For the first two volumes of HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT (featuring Hot Lips Page, then Stan Getz and Teddy Wilson) click here.
Then, proceed with appropriate reverence and delight to the musical treasures below . . . .
THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU (February 4: probably Johnny Glasel, trumpet; Lucky Thompson, tenor saxophone; Joe Castro, piano; Oscar Pettiford, string bass; Ron Jefferson, drums. Duke Farms, Somerville, New Jersey):
My title, I think a borrowing from Poe, refers to those musical performances, rare and surprising, that have gone unobserved on YouTube for months and years. Volume One can be found here.
Doris Duke is usually identified as tobacco heiress, philanthropist, and socialite. She’s less well-known as a fervent supporter of jazz and an amateur pianist. She and pianist / singer / composer Joe Castro had a lengthy relationship, and Doris’ devotion to jazz led her to stage and record jam sessions in studios on both coasts. Two CD box sets on the Sunnyside label, under Castro’s name — LUSH LIFE and PASSION FLOWER — collect astonishing recordings in first-rate sound, the participants relaxed and eloquent. Here, Castro is not the pianist, but Doris’ friend Teddy Wilson is.
Teddy and Stan Getz only recorded together on one other occasion — the soundtrack of the BENNY GOODMAN STORY, but nothing quite so personal as this quartet, where they are supported splendidly by Bob Berteaux, string bass; Jimmy Pratt, drums. I hear parallels to PRES AND TEDDY (which had not yet happened) and the Lester Young – Nat Cole – Buddy Rich date, but Stan is very much himself here, and the quartet soars and muses beautifully.
FALCON BLUES (BLUES IN G):
SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME:
JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS:
OUT OF NOWHERE:
I WANT TO BE HAPPY:
“Hidden in Plain Sight”? When I assembled these titles for this post, I noted that the music had been on YouTube for three years and none of these performances had received more than a hundred views. Surprising is the most gentle way I can put it. Some digging on YouTube often yields treasure.
It isn’t heralded with drums, parades, fireworks, and headlines, but sometimes the miraculous happens. Musically, I mean.
It did two Sundays ago, May 7, 2023, at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York) when a singular version of the EarRegulars assembled in the corner that has been their stage and pulpit for about sixteen years now.
They were Danny Tobias, trumpet and Eb alto horn; Dan Block, clarinet and tenor saxophone; James Chirillo, guitar; Rob Adkins, string bass. And here’s an example of their gliding lyrical mastery: the Count Basie-associated pop tune, I’LL ALWAYS BE IN LOVE WITH YOU, written in 1929 (Bud Green, Sam H. Stept, and Herman Ruby). Did the Basie musicians play and sing it in Kansas City then? I can’t say, but it certainly enjoyed a renaissance in 1936 . . . and in 2023.
But let us consider the source material, a very pretty waltz:
It came from a pioineering sound film, with an enticing one-word title:
so I assume that musicians as well as civilians went to see the film and had the song in their minds. But when Count Basie picked it up again, perhaps seven years later, it was not to be a waltz, but a swing number for the dancers. And the Basie way — sly, understated joy through swing — lives on here:
But “the Basie way” is a beautiful paradox: taking life and art with the greatest seriousness while refusing to be perceived as doing so. Literary people will recognize Castiglione’s sprezzatura, or nonchalance . . . grooving without sweating over it, making the most difficult work appear easy. Messrs. Tobias, Block, Chirillo, and Adkins know how in their cells, and show it here. Bless them as they bless us.
More to come. And you’ve never been to the Ear Inn on a Sunday night?
P.S. as of today, May 25, I am still exiled from Facebook, thanks to a hacker. So please share this with people who will get its spirit. Thank you.
The young guitarist from Tasmania, Josh Dunn, knows how to make melody come alive and shimmer in front of us. Although many technically-assured guitarists wear the fingerboard slick with their assertive many-noted approach, Josh knows how to let a lovely melody breathe. Here are some recent solo interludes from his YouTube channel. Chimes at sunset. Birdsong at sunrise.
I KNOW WHY (And So Do You):
SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES:
MIDNIGHT, THE STARS AND YOU:
POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS:
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR THE SUNRISE:
If you find Josh on a gig, I assure you that you will be rewarded by his subtle approach to Song. And he swings expertly also.
If you were in school before Google, you know what reference books look like. Dark cloth bindings fraying at top and bottom, thin yellowed pages, tiny type, a dusty smell, heavy in the hand. Useful to find an errant fact but not in the least entertaining.
Mark Cantor’s two-volume book —
THE SOUNDIES: A HISTORY AND CATALOG OF JUKEBOX FILM SHORTS OF THE 1940s (forewords by Leonard Maltin and Will Friedwald) published by McFarland, is a vibrant contradiction of the stereotype. It’s full of lively information, photographs, and vibrant stories. And its cover is a bright orange.
Here’s an eleven-minute film interlude: a tour through Soundies themselves, with Mark as guide:
The publisher writes:
The 1940s saw a brief audacious experiment in mass entertainment: a jukebox with a screen. Patrons could insert a dime, then listen to and watch such popular entertainers as Nat “King” Cole, Gene Krupa, Cab Calloway or Les Paul. A number of companies offered these tuneful delights, but the most successful was the Mills Novelty Company and its three-minute musical shorts called Soundies.
This book is a complete filmography of over 2,500 Soundies: the musicians heard and seen on screen, recording and filming dates, arrangers, soloists, dancers, entertainment trade reviews and more. Additional filmographies cover more than 80 subjects produced by other companies. There are 125 photos taken on film sets, along with advertising images and production documents. More than 75 interviews narrate the firsthand experiences and recollections of Soundies directors and participants. Forty years before MTV, the Soundies were there for those who loved the popular music of the 1940s. This was truly “music for the eyes.”
I first encountered the Soundies through the famous ones by Duke Ellington (with Ben Webster, Ray Nance, Rex Stewart, and Sonny Greer) and Louis Armstrong (with precious glimpses of Sidney Catlett driving the orchestra) — then I found Mark Cantor’s invaluable website, https://www.jazz-on-film.com/. (He also calls it “Celluloid Improvisations.”)
Now, I can hear some of you saying, “I like jazz, and I like to see my heroes on film. I can see these Soundies on YouTube. Whatever do I need this book, these books, for?”
It’s true that the bulk of the book is, as its title states, a catalog of these film shorts. But what a deeply researched catalog! To explain the book’s many virtues, let us imagine someone seeing this Soundie for the first time:
Certain things are obvious: the title, director, and producer. Ellington announces Ben Webster, and it’s clear the band and he are playing COTTON TAIL. But who are the dancers? And when was this filmed?
THE SOUNDIES has the answers and more. On page 226 of the first volume, even a casual reader would learn that the Soundie was released on February 2, 1942, that the legendary dancers are Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, featuring Frankie Manning and Norma Miller. Cantor’s book also includes contemporary press reviews and the one-word description on the Soundies production sheet, in this case, “Colored.”
Then the book can reveal more, even to someone paging through casually.
The very first Soundie, thus the first entry in the listing, is SWEET SUE by Six Hits and A Miss, accompanied by the Lorraine Page Orchestra but the music is provided by composer Victor Young’s Orchestra and he is briefly seen on screen. In addition, the orchestra includes Andy Secrest, trumpet; Arthur Schutt, piano; Bill Rank, trombone; Spike Jones, drums.
Not all the performers listed for every Soundie are audible; Mark has dug out information from union contracts and recollections of the musicians. In one case, Dave Tough is playing drums in 1946 Soundies by Gracie Barrie, accompanied by Jerry Jerome’s Orchestra, but he’s not recognizable.
THE SOUNDIES will add information to what we know about Eddie South and Henry “Red” Allen, but the shorts were not restricted to jazz, which makes the volumes even more valuable as a cross-section of musical taste from 1940 to 1947. But for every solo by Don Stovall, there is comedy, vaudeville, war propaganda in song, mild double-entendre, calypso, and more. (A student of popular culture of the time could dive into this book and never come up for air.)
And more. The book begins with a history of the companies that made these films, the machinery that played them, and — in the process — offers priceless information about singers, dancers, and night spots. “Jaw-dropping” is not a usual phrase in my vocabulary, but it describes my reaction to page 84, where Mark has included a small advertising card from Small’s Paradise — the band then appearing was Charlie Johnson’s Paradise Orchestra. New to me, and thrilling.
And even more. One of the most delightful sections of the book is a thirty-plus-page compendium of interviews of people connected with the Soundies. Not surprisingly, the stories spring off the page. Some of the people Mark has spoken with are Van Alexander, Tony Mottola, Les Paul, Ray Anthony, David Raskin, Abe Most, Jane Harvey, Hugh Martin, Joe Wilder, Mary Osborne, Martha Tilton, Kay Starr, Liza Morrow, Tiny Grimes, Pete Candoli, and more.
Saxophonist Jay Migliori tells of making Soundies with the Gene Krupa band when Roy Eldridge was a member and the director saying that Roy could not be seen in the trumpet section. Gene’s reaction? “Pack up, boys,” and Roy stayed.
Mark himself tells the story of watching a Lucky Millinder Soundie — with a trombonist he couldn’t identify — with trombonist Benny Powell and reedman Joe Farrell:
They both watched attentively and seemed stumped. But then Joe asked Benny, “Could that be Trombonesky?” Yes, said Benny, it was a legendary Harlem trombone player everyone listened to, but who mysteriously vanished without a trace. I dutifully took notes and always told audiences about this amazing, unknown musician. “Ladies and gentlemen, please note that this is the only film, or recorded evidence, of the legendary Trombonesky, a Harlem musician briefly on the scene, influencing others, then disappearing in 1941 and not heard from since.“
It was years later that I realized I had been conned by these two wonderful gentlemen , who didn’t recognize the soloist as Floyd Brady and decided to put me on. Hats off to their superb improvisation and acting skills. Trombonesky, R.I.P.
And an expurgated comment from the exuberantly profane Henry Nemo:
“Kay Penton [who appears with Nemo in the Soundie Hip Hip Hooray (entry 907)] was really hot. She was what we used to call a real dish, had a great pair of tits. I wanted to get something going with her, but she didn’t have eyes for me.”
“Shit, man, I can’t recall hardly anything from back then. It was just something to make a little money. You don’t really carry that type of thing with you through the years. Let’s see another movie!”
Anything done carefully and with passion is in itself indelibly intriguing. For forty years, Mark Cantor has been doing the hard work that makes this book remarkable. And although his website already has space for additions and corrections, no other book will replace this one. And it’s fascinating, whether the reader starts dutifully at the begining or dips in here and there.
By the way, my title — approved by Mark — refers to a reviewer’s praise for the substantial singer, June Richmond, in a Soundie. But it surely applies to these volumes: enlightening, full of surprises, and great fun.
May your happiness increase!
P.S. As I write this, May 23, 2023, I am still exiled from Facebook because of a hacking two weeks prior. If you are on FB and know someone else who would like to read this, please pass it on. Thank you.
While the rest of us are sleeping, doing laundry, openng cans of cat food, Colin Hancock is busy creating. And here’s som recent evidence that shows he is as wonderfully consistent (or is it consistently wonderful?) as always. The videos come from his YouTube channel, which you can find in the link above.
First, Colin among Austin, Texas friends, “the Joymakers.” They are Colin Hancock, cornet, baritone saxophone, vocal, director: David “Jelly” Jellema, clarinet, C-melody saxophone / Lauryn Gould, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet / Westen Borghesi, banjo / Shane Dickens, piano / Ryan Neubauer, druns / Ryan Gould, string bass:
and just this morning, I found the newest effusion of music from Colin’s “Semper Phonographic Co.” Look closely at the credits, for the nimble Mr. Hancock plays all the instruments and sings, sometimes his own compositions, sometimes less-performed songs by well-known composers, all in beautiful energetic idiomatic style:
CAN’T YOUR FRIEND FIND A FRIEND FOR ME?
IT BELONGS TO YOU:
SOB SISTER SADIE:
LIVIN’ IN THE SUNSHINE WITH YOU:
KANSAS CITY KITTY:
IF YOU CAN’T HOLD THE MAN YOU LOVE:
Spectacular creativity. And I will leave it to erudite listeners to trace Echoes and Influences.
All I will say is that we have more than enough evidence for Great Artist / Loathsome Person. Colin knocks that formulation flat, for he is a remarkable human being even when all the instruments are in their cases. May he always keep going! (And, Colin, New York misses you, by the way.)
The jazz histories don’t tell us that jazz came up the river to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, but it would have been more than delightfully plausible on the afternoon of Sunday, April 23, 2023, when the Pennsylvania Jazz Society put on a rewarding program at Congregation Beth Sholom in that city.
The Stars (or perhaps the Wise Men?) who came there were Danny Tobias, trumpet and Eb alto horn; Arnt Arntzen, vocal, banjo, guitar; Randy Reinhart, trombone, euphonium (or baritone horn); Vince Giordano, vocal, string bass, tuba, bass saxophone, lowboy cymbal.
I posted the first half-dozen performances from this session here. Delicious.
And here’s more!
Vince sings TAKE YOUR TOMORROW:
Berlin’s ALL BY MYSELF:
The Twenties roar again, with CRAZY RHYTHM:
WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM (I’ll have this band to remember):
For Bix, the ODJB, and Eddie, AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL:
I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE, with our without BABY:
and finally (for this posting) a little educational interlude that I’ve titled (after Danny) SHOW AND TELL:
There will be a Part Three — just as lovely as this. Stay tuned. And thanks to the generous people of the Pennsylvania Jazz Society for making this happen.
I started collecting jazz records in childhood and can still recall the thrill of the pile of 78s at the antique store, the Salvation Army, and from the Seventies on, visits to jazz collectors’ meetings. Before there was YouTube or eBay, if you wanted to expand your collection, you went where the collectors assembled — perhaps monthly — and you went home with treasures. I can point to records that are dear to me: an autographed Eddie Condon Decca, a Teddy Wilson V-Disc with Joe Thomas, Ed Hall, and Sidney Catlett — that came from the once-yearly Record Collectors’ Bash. And it’s back!
Recollections by my friend Dave Weiner . . . .
GETTING BASHED FOR (ALMOST) A HALF-CENTURY I first attended the NJ Jazz Record Bash in 1975 at a hotel on Route 1. I think that was the second year it ran. Jazz film expert Ken Crawford had started it as a way for vintage record collectors to buy, sell, trade and schmooze over a weekend in June. The highlight of each event would be an evening of jazz movies, chosen by Ken from his massive collection. To me, it was an amazing experience, the first time I saw vintage 78s and LPs for sale in quantity. Previously I had found such discs occasionally in thrift shops and flea markets. My first purchase there was a Bunny Berigan 78, which still looks better today than I do.
I made many friends of long standing as the years passed. Numerous celebrities, musical and otherwise, visited over time – actor Matt Dillon (a formidable Latin jazz collector), Michael Feinstein, bandleader Vince Giordano, writers Charles Delaunay, Stanley Dance, Frank Driggs, Dan Morgenstern and Russ Connor. As the decades passed, other collectors stepped up to run the yearly event – Russ Shor, Joe Lauro, Howard Berg and Art Zimmerman. The Bash continued regularly until Covid hit in 2020.
Three years passed with no Bash – until now. My partner Barry Miller and I have picked up the threads and have scheduled the latest Bash for June 22-24. Maintaining the tradition, schmoozing and film showings are still in the mix. Many older collectors will attend along with a happily growing contingent of younger folk, who dig the vintage jazz and pop music we all love.
Hey! Hey! Hey! Only FIVE WEEKS to go before the sensational NJ JAZZ RECORD COLLECTORS BASH returns for its 47th year!
The Bash runs from Thursday evening, June 22nd through Saturday evening, June 24th, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Edison, NJ.
If you’re a vendor, let us know soon if you’d like to reserve 1, 2 or more tables, because space is limited. Below you’ll find complete details.
If you’re a collector, you’ll find thousands of vintage 78s, LPs, 45s, cylinders, CDs, DVDs, books, sheet music, catalogs and more.
Three exciting two-hour vintage film and TV programs have been scheduled for Friday evening and Saturday afternoon & evening.
Check the jazzbash.net website for details and don’t hesitate to contact David Weiner at email@example.com if you have any questions. You can also visit the “NJ Jazz Record Bash” Facebook page for regular updates.
Dave Stuckey (“Pappy” to his intimates) is a rewarding example of something the Ancients knew well . . . the Ancients being Louis Armstrong, Bob Wills, Wingy Manone, Fats Waller, and a hundred others: that good music is also by definition entertaining, that even people who had never heard of Clarence Williams or Hilton Jefferson should be patting their feet and grinning if the people onstage understand their purpose.
And he doesn’t only know that truth, he lives it — in his rocking rhythm, his congenial vocalizing, and the friendly environment he and the Hot House Gang bring to live in performance.
Here’s some delightful evidence from his second set at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, where his Gang was the very best. They were Marc Caparone, trumpet; Nate Ketner, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Katie Cavera, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums; Carl Sonny Leyland on a piano-shaped object — and guests Jonathan Doyle, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Dawn Lambeth, vocals.
Dave asks the musical (and non-musical) question, HOW COULD YOU?:
It’s true: THE MUSIC GOES ‘ROUND AND ‘ROUND:
Sonny celebrates a Chicago shero, MY GAL SAL:
Dawn explores the night skies, with WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO:
Amanda is indecisive at a crucial juncture in her life: MANDY, MAKE UP YOUR MIND:
A banquet of joyous sounds. Dave and the Hot House Gang will also be appearing at the 2023 Redwood Coast Music Festival . . . a head-spinning all-you-can-experience weekend.
Clarence Williams would be so happy, and so are we. Here’s the multi-talented T.J. Muller and friends, telling the story once again of Sister Kate, who attracts friends wherever she goes. T.J. sings, plays kazoo and banjo; Ryan Keonig, jug; Adam Hoskins, guitar; Jacob Alspach, banjo, slide whistle; Joey Glynn, string bass; Ethan Leinwand, piano; Kellie Everret, harmonica. Later in the set, Valerie Kirchoff, sings (always a good thing).
Good time music in St. Louis!
Your homework for today? Find someone to shimmy with.
P.S. When Ricky Riccardi’s first volume of his invaluable Louis Armstrong trilogy, STOMP OFF, LET’S GO!, is published, you’ll find out even more about the genesis of this song . . . and its original, even less polite title — not the one the insiders know. Stay tuned.
Jazz festivals, by their very nature, lean heavily on all-star groups of musicians who don’t work together often — sometimes resulting in a gathering of brilliant names that is less than the sum of its parts. This set, nearly an hour, is an exception. Benny Carter and Teddy Wilson had associations going back to 1933; Bobby Hackett appeared memorably on a few of Teddy’s recording dates in 1938. Larry Ridley was a versatile player, often called in for such gatherings (he supported Benny, Bobby, and Teddy at the Newport Jazz Festival in New York for a jam session at Radio City Music Hall). Sometimes his bass is not caught well by the microphones, but when it is, it is lovely.
Those four players did not travel in the same orbits in the Seventies, so it is a wondrous thing that they were caught together, not only in performance, but for posterity by French radio.
I’ve left the drummer, David Lee, Jr. (1941-2021) for last, because initially he seems distant from the rhythmic feel of the other players, even though his working associations were with Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins, who understood swing, if in their own idiosyncratic ways. But Lee adapts himself more as the session continues and his hi-hat, initially relentless, is less distracting.
In 2023, only Larry Ridley (born 1937) survives. Bobby would die of a heart attack less than a year later. Note that Bobby, always gracious, calls a Carter composition for his feature. Easy medium tempos and arching lyrical solos are consistent beauties here.
Bobby Hackett, trumpet (or cornet?); Benny Carter, alto saxophone; Teddy Wilson, piano; Larry Ridley, string bass; David Lee, Jr., drums. Grande Parade du Jazz, July 18, 1975. Broadcast on French radio: audio only.
I MAY BE WRONG / LOVER, COME BACK TO ME / CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS? / ON GREEN DOLPHIN STREET / BLUES IN MY HEART (Hackett) / BODY AND SOUL (Carter) / WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE?
I’m not sure that great art ever points the way to a “moral,” but two occur to me. One is to bless these adaptable musicians, so sweetly durable. Their lyricism did not age and will not. The second is to tip our hats in the direction of Thomas Edison’s lab in New Jersey . . . and bless all recording equipment. Yes, “recording” brings us TikTok, but it also made these notes and tones eternal, undying.
The bare facts: Charles Henry Christian, electric guitar (July 29, 1916 – March 2, 1942).
I’m not sure that much could be sadder than that. But Charlie had one piece of good fortune in his brief life. However you write the story of his “discovery,” he was well-known, heard by many, and captured by various microphones for our listening and that of future generations. From August 1939 to June 1941, he appeared in the recording studio, the concert hall, radio studios, and after-hours jazz clubs. Tom Lord’s standard online jazz discography lists 94 sessions on which he appears, and his recorded oeuvre can (loosely) be contained on ten compact discs.
Between 1992 and 1994, the French CD label “Masters of Jazz” attempted to present his recorded work complete on eight discs. Nearly a decade later, they issued a ninth volume which presented music that had eluded them, plus three performances that had never appeared on record . . . which it’s my pleasure to present here. The preponderance of Charlie’s recorded work was with Benny Goodman, who was generous in featuring his brilliant young sideman. (Not only that, but had Christian been working with a less-famous organization, how much of his work would have been lost to us?) Two of the three performances, alas, incomplete, are with Benny’s Sextet. But Charlie had another life, one blessedly captured by Columbia University student-archivist Jerry Newman . . . so we can follow him to Minton’s Uptown House.
The blissful music.
POOR BUTTERFLY, April 27, 1940 (Christian, Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Johnny Guarnieri, Artie Bernstein, Nick Fatool):
STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY, May 8,1941 (Christian, Lips Page, Joe Guy, Don Byas, Kermit Scott, “Tex,” Nick Fenton, Kenny Clarke):
STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY, June 1941: the last recording we have of Charlie, “Monte Prosser Dance Carnival,” Madison Square Garden, New York City (Christian, Goodman, Cootie Williams, George Auld, Guarnieri, Walter Iooss, Fatool):
Charlie, we miss you. Thank you for the jewels you left us: they still shine so brightly.
And if you are, like me, fascinated by Benny Goodman, you’ll want to read this. Enthralling.
One of the added pleasures of the past year has been the opportunity to hear Cait Jones sing in a number of contexts. She can sing sad songs with deep awareness but she is a born joy-spreader, Red Riding Hood with a basket of happiness.
I was fortunate enough to hear her and two instrumental stars at the second-floor piano room of Fraunces Tavern on Pearl Street (‘way downtown in Manhattan) on April 26, and I present four selections from that night for your pleasure. Cait was brilliantly accompanied by Tal Ronen, string bass, and Peter Yarin, piano. Tal is one of the most eloquent musicians I know, every phrase, every long line. I’d only known Peter as a brilliant member of Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks but was delighted by his limber, swinging accompaniment and solos.
But. Before you dive in, a parental advisory, a caveat, a trigger warning. No naughty words or lewd subjects. But the audience didn’t stop talking — that volatile mix of alcohol and self-absorption bubbling over the sides of the cauldron. And my microphone, although narrowly focused, captures all the sounds present at the time. I see it as the clash between Beauty and Ignorance, and for me — someone who can focus on Beauty — the lovely music wins. But if you are outraged by the audio quality or by the presence of goofy drunken yap, scroll down past these four performances to the bottom of this posting, where the sound is pristine.
And I reiterate: Cait is a marvelous singer. Her handling of the lyrics is wise yet light-hearted. She glides. Her first choruses saunter through the melody and words, fairly respectfully but stretching the line here, pausing or playing rhythmic games. Her second choruses (now that everyone knows the way through the woods) are fun and free: at points during this evening’s performance, I thought, “That’s the way Sweets Edison or Shorty Baker would play the melody, gently making us hear it for the first time.” See if you don’t agree.
The second song of the night, the pretty THAT’S ALL, usually a closing choice:
DON’T BE THAT WAY was once a sly sweet request but big bands took it more quickly. Harking back to Ella and Louis, Cait woos us in the best way:
Without trying to be Billie, thank goodness, Cait sails through ME, MYSELF, AND I:
nd for something more rueful, mournful, SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES:
But wait! There’s more! From a few months ago, Cait and Michael Kanan in duet on I HADN’T ANYONE TILL YOU:
Cait is not only singer and bandleader but also lyricist, a talent most vividly out in the open with her lyrics to music by Mathieu Najean. Here’s their collaboration on A MOMENT IN TWO:
Cait and Mathieu have recorded a whole CD of these collaborations, OUTTA THE BLUE WITH YOU, and here’s a thoughtfully charming one, DOWN AND ROUND CAROUSEL:
“Gang Busters!” says Joe Boughton, the commander-in-chief of Jazz at Chautauqua and many other jazz offerings. More about that quaint expression of praise at the end of this post.
The hot heroes are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Bob Havens, trombone; Bobby Gordon, clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Vince Giordano, string bass; Arnie Kinsella, drums, performing at the 2007 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend (September 14, 2007) at the informal Thursday-night jam session. The songs are ROSETTA / LOUISIANA / HINDUSTAN / WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS / MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS.
All of this was recorded illicitly: my digital recorder may have been in my jacket pocket or brazenly on the table. I didn’t yet have a video camera, but this is a precious souvenir of days gone by.
Happily, Jon-Erik, Rossano, and Vince are thriving and gigging worldwide.
GANG BUSTERS was a radio program that ran from 1936 to 1957, with film and comic book spinoffs. It had a very dramatic opening, which gave rise to the slang phrase “It came on like GANG BUSTERS” for something memorable, the very finest. Here is the program’s opening: imagine this roaring out of the Atwater-Kent in the living room:
Although this ad hoc group of jazz crime-fighters can be pensive and subdued when the song calls for it, they certainly do come on! (I define “jazz crime” as formulaic, dull, badly-played music. So there.)
Those of us who were part of Jazz at Chautauqua and its offspring have the finest memories of great music and happy encounters; if you were never there, this set will give you a small idea of the heights that were scaled. Bless Joe Boughton, the peerless musicians, and those who kept the enterprise afloat.
Yes, the title of this post may seem a blasphemy. But it’s true.
On April 23, 2023, four musical stars came — thanks to the Pennsylvania Jazz Society — to Congregation Brith Sholom on West Macada Road in, yes, Bethlehem Pennsylvania, and filled the room with lovely joyous sounds. They are Danny Tobias, trumpet and Eb alto horn; Arnt Arntzen, vocal, banjo, guitar; Randy Reinhart, trombone, euphonium (or baritone horn); Vince Giordano, vocal, string bass, tuba, bass saxophone, lowboy cymbal.
I caught all the sights and sounds in my video camera, and will share them with you in three installments. My hope is that you follow the pleasant activities of the Pennsylvania Jazz Society, and that you follow these eminent musicians.
Here are a half-dozen beauties.
AS LONG AS I LIVE:
LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME:
Arnt sings WHEN YOUR LOVER HAS GONE:
Randy’s feature, ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET:
And, to make a neat half-dozen, HAPPY FEET:
Unpretentious swinging music, whatever name you wish to hang on it (mostly the “Great American Songbook” treated with love and heat). And there will be more to come: watch this space.
This post comes out of decades of listening to, talking about, and proselytzing about jazz, whatever name you want to honor it with. And recent discussions with long-time listeners and creators my age who wonder why X is celebrated and Y isn’t. A is always mentioned when people speak of the music but B is unknown. C gets awards and record contracts but D scuffles. I am, of course, going to restrict myself to people no longer playing: to extend this question to ask, “How come N and not L?” when they are both active rightly invites angry response. Five-star reviews and gigs in well-publicized places, also. Grants and residencies, paragraphs in books.
A recent example, from New York City, certainly one of the jazz capitals of the world. A wonderful musician I know [a stellar player without his own publicity office] was a side-person on a gig, and I asked them, “When’s your next leader gig,” and was given a date four months from that evening. Four months. Yes, I know all about the math: number of clubs, number of spaces, audience posteriors in seats. But still.
It’s in part the question of recognition and identification. When I used to be introduced at parties as “someone who likes jazz,” the polite person (although sometimes responding through now-heavy eyelids) would ask if I listened to Miles. And when I said with a smile that Miles was a great creator but my taste was for music in pre-fusion styles, the polite blankness grew deeper. “You know, like Louis and Ellington and Billie Holiday,” I’d say, and then the polite person made a run for the distant tray of drinks or canapes. I repeat, nothing against Miles. But Miles = jazz. Surely an iconic figure. And I never wanted to interrogate the polite person but I would have loved to know where the identification came from, as if I’d said, “That food,” and the response was, “Oh, yes, pad Thai.” Ending the conversation right there.
Certain principles seem to apply. There is a Pantheon of creators so identified with jazz that their names seem to glow in huge neon. In no order: Coltrane, Miles, Bird, Louis, Duke. And before anyone gets irate, this post is not about knocking them down from their well-deserved pedestals.
Those who study jazz history or Jazz History know of other trumpeters, for an example. Buddy Bolden, perhaps. Dizzy Gillespie and Roy Eldridge. But where are Art Farmer, Don Rader, Frank Newton, Mouse Randolph, Shad Collins?
Some will know of Clifford Brown, Bix Beiderbecke, Bunny Berigan — celebrated not only for their artistic merit but for their short lives, for we love Drama also.
Drama means Trauma plus Truncated Life plus (often) Substance Abuse or Illness. Martyrdom. Billie and Bird. Chick, Blanton, Charlie Christian, LaFaro, Lang.
But let us move from individual awareness or the lack of it to the larger institutions that surround creative individuals. Let us also sidle up into the present.
There have long been Readers’ Polls and Critics’ Polls. Sometimes they truly recognized talent. Other times they reflected ideological scuffles, and “popular taste” emphasized the first word. Tex Beneke could “win more votes” than Lester Young in a listing of the best tenor saxophonists, and with no disrespect to Tex, he benefited from exposure on hit records, his name being called on radio broadcasts, his handsome profile in major studio productions. Winning a DOWN BEAT poll meant you could add it to your advertising, and presumably play gigs that paid better. If you were a METRONOME All-Star, you recorded in the company of your elected peers. ESQUIRE’s “All-American” jazz band played at the Metropolitan Opera House.
Politics. Recognition means money, which means more recognition. All fine, but the obverse is also a dark truth.
Eighty-five years ago, when there were record companies, someone heard a fine musician in a club and told someone else, and then (let us say) the word got to Helen Oakley Dance or Tommy Rockwell, Eli Oberstein, Harry Lim, or John Hammond, who then convinced a record company that R was not only good but that R’s records would sell. Records, radio, perhaps film, club dates, and so on.
But that machinery no longer exists, although CDs still get produced and Spotify hums along. What replaced it often seems like a Charles Ives clamor of self-advertisement, which I am not mocking, because it is necessary. I am not qualified to discuss the relationship of Instagram to art, but I have heard musicians tell of being required to bring “followers” in certain numbers to a gig to assure more gigs.
The splendidly worthy Bandcamp attempts to fill the void where once Columbia, RCA, Decca, Blue Note, Riverside, Chiaroscuro, Pablo, and Arbors once filled the shelves.
But I wonder (“I dream in vain”?) who books the remaining jazz clubs, cruises, and festivals. Who decides which musicians are featured on the remaining jazz periodicals? Who becomes Musician of the Year? And on what grounds? And to make the question more pointed, which agency is in charge of Silence? Who implicitly decides who gets ignored or forgotten?
That contemporary Silence is what most interests me. One could say, with justification, “Look, there were so many magnificent trumpet players in 1944 that you can’t expect me to know who Joe Thomas is.” Or, “You say that Nat Jaffe was a remarkable pianist. But I can’t find him on YouTube. How do I know he really existed and you didn’t make him up?”
But now. I know hundreds of glorious creative musicians who don’t get interviewed or profiled, who must pay to produce their own music for public consumption, who never get awards or grants, who scuffle for low-paying club dates.
Did something happen to jazz when I was sleeping that narrowed the Pantheon down into two dozen people who would get the spotlight? Was it the market, or the shrinking audience? Did technology — music for free — destroy a system that had a larger sense of merit to be rewarded? Did TikTok replace Nat Hentoff and Otis Ferguson?
I know some of the decisions — who will get Page One, who will show up only in the obituaries — are a matter of editorial judgment, human energy, as well as economics. I could not write about all the new CDs I am asked to review. (And that’s leaving aside that some of them I don’t like.) A magazine or newspaper has only so many column inches and there are publication deadlines. Of course periodicals want to attract readers and advertisers. But it does seem as if the same faces get the attention, and others, creative and diligent, remain in the shadows.
Is it a matter of who makes the most noise, whose “product” is the most likely to garner attention, what offering seems most singular? Sometimes those seem the only explanations. Packaging triumphing over substance.
JAZZ LIVES leans to the side of what some may call perverse. I write about what moves me, and stay silent about what doesn’t. And all the urging of publicists and fans sometimes add to the stubbornness. I think to myself, “I don’t have to write about __________, whose most recent YouTube video got nine hundred thusand hits in less than a week. They don’t need me. I want to write about ___________, who had ten people in the audience at their last gig. There I can do some good.”
I am not a conspiracy theorist, but at times it seems as if there is a faux-Wizard or committee of “influencers” behind the curtain deciding Who gets the limo and Who has to walk. Is it really “who you know?” more than “can you play / sing / write?” Or “Whose face on the cover will make people buy this issue?”
Are choices determined by extra-musical criteria?
That would be very sad news.
If you want me, I’ll be in the front row, next to Diogenes. He knows what’s good and he seeks it out.
A new discovery — and as has been the fate of Hot Lips Page, even seventy years after his death, he is hidden in plain sight. Facebook friends told the world about MAMBO’S GONE MAD, a collection of short performances by lesser-known Black artists, perhaps for television, introduced by the very refined Mary Smith. There’s a good deal of mambo, costumes, dancing, pulchritude; then a ballad sung by Charles Riley or Reilly in the best Bill Kenny – Orlando Roberson manner . . . then Lips and one Connie Carrol do THROW IT OUT [OF] YOUR MIND, another paean to marriage and premarital chastity.
Lips doesn’t get to play here, and the camera clearly lingers on Connie, but he is his ebullient self, as much as the number allows, even when playing a semi-supporting role:
Those of us who admire Lips more than words can say always shake our heads and ask, “Why should such a charismatic performer never have become a star?” The answers — sad ones — have nothing to do with talent.
In the three television / film appearances I know of, Lips is always placed in a subsidiary role. He tries to get Pearl Bailey to stay the night at his house, and she is clearly the star; he woos Connie in this performance but she takes his money and won’t be his lover without a wedding; in another performance, he teaches a ventriloquist’s dummy how to swing and scat-sing. In none of those three instances, is he given any particular power: either he is a semi-comic implorer or on an equal footing only with a wooden miniature. White America in 1954 wasn’t ready for a handsome Black man who triumphed, even in musical numbers.
And Lips was dead — at 46 — on November 5. A heart attack and then pneumonia. I think of two other heroes, Frank Newton and Sidney Catlett, neither of whom reached fifty, and their world, where men smoked and drank, ate delicious deadly food, didn’t get enough sleep, and didn’t have regular physical examinations. Men went to the doctor only when they felt terrible, and the first heart attack was soon followed by death. And, yes, I know, the list could be much longer.
So, dear JAZZ LIVES readers, take good care of yourselves and the ones you love. And immerse yourself in the music of Lips, Frank, and Sidney: this way their lives will never have ended.
Don’t be afraid. It’s only hot jazz of the highest order, 2023 style, performed by the EarRegulars at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City): Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; Scott Robinson, bass saxophone; James Chirillo, guitar; Russell Hall, string bass.
And by the way, hold that tiger!
And if there’s no mail in the mailbox, today is, after all, a national holiday: Scott Robinson’s birthday. We celebrate him as a soaring creator and deeply kind, funny human being. “Thank you for being born!” as someone once said.
By popular demand, the five remaining performances from a lovely evening of uplifting music at Ornithology (6 Suydam Street, Bushwick, Brooklyn), thanks to string bassist Dan Weisselberg, who brought with him Pat O’Leary, cello; Michael Kanan, piano; Felix Lemerle, guitar; Doron Tirosh, drums, and Gabrielle Stravelli, voice.
Portraits of the musical heroes follow – – – –
Pat and Doron:
Felix and Dan:
Dan and Gabrielle:
And now, the glorious sounds.
BEN’S WEB (a blues by Mr. Webster, c. 1961):
SYMPHONY (a Forties hit, played by Glenn and Benny, Stephane and Django, among others, but a rare call now):
To close off the evening, THE LATE LATE SHOW:
The ideal world and the real one are always a few stops apart (at least) in the cosmic transit system, but in the ideal world this would be a working group, gigging regularly. As Helen Humes sang, I can dream, can’t I?
I give thanks to the musicians and to Ornithology for making this all possible.
And for more delicious Brooklyn-based jazz, visit the MapacheSoundNYC YouTube channel.
Gabrielle Stravelli is a wondrous heartfelt storyteller. Hear the magic she creates with the venerable THESE FOOLISH THINGS, moving from heartbreak to strength. She did this with the Dan Weisselberg Quintet, featuring Pat O’Leary, on April 11, 2023, at Ornithology in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
That’s Dan, string bass; Pat O’Leary, cello; Michael Kanan, piano; Felix Lemerle, guitar; Doron Tirosh, drums. And I will be sharing more from this evening — a magical one of chamber music for moderns who know how to groove.
And for more delicious urban jazz, visit the Mapache Sound channel here.