It’s lovely to have heroes, and the man in the photograph is one of mine. The only problem with the photograph is that it’s a still picture, and he is rarely still, but the videos below will remedy that.
When I was fortunate enough to chat with clarinetist Frank Chace on the telephone (now more than twenty years ago), he remembered that he and Marty Grosz had listened, rapt, over and over, to Pee Wee Russell’s solo on SWEET SUE with the Muggsy Spanier Ragtimers on Commodore. Marty’s comment was, “Well, if that doesn’t scrape the clouds . . . !” which is as good a summation of what artistic bliss feels like.
Those words kept coming back to me all through my weekend immersion in joy at the Redwood Coast Music Festival: I listened, quite amazed, at the wonderful music I was privileged to hear. I’m still in a state of blissful amazement: feelings shared by those around me.
One of the reasons for this unearthly happiness has to do with reedman / composer / arranger / imaginative-phenomenon Jonathan Doyle, a rare source of renewable energy in our time. Here ‘s where you can find him on Facebook as well. Spiritual electricities course through him without harming him or us, and they come out as the most beautiful surprising patterns of notes, tones, and rests. He never coasts; he never parodies anyone or himself.
Jonathan was a stimulating presence all through the weekend: with Charlie Halloran’s Calypsonians, leading several sets of his own and with Jacob Zimmerman (one a Walter Donaldson tribute with Doyle on bass sax), as lead horn in Hal Smith’s Swing Central, with the extravagant Western Swing Party co-led by Hal and Dave Stuckey. (He was also one-third of the double tribute to composer-players Gordon Au and Josh Collazo, but by that time I had collapsed as if I’d been made of damp cardboard. I’ll do better next year, I hope.)
Here are four uplifting performances from the first set of Jonathan’s Swingtet, a glorious affair consisting of Doyle, Jacob Zimmerman, alto; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Kris Tokarski, piano; Steve Pikal, string bass; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Hal Smith, drums.
BLUE DRAG (a nod to 1934 Django):
CHICAGO (he’ll show you around!):
THE FED HOP (Jonathan’s irresistible original):
DICKIE’S DREAM (Basie 1939, anyone? Because of sudden battery demise, I lost the first ensemble chorus and Charlie Halloran’s delicious solo, but what remains is very satisfying):
When you’re through admiring the solo work and the overall joyous bounce of these four performances, I urge you to listen again to Jonathan’s arrangements, their sweet surprises, their dynamics and voicings. He’s not just a great player and composer: he’s a wonderful orchestral visionary who makes his dreams and ours come true in swing.
More to come from my hero JD and his friends.
May your happiness increase!