Monthly Archives: July 2016

THAT FIRECRACKER BABY (July 4, 2016)

Photograph courtesy of the Louis Armstrong House Museum

Photograph courtesy of the Louis Armstrong House Museum

The Fourth of July is a national holiday in the United States: our Independence Day.  And it is also the day that Louis Armstrong said was his birthday.  So did his mother, so even though I don’t think he was born in 1900 but in 1901, if your mother says you were her “firecracker baby,” that takes precedence.

FIREWORKS OKeh

Here, the Fourth of July is celebrated with fireworks.  So this 1928 recording is doubly appropriate.  I salute Tim Gracyk and thank him for his lovely YouTube presentation:

And since three minutes of Louis is never enough, I offer the good news that Columbia University’s FM radio station is back online / streaming, and that on both July 4 and August 4, they do twenty-four hour celebrations of Louis’s birthdays.  To hear that broadcast and future broadcasts, click here (the station’s Facebook page) or directly here.

And with a small orthographical variation . . .

May your Louis-ness increase!

WHEN THREE TIMES FOUR EQUALS PERFECT: JON-ERIK KELLSO, DAN BLOCK, JAMES DAPOGNY, NICKI PARROTT in CLEVELAND (September 12, 2015)

KELLSO

The delicious music that follows is thanks to Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Dan Block, reeds; James Dapogny, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass.

BLOCK

It was recorded on September 12, 2015, at the Allegheny Jazz Party — now the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party.  (Prudent jazz types among us will want to know that this year’s party is happening from Sept. 15-18, 2016.)

marty_grosz_and_his_hot_puppies

I have a special fondness for small jazz groups that don’t follow anyone’s idea of “standard instrumentation,” which is often trumpet / trombone / clarinet / piano / string bass / drums — or other familiar permutations.   This is one of the happiest examples of quiet unorthodoxy.  I didn’t miss a trombone or a set of drums.

PARROTT

The warm videos that follow are thanks to Laura Wyman of Wyman Video. Together — sound and picture, invention and accuracy — they seem just perfect to me, and I hope to you, with some of the sweet joy and majesty I’d associate with a Ruby Braff group.

LAURA WYMAN w camera

“Something’s happening every minute,” a friend said while observing this band in action, and that was both correct and an understatement.

Here are the three leisurely performances, full of individual glory and ensemble cooperation — swing synergy at its best.  Instant classics, I think.

RUSSIAN LULLABY:

ON THE ALAMO:

WHO’S SORRY NOW?:

I attended this delightful jazz weekend (I’ve been a regular since September 2004) and those of you who have seen me from the back will notice that I am sitting center — or left of center, which suits me better.  The back of my head gleams; the little rectangle of my camera’s viewfinder gleams even more.

Why, then, aren’t you watching my videos?  Did an accident happen to my camera?  Did it fall into the salad (as it once did) or did I drop it?

No, Laura’s videos are much better than mine — especially in the sound, which is what counts — so I present them with friendly pride and pleasure.  (All of this has been verified through independent studies done at major universities.)

And I suggest to you that if you are in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area — or even if you aren’t — and you need first-rate videography, make a straight line to Wyman Video for truly superb work.  She doesn’t limit herself to jazz concerts, but has done remarkable documenting dance recitals, family gatherings, and other happy occasions.  I don’t think she does funerals, and she leaves divorce-case surveillance to others . . . but anything else you can think of she can accomplish.

And if it’s music you’r after, music that will remind you of life’s high-toned joys, I’ll see you at the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party where such marvels blossom as easily as inhaling and exhaling.

May your happiness increase!

BEAUTY, NOW: LIAM BYRNE / ROSSANO SPORTIELLO (May 2016)

Liam Byrne

Here are two lovely performances that rest so gently on floating melodies, created by the young tenor saxophonist Liam Byrne and the Maestro, Rossano Sportiello.  For once, I am going to reprint an artist’s biography directly from his website, because it expresses neatly what you need to know:

Saxophonist LIAM BYRNE from North Wales studied at Leeds College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music winning several awards, including the Dave Cooper Memorial Prize for Jazz Saxophone and the ‘Spud Murphy’ Saxophone Prize.  He has performed alongside leading British jazz musicians including Alan Barnes, Digby Fairweather, Bruce Adams and Dave O’Higgins.  He also co-leads a band with trumpeter Jamie Brownfield which regularly performs across the country at jazz clubs and festivals. Liam has a growing reputation as a torchbearer of the jazz tenor saxophone tradition, with a warm sound and understated aproach inspired by the likes of Lester Young and Ben Webster.

The biography leaves out that Liam lives in Llandegla, an alliterative cluster which seems a fine title of an original.  But I digress.

These two beautifully evocative performances were recorded May 8, 2016 at a private jazz party in Cheadle Cheshire, UK, at the house of Malcolm Frazer, who has superb taste.

Here’s ALMOST LIKE BEING IN LOVE:

and a deep subtle evocation of 1956 Lester Young on I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO CHANGE MY PLAN:

For more beauties (solos by Rossano, a quartet featuring Liam, and more) subscribe to Malcolm Frazer’s YouTube channel.

With lyricism like this being created NOW, I can turn away from the news and feel hopeful, if only for a brief time.  Thank you for that, Liam, Rossano, and Malcolm.

May your happiness increase!

TO THE STARS WITH GABRIELLE and MICHAEL (Cornelia Street Cafe, July 11, 2016)

On Monday, July 11, at 8:30 PM, Gabrielle Stravelli and Michael Kanan will create one set of glorious music at the Cornelia Street Cafe in Greenwich Village, New York.  Here is the event page with all the necessary information.

GABRIELLE AND MICHAEL CD

This event is truly exciting, both as a celebration of the CD above, and as a pure expression of loving music.  Consider this:

That performance is something I marvel at, over and over.  And at the Cafe, Gabrielle and Michael will be performing songs from the CD as well as some that do not appear on it.

The CD can be purchased through iTunes and CDBaby.  (Of course, the best way to purchase it is directly from the artists, so a connection both personal and financial takes place, but you already knew that.)

I am thrilled that it exists, and perhaps excessively proud of my small part in it: the liner notes that I offer here:

Gabrielle Stravelli and Michael Kanan create rare beauty. Whenever I’ve heard them, singly or in duet, I’ve marveled. I feel as alive as I will ever be, with tears in my eyes and an astonished uncontrollable smile.

Their art is heartfelt and subtle. It takes devotion to be so at one with the music, to create drama without being dramatic. They serve the song, words and music. They make the most familiar song seem fresh, but never distort it in the name of innovation.

These performances were recorded in The Drawing Room, that gratifying yet unassuming Brooklyn shrine to music, on February 8, 2105. It was an honor to experience such music, to witness it being created.

The rapport between Michael and Gabrielle is intuitive. It is trust set to music. They travel the same path as dear friends, serious about their work but light-hearted in play. The results are quiet rather than showy yet always convincing, an love-offering of improvised nuances, not rehearsed gestures. Even when the material they choose is dark, tenderness shines through. They are at once serene and agile, poets who never insist on Being Poetic.

I don’t know what their religious beliefs are, and it would be impudent to inquire. But these performances seem fully realized secular hymns to music, to feeling. Gabrielle and Michael offer us hopeful visions of exalted possibilities.
My praise might make them seem too deeply serious, as if listening to their music was weighty spiritual homework. Not so. Doom is never one of the specials on their menu, and you can hear them smiling when the song calls for it. Their work is characterized by ease and wise patience. They don’t rush. They allow each moment to emerge as it will, to blossom and turn sunward. They delight in a rubato forward motion that never loses the pulse.

Gabrielle’s voice has many rooms, each one painted a different color. It can move from a hushed half-whisper to the insistent meow of a Siamese cat or the wry curl of a New York Italian adolescent, amused by what she’s just seen on the street, to an expressive, rangy open voice, dark and warm in its lower register, bright and soaring above. She has beautiful diction and she never obliterates the lyric; rather, her phrasing makes meaning deeper. Only she can make me accept the “idea” / “Maria” rhyme in SO RARE, which fact I offer as great tribute.

Michael’s touch is sensitive; his harmonies remarkable. He surprises but never shocks. He honors Jimmie Rowles by not imitating him. His phrases breathe in inspiring ways. His playing is spare yet rich, with a singing expressiveness. He knows that the piano has an entire orchestra within it, but his creations always sound translucent rather than insistent. His is an art where every detail matters and resonates long after the struck note has died away. As an accompanist he gives wondrously, wanting only that others sound even better than they thought they could.

With stories full of sweet truths, Gabrielle and Michael invite us to open the secret door in the attic, revealing the stairway to the stars. Through their music, we climb to a rare joy.

So I urge you earnestly to come to the Cornelia Street Cafe on Monday, July 11, 2016, for this blessing in music.  The music begins at 8:30.  The doors open at 8. There is a $10 cover and a $10 food/beverage minimum. Call (212) 989-9319 for reservations or reserve online at www.corneliastreetcafe.com.

A few postscripts.  I will be there, as close to the music as I can get, beaming at these two artists whom I admire so much.  But I will be there as a mere human being, which is to say someone without a camera.  And the Cafe has informed me that due to budgetary restrictions, they will not be able to provide each patron of the arts with a lazy daisy.  You’re on your own.

May your happiness increase!