With the right musicians, a whole crowd isn’t necessary.  No four brass, four reeds, four rhythm; no oboes and tympani.  As Ira Gershwin wrote, “Keep your Philharmonic,” in his lyrics to SLAP THAT BASS.

Appropriately, I present a rewarding improvised vignette for clarinet and string bass, recorded on July 27, 2017, in Derek Garten’s Prime Recording Studio in Nashville, Tennessee, at the end of the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet’s debut recording, which became THIS IS SO NICE IT MUST BE ILLEGAL, chronicled here.  The Quintet, by the way, is Brian Holland, piano; Danny Coots, drums; Evan Arntzen, reeds; Steve Pikal, string bass; Marc Caparone, cornet.

At the end of the session, the Quintet — showing superhuman energy and patience — played two songs for my video camera so I could show them off on the blog.  One, RUSSIAN RAG, I have cleverly hidden within this blogpost as a reward to close readers.

The other, an improvised duet by Messrs. Pikal and Arntzen, later titled PHAT SWOLLER, has never been seen.  I was saving it for my retirement and then thought it would be ungenerous to wait all that time — so here ‘t’is.  Joyous, shapely, rambunctious, expert.  I’m sure my readers can find their own encomia, but I will say only that Steve Pikal has a beautiful harmonic sense and a true swing engine (a new CD of his with Brian and Danny is, I am told, on the way); a New York musician said to me, listening to Evan Arntzen, “That boy can play anything . . . beautifully!” and I of course agreed:

Relevance beyond a piece of wonderful creative improvisation?  Of course.  The Holland-Coots ensemble will be appearing at the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival, which I’ve described here.

My interest in the Festival involves leaving my accustomed position in front of the computer: I’ll be there, starting Wednesday night.  But I have to gently admonish the faithful that I no longer video everything, so if you want to hear your favorite virtuoso capering through an obscure Joseph Lamb piece, I suggest you call the airlines now.  (That’s a good idea even if you’ve never heard of Lamb.)

May your happiness increase!

4 responses to ““KEEP YOUR PHILHARMONIC”: EVAN ARNTZEN and STEVE PIKAL (July 27, 2017)

  1. Joep Peeters

    *Hello Keepers Of The Flame,*

    *Somewhere in the 80’s The SmithStreet Society Jazzband was a Sensation at the BredaJazz Festival, Netherlands, due amongst others to the fabulous tubaplayer Chicken Joe. Can you find an examplewith him for Jazz Lives?*

    *I hope and wait *

    *Joep Peeters.*

  2. Dear Joep,

    The evidence is on YouTube: search “Smith Street Society Jazz Band,” and you will find two videos done by a generous friend of mine, Joe Shepherd, now departed, from the 1980 Manassas Jazz Festival: RUSSIAN RAG and DINETTE. There are also three videos on Joe’s own YouTube channel, of a trio called THE LOST CHORD, where Joe is seen playing string bass.

    I found them quickly, so I am sure you can also. Be well,

  3. Hey Mikey,

    Great piece as always! I remember that Alec Wilder didn’t like this Gershwin song or “My Cousin in Milwaukee,” feeling they were too polite and not low-down swinging enough. He said that George’s swing numbers sound like he spent his nights listening to Eddy Duchin at some NY hotel rather than Benny Goodman at the Madhattan Room.  Always dug that comparison.


  4. I didn’t know that story, so thanks! And belated happy birthday to DJ.

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