, 2015)

SHOE SHINE BOY

Certain combinations of musicians — and there are many variations on this theme — can make me shake off my sloth and move quickly to where they will be playing. One such trio is Rob Adkins, string bass; Dan Block, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Ehud Asherie.  These three wizards of swinging melodic improvisation got together last Sunday, October 25, 2015, for a party in a manner a la mode — at Casa Mezcal on Orchard Street — that’s the Lower East Side of New York City.

Here are four gems from early on in the program: old tunes played with such sweet fervor that they don’t sound old.

QUASIMODO, Charlie Parker’s winding line on the chord changes of EMBRACEABLE YOU:

SHOE SHINE BOY — via Jones-Smith, Inc., New York by way of Kansas City and Chicago.  Romping! —

UP JUMPED YOU WITH LOVE, a sweetly mobile swing paean by Fats:

I’M JUST WILD ABOUT HARRY, continued evidence that we need to listen much more closely to the music of Eubie Blake:

What a band, what musical sympathy and swinging empathy.  Timeless creativity.

May your happiness increase!