Category Archives: Hotter Than That

THEY’RE BACK!

This is AN EVENT.

I’ve been a fan of Vince and the Nighthawks for twenty years or more, and they are unique at what they do. And now, a weekly gig again!

Almost all of the shows are sold out, but tickets are still available for December 13 and January 3. The Birdland Theater is a compact space, so I suggest you get tickets without delay. Visit BirdlandJazz.com . . . .

You’ll notice that I don’t offer video evidence, although I often brought my camera to the Nighthawks’ gigs. They are too large, too splendid for a camera of my sort — and Birdland does not allow video-ing, so they have to be caught live, hot, in person. If you know them, you know, and if you don’t know, come and be uplifted.

See you there, I hope.

May your happiness increase!

INDIGO HUES: DAVE STUCKEY and THE HOT HOUSE GANG at the REDWOOD COAST MUSIC FESTIVAL: MARC CAPARONE, NATE KETNER, CARL SONNY LEYLAND, KATIE CAVERA, JOSH COLLAZO (September 29, 2022)

Dave Stuckey is a beacon of swing and fun, presenting both while compromising neither. He lives the double truth, that jazz can be hilarious without being childish, and that entertainment can be high-level art, simultaneously satisfying. Before the band comes in, he’s set a danceable groove, and even people like myself, who leave their seats only when the set is over, feel it. Although Google Maps will tell you something else, Dave and the Hot House Gang are firmly situated at the intersection of Cindy Walker Drive and Fats Waller Terrace, which is to say the mid-Thirties meadow where sad songs were swung so hard that we couldn’t remember how sad they actually were. And he feels the music: no postmodern irony for this fellow.

Here’s a little Blue Suite, performed at the Redwood Coast Music Festival on September 29, 2022, with the best cast of characters: Dave, guitar, vocal, and inspirations; Marc Caparone, cornet; Nate Ketner, tenor saxophone; Carl Sonny Leyland, keyboard; Katie Cavera, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums.

First, Fats’ BLUE TURNING GREY OVER YOU, which (as its lyrics would suggest) is usually slow, verging on the melodramatic (or in the case of Fifties’ Louis, the operatic). But Fats and his Rhythm made a 12″ 78 of this tune for Victor in 1937, completely instrumental and at a faster tempo. Dave sings it but also nudges it along into late-Thirties swing dance tempo:

then, almost without a break, into BLUE DRAG, which many know from early Django:

But no one in the audience felt blue. That’s what Dave does. What a spirit, and what a band!

There’s more to come.

May your happiness increase!

“OH, MISTER JELLY!” (Part Three): THE MORTONIA SEVEN LAYS IT DOWN at the REDWOOD COAST MUSIC FESTIVAL: HAL SMITH, DAVE KOSMYNA, DAVE BENNETT, TJ MULLER, KRIS TOKARSKI, JOHN GILL, SAM ROCHA (October 1, 2022)

Here are the final three performances from the rocking set performed by Hal Smith’s MORTONIA SEVEN at the Redwood Coast Music Festival — jazz of such a high order that I am sorry I caught only nine songs by this band.

Mister Morton looks over Mister Smith’s shoulder.

At the Redwood Coast Music Festival, they performed MILENBERG JOYS, SMOKE-HOUSE BLUES, BALLIN’ THE JACK, BLUE BLOOD BLUES, STEAMBOAT STOMP, MAMIE’S BLUES, visible and audible here and three others:

FROGGIE MOORE RAG (or FROG-I-MORE if you prefer):

NEW ORLEANS BLUES:

and for a rousing climax, PANAMA:

I look forward to hearing this band at festivals in the year to come.

May your happiness increase!

THEIR “MOST ENJOYABLE GIG”: JAMES DAPOGNY, MIKE KAROUB, ROD McDONALD, SHANNON WADE, DAWN GIBLIN (with thanks to Wyman Video): “CULTIVATE,” Ann Arbor, Michigan, August 25, 2016.

James Dapogny’s absence is painful to me, and I know I am not alone. The eight videos of him and the band he called PLENTY RHYTHM — thank you, Ferdinand — are joyous and poignant. I asked Laura Wyman, videographer and dear friend, to offer commentary, which she does beautifully.

James Dapogny

Laura writes:

Those Thursday nights were relaxed, fun, magical, and giddy while they lasted. It’s hard to believe a hundred people would cram into an old garage to talk, dance, drink, play, and listen to live music. Before Erin Morris moved, before Jim died, before Covid. But this life IS coming back – with most of the same players, carrying much of that music, adding new tunes, in re-opened and new venues.

Plenty Rhythm was started by Erin (on tuba, but you probably know her better as a dancer) and Jim Dapogny, about May 2016. Erin got them the weekly gig at Cultivate Coffeehouse (in Ypsilanti: Ann Arbor’s grittier, less-pretentious cousin, a few miles to the east). They dragged in Erin’s (or was it Jim’s?) upright piano, and Jim brought his music. He’d run a similar group several years earlier, and added more music to the books: 1920s-1940s standards, Dapogny originals, almost everything written in his distinctive handwriting.

The most important part: Jim said Cultivate was his most enjoyable gig – this as a “retired” professor who still had at least 2 gigs every week, and often 4 or 5. (Karoub said it was his MEG also) No setlists, no complicated choreography. Just calling tunes, setting the tempo by starting in, and playing with talented and inventive players, making things happen – and often getting fiery and/or pretty results. Regardless of money or listeners. (Though we see Jim, at times, looking out into the room with a “do you people realize what’s going on up here?!” )

(On that note, I like watching JD and MK work out stuff mid-tune, or Jim pointing to Rod or Shannon: “You’re up!”)

The group was always 4 people. After Erin moved to St Louis, Jim led the group, usually with Mike Karoub on cello, sometimes Chris Smith on trombone, or Chris Tabaczynski on sax/clar. In addition to the official 4, people always sat in – Dawn Giblin on vocals, and Chris T on reeds. It became a laboratory, where the band could try new (or new-old) tunes, in front of a noisy oblivious forgiving audience. All the players loved learning and playing together. There were always dancers in that tiny crowded space.

Cultivate paid the band $100 (a whopping $25 each!) and they divided the tip-jar. CTabs remembers Jim slipping him $5 for sitting in.

I guess that band is extinct now, though Chris S. still uses Jim’s black folders, and continues to add to the library.

I went every Thursday for a few years, but because it was so noisy, filmed only a handful of times. Jim suggested I put an Elizabethan collar around the video camera’s microphone.

I’d help Jim and Rod set up, then get a couple orders of toast (turkey/pear/honey, or PBJ), dark coffee, Chicago popcorn, beer and stout. The music ran from 7-10pm. The building was a former truck repair garage, converted into a community gathering place. The band played inside in cold weather, and outside in their beautiful flower & vegetable garden in warm and hot weather.

Plenty Rhythm stopped playing there in 2017. Cultivate didn’t survive the pandemic and is currently closed indefinitely.

Laura pointed out that the room was noisy. True. On one visit to Cultivate, in August 2016, I also shot video but the results were unusable. So these are a blessing. If you find the chatter intrusive, I understand, but I will bet that the crowd listening to Basie at the Savoy (insert your favorite band and time-travel site) was not hushed, even when Pres was soloing. Savor the music: this band will not come again.

For those making notes: the band performed twenty-five songs in three sets that night, and these are presented in performance order.

SWEET LORRAINE:

TAKING A CHANCE ON LOVE:

CHEEK TO CHEEK:

SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME:

OH, BABY!:

IF I HAD YOU, vocal by Dawn Giblin:

MY BLUE HEAVEN:

SWEET GEORGIA BROWN:


I think you can understand why both Jim and Mike Karoub said that this was their most enjoyable gig. These sounds are precious. Bless Prof, Mike, Shannon, Rod, and Dawn — and a special bow and hug to Laura, videographer, archivist, and friend-of-the-music, without whom this gig would only be something talked about in “Wow, you should have been there!” reverent tones.

May your happiness increase!

CHINESE TAKEAWAY, HOT AND FRESH (JON-ERIK KELLSO, GRAHAM HUGHES, MICHAEL McQUAID, LARS FRANK, DAVID BOEDDINGHAUS, FELIX HUNOT, HARRY EVANS, RICHARD PITE at the Mike Durham Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, November 3, 2022)

Whose honey are you? In 2009, Billie supervised the breakfast condiments.

Forward to the 2022 Mike Durham Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party.

CHINATOWN, MY CHINATOWN might have stayed as an obscure pop tune, its lyrics more than slightly suspect, if Louis Armstrong — who loved Asian cuisine — had not recorded it. You can find his versions and those of Red Nichols, Fletcher Henderson, and the Cambridge University Quinquaginta Ramblers online without wrinkling your clothing through exertion.

But as an appetizer to the delightful cuisine that follows, I offer a recording that not enough people have heard, Reginald Foresythe’s HOMAGE TO ARMSTRONG:

You can also chase down versions by Art Tatum, Jack Teagarden, the Georgia Washboard Stompers, Hot Lips Page with Eddie Condon, Lionel Hampton, Roy Eldridge, Slim and Slam, Sidney Bechet, Teddy Wilson, Punch Miller, Kid Ory, Louis Prima, George Lewis.

But here’s a wonderful version from just a few days ago, captured at a night-time jam session at this year’s Mike Durham Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party by Emrah Erken, he of the roving iPhone (his YouTube channel, a basket of marvels, is “Atticus Jazz”). The participants are Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; Graham Hughes, trombone; Michael McQuaid, clarinet; Lars Frank, tenor saxophone; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Felix Hunot, banjo; Harry Evans, string bass; Richard Pite, drums.

This music doesn’t come tepid in a little cardboard box. Thank you, all!

May your happiness increase!

AT THE SUMMIT, or the CORK OPERA HOUSE: BOB WILBER, KENNY DAVERN, MICK PYNE, DAVE CLIFF, DAVE GREEN, BOBBY WORTH (October 1993)

Here’s a lively hour-long presentation (with interview segments) of the remarkable SUMMIT REUNION (which followed SOPRANO SUMMIT) at the Cork Opera House, during the 1993 Guinness Jazz Festival, presented by RTE. For this concert, the personnel was Kenny Davern, clarinet; Bob Wilber, clarinet, soprano saxophones; Mick Pyne, piano; Dave Cliff, guitar; Dave Green, string bass; Bobby Worth, drums.

And the selections performed were ROSETTA / interview / BLACK AND BLUE / interview / Oscar Pettiford line (?) [Cliff, Green, Worth] / PALESTEENA / station break / IF DREAMS COME TRUE / interview / TREASURE (Davern out) / interview / SUMMERTIME (Davern, Green, Worth) / ST. LOUIS BLUES //

I saw Davern and Wilber in person several times, and the heat they generated was extraordinary — as well as the subtleties when the building wasn’t in flames. And the British rhythm section is superb in the best Mainstream ways.

The Europeans certainly knew (and know) something valuable about the presentation and preservation of art.

May your happiness increase!

SOMETHING TO SWING ABOUT: ROSSANO SPORTIELLO and DANNY TOBIAS, PART ONE (Pennsylvania Jazz Society, October 30, 2022.)

Although I can calculate the tip without problems, math did not come easily to me in school, and at this late date, I couldn’t easily concoct an equation. But one occurs to me on a regular basis: let X equal travel and inconvenience, balanced against Y, the amount of pleasure I will get from hearing live jazz face-to-face. It is a very rare instance where I can say to myself, returning home, “That was not worth the trip.”

The equation came into play last Sunday. 2 1/2 hours in the car to get to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; 4 1/2 hours (Sunday-night traffic from New Jersey) returning, balanced against 2 hours of music, friendly community, emotional-aesthetic pleasures. What I and others heard and saw from Danny Tobias, trumpet, flugelhorn, and Eb alto horn; Rossano Sportiello, piano, was beyond delightful. The time in the car didn’t matter.

I know both hero-friends since we met, in different places, in 2005, and admire them greatly. But I’d never heard them in duet, and a fraternal playfulness and joy was immediately evident: two minds and hearts going down the same path, creating, laughing, striving. A harmony of individual energies.

Here are the first four performances from that duo-concert.

When in doubt, play LADY BE GOOD:

Johnny Mandel’s lovely EMILY:

a performance of I GOT IT BAD where Danny becomes an Ellington trumpet section:

and IF DREAMS COME TRUE, which could have been re-titled WHEN:

Look up SYNERGY online: the link will lead you to this concert. More music to come in future posts, I promise you.

May your happiness increase!

“LOUIS ARMSTRONG’S BLACK AND BLUES”

My wife gave this documentary the best capsule review last night: “It made you fall in love with the guy.”

Perhaps nothing more needs to be said.

But I earnestly want to send JAZZ LIVES readers to theatres (ideally) to watch this film. In 104 minutes, it offers a compact, fast-moving portrait of a man at once complicated and plain. It offers a generous sampling of music — most of it filmed performance. But it is far more than a filmed concert. It demonstrates the joy Louis so open-handedly created while revealing the rage and sadness inseparable from it.

We see him grin, we see him hit high notes, we see him sing soulfully, but this is not the cardboard caricature, not the man-child some have attacked. There is JEEPERS CREEPERS and YOU RASCAL YOU, but there is also SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE A MOTHERLESS CHILD. Time after time, he comes forth as the Grave Wise Elder, pained and serious, the man who kept silent, choosing rather the cause of happiness.

Louis Armstrong, 1969. Photograph by Jack Bradley. Courtesy of the Louis Armstrong House Museum.

The street isn’t always sunny. vividly, we see corrosive racism throughout his career, from his childhood to the 1931 Suburban Gardens; we hear Orval Faubus and hear from the reporters who caught Louis’ response to Little Rock. There is the Caucasian fan (one out of how many thousand) who tells Louis that he admires him but “doesn’t like Negroes.” We hear Louis say that his flag is a Black one, but we also hear him talk about the great honor of playing THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER.

And the information is stunningly first-hand: his written words and his voice — taken from the hours of private, uncensored, often scalding conversations he recorded on tape, for he was a man who knew that he would have a place “in the history books.” Sometimes his voice is world-weary, sometimes enraged, but there is no polite expurgation. The man comes through whole, a colossus of awareness and emotion.

Unlike the often hypnotic but sometimes gelatinous cinematography of Ken Burns’ JAZZ, this film is so packed with information — auditory, visual, emotional — that the screen is always busy. I have studied and idolized Louis my whole life and I was consistently surprised and elated by what was so generously offered. And the narration by rapper Nas is so emotionally right that it adds a great deal, subliminally reminding us that Louis was not always a senior citizen.

The range of the documentary is astounding. The cameo appearances by Wynton Marsalis and Dizzy Gillespie are splendidly on target but we have seen those heroes before. I hoped Bobby Hackett would put in an appearance, and was thrilled that Count Basie did also.

But to hear the voices of Arche Shepp, Miles Davis, and Amiri Braka alongside Danny Barker, Barney Bigard, George James is a series of delightful shocks, showing just how many artists understood and respected Louis.

Thanks to the preeminent Armstrong scholar Ricky Riccardi, the film never loses its way in detail or inaccuracy. Jimi Hendrix makes a brief but telling appearance; senior eminence and friend-of-Louis Dan Morgenstern brings in James Baldwin and has some pointed comments as well. Lucille Armstrong and Lil Hardin tell hilarious loving tales. Swiss Kriss is here, the little Selmer trumpet, and so is “Mary Warner.”

I thought I might be one of the worst people to write a review of this documentary, because Louis has been a hero, an old friend, a beacon, a father-once-removed since childhood. So I braced myself for oversimplifications and inaccuracies. Given the title, I worried that the film would show Louis as undermined by racism (jazz chroniclers love tragic stories) without letting his essence blaze through. I thought it might tell the same dusty stories in order, making him mythical and distant.

I need not have worried. It is an honest thoughtful respectful work. No life so charged could be captured in under two hours, and some have written that they wanted more of X or of Y. But Louis is there for the discovery for those who want to go deeper.

I was in tears at the start, the middle, and the finish, with interludes for catching my breath and wiping my eyes.

If you know everything about Louis, this is a film not to be missed; if you know little or nothing, the same assertion holds true. If you are intrigued by film-making, by popular culture, it is also a revealing delight. It is the story of a jazz creator, a beloved entertainer, a Black man in a systematically hostile world, an American so relevant, and so much more. Louis stands tall and energized as an exceptional human being who sent love out like a clarion trumpet call to all who could hear.

May your happiness increase!

“I JUST BELIEVE IN MUSIC”: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO RAY SKJELBRED (with KIM CUSACK, CLINT BAKER, JEFF HAMILTON, KATIE CAVERA at the San Diego Jazz Fest, November 28, 2015)

Yesterday, “on or about” (as the lawyers say) November 2, was Ray Skjelbred’s birthday. But oddly enough, he has the celebration in reverse, for he keeps giving us presents — of swing, whimsy, empathy, and life-affirming joy.

Here’s a sample, with the Cubs, Kim Cusack, clarinet; Jeff Hamilton, drums; Clint Baker, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar — captured in flight at the San Diego Jazz Fest, November 28, 2015.

“I just believe in music,” Ray says. And his faith repays us a thousand-fold.

May your happiness increase!

A SUNDAY KIND OF PLEASURE: DANNY TOBIAS and ROSSANO SPORTIELLO (October 30, 2022: Pennsylvania Jazz Society, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania)

Maestro Tobias:

Photograph by Lynn Redmile

and Maestro Sportiello:

Attentive readers will note that it is not yet Sunday, so this post is to inform or remind you that a wonderful duo-concert is about to happen, featuring Danny Tobias, trumpet and perhaps Eb alto horn, with Rossano Sportiello, piano. It’s given by the Pennsylvania Jazz Society at Congregation Brith Sholom, 1190 West Macada Road, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I believe the times are 2 to 4:30. I don’t know the admission price, but my previous experience with the PJS has shown they are reasonable people; should any JAZZ LIVES readers show up and find themselves short of a few dollars, I will be happy to offer the official Blog-Subsidy.

In announcing and promoting concerts, I’ve always tried to offer musical evidence — the equivalent of the tasting table at Trader Joe’s — but here I am slightly at a loss. One of the most exciting aspects of this concert is that, although I know Rossano and Danny have played together, they have not yet recorded in duet. So I cannot say to you, “This is what it will sound like on Sunday!” However, Danny’s newest CD, SILVER LININGS, features himself and Rossano along with Scott Robinson, reeds and brass; Joe Plowman, string bass; Kevin Dorn, drums — so I present two delightful musical interludes as somewhat larger versions of the blisses to come our way on Sunday.

I know there will be Pretty:

and I know there will be Swing:

As Elizabethan-era bloggers used to write c. 1604, “Get thee hence.” “Thee” means you; “hence” means 1190 West Macada Road, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

May your happiness increase!

SEVENTY MINUTES WITH GERRY MULLIGAN, HARRY “SWEETS” EDISON, VIC DICKENSON, MARIAN McPARTLAND, DAVE SAMUELS, PERCY HEATH, ALAN DAWSON (Nice Jazz Festival, July 15, 1976)

People who draw “jazz history trees” love to create categories that are often divisive, at best restrictive. For those so inclined, whether critics, journalists, or “fans,” the art form is defined as discrete sections, painted lines in an aesthetic shopping-center parking lot.

The musicians laugh about such dopiness, and not only talk to their friends but play alongside them. Happily.

Here’s a passionate interlude that refutes such categorization, from the Nice Jazz Festival of July 15, 1976. The set was called “Jeru and some friends,” “Jeru” being the baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, who made himself at home with musicians “from different schools” where and whenever he could, including Count Basie, Jack Teagarden, Pee Wee Russell, and Joe Sullivan — and I am sure that is only a fraction of the friendly gatherings he participated in.

I love the fact that the common language is “the three B’s,” or in jazz terms, “Basie,” “the blues,” and “ballads.”

Nice Jazz Festival (audio only); “”Grande Parade du Jazz,” July 15, 1976.

Gerry Mulligan, baritone saxophone; Harry “Sweets” Edison, trumpet; Vic Dickenson, trombone; Marian McPartland, piano; Dave Samuels, vibraphone; Percy Heath, string bass; Alan Dawson, drums. I FOUND A NEW BABY / NIGHT LIGHTS / WHILE WE’RE YOUNG (Marian, solo) / I’LL BE AROUND (Mullgan-Marian) / YESTERDAYS (Sweets) / TEA FOR TWO / SHINY STOCKINGS.

Miraculous to me, but common friendly practice to these wise feeling players:

“Ain’t that something?” to quote Bill Robinson.

May your happiness increase!

“OH, MISTER JELLY!” (Part Two): THE MORTONIA SEVEN LAYS IT DOWN at the REDWOOD COAST MUSIC FESTIVAL: HAL SMITH, DAVE KOSMYNA, DAVE BENNETT, TJ MULLER, KRIS TOKARSKI, JOHN GILL, SAM ROCHA (October 1, 2022)

Mister Morton and Mister Smith

For the first part of this wonderful set, frankly irresistible — MILENBERG JOYS, SMOKE-HOUSE BLUES, BALLIN’ THE JACK — visit here. And here are the next three.

BLUE BLOOD BLUES:

STEAMBOAT STOMP:

MAMIE’S BLUES (vocal by John Gill):

A wonderful band devoted to the music of Jelly Roll Morton and the music he and his bands played — electrifying, exact, and loose all at once. Led by Hal Smith on drums, the Mortonia Seven is Dave Kosmyna, cornet and vocal; TJ Muller, trombone; Dave Bennett, clarinet; Kris Tokarski, piano; John Gill, banjo and vocal; Sam Rocha, string bass and helicon.

Some words. Jelly Roll Morton was not happy to have his music popularized by others during his lifetime (think of Fletcher Henderson, Benny Goodman, and others selling millions of copies of KING PORTER STOMP and WOLVERINE BLUES) but in some way there was a Morton “revival” going on for the last decade of his life. And with good reason: the compositions themselves are substantial, full of surprises that haven’t aged, and the recorded performances are fascinating marriages of hot improvisation and established structures.

But because Morton was such a powerful personality — man, composer, arranger, giver of dicta that should be obeyed — tributes to him have often not been easy or their results satisfying. Sometimes ensembles have been reverent and obedient: we must play it exactly the way the Red Hot Peppers did on the record, and those results are dazzling in their own way but I am not sure Omer Simeon would have liked people treating his solo as holy writ, to be repeated forever, with musicians subsuming their own identities in those manuscripts and recordings. (And Morton’s recordings have their own vivid force, not easy to replicate.) The other extreme, with a bunch of good people “jamming” on WOLVERINE BLUES and SWEET SUBSTITUTE, can be thrilling, but the results are at a distance from the exactitude Morton brought to his gigs and the recording studio.

The Mortonia Seven takes some and leaves some from both worlds: you can easily hear the outlines and structures of the original compositions and recordings, executed with style and grace, but the musicians’ personalities come through whole. And the result is lively, not studied — hot and sweet, raucous and melancholy, as the music demands.

There are more performances from this set that I will share with you. For now, I’m going to watch these again, mop my brow, and grin. Join me!

May your happiness increase!

GETTING FRESH: BENNY GOODMAN, TEDDY WILSON, LIONEL HAMPTON, DAVE TOUGH (April 25, 1938)

Although I have spent the better part of my life wholly immersed in this music, I envy those who are coming to it for the first time. Because they don’t “know everything” behind and around what they hear, they are able to hear the music’s energies and shadings in ways that those of us whose minds are portable libraries can’t. The more you know, ironically, the heavier your psychic knapsack becomes, even though some of those accretions are relevant and precious.

I imagine someone coming to the four-minute performance with no knowledge of the players, their personal histories, the cultural context in which this performance happened, and simply thinking, “That sounds wonderful!” They know nothing of “Benny Goodman”; they hear a clarinet, piano, vibraphone, and drums at once being expert beyond belief and playing like children, full of joy. Personal quirks and tragedies aren’t in that knapsack, merely exuberant bright thrilling sounds — the music of great artists having a great time, on the spot.

So I urge the most erudite of my readers to attempt an experiment. Put aside all the gossip you’ve heard about the players, forget your memories of perhaps seeing them live or buying your first recordings by them. Forget what you know or what you think you know, and drop down, trusting and blindfolded, into the rich irreplaceable sounds:

To quote Frank Chace about another clarinetist, “Doesn’t that just scrape the clouds?”

I could write a thousand words on what seems marvelous to me here, but I’d hope that readers take the pleasure of hearing this performance again. And before turning to their other tasks, I invite them to subscribe to the YouTube channel created and maintained by my friend who calls himself, not by accident, “Davey Tough” — a treasure-house of marvels, presented with care, intelligence, and love.

May your happiness increase!

“OH, MISTER JELLY!” (Part One): THE MORTONIA SEVEN LAYS IT DOWN at the REDWOOD COAST MUSIC FESTIVAL: HAL SMITH, DAVE KOSMYNA, DAVE BENNETT, TJ MULLER, KRIS TOKARSKI, JOHN GILL, SAM ROCHA (October 1, 2022)

Mister Morton and Mister Smith

Get ready for the room temperature to increase steadily. Music first, words after.

MILENBERG JOYS (vocal by John Gill):

SMOKE-HOUSE BLUES:

BALLIN’ THE JACK (vocal by Dave Kosmyna):

A wonderful band devoted to the music of Jelly Roll Morton and the music he and his bands played — electrifying, exact, and loose all at once. Led by Hal Smith on drums, the Mortonia Seven is Dave Kosmyna, cornet and vocal; TJ Muller, trombone; Dave Bennett, clarinet; Kris Tokarski, piano; John Gill, banjo and vocal; Sam Rocha, string bass and helicon.

Some words. Jelly Roll Morton was not happy to have his music popularized by others during his lifetime (think of Fletcher Henderson, Benny Goodman, and others selling millions of copies of KING PORTER STOMP and WOLVERINE BLUES) but in some way there was a Morton “revival” going on for the last decade of his life. And with good reason: the compositions themselves are substantial, full of surprises that haven’t aged, and the recorded performances are fascinating marriages of hot improvisation and established structures.

But because Morton was such a powerful personality — man, composer, arranger, giver of dicta that should be obeyed — tributes to him have often not been easy or their results satisfying. Sometimes ensembles have been reverent and obedient: we must play it exactly the way the Red Hot Peppers did on the record, and those results are dazzling in their own way but I am not sure Omer Simeon would have liked people treating his solo as holy writ, to be repeated forever, with musicians subsuming their own identities in those manuscripts and recordings. (And Morton’s recordings have their own vivid force, not easy to replicate.) The other extreme, with a bunch of good people “jamming” on WOLVERINE BLUES and SWEET SUBSTITUTE, can be thrilling, but the results are at a distance from the exactitude Morton brought to his gigs and the recording studio.

The Mortonia Seven takes some and leaves some from both worlds: you can easily hear the outlines and structures of the original compositions and recordings, executed with style and grace, but the musicians’ personalities come through whole. And the result is lively, not studied — hot and sweet, raucous and melancholy, as the music demands.

There are a half-dozen more performances from this set that I will share with you. For now, I’m going to watch these three again, mop my brow, and grin. Join me!

May your happiness increase!

DAVE STUCKEY and THE HOT HOUSE GANG PREACH A MELLOW SERMON AGAINST HYPOCRISIES (Redwood Coast Music Festival, September 30, 2022)

Try to behave better, will you?

WHY DON’T YOU PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH has a strong pedigree: recordings by Henry “Red” Allen, the Boswell Sisters, Adrian’s Ramblers, 1934 dance bands, and more. (There are two delightfully odd versions on YouTube — a 1935 duet on film by vaudevillians Blossom Seeley and Benny Davis, and a nearly surrealistic piano / vocal explosion by Speckled Red . . . for you to investigate as you might.)

I suspect that the gentleman in the drawing is “all alone by the telephone,” waiting for the call, promised, that hasn’t arrived.

And for those who want to learn the verse or see the original chords, here is a sample of what people in 1934 would have to practice:

I am certain that the stern patriarch of American popular song, Alec Wilder, would have furrowed his brow over this one: its limited melody, relying on simple patterns and repeated notes (a particular Wilder irritation), and its conversational lyrics with perhaps predictable rhymes. But one could say some of the same things about a number of Berlin songs, and PREACH sticks in the mind. Is it because it is singable? Or is the easy colloquial nature of the lyrics part of the charm — one can imagine a writer in the Brill Building saying in a cranky voice, “For God’s sake, Harry, why don’t you practice what you preach?” and Harry, as they did in films, pushing his fedora back from his forehead and saying, “Say that again. We got a song there!”

But I think the appeal of the song is its light-hearted but serious approach to a universal situation. Who among us has been promised something — and I don’t mean thin-crust pizza, but fidelity, devotion, monogamy — to find that the verbal promise was not matched by behavior. This isn’t a “You lied to me and now it’s all over” aria, but it is, “Why don’t you cut out what you’re doing and be straight with me?” which is all too often the song in our heads.

This performance comes from the second set the OAO and I enjoyed at the Redwood Coast Music Festival: Dave Stuckey, guitar, voice, and focused enthusiasm, led his Hot House Gang: Marc Caparone, cornet; Nate Ketner, tenor saxophone; Carl Sonny Leyland, keyboard, Katie Cavera, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums, with the very special guest Jonathan Doyle, clarinet and tenor saxophone. I have heard Dave perform this song before, so I was ready for joy, and I was entranced by the “right” tempo, the glee club effects, the general we’re-rockin’-this-town spirit, all the way to the vocal triple ending. I loved it in the moment and I love it now. I hope you dig it too:

So swing out. But heed the sermon of Deacon Stuckey. Get yourself together. It’s easier to tell the truth. Collect friends, not enemies. And don’t let your mouth write checks your tail feathers can’t cash. Amen, brothers and sisters.

See you at the 2023 Redwood Coast Music Festival . . . even if you bring all your sins with you in checked luggage.

May your happiness increase!

“KEEP STOMPIN’, BOY!”: MARC CAPARONE AND HIS BACK O’TOWN ALL-STARS (Redwood Coast Music Festival, September 30, 2022)

“Mahogany Hall,” Lulu White’s ‘Octoroon Parlour,'” photograph by E. J. Bellocq:

The Spencer Williams composition it inspired:

Into the present for a band modeled on Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars, majestically. Marc Caparone, trumpet, vocal; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet and alto saxophone; Dan Walton, piano; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Steve Pikal, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums.

Marc Caparone

They performed two sets at the 2022 Redwood Coast Music Festival, Eureka, California, and the wondrous seismic uproar hasn’t quieted down yet.

Power and delicacy, an eye to the details and a rollicking energy. More to come!

May your happiness increase!

THE SOUNDS WE HEARD LAST WEEKEND

. . . we’ll remember all winter long. No videos yet, just some words. Oh, and a portrait.

Twerk Thomson and Jonathan Doyle.

Thursday night, two sets in a row by Dave Stuckey and the Hot House Gang, which began with Dave (vocal, guitar, ebullience) and Marc Caparone, Nate Ketner, Carl Sonny Leyland, Katie Cavera, Josh Collazo — featuring memorable Thirties classics such as GOT A BRAN’ NEW SUIT — and then adding Jonathan Doyle for a set that offered a choral vocal on WHY DON’T YOU PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH? — a song whose rendition led many in the audience to closely consider their past hypocrisies.

Friday, after brief subversive explorations of Willard Robison and others by Jacob Zimmerman at the piano, we had Marc Caparone and his Back O’Town All-Stars, the band honoring Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars even though the sign said “Back O’Day.” They were Marc, Jacob, Charlie Halloran, Dan Walton, Jamey Cummins, Steve Pikal, and Josh, with vocals by Marc and Dawn. The set started explosively with MAHOGANY HALL STOMP and ended with STEAK FACE, and Eureka, California, will never be the same. But in a nice way. Or maybe a Nice 1948 way.

Next, Joel Paterson, Jonathan Doyle, Carl Sonny Leyland, Beau Sample, and Alex Hall got dangerously groovy with compositions by Illinois Jacquet, Freddie King, Bill Jennings, and others. A Chicago club circa 1955, right in front of us.

The Back O’Town All-Stars returned, but with the cosmic gift of Duke Robillard. They began with JUMPIN’ THE BLUES and the set only paused its jumping for a tenderly lyrical PENNIES FROM HEAVEN, sung as if shiny and new, by Dawn Lambeth.

Saturday began with Hal Smith’s Mortonia Seven, with Kris Tokarski, John Gill, Sam Rocha, Dave Kosmyna, T.J. Muller (on trombone), and Dave Bennett: a set notable for energized renditions of MILENBERG JOYS and PANAMA, but also BLUE BLOOD BLUES, MAMIE’S BLUES, and a positively vivid rendition of BALLIN’ THE JACK, sung and nearly-demonstrated by Dave, who told me he was playing a Conn Victor cornet once owned and played by our mutual hero Jim Dapogny. Jim was surely there, “no doubt,” in spirit.

The temperature rose for Charlie and the Tropicales — that’s Charlie Halloran and his musical voyages through the Caribbean, featuring Jonathan Doyle, Nate Ketner, Kris Tokarski, Twerk Thomson, Josh Collazo, and Jamey Cummins. There was calypso — Lord Melody’s FIFTY CENTS, sung nimbly by Charlie, as well as a few waltzes, a “belly-rubber,” and some all-out romps.

Next, the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, with Brian Holland, Danny Coots, Marc Caparone, Jacob Zimmerman, and Steve Pikal, which started with Fats Waller’s MOPPIN’ AND BOPPIN’ went SOUTH for that song and PARDON MY SOUTHERN ACCENT, and ended with the Claude Hopkins’ affirmation, I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU.

T.J. Muller switched to cornet for a King Oliver tribute — hotter than a forty-five! Even though he told us he had damaged his lip being over-ambitious on trombone, it was in o way audible. Young Louis was Dave Kosmyna, and the rest of the band was Hal Smith, Clint Baker, Ryan Calloway, Kris Tokarski, John Gill, Twerk Thomson, and their opening DIPPER MOUTH BLUES pushed us back in our seats with its expert hot velocity. I wasn’t around at the Lincoln Gardens in 1923, but this band made me feel that I was.

Then, Jonathan Doyle’s “four horn set,” with a front line of Jonathan, Zimmerman, Halloran, and Kosmyna, and the rhythm of Riley Baker, Tokarski, Cummins, and Collazo. I love Jonathan’s compositions — WHAT’S THE RUMPUS?, WHO’S THAT SCRITCHIN’, YOU CAN’T TAKE THOSE KISSES WITH YOU, but he also performed Moten’s HARMONY BLUES, Clarence Williams’ CUSHION FOOT STOMP, the Ellington-small-band GOOD GAL BLUES, and closed with SIX CATS AND A PRINCE. I had the leisure to admire his arrangements, the ways horns and rhythm gently slid over one another.

Sunday began with Twerk Thomson’s DORO WAT, which was streamlined and gutty at once, with Kris Tokarski, Halloran, Doyle, and Kosmyra — no set list, just a whimsical journey through BOUNCING AROUND, DREAMING THE HOURS AWAY, PONCHARTRAIN, and the whimsically-described CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME. This set — straight out of Marvel comics — also featured an exploding bass bridge (I mean the piece of wood itself) and festival angel Mark Jansen coming to the rescue in seconds with yet another string bass. And yes, I have it all on “film.”

Then, Hal Smith’s Jazzologists, a seriously NOLA band of John Gill, Katie Cavera, T.J. Muller (back on trombone), Clint Baker, Ryan Calloway, Kris Tokarski, offering MOOSE MARCH (a favorite of bassist Mike Fay), BLACK CAT ON THE FENCE, and MY LITTLE GIRL, in honor of Esther Muller, one month old.

In between, we went to the Eagle House (I became a civilian for an hour and left my camera in its nest) to hear Dave Stuckey’s Western Swing ecstasy, which finished with SMOKE, SMOKE, SMOKE — most riotously.

And (for us) the festival closed with a gentle set by Holland-Coots, with a highlight being Dawn’s sweet POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS and a solidly romping IF DREAMS COME TRUE.

Were there other glorious sets we missed? Did I take notes? Did I video everything here except the Western Swing yee-haw? Hell yes. Or “That’s for darn sure.”

Will you get to see the videos? As many of them as the musicians say YES to. And should you come to next year’s Redwood Coast Music Festival?

Do you even have to ask?

October 5-8, 2023.

P.S. I apologize to any musician whose name I misspelled above (I am sure I did): my excuse is that yesterday’s travel day began before 7 AM in California and ended after 1 AM in New York.

May your happiness increase!

EAGERLY, WITH EXTRA BATTERIES, WE HEAD TO EUREKA (September 29 – October 2, 2022)

On Wednesday afternoon, the OAO and I will board a plane to fly to Eureka, California, for the Redwood Coast Music Festival, which will swing out from Thursday afternoon, September 29, to Sunday evening, October 2. I’ve spent the last hour (this is being written Monday night) with a green highlighter, marking off the sets I would like to attend. This creates a problem. Look at the musical landscapes:

Thursday and Friday:

Saturday:

The problem is not with the green highlighter, I assure you.

The problem is with its owner, faced with one hundred sets of live music. Plenitude like this induces a case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) that’s nearly incurable.

If I take myself, camera, notebook, and tripod to X’s set, then I have to miss Y’s. (I am not naming names for obvious reasons.) You may say that this is a serious case of first-world-jazz-entitlement, but the swing struggle is real. There are a number of instances on this schedule where three groups I would like to see are performing at separate venues simultaneously.

I know that such lavishness is reason to embrace this festival as the music-cornucopia-for-the-ages, but I have yet to find a solution short of hiring several friends and training them as associate camera-people (and don’t think I haven’t tried).

Come to the Redwood Coast Music Festival! Bring iPhones and cameras! Help me with my Festival Disorder! (And have the time of your life at the same time.)

That is all I will say. Except that if I were able to make it to a mere fifteen or eighteen sets in four days (a faint hope) I still will go home full to bursting with splendid music.

May your happiness increase!

FAREWELL, HOT MAN

I learned on August 31 that the trumpeter / guitarist / pianist Ted Butterman, much loved in the Chicago area, had died after a long illness. I am not happy when JAZZ LIVES threatens to turn into the obituary pages, but as Linda Loman says, “Attention must be paid.”

I never met Ted, but I have a network of friends who adored and admired him, so the connection, although indirect, is there. It’s also there because an early memorable record that I love is Jim Kweskin’s JUMP FOR JOY, which features him — and it is the way I met him, sonically, perhaps fifty years ago (in the company of Marty Grosz, Kim Cusack, John Frigo, Frank Chace, and Wayne Jones):

I should write first that this post would have irritated Ted immeasurably, because, as his friend Harriet Choice told me, he could not accept compliments; praise annoyed him. So I apologize to his shade, and, rather, embark in the spirit of Ted’s friends, who played YOU RASCAL YOU at his funeral . . . followed eventually by SAINTS, which would have irked him even more — bringing wry levity to a sad time.

And here’s Ted before he came to Chicago, playing hot in San Francisco in 1958:

NASA tells me that the overall temperature of the galaxy drops whenever a hot player moves on: it’s no accident that I had to put on a jacket this morning before sitting down at the computer. (That pale joke is in Ted’s honor: Bess Wade told me he was comical by nature, with a big laugh.)

Some tales, then more music.

Tom Bartlett: He was quite a character and, of course, an excellent musician. Kim Cusack has often said that Ted was the best real musician he ever played with.

My story to share: While playing with the Cubs Band at Wrigley Field, whenever Ted spotted a TV cameraman sneaking up on the band to get a sound bite and often shoving the camera up to Ted’s trumpet bell, Ted always yelled “Rapscallian”. We immediately launched into I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You. That means that every sound bite on all TV stations in Chicago had the same piece of this tune. That was just one of Ted’s private little jokes, Our little trio HAD to play that tune at his gravesite yesterday in his memory.

Rapscallian? Ted enjoyed a play on words.

Although Ted never lost the innate heat of his playing, later in life he could be so mellow, remembering the Teddy Wilson – Billie Holiday classics of the Thirties. Here’s MISS BROWN TO YOU from a 1980 gig:

That middle-register ease makes me think of Buck Clayton, one of Ted’s heroes, and a story about fashion that Harriet Choice told me: One night Ted was playing at the Gate of Horn, and Buck Clayton walked in, horn in hand, and sat in. Ted noticed that Buck, always an elegant dresser, had a particularly lovely shirt with an unusual collar. After the gig, they went back to Ted’s apartment to swap stories, and Ted complimented Buck on the shirt, and asked him where it had come from. Buck simply removed the shirt, gave it to Ted as a token of esteem, and when the evening was over, Buck walked back to his hotel in his undershirt. Hearing this story some time later, Harriet asked Ted to put the shirt on so she could see it, and Ted flatly refused. “Oh no,” he said, “It’s sacred.”

Russ Phillips simply told me, Ted was so unlike anyone I’ve ever known and played with.

And Kim Cusack reiterated, Ted always played and sounded great, no matter the situation and/or band.  I was awed by his playing the first I got a chance to play with him in the late ’50s and he kept me awed in all the variety of bands I got a chance to play in with him.  Everything he played was exactly what it should have been. 

Here is a long interlude of Ted at work — with Kim, Frank Chace, Bob Sundstrom, Wayne Jones, John Deffauw, Ransom Knowling, Art Gronwall, and others — a 1961 gig tape, nearly two hours’ of on-the-job easy heat, given to me by Wayne. (Full disclosure: Kim told me that he didn’t think this was an outstanding example of Ted, but my feeling is that it is quite spectacular, and I can only imagine the music Kim heard that put this in the shade.)

A quirky energy ran through Ted’s playing — he was deep in the idiom but a listener can’t predict the next phrase — and that same quirky energy seems to have animated his approach to life. Harriet told me that once Ted said, “I think I’ll call Hoagy,” found our hero’s phone number in some way, called him, and they spent an hour talking about music. (Although music wasn’t his sole passion: he was an expert builder of model airplanes and loved electric trains.)

His hero was Louis, she said, which you can hear. Ted led the Cubs band at Wrigley Field for more than thirty-five years, and his was the first “five o’clock band” at Andy’s jazz club. He loved good ballads, and Harriet remembers his rendition of CABIN IN THE PINES with tears. They exchanged emails about records to take to that imagined desert island.

More music, if you please. Ted doesn’t come in until the second half, but his beautiful melodic lead and coda are precious:

I am aware that this is quite an inadequate survey of a singular person and musician. For more music, there is Ted’s own YouTube channel, quietly waiting to be marveled at, and Dave Radlauer’s treasure trove of rare live recordings, here.

For the totality, I think we’d have to gather Ted’s friends and let them share their own tales, “Remember the time when Ted . . . ?” or “Ted always used to . . . . ” I know I have provided only the most meager sample. Readers who knew him or have stories are invited to chime in.

And I’ll close with this recording. “Lucky” is not the way I feel writing another jazz obituary, but we are lucky that Ted shone his light so beautifully for us in so many ways:

May your happiness increase!

PEARLS: DON EWELL, MARTY GROSZ, FRANK CHACE, BILL PRIESTLEY (Spring 1959); DON EWELL, SOLO (December 20, 1941)

Frank Chace

A memorable bouquet of rare sounds, music I’ve loved for decades.

and Marty Grosz, young:

Selections 1-9 recorded at Bill Priestley’s house, Evanston, Illinois, by John Steiner, either March or June 21, 1959.

Don Ewell, piano; Frank Chace, clarinet; Marty Grosz, guitar; Bill Priestley*, cornet. I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME / AIN’T MISBEHAVIN'(with the verse) / SUNNY SIDE UP / SQUEEZE ME / JUST YOU, JUST ME / EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY / I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA* / SINGIN’ THE BLUES (Chace out)* / I FOUND A NEW BABY (Ewell, Grosz, Chace, Priestley)*.

(I have no idea what the double-time knocking is in the later tracks: whether something is vibrating or someone is drumming on a surface near the microphone. I didn’t do it.)

Don Ewell, solo piano, December 20, 1941, Louisville, Kentucky: ROSETTA / CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS? //

Original tape from the collection of Eugene Kramer.

Marty Grosz told me once that when he and Frank Chace were listening buddies as well as intuitive playing colleagues, they would listen to Pee Wee Russell’s solo on the Muggsy Spanier Commodore recording of SWEET SUE over and over, take a break and listen again. And that one of them said, “Doesn’t that just scrape the clouds?”

That is how I feel about this session. An earful of blossoms, with depth under the surface beauties. Each of these individualists bows respectfully to the great Ancestors, but the deep listener will hear four individual personalities come through: this isn’t a Russell-Waller-Beiderbecke-Lang hologram, and it would be an insult to hear only those glancing resemblances, instead of unique personalities coming together to fuse remarkable community.

Memorable, irreplaceable.

May your happiness increase!

DICK AND DAVE DUET (September 1982)

“How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” is too difficult a question and even for celestial beings, perhaps a little cramped. “How much joy can two superb improvisers pack into ten minutes?” is an easier question since we have the tangible evidence.

This delightful interlude — THE CRAVE / GRANDPA’S SPELLS / IF DREAMS COME TRUE — two by Jelly Roll Morton, and a classic stride test piece by Edgar Sampson that works beautifully on its own (think of Billie’s version) were performed in concert (thanks to Dick Gibson) at the Paramount Theatre in Colorado, sometime between September 4-6, 1982. Dick Hyman, Dave Frishberg, pianos, if you were guessing:

Everyone who’s immersed in this music bows to Dick Hyman, part Eminence, part Keyboard Gazelle. For spirited inventiveness, only Art Tatum has surpassed him. But because Dave Frishberg was rarely in the foreground as a solo pianist, especially after his success as a sardonic-whimsical singer-songwriter, he’s been underestimated for too long. But he was a peerless soloist and accompanist, with this own mixture of Duke-Rowles-Basie, which once heard is unforgettable.

Here, he is shoulder-to-shoulder with Hyman, musically and fraternally. These ten minutes are expert and exact, but they are also joyous play — a too-brief interlude. But now you can share the grinning as well, and return at leisure.

May your happiness increase!

HOT AND READY! — HAL SMITH’S NEW ORLEANS NIGHT OWLS: “EARLY HOURS”

A new recording by a band led by drummer-historian Hal Smith (a man whose scholarship swings) is a delightful event, and EARLY HOURS is a pleasure.

It’s a bracing shot of lively honest music — although the repertoire has deep roots in New Orleans jazz history of all kinds, the result is anything but dusty archaeology. In the nicest ways, this band leaps right out of the speakers at us.

Here’s a taste — SNOOKUM, a song I associate with the Halfway House Orchestra: https://halsmith.bandcamp.com/track/snookum. That performance is energized, compact, and vivid: good-feeling music!

The details. First, this is a digital issue through Bandcamp (an enterprise worth supporting on its own terms, since musicians have much more control over what happens to their own work and how it is presented).

You can listen and purchase here for the basic price of a large Starbucks concoction, although I hope purchasers will be as generous as the music is.

The players are T.J. Muller, cornet, vocal (4); John Gill, trombone (3, 8), vocal (6); Clint Baker, trombone (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9); Ryan Calloway, clarinet; Kris Tokarski, piano; Bill Reinhart, banjo; Michael Gamble, string bass; Hal Smith, drums/leader.

“You know ’em, you love ’em,” or if you don’t, you will. Hot and ready, as we say.

The repertoire goes deep into New Orleans jazz history as represented on recordings by Sam Morgan, Bunk Johnson, Turk Murphy, the New Orleans Bootblacks, the El Dorado Jazz Band, Ken Colyer, Papa Ray Ronnei, and others: BOGALUSA STRUT, STORYVILLE BLUES, FLAT FOOT, EARLY HOURS, CIRIBIRIBIN, I LOVE MY BABY, SWEET BABY DOLL, YOU TELL ME YOUR DREAM, SNOOKUM. (No “trad favorites,” no overworked chestnuts.)

It’s a splendid mixture of blues, romps, and music for dancing, passionate but exact.

Each track has its own distinctive character and eloquent gifts. The solos are eloquent and “native” (listening will make that adjective real to those who know) but, even better, this is a band, where the ensemble unity and collective understanding is the lovely goal. It thus came as a surprise to me that the sessions were done remotely, between November, 2021 and April, 2022. It says so much about the community of jazz that there is not an iota of remoteness to be heard or felt. Bravo!

May your happiness increase!