Sometimes, as a devout jazz enthusiast, I feel caught between two ideologies — rather like a kernel of corn watching the two stone wheels approach. One group of fans insists that all the great music has already been made: that there’s really no point in leaving the house, because Lester and Louis and Hawkins are dead, so these fans bury their heads in their speakers and do takeout. Another group embraces the new jazz flavors of the month, and insists that Hank McGillicuddy and his Stompers are as good as Basie at the Famous Door, and by the way, Zelda Red-Dress “brings Billie back.” She doesn’t, but if you think so, that’s nice.
I offer a third possibility: that there are musicians who don’t have contracts with Jack Kapp or Eli Oberstein; they don’t pack the Palomar or the Savoy — but they are alive today, you can speak to them, they inhale and exhale — and they do that thing splendidly. They are worth leaving the house for.
One shining example of this phenomenon — why I call this blog JAZZ LIVES rather than JAZZ NEEDS DUSTING — is the small group led by pianist Kris Tokarski that swung like mad at the 2017 San Diego Jazz Fest. Along with Kris, they are Jonathan Doyle, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Larry Scala, guitar; Nobu Ozaki, string bass; Hal Smith, drums. No too-small brightly-colored matching polo shirts; no funny hats; no group vocals. Just wonderful music, sweet when it’s called for, hot enough to make us sweat.
Here are four examples. Jazz thrives.
LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER, evoking Crosby and Condon:
and what Kenny Davern used to call “face to face”:
and an explosive LITTLE GIRL:
and a lovely pensive MEMORIES OF YOU:
May your happiness increase!