Category Archives: It’s A Mystery

“THAT’S SO PRETTY!”

My thoughtful friend Richard Salvucci introduced me to the Fifties recordings of pianist / arranger Elliot Lawrence and his big band, and I am entranced by them.

My delight surprised me: I ordinarily lean towards small groups with vivid solo improvisations. Years ago, I would have scoffed at this music as “Easy Listening,” “bland pop,” “businessman’s bounce,” played by a “society orchestra.” But this innocent-looking Decca session of songs associated with college life and college dances, merits more than a reflex dismissal. The collective personnel for these 1950-51 sessions is (more or less): Joe Techner, John Dee, Gerry LaFuru, trumpets; Rob Swope, Earl Swope, Ollie Wilson, trombone; Bill Danzien, French horn; Mike Goldberg, Buddy Savitt, Al Steele, Merle Bredwell, reeds; Elliot Lawrence, piano; Mert Oliver, string bass; Howie Mann, drums; Rosalind Patton, vocal.

Possibly JAZZ LIVES’ readers know of Elliot Lawrence because of his more famous Fantasy sessions devoted to Gerry Mulligan arrangements, or his work on many different transcriptions, but his very appealing music stands on its own. I present some for your pleasure.

Those who live for the next solo might be disappointed, for this is an orchestra more than a showcase for soloists: the shifting textures and voicings are so attractive. This is a well-rehearsed, highly professional group playing compact, deft arrangements — in time, in tune, with fine intonation. The band is subtle: it doesn’t get loud or strain for effect. Rosalind Patton was never famous, but her charming voice is eloquent in its restraint. She does everything right. (Alas, she was a chain smoker who died at 63 in 1985.) Even the choral arrangements on a few tunes — not my favorite thing — do no harm.

Listen for yourself, and listen to this half-hour for its splendid understated musicianship:

Here’s another example:

And something perhaps out of the ordinary, a 1948 “cowboy song,” that I wanted to hear again:

I am aware that some of my readers may have left the room, in search of more brightly-colored sensations. But there is something larger than my new fondness for the Elliot Lawrence Orchestra here.

“Jazz fans” and “jazz critics,” for the most part, privilege rhythmically-charged improvisation. “That‘s jazz,” they say. If a recording doesn’t have those qualities, it’s “sweet” or “popular,” and thus it is less worthy. But eager listeners have not always been ideologically-driven fans or critics. I would wager that dancers enjoying Henderson or Goldkette at Roseland, Oliver at the Lincoln or Royal Gardens, the parade of bands at Harlem ballrooms, enjoyed the music . . . if Goldkette played VALENCIA in 6/8 or Henderson played a waltz, those who could dance, danced to it. And records of well-played music caught the ear, and sold.

But divisiveness crept in — in the guise of “authenticity.” “Sweet” was for the older generation, the parents and grandparents who didn’t understand, were ancient, they couldn’t hear “the new music.” And for the self-defined jazz cognoscenti who truly “knew,” the real thing was of course “hot.” It was Louis on I MISS MY SWISS, Bubber on WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE?, or Bix on SWEET SUE.

It was a commonplace that you could find one of those discs with the hot chorus worn grey through repeated playing and the rest of the record shiny, nearly pristine. But the received wisdom was that people who preferred the “sweet” orchestra as well as the “hot” chorus lacked discrimination. Probably they didn’t even know the difference between Jack Purvis and young Bunny Berigan. Unthinkable!

Thanks to Richard Vacca and his BOSTON JAZZ CHRONICLES, I just saw a wonderful handbill advertising Frank Newton’s band at the KEN club in Boston, 1943: here. What struck me was the guarantee of authenticity to entice an audience: “They [the band] never blew a schmaltzy note in their lives.”

And from this sometimes snobbish hierarchy of what was worthy and what was not, a fascinating and perhaps perverse value system solidified. It was sometimes organized along racial lines: Andy Kirk’s band playing a Mary Lou Williams arrangement was “real”; if a White band played the same chart well, it was an aberration. Or it was “commercial.” The divisiveness could be read along Marxist lines as well: White musicians were imitators; White bandleaders were capitalist oppressors; Black musicians were original; Black bandleaders suffered because of White popularizers. Bessie Smith was genuine; Mildred Bailey a good pop singer. Real musicians suffered and died young; if you lived a long life without trauma, how authentic were you?

The musicians themselves were not reading these books and articles, and they were hanging out with their friends at the Union or the Copper Rail. Maybe they were jealous of X for getting that good gig, but in general they knew that music, well-played, was beautiful, and that it took as much skill to read a complicated chart as it did to stand up and create a hot chorus.

These arbitrary distinctions affected an audience that had never read Panassie or Hammond, as public taste changed over years and decades. Some “new art” aims to shock the bourgeoisie. If your mother likes your new record, there must be something wrong with it. It can’t be “cutting-edge” or “innovative.” People might whisper that you spent New Year’s Eve watching Guy Lombardo with your family. How very uncool.

But when did “pretty” music lose its value? Was it at the height of the Swing Era, where a “killer-diller” was seen as superior to a pretty ballad? Did the rise of a more abstract jazz in later decades set up a value system where if you could hum it or dance to it, it wasn’t worth study and emulation? Was “pretty” for squares too limited to understand Miles? Should we blame Wynonie Harris, or Elvis? Or the hauteur of modern art in general — I think of Eliot and THE WASTE LAND or late Joyce — consciously closing the door on the “average” reader, proposing a much smaller, more arrogantly erudite audience?

All I know is that when Richard Salvucci sent me music by Elliott Lawrence, my first reaction was, “That’s so pretty!” And “pretty” was not in any way condescending.

Here’s another illustration of the same principle, in the singing of Nat King Cole. He was an astonishing and influential pianist, but I know some people who say “He should have stuck to the piano!” in the tones one uses for traitors.

Consider this — one of the most beautiful expressions of expert art and deep feeling I know of:

His voice; his acting; his idiosyncratic rubato phrasing — those hesitations and accelerations — beyond words. For once, I am not obsessing about the people who “disliked” the YouTube video. Let them find their own pleasures, far from me.

But I am sure some readers of JAZZ LIVES will say, “That’s very nice, but it’s just pretty,” denying its sublime mastery. Imagine a modern trumpeter playing what Nat sings, if it were possible: would we not be awestruck? But he was “such a success,” “a great popular singer,” appealing to the unsophisticated masses, so perhaps some undervalue that performance.

And here’s a final illustration, dear to me for years. There’s no hot solo; the orchestral background is reverent, not raucous, but it is one of the most convincing pieces of art I know:

Here’s my mission statement. There should be some place in art for work that does not leap out of the closet and scare the viewer, some place for beauty that seems so very simple. Here one can quote Thelonious Monk or Aubrey Beardsley: I would rather that readers listen again to Elliot Lawrence and Nat Cole and Louis, and re-examine their own internalized value systems, give them a good shake to see if there’s any validity there or just a set of unexamined, now limited, beliefs.

I won’t enter into the squabble over whether the music I’ve presented is or isn’t jazz. I don’t care about those air-tight compartments with their neat labels. But these performances are frankly beautiful, and I will brook no disagreement.

It could be that “pretty music,” even “schmaltz,” varieties of “decorative art,” that touch hearts, that pleases a large amount of people, has more merit than we ever afford it.

May your happiness increase!


NEVER BEFORE, NEVER AGAIN: BOBBY HACKETT and JACK GARDNER (February 15, 1945)

These performances are legendary and rare — sterling duets by Bobby Hackett, cornet or trumpet, and Jack Gardner, piano, rollicking telepathic improvisation. The date is approximate, but they were recorded in Chicago by John Steiner. Late in 1944, Bobby had joined the Casa Loma Orchestra, so this would have been like playing exalted hooky, especially with the barrelhouse joys provided by Jack — fun and frolic reminiscent of WEATHER BIRD.

My cassette copies came from the late Bob Hilbert and Roy Bower, and I am indebted to Sonny McGown for his educated commentary on these pearls.

The song is I AIN’T GONNA GIVE NOBODY NONE OF MY JELLY ROLL, and there are three versions, presented here in possibly arbitrary order — they may be reversed in terms of actual performances. And they might need speed-correction, but my technical expertise stops at that door.

Take X: two duet choruses, two piano choruses (suspensions in second), chorus of trading phrases, duet chorus. Time: 4:12

Take Y: (rehearsal?) one duet chorus, two piano choruses, Gardner starts a third and then they go to duet, two duet choruses. Time: 3:48

Take Z: (second rehearsal?) one duet chorus, one piano chorus, two duet choruses with Hackett overblowing Time 3:00.

And here, thanks to Sonny McGown, is another acetate version of take X:

This sweet offering is for Charles Iselin, Rob Rothberg, Marc Caparone, John Ochs, and everyone else who holds Bobby Hackett in the highest esteem. . . . and those enlightened types who value Jack Gardner as well. I suggest repeated reverent listenings to this music, both raucous and ethereal.

May your happiness increase!

“PHOTO OF UNKNOWN MAN WITH BANJO” and “CREATORS OF JAZZ AND DIXIE LAND MUSIC”

Given the sorrow created by the deaths of John Sheridan and Phil Schaap, I felt the need for a different kind of post.

Todd Bryant Weeks, author of the fine biography of Hot Lips Page, LUCK’S IN MY CORNER, sent me the unidentified photograph below. He told me that the sender was a high school friend. “The face looked familiar and I thought he was quizzing me… But in fact it is from an old family scrapbook, and the owner of the scrapbook has passed away recently.” Todd added, “There is little or nothing to go on. The photograph was likely taken between 1950 and 1965 and may well have been taken in Massachusetts, possibly on the campus of Amherst College. The owner of the scrapbook is now deceased and his memory of the photograph was not clear enough to remember the time nor the location.”

Todd thought — and I hope — that some JAZZ LIVES readers might recognize this genial fellow. But beware: not everyone is or was famous.

See below! for a lovely answer to the question, provided by the wise Youngblood Colin Hancock, who knows.

And this just in, from eBay:

I can find nothing on either band.

The two pieces of tantalizing ephemera just remind me of a line from HAMLET: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio / Than are dreamt of in your Jazz History books.”

Or, more seriously, there are always people playing and singing — documented only by a snapshot or perhaps as “Harlem’s Snappiest Night Club Entertainers,” than the books can contain. And that, whether at this distance or just two weeks ago, seems a wonderful thing, that the energetic music we cherish is overflowing its banks all the time, even if Ralph Peer of Victor wasn’t there to offer those bands a contract or no one can recall the banjoist’s name.

Here’s what Colin says about the happy man with the banjo:

The last addition to the Blue Ribbon Syncopators was banjoist Robert ‘Gil’ Roberts. Born on April 5, 1896 in Amherst, MA, he was a descendant of a prominent Black Massachusetts family that had fought in the Civil War as members of the legendary 5th Massachusetts Cavalry, the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, and Connecticut 29th Colored Infantry. Roberts took up the banjo at a young age, and eventually found his way to Buffalo’s North side where he met George West and joined the Blue Ribbons. He performed with them on all of their recordings for both Okeh and Columbia. He left the band in 1928, eventually travelling to Europe with “Eubie Blake’s Blackbirds” in the early 1930s. He later went on to perform with Josephine Baker and Louis Armstrong, before settling in Boston, then his hometown of Amherst, MA. He lived there working around Amherst College as a handyman, but also serving as a guardian to the limited number of African-American students at the school. He also was an honorary member of the New Black Eagle Jazz Band, performing with them for many years. He lived to be 106, passing away peacefully on October 6, 2002.

Roberts was more than a man with a banjo. Take the time to read this, please:

https://www.amherst.edu/amherst-story/magazine/issues/2012spring/insights/node/398112?fbclid=IwAR1sAFMUkc1X0iesq3nFAkD4VsqMCZrT78-nL1p3k-WsBoUeThJnCYy-X-4

May your happiness increase!

HOT SOUNDS IN ILLINOIS (1939-1950): GEORGE BARNES, BOYCE BROWN, JIMMY McPARTLAND, BUD FREEMAN, ROSY McHARGUE, TUT SOPER, JOHNNY WINDHURST, MIFF MOLE, DARNELL HOWARD, DON EWELL, JOE RUSHTON, SQUIRREL ASHCRAFT, JACK GOSS, BUD WILSON

What follows is what I would call a Hot Jazz Mixtape — forty minutes of unissued performances, their provenance a matter of informed guesswork — that serves as an aural tour of Red Hot Chicago, 1939-50, combining club and living room music.

I was “trading tapes” with fellow collectors from the mid-1970s, and that usually consisted of in-person handoffs, “You recorded X last week? I’d love a copy of that!” “Sure, if you will copy your 78 acetate of A and B for me.” There was a good deal of finger-to-the-lips secrecy; some tapes had DO NOT COPY written on them in red or orange crayon — prohibitions we promptly violated, because it was important that a friend hear the new treasure. I would like to think that I and my fellow scoundrels did some good in making music heard, and we were busily buying records and compact discs, so we absolved ourselves of the crime, “Your cassettes are cutting into my sales!” The accusing ghost of Frank Newton never appeared in my bedroom to upbraid me, which I am thankful for.

The music that follows was sent to me by that rare person, a woman jazz collector, whose name I will keep unwritten; her tapes were annotated in pretty cursive, often with strips of paper — coarse-grained and narrow — of the kind most often seen as cash register tape or court reporters’ paper. This tape was labeled PRIVATE CHICAGO, and I have copied down all the information she supplied below.

Here’s the skeletal listing, with commentary to follow.

LADY BE GOOD / TIN ROOF BLUES Miff Mole, trombone; Darnell Howard, clarinet; Don Ewell, piano; unidentified drummer. Jazz Ltd., 1949

BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC Johnny Windhurst, trumpet; Jack Gardner, piano; others 1950

SUNDAY Bill Priestley, cornet; Bud WIlson, trombone; Squirrel Ashcraft, piano, others

BLUE BELLS OF SCOTLAND Jimmy McPartland, cornet; Joe Rushton, bass saxophone; Squirrel Ashcraft, Bill Priestley, guitar

YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME McPartland, Bud Freeman, tenor saxophone; Rosy McHargue, clarinet; Joe Rushton 1939

TUT STOMPS THE BLUES Boyce Brown, alto; Tut Soper, piano; Jack Goss, guitar 1945

LADY BE GOOD McPartland, Boyce, Rosy McHargue 1939 (incomplete)

SWEET LORRAINE George Barnes, electric guitar 1940

But a few explications. The Miff-Darnell-Ewell band was a regular working unit; the drummer might be Booker T. Washington or someone remembered by Marty Grosz as “Pork Chops.” The performances that follow are most likely recordings made at the Evanston, Illinois house of Squirrel Ashcraft, and some of them may have been issued on the MORE INFORMAL SESSIONS record label — Hank O’Neal’s project — but I gather that there were certain songs the musicians liked to jam on, so that there might be multiple versions of BLUE BELLS OF SCOTLAND, Jimmy McPartland’s tribute to the land of his people; Bud Freeman would play ADVANTAGE where and whenever. TUT STOMPS THE BLUES might come from a gig recording from a Chicago hotel. There are wonderful glimpses of my heroes Windhurst, Gardner, Soper, and the magnificently elusive Boyce Brown. But for me, the treasure is the concluding SWEET LORRAINE, featuring a nineteen-year old George Barnes, already dazzling.

For more from and about the young George Barnes — masterful even in his teens — visit here — and enjoy this:

To learn more about George, hear more, and purchase some of his invigorating music, visit https://georgebarneslegacy.com/.

I hope you enjoyed the aural travelogue of Hot, Chicago-style. And if you follow your ears to any of the players above, so much the better.

May your happiness increase!

HOW DOES IT SOUND TO YOU?

I was always suspicious of the DOWN BEAT Blindfold Tests — which now may be ancient history — where a famous musician was played records with no knowledge given about the performers or the circumstances, and their reactions were then printed, along with the star-ratings DOWN BEAT thrived on. Depending on their temperaments, some musicians were highly negative or consistently enthusiastic, severe or gracious. But often it became a test of memory and perception: could X recognize who was playing or not? And did they know a great variety of music deeply? So to me they were a quiz show operating in a minefield, sometimes revealing, sometimes disappointing.

But the premise is valid for those who proclaim their knowledge of and love of this music. Not all of us are close listeners, historians, collectors of sounds, connoisseurs. But I think many people have lost the ability to listen — by that, I mean to absorb a panoply of sounds and gestures, to understand them as manifestations of a particular time and place, and to weigh in on them with uncluttered objectivity. (I am not preening myself here because I would probably mis-identify many famous recordings on any Blindfold Test.) But I think many listeners come to music with judgments about it even before they have heard a note, and those judgments come out of perceptions entirely divorced from sound.

I’ve written in other contexts about listeners who listen with their eyes: admiring the attractive woman artist’s body, dress, and makeup as much as they hear her sounds. (These are the listeners who write on YouTube how they would like to take A away for an evening, or how cute B is when she sways while playing.) But there are other dances of perception: assessments based on the musician’s age, race, or ethnicity. Preconceptions and expectations, which we don’t verbalize to ourselves or aloud. And to be fair, some of the visual information offered us has everything to do with marketing, nothing to do with merit. For better or worse, performers are viewed as product to be sold to an audience — the audience who will go to the club, concert, or will buy the music. And I don’t yet know the artist who wants their cover picture on the CD to be a candid shot of them painting the bathroom ceiling.

But the interferences to objectivity are wider and deeper than getting an endorphin kick from the artist’s portrait. For instance, some listeners will turn away from a musical offering if the names are unfamiliar, foreign, thus unknown. “I don’t know that band, and I am a jazz expert for decades, so how good could they be?” And many of us are suspicious of the unknown — the child who won’t eat something because it looks funny — and thus we don’t want to take a chance on sullying our ears.

By the way, I am assuming that all my readers know the Ellington quotation about good and bad music, and the Condon one about how it enters our ears . . . so we can take them as a foundation.

I am most intrigued by the listeners who guide their listening experience by what I am calling Names. Many say, “I’m going to hear BingBong play — I always love them, and I have all their CDs as well as their new t-shirt, and I saw them in person on our last trip to Levittown, New York.” That sort of loyalty is lovely, and no one would mock a band’s strong fan base. But supposing the fan buys BingBong’s new disc and it sounds awful. The co-leaders hate each other; the rhythm section is annoyed at the horns; everyone is tired or overstimulated, etc. How many listeners will say, “I always love BingBong but their last CD was a letdown,” or “They sounded lousy on their closing set?” And let us say BingBong is expert in a particular style — name your passion — if a listener heard another band, unidentified, who played similar music, could the listener a) tell the difference, or b) make valid judgments about which band was more pleasing — without seeing the video, knowing the names, and so on?

I also write this because of the fan-club nature of so much jazz appreciation. Certain musicians have starry-eyed idolators (you could call them Facebook groups if you like) while other, equally or perhaps more gifted musicians get trickles of attention. Empirical evidence? I can post a video on YouTube of an exceptional performance by someone who stays close to home, doesn’t have a powerful internet presence, and it will receive 16 visits in the first day; post an equally compelling video by someone’s “Favorite,” and it will receive a thousand times the attention, and I do not exaggerate. But I wonder if the fans were blindfolded and listening closely without any evidence, they would make the same judgment. Or is it “We always go to the Olive Garden because they have the best Italian food and because we always go to the Olive Garden . . . “?

I would like to think I have trained myself to actually listen: I revered Ruby Braff and saw him in person a good deal, but I thought — after some time — that I could tell when he was happily inspired or grouchily going through the motions. I never saw Ben Webster or Billie Holiday, again, artists I revere, but I could say of a performance, “This is superb,” or “This is tired,” and mean no disrespect to the individuals or their art. But, before I set myself up as a moral-aesthetic authority, I know that if you tell me, “Here’s the new recording by four of your heroes,” I am predisposed to like it — although I am a very severe critic when I am disappointed. While I was writing this blog, I was (finally) playing a CD by a band whose guest star was someone I absolutely delight in, and I was saying to myself, “That’s good, but I have no compulsion to hear it again,” even though the guest star was in evidence.

The large questions — too large for any one post — are, to me: How well do we listen? What do we hear? On what do we base our assessments? Can we actually brush away all the extra-musical accretions and hear what’s there?

P.S. Readers will note my mild tone in the rumination above. So I state clearly that this post is not to attack, but to consider.

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!

HOLY RELICS: 1. ALBERTON HANSON, MUSIC LOVER (1940-41). 2. MISS WILEY, SIREN.

It’s amazing how tiny relics carry such weight and hint at such stories. Here’s a small collection of autographs for sale (for the moment) on eBay, and the link is here:

If possible, the back sides of these slips of paper — eighty years old — are even more revealing:

I wrote to the seller who promptly and politely told me that Maxwell’s was in St. Joseph’s, Missouri (although a few might be from his father’s move to Los Angeles), and that these were his father’s treasures — and that “Albertina” might have been an example of his “off-the-wall humor.” So there you have it — a little in-person slice of life documenting what it would be like to stand in front of the band and ask Mr. Miller or Mr. Cole for an autograph — when the Cab Calloway band played the “Frog Hop” — an actual place, a ballroom built by one Frank Frogge.

What a wonderful thing that these pages survive!

In the same eBay sweep, I found these portraits of Miss Lee Wiley, who obviously might have been a film siren if the circumstances had been different. Rumor has it that her one film appearance (circa 1936, in a variety short with Woody Herman) never was seen because she was so difficult to work with. But these photographs are powerful evidence of her beautiful sensuality — even when she wasn’t singing.

Star of radio — which was THE medium for music in 1934.
What beauty.
I wonder what the photographer suggested to her.
I think the song on the piano is NO MORE LOVE, popular in 1933.
Later, c. 1944, perhaps by Gjon Mili for LIFE, with momentary-husband Jess Stacy.

Here’s Lee with Leo Reisman in 1931, singing Vincent Youmans:

Thanks to eBay, the world’s attic, and to the sellers who keep finding things for us to rhapsodize over.

May your happiness increase!

AN INSPIRED DREAM IN SUNDAY’S SUNSHINE: THE EarRegulars at THE EAR OUT: JON-ERIK KELLSO, JAY RATTMAN, MATT MUNISTERI, TAL RONEN (June 6, 2021)

Late in the day, The EarRegulars with guests: Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, Jay Rattman, Tal Ronen, Josh Dunn, Albanie Falletta, June 6, 2021, outside the Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City.

JAZZ LIVES’ readers are an erudite lot, so they know the story of WILLIE THE WEEPER, a craftsperson with a substance abuse problem, to use 2021 terminology. In the song’s original lyrics, of which there are many variants, Willie was a low-down chimney sweeper with a “hop” (opium) habit, which afforded him the most extravagant dreams. An engaging song even without the lyrics, it made its way into Chicago jazz and thus the larger musical world through recordings by Louis Armstrong and others in the later Twenties. And should you investigate the lyrics, you would find that WILLIE is a surrogate parent to MINNIE THE MOOCHER, a creation that Cab Calloway enjoyed for decades.

Jon-Erik, intent.
Jay and Tal, savoring the depths.

The people you see in the photographs above are heroes of mine: they give their hearts to this music, which doesn’t always pay them back generously in currency. They “play their personalities,” as Roswell Rudd told me. They know how to sit up straight and color within the lines when necessary, but they also have huge wandering imaginations that delight and surprise. One of the most delightful of this delightful crew is the quiet subversive Jay Rattman, who brought his clarinet and alto saxophone to yesterday’s heartfelt fiesta. Jay looks prudent, serene: you would have no hesitation about co-signing a small loan for him, or letting him order dinner for the group. Not only would he “help the old lady across the street,” he would even first establish that she wanted to go.

Matt, characteristically in motion.

So what happened on WILLIE THE WEEPER — the fourth song of this warm breezy Sunday afternoon — was a wondrous surprise. Jay was surrounded by a mutual admiration society: Tal Ronen, string bass; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet. I don’t know whether Jay was having a good time with the idea of weeping, or of opium dreams, or if he was simply basking in the joy of being outside among friends playing music . . . but his choruses are the most extravagant — and memorable — dreams. He didn’t implode the song, but he certainly tested its durable elasticity. See and hear for yourself:

To quote Jon-Erik, “Fun one, to be sure.” If you haven’t spent a Sunday afternoon in the company of these wonderful creators, I encourage you to do so. When the sun is shining, 1-3:30, in front of 326 Spring Street. And as hot as it was yesterday, the river provided cooling breezes. As did the music — thrilling, mournful, uplifting.

May your happiness increase!

“PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS”: STEPHANE GRAPPELLI, LEE KONITZ, JIMMIE ROWLES, JOHN ETHERIDGE, DIZ DIZLEY, JACK SEWING at NICE (July 1978)

This set, blessedly preserved, reminds me of inventive restaurant cuisine, where one reads a listing of items one doesn’t expect to find together . . . but the result is surprising and memorable: music that tastes good to the ear. Violinist Stephane Grappelli’s group was patterned after the Quintette of the Hot Club of France — violin, two guitars, string bass — although he, not Django, was the star . . . with guitarists John Etheridge and Diz Dizley, string bassist Jack Sewing, whom I initially mis-identified as Brian Torff. Add to this established group the wondrous individualists Jimmie Rowles, piano, and Lee Konitz, alto saxophone, and unusual sounds result.

Whether everyone dispersed after the set saying, “Wow, that was fun!” or “Why can’t I pick my own friends to perform with?” I have no idea, but the three-quarters of an hour that we have is certainly not formulaic. You can do your own assessment: late-period Stephane, still rhapsodic, given to heroically fast tempos, playing “jazz standards,”; Lee Konitz and Jimmie Rowles on top of a QHCF rhythm team. I think the assemblage is both unpredictable and wonderful:

Stephane Grappelli, violin; Diz Dizley, John Etheridge, guitars; Jack Sewing, string bass.
I WONDER WHERE MY BABY IS TONIGHT / DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS / CRAZY RHYTHM / I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE /

add Lee Konitz HONEYSUCKLE ROSE

add Jimmie Rowles LET’S FALL IN LOVE / I’LL REMEMBER APRIL /

Grappelli Quartet: MANOIR DE MES REVES – DAPHNE /

Konitz, Rowles return SWEET GEORGIA BROWN (incomplete on original):

Bless these players, and bless the Grande Parade du Jazz also.

PRES: PAIN INTO JOY

“Lester Young 1st tenor.”

Memorial Day, an American “holiday,” celebrates those who have died in war. But some live on, wounded, even when the wounds are not visible. Some who suffer return home without medals. I am thinking of Lester Young, captured by the American military machine. To say that he was treated without understanding or kindness is to understate the facts and their repercussions.

I offer an excerpt from the saxophonist Leroy “Sam” Parkins’ memory of Pres, posted here in 2009:

September 1945 I found myself back in the infantry at Fort McClellan, Alabama. The army had lost some of my training records and they needed me to fire the Bazooka and the BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle – 30 cal. and a real bear to shoot), and they were in no hurry. I was going to have to re-graduate from basic training. Most of the rest of this rag-tag company were hardened combat veterans who had been fucked over by the army losing their records. It’s after VJ day.

The sergeants in charge were totally sympathetic; roll-call in the morning, traditionally out on the company street, included a lot of hung-over guys in bed, shouting from the sack, “I’m here sergeant.” Days on end with nothing to do so I found the band, started doing parades, the officers club ($5.00),the non-coms club ($4.00), and the USO. Played baritone with the big band. The drummer was a veteran of the entire European campaign, had been running into a fire fight with his best buddy beside him and watched the guy’s head being completely blown of by a mortar shell. He simply didn’t give a shit, and kept a bottle of Gordon’s gin under the bed for breakfast to keep the boogies away.

The army was totally, and I mean totally, segregated. The colored soldiers had their own gate, and there was a 100 yard lawn – a DMZ – between the two posts. No one allowed to pass in either direction. But their band had Count Basie’s drummer, Jo Jones, other Basieites, Lester Young (Basie’s star saxophonist) had just been drafted, was in basic training and played with the band when he could. Our drummer was the only one of us with the balls to walk across the lawn to rehearsals and dances and to get to know the black musicians.

He came back one night with a really lousy story. Lester Young (street name ‘Pres’) was in the guard house. He had pleaded to be excused from basic and be allowed in the band; the band leader petitioned the authorities, to no avail (and I wonder if a white musician would have made out better. I knew some who did, and after all, the war was over…).

In Geoff Dyer’s book, “But Beautiful” (great book if you can stand unvarnished tragedies), the author, using the Freedom of Information Act, got the transcript of the trial; there’s a lot of detail, all brutal, that I wasn’t privy to, but this here narrative is missing from all biographical accounts. No way any latter day historian could know it.

It’s night firing on the fifty caliber machine-gun range. Outside of the noise, it’s a pretty sight. Maybe twenty machine-guns lined up about eight feet apart, shooting down a slight incline at cardboard cutouts of enemy soldiers; every tenth bullet (tracer bullets) lights up as it’s fired so you see slightly arched lines of electric magic flowing from each gun barrel.

The sergeant, off to the side and slightly down-range, notices one line of magic markers disappear. He goes to investigate, and finds Lester Young lying on his back smoking a joint. Sergeant is aghast. “On your feet soldier!” Pres’ reply is to hand the sergeant the joint and – “Hey sarge — aren’t the stars pretty up in the sky?”

In his left hand pocket of his fatigue jacket were five more joints; sergeant calls the MPs and the founder of a style that was to sweep the country (think Stan Getz and “The Girl From Ipanema”) is led off to jail.

There was no rush to bring him to trial. He started acting up in his cell, noisy, woke guys at night, he wanted his horn. So the guard got it for him. End of the world. He played 24 hours a day, made everyone crazy, so they took it away from him. And he really lost it. I have no details, but the guards were white – and so forth.

Disobeying a direct order, possession of narcotics, 400 days in an army detention center.

There are other stories of how a sensitive person was fed into the gears and cogs of a machine that — of necessity — cared nothing for individuality or sensitivity, and the familiar end of this narrative is that “the Army destroyed Pres, and you can hear it in his playing.”

But maybe not.

Here is Lester’s own composition, “D. B. BLUES,” named for “detention barracks,” a blues-with-a-bridge, recorded in December 1945, with his dear friend Vic Dickenson, trombone; Dodo Marmarosa, piano; Red Callendar, string bass; Henry Tucker, drums:

from December 1953, the NEW D. B. BLUES, with Jesse Drakes, trumpet; Gildo Mahones, piano; Gene Ramey, string bass; Connie Kay, drums:

and finally (for this survey — Lester played this “composition” many times more) — a sweetly light-hearted version from December 1956, with Bill Potts, piano; Norman Williams, string bass; Jim Lucht, drums:

I wouldn’t presume to know what went through Lester’s mind when he was playing. I think we can be sure that he named this composition for the place he was imprisoned. But you’ll notice it is music — not a scream of rage or hatred for his oppressors.

This might be the great gift he and others give us: to not only state but embody how pain can be transmuted into beauty and joy. That joy sustains not only us, but in some way it sustained its creator. We should stand in awe of the power of the soul to transcend the harshness of the world.

May your happiness increase!

LEE KONITZ, LOCKJAW DAVIS, JIMMIE ROWLES, BUCKY PIZZARELLI, RED MITCHELL, SHELLY MANNE (Nice 7.9.78) — a second take.

Note: the first version of this post was completely in chaos: the audio was Konitz and colleagues but the video was the World’s Greatest Jazz Band — enough to make anyone race for Dramamine. I was informed by several attentive readers, withdrew everything for repairs, and hope it is now brought into unity. Apologies! Barney Bigard’s hand gesture at the start of the video (the last seconds of his set) conveys my feelings about technical difficulties, especially when they leap right past SNAFU to become totally FUBAR.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is lee-konitz-for-selmer.jpeg

“Strange bandfellows?” you say. I think some festival producers operate on the principle of the one Unexpected Element creating a great Chemical Reaction, that if you line up seven musicians who often play together, you might get routines. But add someone unusual and you might get the energy that jam sessions are supposed to produce from artists charged by new approaches. Or, perhaps cynically, it could be that novelty draws audiences: “I never heard X play with Y: I’ve got to hear this!”

Here are Lee Konitz, alto saxophone; Jimmie Rowles, piano; Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, tenor saxophone; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Red Mitchell, string bass; Shelly Manne, drums, placed together at the Grande Parade du Jazz on July 9, 1978.

I’m not ranking these remarkable musicians, but this is a group of players who hadn’t always been associated in the past: yes to Konitz and Rowles, Rowles and Mitchell; Bucky and Shelly played with everyone. But Lockjaw comes from another Venn diagram.

I can imagine Lee, who was strong-willed, thinking, “What am I supposed to do with this group?” and I wonder if that’s why he asked Shelly to improvise a solo interlude, why he chose to begin the set with a duet with Bucky — rather than attempting to get everyone together to play familiar tunes (as they eventually do). At times it feels like carpooling, where Thelma wants to eat her sardine sandwich at 8 AM to the discomfort of everyone else in the minivan. But sets are finite, and professionals make the best of it.

And if any of the above sounds ungracious, I know what a privilege it was to be on the same planet as these artists (I saw Bucky, Lee, and Jimmie at close range) and how, forty-plus years later, they seem surrounded by radiance.


The songs are INVITATION Lee – Bucky / WAVE / THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU Bucky, solo / IMPROVISATION Shelly, solo / COOL BLUES, which has been shared in whole and part on YouTube, but this, I believe, is the first airing of the complete set.

All of them, each of them, completely irreplaceable.

May your happiness increase!

FESTIVALS MAKE STRANGE BANDFELLOWS: LEE KONITZ, EDDIE “LOCKJAW” DAVIS, JIMMIE ROWLES, BUCKY PIZZARELLI, RED MITCHELL, SHELLY MANNE (Nice, July 9, 1978)

Note: the first version of this post was completely in chaos: the audio was Konitz and colleagues but the video was the World’s Greatest Jazz Band — enough to make anyone race for Dramamine. I was informed by several attentive readers, withdrew everything for repairs, and hope it is now brought into unity. Apologies! Barney Bigard’s hand gesture at the start of the video (the last seconds of his set) conveys my feelings about technical difficulties.

“Strange bandfellows?” you say. I think some festival producers operate on the principle of the one Unexpected Element creating a great Chemical Reaction, that if you line up seven musicians who often play together, you might get routines. But add someone unusual and you might get the energy that jam sessions are supposed to produce from artists charged by new approaches. Or, perhaps cynically, it could be that novelty draws audiences: “I never heard X play with Y: I’ve got to hear this!”

Here are Lee Konitz, alto saxophone; Jimmie Rowles, piano; Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, tenor saxophone; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Red Mitchell, string bass; Shelly Manne, drums, placed together at the Grande Parade du Jazz on July 9, 1978.

I’m not ranking these remarkable musicians, but this is a group of players who hadn’t always been associated in the past: yes to Konitz and Rowles, Rowles and Mitchell; Bucky and Shelly played with everyone. But Lockjaw comes from another Venn diagram.

I can imagine Lee, who was strong-willed, thinking, “What am I supposed to do with this group?” and I wonder if that’s why he asked Shelly to improvise a solo interlude, why he chose to begin the set with a duet with Bucky — rather than attempting to get everyone together to play familiar tunes (as they eventually do). At times it feels like carpooling, where Thelma wants to eat her sardine sandwich at 8 AM to the discomfort of everyone else in the minivan. But sets are finite, and professionals make the best of it.

And if any of the above sounds ungracious, I know what a privilege it was to be on the same planet as these artists (I saw Bucky, Lee, and Jimmie at close range) and how, forty-plus years later, they seem surrounded by radiance.


The songs are INVITATION Lee – Bucky / WAVE / THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU Bucky, solo / IMPROVISATION Shelly, solo / COOL BLUES, which has been shared in whole and part on YouTube, but this, I believe, is the first airing of the complete set.

All of them, each of them, completely irreplaceable.

May your happiness increase!

“BADVERTISING”

You know, a true friend is one who will tell you your fly is unzipped or that you have something in your teeth. One stellar example is Eric Devine, or CineDevine, as he’s known on YouTube. Although Eric started later than I did, he is a much more skilled videographer than I’ll ever be. See his expert videos of Jeff Barnhart, the Fat Babies, Tuba Skinny, Bria Skonberg, Johnny Varro, Heather Thorn, and many others on his YouTube channel.

Eric told me that YouTube was endlessly attaching advertisements to the videos we create. I know that nothing, and that includes paper napkins and hot sauce at Chipotle, is free, but I had forgotten about YouTube as a money-making arm of Google. Why? Because I had voluntarily participated in a process like extortion or the “protection rackets” of years gone by. I pay a monthly sum to YouTube to keep my viewing ad-free, like paying the exterminator to come regularly to keep the termites away. But I checked with my research bureau in Oregon (JJKS, Ltd.) and the answer came: the joint was crawling with ads.

I could give you examples, but why publicize these firms? Below is a photograph of the label of a great record. Take your own trip to YouTube to see what products are being sold, and report back. Did anyone ask Smack or Louis?

Eric and I agree: you’d think Google had enough money already, but I tried, with small success, to look on the bright side: who would have thought that we’d have the privilege of going to a festival, being welcomed, and being able to spread joy up to the maximum and help artists and enterprises as well. And he ruefully agreed.

We’re not totally naive: Google, YouTube, Facebook, and the rest require revenue to survive. But it feels sneaky, like the stories of the subliminal ads that were supposedly inserted in films at the drive-in theatre: a sixteenth of a second of a photograph of an icy bottle of Coca-Cola, with the words WOULDN’T AN ICE-COLD COKE TASTE GREAT RIGHT NOW? And everyone was thirsty and didn’t know why.

This post is just to say that if you click on a video of mine or Eric’s — which we did for free and the musicians allowed us to use for free — and see ads for pet shampoo, vitamin supplements, body-part alteration, fast food, gutter cleanouts, life insurance, or any of a thousand annoyances . . . we weren’t asked for our permission; we don’t profit from it, and we’re sorry that commerce gets in the way.

Since I’ve started JAZZ LIVES in 2008, people have said I was foolish for not “monetizing” it, and I tell them that art is pure and money, although necessary, should be kept in a separate drawer, except when it comes to paying artists lavishly.

“Badvertising” is my own coinage, but you’re welcome to it.

And if anyone accuses me of hypocrisy because I too run ads on JAZZ LIVES — for The Syncopated Times and Vintage Jazz Mart — I offered to do this; I believe in these publications, I’d like to support them, and I am not receiving a monthly check for the ad space.

Even in this dramatically capitalist world, art should not have to float in a bath of tepid commerce. Beware of hucksters, grifters, con men, card sharps, and pickpockets, I say.

May your happiness increase!

EDDY DAVIS: IN MEMORY STILL GREEN (Scott Robinson, Conal Fowkes, Orange Kellin, Debbie Kennedy, Fernando Kfouri, The Cajun: March 29, 2006)

Scott Robinson wrote this elegy for Eddy Davis on April 8, 2020, and I couldn’t improve on it.


I’ve just lost one of the dearest friends I’ve ever had in music. Eddy Davis was a highly significant and influential presence in my life. He was a fiercely individualistic performer… a veteran of the old Chicago days when music was hot, joyful, exuberant and unselfconscious. A character and a curmudgeon, who could hold court for hours after the gig. And a loving mentor who helped younger musicians like myself learn and grow in this music.
I had only played with Eddy a handful of times when he called me in late 1998 to say that he was forming a new band to fill a weekly Wednesday spot at the Cajun on 8th Avenue. He wanted me to play lead on C melody saxophone, in a little group with two reeds, and no drums. This by itself gives a clue to what an original thinker he was.

I already knew that Eddy was a proficient and highly individualistic stylist on the banjo, who sounded like no one else. What I didn’t know, but soon found out, was that this man was also a walking repository of many hundreds if not thousands of tunes of every description, ranging far beyond the standard repertoire… with a fascinating background story at the ready for nearly every one. I quickly learned that he was also a prolific and idiosyncratic composer himself, with a wonderfully philosophical work ethic: write original music every day, keep what works, and throw the rest away without a backward glance.

Eddy was also what used to be called a “character”: affable, opinionated, hilarious, and irascible all in one, and above all highly passionate about music. What I learned over the ensuing 7 ½ years in Eddy’s little band, I cannot begin to describe. I came to refer to those regular Wed. sessions as my “doctor’s appointment” — for they fixed whatever ailed me, and provided the perfect antidote to the ills of the world, and of the music scene. Over the years we were graced with the presence of some very distinguished musicians who came by and sat in with us, including Harry Allen, Joe Muranyi, Bob Barnard, Howard Johnson, and Barry Harris.

Eddy was generous with his strong opinions, with his knowledge and experience, and with his encouragement. But he was a generous soul in other ways as well. When he heard that I was building a studio (my “Laboratory”), he had me come by the apartment and started giving me things out of his closets. A Roland 24-track recorder… three vintage microphones… instruments… things that I treasure, and use every single day of my life. When my father turned 75, Eddy came out to the Lab in New Jersey and played for him, and wouldn’t take a dime for it.
When I got the call last night that Eddy had passed — another victim of this horrible virus that is ruining so many lives, and our musical life as well — I hung up the phone and just cried. Later I went out to my Laboratory, and kissed every single thing there that he had given to me. How cruel to lose such an irreplaceable person… killed by an enemy, as my brother commented, that is neither visible nor sentient.

One night at the Cajun stands out in my memory, and seems particularly relevant today. It was the night after the last disaster that changed New York forever: the World Trade Center attack. There was a pall over the city, the air was full of dust, and there was a frightful, lingering smell. “What am I doing here?” I thought. “This is crazy.” But somehow we all made our way to the nearly empty club. We were in a state of shock; nobody knew what to say. I wondered if we would even be able to play. We took the stage, looked at each other, and counted off a tune. The instant the first note sounded, I was overcome with emotion and my face was full of tears.

Suddenly I understood exactly why we were there, why it was so important that we play this music. We played our hearts out that night — for ourselves, for our city, and for a single table of bewildered tourists, stranded in town by these incomprehensible events. They were so grateful for the music, so comforted by it.

The simple comfort of live music has been taken from us now. We must bear this loss, and those that will surely follow, alone… shut away in our homes. I know that when the awful burden of this terrible time has finally been lifted, when we can share music, life, and love again, it will feel like that night at the Cajun. My eyes will fill, my heart will sing, and the joy that Eddy Davis gave me will be with me every time I lift the horn to my face, for as long as I live.

It should be clear that the passionate honesty Scott offers us when he plays also comes through his words.

Here is an audio document of one of those Wednesday nights, March 29, 2006, recorded at The Cajun. Eddy Davis, banjo, vocal; Conal Fowkes, piano, vocal; Scott Robinson, C-melody saxophone; Orange Kellin, clarinet; Debbie Kennedy, string bass; Fernando Kfouri, trombone (on TAILGATE RAMBLE). I wish I had been less intimidated (underneath his Midwestern affability, I sensed there was a core of steel in Eddy and I initially kept my distance, although I did develop a friendly relationship and did create videos) and brought my video camera, but I’ve left everything that was recorded that night in — including Conal going in search of his car, which had been towed, between-songs chatter, and more, for those not fortunate to be there fifteen years ago or other times.

May your happiness increase!

https://syncopatedtimes.com

IN RESPONSE TO YOUR MOST RECENT EMAIL . . . .

Because of this blog’s thirteen-year existence, I get a number of email solicitations a week from people I don’t know (or know only slightly) who would like me to listen to their new CD, fall in love with it, and publicize it.  I do not write this to mock them: it is difficult to be an independent artist in any century, and this shifting landscape has not made it easier.  Artists pay thousands of dollars to create and promote their own work, and the publicity that actual record companies, record stores, and mass-market journalism once provided has gone away.  So I sympathize.

HAMP

What follows might be what my mother called “talking to the wall,” but perhaps someone will take this unsolicited advice and use it to be better marketers of their work.  After all, “art” and “product” have become superimposed.  When your CD “drops,” you want to “move” “units.”  And that’s historically valid and respectable.  In 1932, the Moten band hoped their Victor records would sell.  Nothing shameful there.

But many artists — peculiarly, members of the most technologically-astute generation in human history — go about this blindly.  I presume they Google “music blog,” and send out several hundred form-letters, in hope.  It makes me envision someone opening a bag of grass seed on the roof, dumping it over the side, saying gleefully, “NOW I’ll have my very own meadow!”  The birds enjoy the all-you-can-peck snacks, but very little grows.

A series of suggestions.

Be emotionally astute rather than eagerly self-absorbed.  Understandably, you love your work.  The new CD is your wondrous creation.  It took time, money, thought, emotion, so many steps . . . !  But your reader, your “target,” has never heard it.  How can you make them intrigued enough to want to?  How can you make them not instantly click on the wastepaper-basket icon?

Assume you are writing to an adult rather than a teenager, and take deep breaths.  Prose has conventions that aren’t texting, and the more polished — I don’t mean Photoshopped — your email is, the better it will be received.  The cliche, “You have only one chance to make a first impression,” is true.

If writing is not your strongest talent, get someone in your family or circle of friends who can write to look at what you send out before you send it out.  Maybe you believe no one cares that you scatter apostrophes and commas as if you were salting your eggs, but many people do.  If you are writing in a language not your own, have someone look at it for sure: Google Translate is not trustworthy.

Be plain and friendly and clear.  Possibly your reader is already weary of press-release hyperbole: speak as one person to another, although “Hey” is still for horses and “Yo” is for people you are addressing very informally.  And perhaps especially in pandemic-times, expressing hopes that a stranger is “doing well in these _________ days” often sounds stale.

Find out the name of the person you want to reach and use it, deferentially, but use it.  Should it be “Mr. Steinman” or “Michael”?  Have we ever met?  Do we have friends in common?  How would you say hello to me if we were introduced in person?  You can always come down from the formal; the other ascent is tricky.

Know who you’re sending it to.  Crucial.  Know your market.  That means: be willing to do five minutes of research on each prospective blog or site or person.  If you are sending out your version of the Jones-Collins Astoria Hot Eight to someone whose preferred music is alt-Christian-metal, it’s likely you are not going to get a hearing.  And the reverse.

A few hours ago, I got a very cordial email from a young man who — articulate and friendly — wanted me to listen to and publicize his new song.  It was very sweet pop music of the kind (and, yes, I know I am out of touch) I would expect to hear on the restaurant or mall sound system.  I wrote back to him and, our of curiosity, asked if he knew the music I promoted on the blog.  He said he didn’t, that he’d gotten my name from a new music distribution list or some such; he very graciously apologized for wasting my time.  I wrote back and said he hadn’t, and I wished him well. He did me no harm; in fact, he provided me with a relevant anecdote for this post.  But he did waste his energy.

Research is not only finding out that there might be a connection, but using the hope of that connection as a way of getting in the door.  Showing your reader that you know what (s)he likes sends two messages: “I know your work and have taken the time to admire it,” and “We might be a good fit for these reasons.”  I know that too much of this might veer into false adoration, but if I get an email that says, “Here’s my new CD, and you’ll love it,” or one that says, “Dear Mr. Steinman, I’ve been reading JAZZ LIVES for years, and I see that you admire melodic guitarists like X and Y.  They are my heroes, too, and I wonder if you would be willing to listen to a track from my new CD . . . . ” you know which one will get my attention.  Being candid, you don’t have to have been a life-long subscriber, but a little saucer of attentive fakery based on research will win friends.

After you’ve suggested — gently — why you believe your music would be appealing to them and their audience, make it easy for them to hear it, to read the liner notes, to see the covers.  We readers have other things pulling at our sleeve, just as you do.  Be aware that a review or an interview is not the same thing as a one-sentence blurb, and if someone like myself commits to writing about your disc, there is an expenditure of energy on my part as there is and was on yours.

If you’ve carefully done your research, and your music is aimed at the right person’s ears, perhaps you’ll get an enthusiastic email back.  Or a polite refusal.  Don’t be a pest, but do persevere.  I don’t mind being reminded of something pleasing that I might have neglected the first time around.

Be gracious.  This applies to both sides of the conversation.  The reviewer who writes back, “Your band sucks,” deserves to be ostracized.  If the listener hates the music or finds it boring, silence is the best response.  And the reviewer should not take the opportunity to lecture the artists on their shortcomings.  That you disliked the solo tenor saxophone solo on the subject of Chernobyl, others might not.

And to the artist . . . if you are tempted to write smart sharp rejoinders to a refusal, go make some tea or take a walk.  Graciousness is remembered forever, and rudeness even longer.  Remember that the world of musicians and publicists and bloggers is a small and gossipy one.  “Do you know _______?” is the start of many lethal conversations that no one knows about but that go on all the time.  If I seem to over-emphasize graciousness, it’s because it is in short supply, and some people who pride themselves on truth-telling do so with a hatchet.  For my part, I will always remember the two bandleaders who were — as the Irish say — narky to me, along the lines of, “Well, my wonderful band doesn’t need your little blog at all.”

I can’t guarantee that these suggestions will insure that you will ship boxes of CDs or digital units, but they won’t hurt.  If you’ve been told, “If you send out a thousand emails, you have a better chance of being heard than if you send out ten,” that logic is debatable.  Think of the restaurant menu-flyers you’ve gotten: how many of them have encouraged you to buy an actual meal?

If those ten emails are to the right people, you will get pleasing results.  You have a better chance of your words being read, your music being listened to.  And that’s what ALL of us want: I want to hear a CD by someone I didn’t know existed, twenty minutes ago, and I want to be enthralled.  You want me to be enthralled.  Deal?

Pass this one around.  I spent decades teaching, and I guess the didactic impulse hasn’t left me, but I want to help people on both sides of the exchange to be happier, and I want the art I love to continue, unbruised and flourishing.

For those who like such things, here’s a test.  I received this email today.  I’ve omitted identifying details.  See if you can “read” the many reasons the sender has it all wrong:

Dear Editor,

Hey It’s XXXXXXX, Pop- Rock artist and entertainer. I released my latest song “———–” yesterday and think it would be a great fit for your audience.  “———–” available on all platforms now is a form of art depicting [details and the opening lines of the song omitted.] The video is well over 5k streams in its first day, and would appreciate the feature/review.

It continues on, but I hope you get the idea.  The artist and entertainer might be a wonderful person, but (s)he hasn’t a clue about how to operate in the larger world.

May your happiness increase!

Bunk Johnson FB

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ART UNDER ATTACK: RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL JAM SESSION featuring GENE KRUPA, ROY ELDRIDGE, BOBBY HACKETT, VIC DICKENSON, BENNY CARTER, RED NORVO, BUD FREEMAN, TEDDY WILSON, JIM HALL, LARRY RIDLEY (July 3, 1972)

There is a good deal of history within and around the live performance you are about to hear. However, the sound is not ideal — which I will explain — so sonically-delicate listeners may want to come back tomorrow.

It might be difficult for younger readers to imagine the excitement that I and my jazz friends greeted the Newport Jazz Festival in New York in 1972. It was the Arabian Nights — a cornucopia of concerts where we could see and hear musicians who, for the most part, had been sounds coming out of a cloth-covered speaker grille or posed on the cover of a long-playing record. My friends and I, specifically Stu Zimny, bought tickets to the concerts we could afford — we were college students — and I brought my cassette recorder with the more exotic Shure microphone attached. I don’t remember the ticket prices at Radio City Music Hall, but for people of our class, it was general seating which required climbing flights of stairs. I looked it up today and the hall seats just over 6000.

I think we might have scored seats in the front of the highest mezzanine. Our neighbors were two exuberant women from Texas, younger than I am now, understandably ready for a good time. They’d brought Scotch, offered us some, which we declined, and they politely declined our offer of Cadbury chocolate. I kept silent because I had a cassette recorder in my lap; the Texas contingent gave out with appropriate exultations. The audience in general was excited and excitable, although they paid attention to the solos. (One of the women, commenting on the applause, can be heard to say, “You like something, you tell ’em about it,” and who would disagree?)

The players were a constellation of heroes: Gene Krupa, drums; Larry Ridley, string bass; Teddy WIlson, piano; Jim Hall, guitar; Red Norvo, vibraphone; Bud Freeman, tenor saxophone; Benny Carter, alto saxophone; Vic Dickenson, trombone; Bobby Hackett, cornet; Roy Eldridge, trumpet.

The first set offered four long songs, and HONEYSUCKLE ROSE / JUMPIN’ WITH SYMPHONY SID were the closing pair, with Gene, whose health was not good, playing only those two, taking over for the younger Bobby Rosengarden. (Gene would die fifteen months later.) There is some distortion; my microphone was not ready for 6000 people; the engineers seemed only partially aware of how acoustic instruments might sound in such a huge hall. The ensembles are not always clear, and the applause can drown out part of a solo, although this excitable audience is tame when compared to some recorded at JATP concerts. Even in substandard sound, the music comes through, the individual voices of the soloists, and their pleasure at being on this stage together. Our pleasure you will have to imagine, but it was substantial then, perhaps more so now.

Consider for yourself, with or without Scotch or chocolate:

The Festival concerts were reviewed regularly in the New York Times. Here are the opening paragraphs of Don Heckman’s review, “MIDNIGHT JAM SESSION AT MUSIC HALL,” in the New York Times, July 5, 1972:


The jam session, that most venerable of institutions, is still at the very heart of the jazz experience. Rare though it may be in these days of musical eclecticism, it continues to be a kind of proving ground for musicians, in which they can test and measure themselves against their contemporaries.

The Newport Jazz Festival had the first of two scheduled Midnight Jam Sessions at Radio City Music Hall Monday at midnight. The first group of the session, a mainstream‐oriented ensemble, included Bud Freeman, Gene Krupa, Bobby Rosengarden, Jim Hall, Larry Ridley, Vic Dickenson, Benny Carter, Roy Eldridge, Teddy Wilson and Bobby Hackett. They bounced happily through a passel of swing standards, with Carter, Eldridge and Freeman sounding particularly energetic.

Then the old gladiator of the swing drums, Gene Krupa, was announced and the proceedings went rapidly down hill. Krupa dashed buoyantly on stage and proceeded to hammer away in a style that would have been more appropriate for a Blaze Starr strip show than for the backing of some of the finest jazz players in the world. Yet his reputation and his flair for showmanship sustained him, and every tasteless clang of the cymbal was met with shouts of approval from the overflow audience.

I know Mr. Heckman (born 1932) is widely-published, has a musical background, and is well-respected. Several of my readers may know him; others may find nothing extraordinary in his prose. After all, “Aren’t we all entitled to our opinions, Michael?” But I am amazed at what he heard — balanced against what readers in 2021 can hear even on my murky tape — and by his positioning himself above the artists and above the audience. His three sentences read as contempt for Krupa — a hammering gladiator who would have been more appropriate playing for a stripper — and for an audience too foolish to know, as did Mr. Heckman, that they should have sat silent in disapproval.

That kind of self-aggrandizing disapproval makes good copy, but it is to me a repellent attitude towards the art one is supposed to depict and evaluate. I know that if I had been able to ask Gene his reaction, he might have sighed and said, “Chappie, these fellows do it to sell papers. I don’t take them seriously,” and he told Harriet Choice that the wild applause was because the young audience perceived him as an icon of marijuana culture — which I think says more about his deep modesty than anything else.

At this late date, I am offended by Heckman’s paragraph, for the sake of this holy art. Sneering is not art criticism.

It was and is a blessing to be in the same room with these players.

May your happiness increase!

HIS SENTIMENTAL MOOD: JOHN ALLRED, MATT MUNISTERI, TAL RONEN (Cafe Bohemia, January 16, 2020)

I don’t think there’s ever going to be a time when we say, “Stop!  That’s enough beauty!” and certainly this recent period is not one of those times.

John Allred, Duke Heitger, Ehud Asherie, 2009

So I offer a vivid example: Duke Ellington’s IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD played with great feeling and virtuosity by John Allred, trombone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Tal Ronen, string bass — at Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street, New York City, on a Thursday night, January 16, 2020. 

The fellow introducing the performance and then leaving the stand to enjoy it better is Jon-Erik Kellso, who knows a good deal about the creation of beauty.

Allred’s magnificence is that he makes those pieces of greased metal sing heartfelt memorable songs.  And the string section of Munisteri and Ronen is glorious also.

May your happiness increase!

WE’RE ENCHANTED: JOE SULLIVAN IMPROVISES (March 1963)

The lopsided stereotype of pianist Joe Sullivan is that of a hard-drinking barrelhouse man and player, attacking the keyboard with great power until he day he could do it no more.  But that’s only a small snapshot: if you’ve seen Sullivan, somewhat nervously chatting with Ralph Gleason on JAZZ CASUAL, you see a gentle, sensitive man: underneath the many versions of LITTLE ROCK GETAWAY is the humble romantic, tenderly exploring A ROOM WITH A VIEW or FOREVERMORE.

Here is something rare and precious: Joe’s solo improvisation, thirty minutes long, for the soundtrack of a documentary film about blind children. I don’t know more than this, except it’s aurally clear that the film’s producers did not or could not pay royalties, so they asked Joe to keep far away from copyrighted compositions, his as well as others. Did he watch the screen while playing? I don’t know. This seems to have been one of his last recorded adventures. The tape from which this is taken is third or fourth-generation, so you will hear the high-end distortion characteristic of decaying acetate tape. Sorry!

But any auditory disturbance fades away in the ear and heart as one follows Joe through his — to me — thrilling meanderings:

This is in honor of my great friend, far-away teacher and benefactor John L. Fell.

May your happiness increase!

SHORT YET SOARING: “WEARY BLUES,” BENT PERSSON and GORAN ERIKSSON

The received wisdom is that long-playing records (and then CDs) allowed jazz musicians “room to stretch out,” and in many cases that is a boon.  But I admire those musicians of all styles who can “get it done” in two choruses, smile, and step back.

Here’s a wonderful example: Bent Persson, cornet, and Goran Eriksson, banjo and stop-time percussive effects, romping through WEARY BLUES in the finest Louis Armstrong-Johnny St.Cyr manner, a performance that feels like the most rewarding dinner on a plate the size of a saucer: compressed, heated, expert:

It’s supposed to rain and be gray for the next three days . . . but in my heart the Louis-sun is blazing bright.

May your happiness increase!

 

 

BLISSFUL PLAYS: “EARLY RISERS,” JOHN SCURRY’S REVERSE SWING (Lionshare Records, 2 CDs)

FRAME, John Scurry, 2016.

I’m rarely at a loss for words.  (Whether that’s a virtue or an annoyance, I leave to you.)  So when some new music hits me so deliciously hard that I think, “I don’t know how to write about this,” that phenomenon is fascinating.  I assure you it’s not pandemic-isolation brain: it’s being in the presence of something texturally and emotionally rich that doesn’t neatly compartmentalize itself.

To be precise, I am referring to EARLY RISERS, a brand-new 2 CD release by John Scurry’s Reverse Swing (Lionshare Records).  John is — in no order and all at once — guitarist / painter / composer / optimistic seeker.  The discs feature a variety of John’s compositions, and for once when I read those words on a new release, it inspires happy anticipation, not anxiety.

As I told a friend after hearing the first disc, “If I heard this coming from another room, I would say ‘What IS that?’ in happy astonishment and go to the speaker to get closer, to drink it in, to find out more.

Let me encourage you to follow me towards that sound source . . . https://lionsharecords.com/album/early-risers — if you scroll down — you can hear EARLY RISERS, CLANDESTINE, CHEERS ANTIOCH, EGYPTIAN VIOLET.  And you can read the liner notes.  Please do.  Take your time, and report back.

Isn’t that the damnedest beautiful thing?

Jazz listeners who like experience in little Lego units can say I HEAR THIS and A TOUCH OF THAT.  Some already have their little pads out, noting, “That phrase sounds just like —— on his Atlantic release in 1954.”  Knock yourself out, pals.

But I can only describe John’s music metaphorically.  A bed with brightly-colored coverlets, already warm, with the promise of birdsong in the next morning outside the window.  Music that when you have to drive to the station, it’s escaped into the neighbor’s garden after climbing the roof.  And other times it cozies itself into your lap, purring.  Or it’s like the first forkful of a new ethnic rice dish, whose flavors you can’t quite identify, until you say, “Is that cinnamon?  Is that preserved lemon peel?  Wow!”  It’s like a few kind sentences coming from a person you have never known to be easily kind.

Or look again at John’s painting above.  Simple objects carefully and carelessly arranged, balanced and precarious, quietly vibrating with feeling.  (Morandi reminds me of Scurry.)  His musics, and the plural is intentional, come from the same human(e) source.

I’ve run out of metaphors, but your ears will show you the way.

I hope EARLY RISERS warms and cheers you as it does me.  Or if it doesn’t today, come back and peer at it again.  It’s impossible to anatomize, but that is its charm: it’s alive.  And it plans to stay that way.

In case you lost your way in my at-a-loss-for-words that turned into words, I nudge you again to https://lionsharecords.com/album/early-risers

May your happiness increase!

SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE GIRLS’ SCHOOL (December 1, 1951)

Concord Academy, Concord, Mass., established 1922 for grades 9-12, enrollment less than 500 students.  Surely I don’t understand upper-class girls’ boarding schools, but it seems the last place one would find a hot jazz concert — or was it a dance? — in late 1951.  Then again, jazz was still the popular music.  Doing research on the Boston hot jazz scene of this period, I came upon this passage from a 1950 story in the Harvard Crimson about the genesis of the school’s hot band, the Crimson Stompers.  Savor this as a relic of a vanished time, please:

They went twice to Smith College (Gifford is carried away by the memory where 200 girls in sweat shirts and dungarees sat in a semicircle and shrieked for the real oldtimers like “Coal Cart Blues” (an Armstrong standby).

That, I think, is the emotional connection between Concord Academy and jazz.

One of the musicians, cornetist Johnny Windhurst, then 25, had substantial fame.  Windhurst had been the second horn in Sidney Bechet’s quintet that broadcast from the Savoy Cafe in 1945; he had returned to the Savoy in 1949 with Edmond Hall’s band that had Vic Dickenson in the front line.  In New York, he had performed with Eddie Condon, Jack Teagarden, James P. Johnson, and other notables, at Town Hall and the Stuyvesant Casino; in 1952, he would be playing regularly at Eddie Condon’s on West Third Street.  Windhurst turned down opportunities to travel, would not learn to read music, and stayed close to home until his death in 1981.  He is a glorious player, his solos arching towards the skies.

Trombonist Eddie Hubble was an early associate of Bob Wilber, a superb extension of Jack Teagarden, and by this time he had performed with Red McKenzie, Wild Bill Davison, Frank Chace, George Wein, Doc Evans, Joe Sullivan.  He, too, was heard on Boston radio broadcasts.

“Ollie” Taylor [Oliver S. Taylor, Harvard, ’53] may not have continued on with music, and his recorded career is limited to two performances linked to drummer Walt Gifford.  But he was playing alongside professionals as early as 1948.  His father was a Harvard history professor, and the Harvard hot band, the Crimson Stompers, formed and rehearsed at the Taylor house.

I know even less about the fine supportive pianist Pete Hewitt: he recorded three sides with a band led by Gifford that also had Hubble.  Where did he go after Harvard?  Walt Gifford, Harvard ’52, managed the Crimson Stompers, and he had a professional career which I can follow into the Sixties, he did not get the notice his work deserved.  (Then again, I say to myself, “Who does?”)

That Boston-and-beyond scene was flourishing: Ed Hall, Frank Chace, and Frank Newton played and recorded with iterations of the Crimson Stompers; the young woman who would become Barbara Lea — born Leacock — was both their star singer and Windhurst’s girlfriend.

I also am reasonably sure that the music was recorded by Joe Boughton, who was an early and pious Windhurst devotee [archivist? stalker?], a wonderful thing, seventy years later — although I have a half-memory of some musician writing something like, “Wherever we’d be playing, he’d show up with the damned tape recorder and it would be running.”  To my right, as I write this, I have a photograph of Windhurst on my wall, inscribed to Boughton, with surprise at a “sober Saturday”! Thank goodness we have slightly more than a half hour of the music: all “Dixieland” classics, and beautifully played: strong soaring solos, wonderful rhythm (you don’t miss a string bass), nice riffs and backgrounds.  As young as they were, they were splendidly professional.  And not to slight Ollie Taylor, it is Windhurst and Hubble who continue to astonish (they were both continuing to do so when I saw them, separately, in 1971 and 1972.)

I also don’t know anything about a school like Concord Academy and its cultural anthropology.  Was this a dance?  Did the girls get to invite their beaux?  Or was it a social event where the band played for listening?  I don’t sense a large room crowded with eager teens; in fact, it’s hard to sense an audience at all.  I wish I knew, but here’s the music.  And what music!

In Windhurst I often hear Hackett, but Bobby with almost insolent ease, fluidity and power — although it’s clear that he’s absorbed Louis and the Condon trumpet crew.  When he moves around on the cornet, there’s never any strain, as he accomplishes versions of super-Bix.  And that sound! — full and shining.  Next to him, Hubble echoes Teagarden but also the slippery power and audacity of Lou McGarity and Brad Gowans.  Taylor’s approach is slightly less assured — more Parenti than Hucko — but his earnest lyricism is sweetly appealing, and occasionally (hear the end of his chorus on ONE HOUR, where he asks himself, “What would Pee Wee do?”) he comes up with memorable phrases, although occasionally he’s not completely familiar with the song.  Hewitt is wonderfully orchestral and spare at once, summoning Stacy and streamlined stride (SAINTS is the best example); he isn’t fancy in the ensembles, but you feel him providing solidly moving chordal support.  And Gifford plays splendidly for the band, sometimes pushing the hi-hat in the best Jo Jones fashion, otherwise relying on snare and bass drum, always thinking of what the band needs at the moment in the nicest Wettling manner.  It’s a very cooperative band — players who had worked together and readily created supporting figures.  And although the repertoire is familiar as “Dixieland,” the rhythmic emphasis here is on swing: they’re playing the tunes rather than copying the hallowed recordings.  Hear how Hubble and Windhurst leap into their solos on SAINTS.

Can you tell I admire this band?

The songs are WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS / IF I COULD BE WITH YOU / JADA / JAZZ ME BLUES / SOMEDAY SWEETHEART / SAINTS / SUGAR (faded out):

The recording — I feel certain it’s tape or a 33 rpm acetate — has been edited to eliminate both applause and pauses between songs, and the microphone is inside the band so that we hear the musicians’ comments to each other.  Was it broadcast on the local radio station?  And the recordist turns up the right knob while Hewitt solos so that his sound isn’t lost: this isn’t an accidental “capture.”

On Facebook, I hear many young bands showing their skills — sometimes simply their enthusiasm.  I wish many of them would study this tape: it’s a model of how to play this repertoire with great expertise and passion while making it look easy, aiming for polished small-band swing rather than trying to replicate some more ancient evidence.

Enjoy the glowing sounds as well as the little mysteries that accompany them: the people who could have explained it all are gone. Think of a time when such a band could exist and play a date at a local school.  Days gone by for sure.  (I wonder whether Concord Academy has its own archives: one can dream.  I will send this post to them.)

P.S.  I invite the word-averse to skip what follows.  Between 2006 and 2020, I carried video recording equipment to gigs; with large interruptions, I had brought audio equipment from 1971 to 2006 and sometimes beyond.  Through the immense kindness of jazz benefactors John L. Fell, Bill Coverdale, Bill Gallagher, Bob Hilbert, Roy Bower, Bert Whyatt, Tom Hustad, Hal Smith, Ricky Riccardi, Sonny McGown, and others, I’ve amassed hours — years, it seems — of rare recordings, primarily on audiocassette.  Thanks to a grant from the Charles Sammut Foundation and Laura Wyman’s encouragement, I figured out how to convert those cassettes into moderately-competent YouTube videos, and I’ve been doing this for the last month.  Why?  Some of this activity is an antidote to pandemic boredom-and-loneliness, but there is also my thought that when my executors come to clean out my apartment, and they are a very hip bunch, no one has room for three or four hundred cassettes.  It pained me that if I didn’t do something about it, my tapes (for example) of Bobby Hackett, Vic Dickenson, Joe Thomas, Teddy Wilson, Jo Jones, Bennie Morton . . . would never be heard.  That was intolerable to me.  So I hope you greet these audio rarities with the pleasure that I take in sharing them.

May your happiness increase!

DANIEL HUCK’S JOYOUS MAGIC

If met off the bandstand, Monsieur Huck, peering over his glasses, round-faced in a rose-colored untucked shirt, might resemble the friendly man on line in front of you at the bank.  You wouldn’t know that he is a bubbling irrepressible expert joyous force of nature.  But he is, as they used to say, an absolute wow.  Observe.

I watch this, and I am laughing and weeping.  Magic has entered the room: Daniel Huck has shone his magic healing light and suddenly everything feels better: even the dust on the windowsill is happy.  How he gives himself utterly and completely to joy I don’t know, but I am honored to live in his world.  And the rest of the band so beautifully embodies the most delicate balance between serious melody, serious swing, and pure fun.

I want this in pill form.

Better, I want to drop my ordinary life and go study with Monsieur Huck, who has learned the secrets and is obviously never Too Busy to share them with us.

And.  Even more expansive magic.  TWO choruses on SUSIE (OF THE ISLANDS), unbelievably joyous:

Blessings on Daniel Huck, on the other members of the band — so sweetly wise: Shona Taylor, cornet, vocal; Guy Champene, clarinet, alto saxophone; Marc Bresdin, clarinet, alto, tenor saxophone; Philippe Anhorn, piano, vocal; Jean-Pierre Dubois, banjo, tenor guitar; Eric Perron, tuba; Daniel Huck, scat vocal, alto saxophone.  And let us not forget Vidéo : Jeff Guyot at the Hermes Jazz Festival de Frejus, in France, June 10, 2018 — because without M. Guyot, we wouldn’t have this marvel.  (I have to speak up for my sometimes-neglected roving archivists.)  There are three more videos from the same set: I GET THE BLUES WHEN IT RAINS, WHYLIE AVNUE BLUES, and THE OWLS’ HOOT.  Look for them on YouTube.

If any of my readers knows Daniel Huck personally or even by email, I would take it as the greatest kindness if they would send him this blogpost as a small token of the deepest marveling admiration and gratitude.  I’m completely serious.  Thank you.

May your happiness increase!