Rebecca Kilgore makes us glad to be alive whenever she sings, even if the song is melancholy. I’ve been admiring her work for a long time, and it is a great comfort to know that her glowing presence is no more distance than her latest CD. But while you are waiting for that CD to arrive, may I offer you a treat that I think is beyond compare?
Perhaps twenty years ago, the superb jazz drummer Hal Smith (read more about Hal here) had a delightful little band in California that he called the RHYTHMAKERS, homage to the hottest band to ever record — ask Philip Larkin. That band made a handful of superb CDs, discs I return to regularly, and one was a collection of lesser-known Fats Waller songs, CONCENTRATIN’ ON FATS. The singer on those discs was one Becky Kilgore, floating and swinging magnificiently.
When Hal and Becky found that they were going to be among the stars of the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party — now called the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party — Hal suggested that they do a set of those Waller songs, and Rebecca, who loves good songs and rare ones as well as the Songbook classics, agreed.
Hence, a wonderful little band, with Rebecca, Hal, Nicki Parrott, string bass; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Andy Schumm, clarinet. (Yes, clarinet. Wonderfully, too. As I was listening, I heard familiar sounds and tones — not Pee Wee or Tesch, exactly — but then “the penny dropped,” as they say in the UK. Andy is inspired by Milton “Mezz” Mezzrow, and the result is as if Mezz had studied hard and practiced for hours — a very inspiring result.)
And here’s the first gem, HOW JAZZ WAS BORN, from 1928, and one of the hit songs of KEEP SHUFFLIN’:
I could listen to this band all day. (Frankly, I’d like to see the concert tour, the NPR and PBS series, to say nothing of the associated merchandise.)
And be assured that they performed more songs in this set.
If you are still unsure of the origins of jazz, I know that Professors Kilgore, Smith, Parrott, Schumm, Sportiello will be happy to explain in words and music at the 2016 Cleveland Classic Jazz Party and their other gigs.
May your happiness increase!