Daily Archives: June 4, 2021

A SPLENDID FOURSOME: JAMES P. JOHNSON, STEPHANIE TRICK, ERROLL GARNER, PAOLO ALDERIGHI

Stephanie and Paolo, by Nicola Stranieri.

Some listeners who know the glowing pianistics of Stephanie Trick and Paolo Alderighi will look at their new double-CD release, one disc celebrating Stephanie playing James P. Johnson, the other doing the same with Paolo playing Erroll Garner and think, “Those crazy kids.  How long can a mixed marriage last?  Is there couples’ counselling for duo-pianists?”

 

But it’s all piano jazz, rollicking, soulful, pensive.  And history is on the side of expansiveness, not contraction.  If you lived in New York in 1944-5, you could go to hear the Erroll Garner Trio (with John Simmons and Doc West) playing on “Swing Street,” that block of Fifty-Second Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, then you could walk to the nearest IRT Broadway line, drop a nickel in the turnstile, and ride down to Greenwich Village, the Pied Piper or the Riviera, to hear James P. Johnson (and Willie “the Lion” Smith and a young Dick Hyman) play.  It was all the same beautiful world.  And that musical expansiveness continues on this CD set.

If you like metaphor, and I do, the more fanciful the better, I imagine Paolo and Stephanie painting the practice room in their house.  Paolo has already methodically painted the walls and ceiling blue — sky-blue for the walls, dark blue for the ceiling, and Stephanie is on a ladder, painting silver luminous stars on the ceiling.  Then they switch, and Paolo paints a door pink while Stephanie finishes the trim.  And they fold the dropcloths and clean the brushes together, before collapsing in the next room while the paint dries. 

They both believe in swing; they both play the piano with orchestral sweep; they both love melodies and their embellishments.  And when the two-CD set is over, all a listener can do is marvel at the way dissimilar approaches reach the same gorgeous objectives.

But enough words.  Perhaps a few sounds?

James P. Johnson’s aptly named JINGLES, by Stephanie:

Erroll Garner’s MISTY, by Paolo:

Having heard these beautiful forays into jazz, you don’t need a lot of explanation. And certainly one of the nicest things about this CD set is that it is a musical metaphor for our best and rarest behavior: that we are all different, that Stephanie isn’t Paolo, that James P. isn’t Erroll, but that we come together in harmony. And harmonies. We could all learn that life isn’t Harlem uptown, that cutting-contests have their place but they aren’t a way to live. Peaceable swingdom, rather.

The set is a beautiful package — wonderful recorded sound, pleasing design, and annotations by Paolo, Stephanie, Scott Brown, and Mark Borowsky. You can see the tune listing here. And I emphasize that this set isn’t an exercise in imitation. Evocation, yes, but Stephanie and Paolo bring their own personalities to the music at every turn. Paolo joins Stephanie for a few James P. compositions; Stephanie returns the favor on the second disc, and since Erroll played most of his life in the trio format, Paolo is accompanied by Roberto Piccolo, string bass; Nicola Stranieri, drums. It can be purchased as a two-disc set or as a digital download. Either way, it will bring joy.

As the deep-voiced announcers used to say, “Now, HERE’S how to order!”: http://stephanietrick.com/CD_Order_Form2020_JPEG.pdf.

May your happiness increase!

COME BACK TO LIFE! COME OUT FOR MUSIC!

I can’t speak for everyone, but the fourteen-month period after mid-March 2020 felt for me like a) being locked in the basement with very dim lighting; b) a dinner-theatre production of RIP VAN WINKLE; c) induced coma with meals, phone calls, and my computer; d) a long undefined stretch during which I could watch uplifting videos here; d) all of the above.

But I feel as if spiritual Reveille has sounded, and the way I know that is that live music has been more out-in-the-open than before. (I mean no offense to those gallant souls who swung out in the parks for months.) I’ve been to see and hear the EarRegulars three times in front of the Ear Inn on Sundays (1-3:30, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) and if the sun shines, I will be there this coming Sunday to say hello to heroes Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, Jay Rattman, and Tal Ronen; I am going to the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey, on Thursday, June 10, at 8 PM, to see Colin Hancock and his Red Hot Eight with Dan Levinson, Abanie Falletta, Arnt Arntzen, Vince Giordano, Mike Davis, Julian Johnson, and Troy Anderson (details here). On June 13 I am driving to Pennsylvania (thanks to the Pennsylvania Jazz Society) to see and hear Danny Tobias, Randy Reinhart, Mark Shane, Joe Plowman, Pat Mercuri, and Jim Lawlor (details here).

And, one week later, June 17 — Evan Arntzen and Jon-Erik Kellso, with Dalton Ridenhour, Tal Ronen, and Mark McLean, playing music from the new Arntzen-Kellso dazzler, the CD COUNTERMELODY. Details here. Important, rewarding, exciting.

First, Bennie Moten’s 18th STREET STRUT:

and this, with the verse, no less:

Now, some words of encouragement. Some of you will understandably say, “I live too far away, the pandemic is not over, and Michael will go there in my stead and bring his video camera.” Some of that is true, although I am taking a busman’s holiday and do not expect to video Evan’s concert, for contractual reasons. (And even Michael knows, although he does not wallow in this truth, that a video is not the same thing as being there.)

I know it’s tactless to write these words, but wouldn’t you like to experience some music that isn’t on this lit rectangle? More fun, and everyone is larger. And you can, after the music is over, approach the musicians and say, “We love you. Thank you for continuing on your holy quest where we can be uplifted by it. Thank you for your devotion.” If this strikes you as presumptuous, I apologize, and the Customer Service Associate will be happy to refund your purchase price plus tax.

I hope to see you out and about. We need to celebrate the fact of our re-emergence into the sunshine.

May your happiness increase!