JUST FRIENDS — when it was originally performed in 1931 — was a sad love ballad, appropriate to the beautifully mournful tones of Red McKenzie — and notice how hip and expansive his second chorus is. He had known and heard the Chicagoans, Jimmie Noone, and of course Louis:
If you prefer the 1932 Russ Columbo version, it’s beautiful also.
At some point, JUST FRIENDS was treated less as a lament and more as a song to play on. (One could point to the Charlie Parker with Strings recording in 1949, and subsequent performances, but Bird often treated it as a medium-tempo ballad.) And that tradition — swing rather than sobbing — prevails today.
I present an extended swing meditation on this song, performed on Thursday, September 10, 2015. The participants, the creators, are Ehud Asherie, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Pete Siers, drums; Howard Alden, guitar; Bill Allred, trombone; Randy Reinhart, cornet; Dan Block, tenor saxophone.
That is the sort of wonderful music that happens every year at this party, whether it’s at the informal jam sessions of Thursday night or the sets on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. This year, the Party takes place from September 15 to the 18th.
A word about names. When I started attending this party, it was held in Chautauqua, New York, and was called Jazz at Chautauqua; then it moved to Cleveland and temporarily was called the Allegheny Jazz Party; now it has become mature and changed its name to the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party. You can find out more details here, on Facebook, or at the Party’s www.alleghenyjazz.org, or even by calling 216.956.0866.
The Party takes place at the InterContinental Hotel and Conference Center, 9801 Carnegie Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106. You can call 216.707.4100 or 855.765.8709 to make reservations, but be sure to use the Group Code YOO when you call or reserve online.
Musicians who will be there . . . are the Faux Frenchmen, Rebecca Kilgore, Wesla Whitfield, Andy Stein, Hal Smith, Pete Siers, Ricky Malichi, Frank tate, Kerry Lewis, Jon Burr, Rossano Sportiello, Mike Greensill, James Dapogny, Ehud Asherie, Marty Grosz, Howard Alden, Bill Allred, Dan Barrett. Scott Robinson, Dan Levinson, Dan Block, Harry Allen, Jon-Erik Kellso, Andy Schumm, Randy Reinhart, Duke Heitger.
Come by, hear some wonderful music, eat and drink, and make friends.
May your happiness increase!