Category Archives: Hotter Than That

GEORGE AVAKIAN PRESENTS “ONE STEP TO CHICAGO: THE LEGACY OF FRANK TESCHEMACHER and THE AUSTIN HIGH GANG”: DICK HYMAN, KENNY DAVERN, DAN LEVINSON, PETER ECKLUND, DICK SUDHALTER, JON-ERIK KELLSO, DAN BARRETT, KEN PEPLOWSKI, BOB HAGGART, MILT HINTON, VINCE GIORDANO, MARTY GROSZ, HOWARD ALDEN, ARNIE KINSELLA, TONY DiNICOLA (Rivermont Records, recorded July 31, 1992)

Three I’s: IMPORTANT, IRREPLACEABLE, and INEXPENSIVE.

But I’ll let Dan Levinson explain it all to us.

In 1992, legendary record producer George Avakian produced an album in homage to the pioneers of 1920s Chicago Jazz, known as The Austin High Gang, who had been among his most powerful influences when his love for jazz was developing. Those pioneers included Frank Teschemacher, Eddie Condon, Jimmy McPartland, Bud Freeman, Muggsy Spanier, Joe Sullivan, Gene Krupa, and others. Avakian’s 1992 recording featured two bands: one, directed by pianist Dick Hyman, which played Hyman’s note-for-note re-creations of the original recordings; and a second band, led by clarinetist Kenny Davern, which played its own interpretations of songs associated with the Chicago Jazz style, keeping the SPIRIT of the original artists close at hand. I was in the Teschemacher role in Hyman’s band, and had never been in a recording studio before. Avakian financed the whole project, but, sadly, was never able to find a label that was wiling to reimburse his cost and put the album out. The last time I went to visit George, in June of 2017, I asked him about the album again. Then 98 years old, he was clearly disappointed that it never came out, and he asked me to continue his search for a label and to “get it issued”. I exhausted my resources at the time, and wasn’t able to make it happen before George passed away several months later. Three years later, Bryan Wright, founder of Rivermont Records, rode in to save the day. And this month – thirty years after the original recording session took place – Avakian’s dream project is finally coming out on Bryan’s label as “One Step to Chicago: The Legacy of Frank Teschemacher and The Austin High Gang”. Bryan has – literally – spared no expense in assembling a beautiful package, which is actually a CD inside a booklet rather than a booklet inside a CD. I’ve written extensive liner notes detailing every aspect of the project, and there are also written contributions from author/record producer Hank O’Neal, guitarist Marty Grosz, and drummer Hal Smith, a specialist in Chicago Jazz style. I was able to track down the original photos from the recording session, and Bryan’s booklet includes a generous selection of them. I want to gratefully acknowledge the help of archivist Matt Snyder, cover artist Joe Busam (who designed the album cover based on Avakian’s 1940 78rpm album “Decca Presents an Album of Chicago Jazz”), the family of George Avakian, Hank O’Neal, Maggie Condon, and the New York Public Library, whose help in making this happen was invaluable. The album features a truly spectacular lineup of artists, including, in various combinations: Peter Ecklund, Jon-Erik Kellso, Dick Sudhalter, Dan Barrett, Ken Peplowski, Dick Hyman, Marty Grosz, Howard Alden, Bob Haggart, Milt Hinton, Vince Giordano, Arnie Kinsella, and Tony DeNicola.

The CD and digital download are available on the Rivermont Records website here. A vinyl version – a two-record set, in fact – will be available later this month.

And here is Rivermont founder (and superb pianist) Bryan Wright’s story of ONE STEP TO CHICAGO.

The details.

“Dick Hyman and his Frank Teschemacher Celebration Band” (Ecklund, Sudhalter, Kellso, Barrett, Levinson, Peplowski, Hyman, Grosz, Haggart, Giordano, Kinsella) play / recreate classic Chicago recordings from the Golden Era of free-wheeling jazz: ONE STEP TO HEAVEN / SUGAR / I’VE FOUND A NEW BABY / CHINA BOY / LIZA (Condon, not Gershwin) / SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE: eighteen minutes in the most divine Hot Time Machine.

and “Kenny Davern and his Windy City Stompers” (Davern, Kellso, Barrett, Hyman, Alden, Hinton, DiNicola) going for themselves on THE DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ BALL / WABASH BLUES / NOBODY’S SWEETHEART / THE JAZZ ME BLUES / BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME? / INDIANA.

and — a bonus — a nearly nine-minute excursion on FAREWELL BLUES by the combined bands.

But I can hear someone saying, “Enough with the facts. How does it SOUND, Michael?” To which I respond without hesitation, “It sounds terrific. Finest kind. It delivers the goods — sonically, emotionally, and heatedly.”

I will give pride of place to the writers / scholars whose words and reminiscences fill the eighty-page booklet (complete with wonderful photographs) Dick Hyman, Hank O’Neal, Dan Levinson, Hal Smith, and Marty Grosz, explain and elucidate, as they do beautifully, the roles of George Avakian, Eddie Condon, Bix Beiderbecke, and two dozen other saints of Hot. That booklet is both perceptive and unabashed in its love for the people and the sounds, and it is more than worth the price of admission. Unlike much jazz writing about the hallowed past, it is also delightfully free of hyperbole and something I will politely call hooey.

The CD — aside from the booklet — has two wonderful selves. The first six performances are evocations of the original, classic, recordings, with musicians who know the originals by heart working from expert transcriptions by the Master, Dick Hyman. The business of “re-creation” is difficult, and I have gotten into trouble in the past when pointing out that in some cases it feels impossible. Great art comes hot from the toaster; it is innovative, imagined for the first time in those minutes in the recording studio. So re-creation requires both deep emotional understanding of the individuals involved, the aesthetic air they breathed, and expert sleight-of-hand to make a listener believe they are hearing the ghost of Tesch rather than someone dressed up as Tesch for Halloween.

But the re-creations on this disc are as satisfying as any I’ve heard, more than simply playing the dots on the page, but dramatically assuming the characters of the heroes we revere. They are passionate rather than stiff, and wonderfully translucent: when Ken Peplowski plays a Bud Freeman chorus, we hear both Bud and Ken trotting along in delightful parallel.

I confess that the second half of this disc makes my eyes bright and my tail wag: it isn’t “hell-for-leather” or “take no prisoners,” or whatever cliches you like to characterize the appearance of reckless abandon. What it presents is a group of sublime improvisers bringing all their knowledge and heart to the classics of the past, playing their personalities in the best ways. And each selection reminds us that however “hot” the Chicagoans prided themselves on being, lyricism was at the heart of their performances. I cherish INDIANA, performed at a rhythm-ballad tempo by Kenny Davern, Howard Alden, Milt Hinton, and Tony DiNicola, and the other band selections are full of surprises, pleasing and reassuring both. The closing FAREWELL BLUES has all the joy of a Condon Town Hall concert, and that is no small accomplishment.

And I can’t leave this without noting how lovely the recorded sound is — applause for David Baker, Malcolm Addey, and Peter Karl. I’ve heard more than two-thirds of these performers live, often at very close range, and this disc captures their sounds, their subtleties so marvelously.

This disc is a treasure-box of sounds and homages, with lively music from present company. I predict it will spread joy, and my only encouragement would be for people to for once shun the download, because they won’t get the book. It’s the Library of Alexandria transported to 35th and Calumet.

And here are some sound samples so no one need feel that they are purchasing on faith, although faith in these musicians and these producers would be wholly warranted.

May your happiness increase!

“ADMIT ONE”: LOUIS ARMSTRONG and his N.B.C. ORCHESTRA at PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS, November 15, 1940.

Yes, July 4th!

I found this holy relic for sale on eBay. Do I have to say how much I would have given to be there? But alas, my parents had not even met. So there goes that dream. It is, of course, only a piece of paper. But Louis’ big band did broadcast between 1939-43, and some extraordinarily rare and fine music was preserved for us — and issued on a CD on the Ambassador label, Volume 10 of their Armstrong series, the gift of the late Gosta Hagglof to all lovers of hot music.

So in honor of Louis and in honor of his birthday (let’s not argue about the date this year, please) I have extracted two very lively and different performances. Alas, neither is from the Port Arthur dance, but they are by his remarkable big band — with him remarkably out in front, showing the way, as he continues to do.

This composition by Joe Garland got the dancers on the floor and kept them there. The band for this performance is Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocal; Shelton Hemphill, Bernard Flood, Henry “Red” Allen, trumpet; Wilbur deParis, George Washington, J.C. Higginbotham, trombone; Charlie Holmes, Rupert Cole, alto saxophone; Bingie Madison, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Joe Garland, bass sax, reeds, arranger; Luis Russell, piano; Lee Blair, guitar; Pops Foster, string bass; Sidney Catlett, drums. Cotton Club, New York City, March 22, 1940. Listen for Sidney Catlett catching every detail in the arrangement, Garland on bass saxophone, Red Allen on trumpet — further evidence that Red wasn’t “buried” in Louis’ band — and the sound of the respective sections, well-rehearsed, before Bingie Madison’s clarinet and Louis’ entrance, his sound so recognizable, then the duet with Sidney, electrifying:

and a lovely performance (missing the cadenza at the end) of a song written for Louis in 1936 by Sammy Cahn and Saul Chaplin, SHOE SHINE BOY. The band’s personnel had changed: Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocal; Frank Galbreath, Shelton Hemphill, Bernard Flood, trumpet; George Washington, James Whitney, Henderson Chambers, trombone; Rupert Cole, Carl Frye, alto saxophone; Prince Robinson, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Joe Garland, reeds, arranger; Luis Russell, piano; Lawrence Lucie, guitar; John Simmons, string bass; Sidney Catlett, drums. Casa Manana, Culver City, California, April 1, 1942. Hear the tenderness in Louis’ voice (and the sweet inspired trumpet obbligato behind his singing), again with Catlett’s heroic support. The incomplete recording catches me by surprise, but I can imagine the notes that follow and hope you can also:

Bless Louis, and his orchestras, and the unknown recordists. The dancers, too. To me, every day is Louis’ birthday. I hope for you also.

May your happiness increase!

“MUSIC THAT YOU DREAM ABOUT”: BENNY GOODMAN, BUDDY RICH, JIMMIE ROWLES, BUCKY PIZZARELLI, JACK SIX (Merv Griffin Show, October 15, 1979)

About a year ago, I posted this video, one of those moments when commercial broadcast media and high art created something memorable together. It doesn’t need explication; for me, reverence is the most appropriate reaction.

Now, through the kindness of my friend Alessandro, I can share with you the complete audio of that encounter. The slight buzz suggests that it was recorded directly from someone’s television set, but the music is beyond compare. Grandpa could still play (!) and Rich, often accused of bluster behind the drum set, is a marvel of creative listening. For me, the delight comes from Rowles, that sly subversive one-man orchestra, with sets and costumes, going his own unexpected ways.

It was a “talk show,” so, first, a little chat:

Then, to the real business at hand, LIMEHOUSE BLUES:

A too-brief consideration of AS LONG AS I LIVE:

and that rare thing, an I GOT RHYTHM played for itself alone:

We must thank Merv Griffin for making room for this wondrous interlude, so precious then and now.

May your happiness increase!

THE NEW YORK JAZZ REPERTORY COMPANY EVOKES BASIE and DUKE at NICE (July 1978 and July 1977)

Even as jazz as an art form prides itself on “moving forward,” it’s always been affectionately retrospective, cherishing the deep past and the recent past in performance and recordings. Think of Louis bringing his mentor’s DIPPER MOUTH BLUES to the Henderson band, even though Joe Oliver was probably continuing to play it; Bix and Tram recording the ODJB’s OSTRICH WALK; Bird playing Lester’s solo on SHOE SHINE BOY. (I am indebted to Matthew Rivera for reminding me of this idea through his radio broadcast on WKCR.)

One of the most rewarding institutions to come out of jazz’s desire to both honor the past as itself and to make it new was the New York Jazz Repertory Company. Not only did the NYJRC perform at the Newport in New York jazz festival, it brought its “shows” worldwide, most often under the leadership of the brilliant Dick Hyman. I saw Louis and Bix tributes in the early Seventies, and they were electrifying; even better, the NYJRC idea was a staple of the Nice Jazz Festival, and some of the concert performances were broadcast on French television. (I’ve posted a ninety-minute tribute to Benny Goodman recently here.

Trotting through YouTube last night — the cyber-equivalent of my getting on my bicycle when I was thirteen and riding to the public library — I found two half-hour NYJRC delights, posted by others in 2015, that I hadn’t seen before. I predict that you will enjoy them also. The first is a Basie tribute, from July 12, 1978; the second, Duke, July 17, 1977.

Those expecting note-for-note recreations of recordings will be, I think, pleasantly surprised by the openness of the arrangements and the leeway given the “contemporary” soloists to play their personalities. Everything is reasonably idiomatic but there are delightful shocks here and there.

The “Basie band” here is Sweets Edison, Cat Anderson, Jimmie Maxwell, Joe Newman, trumpet; Benny Powell, Dicky Wells, John Gordon, trombone; Paul Bascomb, Paul Moen, Bob Wilber, Pepper Adams, Earle Warren, reeds; Dick Hyman, piano; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Chubby Jackson, string bass; Bobby Rosengarden, drums. I count at least six venerated Basie alumni.

JUMPIN’ AT THE WOODSIDE (Paul Bascomb, Harry Edison, Benny Powell, Bob Wilber, Dick Hyman) / ONE O’CLOCK JUMP (Hyman, Paul Moen, Dicky Wells, Bascomb, Joe Newman, Hyman) / ROCK-A-BYE BASIE (Wilber, Moen, Sweets, Hyman and Chubby Jackson) / HARVARD BLUES (Bascomb, Newman, vocal) / BROADWAY (Wilber, Sweets, Hyman, Wilber, Bascomb, Pepper Adams, Powell, John Gordon, Earle Warren, Cat Anderson, Moen):

and “the Ellington band,” made up of many of the same champions, Hyman, Rosengarden, Wilber, Pepper Adams, Maxwell — with Jon Faddis, Pee Wee Erwin, Joe Newman, trumpets; Eddie Daniels, Zoot Sims, Billy Mitchell, reeds; George Duvivier, string bass, John Mosca, Billy Campbell, Earl McIntyre, trombone:

EAST ST. LOUIS-TOODLE OO (Wilber, Pepper, Daniels, Erwin) / DOUBLE CHECK STOMP (Maxwell, Wilber, Billy Campbell) / JUNGLE NIGHTS IN HARLEM (possibly John Mosca, Maxwell, Daniels) / DOCTOR E.K.E. (composition by Raymond Fol, piano; Mosca, Mitchell, Faddis, Sam Woodyard, drums) / HARLEM AIR-SHAFT (McIntyre, Faddis, Daniels, Joe Newman) / BLUE GOOSE (Wilber, Maxwell, Zoot, Mosca, Wilber) / JUMPIN’ PUNKINS (Duvivier, Pepper, Rosengarden, Hyman, Rosengarden) / CHELSEA BRIDGE (Hyman, Zoot, Hyman, McIntyre):

Honoring the originals and their creators but giving plenty of space to honor the present — a lovely balance. And if you’d rather hear the Basie Deccas and Ellington Victors, they will still be there, undamaged and pristine.

May your happiness increase!

GIANTS PLAY NICE: BENNY CARTER, GEORGE BARNES, RUBY BRAFF, MICHAEL MOORE, VINNIE CORRAO, RAY MOSCA (La Grande Parade du Jazz, July 25, 1975)

An hour of sustained multi-faceted brilliance.

Festival producers often throw together dissimilar artists to see what happens, but sometimes the unusual gatherings of masters produce art completely unexpected and delightful. Here at the 1975 Nice Jazz Festival we have Benny Carter, alto saxophone — whose place in jazz is beyond discussion — joining a version of the magical quartet George Barnes, electric guitar, and Ruby Braff, cornet, had for too short a time, with the quartet’s usual rhythm section of Moore, string bass, and Corrao, rhythm guitar, augmented by drummer Ray Mosca.

A constellation of giants, lyrical ones for sure.

This hour-long set was broadcast on French radio, and we are surely grateful. And if I may privilege one artist over another, I urge listeners to pay most careful attention of the astonishing guitarist George Barnes, casually tossing magic everywhere. If you share my enthusiasm for him, be sure to visit the GEORGE BARNES LEGACY COLLECTION. You’ll be enthralled.

WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS / JUST YOU, JUST ME / MEAN TO ME / TAKE THE “A” TRAIN / I CAN’T GET STARTED (Carter feature) / SUGAR (Carter out) / LOVER, COME BACK TO ME:

But wait! There’s more!

WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS:

JUST YOU, JUST ME, MEAN TO ME, and TAKE THE “A” TRAIN:

I CAN’T GET STARTED and LOVER, COME BACK TO ME:

Documentation of such creativity — a blessing!

May your happiness increase!

MARTY GROSZ AND HIS CHICAGOANS, SWEET AND HOT: JAMES DAPOGNY, JON-ERIK KELLSO, DAN BARRETT, DAN LEVINSON, SCOTT ROBINSON, JON BURR, PETE SIERS (Cleveland Classic Jazz Party, September 19, 2014)

Martin Oliver Grosz by Lynn Redmile

Here’s a location in space and time where the past and present embrace, each retaining all their distinguishing features. That is, Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal, and erudition, leading an ensemble at the 2014 Cleveland Classic Jazz Party in the song first introduced by Ethel Waters, SUGAR, that was then taken up by the Austin High Gang for their 1927 record date as “McKenzie and Condon’s Chicagoans.”

The noble creators are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Dan Levinson, tenor saxophone; Scott Robinson, taragoto; James Dapogny, piano; Jon Burr, string bass; Pete Siers, drums.

It’s clearly impromptu (but all the great performances were in some part) from Marty’s heartfelt rubato solo chorus to the split-chorus solos with special reverence for James Dapogny’s piano in glittering solo and supportive ensemble. It’s confectionary. And memorable.

Incidentally, if, after enjoying Marty and his pals, you need more sugar in your bowl, try Ethel’s version, Louis’, and the Lee Wiley – Muggsy Spanier – Jess Stacy one. And of course the McKenzie-Condon version, which is playing in my mental jukebox as I type. Then follow your own impulses to heated sweetness.

May your happiness increase!

THE WORLD BENNY CREATED: “The New York Jazz Repertory Company” featuring BOB WILBER, DICK HYMAN, BUCKY PIZZARELLI, GEORGE DUVIVIER, BOBBY ROSENGARDEN, JIMMY MAXWELL, EDDIE BERT, ARNIE LAWRENCE, BUDD JOHNSON, PEE WEE ERWIN, MIKE ZWERIN, NORRIS TURNEY, HAYWOOD HENRY, ERNIE ROYAL, DICK SUDHALTER, BRITT WOODMAN, PUG HORTON, GEORGE WEIN (La Grande Parade du Jazz, July 1979)

The imaginative types among us sometimes launch the idea of the music we know with a central figure removed from the landscape — a much-diminished alternative universe. What, we say, would our world have been like had young Louis Armstrong chosen to go into waste management? Imagine the musical-cultural landscape without Sinatra, Bing, Billie? Quickly, the mind at play comes to a stop, because such absences are so unimaginable that they serve to remind us of the power of these individuals long after they have left the neighborhood.

I’d like to add a name to that list — Benjamin David Goodman, born in Chicago. These days it seems that Benny, once the King of Swing, is either taken for granted so deeply that he is forgotten, or he is reviled for bad behavior. To the former, I can only point to our cultural memory loss: if it’s older than breakfast, we’ve forgotten its name, so hungry for new sensations we appear to be.

And to the latter, I see it as rooted in an unattractive personal envy. We can’t play the clarinet like Benny; we don’t appear on concert stages, radio, and television. (I exempt professional musicians, often underpaid and anonymous, from this: they have earned the right to tell stories.) This reminds some of us that all the bad things our classmates said of us in fourth grade still are valid. So some of us energetically delight in the Great Person’s failings, as if retelling the story of how he didn’t tip the waiter makes up for our inability to equal his artistic achievements, and the life of diligent effort that made them possible. Benny could behave unthinkingly, but we’ve all done that. If we understood our own need to tear down those larger than ourselves, perhaps we would refrain from doing it. Bluntly, feasting on the story of Benny putting on a sweater says much more about our collective insecurities than about his obliviousness. But enough of that: we have beautiful music to savor here.

I don’t know if the New York Jazz Repertory Company, such a wonderful enterprise in the 1970s and onwards, was George Wein’s idea or perhaps Dick Hyman’s — but it was a marvel. If someone proposed a concert tribute to Bix Beiderbecke, well, you could bring Joe Venuti, Spiegle Willcox, Paul Mertz, and Chauncey Morehouse to the stage alongside Zoot Sims, Vince Giordano, Warren Vache, Bucky Pizzarelli — the best musicians readily available having a splendid time amidst the Ancestors, the Survivors. Concerts for Louis, Duke, and Basie were just as enthralling. The NYJRC experience was a kind of jazz Camelot, and its moments were shining, perhaps brief, and surely memorable.

The Nice Jazz Festival had enough expert musicians — expert in experience and in feeling — to put together NYJRC evenings, and here is a July 1979 one devoted to not only Benny but to the worlds he created.

For me, imagining a world without “BG” is again unthinkable. He wasn’t the only person who made hot music — creative jazz improvisation — such an accessible phenomenon for the widest audience, an audience perhaps unaware that they were dancing to great art, but he did it. And he wasn’t the only person to have Black and White musicians on the public stage, but his contributions to racial equality are too large to be ignored. And he himself made great music and inspired others to do so.

Enough polemic. But Benny remains a King, and efforts to dethrone him are and should be futile.

Both Dick Hyman and Bob Wilber had worked with Benny, and their love, admiration, and understanding shine through this concert presentation devoted to his big band and small groups of the Swing Era. The band is full of Goodman alumnae (we must remind ourselves also that Benny was active on his own in 1979) including Pee Wee Erwin, an integral part of Benny’s 1935 orchestra. Hyman not only plays brilliantly but supports the whole enterprise; Wilber embodies Benny in his own lucent fashion, and Pug Horton sweetly summons up a whole raft of Benny’s singers. Too, the individual players get to have their say in their own fashion — something that was a lovely part of the worlds Benny made and made possible.

Here’s ninety minutes of music, delightful on its own and as an evocation of a masterful musician and his impact on us, whether we acknowledge it or not.

The New York Jazz Repertory Company: Bob Wilber, clarinet; Dick Hyman, piano; Arnie Lawrence, Haywood Henry, Norris Turney, Budd Johnson, reeds; Eddie Bert, Britt Woodman, Mike Zwerin, trombone; Jimmie Maxwell, Ernie Royal, Pee Wee Erwin, Dick Sudhalter, trumpet; Bobby Rosengarden, drums; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; George Duvivier, string bass; Pug Horton, vocal.

Warming up / George Wein announces / LET’S DANCE (Hyman, Wilber, Lawrence, Hyman) / KING PORTER STOMP (Maxwell, Wilber, Maxwell, Zwerin, Budd, Hyman, Bucky, Duvivier) / STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY (Hyman, Wilber, Bert, Budd, Bert, Bucky, Wilber) / BODY AND SOUL (Wilber, Hyman, Rosengarden) / CHINA BOY (trio) / SEVEN COME ELEVEN (add Bucky, Duvivier) / add Pug Horton, vocal / GOODNIGHT, MY LOVE / SILHOUETTED IN THE MOONLIGHT / SOMEBODY ELSE IS TAKING MY PLACE / Pug out / RACHEL’S DREAM / big band returns / STEALIN’ APPLES arr. Henderson (Hyman, Wilber, Erwin, Turney, Woodman, WIlber // Intermission: Wilber introduces the orchestra while Bucky plays GOODBYE // SWINGTIME IN THE ROCKIES (Budd, Wilber [alto], Hyman, Henry, Bert, Lawrence, Wilber, trumpet section trades / PAGANINI CAPRICE No. 24 arr. Skip Martin (Hyman, Wilber, Budd) / A SMOOTH ONE (Wilber, Maxwell, Budd, Bucky, Hyman, Duvivier, Rosengarden) / AS LONG AS I LIVE / AIR MAIL SPECIAL / (add Pug, big band reed section returns) WE’LL MEET AGAIN / WHEN THE SUN COMES OUT / WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO (Hyman) / (Pug out, full band) SING SING SING (Wilber, Rosengarden, Budd, Wilber, Maxwell) / GOOD-BYE //

As the waitperson says when she puts your fish tacos in front of you, “Enjoy.”

May your happiness increase!

THE DUKE VISITS BUFFALO (November 27, 1943)

Here’s a quarter-hour of Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra. I post it here not only because it’s probably a rarity to most listeners, but because it also showed why Duke entertained so many audiences so well for so long: a perceptive variety of music and approaches, from screaming trumpet to sweet dance music with female and male vocalists, from rockin’ in rhythm for the jitterbugs to topical comedy appropriate to the war effort. Something for everyone and then some.

DUKE ELLINGTON (Coca-Cola Spotlight Parade of Bands #372, Buffalo, New York): BLUE SKIES / I WONDER WHY (Betty Roche) / ROCKIN’ IN RHYTHM / DO NOTHIN’ TILL YOU HEAR FROM ME (Hibbler) / A SLIP OF THE LIP (Nance) // This is not the complete broadcast, but only one track — SLIP — has been issued commercially.

Tom Lord’s discography lists this as an NBC Blue Network broadcast, Trico Products Factory, Buffalo, N.Y., November 27, 1943. Rex Stewart, cornet; Wallace Jones, Harold “Shorty” Baker, trumpet; Ray Nance, trumpet, violin, vocal; Joe Nanton, Lawrence Brown, trombone; Juan Tizol, valve-trombone; Jimmy Hamilton, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Johnny Hodges, alto saxophone; Otto Hardwick, alto saxophone, clarinet; Skippy Williams, tenor saxophone, clarinet; Harry Carney baritone saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; Duke Ellington, piano; Fred Guy, guitar; Junior Raglin, string bass; Sonny Greer, drums; Betty Roche, Al Hibbler, vocal.

And for some historical trivia: Trico made windshield wipers and closed in 2002 after 85 years of operation. Ellington’s music, happily, continues to operate on us.

This post is for my fellow Ellingtonian Nick Rossi.

May your happiness increase!

HOT SERMONS: STILL MORE FROM THE NEW YORK CLASSIC SEVEN: MIKE DAVIS, ANDY SCHUMM, COLIN HANCOCK, SAM CHESS, VINCE GIORDANO, RICKY ALEXANDER, JAY RATTMAN (St. John’s Lutheran Church, New York City, May 18, 2022)

Photograph by Rob Rothberg

This band rocked the church. Seismically, I mean. Christopher Street will never be the same.

I’ve shared several segments from this concert, and here’s the last dynamic offering. From the back, the New York Classic Seven are Colin Hancock, drums; Jay Rattman, bass saxophone; Vince Giordano, banjo; Andy Schumm, piano; Ricky Alexander, clarinet, alto saxophone; Sam Chess, trombone; Mike Davis, trumpet, vocal.

(For new visitors to this site: if you click on the post’s title, the still photographs below — if they are what you see — will open to reveal video-performances.)

For Bix, of course. THERE’S A CRADLE IN CAROLINE:

Hot needs sweet in the perfectly balanced cosmos, so here’s Romantic Mike Davis, pleading GUILTY. We pardon him:

And the gloriously futuristic BONEYARD SHUFFLE:

Here’s Andy Schumm’s Gershwin-inspired composition, LET’S DO THINGS:

A beautiful mini-Whiteman consideration of MY BLUE HEAVEN:

Don’t be afraid of the title. Colin and Mike aren’t truly ANGRY:

And the extravagantly “primitive” JUNGLE CRAWL by Tiny Parham:

What would a program of Twenties jazz and pop be without a song saying how much better everything is in the American South? Here’s a stellar example, THAT’S THE GOOD OLD SUNNY SOUTH:

This was the second — wonderful — US appearance by this band. If you want to hear them again, tell festival organizers and club-owners, tell your wealthy friends. They’re raring to go and play, as you can see and hear. And we need this kind of musical uplift.

Thanks again to Janet Sora Chung and St. John’s Lutheran Church (Christopher Street, New York City) for making this aesthetic gift-box possible, and for permitting me to video-record and share it.

And thanks to Red, Bix, Miff, Fud, Pee Wee, JD and TD, McDonough, Eddie, Challis, Artie, Vic, Adrian, and three dozen other luminaries for their inspiration.

May your happiness increase!

WHERE THE RENO CLUB MEETS FILM NOIR: “BEALE STREET BLUES,” by The EarRegulars: JON-ERIK KELLSO, MATT MUNISTERI, DUKE HEITGER, HARVEY TIBBS, DAN BLOCK, NEAL MINER (The Ear Inn, June 7, 2009)

I missed out on the Reno Club, and Fifty-Second Street transformed downwards years before my birth, but there are serious compensations. I did and do have The Ear Inn (and so do you) where The EarRegulars have been playing every Sunday night from 8-11 PM since the summer of 2007. 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City.

This is one of the earliest videos I shot there . . . at a time when YouTube allowed posters to take dark-hued video and change it into black-and-white. So we have my version of film noir, bowing to Ida Lupino, to the Reno Club, to wartime Greenwich Village jazz, to building intensity through backgrounds and riffs. All priceless.

Fault-finders are encouraged to floss with a cactus needle, then take Nipper out for a constitutional.

The song? Handy’s BEALE STREET BLUES. The performers? Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Harvey Tibbs, trombone; Dan Block, clarinet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass. Heroes all. They know what to do — no one needs a GPS — and they do it beautifully, individually and collectively. And they know how to sustain and build a mood, gently but dramatically, for twelve minutes.

And, yes, such things are still possible. But you do have to get out of your chair and find them where they are happening . . . real players, too substantial for any lit screen. Bless them when you see and hear them, too.

May your happiness increase!

RIGHT ON THE SPOT WHEN THE MUSIC IS HOT, or BEALE STREET’S PAVED WITH GOLD: MARTY GROSZ, JAMES DAPOGNY, DUKE HEITGER, BOB HAVENS, BOB REITMEIER, VINCE GIORDANO, ARNIE KINSELLA (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 19, 2009)

I could write a long introduction about the music and scene that follows, but I will say only that it was thrilling in the moment and it is even more thrilling now. This was a Saturday afternoon session at the Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua, New York, during the Jazz at Chautauqua weekend created by Joe Boughton for his own pleasure and ours.

It seems a blessing to have been there and even more of one to have been allowed to video-record the music, especially since in June 2022, some of the participants have moved to other neighborhoods and others seem to have chosen more relaxing ways of passing the time. I will only say that a few nights ago I was speaking to a person I’d not met before — she and her husband live in Ann Arbor — of how much I miss Jim Dapogny and I had to turn away to control myself.

The heroes are Marty Grosz, guitar and vocal; James Dapogny, piano; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Bob Havens, trombone; Bob Reitmeier, clarinet; Vince Giordano, tuba, string bass; Arnie Kinsella, drums, and the song is the venerable BEALE STREET BLUES, with Marty’s three vocal choruses deeply rooted in Jack Teagarden, which is a lovely thing.

Chris Smith calls this “a joyous and soulful happy blues.” I hope you delight in it as I do:

Yes, these moments of collective ecstasy — and I don’t exaggerate — happen now. I’ve been there and witnessed them. But this assemblage of dear intent artists is not coming our way again, so these minutes are precious. And I would think so even if someone else had held the camera. Bless these fellows all.

May your happiness increase!

The CHAMBER JAZZ CONSORT: TALENT DESERVING WIDER RECOGNITION!

Danyel Nicholas, clarinet, eyeglasses, cufflinks, wall hanging, inscrutable expression, table, chair. Location and occasion unknown.

It’s my pleasure to present a group to you, its members expert and passionate although not all that well-known, its instrumentation clarinet / soprano saxophone, viola, and double bass.

Some of you might say, “That’s seriously unorthodox,” and perhaps you’d be right since groups with this instrumentation aren’t the usual. But the question of “orthodox” instrumentation has long been shaped by players’ desires to reproduce a certain desirable sound — whether Bob Crosby’s Bobcats or Charlie Parker’s quintets. And, of course, the marketplace — music as recognizable reproducible product — was a driving force, so that the Benny Goodman trio gave rise to other clarinet-piano-drums groups.

But left to their own devices, musicians looked for other sympathetic souls who could play. Alto, clarinet, guitar, string bass? Sure. Cornet, bass saxophone, piano, guitar? Let’s go.

Hear for yourself.

Goodness, don’t they swing? — with such dancing rhythms, shifting tonalities, and an overall translucency. And the CONSORT is such a sweet triumph — its precursor is the Basie rhythm section — of complete unity and complete individuality all at once.

I’ll have another. How about something slightly more unexpected?

Why stop now?

What we loosely call “cyberspace” is like the grab bag at the children’s party: sometimes you get a neatly wrapped package of worn socks; sometimes you find a jewel.

I first met Danyel Nicholas (clarinet, soprano saxophone, and imagination) when he left a wonderfully articulated comment on a video of the EarRegulars. I wanted to find out who this thinking person was, and instigated a conversation, which led me to the videos of the CHAMBER JAZZ CONSORT, also featuring Micha Daniels, viola, and Roland Effgen, double bass. The video performances were a sweet ardent breeze to my sensibilities, and I asked Danyel to tell me where all this light-hearted expert fervent joy had come from:

Chamber Jazz Consort was formed after I came back from New York (where I studied with Mark Lopeman and, to a lesser extent, with the late Phil Schaap–history is a very important part of music as my favourite composers and even players tend to be all historic) wrote some arrangements and tried to re-vitalise my old swing band I had left behind and that John Defferary had kind of inherited but was no longer interested in. Those cats however couldn’t handle the amount of writing and detailed notation. Then came the pandemic and we decided to shrink to the minimum size. I had grown up “bilingual” in musical terms and always drifted towards substantial compositions (Jelly Roll, Ellington, Benny Carter) in Jazz. I am not so much interested in Third Stream as Jazz clearly already is a third stream, but I think form and instrumentation are not definitive yet, as many jazz musicians simply don’t have the time to study Lully or Schubert. I like counterpoint and try to write obbligato accompaniment that is not an organic version of band in a box. That’s why I am particularly fond of the EarRegulars and always relished the occasions when Scott Robinson played Trumbauer on a Sarrusophone.

I pursued Danyel a little more, saying that my readers — and I — wanted to know, “Where on earth did this fellow come from?” and got this witty reply:

What were I & where? That’s a tough one!——
In the 80s I studied composition and played piano, in the 90s lute and viol (in Frankfurt/Germany at Clara Schuman’s conservatory…) but played mostly modern jazz (clarinet & alto) as nobody here was seriously playing earlier jazz, or any early music for that matter, especially in my generation. I had however loved Ellington, Jelly, Henderson, or the Missourians ever since friends of my parents, when I was “knee-high to a duck,” gave me stacks of strange records they thought I might like. I did!

In the late 90s I published a book on “exotic” instruments for a museum and taught the clarinet. I also started to collect historic clarinets like the kind Bigard or Simeon used.

In the “oughties” I worked with New Orleans-style people (like Trevor Richards, John Defferary to name only those you might have heard of) and worked endlessly on mouthpieces. In the teens I tried to run a Kansas City-style swing band playing mostly for lindy hoppers, then, in New York, I met Mark Lopeman (playing lead alto with the Nighthawks that evening), took lessons with him for about 2 years (about 3 hours a week!) and realised that writing jazz was the right thing for me to do. Mark is the greatest transcriber I have ever met. And one of the finest reeds! Back in Europe I played with all sorts of musicians who would tell me they’d rather improvise because they didn’t care how the inner voices moved or how the instrumentation sounded. So I felt like Jelly Roll! Hooray!


During the pandemic (hardly any gigs for two years!) I rehearsed the Chamber Jazz Consort and practiced French music of the Louis XIV era.
I also try to keep the “Red Hot Hottentots” alive, an ancient German hot jazz ensemble (with Colin Dawson).


Next I might embark with Capt. Gulliver…

I don’t want Danyel, Micha, and Roland to embark anywhere except for a series of gigs, a concert tour, CD and DVD recording sessions, festival appearances. In the ideal world, they would be the “other” group on a concert bill with a chamber group playing Brahms and Dvorak.

Practical matters. Danyel’s YouTube channel can be found here. As I write this, he has a mingy eleven subscribers, including me. We can do better. And he has posted more than a dozen thrilling videos . . . with a broad imaginative reach. Here’s one I love:

I love this brave friendly wise quirky band, and want them to be better known. Tell your friends!

May your happiness increase!

HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT, AMAZING GIFTS from HOT LIPS PAGE and FRIENDS in MISSOURI (January 9, 1954)

NEW YORK – APRIL 16: Eddie Condon’s Town Hall Jazzopators, jazz musicians, perform on CBS Television. New York, NY. Zutty Singleton on drums, Hot Lips Page, trumpet, James P. Johnson on piano, and Eddie Condon on guitar. Image dated April 16, 1942. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Hot Lips Page is one of my absolute heroes — for fiery emotive playing and more — and to find “new” music by him is a dream. In this case, an audible dream for sure. Although this session has been available on YouTube for three years, which I find inconceivable, I only stumbled across it yesterday, thanks to trumpet man and scholar Yves Francois.

Here is what the blessed YouTube poster, a nephew or niece we bow low to, says.


These 5 tunes (including 2 takes of Struttin’ With Some Barbecue) were recorded on 1-19-54 in my uncle Robert C. Oswald’s basement studio on Mosley Lane in Creve Coeur, Missouri (the house is long gone). This session may have been the last one of Hot Lips Page, who died on 11-5-54; I have been unable to find evidence of any recordings by him after the 1-19-54 date. The musicians were Hot Lips Page, trumpet and vocal; Al Guichard, clarinet; Druie Bess, trombone; Val Thompson, piano; Singleton Palmer, tuba; Lige [Lije] Shaw, drums; Jerry Potter, drums on Struttin’*

*Bob’s notes indicate Jerry Potter on drums for Cornet Chop Suey, a tune not on the tapes or otherwise mentioned in his notes of the session. I suspect that he confused Chop Suey with Barbecue, understandable given that both tunes were early Armstrong recordings that were certainly well known to him. It Had To Be You was very likely played informally as a jam tune, as the recorder was started a few measures late, solos are 64 bars long, and there is constant banter in the background.

Lips — in the last year of his life, with cardiac problems looming and dental problems in attendance — plays like the man Marc Caparone calls ATLAS. Such power, such accuracy, such playful enthusiasm leaping out of the bell of his horn. And his gutty, grainy singing voice on DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE makes that song far less of a cliche. And his blues singing!

It Had To Be You was very likely played informally as a jam tune, as the recorder was started a few measures late, solos are 64 bars long, and there is constant banter in the background.

and the oddly named [Google didn’t help: was PALADIUM USA a club or concert venue?] slow blues, again with peerless singing:

and a swinging melodic feature for Palmer:

and a longer rehearsal of STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE — catch the start of Lips’ second chorus and the way he leads the band out, majestically:

and a “final” version, with an equally heroic rideout:

I’ve included about ½ minute of band discussion preceding the this second version of Struttin’. Toward the end of this segment one hears Bob in the control room reminding the band, “Any time.” His desire to move things along may reflect his use of 1200’ reels of recording tape, each reel good for only 15 minutes of full track recording at 15 inches per second.

Thrilling. And the band has history: Singleton Palmer lived until 1983, played many brass instruments (starting on cornet) and was Basie’s string bassist 1948-49; Guichard was his clarinet player in 1950; Druie Bess played with Jesse Stone in 1927 and with Earl Hines twenty years later; Lije Shaw played drums with Palmer. I can find nothing about Thompson; Jerry Potter might be the same person who played with Tiny Grimes and Red Allen.

What delightful surprises. Atlas doesn’t shrug here, not even for a thirty-second note.

Blessings to Hot Lips Page of Corsicana, Texas, my friends Yves Francois and Marc Caparone, and to Robert C. Oswald and the generous YouTube poster. VERY BLOWINGLY to you all.

May your happiness increase!

GOT MY BAG, GOT MY RESERVATION: LOOKING FORWARD TO THE 2022 REDWOOD COAST MUSIC FESTIVAL (September 29 – October 2, 2022)

Jazz festivals are like people you meet on a first date: some make you look for the exit within five minutes; some you warm to in spite of their odd ways; some you fall for wholeheartedly. The Redwoood Coast Music Festival is my best example of the festival-as-heartthrob.

I’ve only been there once — the green hills and endless vistas that 2019 now seems to be — but I can’t wait to go back. And I spent 2004-20 chasing festival delights in New York, Cleveland, California, England, and Germany, so I have some experience from which to speak.

But why should my enthusiasm matter to you? For all you know, I am being paid wheelbarrows of currency to write this. (I promise you it ain’t so.) Let’s look at some evidence. Caveat: not everyone seen and heard in my 2019 videos is coming to the 2022 festival, but they will serve as a slice of heavenly experience.

Hal Smith’s ON THE LEVEE JAZZ BAND plays IDA:

The Carl Sonny Leyland – Little Charlie Baty Houserockers turn our faces a bright CHERRY RED:

The Jonathan Doyle Swingtet ensures everyone has a CASTLE ROCK:

An interlude for prose.

The poster shows that this is no ordinary jazz festival, relying on a small group of bands and singers within a particular idiom. No, the RCMF offers an aural tasting menu astonishing in its breadth and authenticity.

And hilariously that causes problems — ever since Sir Isaac Newton pointed out that no one can be two places at once, the RCMF makes me want to smack Sir Isaac and say in a loud whine, “Why CAN’T I see / record three groups at three separate venues at once? It’s not fair.” Even I, someone who doesn’t feel the same way about zydeco as I do about swinging jazz, had moral crises at every turn because the variety of delicious choices set out for me eight times a day was overwhelming. (At some festivals, I had time to sit outside and leisurely eat gelato with friends: no such respites at the RCMF. A knapsack full of KIND bars and water bottles just won’t be enough: I need a whole medical staff in attendance.)

What else needs to be said? The prices are more than reasonable, even in these perilous times, for the value-calculation of music per dollar. If you don’t go home sated, you haven’t been trying hard enough. And the couple who seem to be everywhere, helping people out, Mark and Val Jansen, are from another planet where gently amused kindness is the universal language.

Some more music, perhaps?

Walter Donaldson’s LITTLE WHITE LIES by the Jonathan Doyle – Jacob Zimmerman Sextet:

A Charlie Christian tribute featuring Little Charlie Baty and Jamey Cummins on guitar for SEVEN COME ELEVEN:

Asking the musical question, WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH THE MILL? — Elana James, Dave Stuckey, Hal Smith, and assorted gifted rascals:

Charlie Halloran and the Tropicales play TABU. Hand me that glass:

KRAZY KAPERS, irresistibly, by the Jonathan Doyle Swingtet:

BLUE LESTER, from Hal Smith’s SWING CENTRAL:

So . . . even though the world, as delineated in the headlines, is so uncertain, consider ungluing yourself from your chair at the end of September. Carpe the damn diem, as we say.

http://www.rcmfest.org/ is the festival’s website; here they are on Facebook. Make it so that something wonderful is, as Irving Berlin wrote, WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD for you, for all of us:

May your happiness increase!

A HOT HALF-HOUR WITH BARNEY BIGARD AND FRIENDS (HERB HALL, BOB WILBER, PEE WEE ERWIN, JOHNNY GUARNIERI, SAMMY PRICE, MAJOR HOLLEY, TOMMY BENFORD): “La grande parade du Jazz,” July 26, 1975.

The wonderful clarinetist Barney Bigard (think Duke, Louis, Joe Oliver, and Django for prominent associations) appeared often at the Nice Jazz Festival, happily, in many different contexts. He is in splendid form, as are Eddie Hubble and Johnny Guarnieri; in fact, the whole band rocks on an extended PERDIDO, a down-home CREOLE LOVE CALL, and a feature for Major Holley, MACK THE KNIFE.

Details:

Barney Bigard, Herb Hall, Bob Wilber, clarinet; Eddie Hubble, trombone; Pee Wee Erwin, trumpet; Johnny Guarnieri, piano; Major Holley, string bass; Tommy Benford, drums. Introduced by Dick Sudhalter. PERDIDO (nearly thirteen minutes) / CREOLE LOVE CALL (Bigard, Hall, WIlber, Sammy Price, Holley, Benford) / MACK THE KNIFE (featuring Major Holley) (“La grande parade du jazz,” performed July 26, 1975; broadcast August 5, 1976).

P.S. I’ve posted a good deal of Barney’s work at Nice and always found it rewarding. Oddly, some of my armchair critics are very severe about “poor Barney, past his prime,” which I find ungenerous in reference to someone born in 1906 playing in the hot July sun outdoors. No, he played differently in 1927, but how many of us run as quickly as we did at 14? Respect the Elders.

May your happiness increase!

THE CHURCH WAS ROCKING: MORE FROM THE NEW YORK CLASSIC SEVEN: MIKE DAVIS, ANDY SCHUMM, COLIN HANCOCK, SAM CHESS, VINCE GIORDANO, RICKY ALEXANDER, JAY RATTMAN (St. John’s Lutheran Church, New York City, May 18, 2022)

Applause, applause! Photograph by Robert Rothberg.

Fortunately, the wooden benches were sturdy and solidly attached.

Here is the second (glorious) US appearance of the (glorious) hot orchestra, the New York Classic Seven, on May 18, 2022, at St. John’s Lutheran Church on Christopher Street (thanks to Janet Sora Chung). They are Mike Davis, trumpet, vocal, co-leader; Colin Hancock, drums, vocal, co-leader; Ricky Alexander, clarinet, alto saxophone, vocal; Sam Chess, trombone; Andy Schumm, piano; Vince Giordano, banjo; Jay Rattman, bass saxophone.

Hot enough for you?

The Gershwins’ DO DO DO (vocal, Mike Davis):

Sweetly durable: MY MELANCHOLY BABY:

A rousing ALABAMMY BOUND — another of the memorable songs about going South (Andy Schumm, arrangement):

THE WHISPER SONG (getting pastoral, with Mike Davis, vocal and vocal effects; Colin Hancock, whistling):

BUDDY’S HABITS (fashioned after the Red Nichols version):

Appropriately joyous, Mr. Morton’s MILENBERG JOYS:

In honor of the Sunshine Boys, Joe and Dan Mooney, here are Mike Davis and Ricky Alexander negotiating their way through WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA, which Sam Chess bowing low to Tommy Dorsey:

And finally, for this post — Cave canem — a growly low MEAN DOG BLUES, courtesy of Red Nichols and friends:

“What fun!” as Liadain O’Donovan says. More goodness on the way.

May your happiness increase!

A LITTLE TREASURE-BOX: ED HALL, RUBY BRAFF, VIC DICKENSON, KENNY KERSEY, JOHN FIELD, JIMMY CRAWFORD; MAX KAMINSKY, VERNON BROWN; RALPH SUTTON (1944-1960)

The music may not go ’round and ’round, but at the moment my collection certainly extends itself from room to room. Because I can envision myself moving house, as the Brits say, I have been slightly more energetic in my tidying, although Marie Kondo would have walked away in despair a long time ago (Marie: what happens if so many things “spark joy”? Hmmmm?)

A few days ago I noticed three cassette boxes that have been on a bedroom windowsill for some time. One was empty and unlabeled; another was Frank O’Connor reading “My Oedipus Complex,” a souvenir of a past life, and the third, mildly waterlogged and soiled, but with its tape safely inside, was this:

I recognized it as a gift from the late Joe Boughton, which, since Joe left us in 2010, already made it an artifact. Joe was a concert and jazz-party impresario (“Jazz at Chautauqua” among other delights), a record producer, but most often he was a collector and enthusiast who brought a tape recorder to many gigs and traded tapes of his favorites. Our tastes ran in the same directions, and when I had obtained something I knew he would like, I would send him a cassette of it, and he would send me one of his homemade anthologies. (We never called them “mixtapes,” but each of us had cars with cassette decks.)

I didn’t know if the tape would play, but it did, and I can share with you the most remarkable portions . . . saved from the recycling bag that holds disposable plastics.

First, four performances captured on home-recorded acetates, radio broadcasts of Ed Hall’s Sextet from the Savoy Cafe, Boston, WMEX, Nat Hentoff, m.c. May-June 1949: Hall, clarinet; Ruby Braff, cornet; Vic Dickenson, trombone; Kenny Kersey, piano; John Field, string bass; Jimmy Crawford, drums. CHINA BOY / MORE THAN YOU KNOW (glorious Vic) / S’WONDERFUL into program closing / THE MAN I LOVE //

And a mysterious bonus, mysterious because Joe didn’t type in any data about it, BACK HOME IN INDIANA, by (audibly) Max Kaminsky, trumpet; Vernon Brown, trombone; others not known. My friend Sonny McGown, a fine listener and collector himself, wrote in quickly, “The version of Indiana sounded familiar to me and I recognized the clarinetist as Ernie Caceres. The recording is from an Eddie Condon Associated transcription session of 24 October 1944. Others listed for this particular tune on the session date are Kaminsky, Lou McGarity, Jess Stacy, Condon, Bob Haggart, and George Wettling. What a band!”

Then, Ralph Sutton at Sunnie’s Rendezvous in Aspen, Colorado, 1960s, playing Willard RobIson’s I HEARD A MOCKINGBIRD SINGING IN CALIFORNIA.

Thank you, gorgeous improvisers, and thank you, Joe, for sharing the music with me . . . so that more than a dozen years later, I can share it with you.

May your happiness increase!

ELEGANT SAVAGERY: ANDY SCHUMM at THE PIANO, “SHAKE IT AND BREAK IT” (St. John’s Lutheran Church, New York City, May 18, 2022)

We need good news, so here’s something that will gladden the hearts of listeners who like barrelhouse originality: Andy Schumm, so wonderful on all his instruments, will be releasing his first solo piano CD (on Rivermont Records) later this year.

Here is Andy’s riotous piano feature — I call his style Elegant Savagery — at the second (glorious) US appearance of the (glorious) hot orchestra, the New York Classic Seven, on May 18, 2022, at St. John’s Lutheran Church on Christopher Street, New York City (thanks to Janet Sora Chung).

Andy is a spectacular pianist, and what I mean by “Elegant Savagery” has something to do with the confidence and energy with which he approaches the keyboard. His power, his range, his fearlessness. (Some pianists are timid, as if they were anxious: press the keys down too firmly, someone will notice and they will lose the gig.) He is a swashbuckler, a Douglas Fairbanks of the Steinway or perhaps Yamaha. But he does not pound. His aim is beautiful. He knows where he is going, so notes and runs are clear, ringing, not smudged or vague. And he’s improvising: there’s music on the piano in the photograph, but he’s on his own path in the video.

The heat he generates is awe-inspiring; he is orchestral in the best way. And he does the neat trick the greatest artists do: he has heard and absorbed everyone, from Joplin to Confrey to Melrose, Schutt, Seger Ellis, Cassino Simpson, and Alex Hill and beyond, Morton and the stride gang — ferociously precise barrelhouse like a Mack truck on a steep downhill incline (although his tempo is admirably steady) — but he sounds like himself.

Can you tell that I admire his approach and what he creates? Listen.

I can’t wait until the CD (with notes by Andy, in both senses) appears, but in the meantime I will admire his playing whenever I can. (You know, of course, that he is a splendid cornet, clarinet, saxophone, and drum wizard as well . . . )

Thank you for being, Maestro, and for so generously sharing your selves with us.

May your happiness increase!

A GLORIOUS WILDNESS: “LESTER’S BLUES” IS BACK WITH A SECOND ALBUM, “RADIO RHYTHM,” AND YOU WILL BE GLAD.

LESTER’S BLUES is a septet (often with guests) based in Gent, Belgium, and they swing like mad.

In instrumentation, they resemble the Reno Club band and they have much of the same free-wheeling joyous spirit. Basie always started with the saxophone section, so I will also: Tom Callens, tenor, alto, vocal; David Lukacs, clarinet, tenor; Hans Bossuyt, trumpet; Luk Vermeir, piano; Victor Da Costa, guitar; Sam Gersmans, string bass; Frederik Van den Berghe, drums; guests Dree Peremans, trombone; Monique ‘Mo’ Harcum, vocal.

I found their first album so delightful that I did everything but hug the disc. I distrust hyperbole, but called it “a triumph” here. Visit that post, by the way, and you can savor some delightful video evidence. Just be sure that the Depression glass is not too close to the edge of the shelf, because your castle will be rocking.

One of the pleasures of this band is that their repertoire is intelligently spacious. “Basie tributes” often fall back on familiar lines on I GOT RHYTHM, HONEYSUCKLE ROSE, the blues, and a few ballads . . . but JUMPIN’ AT THE WOODSIDE has been picked clean, and many forget that the Basie band was also playing IF I DIDN’T CARE, THE YOU AND ME THAT USED TO BE, and originals like TAXI WAR DANCE, inspirations that LESTER’S BLUES follows. They remember that Lester loved the music he heard on the radio.

Enough with the words, as they say. Some music!

Thinking about the blues idiom and Bessie — in a performance that, to me, imagines a Basie-Bessie performance at Carnegie Hall in 1938 (think FROM SPIRITUALS TO SWING). Totally evocative without raising its voice:

and the expertly frolicsome GEORGIA JUBILEE, credited to Arthur Schutt and a young man from Chicago named Benny:

Several things leap out at me: not only the immense subtlety of the soloists, but the wonderful mix of exactitude and freedom in the ensembles. And the sound! Delicious and warm, never clinical.

In addition to these two performances, the new disc, RADIO RHYTHM, offers LITTLE WHITE LIES, WHEN THE SUN SETS DOWN SOUTH, MOTEN’S SWING, ROLL ‘EM, CLIMAX RAG, I LEFT MY BABY, THAT’S ALL, and the title tune for a total of ten performances both leisurely and compact. The band is comfortably “modern,” in its grooving, but no one needs six choruses to get rolling. Readers with memories will notice associations with Jelly Roll and Mary Lou, Smack, Bechet, and Mister Five by Five in addition to Basie and Lester in a variety of periods.

And what this recording and this band remind me, with gentleness and integrity, is that classic jazz is an unbroken continuum over the last century-plus, with our heroes in contemporary times offering love to the past, while the past says, “Go on and be yourselves! We did it, and that’s why you admire us so.”

I offer as testimony to the greatness of this orchestra and of this session my chunk of enthusiastic prose — but don’t quail, it’s only a little more than six hundred words. Or you can skip to the end and purchase the music.

There are two ways to approach the Past. One is to handle it tenderly as fragile relic, ready to dissolve into dust. Thus, bands play CHANT OF THE WEED from manuscript paper, aiming to sound like a 1933 Don Redman 78 rpm record. Expertly done, it sends shivers down the spine. But for others it is like a parlor trick, an impressionist pretending to be someone else. The other approach acknowledges that our heroes were innovative, horrified at the idea of being “a repeater pencil.” LESTER’S BLUES knows the originals by heart and has taken them to heart, but they are a band with spice. They have a glorious wildness at their center of their deep love of classic jazz. They are respectful of the original arrangements – they do not destroy the cathedral to put up a shopping mall — but within the arrangements they go their own idiosyncratic joyous ways. They create devoted homages to the recorded past, but those prayers to Bluebird Records and the Famous Door are springboards for creativity, not ankle bracelets to keep living artists restricted to older conventions. And what I hear is exultant, even when melancholy and slow.

The musicians have a common love of swing. Sadly, many contemporary players and singers keep “the pocket” or “the groove” at arm’s length, as if swing is Grandpa’s pocket watch and fob in the era of the iPhone. How sad. On the rock of this rhythm section this band could build a new swinging city on a hill. And the soloists! Bless them for their strong personalities, rooted yet playful, and celebrate them for how well they meld into vivid unity. And bless the light-hearted and sublimely effective arrangements, at once roadmaps and wind in the trees.

Each performance has its own singularity. I won’t praise the soloists, nor will I anatomize each performance or tell the history of each song – that’s your delightful homework – but these ten performances fill the room with light and joy. And more: each track is at once music and beyond music: one is a Turner landscape, another a Jacob Lawrence, a Calder, a Kandinsky.

None of this is by accident. Tom Callens told me, “We have a total of ten tracks which were chosen out of a bigger pool of songs. We chose these for their freshness, special arrangements, strong melodies, less popularly known (except ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down & Out’ of course), or just because we have an emotional attachment to them. That’s why it’s not a concept or tribute album. It’s just us trying to play really well, having a new repertoire, a cohesive and rhythmic sound, and enjoying the ride. We recorded at the same place as earlier and this time did it using one stereo ribbon mic (in blumlein configuration), positioning ourselves around it and adjusting our positions to mix the individual volume levels. The L-R signal was fed through a state of the art dual tube microphone preamp and sent straight to two-track tape. Tracks were recorded in one go (one-takes) so there’s no editing involved.”

Just like the old days, but brand-new. Passion and exactitude; personal freedom within defined frameworks, power and airy lightness (like Jimmy Rushing on the dance floor). And it all fuses in the nicest communal way. LESTER’S BLUES feels like “a band,” spiritually: a happy group united for a communal purpose. I imagine them getting together for a celebratory meal after the session, laughing and enjoying what they have created. I am sure that Pres, Basie, Jo, Benny, Bessie, Jelly Roll, Mister Five by Five, and Charlie (Christian and Parker) are grinning their faces off. You will be, too.

Yes, music for dancers, but also music for people who pat their foot and grin while seated in front of their computer and speakers. Music for people who understand joy, recognize it, and avidly choose it.

You can find both their albums (or downloads) here.

May your happiness increase!

WHAT’S HOT IS HOLY: THE NEW YORK CLASSIC SEVEN GOES TO CHURCH (Part One): MIKE DAVIS, COLIN HANCOCK, RICKY ALEXANDER, SAM CHESS, ANDY SCHUMM, VINCE GIORDANO, JAY RATTMAN (St. John’s Lutheran Church, New York City, May 18, 2022)

Jazz doesn’t often end up in church (or similar religious institutions) which is a pity, because its creativity shouts hosannas to the universe, and in secular terms, it praises the great glory of being alive in this cosmos. A great solo or ensemble or beautifully-turned phrase is not “like” a prayer; it is a prayer. And the most rewarding improvisations are authentic and thus to be revered. So it was so rich an experience when a great jazz orchestra romped, shouted, whispered, and exulted in a lovely New York City church (built in 1821) last night.

Here’s one side of the septet:

and the other:

and a much better shot by my friend since 1972, the esteemed Rob Rothberg:

It was the second (glorious) US appearance of the (glorious) hot orchestra, the New York Classic Seven, on May 18, 2022, at St. John’s Lutheran Church on Christopher Street (thanks to Janet Sora Chung). They are Mike Davis, trumpet, vocal, co-leader; Colin Hancock, drums, vocal, co-leader; Ricky Alexander, clarinet, alto saxophone, vocal; Sam Chess, trombone; Andy Schumm, piano; Vince Giordano, banjo; Jay Rattman, bass saxophone.

And they rocked the room. Here are their first half-dozen selections.

FIDGETY FEET:

I NEED LOVIN’ (vocal by Mike):

CORNFED (for Red and Miff):

ARE YOU SORRY? (you know the answer is NO):

Fats’ MY FATE IS IN YOUR HANDS (vocal by Mike):

and HONOLULU BLUES:

There will be three more blogposts delineating the joys of this evening. Fervent thanks go to Janet Sora Chung and to the gentlemen of the ensemble.

I know this group would like opportunities to play for the widest variety of audiences, and their book is huge (and, as you can hear, varied). Promoters, producers, club-owners, concert organizers out there?

More to come.

May your happiness increase!

“IT’S ALL JELLY ROLL STYLE”: PENNSYLVANIA HEAT WAVE, PART TWO: THE NEW YORK CLASSIC SEVEN, Presented by the Tri-State Jazz Society: COLIN HANCOCK, MIKE DAVIS, ANDY SCHUMM, RICKY ALEXANDER, JOSH HOLCOMB, JOSH DUNN, JAY RATTMAN (Wallingford, Pennsylvania: May 16, 2022)

There they are, in all their hot pastoral glory: the New York Classic Seven, co-led by Colin Hancock, drums; Mike Davis, trumpet and vocal; with Andy Schumm, piano; Jay Rattman, bass saxophone; Josh Dunn, banjo and guitar; Josh Holcomb, trombone; Ricky Alexander, clarinet and alto saxophone. Their concert — two days ago, Sunday, May 15, 2022 — was made possible by the Tri-State Jazz Society (thanks to Bill Hoffman, as always, for his efficient kindnesses). I am told that the whole concert was live-streamed on YouTube and Facebook, but I wanted to bring my camera and gear there myself, so that the OAO and I could enjoy it hot. As we did.

When an interviewer asked Jelly Roll Morton, late in Jelly’s life, about jazz “styles,” and unrolled a list of them, Jelly was derisive, “Hell, it’s all Jelly Roll style!” Here are two jubilant examples to prove his point: hot music performances of the highest order.

MILENBERG (or MILNEBERG) JOYS:

Joys for sure. Colin told us that this version owed something to the recordings of New Orleans cornetist Johnny DeDroit — wait for the extended ending.

And the closing number of the concert, GOOD OLD NEW YORK (“Knife and fork / bottle and a cork / That’s the way you spell ‘New York’ are some words from the lyrics — true today):

Reiterating the obvious. These are extraordinarily gifted musicians who make music that others say is dead cavort joyously. And although we treasure our Morton Victors in any form, living musicians playing music in real time and space are an immense gift, and such a gift needs to be nurtured. Support jazz societies; make donations if you can’t or won’t be there in person; buy musicians’ CDs; go to concerts and gigs.

Jazz surely is nowhere near dead, but every time an audience member turns away, it gets closer to the morgue.

May your happiness increase!

PENNSYLVANIA HEAT WAVE: THE NEW YORK CLASSIC SEVEN, Presented by the Tri-State Jazz Society: COLIN HANCOCK, MIKE DAVIS, ANDY SCHUMM, RICKY ALEXANDER, JOSH HOLCOMB, JOSH DUNN, JAY RATTMAN (Wallingford, Pennsylvania: May 16, 2022)

I could call this post OUTSTANDING IN THEIR FIELD, but that would be wrong.

There they are, in all their hot pastoral glory: the New York Classic Seven, co-led by Colin Hancock, drums; Mike Davis, trumpet and vocal; with Andy Schumm, piano; Jay Rattman, bass saxophone; Josh Dunn, banjo and guitar; Josh Holcomb, trombone; Ricky Alexander, clarinet and alto saxophone. Their concert — yesterday, Sunday, May 15, 2022 — was made possible by the Tri-State Jazz Society (thanks to Bill Hoffman, as always, for his efficient kindnesses). I am told that the whole concert was live-streamed on YouTube and Facebook, but I wanted to bring my camera and gear there myself, so that the OAO and I could enjoy it hot. As we did.

Here’s a hot performance of Tiny Parham’s JUNGLE CRAWL, transcribed by Mike Davis — so authentic, so slippery-lovely. (You know, Dick Wellstood said that the best jazz had “grease and funk.” The white walls of the little hall still gleamed when the concert was over, but a kind of lively unfettered human vitality was in the air:

Someone sitting near me said, when this was all through, “That was awesome,” and I agree. There’s more to come. You can find the whole concert, live-streamed, here — for free, but people who are hep to the jive will find the donation box and toss some love to the Society and their musicians. It’s only right.

And just to reiterate: “Jazz is dead?” “Young people today have no knowledge of the jazz tradition before Coltrane?” Derisive noises from your occasionally-humble correspondent.

May your happiness increase!