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.
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!