Monthly Archives: October 2016

“IT’S GRAND, MAN!” (Part One): GORDON AU’S GRAND STREET STOMPERS (Sept. 10, 2016)

Even though the event was called DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON — both a tribute to Ernest Hemingway and his habit of “daydrinking,”  nobody died.  In fact, we were all given new tangible reasons to want to live, and live well at the afternoon event put on by Ward 8 Events at Raoul’s in Greenwich Village on September 10, 2016.  It was a divine Prohibition-themed afternoon of delicious things to eat — far better than the best hors d’oeuvres I could imagine — and beautifully-executed cocktails.

PULLING FOR HIM

And of course there was superb hot music by Gordon Au and his Grand Street Stompers, concentrated into a quartet of Gordon, trumpet, vocal, arrangements, compositions; Matt Koza, reeds; Glenn Crytzer, guitar; Scott Colberg. string bass.  This compact hot band began the afternoon with several songs associated with Louis — aesthetic choices I can approve of.

INDIANA:

SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY:

COME BACK, SWEET PAPA:

ONCE IN A WHILE:

CANAL STREET BLUES:

As is usual with Gordon, the repertoire broadened as the afternoon went on: his imagination is spacious.  For future: I understand that there is a new GSS CD in the works, featuring — as well as instrumental brilliance, wit, and lyricism — solos and duets from Tamar Korn and Molly Ryan.  I’ll let you know more as the curtains slowly are parted.  Until then, savor these wonderful performances from a rainy afternoon in September 2016.

And thanks to Fay Leshner of Ward 8 events for making this afternoon dream a reality.

May your happiness increase!

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A TEA PARTY, 1936

Thanks to the ever-surprising Tim Gracyk, here is a new piece of history. (Tim, for those of you who don’t know, posts rare records, poetry, and philosophical commentary regularly on YouTube — in profusion.)

The “buff Bluebird” label is very appealing to the eye and nostalgic for me, so I paused while scrolling through Tim’s latest cornucopia.  Then I saw the band title, which was another inducement — because of its suggestion that hot jazz might be lurking behind that general monicker.

I started the video and listened very casually: nice band, good trumpet and clarinet, both familiar, but it wasn’t until the drummer hit an accent that I started to pay attention.  “That’s Stan King!  And it certainly sounds like Marty and Joe Marsala. . . . ”

The band was “Tempo King And His Kings Of Tempo” : Marty Marsala, trumpet; Joe Marsala, clarinet; Queenie Ada Rubin, piano; Eddie Condon, guitar; George Yorke, string bass; Stan King, drums; Tempo King, vocal, leader: another one of the swing combos, their roots in Fifty-Second Street, to emulate and ride alongside the Fats Waller phenomenon.

I couldn’t find out much about Frank Ryerson, except that he also was one of the composers of BLUE CHAMPAGNE, and what we used to call The World Wide Web (remember?) told me that he was a trumpeter in Glen Gray’s orchestra.

Why the alias?  Ordinarily bands recorded four sides in a three-hour session; this one was particularly fertile, and this band turned out seven usable sides.  So Bluebird 6690 had this recording on one side; on the other, a performance by Frank Tanner (leader of a Texas-based orchestra), SAILOR MAN RHYTHM.

The song isn’t memorable, but I find it intriguing.  For reasons that are somewhat amorphous eighty years later, there was a spurt of novelty songs with mock-historical themes: CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, QUEEN ISABELLA, THE MIDNIGHT RIDE OF PAUL REVERE, and others even less well known. Stuff Smith, not surprisingly, had the riposte with I DON’T WANT TO MAKE HISTORY (I JUST WANT TO MAKE LOVE.)

Before this session, Mal Hallet, Jimmy Dorsey, and perhaps other bands had taken this one on; after, on a 1937 radio transcription from Hilversum, the Ramblers with Coleman Hawkins performed it, then Max Rumpf in Berlin, and Seger Ellis and his Choirs of Brass.  Hallet may even have taken it as his theme song; there’s a 1944 V-Disc which is introduced by this song.  (Another V-Disc, which I’ve never heard, is called AFTER ALL THAT GIN, which is promising.)

It’s a good record, a lot of fun, and an otherwise hidden performance.  Thanks, Tim.

May your happiness increase!

BEAUTY WITHOUT BORDERS, 1959

When I find the current news or someone’s smallness of spirit irksome or depressing, I try to turn my concentration to one evidence of Beauty close at hand.  From where I sit, a pear tree’s leaves and branches wave in front of my window.  At the right time, pink striations of sunset, glowing and ever-changing, are in that same window.  Or I can cast my mind back to Beauty, once witnessed, never elusive: this Colorado rainbow, for instance:

Double rainbow, Evergreen, Colorado, 2014. Photograph by Michael Steinman

Double rainbow, Evergreen, Colorado, 2014.

My readers know well the healing power of Beauty through music.  So I invite you to click on the video below and simply listen — without research, without preconceptions, without judgment . . . as if you trusted me to feed you something delicious after I’d asked you to close your eyes:

Gorgeous, understated, melodic, persuasive, no?  (If it doesn’t play in your country, there are multiple postings of this music: I picked the one that didn’t start with a high-volume advertisement.)

I come to this recording late, but gratefully — thanks to saxophone master and general inspiration Jon De Lucia, who put on a concert of some of these arrangements last Sunday at the Drawing Room.  Because of him, I purchased the CD and listened to it this morning.

Why do I present this music in such a sideways fashion?  Of course, I’d like to share what pleases me and what I believe will please my readers — hence the hours I spend on JAZZ LIVES.

But I also have an ideological purpose.  Some divide this art that we love by erecting boundaries.  THIS is the music I will listen to.  THIS is the music I shy away from.  And they apply tests, rather like someone trying to find out whether the soil is acid or alkaline.  “Is this OUR KIND OF MUSIC?”  “Is it “too modern?” “Is it tainted by . . . Swing . . . ?”

Everyone’s entitled to preferences.  I don’t trust the taste of someone who says, “I like everything!” whether it’s music, literature, food — without some discernment, a person seems blind to subtleties.  But I think sadly of people who would turn away from this music, Konitz and Giuffre, because they weren’t Papa Joe and Omer Simeon.  They deprive themselves of the possibility that some Beauty — even if initially strange or alien — could enrich them for under four minutes.

So be courageous.  Listen.  Open ears, open heart, close prejudices, knock down barriers.  Leave the Venn diagrams of PURE and IMPURE to others.

May your happiness increase!

DID MARVIN GO?

Here’s a little mystery, courtesy of the great attic / basement / rummage sale / museum that is eBay: two sides of a postcard, and the question of my title.

maltz-stuyvesant-casino-front

Flip it over . . .

maltz-stuyvesant-casino

Maybe Marvin was tired from his workweek; $1.50 meant much more in 1948 than it does today.  But I hope he got to the Stuyvesant Casino and heard the band, and had a wonderful time.  In my ideal fantasy, he saved the postcard because he did go . . . he’d kept it in his shirt pocket and his fountain pen leaked on the bottom right corner above.

Incidentally, the eBay seller (link here) is asking one hundred times the admission price for this artifact: make of that what you will.  Inflation, for sure. But shipping is free.

Internet research, always treacherous, shows me that 41-63 Frame Place still exists, and that there is “a” Marvin Dunenfeld, 89, who now lives in Willis, Texas. The age would be right, but it’s a much longer trip from Flushing to Willis than it might have been from Flushing to the East Village.

The moral to the story (there must be a moral) is that we don’t always know what Wonders are happening in our midst: almost seventy years later, this casual Friday night concert seems to us like a gathering of deities, correctly.  Get out and hear some live music if you can, while you can.  If you can’t, then buy a CD. If that’s not possible, have a friend over and play some music . . . spread the word.  Chippie Hill isn’t showing up for gigs any more, but we can still hear her.

May your happiness increase!

TRUTH IN (HOT) ADVERTISING: THE FAT BABIES, “SOLID GASSUH,” DELMARK RECORDS 257

We hope this truth can be made evident.  The new CD by The Fat Babies, SOLID GASSUH, on Delmark Records, embodies Truth in Advertising in its title and its contents.

solid-gassuh

“Solid gassuh,” as Ricky Riccardi — the Master of all things Louis — informs us in his excellent liner notes, was Louis’ highest expression of praise.  (I’d like to see it replace “sick” and “killin'” in the contemporary lexicon.  Do I dream?)

The Fat Babies are a superb band — well-rehearsed but sublimely loose, authentic but not stiff.  If you don’t know them, you are on the very precipice of Having Missed Out On Something Wonderful — which I can rectify herehere, and here.  (Those posts come from July 29, 2016 at the Evergreen Jazz Festival, and feature the “new” Fat Babies with the addition of the heroic Jonathan Doyle on reeds.)

SOLID GASSUH was recorded at the Babies’ hangout, the Honky Tonk BBQ, but there’s no crowd noise — which is fine — and the recorded sound is especially spacious and genuine, thanks to Mark Haynes and Alex Hall.  I know it’s unusual to credit the sound engineers first, but when so many recordings sound like recordings rather than music, they deserve applause.

The Babies, for this recording, their third, are Andy Schumm, cornet and arrangements; Dave Bock, trombone; John Otto, reeds; Paul Asaro, piano and vocals (also the chart for EGYPTIAN ELLA), Jake Sanders, banjo and guitar, Beau Sample, leader, string bass; Alex Hall, drums.

Their repertoire, for those deep in this music, says so much about this band — DOCTOR BLUES / AFTER A WHILE / FEELIN’ GOOD / DID YOU EVER SEE A DREAM WALKING? / ORIGINAL CHARLESTON STRUT / PENCIL PAPA / I MISS A LITTLE MISS / PARKWAY STOMP / YOU WERE ONLY PASSING TIME WITH ME / ALABAMY BOUND / SLOW RIVER / DELIRIUM / EGYPTIAN ELLA / SING SONG GIRL / MAPLE LEAF RAG.  There are many associations here, but without looking anything up I think of Ben Pollack, Paul Mares, Boyce Brown, Ted Lewis, Benny Goodman, Bix Beiderbecke, Fud Livingston, Red Nichols, Miff Mole, Luis Russell, Bud Freeman, Bing Crosby, Nat Finston, Thomas Morris, Lil Hardin, Sidney Catlett, Al Wynn, Punch Miller, Alex Hill . . . and you can fill in the other blanks for yourself.  And even though some of the songs may be “obscure,” each track is highly melodic and dramatic without ever being melodramatic.  (As much as we love ROYAL GARDEN BLUES, it’s reassuring to know that it wasn’t the only song ever played.)

The Babies are remarkable for what they aren’t — not a “Dixieland” or “New Orleans” or “Condon” ensemble, but a group of musicians who obviously have studied the players, singers, and the recordings, but use them as inspired framework for their own creativity.  Occasionally, the Babies do offer us a transcription of a venerable recorded performance, but it is so energized (and by that I don’t mean faster or louder) that it seems as if someone has cleaned centuries of dust off an Old Master and it’s seen freshly.  More often, they use portions of an original arrangement, honoring it, as a way to show off their own bright solos.  So the effect at times is not an “updating,” but music seen from another angle, an alternate take full of verve and charm, as if the fellows had been playing the song on the job rather than in the studio.

If you follow the Babies, and many do, you will have known that this recording is coming, and will already have it.  When my copy arrived, I played it through three times in a row, marveling at its energy and precision, its lively beating heart.  SOLID GASSUH is immensely satisfying, as are the Fat Babies themselves.

You can purchase the disc and hear sound samples here, and  this is the Delmark Records site, where good music (traditional and utterly untraditional) flourishes.

May your happiness increase!

“FEETS, DO YOUR STUFF!”: JAMES EVANS, ANDY SCHUMM, DAVID BOEDDINGHAUS, TOM SAUNDERS, HAL SMITH at the PALM COURT JAZZ CAFE (New Orleans, September 23, 2016)

You don’t have to be a specialist in Morton’s neuroma to appreciate this excursion into happiness: a delicious romp on the 1930 Yellen and Ager paean to dancing, written for THE KING OF JAZZ.

happy-feet-potato-head-label

That is an image — the famous Paul Whiteman recording.  Here’s something that is even more multi-dimensional.  The performance took place on September 23, 2016, at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe, as part of the Steamboat Stomp (thanks again and again to Duke Heitger for making his and our dreams come true).  The noble participants here are James Evans, clarinet; Andy Schumm, cornet; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Tom Saunders, bass saxophone; Hal Smith, drums.  And do they rock!

I find it hilariously fitting that because of the intermittent lighting in the room (everyone knows that jazz clubs, to be atmospheric, must be dark) that the most brightly lit area of this video — leaving aside James’ brilliantly white shirt — is one or both of Andy’s shoes.  HAPPY FEET, no doubt.

footprints-in-sand-at-beach

There’s more to come from the Stomp and other joyous events . . . so keep following JAZZ LIVES.  Good value for your money, if I may be so bold.

May your happiness increase!

SARAH AT SARAH’S: AUGUST 28, 2016 (Part Two)

sarah-spencer

On August 18, 2016, Sarah Spencer — the UK-born phenomenon on saxophones and vocal — led a quartet that created romping New Orleans jazz.  This took place at the happily named Sarah’s Wine Bar in Ridgefield, Connecticut, where a Jazz Masters Series takes place on the last Sunday of each month.  Sarah’s colleagues are banjoist /singer Jimmy Mazzy, pianist Bill Sinclair, bassist / tubaist Art Hovey.

Here is Part One, and here are two special features by the lyric troubadour and entertainer Jimmy Mazzy from that same evening.

And here are some more delights.

SMILE, DARN YA, SMILE:

A cautionary sermon on the virtues of taciturnity, Morton’s BIG LIP BLUES (which starts out with an unintentional reference to A. A. Milne):

ROYAL TELEPHONE:

And the closing numbers with special significance for Sarah and all of us, I’M WITH YOU WHERE YOU ARE:

GOIN’ HOME / TILL WE MEET AGAIN:

Sarah, as she points out, will be returning home to the UK on January 3, 2017 — although she promises to visit us again for gigs in the autumn.  Wherever she goes, she will spread joy, as she has here.

May your happiness increase!