I first encountered Jonathan Doyle (tenor saxophone, clarinet, compositions, arrangements) through my friend, master percussionist Hal Smith — more about that later — which is a stellar recommendation. I then encountered Jon as the lead horn in a San Diego Jazz Fest session with Ray Skjelbred (another gold star) and most recently with the Fat Babies at the Evergreen Jazz Festival. Somewhere in this delightful process of admiration, I heard and loved Jonathan’s CD, THE FED HOP, and we actually had a short friendly conversation at Evergreen. His official biography can be found here.
Jonathan is not one of those highly-schooled fellows who “understands” swing from a safe distance. Watch him on video for even eight bars, and you see that he is utterly immersed in it, his horn and his body in the grip of the most beautiful energies. He also surrounds himself with like-minded souls who obviously live for this kind of lyrical groovy experience. AND his compositions are quite wonderful: often subversively built on almost-familiar chord changes with titles that almost give the joke away. For instance, I think I’VE NEVER BEEN TO NEW YORK is a slow rock over the harmonies of ROSE OF WASHINGTON SQUARE, the results being satisfying and a well-executed in-joke. This band harks back to the Keynote sessions, to Basie small groups (with Basie himself smiling at the sounds but not at the keyboard), Benny Carter lines, and more . . . but they’re not in town to copy, but to evoke. And they do it splendidly.
The swing heroes for this particular session, captured slightly more than a year ago at the Sahara Lounge in Austin, Texas, are Jonathan, tenor sax; David Jellema, cornet; Mark Gonzales, trombone; Brooks Prumo, rhythm guitar; Joshua Hoag, string bass; Jason Baczynski, drums. The very expert videos are by Gary Feist of yellowdogvideo.com.
Al Sears’ hit, CASTLE ROCK (a title that stands for something good, magnified):
Jon’s original, I’VE NEVER BEEN TO NEW YORK:
Another original, STRANGE MACHINATIONS:
Some very good omens. First, a close cousin of the band shown above has recorded a new CD, TOO HOT FOR SOCKS, which I will be writing about — enthusiastically, having heard some of it through digital magic. You can hear it and Jon’s other recordings at his website and here. He’s also on Facebook here. And — just to pile tantalizing bits of data one upon another –here is his YouTube channel, full of delights. (So the young man may play like it’s 1946 but he certainly knows how to navigate this century with grace.)
Hal Smith (mentioned admiringly above) has a new band, SWING CENTRAL, which features Jon as the sole horn, exploring the best floating small-band swing with a focus on Lester Young, Charlie Christian, and Pee Wee Russell. The other participants have been pianist Dan Walton, guitarist Jamey Cummins, and either Joshua Hoag or Steve Pikal on string bass. They’ve played at the Capital City Jazz Fest in Madison, Wisconsin in April, and they just had a gig at Central Market in Austin, Texas. Rumor has it that a few festival appearances are being discussed, as is a CD recording session. And — no rumor — I will have some videos from Austin to share with you in the near future. A band to look out for!
Keep grooving with Jonathan Doyle and friends, wherever you find them.
May your happiness increase!