I think of Dan Block as the main character in a Ray Bradbury story. Friendly but mysterious, he comes to a small town in the Midwest and puts up a banner advertising his TRANSFORMATIONALISTS: “Time Is But The Stream We Go Fishing In / Come With Us!” A middle-school trombonist hesitantly approaches the Magical Transormationalist, falls under the spell of the music, and when the band leaves town, she goes with them, entranced, on to glories yet undiscovered.
When Dan has led his “Harlem in the Thirties Updated” group at Fat Cat and other venues, I’ve not counted the audience members to see if anyone went missing. But we were certainly entranced and remain so.
A version of Dan’s magic troupe performed a brief set at the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party in September 2016: Dan, alto saxophone / arrangements; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone; Ehud Asherie, piano; Jon Burr, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums. The repertoire came from famous bands (Andy Kirk, Fletcher Henderson, Benny Carter) and was written by Mary Lou Williams, Carter, and others — but it sounded fresh, rather than being a distillation of famous records.
The opener, associated with Chick Webb, HARLEM CONGO:
Mary Lou Williams’ composition (I believe Puddin’ Head was trumpeter Edgar Battle):
another Mary Lou creation:
Something for and from Benny Carter:
And, finally, an early version of climate change from the 1934 Henderson band:
Inventive and wholly satisfying. Another version of the Block Transformationalists will be playing at Smalls on West Tenth Street on February 3, 2017, with the group that performed this music at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. Mark your perpetual calendars, please.
May your happiness increase!