Monthly Archives: December 2022

A BRIEF HOT INTERLUDE: JAMES DAPOGNY’S CHICAGO JAZZ BAND ON THE RADIO (November 8, 1986)

James Dapogny at Jazz at Chautauqua, September 2014. Photograph by Michael Steinman.

The songs are CHICAGO (missing a few bars at the start) / TENNESSEE TWILIGHT / SWEET GEORGIA BROWN (vocal Kim Cusack).

This is interval-music on a certain public radio show where the loquacious host told tales of Lutherans. More you don’t need to know, although the host talks with Professor Dapogny between songs.

The CJB is James Dapogny, piano, leader, arrangements; Paul Klinger, trumpet; Bob Smith, trombone; Kim Cusack, clarinet, tenor saxophone, vocal; Russ Whitman, clarinet, baritone saxophone; Rod McDonald, guitar; Mike Karoub (then a mere 23), string bass; Wayne Jones, drums.

Performed and broadcast in Chicago, November 8, 1986.

The moral: don’t throw out your old cassettes! (I taped this from the radio and saved it for just this occasion, nearly thirty years later.)

Thanks to Mike Karoub for data of all kinds. Mike told me that Butch Thompson got the CJB this gig — their debut on public radio — and that the band “was hyped up and some of that excitement comes through.”

Indeed it does!

And Kim Cusack celebrated a birthday a few days ago: hooray for durability and more!

I decided, for a change, to write a post celebrating the glories that Prof. Jim created so beautifully, instead of saying once again how much I and many others miss him. Let us grin and wiggle in our chairs as tribute: he would appreciate this.

May your happiness increase!

IT MUST HAVE BEEN BLISS: TOWN HALL, NEW YORK CITY, SEPTEMBER 23, 1945.

Rambling through eBay, visiting one of my favorite spots, the intersection of “jazz” and “Entertainment Memorabilia,” I found this. To some, it will be simply an antique jazz concert program, nearly eighty years old, or an example of paper ephemera for sale. For me, it is Ali Baba’s cave, Pandora’s box with no horrors, an auditory Fort Knox. And, no, it wasn’t recorded. But bless Specs Powell for his imagination and ambition, the energy to plan and put on this concert at New York City’s Town Hall.

I will now step aside to let the marvels blossom before your eyes. The Best in Modern Jazz for sure.

The front cover:

The first page, inside:

The program itself:

The back cover was blank, for “Autographs,” which the owner — the person who placed the precious keepsake in a notebook or binder — did not get.

A few obvious comments. Yes, that Bill Cullen, born in 1920, who was at the time a CBS staff announcer — which is how he and Specs Powell crossed paths — but most people will know him better as the host of THE PRICE IS RIGHT.

And the program speaks to the happy ecumenicism of the times in jazz. I would wager that Buster Bailey and Charlie Parker talked about reeds backstage with Don Byas. Bill Coleman and Frankie Newton, I would guess, knew each other well from Cafe Society and Asch Records. And please notice that the representatives of “modern jazz conceptions” aren’t Bird and Al Haig, but Buster Bailey and Al Hall.

It was a Sunday, so this might well have been an afternoon concert. You can look up what the weather was in New York City, should you care to. I will, instead, delight in imagining the hanging-out that went on backstage and behind Town Hall. Alas, when I was in that hall circa 1972, the echoes had died down. But I did hear and speak to Teddy Wilson and Al Hall, so I consider myself immensely fortunate.

And just to give Specs his proper place . . . here he is, talking with great articulateness, to a younger percussionist and inventor, in 2002. And at around 15 minutes, he talks about the Town Hall concerts, which weren’t economically successful, although Specs pointed out that he preceded Norman Granz and Jazz at the Philharmonic.

A final postscript: the program sold for $25, and the item is headlined as “early CHARLIE PARKER,” amusing to me because young Charlie was not the star of the concert alongside the more heralded players.

History enlarges and deflates reputations. Jazz Studies classes revere Bird; have they heard of Specs? I vote for expansive curricula.

And if you’ve never heard Specs, you’ve been deprived of pleasure:

and this:

A little aural digging online will lead you to more Specs, and I hope, curiosity about the names on the program whose sounds might be unfamiliar.

May your happiness increase!

BORN IN TEXAS

If you travel in certain circles, you’ll hear a good deal of serious talk about :authenticity,” “ownership,” and “cultural appropriation.” These scuffles bore me and make me happy that I have escaped academia.

But here are ninety precious of film and music by someone I can’t get enough of — Jack Teagarden — from a film I’d never heard of, unearthed by archivist-sleuth extraordinaire Franz Hoffmann. The 1944 film, possibly less regarded than Citizen Kane, has three names: TWILIGHT ON THE PRAIRIE, SONG OF THE PRAIRIE, and PRAIRIE BUCKAROOS. I doubt that the screenwriters aimed too high, but Jack’s blues — lyric he first recorded in 1928 or 9, are classic. As is his trombone mastery:

Born in Vernon, Texas, he certainly had a right to those lyrics.

I never saw him in person, yet I miss him terribly. You understand why.

May your happiness increase!

ENGAGING, FAMILIAR, YET DIFFERENT: “JIVE AT FIVE,” PAUL COSENTINO’S BOILERMAKER JAZZ BAND

The brand-new CD by Paul Cosentino’s Boilermaker Jazz Band, JIVE AT FIVE, is all the good things I’ve stated in my title. This is an experienced working band, so the solos are nimble, the ensembles expert. But hear for yourself:

Beautifully played, homage to Johnny Hodges and Lawrence Brown in their Sixties Victor phase (this CD has a strong Hodges leaning, something to be celebrated).

But the disc is distinguished by versatility and variety. You can see it in the list of performances: JIVE AT FIVE / TOO DARN HOT / TAFFY / ALMOST LIKE BEING IN LOVE / S’POSIN’ / IS YOU IS OR IS YOU AIN’T MY BABY / WABASH BLUES / THE JEEP IS JUMPIN’ / ALWAYS / PYRAMID / WINGS AND THINGS / I LOVE YOU / MOON RAY / ROCK-A-BYE BASIE / EV’RY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE.

Erudite readers will have their own automatic associations, but permit me to note a few. There’s Cole Porter and Broadway friends (rendered forthrightly and graciously by vocalist Erin Keckan), 1939-40 Basie, a Berlin Classic, a nod to Louis Jordan, some Duke but not the formulaic (no SATIN DOLL, thank you), Artie Shaw, early Chicago jazz, and more. The band’s depth and diversity of repertoire is in itself impressive,

And did I say that the tempos are very pleasing? Excellent dance music:

and this:

To me, what sets the Boilermaker Jazz Band apart is a kind of stylistic flexibility. Some bands (happily) lean backwards, looking for a Swing Era authenticity, so they look to Bunny and TD, Benny, Artie, and Teddy: you can add your own names . . . and when they understand the masters they are venerating, the result is swell. In the groove. But the BJB embraces a slightly later aesthetic (although there is some post-Condon jamming here and there): I would say that the soloists have been listening to 1960 Basie — think Joe Newman, Al Grey — Ray Bryant and other heroes of that generation. With delightful effectiveness, I must add. And leader Cosentino is a chameleon: an Ed Hall cadence, a little 1954 Artie, or a Hodges vibrato: a man of many selves, all swinging.

I should name the people making these nice sounds: Paul Cosentino, leader, arranger, clarinet, tenor and alto saxophones; Jeff Bush, trombone, arranger; Tony DePaolis, string bass; Thomas Wendt, trumpet; Antonio Croes, piano; James Moore, trumpet; Erin Keckan, vocals.

You’ll like it.

Hear more, and purchase the music here (the band’s website) or here (Bandcamp). Or both.

May your happiness increase!

“FOUR BASSES”: MILT HINTON, ARVELL SHAW, SLAM STEWART, BOB HAGGART, HANK JONES, BOBBY ROSENGARDEN (Bern Jazz Festival 1983)

No one talks during these bass solos, I assure you!

Milt Hinton, Arvell Shaw, Slam Stewart, Bob Haggart, string bass; Hank Jones, piano; Bobby Rosengarden, drums. YESTERDAYS (Arvell Shaw) / BODY AND SOUL (Slam Stewart) / BIG NOISE FROM WINNETKA (Bob Haggart) / HOW HIGH THE MOON (ensemble) // “Four Basses,” Bern Jazz Festival 1983.

A precious document: four masters, having a deep friendly swinging good time.

I wish they had had a longer showcase, with more jamming, but it’s pointless to carp about what should have been . . .especially because this exists to be shared and treasured.

Bless these gentlemen, and bless the organizer of the Bern Jazz Festival who thought of this and the Swiss television people who had it televised. The words, “We don’t know how lucky we are,” float through my head, and I hope through yours.

And this one is for Bonnie Prince Andrew of Malta.

May your happiness increase!

MAESTRO SPORTIELLO’S CAPRICE (October 30, 2022)

Hold on tight.

Rossano Sportiello is the Maestro, no questions about it. Classically trained with a deep jazz feeling and impeccable technique, he astonishes us. Here’s his solo version of Nicolo Paganini’s Caprice # 24, which rocks all the way through . . .from the Milan conservatory to Harlem stride to super-Tatum without a quiver.

Rossano performed this as one of his solo features in a duet concert with brass wizard Danny Tobias put on by the Pennsylvania Jazz Society (October 30, 2022).

I suggest that you play and watch this several times, so that you can assure yourself it actually happened, the creation of Maestro Sportiello.

May your happiness increase!

“IT WAS WILD AND LOOSE AND FREE”: THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET RETURNS TO NEW YORK (Part Five): THE JAZZ FORUM, July 17, 2022.

I offer this music as a tangy alternative to songs of Frosty and Santa, but it sounds good all through the year. This post is also for Maurice Kessler and Amber Cosmos Chubb and all the Micro-nauts out there.

To send 2022 out of here with vigor, here are the final selections from the Microscopic Septet’s July gig at The Jazz Forum. Nobody is like them, and that is a great compliment to them.

Back in New York after a five-year absence, The Microscopic Septet wowed us in two sets at Tarrytown’s hidden jazz oasis, the Jazz Forum on Sunday night, July 17, 2022. The Micros are Joel Forrester, pianist, composer, arranger, co-leader; Phillip Johnston, soprano saxophone, composer, arranger, co-leader; Richard Dworkin, drums; Dave Hofstra, string bass; Dave Sewelson, baritone saxophone, vocal on I’VE GOT A RIGHT TO CRY; Michael Hashim, tenor saxophone; Don Davis, alto saxophone.

Here are the last selections from the second set.

A little Monk:

and an original:

and another:

and a classic Micros classic:

and the official Micros set-closer:

Bless them! They are bright lights of originality, wit, and fervor.

May your happiness increase!

“A COOL YULETIDE”: URBIE GREEN, JOE WILDER, AL COHN, AL EPSTEIN, BUDDY WEED, MILT HINTON, MUNDELL LOWE, DON LAMOND or JIMMY CRAWFORD (“X” Records, September 27, 1954)

I was seriously tempted to call this post THE OFFICIAL JAZZ LIVES HOLIDAY MUSIC RESCUE KIT, but maybe some readers like the new hip-hop FROSTY THE SNOWMAN, so who am I to get in the way of pleasure? Leaving aside THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY, I have no argument with the songs themselves, but the current performances strike me as the aural equivalent of instant oatmeal with too much hot water mixed in. (And this blogpost had its start in a large Boston hotel lobby with Christmas music everywhere, so I am not writing it in isolation.)

So I was thrilled to stumble over this gem (thanks to Lin McPhillips on Facebook) and am very happy to share it with you. It’s hip but not self-conscious, and the playing is superb, ensembles, arrangements, and solos. The performances are compact — perhaps with hopes of AM radio airplay so that these would become a hit — but these wonderful musicians pack so much music into eight or sixteen bars that no one went away wishing for JATP-length excursions.

Here’s the discographical listing:

A Cool Yuletide : Urbie Green and his All-Stars : Joe Wilder (tp) Urbie Green (tb) Al Cohn (ts) Al Epstein (bar) Buddy Weed (p) Mundell Lowe (g) Milt Hinton (b) Jimmy Crawford (d-1) Don Lamond (d-2) Charlie Shirley (arr)
New York, 1954
E4LB5118 Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer (1) “X” LXA3026
E4LB5119 Christmas song (1) –
E4LB5120 I saw mama kissing Santa Claus (1) –
E4LB5121 Santa Claus is coming to town (1) –
E4LB5122 White Christmas (2) –
E4LB5123 Jingle bells (2) –
E4LB5124 My two front teeth (2) –
E4LB5125 Winter wonderland (2) –

and the music. To some listeners, this will not be a “pure jazz” recording of the type issued then by Verve, Savoy, or Prestige — more “middle of the road” or “businessman’s bounce.” But the solos are jewels, and Charlie Shirley’s arrangements pack so much music into those short (by our standards) selections.

RUDOLPH, THE RED-NOSED REINDEER:

THE CHRISTMAS SONG:

I SAW MOMMY KISSING SANTA CLAUS:

SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN:

WHITE CHRISTMAS:

JINGLE BELLS:

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS (IS MY TWO FRONT TEETH):

WINTER WONDERLAND:

and something for those who crave the best possible sound:

I only go the mall these days under the most serious duress, but were I walking through one and I heard this, I would be delighted and astonished: such good and vibrant music.

May your happiness increase!

ALTERATIONS WHILE YOU WAIT: JON-ERIK KELLSO, EVAN ARNTZEN, JEN HODGE, ALBANIE FALLETTA (Cafe Bohemia, January 9, 2020)

Sometimes change is frightening; in this case, the promise of changes to be made is a delight.

Here are four heroes, raising the room temperature in the best ways: Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; Evan Arntzen, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Albanie Falletta, resonator guitar, vocal; Jen Hodge, string bass. Performed at Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street, New York City, on January 9, 2020.

Be careful. It’s HOT.

Halcyon days. And so wonderful that these four creators are still on the scene. Follow them in person to gigs if you want these joys aimed right at you.

May your happiness increase!

“LET IT SNOW”: JONATHAN STOUT and HIS CAMPUS FIVE featuring HILARY ALEXANDER

Everything about this new CD is just right — starting with the cover design by Chris Wilkinson that so wonderfully evokes the work of Alex Steinweiss — and it will be a comforting pleasure even when this holiday season is over, when the last tree has gone away to recycling.

And I write this as someone who detests snow and doesn’t celebrate Christmas. But I live for melodic small-band swing, and Jonathan Stout knows how to create that with his Campus Five, ornamented by the sweet-tart vocals by Hilary Alexander and a memorable guest appearance by Mikiya Matsuda.

Listen here! Or, more politely, listen here.

And here is a leisurely conversation between Jonathan and swing dance instructor Bobby White about the new CD:

The details. The band is Jonathan Stout, guitar and arrangements*; Hilary Alexander, vocals; Albert Alva, tenor saxophone; Jim Ziegler, trumpet and vocals; Christopher Dawson, piano; Samuel Wolfe Rocha, bass; Josh Collazo, drums. Special Guest: Mikiya Matsuda, steel guitar on “Mele Kalikimaka.” (*All arrangements by Jonathan, except “Christmas in New Orleans,” and “Winter Wonderland” by Jim Ziegler.)

Here are a few samples — the theme du jour being dropping temperatures:

and an ode to self-care:

and the obligatory transformative ballad of the season:

The tune list (with beats per minute specified on the CD) is SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN’ TO TOWN / LITTLE JACK FROST GET LOST / BUTTON UP YOUR OVERCOAT / SEND ME YOUR LOVE FOR CHRISTMAS / LET IT SNOW! / MELE KALIKIMAKA (featuring Mikiya Matsuda on steel guitar) / CHRISTMAS TIME IN LOS ANGELES / RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER /I’VE GOT MY LOVE TO KEEP ME WARM / HANNUKAH, OH HANNUKAH / CHRISTMAS IN NEW ORLEANS / WINTER WONDERLAND / JINGLE BELLS / WINTER WEATHER / FROSTY THE SNOWMAN.

A few words from me. There are so many musical virtues of this disc. The horns, Jim and Albert, are a perfectly matched pair, sweet and hot. Those with a historical sensibility will understand when I refer to them as “modern Keynote Records.” They would have been perfect on Fifty-Second Street, and they blaze forth splendidly now. Jim is also a prize of a singer — in the offhand wink-at-the-audience characteristic of so many great trumpet players. The band’s featured vocalist, Hilary Alexander, has a sweet hip croon, endearing and convincing.

But for me the joy of this CD is in the rock-solid and completely flexible rhythm section, led by Mister Stout, the illegitimate child of Allan Reuss, although we don’t talk about his parentage in public. I have marveled at Christopher Dawson’s subtle blend of Teddy Wilson and Bill Evans (with Basie and Fats looking on admiringly) for years, and Messrs. Rocha and Collazo are tops in their line: this foursome could swing Mount Rushmore, and on this disc they do not have to.

Feeling a chill as the year nears its end and the skies are grey, the days are shorter? Warm up your ears and your hearth with this new offering. Digitally, tangibly, metaphysically here.

May your happiness increase!

ASKING THE MUSICAL QUESTION: DAN BARRETT, DUKE HEITGER, BRIA SKONBERG, TOM FISCHER, DALTON RIDENHOUR, SEAN CRONIN, DARRIAN DOUGLAS (Atlanta Jazz Party, April 17, 2015)

The Lyrics of the 1920 song DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME? (by Harry D. Kerr, John Cooper and Earl Burtnett) are quite sad:

the first verse:
When love in to my dreams was creeping / I gave my heart in to your keeping / It brought the harvest I am reaping / And I always wonder now
the second verse:
When summer twilight’s gently falling / I’d love to know if you’re recalling / Your tender words to me enthralling / And my heart is wond’ring still

and the chorus:
When you have another’s arms about you, / Do you ever think of me / When you whisper “I can’t live without you,” / Do you ever think of me / And when your eyes disguise / the same old loving lies / You tell so tenderly / Deep in your heart unfeeling / When some heart you’re stealing, DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME?

But it was originally taken up by dance bands in 1920 and 1921, then by hot jazz groups in later years. I’ve posted videos of Jon-Erik Kellso, the Reynolds Brothers, and Tim Laughlin with Connie Jones having fun with this lament.

But here’s another version that was only seen by the people in the hall at the Atlanta Jazz Party on April 17, 2015 — performed by Dan Barrett, trombone; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Bria Skonberg, trumpet; Tom Fischer, clarinet; Dalton Ridenhour, piano; San Cronin, string bass; Darrian Douglas, drums.

Not too fast, just splendidly.

Believe me, I think of these musicians often — with gratitude and elation.

May your happiness increase!

FINELY-CRAFTED DANCE MUSIC: THE EASY WINNERS and FRIENDS (NICK ROBINSON, ZAC SALEM, ROBERT ARMSTRONG, IRENE HERMANN, MATT TOLENTINO, MARTY EGGERS, VIRGINIA TICHENOR) at the 2022 WEST COAST RAGTIME FESTIVAL

The EASY WINNERS are singularly delightful.

If I may, I will quote myself:

“There are so many names for the music The Easy Winners create (is it string-band music, ragtime, roots music, Americana, or venerable popular song?) that I have given up the quest to name it.  But it’s light-hearted, sweet, sometimes hilarious, sentimental in the best ways, old-fashioned without being stuffy.

To me, this music is completely charming — what I envision people who lived some distance from cities playing and singing at home (ideally on the porch in summer), old songs, pop songs, swinging without trying hard to, joining their individual string sounds and vocal harmonies to entertain family, friends, neighbors.  They feel a million miles away from music funneled through the iPhone into earbuds or blasting from someone’s car speaker: they remind me of a time when people made music on their own and they were expert at it even when Ralph Peer didn’t offer them a record contract: a landscape full of wonderful sounds, people creating beautiful melodies for their own pleasure.”

The Easy Winners are Nick Robinson, mandolin, guitar, vocals); Zac Salem (mandolin, guitar, vocal); Robert Armstrong (guitar, Hawaiian steel guitar, banjo-guitar, ukulele, musical saw, vocals); Irene Hermann (mandolin) — and for this set, so nicely video-recorded by Rob Thomas, they added kindred spirits Matt Tolentino (accordion); Marty Eggers (string bass); Virginia Tichenor (drums).

A friend sent me their eleven-song playlist, their set for dancers, at the 2022 West Coast Ragtime Festival, and it’s a delicious interlude, showing not only their joyous precision, but also their wide repertoire. They begin with the venerable NOLA strain, CREOLE BELLES, then WHISPERING, EL CHOCLO (Tango), SWIPSEY CAKEWALK, HELIOTROPE BOUQUET, FRANKIE AND JOHNNY, TOBASCO, STARDUST, THE ENTERTAINER, SAN and HINDUSTAN, and end with BUCKSNORT STOMP, aptly named.

I dream of hearing this in rotation over the sound system at Starbucks — but for now, make sure your friends and perhaps neighbors hear it too. Good for what ails you.

They refresh the ear . . . and we certainly need that.

May your happiness increase!

JOYOUS AND FREE: THE MINT JULEP JAZZ BAND, “WATCH THE BIRDIE”

Even an optimist like me can wake up gloomy. When that happens, I reach for music. I have a long list of proven mood-enhancers. To that list, I gratefully add the new CD by the Mint Julep Jazz Band, WATCH THE BIRDIE.

Its generic name is “joy juice,” or perhaps “aural Welbutrin.” I’ve followed the band on disc for nearly a decade, and this CD satisfies all the way through. Certain passages make me laugh out loud (not that they are jokes or gimmicks, but that they are pure fun) and the variety of material, moods, and tempos is remarkable. The disc ends too soon every time I play it.

The band is expert in ensemble, joyous in their solo passages, and Laura Windley, once again, sings with great expressive fun: her laugh comes through at every turn.

Do your ears need evidence? Find it here.

I need to say a little more about this CD. It’s full of songs that aren’t overdone — several new to me — and each performance is brilliantly executed and loose. Those who know will recognize the ease and wisdom that comes from a working band, especially a band that plays for dancers. And at this writing, the players are not Official Big Names in the jazz press (which says so much about the clogged ears of that wheezing institution) but they are bright lights of improvisation, able to say so much in sixteen bars.

They are: Lucian Cobb, trombone; Laura Windley, vocals, glockenspiel; Aaron Hill, alto saxophone, clarinet; Keenan McKenzie, tenor saxophone, clarinet, soprano saxophone; Matt Fattal, trumpet; Ben Lassiter, guitar; William Ledbetter, string bass; Dan Faust, drums.

And a few lines about Ms. Windley. She not only sings, she is a SINGER — by which I mean that she has the ordinary virtues one hopes for: clear diction, swing, unerring pitch, an emotional awareness of the lyrics — and more. If her voice is new to you, you will hear young Ella and some of the Helens (Humes, Ward, O’Connell) but she’s got her own sound and her own approach. She’s no repeater pencil, and she figures out what a song’s message is and delivers it express to our doorstep. And she has an ebullient sense of fun that would put her in the movies if the movie-makers had any sense. Hear her sing, “Hey, you — get out of the way!” on the title track for instant conversion. She won’t drag us with LUSH LIFE or GOD BLESS THE CHILD: she’s realized that joy is sometimes in short supply and we need it. Pronto.

Laura also surprised me with her delightful liner notes!

Every time we record an album, Lucian says “We’re never doing this again,” but inevitably we do it again. It was special coming into this recording session having that level of comfort with regulars we’ve worked with for years. Lucian decided to forego headphones and sound baffling for the instrumentalists, so everyone except me was playing live in the room. It made a huge difference in everyone’s comfort level, being able to see, hear, and play naturally instead of having the interference of headphones and a mix. This setup carries some risk, of course, but the other approach can really get in the way of the music. We were feeling good, and we hope that comes through to you.

Lucian wants to be clear that we are not creating “art” or “an exquisite piece of music,” though I think some will disagree. We are here providing a service, we’re a dance band, this is an album that will be used at dance parties, and we have no qualms or shame about that. Dancing to music makes people feel joyous and free, and who could argue with that?

The title track (performed with the approval of the Audubon Society) is an obvious choice because of its ties to the movie Hellzapoppin’ and the “other” Lindy Hop scene that’s more social dancing, featuring Martha Raye dancing with SoCal great Dean Collins. I want to sing fun and funny tunes and I absolutely love this scene in the movie. Rather than go with a pop recording of this song, Lucian took his arranging notes directly from the film soundtrack, grabbing the intro from a scene where the Frenchman argues with a caterer about bread. Cameras, birds, telling people to get out of the way…

The second track, Cowbell Serenade, is one that Lucian found and fell in love with. There’s nothing like a cowbell to make people happy and this song has three separately pitched cowbells. We looked everywhere for such a thing and couldn’t find them, online, through friends, or at a drum specialty store. But Jonathan Stout said, “What about almglocken?” That did the trick and, with a little painter’s tape, Lucian got the sound he wanted. Our drummer Dan Faust is the best sport.

Long, Long Train… is one I fell in love with during the pandemic, so it’s one of our newest tunes. Sometimes a song just sits with you the right way and we are leaning into some transportation themes here, with a Jeep on the last album. I particularly love the lyrics and the guys got on board with first-class tickets from the start.

Milkman is one of those songs that’s been around on dance floors forever, but it’s never been played out, which is great. Another silly song with adorable slang in the lyrics, another “go away from me” song. (We can’t ever have enough of those.) I don’t consider myself a belter, but this song just opens everything up for me.

Split the Check is the second newest tune, as Keenan showed up with this chart at the first of our two album rehearsals. I’m always lamenting that we are missing slow/mid-tempo instrumentals and he just basically wrapped this up in a bow for me. It’s a contrafact, one you’ll recognize.

Old Man Mose, I mean, who wants to sing ballads? Nods to Betty Hutton and all the ghost stories I heard growing up in Beaufort. And our friend Michael Steinman thinks that every CD should have a nod to Louis Armstrong.

Stardust is our version of the Benny Goodman recording with the perfect slow Lindy Hop tempo, just the right mix of tenderness and energy. This is one of two charts we asked Dan Barrett to arrange for us. When the chart came in, Lucian noted, “He wrote you a real glockenspiel part,” and I had some moderate panic about that. I practiced this a lot, and I hope Jess Stacy isn’t glaring at me from the other world.

Besame Mucho has been in our book a long time, a crowd favorite. It was Lucian’s idea to add this to our repertoire and he did a wonderful original arrangement, peppered with our love for Oscar Aleman and my high school morning soundtrack that included Kitty Kallen with Jimmy Dorsey on a swing music compilation CD. We didn’t record it on earlier albums primarily because I was not comfortable singing in Spanish. I took Spanish in high school and college, but I could probably only get you through a menu and to the bathroom, if needed. Once, at a holiday gig, one of the Latinx servers came up to me, asked if I was fluent, and was delighted because she had never heard swing music performed in Spanish. I was honest with her, of course, but it gave me a boost of confidence and here we are.

Out of Nowhere is an arrangement Keenan wrote, inspired by a Sidney Bechet recording. This is another one that’s been in our book for a long time and we’re glad to put it out into the universe.

Take Another Guess (like all the Benny/Ella recordings) has been on my list for a while and seemed like another great fit for Dan Barrett to arrange. I didn’t realize there was a verse, but what a nice surprise it is!

The Gal from Joe’s came about during the pandemic as an obvious feature for Aaron, also filling a tempo need in our book, and just being a sassy, badass tune that I love to DJ, be it Ellington or Barnet. I think we achieve a respectable level of sass.

My! My! is one of my pre-pandemic DJ obsessions; this song is just darling with the Pied Pipers on vocals, even though they are overshadowed by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra on the original recording.

Caribbean Clipper is the newest tune, with Lucian finishing it after rehearsals and everyone reading it on the spot. I DJ it for Balboa competitions, and love that we have another ocean-themed tune in the mix.

I’m Gonna Sit… is another pandemic tune, inspired by the Boswell Sisters recording, which I got fixated on during the pandemic. It’s so nice to have Bozzies tunes that don’t change tempo so I can DJ them.

Darius Quarles did a fantastic job with the cover art. I gave him photos of a specific camera and of me posing with one and he did the rest. I was going to be happy with whatever he came up with.

It’s our 10th anniversary this year, and I’m excited that we have this music ready to share after the past 3 years. You survived, we survived, and the music will always prevail. Dance with us!

Laura Windley, Head Birdie

Maybe you never wake up gloomy, and maybe you have kitchen cabinets full of music that makes you grin and dance, even if it’s in your computer chair. But you really need to hear WATCH THE BIRDIE. I guarantee it. Latch on here.

May your happiness increase!

MAKE ROOM FOR JAZZ AT THE PHILHARMONIC, 1950-1957

I didn’t see this one coming, and am delighted that it will soon be on my shelf: a new Mosaic Records 10-CD set devoted to the 1950-57 Jazz at the Philarmonic recordings for Norman Granz’s labels.

Before you read one more word, here‘s a link to the site where you can pre-order the set (at a $20 discount through January 8, 2023) and hear some fine audio evidence (complete performances!) from Gene Krupa, Ben Webster, Flip Phillips, Benny Carter, Oscar Peterson, Buddy DeFranco, Lionel Hampton, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown, Buddy Rich, Stan Getz, J. J. Johnson, Percy Heath, Connie Kay.

Others starring in this set are Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Young, Bill Harris, Hank Jones, Harry Edison, Jo Jones, Sonny Stitt, Coleman Hawkins, J.C. Heard, Charlie Shavers, Willie Smith, Illinois Jacquet, Louie Bellson, and of course Miss Ella Fitzgerald. For collectors, there are five unissued performances — and since Granz’s documentation was occasionally improvised, there is scholarship to untangle mysteries.

When I began collecting records, the Verve microgroove issues of JATP concerts were easy to find in the cutout bins. Stunned by the profusion of famous names on the covers, I bought them without hesitation, yet at that point in my listening, I found them uneven. There was wild applause and sometimes histrionic display: trumpet and drum battles that were clearly thrilling in person required a certain sensibility to appreciate when coming out of a record player’s cloth speaker grille. But I did remind myself that there were gems from almost every musician in a JATP concert, and when things got too raucous, I could move the needle ahead. (Perhaps my sensibilities were — and are — too delicate. I won’t deny it.)

But I’ve come to appreciate both Granz — as a pioneer in integration AND in keeping my heroes well-paid and well-recorded (imagine a world without Verve, Clef, and Norgran, if you can). And, most importantly to my ears, every JATP concert featured a lengthy ballad medley.

I am sure that the fifteen-minute versions of INDIANA, HONEYSUCKLE ROSE, various BLUES, FLYIN’ HOME and the like will be full of marvels to me in my more mature state, but what I am really looking forward to it close to fifty ballad performances — many of them one well-chosen chorus — by masters of that art, especially Ben Webster, Lester Young, Roy Eldridge, and Coleman Hawkins.

And so you know that JAZZ LIVES has an ethical platform, I’ve pre-ordered a copy before publishing this post. I hope you’ll join me — especially if you are a jazz enthusiast whose family says, “What in the name of all that’s holy will we get for _____ this year?” Show them the Mosaic site and relax. Better than socks. And I like socks.

May your happiness increase!

A NEW BAND, A NEW SINGER, MEMORABLE MUSIC at the ROSELAND BALLROOM (January 8, 1939)

Some records have their own charm, and this radio broadcast of Buddy DeSylva’s WISHING (WILL MAKE IT SO) has lingered in my ear since I heard it. Yes, it has historical import: it may be the first performance by a young Frank Sinatra with the Harry James band captured for posterity. But it’s not just the charm of youthful Francis — although that is considerable — but the relaxed looseness of the band, playing a new pop tune for the dancers. There is none of the cold scrutiny of the recording studio here; it’s as if the band is handing the material around to see how it works. What other arrangement can you recall where the first melody chorus is given over to chordal acoustic guitar?

I was initially charmed by the guitar of Brian “Red” Kent and the piano of Jack Gardner, then the gentle rocking momentum Harry leads the band into — a Basie groove with Buck Clayton trimmings . . . so perhaps you will also fall under the spell of this performance. And Sinatra just does it easily and beautifully.

Perhaps you can imagine being in front of the band at the Roseland, the warm evening of July 8, 1939, dressed for an evening out, with your delightful partner, enjoying Harry and his orchestra — a band that had made its first recordings only six months earlier.

The details:

Harry James and His Orchestra: Claude Lakey (alto and tenor saxophone), Dave Matthews (alto), Bill Luther, Drew Page (tenor), Claude Bowen, Harry James, Jack Palmer, Jack Schaeffer (trumpet), Russell Brown, Truett Jones (trombone), Brian “Red” Kent (guitar), Thurman Teague (string bass), Jack Gardner (piano), Ralph Hawkins (drums), Frank Sinatra (vocal):

I would have liked to have been there.

May your happiness increase!

THE LADY VANISHES: JON-ERIK KELLSO, EVAN ARNTZEN, ALBANIE FALLETTA, JEN HODGE (Cafe Bohemia, New York City, January 9, 2020)

The source:

for the historically-minded, here’s the 1924 Gennett recording by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians:

and the 1928 Columbia by Thelma Terry and her Play Boys (with Bud Jacobson, Gene Krupa, and Thelma propelling it all on string bass):

Ninety years later, the song explored by living people in a jazz club, our friend-heroes Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; Evan Arntzen, clarinet; Albanie Falletta, resonator guitar; Jen Hodge, string bass.

Performed at Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street, New York City, on January 9, 2020. Remember that date: it will show up on the final exam.

“Why January 9?” you ask.

After a long hibernation, Cafe Bohemia has once again opened to present fine live jazz, and on January 9, 2023, the Hot Club of New York, the lovely creation of Matthew “Fat Cat” Rivera and his heroic friends, returns in the flesh to 15 Barrow Street.

Details as I learn them, but the phrases “rare jazz on 78s from the original source,” and “jam session” did stick in my head.

For now, let’s savor the glories of January 9, 2020, while we dream ahead to 2023.

May your happiness increase!

THEY CALLED HER FRIVOLOUS SAL: JON-ERIK KELLSO, EVAN ARNTZEN, ALBANIE FALLETTA, JEN HODGE (Cafe Bohemia, New York City, January 9, 2020)

Legend has it that this was Al Capone’s favorite song, and another accretion of story has it that Sal was a legendary madam of an Evansville, Indiana bordello. We do know that MY GAL SAL was composed by Paul Dresser, whose brother Theodore was known for large novels, shocking in their realism. (Vic Dickenson changed the first line of this ditty to “They called her Syphillis Sal,” which seems relevant.)

But here’s a legendary performance by four heroes who happily are still with us, making the best hot lyrical sounds: Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; Evan Arntzen, clarinet; Albanie Falletta, resonator guitar; Jen Hodge, string bass. Performed at Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street, New York City, on January 9, 2020:

Magical music created by friend-heroes. Catch them at their gigs and be uplifted by their generous joyous sounds.

May your happiness increase!

A RARE ROAR, 1944

Willie “the Lion” Smith was one of jazz’s great individualists: you know him in four beats. Here’s a delightful rarity, a Lion original, KARNIVAL ON THE KEYS, recorded by Timme Rosenkrants, the Baron, in 1944:

Here’s the opening page of the piano transcription — for the fearless! The whole manuscript can be purchased here.

Our musical benefactor — via YouTube — calls himself BlueBlackJazz and the channel is a rich trove of marvels.

Roar on, Mister Lion. And thanks to Sterling J. Mosher III for pointing the way.

May your happiness increase!

LIPS and COZY at the ONYX

eBay, the nation’s treasure chest, opened its lid to reveal this marvel.

and the wonders continue:

As I write this, it’s still for sale here. I held myself back from purchasing, so it’s yours for the moment.

I’d guess the card dates from 1944-46.

Here are Lips and Cozy in 1937, eminent sidemen in “Chu Berry And His Stompy Stevedores”: Hot Lips Page (tp, vcl) George Matthews (tb) Buster Bailey (cl) Chu Berry (ts) Horace Henderson (p) Lawrence “Larry” Lucie (g) Israel Crosby (b) Cozy Cole (d). New York, March 23, 1937

and one of the great “love language” songs:

and a brand-new pop song:

and a song about a venerable London suburb:

and an all-star Don Redman Orchestra, including Hot Lips Page, Dick Vance, Harold “Money” Johnson, Henry Glover (tp) Henderson Chambers (tb) Burnie Peacock, Don Redman (as) Don Byas (ts) Bob Wyatt (p) Cozy Cole (d) and others: New York, January 29, 1946:

CARRIE MAE BLUES:

plus one:

and MIDNITE MOOD:

These recordings aren’t always noted, so it’s lovely to have such a good reason to share them with you.

May your happiness increase!

IMAGINE AN ALTERNATE UNIVERSE (July 10, 1949)

On September 9, 1956, Elvis Presley made his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, and that changed the course of history.

On February 9, 1964, the Beatles made their debut there, and another transformation happened.

But.

In July 10, 1949, Illinois Jacquet, Jo Jones, and a small band [possibly Johnny Acea, definitely Al Lucas, and Russell Jacquet] appeared on Sullivan’s Toast of the Town.

and this astonishing episode, not even two minutes’ long:

The music is dramatic beyond words, electrifying. What would have happened if millions of Susies and Harolds, decided in a lightning flash that they wanted to play the tenor saxophone like Illinois, the drums like Jo? And that millions of mothers and fathers have enthusiastically helped those dreams come true?

Our world would have been so much different. And rather than dwell gloomily on the absence of monuments to Illinois and Jo, let me dream of an alternate universe, transformed by heated expert improvisation. Jacquet had become a star as early as 1944, along with Jo (whose fame began earlier) through Jazz at the Philharmonic and JAMMIN’ THE BLUES. This was nationwide television, even though fewer households owned sets in 1949 than they did in 1956 and 1964.

It didn’t happen. I think that Elvis and the Beatles have more durable recognition than Illinois and Jo, even in the circle of people who read JAZZ LIVES.

But what a blessing that these kinescopes survive and are being shared with us: visions of jazz utopia for one and all.

May your happiness increase!

REMEMBERING SAMMY MARGOLIS (1923-1996)

Some years before I met the reedman Sammy Margolis in New York City (at the Half Note, 1971, sitting in with his friend Ruby Braff) I had heard and admired him on record: a floating player, thoughtful, incorporating Bud Freeman, Lester Young, and Pee Wee Russell into his own gentle conception. He was never loud or forceful, but a sonic watercolorist.

In the next few years, I had the good fortune to hear and record him in several gigs: at Brew’s, at the New School, on an afternoon gig in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, at the Root Cellar in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, along with Vic Dickenson, Jack Fine, Marshall Brown, Doc Cheatham, Mike Burgevin, Dick Wellstood, Dill Jones, and others. I was a shy college student, reluctant to impose myself in conversation with my heroes, although from what I know of Sam, he would have made me welcome.

This was my first aural introduction to Sammy, serene in Ruby Braff’s energized wake, thoughtfully creating songs of his own:

and Sammy’s beautiful interlude in the company of George Wein:

About a year ago, I made friends (thanks to Facebook) with his multi-talented daughter Carla, who generously shared her memories of her father. I offer her extended loving portrait to you now, with thanks.

Sammy and Louis: photograph by Jack Bradley, courtesy of the Louis Armstrong House Museum

My dad had a fraternal twin brother who was also musically talented. He played piano by ear and whenever they went to the movies as kids, his brother would come home and play themes the pianist played during the showings, having somehow retained all of that musical information in his head. My Uncle Carl (for who I am named) tragically died young (I think from glomular neuphritis) after having returned home from WWII.

His father was a housepainter who died from a burst appendix when my dad was eight. His 12 year old (?) brother Mortie had to go to work as did his mother. He had two sisters as well.

I’m not even sure how he and Ruby came to be friends.  As my dad often loved to say, “Oh, yes, I’ve been friends with Ruby many times.”  My mother actually dated Ruby first.  I don’t know what happened there, but then my mother started dating my dad.

Sammy and Ruby Braff, photograph by Jack Bradley, courtesy of the Louis Armstrong House Museum

The recordings that you sent me, around 1974, I was surprised that Ruby was on there.  I heard so much about Ruby, but I never met him until I was a teenager.  I was under the impression that they were on the outs, and I thought maybe it was because of the relationship with my mother, but I don’t know.  They both were Boston people who came to New York, but they were really not the same people, my father and Ruby.   

On records, he was the sideman for Ruby most of the time.  But he was on a Martin Mull recording that Ruby wasn’t on.  I didn’t know that he was on fifteen recordings!  He talked about how much he hated doing studio work, that it made him very anxious.  He didn’t like recording.  And I didn’t find out until maybe two and a half years ago that he was on so many recordings.  

Ruby and my dad loved Bud Freeman and Lester Young, but he had considered jumping the fence into be-bop.  He strongly considered that, because that was what was coming, what was current.  He claimed that Ruby had talked him out of it, so they both stayed on that side of the fence.  I don’t know if he was happy about that decision or not, I don’t know how that went.  He didn’t have a great opinion about bop — I went to Indiana University and I was a jazz studies major, and he was kind of unenthusiastic about it, but then he started listening to it more . . . 

I do remember going to Brew’s and the Red Blazer with him.  I remember going to Doylestown, Pennsylvania with him, the club that had the big murals at the back of the stage, Mike Burgevin’s THE ROOT CELLAR.  He took me to the hotel once, and I remember telling him that I wouldn’t go to bed until he played SATIN DOLL.  I was about nine.

Kenny Davern, Mike Burgevin, and Sammy at Brew’s, New York City: courtesy Chuck Slate

When I was in my teens, he had me sitting in a lot, singing, when he was playing at Jimmy Ryan’s with Max Kaminsky, who was the leader.  Ernie Hackett, Bobby Hackett’s son, was playing drums.  The trombonist might have been Bobby Pratt.  One night I sat in and Roy Eldridge was in the audience, my dad introduced me to him, and I was “Yeah, okay, I don’t know who that is.”  I’m really glad I didn’t know who Roy was when I was singing!  I remember going to Eddie Condon’s with him, and he played a lot in the basement of the Empire State Building, at a restaurant called the Riverboat. 

Back row: Sammy, Ruby, Vic Dickenson, Jackie Williams, Al Hall; front: Wayne Wright, Jimmy Andrews. Brew’s, New York City. Photograph by Mike Burgevin, courtesy Chuck Slate.

A musical interlude, 1974, part one:

and part two:

He was really making a living doing these gigs.  He wasn’t doing anything else.  In the summers he would play in the Catskills, all summer.  The Italian Catskills, not the Jewish Catskills.  I went with him one time; I usually spent my summers with him because my mom and dad weren’t together.  From the time I was about eight I spent summers with him in New York.  My mother sang a little bit but I wouldn’t call her a singer although she liked to sing.  She was an actor and dancer who sang.  She came to New York for that, and my dad was impressed with her dancing but he never saw her act, which I find astonishing, because that’s what her big aspirations were, and that’s what she did, mostly.  She was a dancer at the Copacabana, and I don’t know where else.  And she studied at the Herbert Berghoff Studio.  But she later became a lawyer.  Because of them, I grew up with a lot of exposure to musical theater and to jazz.   

My father was really sweet and affectionate.  He read a lot of Krishnamurti.  He was very much into health foods and supplements, always reading up on those things.  He was into ayurvedic medicine.  He ate other things, but he wanted me to be very healthy.  He was, although culturally, ethnically and gastronomically Jewish, an atheist, but interested in Eastern philosophy. Despite his avid interest in health foods, supplements, etc., he did enjoy the occasional hamburger and jelly doughnut and Sanka with Sweet and Low. When I asked him about that he responded “Years of bad habits.”

He was also a really good athlete, very athletic, forever, up until right before he died.  He played golf and tennis.  I remember he and Ruby had done a date in Hawaii with Tony Bennett, and when they came back he and Tony played tennis often.  Once when they were playing tennis, some guy from the club asked Tony if he would play with him after he got done playing with his instructor (meaning my dad)…my mom loved telling that story.

I remember we went to Tony’s apartment one time and had lunch.  Tony had artwork there and I thought that was really cool, because my dad was also a really lovely artist as well.  He did a lot of watercolors.  I don’t know what happened to his art, whether he got rid of it when he moved to Florida in 1990 or 1991, but it disappeared and I wanted to have some of it.

Portrait of the singer Connie Greco by Sammy Margolis

In NYC, he lived in Hell’s Kitchen on 44th and 10th Avenue. At that time, one had to be rather paranoid to stay safe from crime. Of course he was diligent about locking his car and his apartment. Once he moved to Deerfield Beach, Florida, he refused to live in fear and refused to lock his apartment or his car. Whenever I visited him in Florida, he would not allow me to lock anything either, which I found hilarious. I lived in NYC at the time, and understood completely.

He had had rheumatic fever as a child, and later that caused a leaky heart valve, so some time in the late Eighties he had surgery to replace the heart valve – several surgeries, because there was an artificial heart valve that his body rejected, then there was a pig valve which worked, but he had to be very careful.  I’m not sure if he knew that he had prostate cancer before he moved to Florida.  He moved down there to relax, to be a “snowbird” with family who spent winters in Palm Springs.  There were a lot of musician friends who had retired to Florida, so he did do some gigs there – but he was basically retired when he went down there.  He was very worried that the heart problem was going to do him in, but it was the prostate cancer, and they couldn’t do surgery because of the heart problem. 

When I took my son down to Florida as a baby (I think that was the last time my dad saw him), I had to go to the laundry room in his complex, leaving him alone with my son (who could stand up but wasn’t yet talking). He played clarinet for my son to keep him amused. I only caught the tail end of it when I returned. It was so cute, my son was enthralled.

He was very funny, very outgoing, and he had hilarious stories.  He was a very good storyteller, and I loved that.  There was a story about a tiger in Bermuda, but I don’t remember how it went.  He spent some time on cruise ships going to Bermuda, and he used to bring back gifts for me and art.  There’s one statue of a woman which I have in my house now that he always had on the mantel in his living room. 

He loved taking me to museums, to art museums, oh my gosh.  He would talk to me about composition, and he loved Matisse and vibrant colors.  Did you know he studied at the Art Students’ League?  I mean, he felt it was really kind of a curse to be really good at a lot of things, but not just art.  He was an intellectual, and some things he didn’t really have to try to be good at.  Cooking and art and more.  He was a thinker, and that may have been hard for him later.  He loved Nature, and we’d go to Central Park, and he’d set up some watercolors and we’d draw, but he didn’t interfere with what I was doing, he would just let me do my thing. 

Whenever we were walking down the street in New York, and we did a lot of walking together, and he was always singing or humming.  All the time! – when we were talking or even when we were.  He was a man full of music.  There was never ever a second when it wasn’t turned on.  I should record THE MORE I SEE YOU for him, because he always wanted me to do that song.  I don’t know why it was that particular one, but he did.  And he used to sing ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET all the time. 

He loved having me sing, whenever I was with him in a club.  Once I started that, he loved it.  And he would give me really, really helpful feedback.  Truly helpful.  He was not overly critical of my singing at all.  No, he was lavishing praise,  But when I wanted to be a music major in college – I started out as a French major –which was actually useless to me (what was I going to do with that?) when I was at Indiana University.  But I had friends who were musicians, I interacted with them, and they were super-surprised that I was not a music major.  “You should be a music major!” they told me.  I was terrified that I would not get in to the program.  I went and did an unofficial audition for David Baker first, and he sent me to this classical vocal teacher, then, with their blessing, I officially auditioned for the music school there.  I got it, but I didn’t tell anybody at all that I had auditioned. 

Then I called my dad to tell him I had gotten in, and he was tickled, he was beside himself with joy.  He hung up the phone, and thirty seconds later he called me back.  “Are you sure you don’t want to get a different major as a backup?  Why don’t you stick with the French?”  And I looked at the phone, and I was like, “French???  French is more useless than music.  I don’t know what the hell I would do with French.  Go somewhere and translate?”  I had no vision how that would work into my life.  It cracked me up that he was so overjoyed and then called me back and was “Wait, wait, wait . . . . “  It was the mentality he grew up with; my dad was born in 1923.  I mean, when I moved back to New York as an adult, I saw him every week, at least once a week, we had our official dinner once a week.  I had a day gig at a Japanese insurance company, because I could type.  And he would tell me, “You know, my dream for  you, my goal for you, my life-dream is for you to marry some businessman you meet around there.”  “Wow.  Really? Your dream for me?”  It didn’t work out that way.  Maybe he was right, I don’t know.  He was worried that if I became a singer I would become an alcoholic.  He was sure those two things went together.  It did not happen, but he was very, very worried about that. 

He also helped me be prepared when dealing with musicians, even on pick-up dates, sitting in, or being a leader.  He really told me, “You know, musicians are going to hate you because you’re a singer.  You really have to be super prepared so that they respect you.”  I thought that was the best piece of advice anybody could give me.  I was incredibly spoiled by all the musicians I met even when I was a little girl.  But when I was little even though I played a little piano, I didn’t know what keys I sang in.  I’d just start to sing, they would find the key, and it would be fine.  I was spoiled by that.  But things change.

I remember meeting Vic Dickenson and Doc Cheatham, Marshall Brown, Mike Burgevin, Kenny Davern, and of course Max Kaminsky.  Oh, there’s a sad thing.  I was supposed to meet Louis Armstrong, my dad really wanted to introduce me to him, but I was in Michigan and Louis died before I got back to New York, but later I did meet Lucille Armstrong.  Dill Jones was the first pianist to play for me in public.  My mom and dad were both really good friends with Jack Bradley.  My sister said – I wasn’t old enough to understand this – that Jack facilitated it so that my mother bought Louis’ cream-colored Cadillac from Louis for five hundred dollars.  I remember that car very well and I know there was some connection to Jack Bradley and Louis. 

That same evening. Photograph by Mike Burgevin.

In the Seventies, when I was in New York with him, he would go off and do gigs at night, and I wasn’t going out at night so I would stay at the apartment watching TV, but I got hold of his fakebook, and I was going through it, listening to jazz recordings that he had, and jazz radio – he listened to WNEW – teaching myself songs from that fakebook.  Even though I couldn’t really read music yet, I would listen to people singing the songs and I would follow along.  I learned a lot of tunes that way.  I wouldn’t have learned them with him around, or my mother around: that was solo contemplation.  

And on those recordings you sent, you said there were people talking at the start, and I thought, “Oh, I hope I get to hear his voice!” and he wasn’t talking, but he was in the background warming up his saxophone, and that’s why he wasn’t talking, he was on the stand already.       

There’s a story my dad liked to tell, and in my recollection I cannot do it justice because I cannot give you his facial expressions or inflections. He was at his friend’s apartment in upper Manhattan (I don’t remember whose apartment, possibly Lou Levy’s?). Dave Lambert was at the party. Jazz records were being played (of course). Someone knocked on the door and the host asked my dad to answer. He opened the door and Duke Ellington was standing there. My dad was so surprised to see one of his idols standing there. After he let him in, the host asked my dad to pick the next record for everyone to listen to. My dad was so nervous because he couldn’t believe he was picking music for Ellington to listen to. I wish I could remember what he chose. But evidently it was something Ellington liked.

Here is Ruby Braff’s elegy for his friend, Ruby’s liner note to the 1996 BEING WITH YOU (Arbors):

This album, this salute to Louis, is as much about Sam Margolis as it is about Pops!

So much of my musical thinking was formed and inspired by the musical dedication and artistic humility of Sam, my old friend and teacher. No one ever did or could pay more homage to the genius and influence that Louis had on every aspect of American music. In that sense, Sam was a great champ and winner.

On March 23, 1996 tragedy struck out group of friends and many others! Our Sammy lost his fight with cancer. To the end he went with great courage and gallantry! My thoughts were about him as we made this recording a scant few weeks later.

Every one who knew him will miss this enormously talented person of profound influence. Jack Bradley’s great picture of Sam and Pops is the way I think he’d like to be remembered.

May God grant him the eternal peace his great soul deserves.

We will never forget you, Sam . . .

I would add to those grieving words my own perception that Sammy Margolis, up close or at a distance, was a joyous individual, a remarkable man: gentle, funny, modest, multi-talented. I regret now that my shyness got in the way of a real conversation, because I feel that Sammy would have engaged my young self with kindness.

There will be more music to celebrate Sammy, and perhaps JAZZ LIVES’ readers have their own tales. He deserves to be well-remembered. And my deep thanks to Carla Margolis for her memories above.

May your happiness increase!

“BESIDE THE BAY”: NIRAV SANGHANI and the PACIFIC SIX

This new CD is delightful. To be formal about it, the sounds embrace the ear.

A sample — the first track, Nirav’s IRRATIONAL BLUES. (Don’t let the title throw you: more whimsical than irrational.)

The brief Bandcamp note adds some more detail: Led by longtime musician and swing dancer Nirav Sanghani, the Pacific Six play tight arrangements of early jazz and swing tunes for dancers and more. Their repertoire includes transcriptions of small group swing recordings by Benny Goodman, Johnny Hodges & Coleman Hawkins, fresh arrangements of well-loved standards, and vintage-inspired originals composed and arranged by Nirav.

But here I must add a few words. This is music to dance to, music to dance with (for those of us who listen while seated). It is lively and expert — lovely solos and witty arranging touches throughout. For those who need historical landmarks, let us say “Keynote Records,” or “1945 meets 2022 with affection and swing,” or “late Swing Era with modern flourishes.” Think “Teddy Wilson” or “the Blue Note Jazzmen,” but with singularities beyond copying. It’s a lovely ensemble with brilliant individualistic soloists. But your ears will tell you better than those catch-phrases can.

Another taste? Why not: EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY. You hear what I mean about the refreshing mixture of homage and originality.

The cover photograph shows that this CD captures the band at a swing dance — hence the increased enthusiasm that recording studios don’t always make possible — but the sound is so much better than what one would have heard from the dance floor. Nirav tells me, “There were actually not dancers at the recording, but the night before we played a swing dance in that same hall with the same musicians and I like to think that we carried that energy with us into the session!”

Here are the credits: Nirav Sanghani, guitar, arrangements, compositions (1, 4, 7, 8, 12); Jonathan Doyle, clarinet, alto saxophone; Sean Krazit, tenor saxophone; Justin Au: trumpet; Rob Reich, piano; Jen Hodge, string bass; Riley Baker, drums; Clint Baker: trombone (1, 6, 15).

Recorded on February 23, 2020 at Community Music Center in the Mission District of San Francisco. IRRATIONAL BLUES / IT HAD TO BE YOU / TEA FOR TWO / MOODY TOM / AVALON / I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS / SUNSET SWING / EASY SAUNTER / OH, LADY BE GOOD / ROSE ROOM / EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY / REACTIVITY BLUES / SOMEBODY LOVES ME / THE MAN I LOVE / JUMPIN’ AT THE WOODSIDE //

The music (in digital form) can be found and purchased here for a pittance. It will reward you with pleasure far greater than the price.

May your happiness increase!