Category Archives: Hotter Than That

“AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL” / “SALUTE TO BIX”: RANDY SANDKE, DAN BARRETT, KEN PEPLOWSKI, SCOTT ROBINSON, MARTY GROSZ, MARK SHANE, LINC MILLMAN, DAVE RATAJCZAK (Bern Jazz Festival 1993)

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.

May your happiness increase!

“YOU KNOW YOU’RE IN THE RIGHT PLACE”: DUKE ROBILLARD with MARC CAPARONE’S BACK O’TOWN ALL-STARS: JACOB ZIMMERMAN, CHARLIE HALLORAN, DAN WALTON, JAMEY CUMMINS, STEVE PIKAL, JOSH COLLAZO, DAWN LAMBETH (Redwood Coast Music Festival, September 30, 2022)

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.

See you in Eureka in the fall.

May your happiness increase!

WHEN IT’S SWINGTIME IN EUREKA (Part One): DUKE ROBILLARD with MARC CAPARONE’S BACK O’TOWN ALL-STARS: JACOB ZIMMERMAN, CHARLIE HALLORAN, DAN WALTON, JAMEY CUMMINS, STEVE PIKAL, JOSH COLLAZO, DAWN LAMBETH (Redwood Coast Music Festival, September 30, 2022)

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.

Here’s the first half of their delightful set.

I hear that this pairing might well happen at next year’s Redwood Coast Music Festival, October 5-8. Don’t miss it!

THE JUMPIN’ BLUES (vocal by Dan Walton):

I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME at a lovely groovy tempo:

EXACTLY LIKE YOU (vocal by Dawn Lambeth):

and PENNIES FROM HEAVEN:

Delicious grooving is what I call it. Stay tuned for more from this set, and more from the RCMF. Dancing not only permitted but encouraged.

May your happiness increase!

THE BENNY GOODMAN QUARTET in NEW ORLEANS: TEDDY WILSON, SID WEISS, MOREY FELD (October 4 or 5, 1944)

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.

May your happiness increase!

EIGHTY MINUTES OF JAZZ HISTORY FROM SIDNEY BECHET and FRIENDS IN CONCERT: HARRY CARNEY, SIDNEY and WILBUR DePARIS, BABY DODDS, EDDIE EDWARDS, POPS FOSTER, ART HODES, MARTY MARSALA, MONETTE MOORE, JIM MOYNAHAN, ALBERT NICHOLAS, TONY PARENTI, TONY SPARGO, JOE SULLIVAN, SANDY WILLIAMS (Town Hall, New York City, October 26, 1946)

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

BLUES Hodes, Nicholas, Marsala, Sandy, Harry Carney, baritone saxophone [!], Wilbur DeParis, Parenti, Sullivan, Sidney DeParis, Bechet, onette Moore, vocal; Bechet, Sullivan, Foster

AFTER YOU’VE GONE Sullivan, Dodds, Marsala, Sandy Williams, Parenti, Spargo, Edwards, Nicholas, W. DeParis, Moore, S. DeParis, Moynahan, Bechet:

Amazing that it happened; wonderful that it was preserved.

May your happiness increase!

THE BEST REASONS TO VISIT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY: DANNY TOBIAS, VINNIE CORRAO, ED WISE, JIM LAWLOR (Ocean County Library, New Jersey, 2008)

Not just books. And no one said “Shhhhh.”

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.

May your happiness increase!

THE TEMPERATURE’S RISING, IT ISN’T SURPRISING: HAL SMITH’S EL DORADO JAZZ BAND (Part Two) — ANDY SCHUMM, JOHN OTTO, BRANDON AU, JEFF BARNHART, MIKIYA MATSUDA, MATTY BOTTEL (March 5, 2023)

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):

SNAG IT:

WEARY BLUES:

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.

May your happiness increase!

THANKS, VOICE OF AMERICA: MAX KAMINSKY, EDDIE HUBBLE, BUD FREEMAN, JOE BARUFALDI, DICK CARY, ARTHUR HERBERT // WILD BILL DAVISON, BIG CHIEF MOORE, OMER SIMEON, JOE SULLIVAN, EDDIE PHYFE (c. 1951-2)

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.”

May your happiness increase!

NO GENERATION GAP: NATHAN TOKUNAGA and BOB DRAGA with MARC CAPARONE’S SIERRA STOMPERS (HOWARD MIYATA, KATIE CAVERA, BRIAN HOLLAND, PAUL HAGGLUND, GARETH PRICE) at the JAZZ BASH BY THE BAY (Monterey, March 4, 2023)

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.

May your happiness increase!

IT WAS HOT IN MONTEREY: HAL SMITH’S EL DORADO JAZZ BAND (Part One) — ANDY SCHUMM, JOHN OTTO, BRANDON AU, JEFF BARNHART, MIKIYA MATSUDA, MATTY BOTTEL (March 5, 2023)

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.

May your happiness increase!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARTY GROSZ! — MARTY and TOM PLETCHER in CONCERT at the Canadian Collectors’ Congress (April 2007)

Marty Grosz, photograph by Lynn Redmile.

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?

And sometimes 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).

May your happiness increase!

“DID YOU MEAN THAT REMARK THAT YOU WHISPERED IN THE DARK?”

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.

Thank you, Anthony Barnett.

May your happiness increase!

THIS MUST BE THE PLACE: JAZZ BASH BY THE BAY (March 2-5, Monterey, California)

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:

ATLANTA BLUES:

SOLID OLD MAN:

TUCK ME TO SLEEP IN MY OLD ‘TUCKY HOME:

THE YAMA YAMA MAN:

HESITATIN’ BLUES:

LIZA:

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.

May your happiness increase!

NORTH, THE OPPOSITE OF, or DELICIOUS SOUNDS ON A SUNDAY NIGHT: DANNY TOBIAS, JAY RATTMAN, JAMES CHIRILLO, ROB ADKINS (The Ear Inn, November 6, 2022)

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.

May your happiness increase!

“HAPPY MEMORIES OF THE BEFORE TIMES,” or FOUR BRIGHT SPARKS PLAY MISTER JELLY: ALBANIE FALLETTA, JON-ERIK KELLSO, EVAN ARNTZEN, JEN HODGE (Cafe Bohemia, January 9, 2020)

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.

May your happiness increase!

SIDNEY CATLETT and FRIENDS at CARNEGIE HALL: CHARLIE SHAVERS, HANK JONES, MARY LOU WILLIAMS, MARJORIE HYAMS, CHARLIE VENTURA, BILL HARRIS, CURLY RUSSELL (April 5, 1947)

To me, Sidney Catlett is a marvel beyond marvels. An extraordinary soloist; an unmatched team player with the greatest intuition about what his colleagues were creating. An alchemist. And when Big Sid had the finest musicians to work with, which was most of the time, they scaled mountains.

Thankfully for us, he had many opportunities to record between 1929 and 1950. Most of his work is readily available: with Louis, Benny, Duke, Bird, Bechet, Hawk, Ben, Roy, Condon, Lips, James P,, Joe Thomas, Teddy, and three dozen others. But his performances at Carnegie Hall on April 5, 1947, have not often been heard, and they deserve to be.

His pairing with Charlie Shavers is acrobatic magic (catch them on film, although out of synch, in SEPIA CINDERELLA); Hank Jones, so youthful in 1947, was already creating pearls of sound. SID FLIPS HIS LID is beyond belief. And the jam session offers opportunities to hear players who no doubt encountered each other often (the Ventura-Harris unit was a working group) but never recorded together otherwise.

Two by an unassailable trio: Charlie Shavers, trumpet; Hank Jones, piano; Sidney, drums.

SUMMERTIME:

SID FLIPS HIS LID — like nothing else before or since:

and the closing jam session on JUST YOU, JUST ME. The label says the drummer is Dave Tough, but I always thought that an error, given his dislike for drum solos and the very Catlett-sound of the set. I asked a few drummer-scholars who agree it’s Sidney, joined by Charlie Shavers, Charlie Ventura, tenor saxophone; Bill Harris, trombone; Marjorie Hyams, vibraphone; Curly Russell, string bass:

There’s a surprising lack of documentation about this evening (even on its CD issue, as the last offering in a Verve multi-disc Forties JATP set). I believe it was produced by Leonard Feather, even though it was issued on Norman Granz’s Norgran label. I wonder how much of the evening was recorded and not issued: this would have been an interlude rather than a full concert. Where’s the rest of it?

(And Tom Lord’s online discography makes the first selections by the Hank Jones Quartet, with Curly Russell added, and he adds guitarist Bill DeArango to JUST YOU.)

A memory: I was not born when this concert took place, but twenty-plus years later Ed Beach played SID FLIPS HIS LID on a two-hour radio program devoted to Sidney, and when I write that it exploded through the speaker, I am not exaggerating. A number of years later I found a seriously scratched copy of the Norgan issue — with its yellow label — that I must have lent to someone, because it no longer is within my reach. No matter, the music was issued on the JATP set mentioned above.

But here is it for collective astonishment. And just in case your supply of marvels needs replenishment, the drummer on the other performances issued from this concert is Dave Tough: hear them here.

That would have been an evening to remember. Miraculously we have these performances.

As they say, THIS JUST IN. It’s a saving grace to have friends, even better when they’re erudite and generous. Guitarist / writer / scholar Nick Rossi rescued me from my ignorance, as he has done often.

According to author/historian Gayle Murchison, the April 5, 1947 Carnegie Hall concert was promoted by Don Palmer (aka Dominic Plumeri, not the Canadian jazz musician of the same name), who was Ventura’s manager at the time. This is backed up by an April 23, 1947 review in “Down Beat.” As you can see from the clipping it was titled “Concert in Jazz” and did feature Feather as an emcee. The headliner? Mildred Bailey! Williams and her working trio which may have included Bridget O’Flynn (drums) and June Rotenberg (bass) got second billing. Intriguing to me is that Mary Osborne was on the bill, but it is not believed that she appeared with Mary Lou. Feather was still pushing his “Girl Stars” concept — Williams was a key component at the time — so he may have had more to do with the concert than billed. In early May 1947, “Down Beat” reported that the concert had lost money. 

and Mike Levin’s DOWN BEAT review:

Nick’s research and the review offer answers to a few questions. Any distorted sound (thanks to the Carnegie Hall microphones) may have made some of the recording unusable. I believe Norman Granz issued this recording in 1956, and whether the rest of the concert tape or acetates were scrapped, we can’t know, but no mention of them turned up in the recent JATP compilation. Second, the “Girl Stars” were recording for RCA Victor and Mildred Bailey may have been under contract to Crown Records, which may have made Granz reluctant to negotiate to issue their work. Did the unissued material end up in Leonard Feather’s archive? I don’t know.

On another note: when I first heard the drumming on JUST YOU, I thought it was, in fact, Dave Tough playing on Sidney’s drum kit. But keener-eared professional jazz drummers told me otherwise. Listening to it again, the drumming up until the middle of Hyams’ solo still sounds very much to me like Tough: the steady bass drum work, the cymbal splashes, the relative absence of the ornamentation Sidney did so beautifully. In JAMMIN’ THE BLUES, we see Sidney hand the sticks over to Jo Jones in mid-solo without losing the beat. I have heard an unissued Eddie Condon concert, announced by Alistair Cooke, where Sidney passes the sticks to Cozy Cole in the middle of a long IMPROMPTU ENSEMBLE. My ears tell me that something of the sort — wonderful acrobatics and great visual theatre — is happening here, although I am perfectly content to hug my theory if others disagree. Do listen again.

Again, thanks to Nick Rossi!

May your happiness increase!

WELCOME THE “VIPER CLUB 4”: DAVE KELBIE, TCHA LIMBERGER, JEROME ETCHEBERRY, SEBASTIEN GIRARDOT (November 22, 2022)

So much heat in a small space. No, I’m not referring to some stove or portable heater, but this new group, the VIPER CLUB 4: Dave Kelbie, guitar; Tcha Limberger, violin and vocal; Jerome Etcheberry, trumpet; Sebastien Girardot, string bass. Think of Stuff Smith and Jonah Jones, Frank Newton and Teddy Bunn.

And you don’t have to imagine what this summit meeting of European swing stars sounds like, because Dave Kelbie has generously posted three videos. These three wonderful performances were done — in rehearsal, which accounts for the comfortable clothes and the splendid relaxation — on November 22, 2022, and the superb video work is by Francesca Musetti @Fra.

‘T’AIN’T NO USE:

ONYX CLUB SPREE:

I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY:

And it’s so nice: they have a touring schedule, which you can read about here, also with biographies of the four players and many photographs. AND the site also has new issues by Martin Wheatley and Thomas (a/k/a “Spats”) Langham, Andrew Oliver, David Horniblow, Don Vappie, and other luminaries. Fascinating music on all sides. (I am writing a post about the memorable CDs by the Wheatley-Langham duo, so delicious.)

I know this group will find the audiences its swinging good humor deserves.

May your happiness increase!

THE GLORY OF A WORKING BAND: RAY SKJELBRED and his CUBS: KIM CUSACK, CLINT BAKER, KATIE CAVERA, MIKE DAUGHERTY (San Diego Jazz Fest, November 2014)

“I love music that shows passion, daring and surprise.” — Ray Skjelbred

I know there is a mythlogy in jazz of the one night or session when the all-stars are on the stand, never to play together again. But what is more beautiful than a working band? Such assemblages are, at their best, small families, with everyone knowing everyone else’s talents and idiosyncracies. And on a non-musical level, a working band is a sign of economic health: there are enough regular gigs for the musicians to stick together. For me, certain working bands stand out as instantly memorable: the George Barnes-Ruby Braff Quartet; Soprano Summit; the EarRegulars in their various permutations; Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs.

The last-named band is an engaging mixture, at turns ferocious and sweet, of hot Chicago jazz, deep blues, and a rocking momentum that suggests both a Count Basie small group and the closing choruses of an Eddie Condon IMPROMPTU ENSEMBLE.

Through the generosity and foresight of the Dutch jazz scholar and enthusiast Frank Selman, I can now share with you a remarkable interlude created by Ray and his Cubs: that’s Ray, piano and moral leadership; Clint Baker, string bass, tuba, and vocal; Katie Cavera, guitar and vocal; Kim Cusack, clarinet and vocal. They performed at the 2014 San Diego Jazz Fest, and the songs captured are AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL; GET OUT AND GET UNDER THE MOON (vocal by Katie); SPECIAL DELIVERY BLUES / THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR THE SUNRISE.

Ray told me, “By the way, Clint knew we were going to play Special Delivery that set and he plays bowed bass on that number. But he was playing a borrowed bass with no bow, so he also borrowed a tuba to simulate bowed bass”:

That band! — the epitome of swinging delicacy and force.

The only mystery is why they don’t get invited to jazz festivals these days.

Promoters and producers, lend me your ears!

With gratitude to Ray, Kim, Clint, Katie, Mike, and of course Frank.

May your happiness increase!

A FRESHMAN ON CHRISTMAS BREAK VISITS JIMMY RYAN’S (December 1942)

Whitney Balliett (1926 – 2007) the jazz critic for The New Yorker, remains one of my heroes. In music, he shaped my tastes; in writing, he was a lovely idiosyncratic risk-embracing role model. And when I met him in person, he was completely gracious. We corresponded in the old-fashioned way; I sent tapes of our mutual hero Sidney Catlett and he wrote on New Yorker stationery with a fountain pen — casual friendly notes, greeting me as an equal.

That’s his whimsical self-portrait above, for sale here.

When I began to write for publication about jazz, I copied his poetic style, where metaphor was the second language — so much that I had to work to find a voice of my own. But his style, his insights, and his presence remain with me today.

But first, a photograph of one of the Sunday afternoon jam sessions at Jimmy Ryan’s on Fifty-Second Street, taken by Charles Peterson on November 23, 1941. I can’t identify everyone, but from the left, I see George Wettling, Eddie Condon (half-hidden), Sandy Williams, Bobby Hackett, Max Kaminsky, Franz Jackson. The trumpeter standing in the striped suit might be Sidney De Paris. Below and to the right is Pee Wee Russell, Joe Sullivan at the piano, an uncharacteristically exuberant Vic Dickenson, and a positively gleeful Al Hall.

What we would give to have been there. Sadly, PBS did not exist, and the March of Time did not take its cameras there to capture the ecstatic BUGLE CALL RAG that closed the afternoon performance. But a series of small marvelous circumstances, with Whitney Balliett the guiding force, bring us closer.

In preparation for a move, I have been tidying my apartment, digging through years of happy and heedless accumulation, focusing most recently on four tall bookcases. I saved the jazz books for last, and a few days ago was anatomizing a shelf of books when I noticed four loose pages sandwiched between two larger books. One was a letter from Whitney himself, friendly, gossipy, loose. And he sent three pages of what we used to call “photostats,” which made me catch my breath. The evidence, first.

I have omitted a non-jazz postscript, which took off the bottom half of Whitney’s signature:

and a week later:

and the careful young man’s tidy enumeration of those two magical visits to Valhalla:

Before moving onward, I suggest you let your mind, heart, and spiritual ears linger on those pages. Imagine!

And, in the magical way things sometimes happen, my tidying turned up an issue of the Atlantic Monthly, from January 1998, which I’d saved because of Whitney’s memoir about playing drums, “Sitting In.” This paragraph is completely and delightfully relevant.

My erratic noncareer as a drummer began in 1942, when I was going on sixteen. I was a freshman at Phillips Exeter Academy, and had been working blindly toward jazz by way of the jazz-flavored dance bands of Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw and Harry James. During my first Christmas vacation I was taken to one of Milt Gabler’s Sunday-afternoon jam sessions at Jimmy Ryan’s, on West Fifty-second Street, in New York. They weren’t really jam sessions except for the closing number, a fast “Bugle Call Rag,” in which all the musicians from the two alternating bands Gabler had hired got up on the tiny bandstand and let go. There might be three or four trumpets, several reeds, a couple of trombones, and a four-man rhythm section; the number, with its many breaks, would become a “cutting” contest, in which the trumpets in particular tried to outshout one another. It was the first head-on live jazz I had heard, and it was shocking and exhilarating. The famous old New Orleans drummer Zutty Singleton was hypnotic. He moved his head to the rhythm in peculiar ducking motions, shot his hands at his cymbals as if he were shooting his cuffs, hit stunning rim shots, and made fearsome, inscrutable faces, his eyelids flickering like heat lightning.

It would be arrogance to suggest that Whitney’s spirit, somewhere, is helping me tidy my apartment — I would not lay that burden on anyone — but I send thanks to him for his (I hope) amused presence.

And here’s some music — not from Ryan’s, but from the Eddie Condon Blue Network broadcasts — to summon up that beautiful world of 1942:

and another helping:

Ah, that vanished world where one could go to hear Pete Brown, Vic Dickenson, Bill Coleman, Hot Lips Page, Sidney Bechet, James P. Johnson, Eddie Condon, Elmer James, and Sidney Catlett play the BUGLE CALL RAG. At least we know it happened.

“Dreams of glory don’t ever really die.”

May your happiness increase!

BEAU KOO RAY: MUSIC FROM RAY SKJELBRED, SOLO and TRIO (JACOB ZIMMERMAN, MATT WEINER) and SOLO AT THE ROYAL ROOM

Yes, it’s true. Two new CDs from pianist Ray Skjelbred — one solo, one solo and trio, with Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone and clarinet; Matt Weiner, string bass. The trio recording pictured above is available here in digital and physical form.

Both trio and solo recordings are available in digital form from Ray himself (19526 40th Place NE, Lake Forest Park, WA 98155) — each one for 17.00 USD.

The disc pictured above has fifteen selections. The trio selections are marked *.

BLUE AIR BLUES* / NOBODY’S SWEETHEART / SOLITUDE* / MEMORIES OF YOU / DINAH* / JACK DAILY BLUES* / RUSSIAN LULLABY* / KMH DRAG / THAT RHYTHM MAN / BLUES FOR ART HODES / BLUE AND SENTIMENTAL* / FAREWELL BLUES* / COQUETTE* / PIANO MAN / SMILING SKIES //

At Bandcamp you can listen to BLUE AIR BLUES (based on a phrase created by Sidney Bechet in 1941 for a Victor record date with Vic Dickenson) and KMH DRAG (in honor of the fabled Max Kaminsky-Freddie Moore-Art Hodes Blue Note record date).

I created a YouTube video of the trio’s SOLITUDE because it left me awestruck:

Ray’s solo piano recital (shown below) is available only from him, directly, and it’s lovely.

I couldn’t bear people not hearing some music from it, so here are two videos, both of them with deep roots in Earl Hines and his world.

HAVE YOU EVER FELT THAT WAY? — which Hines sang on record, also in 1929. Ray’s version is jaunty, but if you know the lyrics, a shirt-sleeved melancholy peeps through:

And the hilarious explosion that is Alex Hill’s BEAU KOO JACK:

The solo performances are ROSETTA / BLACK AND BLUE / MY LITTLE PRIDE AND JOY / SWEET ELLA MAY / ANAGRAM BLUES / HAVE YOU EVER FELT THAT WAY? / I COVER THE WATERFRONT / BEAU KOO JACK / 313 RAG / SAVOYAGERS STOMP / PINKY ROSE / STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE / THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU //

I’ve been entranced with Ray and his colleagues since 1988 or so, when John L. Fell sent me a tape containing BERKELEY RHYTHM, and I have been privileged to meet, hear, and video-record him in person for a several years (my “California period,” 2011-2016, more or less) — something I do not take lightly.

Ray and his music are anything but monochromatic. There are touchstones for those who pay attention: Earl Hines, Jess Stacy, Frank Melrose, the Chicago Cubs, Washington Phillips, Alex Hill, Louis Armstrong, Chicago hot music, the dolceola, Count Basie, Sir Charles Thompson, Donald Duck, Joe Sullivan, Bing Crosby, Emerson, Art Hodes, the Marx Brothers, Western Swing, Jim Goodwin, all beings with their own essential personalities, and art that remains its identity no matter how vigorous the transformation.

His playing is at once emotionally deep and instantly accessible, but it wriggles away from those who would compartmentalize it. All I can say is that it is a series of remarkable balances: joy and melancholy, stomp and contemplation, facility and plainness. He is himself, and that is thrilling.

On the trio recording he is joined, shoulder-to-shoulder, by two people who have their own selves firmly intact, although wildness emerges for those who listen closely. It would be possible to build a Swing Era big band purely on the rewarding cardiac thrum of Matt Weiner’s string bass, where he creates engaging melodies while supplying that mobile foundation. Jacob Zimmerman is an explorer at heart, reminding me of Boyce Brown and Paul Desmond andJimmy Giuffre, early Bird and Pete Brown in turn, while peeking out from behind his latest four-bar surprise.

The repertoire chosen on both discs has deep roots in what academia would call a pre-World War Two jazz canon: Clarence Williams and Carroll Dickerson, Johnny Green and Harry Warren, Blue Note Records, Hershel Evans, Benny Meroff, and more. But this is not a trip to the museum, for both CDs, at points, are lifted up by a kind of playful disobedience. “We can play this song the way everyone expects us to play it, but here and there we need to be elastic, to improvise, not only in notes and rests, but spiritually.” All this music exemplifies play at its best, an art that is both puppy-friendly and as serious as one’s life-work,

The real thing, full of delightful shadings.

I am a serious Bandcamp enthusiast, and have applauded many of their releases. And it might be the only way one can acquire the trio CD in digital form. But I applaud even more the direct offering of support (read “love”) to the artist(s). So although I don’t want Ray to be so busy answering the mail and cashing checks that he doesn’t have time to play, I’d love to find out that his mailbox is full of lettuce. Consider yourself pointed in that direction.

May your happiness increase!

“MESSIN’ AROUND”: HAL SMITH’S NEW ORLEANS NIGHT OWLS

Some new wonderful sounds for you here.

You could fall over yourself trying to name the little box this music “should” fit into: contemporary trad? homage to the New Orleans Revival? even the dreaded D-word.

I call it sincere hot music with a pulsing heart.

I’ve been following drummer-leader Hal Smith for some years now, and I am not alone in thinking that his name on a new issue is a guarantee of solid rhythm, capacious imagination, an attention to the past that links it solidly to the glory of living musicians doing what they do best. A student of jazz percussion could find a lifetime of lessons in the playing of Professor Smith; someone wanting to play in or lead a band — an ensemble with depth, light and shade — could study at the Smith Institute with equally rewarding results.

For MESSIN’ AROUND, Hal has gathered kindred spirits. And although these are “remote” recordings (created in summer 2022), they are anything but emotionally remote. The fine musicians are T.J. Muller, cornet, vocals; Dave Bock, trombone; Ryan Calloway, clarinet; Andrew Oliver, piano; Bill Reinhart, banjo; Michael Gamble, string bass; Hal Smith, drums, leader — from all over the jazz map. The lovely clear recording, mixing, and editing is by Bill Reinhart.

To this recording, the musicians bring undeniable energy and personality. Although they know the hallowed musicians and recordings at the root of this music, they aren’t merely copying the discs. You hear the shade of the past but it’s vividly and audibly alive. They aren’t “primitives” but they bring a rough eloquence to each track. Dick Wellstood called it “grease and funk,” and it animates this CD.

I’m especially taken with the repertoire. There’s nothing wrong with AS LONG AS I LIVE, ST. LOUIS BLUES, or MUSKRAT RAMBLE, but they push to the head of the line in some bands: let the memorable but less-played songs light up the room!

The New Orleans Night Owls get comfortable with these tunes: MAGNOLIA’S WEDDING DAY / 2:19 BLUES / TING-A-LING / I’M A LITTLE BLACKBIRD / BOLSA CHICA STRUT / WAIT TILL YOU SEE MY BABY DO THE CHARLESTON / ONLY YOU (AND YOU ALONE) / MESSIN’ AROUND / SWEET LOTUS BLOSSOM / STOCKYARD STRUT //

It’s frisky, unhackneyed music to dance to or to grin to. Explore more here. And as the microgroove-record liner ads used to say, “If you’ve enjoyed this record, you’ll like the first CD by the Owls, EARLY HOURS.

I expect to see Hal and friends at the Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey, California (the first weekend in March) but until then, I’ve got my rocking new discs to play.

May your happiness increase!

“DUETS”: BOB BARNARD and JULIAN LEE (1989)

Music first, then a story. Several stories.

The composition is Maurice Ravel’s PAVANE FOR A DEAD PRINCESS, transformed into popular song under the title THE LAMP IS LOW, performed by Bob Barnard, cornet; Julian Lee, electric piano here.

(A note to pedants: I may be wrong about both identifications: Bob may be playing trumpet; Julian, synthesizer. I will correct them if so.)

Years ago, perhaps 1969, John S. Wilson, the New York Times‘ jazz critic had a weekly radio program, and he told this story. Steve Smith, who created the Hot Record Society series of recordings, felt that only Louis Armstrong had the majesty to properly interpret Bach’s second Brandenburg Concerto, and he took this novel idea to the major record companies, who turned him down without a thought.

Now, in our lifetimes, we can hear Bob Barnard honor and embellish classical themes.

Bob Barnard was a true hero to everyone who heard him. In his playing, there was an unassuming casualness — he went against Louis’ advice to Erskine Hawkins, “Make it look hard!” — as he scaled mountains with the greatest of ease, his tone always golden, his harmonic sense always dazzling. A solo of his was like a series of small jewels, amazing to hear as they happened, even more so when considered at leisure. He never fell back on cliche, his own or anyone else’s, and he trusted the melody so deeply that he stood back from it and reverently allowed it to gleam. In this, he was a true successor to Louis, Bobby, Bix, Buck — with his own wondrous swing and dash.

I encountered him a half-dozen times on his visits to New York, Denver, and Chautauqua, alongside Kenny Davern, Bobby Gordon, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, Scott Robinson, and others, and in person he was just as rewarding: witty, friendly, and warm. I was first “a fan,” then someone with a video camera, but Bob never viewed me from a height or at a distance.

As a player, he was utterly courageous — play thirty-two bars of his work for any brass player if you think I overstate — with a certain gentle audacity when it came to his colleagues on the stand. I am thrilled that the CD includes BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS, because it is one of my favorite Barnard moments. He appeared a few times at Jazz at Chautauqua over a decade or so of my being there. The creator of that jazz weekend, Joe Boughton, deplored what he saw as musicians’ lazy reliance on over-familiar repertoire, and encouraged people to bring and perform lesser-known gems. Bob was on stage once with a band of true professionals, and called BOULEVARD as the next tune, told everyone the key, set a tempo, turned to the pianist for a four-bar introduction, and led the way. It was not an easy tune nor a familiar one, but Bob led the way, clearly establishing the melody and harmonies for the players who might have only remembered it dimly. By the end of his second chorus the musicians were playing it as if it had been SWEET GEORGIA BROWN: he was that compelling and assured a leader as well as everything else.

Now, if someone can find a recording of Bob performing (perhaps singing also?) A BROWN SLOUCH HAT, my life will be even more complete. (He performed it at Chautauqua also.)

I had known nothing of Julian Lee, but here you can find out about this amazing man, who died in 2020 at 97. Bob had always wanted to record with him, and his inventive intuitive playing, in solo and accompaniment, says it all.

The CD that is the subject of this post, DUETS, captured Bob and Julian in 1989 in Sydney, Australia, and is now issued for the first time on Bandcamp by Bob’s son Tony, himself a stellar guitarist. The fourteen tracks are divided equally between “classical” and “popular,” although as Bob’s Louis-inflected improvisations on the Ravel theme show, those boundaries are completely artificial and tissue-thin.

They are PAVANE FOR A DEAD PRINCESS / GYMNOPEDIES / THE GIRL WITH THE FLAXEN HAIR / Adagio from CONCERTO DE ARANJUEZ / PATHETIQUE Sonata / PAVANE FOR A SLEEPING WOOD NYMPH / MY MAN / NUAGES / BORSALINO / BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS / THE WINDMILLS OF YOUR MIND / GIGI / AUTUMN LEAVES.

I think this is thrilling music, and I am so glad that it was recorded for all of us.

Listen and purchase here.