Category Archives: Hotter Than That

The ON THE LEVEE BAND at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (Part One: Nov. 24, 2018)

Official Jazz history, which tends to compress and simplify, has often portrayed Edward “Kid” Ory as both a limited trombonist and a man lodged in the earliest decades of the music.  Both of these suppositions are wrong; as far as the first, ask any trombonist how easy it is to play what Ory played, and for the second, Ory’s later groups played for dancers in the Forties and Fifties and thus he was very much aware of the subtleties of the Swing Era-and-beyond four-four rhythmic pulse, as his later recordings show.  Drummer / scholar Hal Smith’s ON THE LEVEE JAZZ BAND takes its name from a club Ory ran in California, and its musical inspiration from those later performances.

Unlike some quite respected traditional jazz bands, the OTL floats rather than pounds, and its horn soloists clearly enjoy the freedom of playing with and among such gliding pulsations.  It’s their secret, one that perceptive listeners enjoy, even if they are not aware of the swinging feel of the group.  At times, they remind me happily of the ad hoc groups of Swing Era veterans recruited to perform “Dixieland” tunes c. 1959-60: think of Buck Clayton, Vic Dickenson, and Buster Bailey over a grooving rhythm section — playing the opening ensembles correctly and respectfully but going for themselves in solos.

In addition to Hal, the band as it performed at the 39th San Diego jazz Fest featured Charlie Halloran, trombone, Ben Polcer, trumpet, Joe Goldberg, clarinet; Kris Tokarski, piano, Alex Belhaj, guitar, Josh Gouzy, string bass. These selections come from a set the band did on November 24, 2018.

AT A GEORGIA CAMP MEETING:

TISHOMINGO BLUES, with a vocal by Ben:

Joe Oliver’s SNAG IT:

SAN, named for a King:

DUSTY RAG, a feature for Kris, Josh, and Hal — reimagining classic ragtime in New Orleans — that means Morton — style:

SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL:

HOW COME YOU DO ME LIKE YOU DO?:

HIGH SOCIETY / WITHOUT YOU FOR AN INSPIRATION:

What a pleasure this band is.  And here is their website, as well as news of their debut CD here . And here is my review.  I approve!  And the band also has the Gretchen Haugen Seal of Approval, which is not an accolade easily won.

Catch them at a gig; buy the CD.  Have a good time.

May your happiness increase!

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HAPPINESS IS JUST A THING CALLED JELLY: THE COMPLETE MORTON PROJECT, NOW COMPLETE: ANDREW OLIVER and DAVID HORNIBLOW

Why are these two men so elated?

Andrew (left), piano, and David (right) reeds, otherwise known to a loyal contingent of supporters as the Complete Morton Project, recently announced on Facebook that they have recorded the last of the Jelly Roll Morton compositions they set out to record more than a few months ago.  By my count, they have created 94 videos.  I’ve fallen behind, so this post is an affectionate but tardy attempt to gather up what you and I might have missed.  Eleven of the best!  And for inspired unstuffy commentary on the Morton cornucopia, visit  Andrew’s blog here.

CROC-O-DILE CRADLE, never recorded, existing only in manuscript (found, I believe, by Vince Giordano):

The most excellent WOLVERINE BLUES (not a blues) where David begins with Volly DeFaut’s 1925 clarinet solo:

CREEPY FEELING, an extended meditation from the Library of Congress sessions:

LONDON BLUES, courtesy of Kurt Nauck III

LONDON BLUES, which has a long pedigree:

PONCHARTRAIN, named for the New Orleans lake:

CRAZY CHORDS, which has fragments of 1930 modernism here and there, and David’s interpolation of the “rather dreadful” clarinet solo from the recording:

STOP AND GO, from Morton’s last compositions for big band:

MUSHMOUTH SHUFFLE (I’d love to know the thought or stimulus behind many of Jelly’s titles):

SUPERIOR RAG:

A late frolic, SWINGING THE ELKS, with a particularly exuberant solo by Andrew before David picks up the bass saxophone to solo on this flying march:

SPORTING HOUSE RAG, recorded late, sounds like an early showpiece: here, again, scored for piano and bass saxophone:

May your happiness increase!

THE ART OF THE DUET: MARC CAPARONE / CONAL FOWKES at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (Nov. 24, 2018)

Conal Fowkes, piano; Marc Caparone, cornet, at the 2017 San Diego Jazz Fest.

Back by popular demand!  The video I posted two days ago of Marc Caparone, cornet, and Conal Fowkes, piano, playing PRISONER OF LOVE, garnered a good deal of enthusiastic response.  You can see it here.  And here are two more from that same day at the San Diego Jazz Fest — most heroically, musicians improvising at (I think) 11 AM.  Very hot, very noble.

The Gershwin classic, now rarely played by improvisers, STRIKE UP THE BAND:

and the 1936 pop tune irrevocably associated with Billie and Bunny, NO REGRETS:

What playful heroes these two are, and how they create surprising joys.

May your happiness increase!

“PRISONER OF LOVE”: MARC CAPARONE and CONAL FOWKES at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (November 24, 2018)

I was very moved by the duet Marc Caparone, cornet, and Conal Fowkes, piano, created on November 24, 2018, at the San Diego Jazz Fest — a passionate improvisation on Russ Columbo’s PRISONER OF LOVE.  And I wanted to share it with you.

But first I have to say, with a grin, that the internet teaches you things you didn’t expect: the title PRISONER OF LOVE brings up a variety of tattoos, a book by Jean Genet, recordings by Perry Como, Coleman Hawkins, James Brown, Billy Eckstine, and Tiny Tim . . . when all I wanted was this, first the Columbo version so you could hear the lyrics.

The magnificent 1956 Lester Young – Teddy Wilson – Gene Ramey – Jo Jones recording you can and find for yourself.

Incidentally, Columbo is listed as sole composer on the HMV issue above, but Leo Robin is also credited with the rather masochistic lyrics, and I’ve seen the name of Clarence Gaskill added as well:

How lovely he sounds!  (I wonder which version Lester was inspired by.) But here are Conal and Marc, creating another passionate expression of what Louis called “Tonation and Phrasing”:

Their version is absolutely beautiful: a small triumph of passion and control, of empathy and expertise.

May your happiness increase!

OH, HOW THEY SWING! (Part Three): DANNY TOBIAS, WARREN VACHÉ, PHILIP ORR, PAT MERCURI, JOE PLOWMAN (September 22, 2018: 1867 Sanctuary, Ewing, New Jersey)

The proceedings, photographed from above by Lynn Redmile

I apologize to all concerned: because of being overwhelmed and a filing system that I keep in my overwhelmed head, this third part of a glorious afternoon got away from me for a bit.  But all is not lost!  And here is the music created in the first and second sections.

I don’t know who took the picture of Warren (left) and Danny (right) but it is quite nice:

However, it leaves out the rest of the heroes: Philip Orr, piano; Pat Mercuri, guitar; Joe Plowman, string bass.  Here are the four remaining performances — quiet mastery by artists who really know and feel what heartfelt improvisation is:

A Tobias original (based on a song about soporific nature) dedicated to the much-missed Tony Di Nicola:

Harold Arlen, always welcome, as is Danny’s playing the Eb alto horn:

A gorgeous TOO LATE NOW:

And the real national anthem:

What beautiful warm inspired music these heroes make.

May your happiness increase!

I HAVE A NEW DESTINATION FOR FEBRUARY 7-10, 2019. CARE TO JOIN ME?

Here’s the first clue: 

and the second:

Although February is brief on the calendar, it can be a long month for those of us, in New York and elsewhere, waiting for a thaw.  I have a cure I’ll be trying out in 2019 — the Fresno Sounds of Mardi Gras — which takes place from February 7-10 in the DoubleTree by Hilton in Fresno, California.  Rumors that I have fallen in with some strange linguistic cult (Pismo, CA, in October 2018, and now another place ending in a vowel) just aren’t true, and the people spreading such gossip should stop.  No, the reasons I’ll be there are musical (and the opportunity to meet some California hot-jazz pals).  Here’s a sample, in a video by Bill Schneider from 2018:

Bob told me that the band he’s bringing in 2019 has got the same personnel: himself, Doug Finke, Kim Cusack, Ray Skjelbred, Scott Anthony, Jim Maihack, and Ray Templin.

and there’s Grand Dominion, featuring Clint Baker, Gerry Green, Jeff Hamilton, and other spreaders of the gospel (video by Franklin Clay):

and Dave Stuckey and the Hot House Gang.  Since they are new to Fresno, I can’t draw on the Mardi Gras video trove but bring forward this delightfully raucous one, shot at the Saturday-night swing dance in 2016 at the San Diego Jazz Fest, featuring Dan Barrett, Nate Ketner, Corey Gemme, and other rascals:

Dave tells me that the Fresno Hot House Gang will have Marc Caparone, who’s also appearing with High Sierra on one of that venerable band’s last gigs, Nate Ketner, Sam Rocha, and David Aus on piano.

Here is the Facebook page for the 2019 blast.  And here is the complete band listing (I believe) for 2019 . . . click http://www.fresnodixie.com/badges-online for details about badges, pins, sponsorships, and other nifty artifacts.

I’ll be leaving my snow shovel behind for a weekend in early February, and I won’t miss it.  Even if there’s no snow where you are, the hot music is better than any pharmaceutical I know.  See you there.

May your happiness increase!

PISMO JOYS (Part Four): “WOMEN OF THE BLUES”: CREOLE SYNCOPATORS featuring VALERIE JOHNSON (October 27, 2018, Jazz Jubilee by the Sea)

The Creole Syncopators is a well-established sturdy hot band, full of grit and drive.  They have their boots  laced all the way up, if you know that idiom.  Legend has it that tourists photographing flowers in the woods have come charging out of the forest, cameras dangling around their necks, after the first twelve-bar choruses have been played.  The flowers, sad to say, had to stay where they were.

But I’d never heard them before the 2018 Pismo Jazz Jubilee by the Sea, which is my loss.  Marc Caparone, cornetist, singer, and dear friend, said, “Want to hear the band I played with when I was fifteen?” and I certainly did.  Here are some highlights of the band’s “Women of the Blues,” led by reedman Jeff Beaumont, and featuring vocals by Valerie Johnson, who digs deep.  I knew Marc’s father, the wonderful trombonist Dave Caparone, Katie Cavera on string bass, and Carl Sonny Leyland on piano.  Shirley Beaumont, Jeff’s wife, is playing washboard; the plectrum banjoist is Todd Temanson; Al Ingram is on tenor banjo.

SEE SEE RIDER, graphic, funny, and heartfelt:

Valerie explains it all with the Ida Cox composition, WILD WOMEN DON’T HAVE THE BLUES, and the band hits a groove:

WAS I DRUNK? — a song whose pedigree I investigated: written by Chick Endor and Charlie Farrell, popularized in the Ziegfeld Follies by Dorothy Dell and later recorded by Georgia White.  Valerie suggests that the night’s activities were worth the hangover and the stern lecture:

an authentic duet for piano and vocal, TROUBLE IN MIND:

PAPA DIP, in honor of Little Louis, written by Lil Hardin:

and a closing JELLY BEAN BLUES:

What follows might be unsubtle, but with several of the most venerable bands deciding to retire, I hope that festival promoters listen closely to the Creole Syncopators.  They’ve done their homework; they put on a good show without being in the least inauthentic.  And — if it’s not obvious — I delighted in them.  I hope to see them at California festivals in 2019 and beyond.

May your happiness increase!