During the annual jazz weekend that was once Jazz at Chautauqua, Friday afternoon sessions in the lobby of the Athenaeum Hotel were devoted to compact piano (and once, guitar) recitals.
Now that James Dapogny is no longer with us, this two-part serenade from 2013 is infinitely precious. To be accurate, it was precious then, but our assumption that we would always have the Prof. with us, to entertain and enlighten, may have shaped our judgment. Now we know.
Perhaps only those people who knew Jim, even slightly, will recognize what a treasure this video-capture is; for the rest, it will be another jazz pianist exploring the world of music in his own terms — which, in its own way, is also irreplaceable.
To the music. Jim’s “fooling with an old tune” was an improvisation on LINGER AWHILE, that finally got written down as I CAN WAIT in late 2018 (Jim told my dear friend Laura Wyman that it had been percolating for a long time, and he wanted to get it down on paper before he died). In my mind’s ear I hear I CAN WAIT arranged for Teddy Wilson-style small group — although no orchestra is needed here because Prof. Dapogny’s piano playing is so richly layered.
Then, an extended improvisation on William H. Tyers’ MAORI (which only Ellington and Soprano Summit ever performed: Tyers is famous as the composer of PANAMA). This performance is hypnotic in the way some of Morton’s Library of Congress work is — subtly building layer upon layer:
Part Two is a beautiful omnibus tribute to Fats Waller, including meditations on HONEYSUCKLE ROSE, MY HEART’S AT EASE, I’VE GOT A FEELING I’M FALLIN’, I’M NOT WORRYIN’, AIN’T CHA GLAD?, then a song whose title eludes me, Stephen Taylor, Mike Lipskin, and Louis Mazetier — but Laura Wyman pointed out that it was a Dapogny favorite, BABY, THOSE THINGS DON’T MATTER TO ME, by J. Lawrence Cook (not Waller), and then IF IT AIN’T LOVE:
This isn’t the usual Waller presentation — a pianist mingling MISBEHAVIN’, YOUR FEETS TOO BIG, and HANDFUL OF KEYS — it honors Fats as a composer of melodies, that once heard, stay. Notice the rapt attention of the audience, broken only now and again by the creaking of our wicker chairs.
Jim could enthrall us, and he continues to do just that. And I tell myself he isn’t dead as long as we can hear him.
May your happiness increase!