I admire the Chicago Cellar Boys immensely, as JAZZ LIVES readers have seen since their inception in 2017, and I’ve been privileged to see and hear them in person (the most recent time just a day ago at the Juvae Jazz Mini-Fest in Decatur, Illinois . . . more from that occasion soon). I also hear that their debut CD is on the way.
Their virtues are considerable. They are that most glorious entity, a working band with beautiful arrangements, hot or sweet, wonderful solo and ensemble playing. But something that may not catch the listeners’ attention quickly is the breadth of their repertoire — visible in the thick black binders brought to the stage. Every CCB set has several tunes in it that I’ve known only as obscure recordings or ones I’ve never heard at all, and when they perform a “chestnut,” it is beautifully alive in its own idiomatic shape. They are: Andy Schumm, cornet, clarinet, tenor saxophone, arrangements; John Otto, clarinet, alto saxophone; Paul Asaro, piano, vocals; Johnny Donatowicz, banjo, guitar; Dave Bock, tuba. And here are six delights from the 39th San Diego Jazz Fest, performed on November 25, 2018.
First, a charming 1929 exclamation of delight:
and something cosmological from the same year, by Phil Baxter. Feel free to sing the special aviation-themed lyrics as the Cellar Boys soar lyrically:
Here’s Andy’s superbly indefatigable reading of the Johnny Dodds showcase, LITTLE BITS:
and a reading of THE SHEIK OF ARABY that owes more to Rudolph Valentino than to Hot Lips Page, but I don’t mind at all:
I’ve already posted the two videos below, but these exercises in spontaneous combustion, Chicago-style, deserve multiple watchings. Don’t be afraid to cheer! (As I write this, the first video has been seen 591 times. One person took the trouble to “dislike” it. What a pity, Sir!) Here the youthful multi-instrumentalist Colin Hancock sits in on cornet with the Cellar Boys (Andy switches to clarinet) and the results are ferocious:
Finally, a rousing WEARY BLUES:
I promise you there will be more of the Chicago Cellar Boys “while breath lasts,” as my dear benefactor Harriet Sheehy used to say. For now, enjoy the sweet heat.
May your happiness increase!