Monthly Archives: May 2016

COZY VIRTUOSI: RUSS PHILLIPS, DAN BARRETT, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, NICKI PARROTT, ED METZ at the 2015 ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (April 19, 2015)

How do we define virtuosity?  Is it blinding technical skill, amazing displays of bravado, playing higher, faster, in ways that dizzy and delight?  Sometimes, perhaps.  I think Louis’ 250 high C’s in performances in the early Thirties must have delighted audiences.  But the true virtuosity (to me) is subtler, quieter, more subversive: Louis’ melody statement and solo on THAT’S FOR ME comes to mind.  Dear and deep melodic improvisations that stick in the mind as much as the original song; tone and touch that come to us with the sweet clarity and intensity of beloved voices; unerring yet relaxed swing.

Russ and Dan at Atlanta

The three performances offered here are perfectly virtuosic, although the general approach is spiritual rather than calisthenic, people playing for the happiness of the band rather than for the loudest applause.

Five people joined forces on the spot — not an organized band — at the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Party: Russ Phillips, Dan Barrett, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Ed Metz, drums.

I’ve already posted this quintet’s made-fresh-while-you-wait masterpiece, improvisations on Artie Shaw’s blues line for his Gramercy Five, SUMMIT RIDGE DRIVE, but it bears repeated watching and listening:

Lovely in a blue haze, but with a swing: MOOD INDIGO:

And EAST OF THE SUN, which Professor Barrett explicates for us as preface to the glorious cosmological explorations:

These cozy virtuosi (thanks to Cole Porter) indeed.

May your happiness increase!

BY THE LIGHT OF LOUIS

LOUIS and ALPHA and dog

I’ve written this before, but when I hear Louis Armstrong, I have great difficulty keeping myself from standing up instantly and putting my hand over my heart.

LOUIS cartoon in Melody Maker Jan. 1933

But I also feel that way about music that reminds me of Louis.  I don’t simply mean WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH or THE FAITHFUL HUSSAR, but any music that’s beautifully and reverently played, with emphasis on melodic improvisation in swing.  That happens fairly regularly, thank goodness, with the musicians I follow.  And it happened most beautifully at the end of the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party (now the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party) during the closing ballad medley.

I know that Norman Granz got the credit for introducing the ballad medley to jazz concerts — that is, rather than have everyone on stage take a long solo on a ballad, thus making for a musical interlude of nearly an hour at a slow tempo, he would have his soloists take one chorus only on a ballad that they’d chosen, with the rhythm section keeping the same slow tempo but changing key — but I wonder if credit shouldn’t go first or simultaneously to Eddie Condon, for whom this was a regular feature in clubs and broadcasts and even recordings.  Condon’s medleys were a bit more brisk — what generations ago musicians and listeners called “rhythm ballads” — but they were delightful interludes.

Joe Boughton, founder of the Allegheny Jazz Party (and Jazz at Chautauqua and other gifts) would have followed the Condon model — I think JATP was anathema to him.  Since he loved obscure show tunes and songs that would otherwise be forgotten, he insisted that his parties close with an extended ballad medley before a final jam tune.

A beautiful evocation of what Riley and Clint Baker call LOUISNESS happened once again at the 2015 Party (September 13, 2015) when all the musicians trooped onstage to play or sing one heartfelt chorus.  Here are six of the best: soloists Scott Robinson, tenor [WAS I TO BLAME?}; Duke Heitger, trumpet [BODY AND SOUL]; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet [HOME] with lovely rhythm section support from Rossano Sportiello, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.

I think of Joe Oliver sternly telling his protege that people wanted to hear that lead . . . and of Louis always embodying that the song was lovely and that one had to play it from the heart.

What music is all about; what music does at its best.

May your happiness increase!

DANCE ME TO THE START OF SWING, 2016

Photograph by Doug Coombe

Photograph by Doug Coombe

How do you move your bodies to the rhythm in ways that are aesthetically delightful, that mirror the music without distracting from it, with no period caricature?  How do you make deep careful rehearsed expertise look as easy and casual as three young women prancing around the living room?  I don’t know, but Erin Morris and her Ragdolls not only have the answers but enact them in swingtime.

The soundtrack is Ellingtonia — a Johnny Hodges small band, I believe, but the real pleasure for me is watching the music made flesh, the sounds echoed by every caper and wiggle.  To learn more about Erin Morris and Her Ragdolls, you can easily do it at their Facebook page or here.

An exalted lovely funny nonchalance.

May your happiness increase! 

OSAKA JOYS (April 24, 2016)

Osaka

My great friends and heroes took a trip recently to Osaka, Japan, to play with the New Orleans Rascals — a band celebrating its fiftieth anniversary.  Some of those friends are Mike Fay, string bass; Carl Sonny Leyland, piano / vocal; Jeff Hamilton, drums; Clint Baker, trombone / clarinet; Marc Caparone, cornet; Bill Dixon, banjo; Fred Hard, string bass; Ben Fay, guitar.  (Although the Rascals and the other bands offered below are different than most of the jazz I listen to avidly, they are both sincere and expert: they are truly IN the idiom, and I admire that.)

What follows is a present brought to us thanks to the ODJC New Orleans Jazz (I am making an assumption that the name stands for Original Dixieland Jazz Club) and a concert given on April 24, 2016, at the Shimanouchi Church in Osaka, Japan — and the videos are a special present from 1936shazz — who has been posting jazz of this ilk on a YouTube channel for some time now.

Here are Marc and Fred, joining The New Orleans Kitchen Five for a soulful OVER IN THE GLORYLAND:

The caption for this video — identifying the other members of the NOKF — reads ニューオリンズ・キッチンフアイブ 川合純一(Bj) 加藤平祐(Cl)
秋定 暢(Tb) 簗瀬文弘(Ds) Marc Caparone(Tp) Fred Hard(B)
ODJC 例会 2016.4.24 島之内教会

My Japanese is non-existent, but these fellows sound really good!

Here are Marc, Clint, Carl, Jeff, Ben, and Fred romping through BLUE BELLS, GOODBYE (a World War One song brought into the repertoire by Bunk Johnson, if I have my facts straight):

And some lowdown blues — the DOWN HEARTED BLUES, sung by Ton Ton, with Tsunetami Fukuda, trombone, and Mike back on bass:

and OLD-FASHIONED LOVE (with or without the hyphen, your choice) with a glorious vocal and piano by Carl — and a delightful rhythm-section passage by Bill, Fred, and Mike — to which Jeff, very appropriately, says “Thank you!” at 5:39:

and — as promised — some JOYS! — as if what you’ve seen up to now wasn’t sufficiently evocative:

I am so grateful that this music exists — how lovely to see a long-lived culture paying deep wise attention to an art that needs it.  I bless the musicians and, of course, the recordist.  I wish you JOYS, too.

May your happiness increase!