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.
The history of popular song focuses on love-relationships, with thousands of compositions celebrating romantic joy and heartbreak . . . from HAVE YOU MET MISS JONES? to THE END OF A LOVE AFFAIR. But other songs hold other emotional stages up to the light. Think of DOWN WITH LOVE and LET THE DOORKNOB HIT YOU — world-weary skepticism and near-comedy.
The wonderful singer Hetty Kate has just released a four-song EP, its title VALENTINES, which might make some think of candy hearts and chocolates purchased from the nearest convenience store, but its center is anything but a sweet truffle:
On a day for lovers filled with flowers, chocolates and love notes.. these songs, a little tongue-in-cheek, a little acerbic, are for the singletons, the spurned and the ‘bah humbugs’ among us.
The gorgeous EP cover — a beautiful woman, alone — might mislead some into expecting emotional rhapsodies. But the music is nearly as sharp as the tip of Hetty’s fashionable shoe. Or that dangerously pointed elbow. But perhaps I overstate. This is not an acidic rage-blast aimed at imaginary betrayers, a musical death ray coming out of our earbuds or speakers. True, the songs are more vinegary than sugary, but Hetty is such a stylist that their sharpness comes through in her precise, sometimes mocking delivery of the words, but underpinning it all is her tender affection, even reverence, for the songs themselves.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the recording studio with my own project. Though there hasn’t been much time to actually record, I’ve been full of ideas, both big and small! Releasing an EP for Valentine’s Day has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, so I’m thrilled I had the opportunity when I was on tour in Australia during 2022.
On this recording I invited three wonderful Australian musicians. Mark Fitzgibbon is an award winning jazz pianist and one of Australia’s great musical treasures. Guitarist Sam Lemann is a long time collaborator and treasured friend whom some of you may recognised from the days of the “Irwell Street String Band”, a group we founded together. Another close friend, Ben Hanlon, is an incredible double bassist, a principal with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and an ‘in demand’ sideman for Australia’s finest jazz musicians and vocalists. You can enjoy listening to him on my 2019 album release ‘Under Paris Skies’.
I’m very happy to have both this recording and the memory of a fun winter afternoon in the studio. Recordings are snapshots in time, a souvenir, and very precious. We all loved being under the expert eyes and ears of Niko Schauble at Pughouse in Melbourne. Making music with friends you admire and enjoy, is there anything better?
And the songs:
BLAH BLAH BLAH (George Gershwin / Ira Gershwin) 1931
GOODY GOODBYE (Nat Simon / James Cavanaugh) 1939
ROMANCE WITHOUT FINANCE (Lloyd Grimes) 1944
PLEASE DON’T BUG ME (Frank Rosolino) 1961
I knew the Gershwin composition through the splendid trio DUCHESS, and even though it is more about love-song conventions than about the experience, it’s memorably funny (and it requires great art to handle the repetitions of the title without them sounding . . . blah. And ROMANCE WITHOUT FINANCE is famous to many jazz fans as an example of not only Tiny Grimes at work in his many selves, but also the early Charlie Parker on Savoy. But the other two were new to me and are welcome additions to my mental file-folder, the one labeled “Anti-Romance.”
The musicians surrounding Hetty are glorious: they accompany and lead the way with equal grace, and their shining sounds are so lovingly captured here. Hetty herself is a marvel: her voice itself is a pleasure, and she is precise without being in the least formal. What she brings to each song is the emotional intelligence of someone who truly understands the complex script of the apparently simple lyrics: she is at once producer, director, and star.
True, it’s not music specifically meant for February 14, but even if you are part of best romantic relationship of your life, this EP delivers compact intense musical pleasures.
You can listen and download here — perhaps the digital gift can be a perfectly pointed arrow to someone deserving it? Or simply the gift of a poised musical interlude with no revenge attached.
I’ve always thought of Jay Rattman as a masterful musician, his playing a sly down-home eloquence, full of passion that catches the listener unaware. I’m thrilled that he has released his debut CD, IN THE TOWNS — available through Bandcamp both digitally and as an actual plastic-and-cardboard-and-art entity. (It will also be released through Tone Rogue Records on April 7, only a few days from now.)
As much as I respect Jay as an improviser, I also know of him as a thoughtful composer, but I’ve never had the chance to hear his original compositions. IN THE TOWNS fills that gap in the most satisfying ways, because it presents nine of them (along with one Irving Berlin classic approached with great tenderness) for an hour’s worth of explorations.
For these journeys, varying in mood and ardor, Jay plays alto saxophone and clarinet, and he is joined by Can Olgum, piano; Desmond White, piano; Guilhem Flouzat, drums — three delightful improvisers I had not known before.
Each performance seems a short story, with the plot and mood ranging from LATE FOR SUPPER (adults playing at being children playing in the May sun), LONESOME SHORTY (soundtrack for an unshot Western film starring Warne Marsh and Earl Bostic, alto cowpokes battling rustlers who have stolen the good reeds), WATER GAP TUNE (a canoe trip with one’s love and a well-packed picnic hamper), ANACHRONISTIC STOMP (which puts Jelly Roll Morton on Instagram but also reminiscent of two shelter kittens chasing each other before someone says, “Oh, well, I’ll take both of them!”) — and more.
Listeners will, I am sure, create their own narratives to go with what they hear. Or perhaps they will simply saunter comfortably into the musical worlds these four creators make, each a series of bright prism flashes. I hear a ballad reminiscent of one Strayhorn never got to write, dance grooves, music to walk through forests by . . . all full of life. Unlike many other sessions of original compositions, this one leans seriously towards the melodic and rhythmic; there is no abrasiveness for its own sake to say how hard the modern world is, and the performances have themes, structure, beginnings, middles, and ends.
I should say that I have most often encountered Jay in what some would call “traditional” or “neo-traditional” contexts: with the EarRegulars indoors and outside, with Colin Hancock, Conal Fowkes, and Mike Davis. He has always had his own distinctive memorable voice on whatever reed instrument he chooses to play: lyrical, thoughtful, surprising. But we must now value him as a composer with the same attributes, and this CD doesn’t falter for a second.
Mister Rattman, al fresco on Spring Street, June 2021.
Perhaps you should hear some of Jay’s music and words rather than being asked to embrace one more metaphor:
And here‘s another way of visiting the music — and, one hopes, purchasing it.
IN THE TOWNS is a pleasure both serious and playful, and the sonic vibrations of the music stayed with me long after the disc concluded, which is all anyone could ask for.
Yesterday, I presented the first half of this joyful set:
Here are the remaining performances by Duke Robillard, guitar; Marc Caparone, trumpet; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Jacob Zimmerman, reeds; Dan Walton, keyboard; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Steve Pikal, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums; Dawn Lambeth, vocal.
I NEVER KNEW:
IF I HAD YOU:
ALL I DO IS DEAM OF YOU (vocal Dawn Lambeth):
And onwards to 2023:
You can hear Duke say, “You know you’re in the right place,” and Mister Robillard’s judgment is impeccable.
Lord Byron wrote, “… let joy be unconfin’d.” He didn’t make it to the 2022 Redwood Coast Music Festival in Eureka, California, but everyone on this set took his words to heart.
Duke Robillard brought his swinging bluesy self and his guitar for a set with trumpeter Marc Caparone’s Back O’Town All-Stars: Charlie Halloran, trombone; Jacob Zimmerman, reeds; Dan Walton, keyboard and vocal; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Steve Pikal, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums; Dawn Lambeth, vocal.
We don’t often use “Benny Goodman” and “New Orleans” in the same sentence, but this sublimely relaxed performance suggests we might have been wrong.
It’s reminiscent of the happy ease of the 1935 Trio, with a smooth rhythmic push throughout provided by Sid Weiss, string bass, and Morey Feld, drums. Benny and Teddy seem joyously in synch and free. The sound isn’t perfect but one’s ear gets used to it quickly.
Deep Goodman collectors no doubt know this music, but it hasn’t been issued in any commercial form that I know of. And it’s a consistent pleasure, free from the demands of the recording studio.
Municipal Auditorium, New Orleans, “National Jazz Foundation,” WWL radio broadcast: LIMEHOUSE BLUES / EMBRACEABLE YOU / AFTER YOU’VE GONE / BODY AND SOUL / ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS / ROSE ROOM / THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR THE SUNRISE / HALLELUJAH! / THE MAN I LOVE / BOOGIE WOOGIE / HONEYSUCKLE ROSE / ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET //
My tape copy is from the collection of the late John L. Fell; audio limitations are to be expected: acetates transferred to magnetic tape of unknown generations from the original.
And since so much conversation about Benny is detached from his music, let me urge you to put the mocking anecdotes aside and just bask in the sounds: the melodic fluidity, the rhythmic ease, the masterful playfulness. I propose that those qualities are more important than whether Benny forgot someone’s name.
This post is for Alessandro King and Nathan Tokunaga, both of whom understand Benny in deep ways.
This Town Hall concert was produced by Bob Maltz as a tribute to Baby Dodds, Eddie Edwards, and Tony Parenti. I don’t know how a recording of it was made (presumably on disc) but a copy came to me thanks to the late John L. Fell almost thirty-five years ago. (Two tracks have been issued on a CD included with their Tony Parenti book.) It’s time to share the music with people who might never have heard it otherwise: a cross-section of the jazz riches that were at hand in 1946, with veterans of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band still active.
Here are the details, which I find head-spinning.
ORIGINAL DIXIELAND ONE-STEP / talk: Eddie Edwards, trombone (and Tony Parenti, clarinet) and Maltz
FIDGETY FEET (NC): Marty Marsala, trumpet; Tony Parenti, Eddie Edwards, Joe Sullivan, piano; Tony Spargo, drums and kazoo on FIDGETY
DIPPERMOUTH BLUES (NC) / talk: Albert Nicholas, clarinet and Maltz
CLARINET MARMALADE: Sidney and Wilbur DeParis, trumpet and trombone; Sidney Bechet, soprano saxophone and clarinet; Albert Nicholas, Art Hodes, piano; Pops Foster, string bass; Baby Dodds, drums
GRACE AND BEAUTY Parenti, Hodes, Foster, Dodds
BALLIN’ THE JACK DeParis band plus Marsala, Sandy Williams, trombone; Jim Moynahan, clarinet / talk: Parenti and Dodds with Maltz, about fifteen minutes
I’ve been an irregular visitor to the Sunday-night soirees created by The EarRegulars since they began in 2007, but what follows was special even for them. To use a musicians’ phrase of astonished delight, it “scraped the clouds.”
After a joyous collective improvisation on YARDBIRD SUITE, n audience member requested this song, which created a delightful visit to The Ear Inn by Thelonious Monk, invented and embodied by Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone; James Chirillo, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass; Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet, on Sunday night, November 20, 2022. The Ear Inn is at 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City. And the Sunday sessions continue, blessedly.
But here’s Scott, celestially inspired as always:
That was something else. And although I couldn’t use my tripod, making the image slightly wave-driven, I feel so fortunate to have been there to capture these minutes of splendor for posterity. Bless Thelonious, Scott, James, Pat, Jon-Erik, and the Ear Inn.
Here’s a seventy-five minute swing session by some improvising heroes: Danny Tobias, cornet, flugelhorn; Vinnie Corrao, guitar; Ed Wise, string bass; Jim Lawlor, drums and vocal. THREE LITTLE WORDS / SOME OF THESE DAYS / THE ONE I LOVE (Belongs To Somebody Else) / AM I BLUE? / LADY BE GOOD / EXACTLY LIKE YOU (Lawlor, vocal) / GOOSE PIMPLES / THE SHADOW OF YOUR SMILE (Corrao) / MY GAL SAL / Danny’s line on LIMEHOUSE BLUES / PICK YOURSELF UP // I don’t know the original recordist, but they have my gratitude.
I don’t know which branch of the Ocean County Library system this took place in (perhaps Mancini Hall in Toms River?) but it is a find: relaxed, sophisticated, melodic jazz. Thanks to Danny for passing a copy of the recording to me, and thanks to all the players for giving me permission to post this. And thanks to librarians wise enough to invite jazz into the room: art thrives on community support.
A personal note. I met Danny at the Cajun in downtown New York in 2005, and I’ve had friendly time with Ed in New Orleans and Jim in California and New Jersey. But Vinnie was only a name to me, the man who replaced Wayne Wright in the last days of the George Barnes-Ruby Braff Quartet. Hear him with George, Ruby, and Benny Carter here.
In this video, you see what a fine guitarist he is, a swinging soloist, not just a reliable rhythm player. And in conversation, a truly gracious person: an honor to know.
Wonderful music, by local heroes with world-wide reputations.
I present this post as an aesthetic public service. The impetus is the photograph below, taken by Robert Parent and posted to Facebook by Jean-Marie Juif, one of the great conoisseurs of music and its documentation. The music was created at a record session overseen by John Hammond for Vanguard Records, issued as BUCK MEETS RUBY.
On this track, it’s Ruby Braff (left) and Buck Clayton (right) on trumpets; Jimmy Jones, piano; Steve Jordan, rhythm guitar; Aaron Bell, string bass; Bobby Donaldson, drums. (On the three other tracks from this session, Buddy Tate, tenor saxophone, and Bennie Morton, trombone, are added.)
Like many other swing “originals,” the harmonic basis is I GOT RHYTHM, and the melody line (thanks to Danny Tobias) is a close cousin to Tyree Glenn’s SULTRY SERENADE, also known as HOW COULD YOU DO A THING LIKE THAT TO ME?
But the result is — truly — a groove. And where other recordings and performances featuring two trumpets might be combative, this is a muted conversation between two people who deeply respect each other: a tapestry rather than a scuffle or a competition.
Why do I call this a public service? It pained me to think that there might be people who have lived their lives without hearing this music. And for those who, like me, have heard this music for decades, it stands up to another hearing.
Incidentally, in the photographed used as the identifier for the YouTube video, that’s Buck and his daughter Candy, who is so spiffy in her white gloves.
To the music:
Groovy beyond words. Thanks to the musicians, to John Hammond, to the wonderful Vanguard engineers.
One of the highlights of the 2023 Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey, California, was Hal Smith’s vigorous evocation of the El Dorado Jazz Band — not copying the records, but getting in the swing of things in the most inspired way. Here’s the second half of their set, down-home and expert all at once.They raised the room temperature in the most enlivening ways. “They” are Hal Smith, washboard, leader; Andy Schumm, cornet; Brandon Au, trombone; John Otto, clarinet; Jeff Barnhart, piano, vocal; Mikiya Matsuda, string bass; Matty Bottel, banjo. I published the first half of their set here and people loved it. Here’s more.
CAKE WALKING BABIES FROM HOME (with Parasol Parade free of charge):
ONLY YOU (AND YOU ALONE):
And to close it all, some authentic Mexican cookery, HERE COMES THE HOT TAMALE MAN:
Red hot indeed!
More to come . . . and this is only a taste of the delightful menu spread out for us (sometimes with eight sessions going on at once) that happened in Monterey.
P.S. I flew out there with a bad cold and cough, which has abated somewhat: if you hear coughing during any video, I am to blame, but the alternative would have been to stay home. Nay nay.
There’s no one like Larry McKenna on the planet today.
Others knew about the legendary Philadelphia tenor saxophonist before I did, but I fell under his spell when I heard him play five years ago. In person, he is understated: soft-spoken, with a wry way of looking at the scene, but once he picks up the horn, Larry is a master of passionate cool: he doesn’t run scales or emote, but he sings through his tenor in the most memorable ways. Each melody shows he has something to tell us, simple, deep, and lasting. He’s been working at his craft for six decades, and, as a mature artist, he knows how to let the music breathe and he never shouts at us.
Larry is celebrating and being celebrated in two ways this spring.
One is the release (download and a limited edition CD) of his session with strings, LARRY McKENNA: WORLD ON A STRING, on BCM+D Records. The collective personnel is Larry, tenor saxophone and arrangements; Silas Irvine, piano; Joe Plowman, string bass; Dan Monaghan, drums; Jack Saint Clair, tenor saxophone, arrangements; Meghan Woodard, oboe, English horn; Alberta Douglas, violin; Justin Yoder, Nellie Smith, Chen Chen, cello; Gloria Galante, harp.
BCM+D Records are a production of the Boyer College of Music and Dance, Temple University, 1715 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19122.
Here’s a sample, the ethereal DREAMSVILLE:
The other songs are I’VE GOT THE WORLD ON A STRING / BUT BEAUTIFUL / I LOVE YOU, SAMANTHA / EMILY / STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY / SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT / Larry’s own SAMBA DE ELSE / WHAT IS THERE TO SAY? It can be downloaded from the usual sources: Apple Music, Amazon, and more.
It’s extraordinary music. I saw this ensemble at Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live on October 12, 2021. Larry has called it a “career event.” For me and others in the audience, it was a life event.
The second event is a CD release concert on April 5 at 7 PM, at Spring Mill Ballroom, 1210 East Hector Street, Conshohocken, PA 19428.
The most beautiful songs featuring Philadelphia’s most beautiful sound-Larry McKenna’s latest CD World On AString immerses the veteran saxophonist in a lush world of strings.
After a sold-out performance at World Cafe in the fall of 2021, a community of artists and patrons led by drummer Dan Monaghan were determined to document this extraordinary music on record.
Please join usfor a special live performance of this beautiful music to celebrate Larry and this great accomplishment. Unfortunately due to recent health issues, Larry is unable to perform at this time. Larry’s solos will be performed by several special guest soloists who are long-time musical associates and friends. Featuring:
SPECIAL GUEST SOLOISTS: Terell Stafford, Danny Tobias, trumpet. Vince Lardear, alto saxophone. Joe McDonough, trombone.
THE ORCHESTRA: Silas Irvine, piano; Joe Plowman, bass; Dan Monaghan, drums; Meghan Woodard, oboe and English horn; Alberta Douglas, violin; Chen Chen, Nellie Smith, Gozde Tiknaz, cello.
Conducted by Jack Saint Clair; Arrangements by Larry McKenna and Jack Saint Clair.
General Admission $30 advance/$35 at the door (cash and Venmo only) Student Admission $20 advance/$25 at the door (cash and Venmo only) Show ID at door. Doors open at 7:00 pm. Concert begins at 7:30 pm Cash bar. No food will be served. Offstreet parking available in venue’s lot CDs will be available for purchase. Supply is limited, email email@example.com to reserve your copy.
Larry and his music are rare pleasures — like nothing else I can think of beyond Ben or Bird with strings, or Stan Getz performing FOCUS. At times, listening to him play, I forget that this is the sound of a man with an elaborate metal tube he’s holding, and just hear Song. When I’d heard the CD, I told him that I thought of Sinatra, and he happily told me that this was the best compliment I could have offered.
So treat yourself to some unadulterated Song as created by a master of that elusive art, surrounded by people who love it just as much: the CD, the concert, both.
I don’t know who I would thank at the Voice of America these days, but I do know we can all thank Tohru Seya, the generous collector whose YouTube channel Hot Jazz 78rpms provides us with excellent music. Much of it is beautifully preserved original discs that sound wonderful, but here is something even nicer — transcription discs of jazz recorded live and hot that I’d never known of before. I would guess from the sonic ambiance that it was recorded at Central Plaza or Stuyvesant Casino circa 1951-52 (parallel to the “Dr. Jazz” broadcasts of the time, but without announcements by Aime Gauvin) for broadcast overseas. The title is “All-Star Concert,” the subtitle “American Jazz,” and the disc is Voice of America J-18 (VOA-402)
Max Kaminsky(tp); Ed Hubble(tb); Joe Barufaldi(cl); Bud Freeman(ts); Dick Cary(p); Arthur Herbert(d)
JAZZ ME BLUES / SQUEEZE ME:
The same band, J-17 (VOA 401), performing SOMEDAY SWEETHEART and MUSKRAT RAMBLE:
Here, the band is “Wild” Bill Davison(cnt); “Big Chief” Russell Moore(tb); Omer Simeon(cl); Joe Sullivan(p); Eddie Phyfe(d). [J-20; VOA 404.] — Sullivan in wonderful form. A few bars are missing from the start of each song, suggesting that an announcer’s words may have been edited out.
STARDUST, HONEYSUCKLE ROSE, and UGLY CHILE:
and SEPTEMBER IN THE RAIN:
and I NEVER KNEW (I COULD LOVE ANYBODY):
But wait. There’s more! Under the heading of “Eddie Condon Dixieland Band,” there are a handful of performances from a 1949 Condon Floor Show with Wild Bill Davison, Cutty Cutshall, Peanuts Hucko, Gene Schroeder, Eddie, Bob Casey, and Buddy Rich; under “Dixieland All-Stars,” several pearly improvisations by Bobby Hackett — NEW ORLEANS and SWEET GEORGIA BROWN.
All exceptional music, given to us in the most open-handed ways. And for those who crave discographical details more than the labels of these 16″ transciptions provide, I can only say, “There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your copy of Tom Lord or Brian Rust.”
This photograph is for sale for four thousand dollars on eBay, but you can inspect it here for free. And you should.
and the back:
The signatures are authentic, circa 1949. I would also love to have that suit in my size, complete with fountain pen in the breast pocket.
From still pictures to moving pictures: two excerpts from a May 24, 2019 conversation I had with our Jazz Eminence, Dan Morgenstern. In the first excerpt, I said to Dan that I was “going to throw him a curveball,” but asking Dan about Louis Armstrong was sure to result in a home run:
Then our conversation, punctuated by street drama, led to Louis’ Decca recordings:
From moving pictures to moving music: two selections from the Decca period. First, the tender IN THE GLOAMING:
The mythology of jazz (and sometimes the reality) is full of primate-competitiveness, where the Old Lion must defend his kingdom against the Young Cub. Johnny Dunn and Jabbo Smith tried to unseat Louis Armstrong; a myriad of Kansas City tenor saxophonists did their best to outblow Coleman Hawkins.
I’d heard about young — sixteen year-old — reedman Nathan Tokunaga from Marc Caparone and Clint Baker, and although the video evidence was splendid, I came to the Jazz Bash by the Bay last weekend with some ingrained skepticism about musicians too young to drive themselves to the gig.
But Nathan quickly showed himself an adult in every conceivable way except the number on his birth certificate. In conversation, he revealed himself as assured yet humble, gracious and warm. And on the bandstand, he has an adult musical intelligence, which is to say he is not simply someone who has mastered the clarinet, that unfogiving hybrid of wood and metal, but he is a musician, creating phrases that make sense which become choruses with structure, energy, and personality. His solos are compact and satisfying; his ensemble playing is respectful yet inventive. The clarinet lends itself to shrill forays into its highest register, strings of notes where two would be so much more eloquent: Nathan avoids these excesses. The musicians who were meeting and hearing him for the first time were, shall we say, blown away.
Nathan is the featured clarinetist with Marc Caparone’s marvelous new band, the Sierra Stompers, who are Marc, cornet and vocal; Howard Miyata, trombone and vocal; Brian Holland, piano; Katie Cavera, banjo, guitar, vocal; Paul Hagglund, tuba; Gareth Price, drums, washboard, and voca. In one set, Nathan stood next to Bob Draga, a clarinet star and festival veteran who made his first recordings in 1980. It could have been a spectacularly bloody display of ego, but it was gentle, playful, and very musical. Here is RUNNIN’ WILD and Bob’s comments afterwards:
Bob celebrates Nathan:
What a wonderful surprise! And I am honored to know and chronicle Nathan, mature beyond his years.
We’ve just returned from the 2023 Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey, California, and one of the highlights was Hal Smith’s vigorous evocation of the El Dorado Jazz Band — not copying the records, but getting in the swing of things in the most inspired way. Here’s the first half of their set, down-home and expert all at once.
They raised the room temperature in the most enlivening ways. “They” are Hal Smith, washboard, leader; Andy Schumm, cornet; Brandon Au, trombone; John Otto, clarinet; Jeff Barnhart, piano, vocal; Mikiya Matsuda, string bass; Matty Bottel, banjo:
THE BUCKET’S GOT A HOLE IN IT:
Lonnie Donegan’s EARLY HOURS:
A romping FLAT FOOT:
and the very pretty I’M A LITTLE BLACKBIRD:
More to come . . . and this is only a taste of the delightful menu spread out for us (sometimes with eight sessions going on at once) that happened last weekend in Monterey.
P.S. I flew out there with a bad cold and cough, which has not left me: if you hear coughing during any video, I am to blame, but the alternative would have been to stay home. Nay nay.
Martin Oliver Grosz celebates his 93rd birthday today. He abhors sentimentality, and he doesn’t read blogposts, so all I will say is “Thanks for sticking around, Marty.”
But for those who wish to celebrate Marty by marveling at him in action, here is an eighty-minute concert he and cornetist Tom Pletcher gave at the Canadian Collectors’ Congress in April 2007. (More about the CCC below.)
Video created and produced by Robert Gibbons.
Marty Grosz, guitar and vocal and badinage; Tom Pletcher, cornet. Introduction by Colin J. Bray.
ALL GOD’S CHILLUN GOT RHYTHM (with Marty’s patented “Porto-San” refrain) / TAKE ME TO THE LAND OF JAZZ / I’M BUILDING UP TO AN AWFUL LETDOWN / UP JUMPED YOU WITH LOVE – KEEP A SONG IN YOUR SOUL.
Duets: I WOULD DO MOST ANYTHING FOR YOU / EMALINE / SQUEEZE ME / FROM MONDAY ON.
Marty talks about Roger Wolfe Kahn and Red McKenzie: THERE’S A SMALL HOTEL / HOW CAN YOU FACE ME? / JUST A GIGOLO / IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN – SWING THAT MUSIC /
The Lost Earring and Surrender of the Badges:
In one of my eBay peregrinations last year, I found this DVD offered for sale. I had never seen nor heard of it, so I sprang to obtain it, and can share it with you. The disc has a slight technical detail: it froze in the middle of Marty’s solo version of a Carl Kress piece, which I have edited out.
I knew nothing of the Canadian Collectors’ Conference, so I contacted Colin Bray and Christopher Ian Ferreira for their thoughts.
Colin: The CCC was described as ‘A conference specifically planned for record collectors and discographers/researchers interested in ragtime, vintage jazz, blues, gospel, hot dance music, and Canadiana.’
It was originally held at collectors’ homes but then it got too popular and had to move to a hotel conference room where some attendees would stay. Welcome evening was on the Friday and the main event on Saturday. In the morning was short presentation of 10-15 minutes on discographical stuff or new information and all sorts of things. In the afternoon we had three one hour presentations which may have been on a band, musician, record label etc.
Many times we had visiting musicians from the classic era. Marty Grosz, Tom Pletcher, Spiegle Wilcox, Lou Hooper (before my times) come to mind. We had John R.T. Davies over from the UK – the 78 record restorer wizard and musician. Rainer Lotz from Germany, Alex Van Der Tuuk from Holland – the expert on Paramount records, Larry Gushee on the Creole Band, Ate Van Delden from Holland on Adrian Rollini, Mark Berresford twice, once to talk on Ted Lewis and then Wilbur Sweatman. Sometimes on the Saturday evening we had jazz films – Joe Showler in Toronto was a major jazz film collector and THE expert on Jack Teagarden – I assume you have seen the incredible documentary he made on him?
Andsometimes we had a live band, hence Tom Pletcher, Marty Grosz and Spiegle Wilcox performing. We had another get together on the Sunday, played more records and generally had a good time.
We stopped about 5 years ago because our numbers were dropping fast and it would have made it too expensive to make it work. Plus we were running out of experts to bring in to give presentations. And it took a lot of work and organising and after Gene Miller passed away, the two people left – myself and Chris Ferreira found it hard to keep going without his enthusiasm. John Wilby was another who helped organise it but stepped down a few years back. But we miss it!
Christopher: It was wonderful to be there to witness Marty and Tom play together. Unique performance I believe. 46 years of yearly fellowship, research, discography, music, good food and drink- etc. Bob produced a number of other interesting films. Including the wonderful full length Jack Teagarden documentary. Produced by him, Joe Showler and Steve LaVere.
Good people: not only collecting records and talking about them, but sharing live irreplaceable music.
Happy birthday, Martin Oliver Grosz. And thank you so much (also to Colin and Christopher and Robert Gibbons and the CCC).
That’s a very important question, I think. Sincerity leads to shared joy; duplicity to heartbreak. Popular song of the great period revels in the second (think of Bing singing WERE YOU SINCERE?) but we know the delight of being told the loving truth.
Helen Ward, aglow.
We all have recordings that touch us, for a variety of reasons. I have too many “desert island discs” to consider the possibility to transporting them all, even metaphysically, somewhere else. But this post celebrates one of them. The song is the clever and touching DID YOU MEAN IT? from 1936. The title had been used nine years earlier and there is a contemporary version, but this song may be most familiar in a recording pairing Ella Fitzgerald with Benny Goodman, a joint venture that happened only once.
But with all respect to Ella and Benny, this is the version that touches me deeply: I have been playing it over and over.
On this venerable disc — part of a copy of a radio broadcast from March 1937 — Helen Ward’s voice comes through with the most earnest candor. You can believe that she believes what she is singing: no tricks, no gimmicks. She is sincere through and through, and she has the most wondrous band of musicians having the time of their lives around her.
The recording has a good deal of surface noice but one can ignore that easily. It’s what was called an “airshot,” in this case, a recording made of a live performance “off the air.” We don’t know the source and the date is not certain, but whoever had the disc prized it and played it often.
We can hear it now, eighty-five years later, through the brilliant diligence of the jazz violin scholar Anthony Barnett, who has devoted decades to the reverent study of well-known figures Stuff Smith and Eddie South, less well-known ones Johnny Frigo, Ginger Smock, Harry Lookofsky, Dick Wetmore, Henry Crowder, Juice Wilson, and dozens of others. His CDs are models of presentation of the rarest (and most entertaining) material; his books are serious but never ponderous studies in which the people chronicled are instantly alive in evidence and good stories. Learn more here.
Now, to the music.
The band is Helen Ward, vocal; Teddy Wilson, piano; Stuff Smith, violin; Jonah Jones, trumpet; Ben Webster, tenor saxophone; Lawrence Lucie, guitar; John Kirby, string bass; Cozy Cole, drums.
After a declamatory introduction by Jonah, three choruses: one by Helen (obbligati by Stuff and Teddy), one split between Teddy (thank you, Kirby) and Ben at his best pre-1940 rhapsodic, the last for Helen, even more earnest and tender, if such a thing could be imagined, with Jonah making derisive noises behind her as the room temperature rises and she — without changing very much at all — becomes trumpet-like in the best Connie Boswell manner. Please notice the way the band stops, to hold its breath, perhaps, at 2:42. Was this an arrangement based on Helen’s having performed it with the Goodman band, even though Ella made the Victor record?
The applause that closes this performance sounds artificial, but mine is genuine.
This was broadcast on the radio in March 1937. Listen and ponder: do we have it so much better? I wonder.
Thank you, Helen and colleagues. Thank you, Mort Dixon and Jesse Greer.
I could write this post in under ten words, like a telegram. GREAT MUSIC COMING. WE’LL BE THERE. SEE YOU TOO, but even my very hip audience might need some elaboration, so here goes.
The OAO and I will be going to the Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey, California. It’s held at the comfortable Portola Hotel and Convention Center, and the fun begins Thursday evening, March 2, and skitters to a stop on Sunday afternoon, March 5. It is one of the more convenient festivals I know, because all of the music is under one roof, so the most arduous walking one has to do is from one room to another, and when something nie is happening above, there’s an escalator. (Even youngbloods appreciate such conveniences.)
Here are some of the musicians who will be appearing, a list too long for me to pretend it will be complete: Brandon Au, Justin Au, Clint Baker, Anne Barnhart, Jeff Barnhart, Dan Barrett, Chris Calabrese, Marc Caparone, Katie Cavera, Josh Collazo, Danny Coots, Bob Draga, Chris Dawson, Marty Eggers, Eddie Erickson, Yve Evans, Corey Gemme, Paul Hagglund, Brian Holland, Marilyn Keller, Nate Ketner, Rebecca Kilgore, Dawn Lambeth, Carl Sonny Leyland, Howard Miyata, Don Neely, John Otto, Steve Pikal, Gareth Price, Tom Rigney, Sam Rocha, Andy Schumm, Hal Smith, Dave Stuckey, Stephanie Trick, Nathan Tokunaga, Jason Wanner, and a cast of hundreds.
Like most festivals, the opportunities for existential dilemmas abound, with sometimes eight events going on (separated at times by a half-hour start time) so there is too much going on to see and hear it all. To wit: the vertigo-inducing schedule. I suggest that one bring a highlighter or a set of Sharpies to delineate where one MUST be at any given time. Possibly people blessed with greater tech skills know how to do this on their new iPhone 206; perhaps someone will teach me.
I could go on about what a wonderful festival this is. How festivals, deprived of active support, dry up and fly away and are no more. But you know all this, or I hope you do. Rather, I’d present some delightful video evidence: I began coming to this festival in 2011, and I think I missed one year between then and 2020. So I will let the music, hot and sweet, do the explaining for me. I apologize to any musician who’s in a video who’s not at the Bash this year: I mean no offense, and hope to show off your glories to this audience.
LOVE POTION NUMBER NINE:
SOLID OLD MAN:
TUCK ME TO SLEEP IN MY OLD ‘TUCKY HOME:
THE YAMA YAMA MAN:
I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:
TENDER IS THE NIGHT / I GOT RHYTHM:
CHARLEY, MY BOY:
YOUNG AND HEALTHY:
To quote Mister Tea, “If that don’t get it, well, forget it for now.” See you there! And here‘s how to order, as they used to say.
Perhaps because I have been listening to this music adoringly, obsessively, for decades, occasionally I think there will be no more surprises, no more electric shocks of delight. And then someone comes along and wonderfully proves me wrong. Without further ado, Arifa Hafiz and “Arifa’s Reefers,” led by Ewan Bleach, in performance in the Netherlands in November 2022.
ROSES OF PICARDY:
BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD:
Now, a pause for breath. And for information. The band is Ewan Bleach, clarinet and saxophones; Mike Soper, trumpet; Will Scott, clarinet; Colin Good, piano; Jean-Marie Fagon, guitar; Louis Thomas, string bass. And Ms. Hafiz.
DID I REMEMBER?:
and, finally, FOOLS RUSH IN:
Now, a few words, although they are hardly necessary. That band is completely grounded in the present: they aren’t museum curators. But they have the finest swing-romp one could have, a mixture of Basie and the Commodore Music Shop, with a good deal of Teddy Wilson stirred in for warmed leavening. Arifa is passionate but not melodramatic, joyous yet exact. She loves the song: that’s clear immediately, and she gets right inside it and makes herself comfortable. And in my very brief correspondence with her, she reveals herself to be without pretense: modest, friendly, and gracious — what you hear in her voice is who she is as a person.
You can’t imagine how much my happiness has increased. And there’s a CD in the works. Bless everyone in these videos, and (to borrow from Whitney Balliett) may they prosper.
The most rewarding music, no matter its age, feels fresh and familiar at once, durable and new. SOUTH, composed by Thamon Hayes and Bennie Moten, was a hit for Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra almost a century ago, so much so that the Victor recording stayed in print into the microgroove era. And when the EarRegulars counted it off on a Sunday night at The Ear Inn, that being November 6, 2022, it felt like an old friend dressed up sharp for an evening out.
The happy masterful quartet that night was Danny Tobias, trumpet; Jay Rattman, clarinet and alto saxophone; James Chirillo, guitar; Rob Adkins, string bass. South of Fourteenth Street, doing honor to Hayes and Moten:
I’m prejudiced, because I was there and (once in a while unsteadily) holding the camera. But I love this performance, and the players.
One of the great rock songs in classic hot music: that is, you’ll rock back and forth in your chair. Guaranteed. And here’s a splendid version by four of the best: Albanie Falletta, resonator guitar, vocal, tour guide; Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; Evan Arntzen, clarinet; Jen Hodge, string bass.
Boundless enthusiasm and contrapuntal joy free of charge.
This was performed at Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street, New York City, before the lights went out on Broadway. Happily the city and the music blaze again all over town.
Albanie explains it all, but if you crave an even more detailed socio-geographical-musical history of “Milneburg,” the New Orleans neighborhood that the song is named for, visit here. And about the composer credits: the introduction is by Jelly Roll Morton (thus my title) appended to the New Orleans Rhythm Kings’ composition GOLDEN LEAF STRUT, which is its own universe.
But the rollicking music is its own glorious explanation:
That satisfies all of our daily food group requirements and more.