Here’s another in the series of intimate, swinging jazz concerts that take place at the 1867 Sanctuary on Scotch Road in Ewing, New Jersey: others have featured Phil Orr, Joe Holt, Danny Tobias, Warren Vache, Larry McKenna.
The most recent one was a showcase for string bass virtuoso Joe Plowman (friend of Larry McKenna and Marty Grosz, so that should tell you something about his authentic credentials — with Danny Tobias on various brass instruments, Joe McDonough, trombone; Silas Irvine, piano; Dave Sanders, guitar. As you’ll hear immediately, these five friends specialize in lyrical melodic swing — going back to Irving Berlin classics — without a hint of the museum or the archives. Their pleasure in making song was apparent all afternoon, and we shared it. And just as a comment on the leader: notice how quiet the crowd is when he solos, maybe because he creates long arching melodic lines with a beautiful sound and wonderful intonation.
At times, I was reminded of a group I saw for half an hour at the old Michael’s Pub — the front line was Bobby Hackett and Urbie Green, and what delightful sounds they made. (The digressive story of that evening I offer below as a postscript.*)
Here are five highlights from the brilliant afternoon’s play.
Everyone’s “got rhythm” so why not Ellington’s COTTON TAIL?:
The Gershwins’ WHO CARES? — with a touch of Tobias-humor to start:
Porter’s JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS:
ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET, featuring expressive Mr. McDonough:
Berlin’s THE SONG IS ENDED, which announcement was premature, since there was another half-concert to follow:
You see why the trip to Ewing, New Jersey, to 100 Scotch Road, is essential to my well-being and that of the larger audience.
*Now for my self-indulgent story, which took place before either Joe was born. I’ve never told it before and it is true.
Bobby Hackett was and is one of my greatest heroes, and when he appeared in New York City between 1971 and 1976, I tried to go see him. However, I was a shy college student, working a part-time job that paid $1.85 / hour, so some gigs were beyond me.
Michael’s Pub was a restaurant-bar-with music on the East Side of Manhattan, in the Fifties, that offered excellent jazz in hostile surroundings. (To be fair, I did not appear as a well-heeled customer to even the most inexperienced waiter.) They had a bar where one could sit and have a single drink without being chased for perhaps thirty minutes, but the view of the music room was very limited. When I learned of a Hackett-Urbie Green quintet gig, I gathered up the shreds of my courage, put on my sportsjacket and my Rooster tie, and went.
I think I made a reservation for two: that was my cunning at work. I was guided to a table, a menu was thrust in my face, and I said, “I’m waiting for my date. A vodka-tonic, please,” and the waiter went away, returning in seconds with my drink. The music began and it was of course celestial. I nursed my drink, ate the rolls in the bread basket one by one, and fended off the waiter, who was more insistent than any date I’d had up to that point. Finally, somewhere in the first set, when the waiter had become nearly rude, I looked at my watch, and said grimly so that he could hear, “Damn. She’s not coming. I’ll take the check, please,” paid and left.
I can now say that I heard Bobby and Urbie, but the sad part is that I can’t remember a note because it was completely blotted out by the sense of being unwanted. But, in a pinch, vodka-tonic, buttered rolls, and a divine soundtrack are nutritious enough. And memory is soul food.
May your happiness increase!