A new discovery — and as has been the fate of Hot Lips Page, even seventy years after his death, he is hidden in plain sight. Facebook friends told the world about MAMBO’S GONE MAD, a collection of short performances by lesser-known Black artists, perhaps for television, introduced by the very refined Mary Smith. There’s a good deal of mambo, costumes, dancing, pulchritude; then a ballad sung by Charles Riley or Reilly in the best Bill Kenny – Orlando Roberson manner . . . then Lips and one Connie Carrol do THROW IT OUT [OF] YOUR MIND, another paean to marriage and premarital chastity.
Lips doesn’t get to play here, and the camera clearly lingers on Connie, but he is his ebullient self, as much as the number allows, even when playing a semi-supporting role:
Those of us who admire Lips more than words can say always shake our heads and ask, “Why should such a charismatic performer never have become a star?” The answers — sad ones — have nothing to do with talent.
In the three television / film appearances I know of, Lips is always placed in a subsidiary role. He tries to get Pearl Bailey to stay the night at his house, and she is clearly the star; he woos Connie in this performance but she takes his money and won’t be his lover without a wedding; in another performance, he teaches a ventriloquist’s dummy how to swing and scat-sing. In none of those three instances, is he given any particular power: either he is a semi-comic implorer or on an equal footing only with a wooden miniature. White America in 1954 wasn’t ready for a handsome Black man who triumphed, even in musical numbers.
And Lips was dead — at 46 — on November 5. A heart attack and then pneumonia. I think of two other heroes, Frank Newton and Sidney Catlett, neither of whom reached fifty, and their world, where men smoked and drank, ate delicious deadly food, didn’t get enough sleep, and didn’t have regular physical examinations. Men went to the doctor only when they felt terrible, and the first heart attack was soon followed by death. And, yes, I know, the list could be much longer.
So, dear JAZZ LIVES readers, take good care of yourselves and the ones you love. And immerse yourself in the music of Lips, Frank, and Sidney: this way their lives will never have ended.
Don’t be afraid. It’s only hot jazz of the highest order, 2023 style, performed by the EarRegulars at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City): Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; Scott Robinson, bass saxophone; James Chirillo, guitar; Russell Hall, string bass.
And by the way, hold that tiger!
And if there’s no mail in the mailbox, today is, after all, a national holiday: Scott Robinson’s birthday. We celebrate him as a soaring creator and deeply kind, funny human being. “Thank you for being born!” as someone once said.
By popular demand, the five remaining performances from a lovely evening of uplifting music at Ornithology (6 Suydam Street, Bushwick, Brooklyn), thanks to string bassist Dan Weisselberg, who brought with him Pat O’Leary, cello; Michael Kanan, piano; Felix Lemerle, guitar; Doron Tirosh, drums, and Gabrielle Stravelli, voice.
Portraits of the musical heroes follow – – – –
Pat and Doron:
Felix and Dan:
Dan and Gabrielle:
And now, the glorious sounds.
BEN’S WEB (a blues by Mr. Webster, c. 1961):
SYMPHONY (a Forties hit, played by Glenn and Benny, Stephane and Django, among others, but a rare call now):
To close off the evening, THE LATE LATE SHOW:
The ideal world and the real one are always a few stops apart (at least) in the cosmic transit system, but in the ideal world this would be a working group, gigging regularly. As Helen Humes sang, I can dream, can’t I?
I give thanks to the musicians and to Ornithology for making this all possible.
And for more delicious Brooklyn-based jazz, visit the MapacheSoundNYC YouTube channel.
An extraordinary evening of music among friends, with a warm creativity filling the room at Ornithology Jazz Club (6 Suydam Street, Bushwick, Brooklyn).
Ornithology is a cozy dark room, and in the darkness, Lester Young and Oscar Pettiford were smiling approvingly.
The group for that session was the Dan Weisselberg Quintet featuring Pat O’Leary: that’s Dan, string bass; Pat, cello, Michael Kanan, piano; Felix Lemerle, guitar; Doron Tirosh, drums; Gabrielle Stravelli, voice.
Yesterday I posted Gabrielle Stravelli’s touching THESE FOOLISH THINGS, and the response to it was so enthusiastic that here we are again with five more marvels from that evening. And if you missed Gabrielle, here’s your chance:
Joe Newman’s CORKY:
Eddie Durham’s TOPSY:
Willard Robison’s OLD FOLKS:
DID I REMEMBER? sung gloriously by Gabrielle Stravelli:
Let no one proclaim that lyrical, inventive jazz is not thriving. As you can see and hear, it is in bloom. And there’s more music to come from this April 23 gathering of friendly creators.
And for more delicious Brooklyn-based jazz, visit the MapacheSoundNYC YouTube channel.
Gabrielle Stravelli is a wondrous heartfelt storyteller. Hear the magic she creates with the venerable THESE FOOLISH THINGS, moving from heartbreak to strength. She did this with the Dan Weisselberg Quintet, featuring Pat O’Leary, on April 11, 2023, at Ornithology in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
That’s Dan, string bass; Pat O’Leary, cello; Michael Kanan, piano; Felix Lemerle, guitar; Doron Tirosh, drums. And I will be sharing more from this evening — a magical one of chamber music for moderns who know how to groove.
And for more delicious urban jazz, visit the Mapache Sound channel here.
It was advertised as a duet — a dynamic duo without superhero costumes — in concert, presented on October 30, 2022, by the Pennsylvania Jazz Society (at Brith Sholom Synagogue in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania). Rossano Sportiello, piano; Danny Tobias, trumpet, flugelhorn, Eb alto horn.
But the concert ended with a trio jam session when trombonist Peter Reichlin joined them for an Ellington classic and a hot jazz spectacular. Thanks to the PJS [its gracious volunteers!] for having the foresight to present these two friend-heroes; thanks to Peter for tuning the piano and many other generosities; thanks to the good people who filled the hall.
I couldn’t resist Clark Terry’s jape about the cow who swallowed ink and then moo-ed indigo.
From cows to wilder beasts:
If you liked that (and, frankly, how could you not?) join us tomorrow, Sunday, April 23, at the same place for more hot hi-jinks:
Satisfaction guaranteed, and two pairs of trousers with the purchase of every suit. See you there!
Vic Dickenson has been a hero of mine for decades and continues to be one. I’ve tried to chase down everything he recorded, which is a substantial amount — so I was very pleased to encounter music of the highest quality, recorded under ideal circumstances, that I’d never heard before. By “ideal circumstances,” I mean live — not in the studio — among musicians of his caliber, and at leisure.
The peerless Black and Blue record label recorded many performances both during the Grande Parade du Jazz (informally, the Nice Jazz Festival) and in the studio, when visiting musicians could be brought together. A CD series devoted to July 1978 Nice performances has been issued yet elusive. Vic appears on CDs headed by Harry “Sweets” Edison, Helen Humes, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, and Jonah Jones. A few days ago, these CDs were shared — complete — on YouTube, and I can now present those performances on which Vic is, properly, given time to shine. Details, in brief, below.
BYE BYE BLACKBIRD (Sweets Edison, Lockjaw Davis, Vic, Gerry Wiggins, Major Holley, Oliver Jackson):
TANGERINE (and the two following selections: Sweets, Jaws, Vic, Hank Jones, Major, J.C. Heard):
STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY:
ROMPIN’ WITH J.C.:
IF YOU’RE A VIPER (Helen Humes, Paul Bascomb, Wiggins, Holley, Oliver Jackson):
BILL BAILEY (and the four following: Jonah Jones, Wiggins, Pierre Michelot, Jackson):
DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS? / POOR BUTTERFLY (mislabeled):
ALL OF ME:
ST. LOUIS BLUES:
YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU (Jonah, Vic, Wild Bill Davison, Claude Gousset, Johnny Mince, Bob Wilber, Bob Fields, Jerome Darr, Ivan Rolle, Clyde Lucas):
ROYAL GARDEN BLUES (as YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU):
Even if you’re not a viper, these are remarkable performances. Those who have heard hours of “festival jazz” or “jazz party jazz” know that it is always expert — these people are professionals beyond dispute — but sometimes with an air of “Well, I guess we have to play INDIANA for the millionth time. You go here, I’ll go there, and eventually we can relax offstage.” But these performances show Vic and others, energized, no matter how familiar the chosen repertoire.
Bless Vic Dickenson and his lovely friends is what I say. And thank you, unknown YouTube benefactor, for these gifts.
Note: An earlier version of this post had the gig as Tuesday, not Monday. I have fired the offending staff member.
Dan Block is one of my living heroes and a consistent pleasure. Lyrical, thoughtful, swinging, unpredictable. And I don’t get to see him as often as I’d like, so his upcoming Mezzrow gig: that’s this coming Monday, April 24, 2023, is one that I and the OAO are going to attend.
To cut to the chase, tickets here. Mezzrow is at 163 West 10th Street, Greenwich Village, New York City. Dan will be appearing with other heroes, Steve Ash, piano; Lee Hudson, string bass, at 7:30 and 9 PM. If you’ve never been to Mezzrow, it is a gem: friendly staff, a fine piano, good sight lines, an attentively quiet crowd. And splendid music is created there.
I’ve followed Dan around with recording equipment for nearly twenty years, so I have a good deal of evidence to support my feelings about his mastery — emotional, intellectual, and technical. Here are a few examples which I hope will hasten your cyber-footsteps to the Mezzrow site above. I apologize to Steve and Lee for not having video examples of their mastery with Dan . . . I hope this blogpost acts as suitable penance for that lapse.
one ravishing chorus of PENTHOUSE SERENADE (with Rossano Sportiello, Marty Grosz, Kerry Lewis, Pete Siers):
TICKLE-TOE (with Michael Kanan and Pat O’Leary):
I hope you’ll be able to join us. And if you live far away from West Tenth Street, both sets will be streamed on the website above. So don’t deprive yourself of rare pleasure.
Benny Goodman, taciturn and reserved, was larger than life and remains so in death, with several selves created through the perceptions of those who knew him and those who mythologized him.
One self was the IRREPLACEABLE MUSICIAN, as evidenced here:
His playing was both exultant and expert; he made superb music on his own (an eight-bar solo on a 1931 dance-band recording is both immediately recognizable and completely uplifting); he gathered superb musicians around him for fifty years and gave them space to express themselves.
He hired Black and White musicians who were seen onstage, in films and television: Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton pre-dated Jackie Robinson. He drew inspiration from the greatest musicians of his time and was himself an inspiring force. And he brought American music to audiences who might otherwise have not known it, and his sixty-year career is a monument to his love of the music.
But even when Benny was alive, another, darker self was given room — and posthumously, the INEXPLICABLE ECCENTRIC has grown, fueled by anecdote after anecdote.
Some of them are surely true: he was so engrossed by the music and his craft that he didn’t remember people’s names; he demanded perfection of others, the same level of art he expected of himself. Few bosses are heroes to their subordinates, and satirizing one’s employer is a time-honored way of reducing their power. Benny was frugal, but he had come from real poverty where “having nothing to eat” meant empty cupboards; he was self-absorbed, but spent much of his life in physical pain.
That second perception also comes from our uneasy relation to heroic achievers in recent times. People applaud the striver, but when someone is too successful, those same people become envious. The audience can buy the records but they are resentful that they didn’t play the music that filled Carnegie Hall. A public person’s fame, coming from unique abilities, makes them feel inadequate and they take the only revenge they have, creating destructive narratives.
“She’s a great singer.” “Yes, but she was mean to the waitstaff.” And more.
The tale of Benny, putting on a sweater because someone else says they’re cold makes better copy than another beautiful solo or ensemble, another triumph. The King of Swing, once a monarch, must be dethroned, must be brought down below us. A Facebook commenter recently offered Benny in subjective miniature: two negatives to one positive and of course, an emoji:
Hard taskmaster – but great musician . Not known for being over generous 😂.
Benny was also unfortunate to become famous, to live long, to die wealthy, without any of the suffering some expect from jazz heroes.
So the collective assessment slants towards cheap, mean, thoughtless Benny — as if the inventive virtuoso who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Billie Holiday, Lester Young, and Charlie Christian was merely a dim memory.
But a new work, a screenplay titled simply GOODMAN, by Alessandro King, has the power to change all that.
King is, in his own words, “a mega swing fan,” a playwright who’s spent the last years researching Benny, his music, his world, and coming to new understanding of what has been taken as truth for so long. And he’s also a singularly gifted dramatist.
Although many good books have been written about Benny, he remains larger than any biography or discography. King’s screenplay embodies the reality that Benny’s life was inherently and consistently dramatic, not just one successful performance after another, that the dramas persisted when there were no crowds in evidence. When I read it, I was entranced by King’s ability to see, to perceive situations that made Benny who he is. His Chicago poverty; his work ethic; his romantic entanglement with Billie Holiday; his fraught relations with his spiritual brother John Hammond; his intense need to create and share his art. In GOODMAN, Benny comes alive as a person — not simply as a face attached to a clarinet nor as a collection of unpleasant quirks — a son, a friend, a lover, a pioneering artist.
It will be an engrossing film.
But I should let Alessandro take the stage.
I have been very lucky that my writing style has evolved in recent decades, from simple naturalistic stage plays to expansive screenplays and pilots. This development has been contemporaneous with my passion for the music of Benny Goodman, which began with a single compilation CD and is now embodied in a collection of over 2,500 songs spread out over 150 discs; there is not a day that goes by without my listening to Goodman’s music or thinking about its maker.
These two through-lines have overlapped in my screenplay GOODMAN, and it is perhaps because of this melding that GOODMAN is the best thing I have ever written. The script conjures Benny’s role in the launch of the swing era and demolition of the music industry’s racial segregation, and I am proud to say the results have garnered attention from organizations such as New York Stage and Film and the Academy Nicholl Fellowship.
I am confident that this movie is ready to be made. To that end, I have accepted Michael Steinman’s generous offer to promote the piece on Jazz Lives, in the hope that it will be recognized by those who’d perhaps appreciate it most: members of the music community. Please accept my invitation to read the first twelve pages of the script here; if you are interested in perusing the full screenplay, please email me at AlessandroMKing@gmail.com.
Thanks very much for reading this self-promotion. As a token of my gratitude, please enjoy this photograph of my grandmother snagging an autograph from a certain reed player; is this the only visual evidence of Benny getting caught incognito (without glasses)?
GOODMAN is a marvelous human story, subtle and revealing. Reading the screenplay, each time I saw the movie in my head. Now I want to see it on the screen.
I confess: I haven’t finished this wonderful biography of William Henry Webb of Baltimore — we know him as Chick — but operating on the principle that you only need one bite of the omelet to know if it’s drab or life-changing, I will proceed.
In brief: Crease is a fine fluent writer, steering a comfortable middle course between the unbuttoned and the stuffy. Her book is not burdened with theoretical clouds of rhetoric, nor with pages of educating-the-reader. She is thorough but not pedantic. She has a story, no, make that many stories, to tell.
And if her subtitle seems hyperbolic, perhaps you haven’t heard this recently. It’s Chick on the air in 1938, with solos by Roy Eldridge and Sandy Williams:
I’ve been reading books about jazz since the late Sixties. My public library was well-stocked, and the books were free, easier to acquire than the music, so sometimes I knew all about X without ever having heard a note of X’s music. I first read about Chick in the liner notes to a Columbia Records reissue, STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY, a brief evocative remembrance by Baron Timme Rosenkrantz. In the intervening decades, I heard many of his recordings, and in this century, delighted in Jeff Kaufman’s documentary, THE SAVOY KING.
But nothing comes close to the easy yet majestic sweep of this book.
When I opened it at random, I was immediately pleased because Crease had done her homework without having it crush her: the book relies gloriously on the first-hand narratives of people who knew Chick, who played with him, his family and friends. Because I have read deeply about my heroes, my strongest requirement for a jazz biography is this: “Tell me something I don’t already know, something I haven’t read elsewhere.” Page after page of RHYTHM MAN blossoms with new stories.
And the facts of Chick’s life are so stark — his physical handicaps, his short life, his climb to fame, his mentorship of Ella Fitzgerald, his “battles” with Basie and Benny. Much has been made of that handful of inescapable facts, and traditionally the stories slant towards victimhood. A “dwarf hunchback,” barely four feet tall, dead at thirty-four. But Crease has a delightful relationship with her subject: she is admiring but rarely sentimental, and it gave me great pleasure to read Lindy Hop legend Norma Miller’s one-word description of Chick as “testy”:
He wasn’t a goody-goody sweet little guy. He was the great Chick Webb — I mean the great Chick Webb. You did everything but bow down in front of him. He had this habit of hitching up his pants like he would take on a giant. He was a ‘Don’t mess with me!’ character.
To me, that says as much as Chick’s ten years of recorded music. And there’s more: recollections from Jo Jones, Helen Oakley Dance, Frankie Manning, Cootie Williams, Ella herself, Van Alexander, Lawrence Lucie, Charlie Holmes, Mario Bauza, Maxine Sullivan, Sandy Williams, and a hundred others.
But the stories the book tells with such grace go beyond the life of one Swing Era drummer-bandleader. Although Crease is no polemicist, there is much about US race relations after the Great Migration north, the tension both open (Sandy Williams’ stories of being on the road in the South) and veiled: when the Webb band played a Yale fraternity dance in 1938, Chick was given an “honorary degree” as “the Dark Master of Swing.”
RHYTHM MAN is also greatly revealing about the uneasy relations between art, entertainment and popular taste, finance, and publicity: we might know the Decca recordings, but their reviews show a great deal, as writers both praise and attack Chick for his band and his singer.
And there are fascinting vignettes: some may have known of Chick’s devoted wife Sally — there is a famous photograph of the two of them at home (the book contains marvelous photographs, many of them new to me) but Crease has discovered Sally’s life after Chicks death, a story that is a BBC film in itself.
I will stop here. But not before saying that RHYTHM MAN is a beautiful work, avoiding the cliches and pitfalls so ingrained in the genre and instead giving us substantial insight into one man’s life, art, and the larger world he both lived in and transformed.
I’m going back to reading RHYTHM MAN, and I suggest that you join me. It’s completely irresistible.
Last Tuesday I made my way down to the remarkable jazz club Ornithology (Suydam Street in Brooklyn) for two sets of glorious music by Dan Weisselberg, Felix Lemerle, Pat O’Leary, Michael Kanan, Doron Tirosh, and Gabrielle Stravellli — people I’ve known and admired for years.
When I was saying my goodbyes, Gabrielle said, “There’s someone I would like you to meet,” and introduced me to a gracious young woman who you see in the photograph above: the singer and songwriter Lucy Wijnands. Gabrielle told me that Lucy was a fine singer, and I told the truth, that I knew her name but hadn’t heard her sing. Lucy said she had new music coming out soon, and I promised to listen.
Her new single, ALWAYS AND FOREVER, an original by Lucy and her father, pianist Bram Wijnands, is a cheerful evocation of what I’d call in shorthand “Sinatra-Riddle-Capitol,” and you’ll know what I mean. Old-fashioned (and that’s a compliment) in the best modern way.
It can be streamed, so I am told, through all the major services, although Lucy has her own Spotify page.
In eight bars, I could hear that Lucy has all the virtues: her own pleasing sound, an easy way with lyrics and melodic embellishment, an unfailing swing. The CD will be out in June, and I will write more about it then.
But in the same way one might look for snacks while waiting for dinner, I browsed YouTube and came upon this performance, which I think is a marvel, and proof that Lucy has it — something not easy to define in words, but the innate ability to marry notes and words to convey emotion with a down-to-earth authenticity. They used to call it “sending the sermon.”
Listen and admire:
This young woman has a great future. And she’s already given us the present.
I first heard the Louis Armstrong – Earl Hines duet on WEATHER BIRD about fifty years ago, and I write that as a point of pride, not as a marker of senescence. It is a marvel, and if you are unfamiliar with it, please take three minutes and hear it again on YouTube or whatever music-purveyor you use. We’ll wait. (There are at least ten versions on YouTube, one of them the 78 that was Mel Powell’s cherished copy.)
In the past decades, I’ve heard recreations of that recording, most notably the three-trumpet choir that Dick Hyman would assemble for this New York Jazz Repertory Company tributes to Louis. Once I saw them in person — Joe Newman, Pee Wee Erwin, and Mel Davis, with Hyman brilliantly playing Hines (November 4, 1974, Carnegie Hall, issued on an Atlantic Records lp called SATCHMO REVISITED). In 2020, Jerome Etcheberry’s SATCHMOCRACY performed it spectacularly on their first CD. (A second volume has just been issued, and you’ll hear more about it here soon.)
I also had the good fortune to be in the audience at the 2007 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend, created by Joe Boughton, where pianist John Sheridan (also responsible for the transcription heard here) performed WEATHER BIRD with four brass masters: Randy Reinhart and Bob Barnard on cornet; Jon-Erik Kellso and Duke Heitger, trumpet. In 2007, Joe had not yet allowed me to bring my video camera, and he frowned upon recording by other people. So this is a surreptitious illicit bootleg (!) recording made with a digital recorder concealed in my jacket pocket. I trust listeners will forgive the occasional rustle of cloth or human sound. The music is worth it, I assure you.
That we have wonderful evidence of this new group is thanks to the multi-talented string player and videographer Matt Weiner, who earns thanks redoubled. Were it within my powers, this quintet of stars would already have a CD and a concert tour. Perhaps we’ll have to wait a bit for these beneficences, but for the moment we have two videos to savor. The Noonatics are Matt, tenor banjo; Jonathan Doyle, bass saxophone; Andrew Oliver, piano; Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet; Paul Woltz, alto saxophone. And if you detect a resemblance to Jimmie Noone’s Apex club Orchestra, you wouldn’t be making a mistake. But they are working within that sound and repertoire to show off their own delicious musical selves. I don’t know the writer of this brief witty blurb, but it rings true:
The Noonatics were birthed on Port Townsend during a brief morning bass sax and tenor banjo jam between Jonathan Doyle and Matt Weiner.
One foot is firmly planted in the style of the great Jimmie Noone bands of the late 20s and early 30s, but when the boys asked Jacob Zimmerman about joining, he said “let’s not just do the Noone repertoire but any tune that might sound good!” Thus, the band dips the toes on the other foot in all sorts of songs that the Noone band did, might have done, could have done, could not have done, and even some that Jimmie would never have done given the chance.
Here’s some music. I know FOREVERMORE from a lovely Joe Sullivan solo recorded for Commodore Records. The Noonatics are even more touching. And they offer the verse!
And if the room needs heat, CHICAGO RHYTHM:
Matt assures me that more songs were performed and recorded. We’ll be waiting! And since all three reed players double and triple, I wonder if there was some nstrument-switching documented here. But we love them as they are.
The Pennsylvania Jazz Society will be presenting these four heroes in concert on Sunday, April 23, 2023, from 2 to 4:30, at Congregation Brith Sholom, 1190 West Macada Road, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 18017. Admission is $15 for PJS members and first-timers; students always free. Cash and check, no credit cards. Snacks and beverages available.
Danny Tobias will bring his trumpet, Eb alto horn, and possibly his flugelhorn; Arnt Arntzen will bring his banjo and guitar and will sing; Vince Giordano will have his aluminum string bass and perhaps assorted instruments, and he may also be persuaded to sing . . . and they will bring an esteemed friend, Randy Reinhart, with trumpet and trombone.
It will be glorious. How do I know? Well, I’ve heard Danny, Randy, and Vince since 2004 and 2005; Arnt is a recent treasure but no less splendid. I don’t have evidence of this particular quartet, but you can extrapolate from the videos I offer here.
Arnt, Danny, and Vince have a working group — Arnie and his Rhythm — that performs in the tri-state area. I caught them at Giovanni’s Brooklyn Eats and brought back this lovely music.
This sunny multifaceted trio also has come out with its debut CD, so prepare yourself to go home with gifts that can be replayed many times.
Now, here’s Danny and Randy — at another PJS gig, with Mark Shane, Pat Mercuri, Joe Plowman, and Jim Lawlor. Great friends who complement each other so well:
TEA FOR TWO:
If you think you might have something better to do on Sunday, April 23, I leave you to your illusions. But you might want to reconsider.
Many compact discs have a pleasing consistency, which is to say they are the same thing all the way through their seventy-five minutes. I don’t mock this: when one buys a brick of Bulgarian feta cheese, it would be a terrible surprise to find it mixed with cracker crumbs, nuts and bolts, and pencil shavings.
But the new CD by the Erica Seguine-Shon Baker Orchestra, the debut recording of their 21-person orchestra, THE NEW DAY BENDS LIGHT, just issued on Bandcamp, is a trip through seven worlds, each allied to the next by energy, sound, and emotion. Here’s the title track, which speaks louder than words:
One of the aspects of this music that pleases me most is its blending of the pensive and the vibrant: the most exuberant piece (which might be the opening REEL) is anchored by a certain thoughtfulness; THE NEW DAY BENDS LIGHT seems, at points, to be unfolding in slow-motion, but motion there is for sure.
I will launch one more conceit at the reader before offering details: that is, I thought of each composition / performance as soundtrack music for a film the listeners were wooed into inventing in their own mental theatres as the music moved on. It’s that rich, but hardly elusive. Melody follows melody, sonic variation does the same, textures are always shifting, so that the pageant is never dull.
The disc is accompanied by extrordinarily evocative liner notes — a pleasure to read and absorb. More details:
Composing music (or creating any art), affords us the ability to create worlds that make the subtleties of the human condition and natural world larger than life. In Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” or “Wheat Field with Cypresses,” we can feel the energy in the stars, or the wind brushing up against the leaves as if we were the tree. There is an inner life in these scenes conveying feelings in a way stronger and truer to human experience than words can. Each composition on this album is an inner world we invite you to immerse yourself in: some joyous, some into areas considered “taboo” in the real world or psychological places you may actively avoid, while others invite youto take perspective, to make meaning out of murkiness, and, hopefully, to find some messy form of healing.
Artist: Erica Seguine | Shon Baker Orchestra
Tracks 1, 3, and 6 composed by Erica Seguine (MusicSegue Publishing, ASCAP) Track 5 composed by Nurit Hirsh (Y & D Music, ASCAP, ACUM), arranged by Erica Seguine Tracks 2, 4, and 7 composed by Shon Baker (ASCAP) Words to “New Day Bends Light” (Track 7) by Shon Baker
Nathan Eklund- trumpet, flugelhorn John Lake- trumpet, flugelhorn Jonathan Saraga- trumpet, flugelhorn Adam Horowitz- trumpet, flugelhorn
Scott Reeves- trombone, alto flugelhorn Nick Grinder- trombone Kalia Vandever- trombone Becca Patterson- bass trombone, tuba
Meg Okura- violin, electric violin (tracks 1, 3-6) Tammy Scheffer- voice (tracks 2, 5-7) Eric Burns- guitar Carmen Staaf- piano Evan Gregor- bass Paolo Cantarella- drums
And the performances — so blood-warm, so mobile — are REEL / STATES / TANGOING WITH DELUSION / IN DREAMS (meetings that could never occur) / OSE SHALOM / . . . AND THE TIRE SWING KEEPS SWINGING / THE NEW DAY BENDS LIGHT.
I first heard the Orchestra’s music in 2019 and wrote about it here. It crooked its finger and I followed; it drew me in. I won’t attempt to write who or what it Sounds Like — an impudence — but will say only that it is beauty that expands to fill a larger space than you might expect, and its reverberations continue, as gifts from a generous organism, long after the disc player says that the disc has concluded.
I encourage my readers to visithere and immerse themselves in this expansive music. Pleasures and depths await.
eBay. Yes, eBay! The national museum, treasure chest, attic . . . with these signatures collected over the past year.
MEADE LUX LEWIS:
THE JAZZ GIANTS:
LOUIS ARMSTRONG to STEW PLETCHER:
COLEMAN HAWKINS and CHARLIE PARKER:
That should be enough for the moment. Without being didactic, I propose that the names here are a wide-ranging history of the music in themselves, and if any are new to you, a little online research will open doors, or rabbit-holes, of pleasure and knowledge.
Most of the items above are no longer being offered for bid, and eBay is caveat emptor at its finest. Odd inexplicable pricing, and forgeries — some of them quite unintelligent — are blandly offered as “rare.” (Al Jolson, dead in 1950, could not have signed his name on a record issued seven years later. An antique photograph of a young man with a cornet looks nothing like the dear boy from Davenport.) But the signatures above are, as far as I can tell, both genuine and precious.
The video that follows comes from the closing set — very informal — of the 2022 Redwood Coast Music Festival in Eureka, California.
From the standpoint of cinematography, the odds are stacked against it. My wife and I were seated at the back of the room, with heads of the audience in the shot. Later there was irrelevant heedless chatter somewhere in the room. The lighting scheme was Day-Glo, or food coloring condemned by the FDA.
But the performance was by one of my favorite singers, Dawn Lambeth, singing POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS so tenderly. And she was beautifully accompanied by Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone; Brian Holland, keyboard; Steve Pikal, string bass; Danny Coots, drums. (That was four-fifths of the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet for this occasion, with Dawn’s husband, trumpeter Marc Caparone, sitting this one out.) And even when the sight lines are part-obscured, the music reaches your ears with grace and certainty. (Thank you, Jimmy van Heusen; thank you, Johnny Burke.)
I carry a small notebook when video-recording such sessions and, when possible, write down titles and (not often) the word NO, which means the performance hit a roadblock, or several. But next to POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS, I wrote the highest accolade:
See if you don’t agree.
William Carlos Williams concluded a poem (“A Sort of A Song”) with “Saxifrage is my flower that splits / the rocks.” It came to mind because of this performance. Give beauty any space and it will powerfully break through obstacles to get right to those attuned to it.
My friend Howard Kadison, invaluable musical colleague of Donald Lambert, reminded me of those simple deep words from Lester Young. They may seem anachronistic, especially since some perceive jazz as a series of improvisations on the melody that, as they progress, leave the melody behind. Pure melody, some still think, belongs to “sweet” bands populated by musicians unable or unwilling to take improvisatory risks.
But the great jazz players — stretching from Bunk Johnson to Sonny Rollins, including Louis, Bobby Hackett, Jack Teagarden, Teddy Wilson, and many others — knew and know that respect for, even reverence for, the original melody can bring great rewards. “Let me hear that lead!” Louis said.
It helps, I am sure, to have a lovely melody to begin with. YOU AND I, words and music by Meredith Willson, a hit in 1941, is one. Its whole notes suggest that, had it been written in 3/4 time, it would have made a splendid Viennese waltz. The movement between notes is simple: one could pick out the line on the piano, but the harmonies are not usual, and the result is an arching melodic line that seems just right for a yearning singer or instrumentalist with near-operatic scope.
I hadn’t known about Benny Goodman’s quartet version, but it’s a small tender masterpiece: thanks to Alessandro King, about whom you will hear more, for sharing it with me. Obviously there was no conflict of interest between the “fitch Bandwagon” (Fitch was a brand of shampoo) and the Maxwell House Coffee Hour. (Were these accounts handled by the same agency?)
The Quartet is not like any other Benny had, although he did make a number of recordings with a clarinet-trombone front line. It’s the magnificent Lou McGarity, with Mel Powell, piano, and Ralph Collier playing very quiet drums. The whole performance is less than three minutes, but what beauty they create in such a small space! in my mind’s ear, I can hear Benny mapping out the performance before they begin: “Mel, you take four bars; I’ll play sixteen; Mel, you take the bridge, then I’ll come back for the last eight. Then we’ll finish with the last sixteen: Lou, you play the first eight with me, and I’ll finish it.” It’s presumably taken from a private acetate and then issued on Sunbeam Records (SB 158). And it’s a quiet joy:
I’ve listened to this gorgeous miniature perhaps two dozen times since I first heard it. It doesn’t reveal all its beauty the first time, but glows even brighter on each new hearing. A compact subtle gem. And melodic playing at this level is the highest art.
Sonny, Ellington’s long-time percussionist and friend, wasn’t known for philosophical utterances, but one of his has stuck in my mind for decades. Its subject: generosity.
Brother Greer tells us, Cast your bread upon the sea and it comes back buttered toast, which is a witty way of saying that any generosity returns unimagined dividends to the giver.
I think about this a good deal, and have seen it in action. The clenched hand is met with its mirror image, as is the open one.
Last week, WordPress, the organ that enables me to send out blogposts to you on a fairly regular basis — fifteen years now — told me several times that I now could set up my blog to receive payments from readers. I am fortunate enough to not have to consider “monetizing” JAZZ LIVES, and I have no desire to say, “Hey. Pay me for that ______ music you say you like,” because I feel that would taint the enterprise.
BUT I have no trouble asking my readers to support a worthwhile enterprise that I hope many of them rely on already. That enterprise is the monthly newspaper, THE SYNCOPATED TIMES, created, edited, and published by Andy Senior of Utica, New York, since 2016. Astute readers, which means all of you, know that publishing such a paper is an arduous enterprise, and Andy has been making up financial deficits on his own for three years now.
Thus, the story on the front page of the April 2023 issue.
The Syncopated Times launches GoFundMe, seeks 501c3 status
Andy Senior, Publisher and Editor of The Syncopated Times, has launched a GoFundMe fundraising campaign to shore up the paper’s finances prior to converting the entity from a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) under sole proprietorship to a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation. Since its launch in 2016, The Syncopated Times has been the only national publication devoted to traditional jazz, ragtime, and swing. The pandemic led to the closure of many of the jazz festivals TST counted on on as advertisers—which coincided with increases in the cost of paper, printing, and mailing, all making a for-profit model no longer feasible. Senior has been covering losses with his own money since March 2020.
A preliminary fundraising goal has been set at $60,000 so that a new 501c3 nonprofit organization under the name Syncopated Media can be established on a strong footing, with a view to expand beyond the monthly paper to cover the jazz scene and jazz history in the visual and audio formats that engage a modern audience. While The Syncopated Times in print (and online at syncopatedtimes.com) will remain the primary focus, the new organization will be able to secure grant funding to produce documentaries for YouTube, compile albums for Bandcamp, create podcasts, and resurrect Syncopated Times Radio.
Considering the current high quality of The Syncopated Times, which now operates on a shoestring budget, the new organization will be able to accomplish great things with whatever funding can be obtained beyond what currently comes in from subscriptions and advertising. Money raised in this drive will cover necessary expenses during the process of becoming a 501c3 corporation, and allow the new organization to start with a large enough budget to sustain operations until further funding from grants and individual donors can be secured.
Nonprofit status will come with many benefits for TST readers and the jazz community. The reorganization plan includes recruiting a large and experienced Governing Board to pilot the new nonprofit and greatly extend our reach, especially into school and community music programs. The Board will also ensure that the future of professional coverage of the traditional jazz, ragtime, and swing community is not dependent on a single owner-operator, but a reflection of the community itself.
The Syncopated Times will retain a paid subscription model, both in print and online, and count on both new readers and renewals. Subscriptions will account for the majority of our operating budget for the foreseeable future. The editorial process will remain the same for each issue, with Andy Senior editing, designing, and laying out each issue. Nothing will change for current subscribers.
Those considering a donation may visit the below link.
The Syncopated Times 1809 Whitesboro St. Utica, NY 13502
I know that not everyone who reads JAZZ LIVES or THE SYNCOPATED TIMES is financially comfortable. At times it seems as if the audience for “classic,” “hot,” or “traditional” jazz is shrinking more quickly than people who listen to other kinds of music. But I urge you to be generous — in the Sonny Greer way or in your own fashion. It will be a smaller, quieter, sadder world if this paper were to cease publishing.
I could have offered a number of pertinent sountracks, from MONEY BLUES to BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME? to JUST A KID NAMED JOE, SHOE SHINE BOY, or MAMIE’S BLUES. You may hum and sing and play these songs and recordings at your leisure. But while you do, think of the unselfish joy of giving and the perhaps selfish joy of having something good to read every month.
May your happiness — and your generosity — increase!
This post celebrates no anniversary in the brief life of Bix Beiderbecke: it’s always a good time to honor the man, the music, and “his era,” which this stellar band did at the Bern Jazz Festival in 1993.
Randy Sandke, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone, trumpet-1; Ken Peplowski, clarinet; Scott Robinson, bass saxophone, C-melody saxophone; cornet-1; Mark Shane, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal*; Linc Milliman, string bass, tuba; Dave Ratajczak, drums. Bern Jazz Festival 1993.
Four or five excerpts from this concert have been posted on YouTube by various people, but I believe this is the first presentation of the complete concert in the best sound and clarity.
FIDGETY FEET / MY PRETTY GIRL (1) / SINGIN’ THE BLUES – I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA / CHANGES* / MISSISSIPPI MUD in German* / THERE AIN’T NO SWEET MAN THAT’S WORTH THE SALT OF MY TEARS* / BECAUSE MY BABY DON’T MEAN ‘MAYBE’ NOW* / IN A MIST (Shane) – CANDLELIGHTS / SORRY / WAIT ‘TILL YOU SEE ‘MA CHERIE’ (Barrett, Shane, Millman) / RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE / CHINA BOY (Peplowski, Shane, Ratajczak) / I’LL BE A FRIEND ‘ WITH PLEASURE’* / AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL / Encore: CLARINET MARMALADE // Interview with Marty Grosz //
Note: this band recorded a longer tribute to Bix and his era in Hamburg, Germany, on May 1, 1993, which was issued on CD as “The Bix Beiderbecke Era,” Nagel-Heyer (G)CD002 [CD] and as part of (G) CD008, “Jazz at the Musikhalle.”
Gorgeous thoughtful hot and pensive music: a model performance that honors the past and stands on its own.