An easy rendition of a classic — popular as well as jazz — LAZY RIVER, by Sidney Arodin and Hoagy Carmichael . . . performed on a lazy Sunday afternoon by Arnt Arntzen, banjo and vocal; Danny Tobias, trumpet; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, lowboy cymbal:
Want melodic lyricism with your eggs Benedict? These fellows know just how to provide it.
And a side-note about Arnt’s singing: I caught him between sets and said how much I liked his sweet, unadorned, open-hearted approach. He smiled and said, “That’s the only approach I have,” which is both charming and true.
I promise more video evidence from this delightful trio. But better yet — if you can, get yourself there to savor these brunch joys in person. Restorative as all get-out. And this gig happens on a Sunday. Monday and Tuesday nights, Vince and Arnt can be found at Bond 45, making merry with the full Nighthawks’ aggregation. If you’ve allowed yourself to forget how happy live music can make us, it is time to shake the dust from your shoes and remember, in person.
For the past year, the YouTube channel The Ed Sullivan Show has been issuing video performances from Ed’s long run on broadcast television, 1948 to 1971. The selections include Louis, the Everly Brothers, Mort Sahl, Richard Pryor, and a multitude of stars from every genre. Sullivan was particularly even-handed about having African-American artists on his show, which is a great gift to us. In this case, we get to see Jo Jones at his explosive accurate fiery best — from two angles — while Illinois Jacquet performs his great hit, FLYING HOME. It amuses me to watch this and consider how nervous Elvis Presley made Ed — if this isn’t a Doinysiac ecstasy on nationwide television, I don’t know what is. It’s frankly astonishing. Watch and marvel.
And as if that were not enough . . . here are Pearl Bailey and Hot Lips Page, performing BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE — their hit record — on October 4, 1949:
If anyone wants to complain about the implications of the song, go right ahead — but not here. And if someone else wants to note imperfections in Lips’ delivery of the lines, I invite you to, but (as before) not here. Lips, like Jo, is one of my deities, and anything less than rapturous gratitude strikes me as heresy. I exercise my imperial right to leave such comments in the dark.
Hot Lips Page on nationwide television! (Although a clip exists where Lips plays trumpet, it hasn’t been made accessible, so let us savor these minutes.)
I am so delighted that these video performances survived and are being shared with us. Please subscribe to the YouTube channel so the people in charge know there is an eager audience and will offer us more head-spinning surprises.
I’ve been publishing interviews done with Dan Morgenstern over the past few days — the best tribute I can pay Dan is to let him be himself — but here is one that hasn’t been seen yet.
Dan praises Tommy’s beautiful art and character . . . many of the same things could be said of the man seen in his Upper West Side apartment:
Here’s Tommy, solo, at the 1981 Montreux Jazz Festival:
If you’re reading this post early on Wednesday, October 27, and you’re within reach of midtown Manhattan, there’s still time to get to Birdland for the celebration of Dan’s 92nd birthday with David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Centennial Band . . . the music starts at 5, the doors open at 4.
Last Sunday was my second visit to Giovanni’s — reachable from the F train — and I had a wonderful time. I know the three luminaries above, and so I was encouraged to set up my camera and I was able, through decades of experience, to eat and film at the same time without my camera descending into the soup or pasta. (By the way, the food is excellent, and I am fussy.)
The band played three sets from noon to 3, with jazz classics, Berlin, Carmichael, Waller, Shelton Brooks, and more: a hugely entertaining trio. Passers-by danced on the sidewalk; people applauded, and money was placed in the tip jar, which all combined to suggest that Western civilization is not moving into the abyss in fourth gear.
I have only one performance to share with you at the moment, but there will be more.
It was the first tune of the afternoon, and I was slightly unready, so the camera sniffs around before it finds the best spot, but I am so charmed by this rendition of Irving Berlin’s ALWAYS that I wouldn’t want a second take.
Arnt is a very discerning banjoist — no flash and smash for him — a “one-man rhythm gang,” and a sweet candid elegant singer. If you don’t know the excellence of Vince Giordano, on display in so many ways for a number of years, I have to ask (in the words of Cole Porter) “Where have you been?” with the emphasis on the second word. He drives any band with his gleaming aluminum string bass; he is Rollini-eloquent on the bass saxophone, and a fine swinging singer. (Incidentally, the Nighthawks have been performing for several Monday and Tuesday nights at Bond 45, so you now have a place to go to for Vince’s full orchestra, which has been greatly missed.) Danny is a brassman other trumpet players praise for his direct melodic lyricism: quite a band!
ALWAYS. And here, children, comes the lesson. Establishments like Giovanni’s employ live musicians because they know (and hope) that music played by human beings will attract people to come and dine and spend money, thus allowing the restaurant to continue, to pay its bills, its staff, its vendors. Business, and nothing shameful about it. (I commend them: it would be so much easier to NOT employ human beings who make music.) In doing so, however, they send joy into the air. Even the people at the next table who seemed to pay no attention to the music knew in some visceral way that their eggs Benedict tasted better because of the genuine soundtrack. And they give the musicians we love funding and employment.
I trust you can see where this is heading. I write to the people who live near someplace where live music is played, who can spend money for their morning coffee, their croissant, or the like.
I think, perhaps immodestly, that in creating and posting these videos I am doing a service to the music and the musicians. (I also put money in the tip jar and I buy food and drink at any establishment I frequent.) Your watching the video is spiritually lovely; you receive the good spiritual vibrations the musicians create and transmit.
But merely watching the videos at home and never actively supporting the establishments that feature live music does little for the economic realities of the situation described above.
I do not call for moral self-flagellation if you can’t get out of the house or you can’t afford to pay for a jazz brunch: some dear friends fall into this category. But I see so few self-defined “jazz fans” actively supporting the music by their presence on a regular basis.
YouTube and Spotify do nothing for the artists. And, for better or worse, buying a CD or paying for a digital download of your departed hero does nothing for living artists who are trying to stay solvent. When some “fans” ask mournfully, “How come there’s no live jazz at X’s anymore?” the answer will be found by looking in the medicine-chest mirror. I understand “I hope to get to New York City sometime soon,” as a reality, but it doesn’t help any musician pay her rent. As Greely Walton always used to say, “You can’t drive the car if you don’t fill the tank.”
I know, I get carried away, but ask any musician if this is true. You may go now.
Dan Morgenstern’s birthday celebration is too large to be contained in one twenty-four hour period, so this is the third day of posting interviews he did in front of my camera. I present this small tasting menu to remind people of Dan’s even-handed expansiveness: other jazz writers range across styles and decades, but few do it with the comfort and empathy he shows. And his first-hand experiences with his and our heroes are priceless.
How about Coleman Hawkins and Jack Purvis?
and Pops Foster?
and Sidney Catlett?
and Miles Davis, too:
Miles as friend and neighbor:
and it always comes back to Louis:
My informants in the Jazz Under-and-Overworld tell me that this Wednesday, at 5 PM (doors open at 4) David Ostwald and the Louis Armstrong Eternity Band will be paying loving tribute to Dan, who will be there (we hope!) at Birdland, in New York City. Birdland does not allow impromptu videography, so I hope you can join us. Or if you are far away, Dan is on Facebook and I am sure he could endure some more congratulations and greetings.
There isn’t much that needs to be said about this performance of WEST END BLUES except to say that it is gorgeous — impassioned and exact — and that we miss Tom Baker, who did so many things superbly. Tom’s on cornet; Michael Supnick, trombone; Evan Christopher, clarinet; Chris Hopkins, piano; Martin Wheatley, banjo; Trevor Richards, drums, and this resounding piece of music was preserved by us through the sainted efforts of my friend and hero Enrico Borsetti:
Tom left the scene in 2001. Born in 1952. What a loss. But thank goodness for the heroes in this video who are, as we say, keepin’ on.
Happy 92nd birthday, Eminent Dan Morgenstern, friend of Louis, George Wein, Hot Lips Page, two hundred others, and deep friend of the music. I’ve been privileged to bring my camera to Dan’s Upper West Side apartment and stand back while the magic — insights, memories, stories, and affection — unfolds. Here are a few of his conversations about his and our heroes, with more to come.
Lester Willis Young:
Lester, George Holmes Tate, and Eugene Ramey:
I will share a few others tomorrow — names you will recognize — and also some interviews you haven’t tuned in on yet.
Thanks to Chris Tyle, master of so many instruments and generous archivist, we have some new treasures — old music played with style, grace, and energy — thanks to an unknown videographer. They are “live unedited,” but the videographer (perhaps shooting from a balcony?) did a wonderful job. There are so many individual definitions of “the real thing,” but these videos capture what I think of as irreplaceable genuine stomping music. Chris’ YouTube channel, “Godfrey Daniels”, has more marvels and more are promised.
Steve Pistorius and his Mahogany Hall Stompers: Steve Pistorius, leader, piano, vocals; Scott Black, Chris Tyle, cornets, vocal; Jacques Gauthe, clarinet/soprano sax; Hal Smith, drums. (In the mystery that is WordPress, I can’t give Monsieur Gauthe his name’s proper accent: I apologize.) CAKE WALKIN’ BABIES FROM HOME / HEEBIE JEEBIES / MOULIN A CAFE:
Jacques Gauthe and his Creole Rice Jazz Band: Jacques Gauthe, leader, clarinet, soprano sax; Chris Tyle, Scott Black, cornets; Tom Ebert, trombone; John Royen, piano; Amy Sharp, banjo; Tom Saunders, sousaphone; Hal Smith, drums. Special guest on some numbers: Claude Luter, soprano sax. YERBA BUENA STRUT / DOIN’ THE HAMBONE / JAZZIN’ BABIES BLUES / EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY / KANSAS CITY MAN BLUES / ROYAL GARDEN BLUES (incomplete):
Hal Smith’s Frisco Syncopators: Hal Smith, leader, drums; Chris Tyle, cornet; Jacques Gauthe, clarinet, soprano sax; David Sager, trombone; Amy Sharp, banjo; Steve Pistorius, piano, vocal; James Singleton, string bass. DALLAS BLUES / CLARINET MARMALADE / HOW COME YOU DO ME LIKE YOU DO? (incomplete):
continued, with HOW COME YOU DO ME LIKE YOU DO (concluded) / WEARY BLUES / introducing the band / PRETTY BABY / SOUTH / SAN (incomplete) //
What treasures! And let no one ever say that “the old songs” don’t have life in them. They just need expert jazz physicians — see above — to do loving resuscitations.
Art is all about passion: think of the great soprano arias, whether Puccini or Bechet; think of Louis or Bird — the heart on fire, so full of feelings to be shared with us. But there’s the counterbalance: passion without control might be noise. Anyone who’s tried to play or sing — seriously — knows how much exactitude is required to create the notes, the phrases, the pauses, that create that drama that didn’t exist five minutes before.
Gabrielle Stravelli and the instrumentalists surrounding her on the early-evening performances at Swing 46 not only know these truths but embody them: call it passion and control, abandonment and discipline: here are three soulful examples by Gabrielle, Dan Block, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Paul Bollenback, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass.
I WALK A LITTLE FASTER (Cy Coleman – Carolyn Leigh):
BORN TO BE BLUE (Mel Torme – Robert Wells):
BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH (Oscar Levant – Edward Heyman):
The closing notes of BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH say it all.
Gabrielle and her friends (most often the irreplaceable pianist Michael Kanan) have gigs all over town (hooray!) and you can find out more here or here. Even in the ruckus that is West 46th Street, sirens and chatter at no charge, their art aims straight at us. And sticks.
Sunday afternoon, slightly autumnal but bright. The EarRegulars began as Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Bill Allred, trombone; Pat O’Leary, string bass. But we knew that other trombones were spotted — loyal friends and EarRegulars themselves, John Allred and Harvey Tibbs.
Jon-Erik, Bill, Matt, and Pat started things off with MARGIE, EXACTLY LIKE YOU, and WASHINGTON AND LEE SWING (the last for friends of Jon-Erik’s in the crowd, folks from the Allen Park, Michigan hood, with connections to the marching band). Then, Jon-Erik invited John Allred to join in — a family affair:
This quintet romped through ALWAYS, YES SIR, THAT’S MY BABY, BUDDY BOLDEN’S BLUES, a magnificently expansive PANAMA (twelve minutes long) and went back to its original quartet for a closing STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE. In the photograph above, Jon-Erik might be taking a breath, but you see his pleasure on his face.
An intermission followed: conversation, food and drink, old friends and new ones.
A quartet version of I MAY BE WRONG included an apocalyptic ambulance siren: the siren was medically necessary but aesthetically wrong, and the band took it in stride. After that, an unscripted SPRING STREET BLUES.
Then, one of the great features of these gatherings, which date back to 2007, where the original quartet welcomed a proliferation of friends and guests — rather like putting the extra leaf in the dining room table to have many people to dinner, even if no one was expecting them.
Jon-Erik invited Adam Moezinia, guitar; John Allred; Harvey Tibbs, Joan Codina, and Steve Bleifuss, making a five-person trombone choir — for an easy ROSETTA (in F). The more, the merrier: Gordon Au, trumpet, joined the delightful ensemble for this happy marvel, PERDIDO (what else?) with the appropriate riffs. Photographic evidence:
Audio-visual evidence. Please note the characteristic blend of ease and intensity, the fact that everyone knows the way there and back, and the hilariously wonderful final bridge, neither immoral nor atonal, but consciously “out there,” for dramatic effect:
At the conclusion, I wasn’t standing because my tripod is in the way, but I certainly felt like cheering. What happened was more than an accidental profusion of players: it is a community of expert friends who know the common language and joyously share their craft with us.”
Bless them, every last one of them, and that includes the two who didn’t get to join in on PERDIDO — trumpeter Andrew Stephens and guitarist Lou Salcedo — who joined in for a final UNDECIDED, a joy-fest beyond our expectations. With every note, they bless us.
I’m pleased to share with JAZZ LIVES’ readers (and watchers) a complete set from a few years ago — from only my second trip to Germany. Both times I ventured out of my nest because of the kind urgings of Manfred Selchow, concert producer extraordinaire. Even if you’ve never been to one of Manny’s concerts, perhaps you’ve heard the results as issued on a long series of irreplaceable all-star Nagel-Heyer CDs. He created a weekend of rewarding jazz concerts in “the Town Hall,” which carries with it a wonderful resonance of Louis and Eddie Condon and many others in performance.
And here is a very recent photograph of Manfred and his wife Renate with the wonderful drummer Bernard Flegar:
This little band features Stephanie Trick and Paolo Alderighi, piano; Engelbert Wrobel, clarinet and saxophones; Nicki Parrott, string bass and vocal; Bernard Flegar, drums. And the program is so delightfully varied: no one could say these songs are new, but the energy this band brings to them, the cohesive joy, is very special. I’m grateful to the musicians for their for their generous music (and permission to share this set) and to Eric Devine for technical wizardry.
Before we move to the music, a few words. I’m always pleased when jazz fans go beyond their love for “the locals” which can, at worst, become provincialism, to discover worthies who don’t live ten miles away. Nicki, Stephanie and Paolo, and Engelbert (known as “Angel” to his friends and for good reason) all have their enthusiastic constituencies: some of this due to excellent recordings, often on the Arbors Records label, some due to what I would guess are exhausting touring schedules.
But Bernard, who has visited the US but not toured there, might be less well known, and this is a deficiency to be immediately remedied.
He is what the heroes of our jazz past would call someone who kicks the band along — but he is not a noisemaker. Ask Dan Barrett, Allan Vache, Menno Daams, Chris Hopkins, and others and they will tell you how sympathetically he listens, in the grand tradition, how he seamlessly merges what he has studied of the great percussive history into his own sound and approach, and how gloriously he swings.
You’ll hear for yourself, but if you ever begin to lament that the great drummers are gone or aging, explore Bernard’s work as documented on CD and video — and he is now an essential part of a new band, Armstrong’s Ambassadors, also featuring Angel (Matthias Seuffert is in the 2020 video), Colin Dawson, and Sebastien Giradot. (The band name should tell you all you need to know about their affectionate reverence for a certain Mister Strong.)
But let’s go back to 2016 for some elegant hot diversions.
A very Basie-ish BLUE SKIES, featuring Nicki, Paolo, Angel, and Bernard:
Stephanie joins in the fun for HONEYSUCKLE ROSE:
A band-within-a-band — Paolo, Nicki, and Angel — for OVER THE RAINBOW:
THE MEN I LOVE, announces Nicki — with happy glances at Paolo, Bernard, and Angel:
and finally, a swing declaration of intent, with everyone playing AMEN — I WANT TO BE HAPPY:
And to move us forward to the present and future, here’s an almost nine-minute sampler of how splendidly the new band, Armstrong’s Ambassadors, pays swinging homage:
Wonderful music from Nicki, Stephanie, Paolo, Angel, and Bernard — all of them still flourishing and expressing themselves so well — and from this new band. Hope springs, doesn’t it?
When NOLA funk comes to NYC Soho, it’s a wonderful connection of forces.
If you think I’m being melodramatic in my title, wait for the group vocal on THE BUCKET’S GOT A HOLE IN IT, from Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet and post-Guinness glass mute; Jay Rattman, alto saxophone and clarinet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Tal Ronen, string bass. It’s a sad tale of a plumbing problem that could lead to life-threatening dehydration:
I believe that on or before October 31, the EarRegulars, seen above as Out, will go In — reverting to their more familiar Sunday-night performances inside The Ear Inn. Know that these uplifting jazz picnics will become nocturnal soirees as the temperature drops and the days shorten.
And take good care of your bucket. Check it regularly for leaks.
I have a real affection for the recordings and performances of the New York Jazz Repertory Company: a floating all-star ensemble I saw in person in 1974 and 1975, honoring Louis and Bix, among others.
At their best, they were expert, passionate, and evocative — the supporting players were the best studio players / jazz improvisers who could sight-read with elan and then solo eloquently. And they always had the best ancestral guest stars: in the concerts I saw, Ruby Braff, Ray Nance, Vic Dickenson, Taft Jordan, Chauncey Morehouse, Paul Mertz, and Joe Venuti. I can’t leave out the superb guidance and playing of Dick Hyman, whose idiosyncratic brilliance is always a transforming force.
Later in the Seventies, someone, probably George Wein, understood that the NYJRC was a compact, portable way of not only reproducing great performances but in taking jazz history, effectively presented, on the road, to France, the USSR, and elsewhere. Thus they made appearances at festivals and did extensive tours — bringing POTATO HEAD BLUES with Louis’ solo scored for three trumpets, frankly electrifying, as I can testify.
Here they are at the Nice Jazz Festival, making Bix come alive by (with some exceptions) not playing his recorded solos, gloriously. And the rhythm section swings more than on the 1928 OKehs, which would have pleased Bix, who didn’t want to be tied to what he’d played in 1923. Occasionally the “big band” tends to be a fraction of a second behind where one would like it, and Spiegle Willcox uncharacteristically gets lost in a solo . . . but the music shines, especially since this is the joyous evocation of Bix rather than the too-often heard elegies for his short life. My small delight is that someone — Pee Wee Erwin — quotes SHINE ON, HARVEST MOON in the last sixteen bars of AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL. And Dick Sudhalter and Bob Wilber positively gleam throughout.
The collective personnel: Dick Hyman, piano, leader; Dick Sudhalter, cornet, flugelhorn; Spiegle Willcox, trombone; Bob Wilber, clarinet, reeds; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; George Duvivier, string bass; Bobby Rosengarden, drums; Pee Wee Erwin, Ernie Royal, Jimmie Maxwell, trumpet; Budd Johnson, Arnie Lawrence, Norris Turney, Haywood Henry, reeds; Britt Woodman, Eddie Bert, and one other, trombone.
RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE / DAVENPORT BLUES (Sudhalter, flugelhorn – Hyman) / IN THE DARK (Bucky, Hyman, Duvivier) / ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS (Sudhalter, Turney) / IN A MIST (Hyman) / CLEMENTINE (Sudhalter, unid. tbn, Bucky, Hyman / JAZZ ME BLUES (Sudhalter, Spiegle, Wilber, Hyman — playing Bix’s solo) / SWEET SUE (Spiegle, Bucky, Wilber, Sudhalter playing the 1928 solo) / SINGIN’ THE BLUES / AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL //
This televised presentation was designed to show what the NYJRC could “do”: a varied selection of music across decades and styles. I will post another segment, by “The Unobstructed Orchestra,” soon.
Forty-five minutes of the past made completely alive.
May your happiness increase!
Postscript, which could be called ON THE FUNCTION OF CRITICISM. A few minutes after I’d posted this, someone I don’t know wrote to comment on YouTube: I offer an edited version: “The great weakness of this re-creation is Z, I am sure he plays all the notes, but somehow it does not work at 100%. L was still a good mainstream player and the rythm section is very adequate, P consistently good.”
I find this irksome, perhaps out of proportion to the size of the offense, and, of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But to make it public, in print, is upsetting to me — as if the commenter had been invited to my house for dinner and, upon being served, told me that my place settings were somehow not up to his standards. I do not like everything I hear, but I think “criticism” of this sort contributes nothing to the discussion, except, perhaps, a buffing of the ego of the commentator, who Knows What’s Good.
I am aware that this is hugely anachronistic, out of place in 2021, but I bridle when my heroes are insulted . . .
Californian Mark Cantor is the finest jazz-film scholar around, a careful devoted researcher for decades. He loves the marriage of music and film and is fierce in his pursuit of the correct answers, when they can be found. And, not incidentally, a gracious witty down-to-earth fellow, eager to share knowledge.
Mark has a book in the works, and I asked him to write something about it for us:
Today it is not unusual to hear people say, “My nose is running, I need a kleenex.” Or, “I need to xerox the document.” Of course, “Kleenex” and “Xerox” are corporate product names that have taken on a generic meaning. The same is true of “soundie” – note the lower case spelling – which is used to refer to any short musical clip, regardless of origin. In reality, the term “Soundie” – not beginning with a capital letter – refers quite specifically to a three-minute film short distributed by the Soundies Distributing Corporation of America (a subsidiary of the Mills Novelty Company) for use on a Mills’ audiovisual projection devise, the Panoram. Between January 1941 and March 1947 more than 1,880 Soundies, films emanating from many sources, were released to those who owned or leased a Panoram machine.
The actual musical content of the Soundies output was democratic to the extreme, meant to appeal to all segments of American society. Today many of us value most the jazz and big band performances, but there were Irish ballads, Hawaiian tunes, country-western music (and Western Swing), novelty performances and “korn,” dance of all styles, vaudeville routines, and just plain “popular music” among the releases.
The history of these films, and a listing of releases, was released by two good friends, Ted Okuda and Scott MacGillivray, some years ago. They are still the foundations of all Soundies research. But I am proud to announce that a follow up work, one tentatively titled The Soundies: A History and Catalogue of Jukebox Shorts of the 1940s, will be published next year. A more than a million words, it will cover the development and collapse of the industry, and will also include an extensive listing for each Soundie. For the first time, a researcher or fan will be able to discover such information as recording and sideline dates, recording and on-screen personnels, arrangers, soloists, vocalists and a lot more.
To promote the book, but also the films for those who might not need this book in their library, I have set up a Facebook page called “The World of Soundies.” You are all cordially invited to click on the page and join the musical adventure. I generally post one Soundie each week, along with an full background and description of the film in question. Here‘s the link.
It would not be a JAZZ LIVES post without music — and in this case, two Soundies . . .
and a less familiar one, but with Dorothy Dandridge:
Having read Mark’s research for years, I can wholly recommend this book — and it’s not just going to be for collectors of arcane film: there’s musical treasure and otherwise-unknown social and cultural history. Mark has found out what the third altoist had for breakfast, but the fascinating details never interfere with the greater stories. And there are photographs! (Easier than trying to find films and a home Panoram, I am sure.)
Fifty years ago I would have backed away from this music, finding Konitz too angular, his tone too vinegary, Rowles too unpredictable, Mitchell and Manne too wayward. But we can expand our horizons of pleasure and understanding, and in the same way I now love Sichuan peppers and vindaloo — food that terrified the child-self.
And if this music does not speak to you in a familiar tongue, waste no energy disdaining it. It’s there for you to delight in. Others will revel in it. Every note has its own life, lyrical and seeking.
Coincidentally — I only learned this after this post had been published — today would have been Lee’s 94th birthday. I don’t think he would have wanted cake and fussing, but he would have liked to be remembered.
MINOR BLUES (Konitz out) / STAR EYES / THE PEACOCKS (Konitz out) / SWEET GEORGIA BROWN // Lee Konitz, alto saxophone; Jimmie Rowles, piano; Red Mitchell, string bass; Shelly Manne, drums. Grande Parade du Jazz, July 7, 1978. Originally broadcast on French radio.
The invisible wall between musicians and non-musicians (“civilians” or, worse, “fans”) is often difficult to hurdle. Oh, there are the polite conversations between sets, and sometimes even a chat over a plate of food or a beverage, but the things we want to know of our heroes — “How do you DO what you do? What is the source of your magic?” — usually must be intuited and are rarely spoken of. April DeShields, a long-time devotee and close observer of the music we love, has made it possible for us to eavesdrop on relaxed, revealing conversations . . . beginning with two of my particular heroes, Hal Smith and Dan Barrett. And — delightfully — April is neither Mister Rogers nor Gunther Schuller: she’s admiring but never fawning, erudite but never austere.
I found April’s YouTube channel “ECHOES OF SWING” and watched her casually expert interviews. Before we move on, here’s a sample — the first part of her conversation with Hal, with musical examples of the very best kind as well as informal, informative chat about Hal’s ROADRUNNERS, and about what can be done with a small group where the only horn is the clarinet, and his own beginnings:
and the second part, where Hal speaks about influential drummers Ben Pollack, Wayne Jones, Nick Fatool, Fred Higuera, and two lessons with Jake Hanna; teaching aspiring jazz players at Banu Gibson’s NOLA trad jazz camp; the superb MY LITTLE GIRL by Hal’s Jazzologists; Hal’s own musical development and forming a personal identity . . . with portraits of Sidney Catlett, Lionel Hampton, and Dizzy Gillespie:
and the third part — with Hal’s affectionate memories of his supportive parents . . . up to current gigs in the time of Covid-19; the rigors and pleasures of remote recording, and of course, a few cat tales:
After I’d seen and enjoyed the first part of the Hal Smith interviews, I contacted April to ask her about herself, and after some reluctance, she opened the curtain:
When I was 6 my folks took me to the Sacramento Jazz Festival, and, during Abe Most’s set, he called up Tom Saunders (cornet player from Detroit, not the bass player – his nephew –who lives in NOLA now), of whom played Black Coffee and made the musical lightbulb go off on in my brain. He caught that from the stage, and being that my folks immediately decided it was late and we should get to bed, we walked out and Saunders followed us. He chatted up my folks, found out they wanted to go to bed, looked at me and said, “You don’t want to go, do you?” – to which I promptly replied “Nope.” He grabbed my hand, told my Dad that when I was tired he would take me back to our room, asked my Dad for a spare key so we wouldn’t wake them up, and off he took me- to the bar where I met Wild Bill Davison.
My father never did something like that, but I am so grateful he did, because every year at Sac and at subsequent festivals in other areas, Saunders was protector, teacher, and best friend. He and Chuck Hedges would load me up with lists of records to listen to as “homework” for the next year, and by the time I was 8 years old, I was correcting a guy who had a Saturday morning jazz show on a local public radiostation. He invited me to the station, and from then on Saturday mornings would be very early drives with Dad to the radio station and I kept that up until I was nearly 30 and health kept me from doing it anymore.
My old boss at KRML moved to Palm Desert and is on the Board of the American Jazz Institute – he finally convinced me instead of asking me every month to record shows for him if I started to do my own series with no deadlines, he would re-broadcast material he wanted, and here we are. So it turned out to be a long story…. so many people came to me after Saunders died, thinking he was my father or grandfather, I just couldn’t bring myself to go to festivals for a long time without being in a puddle of tears. Many years later I’m finally ready to do what he would have wanted me to do – he would’ve been very mad at me for quitting in the first place!
So much of what I learned from those guys, and eventually the weekly calls with Saunders abouteverything, is so much a part of who I am in every way I just can’t imagine who I would be without them!
April has also posted some rare historical material: Tom Saunders’ Wild Bill documentary; a Saunders-Wild Bill set done in celebration of Bill’s eightieth birthday; an interview with Chuck Hedges . . . and just now, a two-part interview with Dan Barrett, beginning with his early jazz-conversion experiences and the history of early New Orleans jazz musicians migrating to California; Dan’s interactions with Andrew Blakeney and Joe Darensbourg — a side-portrait of Tom Saunders by April and her “heaven-opening epiphany”; memories of trombonist George Masso, and wonderful music from Dan and George’s CD:
Part Two begins with Mary Lou Williams’ LONELY MOMENTS from BED (Dan, Becky Kilgore, Eddie Erickson, and Joel Forbes); Dan and other trombone-playing arrangers; his long friendship with Howard Alden and how it led to a move to New York — through Jake Hanna, Red Norvo, and Dick Sudhalter — to gigs with Woody Allen and film work, the children’s project BEING A BEAR:
The third and final part of that interview is on the way . . . but I can’t wait to see April’s next gift to us.
Marc Caparone is a hero of mine, someone who balances passion and control in the nicest individualistic ways. Here he is, heading the most quietly illustrious chamber group at his own birthday party: John “Butch” Smith, alto saxophone; Carl Sonny Leyland, piano; Jeff Hamilton, drums. And the song — HOME, so identified with Louis, Jack Teagarden, and Joe Thomas — never fails to move me.
Home, you know, is a state of mind more than an address.
I have particular associations with this performance, having heard the Louis versions and the Jack Teagarden Keynote recording perhaps fifty years ago, and knowing the musicians here for more than a decade. Even if the song and the players are new to you, I hope the passion and joy reaches you:
Just beautiful. Here’s hoping you have your metaphysical HOME, or find one soon.
Puccini, Jolson, Rose, Goodman, and innumerable jazz groups — one of the reliable get-off-the-stand numbers, here performed by the EarRegulars at the Ear Out (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) on Sunday, May 23, 2021. They are, from left, Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Pat O’Leary, string bass; Scott Robinson, C-melody saxophone and trumpet; Chris Flory, guitar (who played this song with Benny, himself).
And about this performance? All I can say is Yes.
Here’s hoping you find your love in Avalon, or someplace even closer, and you bring that person to the Ear Out on a Sunday afternoon before winter comes, as we know it will.
When you know, you know. I was at Swing 46 last night to see and hear and applaud Dan Block, alto and tenor saxophones; Gabrielle Stravelli, vocal; Michael Kanan, keyboard; Pat O’Leary, string bass. It threatened to rain all through the gig and the usual street theatre of that block was at its best (come visit and see for yourselves).
In the middle of the second set, Gabrielle called the Ellington LOVE YOU MADLY and they performed it with great enthusiastic beauty . . . at the end of the performance, Gabrielle said exultantly, as if she were Ida Lupino directing a film, “CUT! And PRINT!” looking at me, which I took as the sign of a small miracle, that an artist, completing a performance, is happy with it. I got permission from the other three, so you can enjoy this marvel, hot and fresh:
This wonderful quartet performs every Tuesday from 5:30 to 8:30. I’ve been there every week and have always come away full of joy. They’re loved . . . madly.
The jazz I grew up listening could be pure harmonic improvisation — Coleman Hawkins was a powerful example — but many of the musicians I idolized then and still do: Louis, Jack, Teddy, Ed Hall, Buck, Bobby, and two hundred others, had such love for the melody, which they had grown up with, that they ornamented and embellished it. They put earrings or a scarf on it, a bold bow tie or a cloak, but you always knew it was there. Hearing one of these embellishers play a solo, you could hum the melody alongside (or underneath) and the two lines would gently trot down the same road — not hand-in-hand, but in the same direction and arriving at the same good place.
Some performances dazzle and amaze me; others warm and embrace me. Here’s a gently leisurely example of the latter kind.
It’s a group trotting happily through ROSE ROOM at the Grande Parade du Jazz: Barney Bigard, clarinet, Vic Dickenson, trombone; Dick Sudhalter, cornet; Art Hodes, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar; Placide Adams, string bass; Panama Francis, drums.
Some small ruminations, first. ROSE ROOM — in its original 1920 form, a love song — was one of Bigard’s features for years, but it’s pleasing to hear he doesn’t revert to his set solo. Listening to his late work is always a joy for me because age had slowed him down just a touch, so his phrases were more varied, and you listened for his tone. (YouTube commenters, vinegary in their recliners, have been mean-spirited about Barney; I wonder how many of them run at the same speed they did thirty-seven years ago.)
Vic Dickenson fit in anywhere as long as the tempo wasn’t punishingly fast, or the band too loud. He didn’t like backgrounds, one of which appears in his second chorus, but he is playing something so delightful that even Bigard and Sudhalter don’t unsettle him. Somewhere I read that Barney and Buster Bailey were two of Vic’s favorite clarinetists; I wish I could remember the third, but it was a mild surprise. Unlike Barney, Vic retained much of his phrase-making fluidity to the end of his life, but his tones, and I emphasize the plural, were marvels in themselves.
Dick Sudhalter was the new boy in the group, but he plays with wonderful style and variety — not reverting to the Bix-phrases some demanded of him, but being comfortable in a kind of easy Mainstream. I’ve highlighted his photograph because — aside from Placide Adams — I think he in this group is most in danger of being forgotten, and he plays so nobly here.
The rhythm section has the diversity (or oddity?) one finds at festivals, where producers delight in assembling people who don’t play together “to see what happens”: Placide Adams, from New Orleans, might have seemed out of his element in this late-Swing context, but he had played and recorded often with Paul Barbarin, so he knew about time; Panama Francis, unlike many of the famous drummers at Nice, also knew time: his steadiness is so comforting. Marty Grosz — a wonderfully fluid rhythmic cushion, filling in all the spaces the other three might have left. Art Hodes, the patriarch, could be unsettlingly spare and percussive, but he is happy in this context in ways that suggest Basie more than anyone else, perhaps resting comfortably on Marty’s eloquent swing support. He takes his time. They all do. There is a tiny train-wreck at the start — confusion that is more on the scale of a model train set — but it repairs itself quickly, and they are off: masters of melody, in solo and ensemble. I, too, find the fidgety multi-camera approach very distracting, but it is part of the particular package — perhaps an emblem of that time and style.
I find it a very sweet performance.
And it says certain things to me about the comfort of a common language, the wisdom and joy that comes from decades of experience in a congenial community. Masters of Melody, so endearing, so durable, who know that ROSE ROOM is more than a set of chord changes:
I wish this band had recorded hours of music, and I think of the times I saw some of its members (bless Marty Grosz for hanging out with us still!) — those sounds are translucent gold in my memory and ears.
Do you dread the start of the workweek? Or does Monday remind you of homework undone, bills unpaid, responsibilities that weigh? Take heart: JAZZ LIVES is here to help.
(Cue rousing music): the EarRegulars to the rescue! And they’re locally sourced and cage-free. Investigating all the corners of Earl Hines’ 1928 classic, they are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Jay Rattman, clarinet (in a Bechet mood for a few seconds, sparking joy); Matt Munisteri, guitar; Tal Ronen, string bass. All of this took place at the Ear Out — 326 Spring Street — on June 6, 2021:
And just think, with Monday done and done, the rest of the week will soar (or totter) by. Wishing you safe passage — with the help of these joyous sounds.
I have it on good authority that the Sunday-afternoon revival-meetings will continue through October, with guests Don Mopsick, Evan Christopher, Dennis Lichtman, Bill and John Allred . . . don’t miss out!