Improvising, that act we celebrate in jazz, is larger than simply constructing new melodies on familiar harmonies, or making-it-up-as-they-go-along. Sometimes the willingness to capture it live is precious and creates splendid memorable — if unplanned — results.
A little personal history. One of the reasons I came out to California in 2011 was to hear and see for myself the Reynolds Brothers. Thanks to the videos created by RaeAnn Berry, I’d seen the band on my computer screen but wanted more immediacy — which I found in session after session for the next few years. I was awed by John S. Reynolds — guitarist, singer, whistler — and remain so. He combines deep romance, satire, and irresistible swing. I had few opportunities to savor his unpredictable magic once returning to New York in 2015. On January 24, when I saw a Facebook video (captured perfectly by the Blessed Jessica McKinney) of John and the nimble multi-talented Casey MacGill — whose work I’ve known and admired — (ukulele, cornet, vocal) I was thrilled and elated. Here’s the first of their performances, a rollicking SENTIMENTAL GENTLEMAN FROM GEORGIA:
Perhaps in tribute to the late Rose Marie, TAKE A PICTURE OF THE MOON:
And another delicious slice of 1931-2, WITHOUT THAT GAL!
As you can imagine, I was ecstatic about this music, and asked — not altogether whimsically — when the DVD was coming out, how could I buy the CD, when was the world tour, and could these videos be synthesized in pill form so that I could carry them in a tin and take as needed.
Here’s an excerpt from Casey’s sweet response:
Thank you so much for your kind words and support. We really appreciate it. Our get together with John was originally intended to be a part of a CD created to market to people in the ukulele community. The recording was to consist of myself playing one or two tracks with different musicians. Some of them come from the ukulele community, and are ukulele players themselves, and other musicians are long term collaborators like John.
My partner Jessica has a zoom recording machine which we are using to make these recordings. We are getting together with people as we travel to collect songs. This obviously is a modest effort geared to a specific audience.
We met John at his home in Glendale, California, and repaired to his tiny art studio in the back of the garage. John and I had only been playing a few minutes when Jessica felt compelled to film us as she also made an audio recording. We never dreamt that there would be such a huge reaction to the videos. When you and others responded by asking about a CD, it has made us think of recording more with John. And that is where we are currently.
John and I do go back to 1975, actually. We met at a holiday party in the home of Robert Armstrong, one of the original Cheap Suit Serenaders. Another guest at the party was Ward Kimball, famous artist at Walt Disney Studios and founder of the Firehouse Five. We worked together constantly for about 3 1/2 years between 1980 and 1984, to great acclaim in Los Angeles as 2/3 of the trio Mood Indigo. There was always great chemistry and I am still happy to play straight man to John’s magic.
Jessica and I will have to figure out when and how to make this recording with John a project unto itself. We want to do this as soon as possible and we will keep you posted.
So there’s something else life-enhancing to look forward to. It’s just idle musing, but I wonder how people who savor this fine music could help get a CD made.
Blessings on Casey, John, and Jessica. Thanks for lifting our spirits in swing.
May your happiness increase!