Category Archives: Ideal Places

BABY, BABY, ALL THE TIME! MORE FROM MARTY GROSZ and the SELF-PRESERVATION ORCHESTRA: DANNY TOBIAS, JACK SAINT CLAIR, JIM GICKING, VINCE GIORDANO, JIM LAWLOR (Awbury Arboretum, Philadelphia: June 23, 2021)

A wonderful evening! Marty, guitar, vocal, badinage, repartee, stories, insults; Danny Tobias, trumpet, Eb alto horn, Jack Saint Clair, tenor saxophone and clarinet; Jim Gicking, trombone; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone; tuba; string bass; Jim Lawlor, drums.

Let the impatient consumers of pure music be warned: I’ve retained large chunks of Marty’s introductory screeds. Yes, you can scroll forward . . . but in some decades, should we all be around, hearing Marty’s voice and comedy will seem a great gift. (Wouldn’t you like to hear Omer Simeon introducing the next number? I certainly would.) Thanks to Barry Wahrhaftig for making all this happen.

BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME?

Later in the evening . . . the light had changed, but the hot-jazz spirits were still in attendance, for this cheerfully homemade performance — not the perfection of recording studio, but full of life.

My adolescent self demands that I point out that Benny Hill used to announce this song as EVERY BABY LOVES MY BODY, which for some, might be true. However, most know it as EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY:

There’s more to come from this concert, blessedly. Marty would say mockingly, “Isn’t that interesting?” but this music rises above mockery.

May your happiness increase!

“OH, SISTER, AIN’T THAT HOT?” and TWO FOR LOUIS: DUKE HEITGER, BOB BARNARD, BOB HAVENS, BOBBY GORDON, JIM DAPOGNY, MARTY GROSZ, VINCE GIORDANO, KEVIN DORN (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 28, 2006)

Where it happened!

From 2004 until its end in 2017, under a new name, the Jazz at Chautauqua weekend jazz party provided some of the best happy musical moments of my life.  I didn’t always have a video camera, nor was I always allowed or encouraged to record the musical proceedings.  (Joe Boughton was always kind to me, but stories of his fierce response to disobedience had preceded him.)  But I did have a pocket, and in it I hid a Sony digital recorder, which captured some uplifting moments. If you shut your eyes and imagine being there, transcendent hot sounds will transform the next twenty minutes, recorded during the informal Thursday-night session.  You’ll hear some rustling (the penalty of sub rosa recording) and the splendid drum accents explode, but shouldn’t they?

The joys are created by Bob Barnard, cornet; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Bob Havens, trombone; Bobby Gordon, clarinet; Jim Dapogny, piano; Vince Giordano, string bass; Marty Grosz, guitar; Kevin Dorn, drums: OH, SISTER, AIN’T THAT HOT? / DIPPERMOUTH BLUES / SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH:

I do hope Carl saved a piece of cake for Marty. These three performances are like a whole bakery to me, and they haven’t become stale after fifteen years.

May your happiness increase!

SWEET SOUNDS FROM SWING 46 (Part Two): DAN BLOCK, GABRIELLE STRAVELLI, MICHAEL KANAN, PAT O’LEARY (July 13, 2021)

The very place: Swing 46, 349 West 46th Street, New York City, where good music is fresh, hot, and sweet.
Dan, Pat, and Gabrielle: photo by Jon De Lucia.
Michael Kanan, photo by Jon De Lucia.
Gabrielle, photo by Jon De Lucia.

On July 13, which was an ordinary Tuesday, late afternoon, Dan Block, tenor saxophone and clarinet; Gabrielle Stravelli, vocal; Michael Kanan, piano; Pat O’Leary, string bass, created wonderful music for all to savor. And savor we did. In my first posting from that evening, they mingled Lester Young, George and Ira, Kurt Weill, Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler . . . gorgeously here. But I said there was more to come, and I wouldn’t want to deceive anyone.

Here are three more: two Ellingtons, one Lerner and Loewe.

ALL TOO SOON (with Ben Webster at the bar, feeling it):

DO NOTHIN’ TILL YOU HEAR FROM ME:

ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE:

Yes, more to come (a cosmological quartet, to pique your curiosities).

And a few words about Swing 46 — it was a pleasure to be there in a congenial atmosphere — a large food-and-drink menu and a very welcoming staff. Next Tuesday, Dan will be back with the delightful Hilary Gardner (swinging, surprising, and introspective) and other luminaries to be announced, from 5:30 to 8:30. And at 9, the irreplaceable Michael Hashim leads noble friends — who have included Chris Flory and Kevin Dorn — in an impromptu session. That’s 349 West 46th Street, the north side, between Eighth and Ninth Avenue. Leave your bedroom: put down the phone: Netflix will be here when you come back: what’s in the freezer is safe. Hear some restorative live music among like-minded friends.

May your happiness increase!

SWEET SOUNDS FROM SWING 46 (Part One): DAN BLOCK, GABRIELLE STRAVELLI, MICHAEL KANAN, PAT O’LEARY (July 13, 2021)

Four of my musical heroes made wonderful sounds the other night at Swing 46 (that’s 349 West 46th Street, New York City): Dan Block, tenor saxophone and clarinet; Gabrielle Stravelli, vocal; Michael Kanan, piano; Pat O’Leary, string bass.

Dan Block, Pat O’Leary, Gabrielle Stravelli. Photo by Jon De Lucia.
Gabrielle Stravelli. Photograph by Jon De Lucia.

Four heroes, five wonderful performances. It was a Tuesday night; the gig went from 5:30 to 8:30 — hardly the day and time one would expect aesthetic firework displays, but they certainly happened.

Michael Kanan. Photograph by Jon De Lucia.

TICKLE-TOE — an instrumental tribute to and embodiment of Lester Young, so happily. Savor the first ballad chorus!:

SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME — could anything be more tender?:

Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler give us friendly rules for living and romance, AS LONG AS I LIVE:

Even though it was becoming dark, here’s a frolicsome DAY IN, DAY OUT:

A sweetly pensive Kurt Weill medley scored for the trio — LOST IN THE STARS / HERE I’LL STAY:

And a few words about Swing 46 — it was a pleasure to be there in a congenial atmosphere — a large food-and-drink menu and a very welcoming staff. Next Tuesday, Dan will be back with the delightful Hilary Gardner (swinging, surprising, and introspective) and other luminaries to be announced, from 5:30 to 8:30. And at 9, the irreplaceable Michael Hashim leads noble friends — who have included Chris Flory and Kevin Dorn — in an impromptu session. That’s 349 West 46th Street, the north side, between Eighth and Ninth Avenue. Leave your bedroom: put down the phone: Netflix will be here when you come back: what’s in the freezer is safe. Hear some restorative live music among like-minded friends.

May your happiness increase!

BRIAN KELLOCK’S “MARTY PARTY,” EDINBURGH JAZZ and BLUES FESTIVAL, JULY 21, 2021: LIVE AND ONLINE.

I confess that a few days ago the Scottish pianist Brian Kellock was not known to me. Yet in under an hour of listening, I’ve become a fan, an advocate, an enthusiast. Some evidence for this burst of feeling: here’s Brian playing Richard Rodgers’ WAIT ‘TIL YOU SEE HER on his 2019 solo CD, BIDIN’ MY TIME:

What I hear first is a kind of clarity: Brian is a sensitive player but someone who’s definite, deeply into The Song and committed to letting its glories be heard. But he is not simply a curator of melody, someone handing the linen-wrapped relic to us to adore. He has imagination and scope; he takes chances. He has a beautiful touch, with technique and power in reserve. And did I say that he swings? Consider this:

Obviously someone to admire, who’s listened but doesn’t copy, who goes his own delightful ways. He’s deep into the only worthwhile activity: absorbing all the influences and stirring them together to come up with himself.

But wait! There’s more . . . let me tell you some things you haven’t heard yet.

Scottish jazz star Brian Kellock has put together a brand-new line-up to celebrate the music and spirit of one of the living legends of the Edinburgh Jazz Festival: the American rhythm guitarist, vocalist, and raconteur Marty Grosz, who recently turned 91.

Brian Kellock (piano), Ross Milligan (guitar) & Roy Percy (bass) are all fans who relished every opportunity to catch Marty when he visited the Edinburgh Jazz Festival in the 1990s and 2000s.

Indeed, 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of Marty’s very first visit to Edinburgh. And who did he play with during that first visit? A young Brian Kellock.

The joy of a Marty Grosz gig is that it is fun. Jazz shouldn’t – in his view – be po-faced or serious. It should be entertaining – just as it was when he was growing up and his favourite musicians included Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, all of whom knew how to put on a show.

His selection of tunes has always been highly distinctive and original: whereas other musicians pull the same old numbers out of the bag wherever they play, Marty – also known as a member of 1970s supergroup Soprano Summit – built an international solo career on the tunes that jazz had forgotten. And then he put his own imaginative twist on them. If he had a small group, he would dream up a memorable arrangement, often on the spot, and if he was playing solo, there would be so much colour in his playing that you’d forget you were only listening to one guy.

At the Marty Party, Brian will – as Marty often has – play 20 minutes as a soloist before Ross and Roy join him onstage. This will be an affectionate and fun homage to a longstanding Edinburgh Jazz Festival favourite; a musician who, although he no longer travels to Scotland, continues to delight aficionados (and the rest of their households) with his generous back catalogue of recordings, by a range of bands with such witty names as the Orphan Newsboys, the Paswonky Serenaders, Marty Grosz and His Swinging Fools, and Marty Grosz and His Hot Puppies.

Brian Kellock says: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be playing music associated with Marty Grosz at my first ‘live’ gig since before the pandemic. Marty’s records have boosted my spirits many times over the last 18 months, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the joy of playing jazz in front of an audience again. I’m delighted to be introducing a new line-up, with Roy and Ross, and hoping that this core combo will be joined by a horn player or two for future Marty-inspired gigs.”

Brian Kellock’s Marty Party, Assembly Roxy, Wednesday July 21 at 2pm – live and online. Tickets from edinburghjazzfestival.com

As a former college professor of mine used to say, most endearingly, “I commend this to you.”

May your happiness increase!

CELEBRATING GEORGE BARNES at 100: The GEORGE BARNES – RUBY BRAFF Quartet (MICHAEL MOORE, WAYNE WRIGHT) at the Grande Parade du Jazz, July 21, 1974

Let me start with a few numbers: George Barnes was born one hundred years ago (as of July 17, 1921) and this session was performed and recorded a few days shy of forty-seven years ago. I first heard George on recordings with the Lawson-Haggart Jazz Band and with Louis Armstrong (the MUSICAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY set) and what caught my ear was a kind of daring playfulness.

He was identifiable from the first note, his sound and attack so very distinctive, and his phrases didn’t follow predictable logic, although he lived for strong statements of the melody ornamented with pistol-shot single notes. Yet his unerring rhythmic sense made it natural for him to move fluidly around the beat, on it, ahead, or behind, and his solos were fulfilling compositions on their own. In addition, he was a peerless ensemble player — making the most formulaic musical entree well-seasoned and spicy — clearly delighting in what he could and did add.

He sounded both like a wizard of drama and a puckish stand-up comic, an adventurous soul, startling and joyous. Or maybe he was Douglas Fairbanks Jr., afraid of nothing and always landing beautifully, swing sword drawn. In this, I think his peers are not simply guitarists (although guitarists speak of him with reverence) but the greatest players of his century, people like Lester Young, Sidney Catlett, and Count Basie.

When I was old enough to venture out of my room and to hear music in ways that didn’t require me to stare at the speaker grille, I was fortunate to hear George in New York City between 1973-75, as a guiding genius of the quartet also featuring Ruby Braff. I had worshipped at the Braff shrine for a few years before, but, listening to the tapes and recordings of the quartet, I am sorry that George’s name didn’t come first — as I have it here. Cornet trumps guitar in these recordings, but sometimes in volume, not in inventiveness. The group didn’t last long, but when they were all traveling the same road, their music was completely memorable, disciplined yet soaring.

Here is a fifty-minute concert by the quartet at the Nice Jazz Festival / the Grande Parade du Jazz — ten marvels all in a row. Lyricism, sharp turns, hilarity, and pleasure, and the only problem is that the average listener might aurally gobble down the whole program at a sitting — ingesting too quickly to be properly astonished. Heard at one’s leisure, these performances glisten, and following what George is doing is always a revelation.

George Barnes, electric guitar; Ruby Braff, cornet; Michael Moore, string bass; Wayne Wright, rhythm guitar. Grande Parade du Jazz, Nice, France, July 21, 1974. NO ONE ELSE BUT YOU / ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET / THE MAN I LOVE / IT’S WONDERFUL / SOMEBODY LOVES ME / IT DON’T MEAN A THING (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) / SOLITUDE / I GOT RHYTHM / MEAN TO ME / OH, THAT KISS //

I never spoke to Mister Barnes when I saw the Quartet, even though I was sometimes very close to the band — I was timid, which I am sorry was the case, but now I wish him a most joyous centennial and thank him for the hours of inventiveness he gave us so freely. The good news is that his legacy is so beautifully maintained under the title of the George Barnes Legacy Collection: “recorded music (including repackaged releases of select albums and singles), compositions & arrangements, teaching methods, photographs, documents, and video & film footage, curated with care by his daughter Alexandra and his late wife Evelyn.” Visit the site here; be entranced and enlightened by the genius that is George Barnes.

May your happiness increase!

CLARINETS, ANYONE? BARNEY BIGARD, KENNY DAVERN, BOB WILBER, EDDIE DANIELS, TONY COE, DICK HYMAN, JACK SEWING, J.C. HEARD (Grande Parade du Jazz, July 15, 1977)

Kenny Davern

Where were you on July 15, 1977? I don’t remember, and I think I’m not alone. I hope that many of my readers were fortunate enough to be at the Grande Parade du Jazz, watching yet another clarinet spectacular featuring Barney, Kenny, Bob, Eddie, and Tony, supported by Dick Hyman, piano; Jack Sewing, string bass; J.C. Heard, drums. Now you can be there, for BYE BYE BLUES / MOONGLOW / TAKE THE “A” TRAIN — classic repertoire enabling all the players to display their most vivid individualities:

How marvelous that such a thing happened, and that it was captured so that we can savor it, nearly half a century later.

May your happiness increase!

HEARD ON THE STREET: JON-ERIK KELLSO, MATT MUNISTERI, JAY RATTMAN, RICKY ALEXANDER (The EarRegulars at The Ear Out, June 27, 2021)

Jay, Ricky, Matt.
Jon-Erik.
The very Place. (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City.)

CLEMENTINE (from New Orleans):

LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER (either Hudson or Greenwich, depending on your direction):

I’ve already posted MY BUDDY, but I think it’s sublime:

and just in case you missed it, here is I WANT TO BE HAPPY, with Danny Tobias joining in:

These wonderful explosions and expressions — with a rotating stock company of swinging friends — are happening every Sunday afternoon, 1 to 3:30. What gifts we are being given!

May your happiness increase!

“CAN’T YOU SEE HOW HAPPY WE WOULD BE?”: DANNY TOBIAS AND THE SAFE SEXTET with MARY LOU NEWNAM (RANDY REINHART, MARK SHANE, PAT MERCURI, JOE PLOWMAN, JIM LAWLOR): Pennsylvania Jazz Society, June 13, 2021)

Photograph by Lynn Redmile.

Classic songs, played with expertise and feeling, by Danny Tobias, trumpet, Eb alto horn; Jim Lawlor, drums; Mark Shane, piano; Randy Reinhart, trombone, euphonium; Pat Mercuri, guitar; Joe Plowman, string bass; (guest) Mary Lou Newnam, tenor saxophone . . . thanks to the Pennsylvania Jazz Society.

SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME (Randy) / BODY AND SOUL (Mary Lou) / MOOD INDIGO (Danny):

Charlie Shavers’ UNDECIDED:

ONE HOUR, or, for the pedantic among us, IF I COULD BE WITH YOU ONE HOUR TONIGHT:

And a lovely swinging beverage, TEA FOR TWO, from which I draw my title:

A wonderfully rewarding afternoon . . . and you haven’t seen or heard all of it yet.

May your happiness increase!

“YOUR BUDDY MISSES YOU”: THE EarRegulars PLAY WALTER DONALDSON at The Ear Out: MATT MUNISTERI, JON-ERIK KELLSO, RICKY ALEXANDER, JAY RATTMAN (June 27, 2021)

Technical expertise is a great thing, but even greater when it is in the service of emotion, as it is here.

MY BUDDY is sometimes swung hard — the Hampton-Hawkins version of 1939 — but this performance (song choice and tempo by Maestro Munisteri) continues to swing while reminding us without words that the 1922 Walter Donaldson / Gus Kahn song was written because Donaldson’s cherished fiancee had died. Gus Kahn’s lyrics, powerful because unadorned, combine with the simple melody to provoke deep feeling: “Nights are long since you went away, I dream about you all through the day . . . . I miss your voice, the touch of your hand . . . ” (If you’d like to hear it sung, the most evocative versions for me are by Doris Day and Bernadette Peters.)

Here are the EarRegulars, Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Ricky Alexander, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jay Rattman, bass saxophone, giving it their all at The Ear Out (outside of The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) on Sunday, June 27, 2021. What beautiful feelings they evoke without ever getting bogged down in sentimentalities:

May your happiness increase!

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (Part Three), or MARTY PLAYS FATS, AGAIN: MARTY GROSZ, VINCE GIORDANO, DANNY TOBIAS, JACK SAINT CLAIR, JIM LAWLOR, JIM GICKING (Awbury Arboretum, June 23, 2021)

Here’s the music I’ve already posted from this fine funny festive evening:

Perhaps after ST. LOUIS BLUES, I GOT RHYTHM, and STARDUST, HONEYSUCKLE ROSE is the most famous song (or famous set of chord changes) in jazz. Tom Lord’s online jazz discography lists 1561 recorded versions beginning in 1929. This one won’t be listed there, but we can enjoy it anyway.

There’s more to come from this summery evening where friends gathered to celebrate Marty, singing and playing, of course with Dispatch and Vigor at his side.

May your happiness increase!

SONATAS IN THE SUNSHINE (Opus Two): RICKY ALEXANDER, JAY RATTMAN, MATT MUNISTERI at The Ear Out, June 27, 2021

In case you missed it — in person or in blogland — here is Opus One by the Mini-EarRegulars of June 27, 2021: SUNDAY, UNDER A BLANKET OF BLUE, and BLUE LOU, performed by Jay Rattman, bass saxophone; Ricky Alexander, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar.

And here are the three remaining delights from that first set. It was warm, but with cooling breezes: a nice meteorological metaphor for the music created so generously and nimbly by this Trio.

AM I BLUE? (a question with the easy answer NO!):

(IT’S ONLY) A SHANTY IN OLD SHANTY TOWN (one of those precious pop songs of the last century that few jazz groups attempt these days, which makes this performance all the more precious) — in a performance whose focused momentum is, to me, thrilling:

Finally, the WABASH BLUES, yes, rock and roll, the old-fashioned ways:

Much more to come from this restorative Sunday afternoon session. Were you there?

May your happiness increase!

BIG SID and BENNY, TRIUMPHANT (September 27, 1941)

Sidney Catlett, Nice, 1948.

One of the benefits of “straightening up” is that, occasionally, treasures resurface.  Here’s one whose importance I can’t overestimate. But before I write a word more, this airshot of SING SING SING comes to us because of the generosity of Loren Schoenberg, master of so many arts, who played it on a broadcast he did over WKCR-FM perhaps thirty-five years ago. I captured it on cassette, and now share it with you. (Loren generously provided a pitch-corrected version for JAZZ LIVES.) It was not issued on Jerry Valburn’s set (lp and CD) of Goodman-Catlett recordings, should you reach for that set. Your ears will tell you so.

If you needed more evidence of the superhuman power and joy that Sidney Catlett brought to any group in his two-decades-plus playing career, this should do it. It also suggests, words I write with some ruefulness, why Benny Goodman fired him. Listening to this performance, it’s hard not to believe that Sid was leading the band and Benny was doing his best — which was considerable — to keep up. It also reminds us how much music the Swing Era bands created in performance that the 10″ 78 count not capture, because this performance is ten minutes long. Real life — for dancers, a band released from the recording studio. I bless the unidentified recordist, and so should you.

Here are the names of the heroes in that wonderful band, although on this performance, aside from brief ventures by Vido Musso and Mel Powell, by my count, six of the ten minutes are given over to a Catlett-Goodman experimental interlude in duet improvisation:

Billy Butterfield, Cootie Williams, Jimmy Maxwell, Al “Slim” Davis, trumpet; Lou McGarity, Cutty Cutshall, trombone; Benny Goodman, clarinet; Skip Martin, Clint Neagley, alto saxophone; Vido Musso, George Berg, tenor saxophone; Chuck Gentry, baritone saxophone; Mel Powell, piano; Tom Morgan, guitar; Marty Blitz, string bass; Sidney Catlett, drums.  Broadcast, “Meadowbrook,” Cedar Grove, New Jersey, September 27, 1941.

This is an extraordinary piece of music, full of courage, energy, and joy. I hope you feel about it as I do, and that, once again, we may extend our gratitude to Sidney, Benny, Loren, and someone sitting in front of the radio with a microphone and a disc cutter.

May your happiness increase!

SWING NEVER WENT AWAY: BENNY GOODMAN, JIMMIE ROWLES, BUCKY PIZZARELLI, JACK SIX, BUDDY RICH (“The Merv Griffin Show,” October 15, 1979)

If you read the freeze-dried accounts of American popular music history, this music had been dead for thirty years, when “the Swing Era” expired. But how wrong that oversimplification is, proven by these eight minutes. A very lively corpse, no? This segment is from the Merv Griffin Show (Merv was a big-band singer before he became a talk-show host, television producer, and real-estate mogul, among other attributes) featuring musicians I won’t have to identify — Benny Goodman, Buddy Rich, Jimmie Rowles, Bucky Pizzarelli . . . you can figure out who Jack Six is and what he is doing by process of elimination, if you don’t already know him. The two songs chosen are a very mellow AS LONG AS I LIVE, harking back to the Sextet recording with Charlie Christian and Count Basie, and then — quite rare in “modern times,” I GOT RHYTHM played as itself. Beautiful playing from everyone — inspired and inspiring:

May your happiness increase!

SOLID SENDERS, NO DOUBT: JONATHAN STOUT and his CAMPUS FIVE featuring HILARY ALEXANDER: “HUMMIN’ TO MYSELF”– and the debut of THE CLOSE SHAVE QUARTET (2020-21)

For those who know, the simple words “Jonathan Stout and his band have issued a new CD” will be enough of a powerful summons to the senses. Swing of a multi-colored sort, romping and tender, awaits. Here is one place to find out about the new disc; here is the source of the good news.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C:

Your ears will tell you all you need to know: this compact aerodynamic little band is both assertive and subtle, a finely-tuned swing corporation. It’s built from the ground up, with a rhythm section that is raring to go from the downbeat. Thanks to drummer Josh Collazo in particular, they aren’t afraid to make the ground shake when it’s appropriate. Bassist Wally Hersom puts all the nice notes in the right places; pianist Chris Dawson lends his gleaming intelligence to every bar. And the leader, guitarist Jonathan Stout, is a triple-threat man: switching his talents from the acoustic mastery of Allan Reuss to the starbursts of Charlie Christian, as well as writing compositions that would have made Harry Lim proud. The front line is a wonderful pairing: the daring trumpet of Jim Ziegler (who also sings on RUSSIAN LULLABY) alongside the sauntering tenor of Albert Alva. Hilary Alexander has charm and more; she respects the lyrics and honors the melody, putting her attractive voice at the service of the song.

Swing is what they are all about. And listening to them, once again I lament my inadequacies as a swing dancer, because this is music to move to, rapturously. And their repertoire is especially delightful. In addition to Jonathan’s originals RIDING WITH PAUL, BOUNCIN’ WITH BUMPUS, PAGING DR. REUSS, TRICK OR TREAT, MOBTOWN ALL OUT, there are songs much-loved by those who dig deep . . . but which aren’t overdone: SENTIMENTAL GENTLEMAN FROM GEORGIA, MANHATTAN, HUMMIN’ TO MYSELF, BETCHA I GETCHA, SING YOU SINNERS, WHAT GOES UP MUST COME DOWN, RUSSIAN LULLABY, I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU, ARKANSAS, GOODNIGHT MY LOVE, DID YOU MEAN IT?, DOGGIN’ AROUND.

Beautifully recorded (in November 2020, mid-late pandemic times, following all CDC protocols, a response to despair and fear) with nice notes from Mr. Stout.

Oh. That’s not enough? How about CLOSE SHAVE by Jonathan’s Quartet — Jonathan Stout, leader and electric guitar; Craig Fundyga, vibraphone; Seth Ford-Young, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums — an EP with the songs RIDING WITH PAUL, LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME, WHEN YOU’RE SMILING, MOBTOWN ALL OUT, TRICK OR TREAT, GONE WITH “WHAT” WIND, and I’M CONFESSIN’. A band-within-a-band, flying high, smooth and intense. Listen and purchase here:

Technology offers us a treat: the Close Shave Quartet performed at the California Balboa Classic, as shown:

I’d asked Jonathan a question about these issues, and he nicely responded:

The “story” behind the release is that we recorded a proper, in-person Campus Five album back in November, and we were planning to do a livecast from the recording studio to promote it as a part of the California Balboa Classic web-event “CalBal: LIVE” on MLK weekend back in January. As COVID conditions we’re at their worst, the event realized even if with COVID protocols in place, getting a bunch of people indoors for a session was a bad example. I was crushed at first, but they asked if we could figure something else out – but with the least number of people possible, who could ALL be masked, and we would move outdoors. So, I remembered the band I put together originally to play the annual Xmas party at the barber shop I go to, which we christened the “Close Shave Quartet”.  There wasn’t much of a “book” to speak of, so I had to create a whole bunch of new arrangements to have a proper “finished product” for the event. This is a big dance event, under normal circumstances, and just jamming some tunes just isn’t my style or my strength. I wrote 4 new tunes during quarantine for the C5 album, and I was so excited to debut them, so I rearranged them for the Quartet as well, sort of as a “teaser” for the C5 album. Three of them are on this EP. Anyway, the combination of electric guitar, vibes, bass and drums seemed to be the least number of people while still having the range of textures and timbres I rely on to make arrangements have variety and dynamics.

If you gather from this presentation that JAZZ LIVES — as one writer, me, and as a worldwide force for good — thoroughly endorses the Stout brand of swing, you would be completely correct. Jonathan’s bands groove, glide, and please. Bless him, bless them. We need this music, so beautifully played and sung.

May your happiness increase!

ANOTHER KIND OF FIREWORKS DISPLAY: JON-ERIK KELLSO, DANNY TOBIAS, JAY RATTMAN, RICKY ALEXANDER, MATT MUNISTERI at The Ear Out, June 27, 2021

“Those things are dangerous. I knew someone who lost a finger,” we hear before and after the Fourth of July. However, there are other kinds of fireworks — lighting up even the afternoon sky with no danger to life or limb — that our beloved incendiary musicians create.

When swing meets the desire to spread happiness, Roman candles go off all over the place. The evidence follows.

This was the closing selection from the EarRegulars’ session of June 27 at The Ear Out, located outside 326 Spring Street in Soho, New York City.

The EarRegulars were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Ricky Alexander, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jay Rattman, bass sax, and Official Friend and Sometimes Leader of the EarRegulars, Danny Tobias, trumpet. And they sounded Vincent Youmans’ clarion call, I WANT TO BE HAPPY. (I can never write that title without hearing either Wild Bill Davison or Kenny Davern in my mind’s ear, a la W. C. Fields, “Don’t we all!”)

No dangerous explosions, just sustained joys.

AND . . . on Sunday, July 4th, Jon-Erik will be joined by Grant Stewart, tenor saxophone; Joe Cohn, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass . . . . rockets in the sky, to be sure.

May your happiness increase!

SONATAS IN THE SUNSHINE (Opus One): RICKY ALEXANDER, JAY RATTMAN, MATT MUNISTERI at The Ear Out, June 27, 2021

As James Chirillo has been known to say after a particularly satisfying session, “Music was made.” That it was, last Sunday afternoon in the bright sunshine (and cooling breezes) in front of the Ear Inn on 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City. The EarRegulars were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jay Rattman, bass saxophone; Ricky Alexander, clarinet and tenor saxophone. But before a note had been played, Jon-Erik noticed that the Check Engine light was shining from his trumpet, so he absented himself for a bit to get it looked at, secure that music would be made in his absence. (He came back before the set was over.)

This was a novel instrumentation, one that might have been either earthbound or unbalanced in the hands of lesser musicians. But the synergy here was more than remarkable, and the pleasure created in each chorus was palpable. This hot chamber trio — soaring, lyrical, rambunctious — performed six songs in their trio set. Here are the first three, to be savored.

SUNDAY, which goes back to 1926 (think Jean Goldkette and Cliff Edwards) but was also a favorite of Lester Young. Here, the Mini-EarRegulars also play the verse, an unexpected pleasure:

UNDER A BLANKET OF BLUE was one of Frank Chace’s favorite songs, and I think of the tender version by Ella and Louis. A rarity, though: when was the last time you heard a group play it?

And Edgar Sampson’s rocking BLUE LOU:

A fellow listener turned to me between songs and said, marveling, “Aren’t they grand?” I agreed, as I hope you would have also.

Much more to come.

May your happiness increase!

“THE UNKNOWN ARV GARRISON: WIZARD OF THE SIX STRING / CLASSIC AND RARE RECORDINGS FROM THE 1940s”

This three-disc set released by Fresh Sounds is a cornucopia of pleasures, both musical and scholarly.

Arv Garrison (1922-60) was a superb guitarist, swinging and inventive, who understood how the melodic and rhythmic inventions of Django Reinhardt and others could be expanded into “the new thing” of Forties bebop. Although his recorded legacy is compact, it’s impressive and diversified. In his prime, he was respected and sought-after, as the names below prove. But for most of us he was hidden in plain sight. Now we can applaud what we approved of subliminally.

Garrison was adaptable; he fit easily into any context while remaining true to himself. He would be a wonderful question for a jazz-trivia night: “What musician played with Charlie Parker, Leo Watson, and Frankie Laine?” Although the most recent recording in this set is from 1948, his work still sounds fresh, and he doesn’t have a small assortment of favorite licks that grow overfamiliar quickly: he is, in the phrase beloved of new audience members, “making it up as he goes along.”

Here’s one version of WHERE YOU AT? — reminiscent of Frishberg before Frishberg:

The new focus on previously known recordings this set encourages is indeed enlightening: “fresh sounds” indeed. I’ve known only a dozen of the sixty-plus performances on this set, but I confess I never paid Garrison proper attention. Listening to YARDBIRD SUITE or A NIGHT IN TUNISIA, for instance, I was captivated by Bird and Miles; laughing my way through the Leo Watson session with Vic Dickenson, I knew there was an excellent guitarist, but I was waiting for Leo and Vic to return. (I’m sorry, Arv.)

But now, listening to him with new attention, I admire the easy brilliance of his soloing — his long lines that surprise, his reliable swing, and what he adds to the tonal color of the whole enterprise. Garrison knew his Django deeply, but he also had absorbed some of Charlie Christian’s loping audacity, and he easily breathed the harmonically-complex air that was 1946-48 California and New York. I also hear a creativity that runs parallel with Les Paul and Oscar Moore — who could be unaware of the early Nat Cole Trio recordings? — but he isn’t copying anyone. Garrison is comfortable in early classic Dial Records bebop; he can play a ballad with grace and emotional intelligence; he can swing out in the best Forties fashion. He’s delightful alongside Frankie Laine; he romps on his own, and he has confidence: in an AFRS broadcast where he solos alongside Barney Kessel, Les Paul, and Irving Ashby, he stands out. If he was intimidated by such fast company, no one heard it.

The nimble string bassist and singer-composer Vivien Garry, who married and outlived Garrison, was more than an oddity, more than a protege. She was the leader on more than half of the performances here, and she is far more than Samuel Johnson’s lady preacher. In fact, had the world of record producing been different (if our world was also) this would have been properly a dual feature. Her recording career began earlier and ended later; she performed with Benny Carter, Shorty Rogers, Jimmy Giuffre, and was an integral part of two “all-girl” sessions. Garrison, a rather unworldly (or other-worldly?) young man, was no self-promoter, so we have to thank Garry for making a number of these record dates and radio appearances happen. Garrison was handsome, but Garry was that rarity — an attractive young woman jazz musician — and that helped a great deal in getting gigs, especially in the world of the late Forties where jazz and “entertainment” were friends. (Listen to Art Ford, on the WNEW broadcast — one that includes Charlie Ventura, Babs Gonzales, Kai Winding, and Lionel Hampton! — fuss over Arv and Vivien’s attractiveness, and you’ll understand.)

The musical content of this set is delightfully consistent; I listened to the three discs in two sittings, which is not my usual restless habit. Connoisseurs of the rare and obscure will also find much to delight them: private recordings, AFRS and commercial radio broadcasts, live remotes from a jazz club, and commercially issued 78s on the Sarco and Exclusive labels. Even scholars deep into this time and place will find surprises, and it’s easy to celebrate these three discs as musical anthropology of a world truly in flux.

The great surprise and pleasure is the nearly eighty-page book, with color illustrations (photographs and record labels, club ads) that accompanies this set. I’ve only read portions of it, because I wanted to listen to Arv and Vivien and friends without multi-tasking . . . but the book — to call it a “booklet” would be inaccurate — begins with twenty pages of intertwined portraiture by James A. Harrod and Bob Dietsche, the latter of who met and interviewed Vivien in the mid-Eighties, and it ends with Harrod’s detailed discography of the set.

In the middle is the real prize: nearly forty pages of beautifully detailed biographical-musical analysis by guitarist-scholar Nick Rossi, who has become one of my favorite jazz writers alongside Dan Morgenstern, Mark Miller, Loren Schoenberg, Dave Gelly, and Ricky Riccardi. Rossi does more than trace Garrison’s life from boyhood — staying up all hours playing along with Django in his room — to the sad end in a swimming accident before his 38th birthday. He has a fine awareness not only of guitar playing but of the art and history of jazz guitar and the contexts in which it became the jazz monolith it now is. Rossi’s writing is direct, evocative, clear, modest, and it welcomes the reader in, unlike other writers busy showing off how clever they are.

I’ve listened to the set with great pleasure, mingled with ruefulness that Garrison’s life and career ended as they did; now I plan to read Rossi’s essay with equal pleasure, and go back to the music. If that seems an expenditure of time and energy, I assure you that this set has already repaid me in excitement, discovery, and joys.

You can purchase the set at Amazon, no surprise, or directly from Fresh Sounds here, as I did (don’t let the price in euro scare you off if it’s not your native currency). Either way, it’s a lovely set.

May your happiness increase!

ALERT! BE ON THE LOOKOUT! ESCAPED TIGER RUNS THROUGH PENNSYLVANIA SUBURB, AUTHORITIES NOTIFIED.

I was only fooling. No need to call 911 or hide the children. I’m celebrating the closing performance of Danny Tobias and the Safe Sextet at the Pennsylvania Jazz Society’s June 13, 2021 concert in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. The Safe Sextet is Danny, trumpet and Eb alto horn; Randy Reinhart, trombone and euphonium; Mark Shane, piano; Pat Mercuri, guitar; Joe Plowman, string bass; Jim Lawlor, drums. And they play TIGER RAG — without devouring the song or the audience. This one’s for my friend / friend of the music Joan Bauer:

Anyway, should an escaped tiger have burst into the hall, we had our secret weapon / protector: Clyde Beauregard Redmile-Tobias, who would have pacified it with wags and licks:

More to come from this delightful afternoon, with no wild beasts in sight. (However, the photograph of the tiger caught my attention because of its lovely coat and shining teeth. Is there a Tiger Spa, and does this one floss?)

May your happiness increase!

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (Part Two), or MARTY PLAYS FATS, TWICE, WITH AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL INTERLUDE: MARTY GROSZ, VINCE GIORDANO, DANNY TOBIAS, JACK SAINT CLAIR, JIM LAWLOR, JIM GICKING (Awbury Arboretum, June 23, 2021)

Preserving themselves or us? Consider the question.

You can find Part One here.

Marty Grosz has long had an affinity for the music of Fats Waller, which is only right. Here, at his June 23 concert, he offers two Waller classics for our pleasure and enlightenment, with an autobiographical interlude in between. The Members of the Ensemble, who so nobly support Martin Oliver Grosz on his Quest for Swing, are Danny Tobias, trumpet, Eb alto horn, Jack Saint Clair, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Jim Gicking, trombone; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, tuba; Jim Lawlor, drums, vocal.

KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW:

“I HAVE TO TELL YOU A LITTLE HISTORY”:

HOW CAN YOU FACE ME?:

Once again, immense thanks to Barry Wahrhaftig for making this evening’s festivities happen. There are more treats to come . . .

May your happiness increase!

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, or MARTY GROSZ SINGS OF ROMANCE: MARTY GROSZ, DANNY TOBIAS, VINCE GIORDANO, JACK SAINT CLAIR, JIM GICKING, JIM LAWLOR (Awbury Arboretum, June 13, 2021)

The Gentlemen of the Ensemble.

I am very pleased to be able to report that the Second Marty Party happened, that I attended same, and that I can share delightful video evidence with those of you who didn’t get to sit under the tent in the blissful night air. Immense thanks are due Barry Wahrhaftig for his inspired persistence and devotion to the art.

Martin Oliver Grosz with Vince Giordano.

The band — dubbed “Marty Grosz and the Self-Preservation Orchestra,” is Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal, badinage; Danny Tobias, trumpet, Eb alto horn, Jack Saint Clair, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Jim Gicking, trombone; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, tuba; Jim Lawlor, drums, vocal. Here they perform LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER, which bows to Bing Crosby, Eddie Condon, Milt Gabler, and Pee Wee Russell. Shades of Fifty-Second Street under the tent, among the trees:

More to come!

May your happiness increase!

ONE OF A HUNDRED GOLDEN ERAS and WE BLESS THE ARCHIVISTS: WILD BILL DAVISON, JIM GALLOWAY, DAN BARRETT, KEITH INGHAM, MILT HINTON, MARTY GROSZ, RUSS FEARON (1986 Harbourfront Jazz Festival, Toronto, Canada)

Wild Bill Davison, Bern, 1985.

A dear collector-friend sent me a copy of this video — a live performance, captured from the audience, at the 1986 Harbourfront Jazz Festival in Toronto, Canada, featuring Wild Bill Davison, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Jim Galloway, soprano saxophone; Keith Ingham, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal; Milt Hinton, string bass; Russ Fearon, drums, with a very short interlude pairing Bill and pianist Art Hodes at the end, alas, incomplete.

Although I gave up searching out Wild Bill’s performances some time ago — he had perfected what Dick Sudhalter and others called “master solos” on each tune, and although they were classic, perfectly balanced and intense, he rarely coined a new phrase. To his credit, he “had drama” (in the words of Ruby Braff, who could be exquisitely dismissive of most musicians) and he played his lead and solos fiercely. . . . at eighty. (He lived on until November 1989.) Readers who don’t know how difficult it is to play a brass instrument at any age may not feel how miraculous it is to be playing with such emotive force — even sitting down. And Bill is surrounded by masters of the art, young and older. No one sounds bored or tired . . . they give their all.

The second aspect of this performance that is beyond notable is, ironically, its frankly amateurish cinematography: the archivist, whose name I do not know, did not have a tripod for steadiness; the edits are sometimes obtrusive. But what a complete and total marvel. What a blessing that it survives. And so I thank the Unknown Hero(ine) holding the camera, because without them we would never be transported to this scene. We are accustomed to hailing Jerry Newman — the Columbia University student who took his disc cutter “uptown” — even though he gets posthumously criticized because he didn’t like Charlie Parker (“How could he have disappointed the future, so much wiser, as he did?” I write ironically). Erudite listeners bless Bill Savory and Jerry Newhouse and Dean Benedetti. But let’s take a brief reverent interval to celebrate the criminals and rule-breakers who smuggle recording equipment into large halls and capture art that would have otherwise been just a memory in the ears and eyes of the audience there at that time.

Now, the music. ROSETTA / I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO CHANGE MY PLAN / TAKE ME TO THAT LAND OF JAZZ (Marty) / unidentified piano excerpt / OLD MAN TIME (Milt) / WHEN YOU’RE SMILING / intermission / DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME? (incomplete) / BLUE AGAIN / A PORTER’S LOVE SONG TO A CHAMBERMAID (Marty) / JOSHUA (Milt) / IF DREAMS COME TRUE (Galloway-Barrett) / SAVE IT, PRETTY MAMA (Bill, Art Hodes, incomplete):

Bless the musicians on stage, and bless the Unknown Recordist.

Thanks to jazz-scholar and good friend Mark Miller, and the irreplaceable Dan Barrett for their knowledge, so generously shared.

Coincidentally, I am driving to Philadelphia to enjoy and record a Marty Grosz gig . . . the beat goes on!

May your happiness increase!