Don’t get worried. JAZZ LIVES hasn’t suddenly turned political, nor will there be any mention of plenary sessions at the great JAZZ LIVES convention. The “Keynote” I am thinking of, with great affection, is the record label run by Harry Lim in the Forties, which turned out classic after classic, often on longer-running 12″ 78s. If you’re like me, this label should be immensely dear to you, even if this particular sacred artifact hadn’t been autographed by the leader:
And this flyer — a new cyber-discovery — evokes some of the same emotions, even for people like myself who now have all the records from that label. “Advanced Jazz” is also pleasing, reminding us that today’s Historical Sounds were once The New Thing:
Now, this isn’t a post mooning about records made seventy years ago. I offer two performances created and captured on November 27, 2015, by a band of eminences . . . but the performances so reminded me of the Keynote label that it became a useful jumping-off point. For one thing, the hot numbers that Lim supervised built up to an almost unbearable tension: after one of those sides, I feel depleted, exhausted, as if the whole band had been jamming in my apartment. And when the session called for something slower — whether plaintive or a “rhythm ballad,” the time stretched out, as if the players had all the time in the world to tell their stories.
Consider these performances by Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs, plus Marc Caparone on cornet. That’s Ray on piano; Kim Cusack, clarinet; Clint Baker, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar; Jeff Hamilton, drums.
The first song, ROCK AND RYE, a product of Earl Hines’ 1934 band, is indeed rocking: it refers to a combination of rye whiskey and rock candy / rock sugar. And since it pains me when people are reaching for information and not finding any of it there, here is a recipe for it.
Not entirely tangentially, in a Whitney Balliett profile of Helen Humes, when she was appearing at The Cookery in New York, we hear Barney Josephson telling Helen that she has to drink some, that he had bought a whole case for her.
But enough stories. Music, please!
And the second selection is a poignant journey through IT’S THE TALK OF THE TOWN, that Thirties ballad about a broken relationship, a broken-off engagement. Marc doesn’t imitate anyone, but I always think of this song in connection with trumpeter Joe Thomas (who liked to sing it as well as play it) and who was a particular favorite of Harry Lim’s, which is a blessing, since Joe’s Keynote recordings increase his discography by perhaps fifty percent. Here’s a portrait of Joe by William Gottlieb, taken at the Pied Piper in New York City (which still stands although with no music) in late 1947:
And here’s the 2015 rendering:
Blessings on the Cubs and on Ray and Marc, and on Paul Daspit, whose dear guidance makes such things happen. Oh, and there are more videos from this session. See you at this year’s San Diego Jazz Fest (November 23-27, 2016).
May your happiness increase!