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.
Or as they say on public radio, THIS JUST IN: Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs (Marc Caparone, trumpet; Clint Baker, guitar; Riley Baker, string bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums) will be playing a delightful post-pandemic gig on Tuesday, July 5, atBird and Beckett Books (653 Chenery Street), starting at 7:30.
You might hear MICE ISLAND LOVE:
Even though Kim Cusack and Katie Cavera have gigs elsewhere that night, you could also request OH, PETER — because everyone thinks the song and its subject are so nice:
Bird and Beckett is one of my favorite places, temporarily out of reach since I am in New York: a lovely book-and-record store (oh memory! oh memory!) run in the most perceptive hospitable way. You take my seat, please.
And now to the Happy Coincidence portion of our program, although as Poppa Freud is supposed to have said, “There are no accidents.”
I was planning to post the music and commentary below — a precious interlude by Ray at the piano — when news of Bird and Beckett came in. So watch and listen, and get enlightened, and then, if you can get to Chenery Street, hence, begone!
That’s Scott Joplin, Arthur Marshall, and Ray Skjelbred — a thoroughly gratifying melodic corporation if there ever was one — coming together on SWIPSEY CAKEWALK, from 1900, with Joplin composing the trio section, Marshall the main strain, and Skjelbred taking his time to offer us something winning and memorable at the San Diego Jazz Fest on November 25, 2016.
Ray understands that the right tempo — casual and leisurely in this case — brings out the beauty of melody and harmony:
I think of this performance as warmly respectful and also groovy: a wonderful combination.
Ray gets to the heart of the song that perhaps we didn’t know was there, but he always does.
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.
For about six months — September 2019 to March 2020 — much longer than one brief shining moment, we had Cafe Bohemia, downstairs at 15 Barrow Street, Greenwich Village, New York City. And on Thursday nights, if I recall correctly, the Cafe Bohemia All-Stars, led by Jon-Erik Kellso (“You know them, you love them.”) took the stage.
Here’s a particularly sinuous and searching WABASH BLUES, performed by Jon-Erik, Puje trumpet; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Josh Dunn, guitar; Jared Engel, string bass.
The photograph shows the Wabash River in Indiana.
This memorable performance doesn’t make me want to book a flight to the Wabash River, but it certainly makes me wish that we could have those Bohemia nights back.
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Words heard after last night’s performance in the Birdland Theater, May 31, 2022 — a performance by Gabrielle Stravelli, voice; Michael Kanan, piano; Pat O’Leary, string bass from 5:30 to close to 7 PM.
Gabrielle told us that each of the Tuesdays to come will have a new menu of songs, so what follows is just a list of musical blessings, but since I kept notes, you get to read them The trio started with a very affirmative ‘DEED I DO, then I WISHED ON THE MOON (tender, then swinging), a defiantly rocking A SLEEPIN’ BEE, usually taken at a slow tempo, THAT OLD DEVIL CALLED LOVE, WONDER WHY, an exultantly funky I’M JUST A LUCKY SO-AND-SO. Then, a swinging I NEVER KNEW (played so often as an instrumental but its sweet archaic lyrics completely convincing) and what was a highlight of the session, LET’S BEGIN, where I thought of Gabrielle both as most expert wooer and the host of a game show where delights waited behind the second door. GET OUT OF TOWN closed with her grinning, saying, “and STAY out!” which was hilarious, then she segued into I’LL BE AROUND, after the final notes dying away, saying, “I don’t always do ‘doormat songs,’ but that one is special.” As the set neared its close, it got even better, with TAKE THE “A” TRAIN, (an audience request that took on wings) a passionate BORN TO BE BLUE, and closing with a romping FOR YOU, FOR ME, FOREVERMORE.
I’d heard this trio (with Dan Block and Danny Tobias added) about two months ago at a party and thought, “They are touching my heart more each time I hear them,” but the Birdland session was the embodiment of heartfelt chamber jazz.
Gabrielle is in superb voice, with operatic strengths but also whispers, side-of-the-mouth secrets, and the occasional growl — all dramatically used to reveal a song’s center. Pat not only sustained the harmonies and the drive but reminded us all that a splendid bass solo is something too precious to talk through, and Michael swung, commented, brought sweetness, comedy, and warmth as needed, as prescribed. At times Pat and Michael reminded me of Ray Brown and Jimmie Rowles, even Hinton and Basie or Jimmy Jones. And the trio is clearly a telepathic band: Gabrielle called a tune, pointed out the key if it needed to be pointed out, and they were off, sharing one perfectly shaped performance after another.
Another lovely aspect: the Birdland Theater is clean and quiet; the piano is well-tuned; the sound system is transparent and unobtrusive. And the substantial audience was near-reverent, as they so often are not. A wonderful place for a pre-theater or escaping-rush-hour gig, and when we emerged, the sky was still bright. And the music rang in our ears.
I was too absorbed to take phone photographs and the management frowns on interlopers with video cameras, so you’ll just have to get there yourself. They’ll be one flight down at 315 West 44th Street, just west of Eighth Avenue in midtown Manhattan every Tuesday in June. Why deprive yourselves? Or, as the Sages say, “Support gigs, they blossom; stay home, they wither.”
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
I first encountered Nancy Harrow as a wondrous singer, an individualist deeply immersed in the blues: someone with feeling and spirit but entirely lacking in affectation. (That her early fans included Buck Clayton, John Lewis, and Roland Hanna did not escape me.)
When I had the opportunity to hear Nancy in person, those impressions were only reinforced. But by that time, I had learned that she was also songwriter, lyricist, dramatist — someone for whom the word “theatrical” would be the highest praise.
Just before the pandemic, I had the opportunity to see ABOUT LOVE, a musical play with songs, inspired by Turgenev’s story, songs by Nancy, script and direction by Will Pomerantz, and I was bewitched, as I wrote here. I remember very clearly the subtlety of the acting, the way that music, dance, and words blended; the way that the plot seemed new because of the electricity onstage. Even the pandemic has not blurred my memories of that evening.
Now, ABOUT LOVE is back — joined in repertory by a new adaptation of Chekhov’s THREE SISTERS, again with music by Nancy and direction by Will. Here is one of Nancy’s songs that you will hear:
And here are more facts:
Chekhov + Turgenev is two Russian classics presented in repertory, and underscored in jazz: About Love, a musical play with songs, inspired by Ivan Turgenev’s novella, “First Love”; and Three Sisters, a new adaptation of the play by Anton Chekhov. is now playing a limited engagement, in repertory, through June 5 at The Sheen Center (18 Bleecker Street at the corner of Elizabeth Street, NYC) in The Frank Shiner Theater. The official opening for both production is Thursday, May 19. Tickets are available online at SheenCenter.org, by phone at 212-925-2812, or in-person at The Sheen Center box office Monday to Friday noon to 5PM and one hour before performances. Tickets are $39 – $69. Premium seating is available. Rush tickets will be available at the box office an hour before any performance for $20.
The company of Chekhov + Turgenev features John Ahlin, Silvia Bond, Essence Brown, Nathan Hinton, Miles G. Jackson, Nehal Joshi, Amanda Nichols, Tom Patterson, Elizabeth Ramos, Tommy Schrider, Jean Tafler, Pilar Witherspoon and more to be announced.
Chekhov + Turgenev features a live jazz quartet nightly: music director Misha Josephs on guitar, Frederika Krier on violin, Jared Engel on bass, and Steve Picataggio on drums.
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.
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.
Thinking of mid-period blue-label Decca Louis for I’M SHOOTING HIGH, with John Sheridan, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Arnie Kinsella, drums (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 21, 2007, surreptitious audio only):
On a visit to New York in 2010, Bob sat in with Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks (personnel given in the description) for a few songs:
SOMEBODY LOVES ME:
More Louis, appropriately, with SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY:
and that hymn to staying at home, BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD: