Category Archives: Bliss!

SIXTY-SIX YEARS AGO, DEEPLY TRADITIONAL AND ALSO COMPLETELY AVANT-GARDE (and you’ve never heard it before)

I’ve enjoyed hearing and meeting the great drummer and drum scholar Nicholas D. Ball, thanks to the Whitley Bay jazz parties that I attended 2009-2016.  Nick not only understands vintage drum artistry in academic ways but embodies them: he swings the hell out of a very — by modern standards — constricted authentic set, while combining complete seriousness and wicked glee.  You can see him in action (just one example of many) here and also delve into his absorbing site, “Drums in the Twenties,” here.

But this post isn’t about Nick.  He’s a gateway to the real subject.

He asked me if I’d like to hear solo drum recordings by someone I think of as an unknown master, Bob Matthews.  Would I?  Indeed I would.  And you can also.

I listened, was entranced, and asked Nick to tell all:

I was first contacted by Bob in 2018, he having stumbled across my Drums In The Twenties website. He explained who he was and recounted some of his memories of personal encounters with our mutual drumming heroes when he was a young man, during the 1940s and 50s in New York and New Orleans. We began a semi-regular correspondence, during which I got to know all about his jazz career, learning at the feet of Sidney Bechet, Bunk Johnson and Baby Dodds, his recordings with Raymond Burke and Johnny St. Cyr and his travels across America. Also I learned about his current life, then aged 90 and more or less alone, in retirement in a remote rural town in North Carolina. Despite the great distances between us in both age and geography, over the months we became regular pen pals, to the extent that Bob entrusted to me (by international mail), the one extant copy of the EP he recorded for the great historian Bill Russell’s ever-hungry tape recorder, in New Orleans in October 1955: DRUM SOLOS.

Bob was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1928. Throughout his childhood he was bewitched by music, beginning on drums at the age of nine and also studying mallet percussion and piano to a high level.

As a jazz-mad high-school student, Bob became an avid record collector and attended concerts whenever his heroes visited Atlanta on tour, managing to slip backstage to meet many of the top drummers of the era including Dave Tough and Jo Jones. Aged 18, he travelled to New York, where he befriended and played with several resident jazz greats including Sidney Bechet, Bunk Johnson and Baby Dodds; he then moved to New Orleans where he became a fixture on the traditional jazz scene for over a decade. He then served three years playing with three different US Army bands during the early 1950s, and in 1957 relocated to San Francisco, working in a trio with pianist Don Ewell and clarinettist Ellis Horne, both of whom became close friends.

On the solo session in 1955 that yielded DRUM SOLOS, Bob’s playing, whilst clearly inspired by Dodds (as whose protégé he was proudly known) and firmly within the New Orleans drum tradition, has a distinct character and quality of its own.

He recalled:

‘When we started the session I just couldn’t get it together. We then took a break & had a meal at a nearby cafeteria I always ate at. After we returned it started to fall into place. I don’t know how, but it did. I recorded a variety of things: Morton’s New Orleans Joys, Scott’s Climax Rag, 2 Improvisations (full set and soft mallets on tom toms), and 3 others. I don’t remember how I thought of using complex rags & melodies to inspire me to try & follow. I could have done even better, but I never had the chance again. I had to choose the repertoire from memory at that moment. No time to plan or practice for.’

Whilst Matthews did perform on sessions with several notable bands during the 1940s and 50s, his DRUM SOLOS record was never commercially released, and has never before been made available to the public – until today, 66 years later. When Bob suggested he mail me some of his most treasured possessions, including the one copy of DRUM SOLOS (which had been dubbed onto a 10” vinyl disc some time in the 1950s) I was wary of the responsibility, but excited that perhaps I might be able to at last make this hitherto-unheard artifact from jazz drumming history available to the public after 66 years. With Bob’s blessing and co-operation, I’m really proud and delighted to at last be able to present the record for release via VEAC Vaults; as a set of downloadable audio files accompanied by a 7-page PDF document tracing Bob’s story and illuminated with his memoirs and photographs.

The solo drum recordings are unbelievably interesting: hear a sample here.

They aren’t what Whitney Balliett called “fountains of noise.” They feel like measured yet passionate melodic explorations.  Bob looks into the sonic treasure-chest and pulls out gems (in a nice steady 4/4) to show us.

Some of you, deep in the tradition, will say, “Ah, these are just like the Baby Dodds drum improvisations,” and you will have created the nicest pocket to place the music into.  That will be an inducement to go to Bandcamp — the link right above this paragraph — and buy a copy.  Others, more quick to judge, will say, “I already know what this sounds like,” and, without listening, ready yourself for another diversion.   But I suggest that you listen first.

Preconceptions shape reality.  Tell someone, “This is the funniest joke in the world,” and almost whatever follows falls flat.  Or, “This soup is so spicy, you’ll need gallons of water,” and we brace ourselves.  Thus it is with naming music: if we allow ourselves, we create a concept and are unable to hear beyond it.

If a jazz broadcaster presented this release, “We have a new set of experimental, innovative Sonatas for Solo Percussion by T. Vasile, the young Romanian percussion star (she just turned 30) that combine ‘free’ playing with traditional New Orleans convention, down to the antique sound quality of the recordings,” some of us would turn up the volume to hear the marvels.

And — as couples say in “discussions,” one other thing.  As you’ll read in the notes, Bill Russell recorded this on his tape machine, and some time later, Bob Matthews paid a local engineer to make a disc copy.  A disc copy.  One.  So I feel in the presence of a weird greatness, facing a singular object (think of the Jerry Newman acetates, for the easiest instance) rather as I did when reading TRISTRAM SHANDY and Laurence Sterne tells the reader he is drawing on a manuscript that only he possesses the sole copy.  In this case, it’s not a whimsy, but it’s true.  Even if this it’s-the-only-one-in-the-universe fact does not win you over, I hope the music does.

The link to listen and purchase is, again, https://veacvaults.bandcamp.com/album/drum-solos.

May your happiness increase!

 

 

 

ON NIGHTS LIKE THIS, THEY DO: JON-ERIK KELLSO, RICKY ALEXANDER, ALBANIE FALLETTA, SEAN CRONIN (Cafe Bohemia, January 9, 2020)

Music like this gives me hope.  It was created right in front of my eyes, at a place reachable by public transportation in New York City (with a parking garage right across the street); it was created in this century by four people I love and admire. So it can and will come again, like the little purple crocus that grows in cracks in the concrete.  It has beauty; it has durability.  What’s a global pandemic to this?  Kid stuff.

The details?  Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street, Greenwich Village, New York.  Sean Cronin, string bass (sitting in for Jen Hodge that night for a few); Albanie Falletta, resonator guitar; Ricky Alexander, clarinet; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet.  Edgar Sampson, composer.

I urge you: listen.  Do not take this spiritual phenomenon casually, because it is the breath of life:

IF DREAMS COME TRUE?

No.  WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE.

And bless the bringers of joy.

May your happiness increase!

“GOOD FOR WHAT AILS YOU”: JIMMY McPARTLAND, ZIGGY ELMER, BUD FREEMAN, BOB WILBER, KENNY KERSEY, DON LAMOND, GEORGE WETTLING (“Dr. Jazz,” WMGM, March 14, 1952, Stuyvesant Casino)

Feeling kind of punk?  Down in the mouth?  Are the Amazon cardboard boxes beginning to overwhelm you?  Freezer door won’t stay shut?  Phone call you’re expecting didn’t happen but a bill you weren’t looking for just flew in?  Are the upstairs neighbors’ twins re-enacting the Second World War?  Do you hear growling and realize it’s coming from you?

JAZZ LIVES has just the thing.

That serious MD is a stock photo.  But I have a quarter-hour of soul-poultice in the form of time-travel. How about Friday night, March 14, 1952? The place, the Stuyvesant Casino, Second Avenue and Ninth Street.  (It was 140 Second Avenue, and it’s now the Ukranian National Home, and yes, I’ve walked past it often.)

The healers? Aime Gauvin, master of ceremonies, broadcasting over WMGM. Jimmy McPartland, cornet; Ziggy Elmer, trombone; Bud Freeman, tenor saxophone; Bob Wilber, clarinet; Kenny Kersey, piano; Don Lamond or George Wettling, drums. A long way from Austin High School, but age didn’t matter. SAINTS / LADY BE GOOD / (Wettling for Lamond) COQUETTE / THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR THE SUNRISE / SAINTS.

Imagine hearing that blast out of your radio on a Saturday night.  What bliss.

May your happiness increase!

 

WE’RE ENCHANTED: JOE SULLIVAN IMPROVISES (March 1963)

The lopsided stereotype of pianist Joe Sullivan is that of a hard-drinking barrelhouse man and player, attacking the keyboard with great power until he day he could do it no more.  But that’s only a small snapshot: if you’ve seen Sullivan, somewhat nervously chatting with Ralph Gleason on JAZZ CASUAL, you see a gentle, sensitive man: underneath the many versions of LITTLE ROCK GETAWAY is the humble romantic, tenderly exploring A ROOM WITH A VIEW or FOREVERMORE.

Here is something rare and precious: Joe’s solo improvisation, thirty minutes long, for the soundtrack of a documentary film about blind children. I don’t know more than this, except it’s aurally clear that the film’s producers did not or could not pay royalties, so they asked Joe to keep far away from copyrighted compositions, his as well as others. Did he watch the screen while playing? I don’t know. This seems to have been one of his last recorded adventures. The tape from which this is taken is third or fourth-generation, so you will hear the high-end distortion characteristic of decaying acetate tape. Sorry!

But any auditory disturbance fades away in the ear and heart as one follows Joe through his — to me — thrilling meanderings:

This is in honor of my great friend, far-away teacher and benefactor John L. Fell.

May your happiness increase!

SUNDAY NIGHTS AT 326 SPRING STREET (Part Thirty-Seven) — WE NEED SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: SESSIONS AT THE EAR INN, featuring THE EarRegulars (2007 – the Future)

In my little computer-centered burrow, I am snickering at myself.  Pandemic-brain, interrupted sleep, failed multi-tasking?  You name it, but I realized that I, who prize accuracy, already published “Part Thirty-Eight” here a week ago — skipping forward to January 16, 2011.  I’m sorry if it caused anyone a psychic lurch, or if the room suddenly darkened and objects fell in the kitchen.  The good news is that none of the severe Corrections Officials wrote in to rebuke me.

And I hope that this error will become as valuable as the “inverted Jenny” postage stamp . . . will the out-of-sequence blogpost be worth 1.5 million someday?  A nice thought.  But back to music that’s priceless, performed and recorded at The Ear Inn, a shrine that sells beer and chili.

The music from December 12, 2010, created by Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Randy Reinhart, cornet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Joel Forbes, string bass, is more than remarkable — even though that praise could be said of every Sunday night at the Ear Inn with the EarRegulars.

Starting from the back, the rhythm-and-solo team of Matt and Joel is truly beyond compare, no offense meant to other string players who have visited 326 Spring Street.

The front line — brass ecstasy — is unusual and unusually beautiful.  You’ll notice it has none of the reek of Hollywood fakery, where the two trumpeters wage testosterone-war on one another, pointing their phalli upward until the one who can go higher [“He got up to P!” to quote Louis] wins and the loser slinks off, disgraced, to the bar.  No, this is friendly brotherly conversation — rare and uplifting, a good model of community even for those who can’t yet push the first valve down.

ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:

JAZZ ME BLUES:

YOU CAN DEPEND ON ME:

DALLAS BLUES:

Beautiful.  Meet me next week (hold on to your chair arms) for Part Thirty-Nine.  We can do it.

May your happiness increase!

THEY’RE SWELL, or ROCKING THE ROCKIES (CARL SONNY LEYLAND, MARTY EGGERS, JEFF HAMILTON: Evergreen Jazz Festival, July 26, 2019)

This post doesn’t celebrate an occasion, a birthday, an anniversary, nor does it mourn a death.  It’s here so that you, too, can have five minutes of life-affirming joyous sounds . . . and that’s enough or should be.

My meteorological souvenir from the 2014 Evergreen Jazz Festival.

Here are Carl Sonny Leyland, piano; Marty Eggers, string bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums, frolicking through the Rodgers and Hart THOU SWELL.  They swing from the first note, and my favorite extra pleasure of this is watching Sonny stand up to see just what sonic alchemies Jeff is creating over at the other side of the stage.

As the title says, this was performed at the Evergreen Jazz Festival on July 26, 2o19.  I wish I were booked to be there again: I can close my eyes and remember the narrow flight of stairs — blessedly, with a sturdy handrail — that led down from the building to this outdoor stage.

But the music!  The propulsion!  The panoply of sounds.  How very SWELL:

May your happiness increase!

 

“MAKE WEIRD SOUNDS,” or ROCKING THE BLUES SOUTH OF FOURTEENTH STREET: MARA KAYE, ERNIE VEGA, CONAL FOWKES, KEVIN DORN, JON-ERIK KELLSO (Cafe Bohemia, December 5, 2019)

We know nothing about “Pigmeat Terry,” probably “Terrio,” who may be accompanying himself on piano, but he left us this song, recorded in Chicago, 1935:

Almost eighty-five years later, a group of artists I admire deeply were rocking (or rockin’) the blues south of Fourteenth Street, at Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street.

Leading the pack in these dark rollicking blues was Mara Kaye, our very own:

She was joined and encouraged in this farmyard ecstasy by Ernie Vega, guitar; Conal Fowkes, string bass; Kevin Dorn, drums; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet:

Terry’s recording is available on YouTube for those who might say, “But I can’t understand the lyrics . . . ”   Feeling counts more than BBC diction.

Remember — when in doubt, make weird sounds.  Rabbi Kaye has spoken.

May your happiness increase!

SHORT YET SOARING: “WEARY BLUES,” BENT PERSSON and GORAN ERIKSSON

The received wisdom is that long-playing records (and then CDs) allowed jazz musicians “room to stretch out,” and in many cases that is a boon.  But I admire those musicians of all styles who can “get it done” in two choruses, smile, and step back.

Here’s a wonderful example: Bent Persson, cornet, and Goran Eriksson, banjo and stop-time percussive effects, romping through WEARY BLUES in the finest Louis Armstrong-Johnny St.Cyr manner, a performance that feels like the most rewarding dinner on a plate the size of a saucer: compressed, heated, expert:

It’s supposed to rain and be gray for the next three days . . . but in my heart the Louis-sun is blazing bright.

May your happiness increase!

 

 

BLISSFUL PLAYS: “EARLY RISERS,” JOHN SCURRY’S REVERSE SWING (Lionshare Records, 2 CDs)

FRAME, John Scurry, 2016.

I’m rarely at a loss for words.  (Whether that’s a virtue or an annoyance, I leave to you.)  So when some new music hits me so deliciously hard that I think, “I don’t know how to write about this,” that phenomenon is fascinating.  I assure you it’s not pandemic-isolation brain: it’s being in the presence of something texturally and emotionally rich that doesn’t neatly compartmentalize itself.

To be precise, I am referring to EARLY RISERS, a brand-new 2 CD release by John Scurry’s Reverse Swing (Lionshare Records).  John is — in no order and all at once — guitarist / painter / composer / optimistic seeker.  The discs feature a variety of John’s compositions, and for once when I read those words on a new release, it inspires happy anticipation, not anxiety.

As I told a friend after hearing the first disc, “If I heard this coming from another room, I would say ‘What IS that?’ in happy astonishment and go to the speaker to get closer, to drink it in, to find out more.

Let me encourage you to follow me towards that sound source . . . https://lionsharecords.com/album/early-risers — if you scroll down — you can hear EARLY RISERS, CLANDESTINE, CHEERS ANTIOCH, EGYPTIAN VIOLET.  And you can read the liner notes.  Please do.  Take your time, and report back.

Isn’t that the damnedest beautiful thing?

Jazz listeners who like experience in little Lego units can say I HEAR THIS and A TOUCH OF THAT.  Some already have their little pads out, noting, “That phrase sounds just like —— on his Atlantic release in 1954.”  Knock yourself out, pals.

But I can only describe John’s music metaphorically.  A bed with brightly-colored coverlets, already warm, with the promise of birdsong in the next morning outside the window.  Music that when you have to drive to the station, it’s escaped into the neighbor’s garden after climbing the roof.  And other times it cozies itself into your lap, purring.  Or it’s like the first forkful of a new ethnic rice dish, whose flavors you can’t quite identify, until you say, “Is that cinnamon?  Is that preserved lemon peel?  Wow!”  It’s like a few kind sentences coming from a person you have never known to be easily kind.

Or look again at John’s painting above.  Simple objects carefully and carelessly arranged, balanced and precarious, quietly vibrating with feeling.  (Morandi reminds me of Scurry.)  His musics, and the plural is intentional, come from the same human(e) source.

I’ve run out of metaphors, but your ears will show you the way.

I hope EARLY RISERS warms and cheers you as it does me.  Or if it doesn’t today, come back and peer at it again.  It’s impossible to anatomize, but that is its charm: it’s alive.  And it plans to stay that way.

In case you lost your way in my at-a-loss-for-words that turned into words, I nudge you again to https://lionsharecords.com/album/early-risers

May your happiness increase!

“IT’S DE-LOVELY”: UNHEARD ELLA FITZGERALD (BEN WEBSTER, CLYDE HART, BOBBY BENNETT, JOHN KIRBY, COZY COLE, EDGAR SAMPSON and others, 1.15.37)

Some jazz enthusiasts hold these half-truths to be completely evident:

a) No one buys CDs anymore, and if someone does (contradicting the first assumption) he probably has a crank phone on the wall of his basement room, next to the black-and-white television set found on the street;

b) No one pays for music anymore, since everything is accessible online.

Brace yourself.  What follows is a recommendation that you — gasp — buy a CD to hear divine music not available any other way.

“Let yourself go!”

The CD contains 36 musical performances by a medium-sized big band, broadcast in early 1937.  The band was led by violinist superhero Stuff Smith, and combined parts of his own Onyx Club Boys with members of the Cab Calloway and Chick Webb orchestras: Ben Webster, Jonah Jones, Sandy Williams, Garvin Bushell, Walter Thomas, Clyde Hart, Bobby Bennett, John Kirby (perhaps Milt Hinton), Cozy Cole.

AND a pearly young Miss Ella Fitzgerald.

Here’s a sample: Ella before the Cole Porter Songbook, in a composition she didn’t record in her early prime — with solos by Ben:

Such a de-lovely rarity, found — along with 36 other previously unheard performances from 1937 on the CD depicted in the image — issued on AB Fable CD 024. The music and the documentation will also explain why Ella refers to “Lucidin” in the lyrics. Source material courtesy of Jonah Jones, Edgar Sampson, and Anthony Barnett: read about — and purchase — this dazzling offering http://abar.net/index.htm.

And if  you would like nearly six more minutes of swing ecstasy to be convinced that AB Fable is worth investigating, I invite you to listen and read more here.

P.S.  Why am I writing a blogpost about a CD released in 2010?  Simple: not enough people know about it, and it is one of my favorites on my wall of CDs.  And whenever I have conversations with people and I reveal that I am deeply involved in jazz, before they start to look wildly around the room for someone else — anyone! — to talk to, they say, “I really like Ella Fitzgerald,” before they run off.  I wish one-tenth of the people who “really like Ella” would buy this CD!

May your happiness increase!

OH, THEY DO: RAY SKJELBRED AND HIS CUBS (November 25, 2016)

I love this little band, in all its permutations, and I am not alone.  When they get onstage, the question posed above becomes completely rhetorical.  They most certainly have music, and they share it with us.  Here are five lovely (purple-hued) performances from the 2016 San Diego Jazz Fest, featuring Ray Skjelbred, piano; Katie Cavera, guitar; Clint Baker, string bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums; Marc Caparone, cornet; Dawn Lambeth, vocals.

Here’s LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER, evoking Eddie Condon and the first Commodore 78, and the swinging Bing Crosby version a few years earlier:

and James P. Johnson’s song, recorded by Henry “Red” Allen:

and a song associated with Lee Wiley, sweetly sung by Dawn Lambeth:

the beautiful Thirties ballad associated with Billie Holiday:

Finally, Dawn’s exposition of swing frustration (thanks to Walter Donaldson):

May your happiness increase!

“HOW’S YOUR LOUISNESS?” (January 1, 1947)

To celebrate the publication of his book REALLY THE BLUES, Mezz Mezzrow was the star of a concert at New York’s Town Hall on January 1, 1947 as a benefit for the American Committee for Yugoslav Relief.

The basic band was Muggsy Spanier, Sandy Williams, Sidney Bechet, Mezz Mezzrow, Sammy Price or Art Hodes, Wellman Braud, Baby Dodds.  Later in the evening Bob Wilber’s Wildcats were added: Johnny Glasel, Ed Hubble, Bob Wilber, Dick Wellstood, Charlie Traeger, Eddie Phyfe.  Coot Grant and Kid Sox Wilson also performed.  The concert was recorded on twelve-inch acetates on two machines (hooray!) and ten performances were issued on lp — Jazz Archives JA-39 — but what follows was not.

Quite simply, it is an exultant hymn of praise to Louis.

It’s a life-changing performance of WHEN YOU’RE SMILING by Johnny Windhurst, unlisted in Tom Lord’s discography, with Bechet, prominent, and Dick Wellstood on piano.  My guess is that the veterans gave place to the Youngbloods, but it’s Windhurst who catches our ears and our hearts.  Rather like Hot Lips Page in his prime, Windhurst seems energetically lit from within, and just when you think he might have had enough or done enough, he takes another chorus.  Radiantly.

After Mezz’s announcement, the roadmap (to my ears) is one ensemble statement of the theme, one chorus by Bechet; one chorus by Wellstood; one by Eddie Hubble, trombone; two choruses by Windhurst with Bechet and the ensemble joining in. The tape I was working with was a copy of a reel-to-reel tape where the plastic had started to decay, alas, so there is some distortion and tape squeal.  But if you can turn away from Windhurst’s shining Louisness because of these flaws, we don’t have much to say to each other.

Incidentally, the question, “How’s your Louisness?” is, I believe, a co-invention of two of my favorite people, Riley and Clint Baker. . . . it is another way of saying, “How’s your internal spiritual compass?” and “Have you spread some joy today?”  They do, and certainly young Mister Windhurst does.

Play it again, and feel the warmth of that smile.

May your happiness increase!

 

CHRIS FLORY’S MAGIC DEEP-BLUE SWING ENGINE (with JON-ERIK KELLSO, EVAN ARNTZEN, NEAL MINER at CAFE BOHEMIA, November 14, 2019)

I think my subject line says it all.  There are musicians who can swing when the band is swinging (they hitch onto the back of the truck and ride along).  Others can swing the whole room, unaccompanied, in eight bars.

Chris Flory is a shining example of the latter species; his playing is full of emotion but limber, and his music always feels honest.  Here he is, improvising on Harold Arlen’s I GOTTA RIGHT TO SING THE BLUES at Cafe Bohemia in the fabled past — November 14, 2019 — with Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, clarinet; Neal Miner, string bass:

Don’t let the red lighting disconcert you: everything Chris plays has, somewhere in it, indigos.  They shine, and they warm us.

May your happiness increase!

SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE GIRLS’ SCHOOL (December 1, 1951)

Concord Academy, Concord, Mass., established 1922 for grades 9-12, enrollment less than 500 students.  Surely I don’t understand upper-class girls’ boarding schools, but it seems the last place one would find a hot jazz concert — or was it a dance? — in late 1951.  Then again, jazz was still the popular music.  Doing research on the Boston hot jazz scene of this period, I came upon this passage from a 1950 story in the Harvard Crimson about the genesis of the school’s hot band, the Crimson Stompers.  Savor this as a relic of a vanished time, please:

They went twice to Smith College (Gifford is carried away by the memory where 200 girls in sweat shirts and dungarees sat in a semicircle and shrieked for the real oldtimers like “Coal Cart Blues” (an Armstrong standby).

That, I think, is the emotional connection between Concord Academy and jazz.

One of the musicians, cornetist Johnny Windhurst, then 25, had substantial fame.  Windhurst had been the second horn in Sidney Bechet’s quintet that broadcast from the Savoy Cafe in 1945; he had returned to the Savoy in 1949 with Edmond Hall’s band that had Vic Dickenson in the front line.  In New York, he had performed with Eddie Condon, Jack Teagarden, James P. Johnson, and other notables, at Town Hall and the Stuyvesant Casino; in 1952, he would be playing regularly at Eddie Condon’s on West Third Street.  Windhurst turned down opportunities to travel, would not learn to read music, and stayed close to home until his death in 1981.  He is a glorious player, his solos arching towards the skies.

Trombonist Eddie Hubble was an early associate of Bob Wilber, a superb extension of Jack Teagarden, and by this time he had performed with Red McKenzie, Wild Bill Davison, Frank Chace, George Wein, Doc Evans, Joe Sullivan.  He, too, was heard on Boston radio broadcasts.

“Ollie” Taylor [Oliver S. Taylor, Harvard, ’53] may not have continued on with music, and his recorded career is limited to two performances linked to drummer Walt Gifford.  But he was playing alongside professionals as early as 1948.  His father was a Harvard history professor, and the Harvard hot band, the Crimson Stompers, formed and rehearsed at the Taylor house.

I know even less about the fine supportive pianist Pete Hewitt: he recorded three sides with a band led by Gifford that also had Hubble.  Where did he go after Harvard?  Walt Gifford, Harvard ’52, managed the Crimson Stompers, and he had a professional career which I can follow into the Sixties, he did not get the notice his work deserved.  (Then again, I say to myself, “Who does?”)

That Boston-and-beyond scene was flourishing: Ed Hall, Frank Chace, and Frank Newton played and recorded with iterations of the Crimson Stompers; the young woman who would become Barbara Lea — born Leacock — was both their star singer and Windhurst’s girlfriend.

I also am reasonably sure that the music was recorded by Joe Boughton, who was an early and pious Windhurst devotee [archivist? stalker?], a wonderful thing, seventy years later — although I have a half-memory of some musician writing something like, “Wherever we’d be playing, he’d show up with the damned tape recorder and it would be running.”  To my right, as I write this, I have a photograph of Windhurst on my wall, inscribed to Boughton, with surprise at a “sober Saturday”! Thank goodness we have slightly more than a half hour of the music: all “Dixieland” classics, and beautifully played: strong soaring solos, wonderful rhythm (you don’t miss a string bass), nice riffs and backgrounds.  As young as they were, they were splendidly professional.  And not to slight Ollie Taylor, it is Windhurst and Hubble who continue to astonish (they were both continuing to do so when I saw them, separately, in 1971 and 1972.)

I also don’t know anything about a school like Concord Academy and its cultural anthropology.  Was this a dance?  Did the girls get to invite their beaux?  Or was it a social event where the band played for listening?  I don’t sense a large room crowded with eager teens; in fact, it’s hard to sense an audience at all.  I wish I knew, but here’s the music.  And what music!

In Windhurst I often hear Hackett, but Bobby with almost insolent ease, fluidity and power — although it’s clear that he’s absorbed Louis and the Condon trumpet crew.  When he moves around on the cornet, there’s never any strain, as he accomplishes versions of super-Bix.  And that sound! — full and shining.  Next to him, Hubble echoes Teagarden but also the slippery power and audacity of Lou McGarity and Brad Gowans.  Taylor’s approach is slightly less assured — more Parenti than Hucko — but his earnest lyricism is sweetly appealing, and occasionally (hear the end of his chorus on ONE HOUR, where he asks himself, “What would Pee Wee do?”) he comes up with memorable phrases, although occasionally he’s not completely familiar with the song.  Hewitt is wonderfully orchestral and spare at once, summoning Stacy and streamlined stride (SAINTS is the best example); he isn’t fancy in the ensembles, but you feel him providing solidly moving chordal support.  And Gifford plays splendidly for the band, sometimes pushing the hi-hat in the best Jo Jones fashion, otherwise relying on snare and bass drum, always thinking of what the band needs at the moment in the nicest Wettling manner.  It’s a very cooperative band — players who had worked together and readily created supporting figures.  And although the repertoire is familiar as “Dixieland,” the rhythmic emphasis here is on swing: they’re playing the tunes rather than copying the hallowed recordings.  Hear how Hubble and Windhurst leap into their solos on SAINTS.

Can you tell I admire this band?

The songs are WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS / IF I COULD BE WITH YOU / JADA / JAZZ ME BLUES / SOMEDAY SWEETHEART / SAINTS / SUGAR (faded out):

The recording — I feel certain it’s tape or a 33 rpm acetate — has been edited to eliminate both applause and pauses between songs, and the microphone is inside the band so that we hear the musicians’ comments to each other.  Was it broadcast on the local radio station?  And the recordist turns up the right knob while Hewitt solos so that his sound isn’t lost: this isn’t an accidental “capture.”

On Facebook, I hear many young bands showing their skills — sometimes simply their enthusiasm.  I wish many of them would study this tape: it’s a model of how to play this repertoire with great expertise and passion while making it look easy, aiming for polished small-band swing rather than trying to replicate some more ancient evidence.

Enjoy the glowing sounds as well as the little mysteries that accompany them: the people who could have explained it all are gone. Think of a time when such a band could exist and play a date at a local school.  Days gone by for sure.  (I wonder whether Concord Academy has its own archives: one can dream.  I will send this post to them.)

P.S.  I invite the word-averse to skip what follows.  Between 2006 and 2020, I carried video recording equipment to gigs; with large interruptions, I had brought audio equipment from 1971 to 2006 and sometimes beyond.  Through the immense kindness of jazz benefactors John L. Fell, Bill Coverdale, Bill Gallagher, Bob Hilbert, Roy Bower, Bert Whyatt, Tom Hustad, Hal Smith, Ricky Riccardi, Sonny McGown, and others, I’ve amassed hours — years, it seems — of rare recordings, primarily on audiocassette.  Thanks to a grant from the Charles Sammut Foundation and Laura Wyman’s encouragement, I figured out how to convert those cassettes into moderately-competent YouTube videos, and I’ve been doing this for the last month.  Why?  Some of this activity is an antidote to pandemic boredom-and-loneliness, but there is also my thought that when my executors come to clean out my apartment, and they are a very hip bunch, no one has room for three or four hundred cassettes.  It pained me that if I didn’t do something about it, my tapes (for example) of Bobby Hackett, Vic Dickenson, Joe Thomas, Teddy Wilson, Jo Jones, Bennie Morton . . . would never be heard.  That was intolerable to me.  So I hope you greet these audio rarities with the pleasure that I take in sharing them.

May your happiness increase!

SUNDAY NIGHTS AT 326 SPRING STREET (Part Thirty-Eight) — WE NEED SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: SESSIONS AT THE EAR INN, featuring THE EarRegulars (2007 – the Future)

In the glory days, which are waiting in the wings for their cue to return, joy reigned supreme at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) on Sunday nights.

January 16, 2011 was no exception.

I witnessed it myself — uplifting music provided generously by the EarRegulars and friends: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Mark Lopeman, tenor saxophone; Neal Miner, string bass, and friends Pete Martinez, clarinet; Bob Curtis, clarinet; Tamar Korn, vocal, and Jerron Paxton, vocal.

Tamar’s incredibly passionate BODY AND SOUL, featuring Jon-Erik, Mark, Matt, Pete, and Neal:

SOME OF THESE DAYS featuring Jerron and Bob with the core quartet:

Harry Barris’s classic uplifting melody becomes even more airborne here, thanks to Tamar, Jon-Erik, Mark, Pete, Matt, and Neal:

I was there.  Perhaps you were also?  We look forward to reunions — an idea we can safely embrace.  Until then, do as I do and hug the music and its creators to your heart.

May your happiness increase!

THE PERFECT JAZZ REPERTORY QUINTET: DICK HYMAN, BOB WILBER, PEE WEE ERWIN, MILT HINTON, BOBBY ROSENGARDEN (Nice Jazz Festival, July 9, 1978)

Truth in advertising.

The PERFECT JAZZ REPERTORY QUINTET actually was.

It was one of those bands that actually lived up to its bold title, whether the front line was as it was here, or the variation that I saw in Morgan Park in Glen Cove, so many years ago — Joe Wilder and Phil Bodner (with Dick Hyman, Milt Hinton, and I think Ronnie Zito).

Under Dick Hyman’s astonishing leadership, the Quintet chose to concentrate on jazz before the Second World War, but the result was timeless, full of improvisational brilliance and energy, even though there were many manuscripts on those music stands. One of the pleasures of the video that follows is seeing members of the quintet, professional in every detail, taking their music off the stands at the end of the set.  But I have doubt that a Quintet performance concentrating on the music of Tadd Dameron, Charlie Parker, and early Miles Davis would have been compelling music also.

Here we have their first manifestation: Dick Hyman, piano; Pee Wee Erwin, cornet; Bob Wilber, clarinet, alto and soprano saxophones; Milt Hinton, string bass; Bobby Rosengarden, drums.

The video that follows captures a performance at the Grande Parade du Jazz, made for French television but apparently not broadcast and certainly not trimmed-down for time limitations.

Setting up [for the impatient, the “music begins at” 5:55] / CAKE WALKIN’ BABIES FROM HOME / I’M GONNA STOMP MR. HENRY LEE [at a lovely swaying tempo] / MY MAN’S GONE NOW (Wilber) / OLD MAN BLUES / SOPHISTICATED LADY (Hyman, Hinton, Rosengarden) / JUST BEFORE DAYBREAK (Erwin – Hyman) / DOOJI WOOJI / DOWN IN HONKY TONK TOWN / a few seconds of packing up //.

The late reedman Leroy “Sam” Parkins told me, more than once, that great art was in the balance between passionate abandon and expert restraint.  The Quintet embodies that in every note.

A very happy P.S.  I posted this video early on Friday, February 20, and mid-afternoon Mr. Dick Human himself (he will be 94 this March 8) commented on the video:

I am so glad that Michael Steinman posted this performance. I had no idea that we were documented at the time. Everyone was at his best, and I am grateful that he released it.—Dick Hyman

It’s a real thrill to know that your heroes are paying attention to what you do.

May your happiness increase!

JOSH DUNN: MELODY MAN’S DREAM

Photograph by Jessica Keener Photography.

In the past fifteen years of being an involved observer in New York City, I’ve met many musicians.  Sometimes the circles I travel in are both small and reassuring.  But every so often I’ll come to a gig and there will be someone setting up whose face is unfamiliar, and I will introduce myself, then sit back and be ready to take in the new sounds.  More often than not, the experience is a delightful surprise, so much so that I might go up to the person after the set and say, my enthusiasm barely restrained, “You sound wonderful.  Where on earth did you come from?”

That was my experience with young guitarist Josh Dunn, whom I hope many of you have met in person as well as through videos — mine and his own.  And when he said, “Tasmania,” I had to ask him again. “What?” “Tasmania.” And it finally sunk in — that he had traveled over ten thousand miles (sixteen thousand kilometers) to arrive here, bearing sweet inventive melodies and irresistible swing.

I first met and heard Josh at Cafe Bohemia on November 21, 2019 — where he was quite comfortable in the fastest musical company New York City has to offer: Tal Ronen, string bass; Dan Block, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Danny Tobias, trumpet and Eb alto horn.  Hear how he fits right in and elevates the proceedings on LADY BE GOOD:

and a few months later, I had another opportunity to admire Josh’s steady rhythmic pulse, his intuitive grasp of the right harmonies (those chiming chords), and the way his single-string lines never seem glib but always offer refreshing ways to get from expected point A to point B.  Here, again — on the last night I visited New York City — he fit right in with the best of them: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, reeds; Sean Cronin, string bass:

And he understands the guitar’s honored and venerable role as a small orchestra, where a masterful player has to keep melody, harmony, and rhythm going on what George Van Eps called “lap piano.”  Here’s a wonderful solo by Josh on a Duke Ellington- Barney Bigard composition, A LULL AT DAWN:

I’m inspired by how much music Josh makes ring in the air.  But this video of THE GLORY OF LOVE stops abruptly — so be warned — it’s almost painful.  I think, “I want to hear more!”:

Because I was impressed by Josh as a player — the evidence is here and on YouTube — and as a person (he’s soft-spoken, witty in an offhand way, and quite modest . . . he’s thrilled to be on the stand with these heroes) I suggested we do an email interview so that more people could get to know him.  The results:

I come from an incredibly supportive, but non-musical family background. My family are mostly in medical/health-related fields, and as middle child I felt compelled to get as far away from that as possible, hence traditional jazz guitar. I told my folks I wanted to pick up guitar when I was about 7, I can’t recall if there was any reasoning behind this except that guitars looked cool. I still think they look cool.

For its size, Tasmania is an incredibly vibrant place for the creative arts, including music. I am really grateful that I had opportunities to grow up there, and play with and learn from such terrific musicians. My first guitar teacher in Tasmania, Steve Gadd, introduced me to a lot of the music styles I still listen to, practice, and perform now. However, Tassie is such a small community, and it’s hard to find opportunities to make a living playing music when you live on tiny island at the bottom of the world, especially in a somewhat niche style like traditional jazz.

I grew up listening to jazz and the more I learnt about the music and its history, the more I started to gravitate towards New York. I didn’t initially see myself living here (it’s about as far removed from rural Tasmania in lifestyle and environment as you can find) but in 2013 I received a grant to travel and study in the US for three months, and halfway through I arrived in New York and immediately changed my plans so I could spend the rest of the trip exploring the city. As someone who has learnt this music from afar, it was so exciting to experience jazz as a living music and culture, and it made me want to come and learn more. So from there I applied for the Fulbright and that provided the impetus to move to the US and play music.

An interlude from reading: Josh plays SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES:

So a big part of my informal jazz education before coming to New York was watching the Jazz Lives videos on YouTube, particularly the Sunday nights at the Ear Inn with Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri and Company. It was how I learnt a lot of the repertoire, and discovered how this music was actually being played by contemporary musicians today.

Matt’s one of my musical heroes, so when I knew I’d be visiting NYC, I contacted him out of the blue and asked for a lesson. We emailed a little but somehow never quite managed to confirm a time, and I only had a few days left in NYC. So I took the drastic action of working out what approximate neighborhood he lived in from an allusion to a particular local venue in an online interview, and then just spent the afternoon wandering around that part of Brooklyn with a guitar, hoping for the best. Somehow it worked, I ran into him on the street, and we had our lesson, and it was only recently that we talked about how creepy it was to be approached on the block where he lived by a stranger from the other side of the world wanting a guitar lesson. It’s probably commonplace for Matt now, but I get the feeling that in 2013 it was a novel experience him.

You asked me for unusual NYC gig stories — I was hired for a mystery gig a few years back by a singer I didn’t know, I was just given an address, a dress code and a time, and it ended up being a private party hosted by a well known Hollywood actor. Which, as someone who’s only experience with that world was watching rented films while growing up in rural Tasmania, was a bit of culture shock for me.

I have no lofty ambitions of fame or fortune in music (but I admire those that do). The thing I have spent most of my life doing is playing guitar, usually by myself in my bedroom, but also with some of my favorite people in front of an audience. Since moving to the US I’ve somehow been able to turn that into something I get paid to do most nights of the week. So I want to keep learning and honing my craft as a musician, and also to continue making good music with good people. More recently I’ve started keeping a list of notes on my phone whenever I have the thought of “I wish someone had told me that a few years ago,” so maybe down the track I’ll be more involved in teaching in some form, but my main goal is to be in New York playing music.

More recently I’ve been enjoying the challenge of making solo jazz guitar an interesting thing to listen to for people who aren’t solo jazz guitarists. I could see myself pursuing this avenue too.

If you asked me for a compact embodiment of Beauty, as it happens now, I might very well reach for this:

Or if you asked me to define Collective Joy.  You don’t see Josh until three minutes’ in, but you certainly hear what he adds is the real thing, and then:

I’ll leave with this.  At one of the Cafe Bohemia gigs, I talked with a musician who’d dropped by to admire the band, and I said, “How about that Josh Dunn?” His reaction was immediate and emphatic, “We’re not letting him leave New York any time soon!”  My thoughts exactly.

Thank you, Josh, for improving the air.

May your happiness increase!

I’LL STRING ALONG WITH THEM: “STRAIGHT AHEAD,” THE DON STIERNBERG QUARTET

Listening to a new CD, my desires are simple.  Swing, lovely sonorities, collective empathy, improvisation that sounds easy and natural but is really expert, good recorded sound, respect for melody, an avoidance of cliche, variety in repertoire, approach, tempos.

I’m really easy to please.  It should sound like music.  And STRAIGHT AHEAD, by the Don Stiernberg Quartet (the leader on mandolin, Andy Brown, guitar, Jim Cox, drums, Phil Gratteau, drums) gets all the checkmarks and more.  I was in the middle of the second track when I started writing this post, which says something about the pleasure these four players create.

The only thing missing — a matter of economics, I am sure — are liner notes, so I hope that my words will fill the gap.  The press-release cliche might be, “Four Chicagoland veterans of the swing scene get together for a session, hitting all the marks from Ray Noble to Jacob do Bandolin and late Django, with affectionate glances at the Great American Songbook.”  I am satirizing the language of the emails that come to me introducing a variety of artists, but the substance is true.

Perhaps the place my press release would have as a headline would be NOT FAKE, NOT SHOWY.  Not tremolo-laden Come Back To Sorrento, not burn-the-fretboard-look-how-fast-I-can-play, but music.  I can’t overemphasize that: not overproduced product, but the real sound of people playing together with affection for the art, and affection for the listeners.

I also want to point to a freshness in the group’s melodic inventions.  A dozen times through my first listening, I was dreading the expected quote or cliche — the Wedding March, LOVE IN BLOOM, I’M BEGINNING TO SEE THE LIGHT — and these blessed fellows had their own sweet ideas, instead.  How very refreshing!  And while I was admiring the ease and pace of Don’s inventive lead, I kept on getting distracted by Andy — rhythm and solo; Phil and Jim’s great pulse and subtle sonic variety . . . hear Jim’s arco on ANOUMAN — that’s the way it’s supposed to sound, and Phil’s varied brush sweeps are a delight.

All I can say is that when I finished my first playing, all I wanted to do was hear it again.  And I’m now on my fourth go-round.  It’s not “Easy Listening” (does anyone remember that record-store category, which, translated, meant Inoffensive Aural Pillow?) but it certainly is easy to listen to.  And for me, there was no faux-astonishment: “Isn’t it wonderful he plays just fine jazz on a mandolin?”  It all sounds good: Don and the instrument are one: the quartet is a soulful sweet entity.

You can hear more here — and you can purchase a download or a disc.  The music is also available at Amazon and iTunes.  However you find it, it’s really worth finding.

May your happiness increase!

“TWO TALKIN’ HORNS”: THIMO NIESTEROK, DAN BARRETT, HARRY KANTERS, STEFAN REY

Thimo, Dan Barrett, Harry Kanters, Stefan Rey, Breda 2019. Photo by Barbara Kanters.

Before you look warily at the title and say to yourself, “WHO is Thimo NiesterokI never heard of him,” as jazz fans often do when facing the unfamiliar, remember that music speaks louder than words, as Charlie Parker told Earl Wilson:

Isn’t that nice — like celestial tap-dancing by four masters?  And just to show you there’s no studio trickery, here they are live:

and this:

Convinced?  Thimo can display a quiet lyricism even at brisk tempos, but he also has wonderful energy and facility.  Go back to the SHEIK and watch Dan Barrett — who’s played cornet for decades — look on like admiring, astonished, awe-struck Uncle Dan as Thimo negotiates the curves, never spilling a drop.

It’s clear that the young man [born in 1996, for goodness’ sake!] knows how to swing, and that he isn’t dependent on the other members of the ensemble to make him do so.  Although they do.  Of course you know Dan Barrett, you should know Harry Kanters, and even though Stefan Rey is new to me, he has a big tone, plays the right notes, bows beautifully, and swings in 2 or 4.

I know some readers will start the quest for who Thimo “Sounds Like,” to quote Barbara Lea.  Perhaps it’s irresistible, especially given our collective nostalgia and yearning to hear more notes our Departed Heroes.  But I wonder: if we say that X sounds just like Warm Jaws Sirloin, we no longer hear X because we are so busy listening for echoes of Warm.  In some way, X has become Jonah in the Whale of the Past.  Not useful to us, and wi-fi in the belly is poor.

I’m writing this, as you might have guessed, to tell you about Thimo’s second CD, TWO TALKIN’ HORNS, with Dan, Harry, and Stefan [beautifully recorded, by the way].  The songs are an engaging bunch: EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY / FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN / WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM / LULLABY OF THE LEAVES / I’M GONNA CHARLESTON BACK TO CHARLESTON / BREDA (by Thimo) / PLAY GYPSIES, DANCE GYPSIES / TWO TALKIN’ HORNS (Thimo) / COCKTAILS FOR TWO [Dan, vocal] / YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO / I’LL BE SEEING YOU / LULU’S BACK IN TOWN / HEART AND SOUL //

Every effort is made here — effortlessly — to keep things light and bright and sparkling, and varied.  The horns switch off lead and improvised passages; there’s jammed polyphony, riffs, and backgrounds; sounds varied through mutes; the quartet subdivided into solos and duos; split choruses; if a song has a worthwhile verse, you’ll hear it.  I thought of the quartet of a small orchestra, every architectural potential gently explored in the best Braff manner.  Incidentally, the title track harks back to the Rex Stewart – Dickie Wells CHATTER JAZZ, but loquacity of that sort is exhibited only there.

And Thimo’s nicely compact liner notes show that he is articulate even when the horn is in its case:

The intimate sound of small bands without drums (nothing against drummers!) has haunted me for a long time.  This instrumentation leaves space for a different kind of playing, for a special way of feeling time and creating melodies.  When Dan and I met in 2018 and he suggested recording together I was thrilled — as you can imagine!  This is a collection of songs made by Dan and me.  I tried to pick songs that really touch me — both when listening and playing.  But for Dan it seemed to be even more fun to think about the repertoire.  He came up with songs that he had been wanting to play for years, almost forgotten, and it was such a pleasure to see him go through his mental library of hundreds of songs and pick some of the sweetest melodies I’ve heard!  Together with the incredibly swinging Harry Kanters (p) and Stefan Rey (b) this album full of joy, swing, and humor will hopefully lighten a cloudy day or complete the mood of a cozy evening with a good drink!  Whatever it might be — enjoy!

I did.  You will.  You can hear more and purchase copies here.

May your happiness increase!

www.vjm.biz

DANIEL HUCK’S JOYOUS MAGIC

If met off the bandstand, Monsieur Huck, peering over his glasses, round-faced in a rose-colored untucked shirt, might resemble the friendly man on line in front of you at the bank.  You wouldn’t know that he is a bubbling irrepressible expert joyous force of nature.  But he is, as they used to say, an absolute wow.  Observe.

I watch this, and I am laughing and weeping.  Magic has entered the room: Daniel Huck has shone his magic healing light and suddenly everything feels better: even the dust on the windowsill is happy.  How he gives himself utterly and completely to joy I don’t know, but I am honored to live in his world.  And the rest of the band so beautifully embodies the most delicate balance between serious melody, serious swing, and pure fun.

I want this in pill form.

Better, I want to drop my ordinary life and go study with Monsieur Huck, who has learned the secrets and is obviously never Too Busy to share them with us.

And.  Even more expansive magic.  TWO choruses on SUSIE (OF THE ISLANDS), unbelievably joyous:

Blessings on Daniel Huck, on the other members of the band — so sweetly wise: Shona Taylor, cornet, vocal; Guy Champene, clarinet, alto saxophone; Marc Bresdin, clarinet, alto, tenor saxophone; Philippe Anhorn, piano, vocal; Jean-Pierre Dubois, banjo, tenor guitar; Eric Perron, tuba; Daniel Huck, scat vocal, alto saxophone.  And let us not forget Vidéo : Jeff Guyot at the Hermes Jazz Festival de Frejus, in France, June 10, 2018 — because without M. Guyot, we wouldn’t have this marvel.  (I have to speak up for my sometimes-neglected roving archivists.)  There are three more videos from the same set: I GET THE BLUES WHEN IT RAINS, WHYLIE AVNUE BLUES, and THE OWLS’ HOOT.  Look for them on YouTube.

If any of my readers knows Daniel Huck personally or even by email, I would take it as the greatest kindness if they would send him this blogpost as a small token of the deepest marveling admiration and gratitude.  I’m completely serious.  Thank you.

May your happiness increase!

IT’S RAINING SWING! (1942)

The news is that I’ve fallen in love with a six-minute collection of vibrations, and my neighbors have not called in the authorities.

 

Yes, there’s surface noise. And two or three speed fluctuations at the start. Be calm. There’s also some of the finest swing imaginable.  If you think, “But I don’t like jazz violin,” or “UMBRELLA MAN is such a dumb tune,” just listen.

In 1942 violin wizard Stuff Smith led a band of Fats Waller alumni — not after Waller’s death, as has been suggested. The band was Herman Autrey, trumpet; Ted McCord, tenor saxophone; Sammy Benskin, piano; Al Casey, guitar; Al Hall, string bass; Slick Jones, drums. This performance is part of a late-August broadcast from the Old Vienna Restaurant in Cincinnati, Ohio, taken off the air by William E. Loeffler. The source of all this joy is an available CD — fancy that! — on violin scholar Anthony Barnett’s AB FABLE label (ABCD 015).

Barnett has released incredibly rare recordings: Ella Fitzgerald in 1937 with a Smith-led big band combining players from his own band, from Chick Webb’s band and Cab Calloway’s.

AND a private jam session with Ray Nance, Ben Webster, Jimmie Blanton, Fred Guy, and Sonny Greer, on which Ben plays clarinet (!).

AND wonderful recordings by Eddie South, Ray Perry, Ginger Smock, and more.

Visit http://abar.net/index.htm to see the CD releases and books. Barnett’s research is deep and impeccable, and the recordings he unearths are incredibly rewarding: this is just an uplifting sample.

I can hear some of you grumbling, “I listen on _______ for free.  CDs are for dinosaurs.”  In the forests, T-Rex is swinging like mad, and those berries are like vintage wine.

This public service announcement is brought to you by an enthralled purchaser.  Now I’m going to play UMBRELLA MAN for perhaps the thirtieth time.  It scrapes the clouds.

May your happiness increase!

SUNDAY NIGHTS AT 326 SPRING STREET (Part Thirty-Six) — WE NEED SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: SESSIONS AT THE EAR INN, featuring THE EarRegulars (2007 – the Future)

I am writing this on February 14, 2021 — Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!

From one Sunday to the next, it’s as if time rushes and drags at once.  I look out of my window at my snow-encrusted car and consider the very slow pace of melting; I check my watch and three hours have passed.  Thank goodness we have things to hang on to: for me and I hope for you, our mystical-magical-metaphysical Sunday nights at The Ear Inn are a landmark and a comfort.

The Ear Inn, 2012 Photograph by Alexandra Marks

This week, our comfort, uplift, and joy comes Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Randy Reinhart, cornet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Joel Forbes, string bass.  December 12, 2010.

Be honest.  IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE:

Create intimacies.  IF I COULD BE WITH YOU:

Realize that everything’s fluid.  THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE:

Now go out and apply what you’ve learned here.  I’ll see you tomorrow.

May your happiness increase!