Category Archives: Mmmmmmmmmmmmm!

MS. YOO TO YOU! “I AM CURIOUS”: JINJOO YOO, NEAL MINER, JIMMY WORMWORTH (Gut String Records)

We know “curious” as being eager to learn or know something, but the less well-known definition is unusual, rare, unexpected.

Photograph by Jennie Karpadai

The inventive jazz pianist and composer Jinjoo Yoo is both of these things, qualities sweetly embodied in her debut CD, I AM CURIOUS, a trio session with Neal Miner and Jimmy Wormworth on Gut String Records.  And if you think you’ve heard and seen her before, you are correct: I wrote admiringly of her at the end of February 2018 here.

The disc offers six of Jinjoo’s originals, and although I ordinarily view “originals” with some trepidation, I welcomed hers and wish that a full-scale CD is coming soon.

Her music is unhackneyed, melodic, welcoming.  She spins out long graceful lines that aren’t four-bar modules copied from other pianists.  She has her own voice, or I should say, “voices.”  The performances often begin with a simple melodic motif set over a clear, swinging rhythmic foundation . . . and they transparently show off her curiosity.

I can hear her asking of the music, “Notes, chords, where will you take me?” And the results are gently playful, as if she were turning over brightly-colored bits of melody and harmony in the sunlight to see what reflections they cast on the while wall.  She can be tender, ruminative, but she can also create vivid joyous dances: songs that call out for lyrics.

Her playing is spare but I never felt it to be sparse, the sonic equivalent of a large room with one canvas chair against the wall.  No, her single notes seem just right — percussive commentary when needed, lyrical otherwise, and her harmonies are lovely, neither formulaic nor jarring.  Her voicings are subtle but right: the listener isn’t overpowered by force or volume, but welcomed in.  And she works wonderfully with the stellar members of this trio.  It’s music that will deeply reward those steeped in the modern piano tradition, but music one could play for someone outside the circle who would find it refreshing.  It’s clear that she has steeped herself in the jazz tradition — reaching far and wide to include bebop, Jimmy Rowles, Ellington, Monk, and American popular song at its best — but she is herself.  And she has an essential sense of humor: even her most pensive moments have an airy quality.

The titles are: BLULLABY, DIZZY BLOSSOM, I’M CURIOUS, AND I CALL IT HOME, TO BARRY WITH LOVE, BLULLABY (alternate take).

Jinjoo writes, “I owe my inspiration to the blue morning light sneaking in through my window (Track 1, 6), A bird singing, and flower petals floating in the air during springtime (Track 2), Fantasies created by desire and curiosity (Track 3), Teymur Hajiyev’s film about the reality of life in the slums of Azerbaijan <Shanghai, Baku> (Track 4), My hero, my teacher, the one and only Barry Harris (Track 5).”

I predict a bright future for this sensitive, intuitive artist — both as pianist and composer.  You can learn more about I’M CURIOUS and other Gut String Records releases here.  I encourage you to do so: these CDs don’t always get the press barrage their contents deserve, but they are rewarding in music and sound.

Here’s Neal’s video of BLULLABY, from the recording session:

and TO BARRY, WITH LOVE:

Welcome, Ms. Yoo!  Consider yourself invited to stay.  And thank you.

May your happiness increase!

 

 

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TREMENDOUS NEW JELLY: FOUR FROM DAVID HORNIBLOW and ANDREW OLIVER

In the Nineteen-Forties, when “traditional jazz” was once again greeted with enthusiasm, small illicit record labels looked to make money off the demand for music not otherwise available, and many pirated music that the major labels were not reissuing.  Often the label names were official-sounding; sometimes hilarious.  I’ve included a few samples here.

One bootleg pressing of Jelly Roll Morton’s music (I believe on the “XX” label) had as artist credit TREMENDOUS OLD JELLY.  When I looked online for this artist credit, I was greeted with pictures of royal jelly, fruit preserves, and more.

It would have been a fine title for this blogpost, except for one thing: pianist Andrew Oliver and reedman David Horniblow, both tremendously talented, make new music, and they’ve been sharing their duets every week.  And here, on Andrew’s blog, all manner of delicious secrets will be revealed.  For one: what popular song, written two years after SWEET PETER, owes some of its melodic shape to Morton?  (Thanks to Professor James Dapogny for recognizing the lineage.)

David and Andrew plan to perform all 107 Morton compositions, and I have no doubt they will reach the summit of that wondrous mountain.  Here are the four most recent.

FREAKISH (no doubt named for its unusual harmonies):

SWEET PETER, rarely played but irresistible:

A truly joyous KANSAS CITY STOMPS:

Finally, a deliciously sauntering DEAD MAN BLUES:

These two young men are deliciously adept, aren’t they?  See and hear all twelve performances to date here.

May your happiness increase!

HOT IN THE HEARTLAND: THE RHYTHM ACES (ROY RUBINSTEIN, KIM CUSACK, ANDY SCHUMM, JIM BARRETT, JOHN WIDDICOMBE, March 26, 2018): PART TWO

A hot time was had by all last Monday night at the Breakwater in Monona, Wisconsin, when the Rhythm Aces swung out: Roy Rubinstein, trombone; Kim Cusack, clarinet, alto saxophone, vocal; Andy Schumm, cornet, clarinet; Jim Barrett, banjo; John Widdicombe, string bass.  Here is the first part of their heated rhapsody.

And some more of that good noise.

MY MONDAY DATE (as scored for two clarinets and rhythm section, in honor of Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra):

TROG’S BLUES (by and about clarinetist / cartoonist Wally Fawkes):

BILL BAILEY (sung by Kim with the essential-to-the-narrative verse):

More to come, thank goodness.

May your happiness increase!

HOT MUSIC IN MONONA, WISCONSIN: THE RHYTHM ACES (ROY RUBINSTEIN, KIM CUSACK, ANDY SCHUMM, JIM BARRETT, JOHN WIDDICOMBE, March 26, 2018): PART ONE

I made a forty-eight hour trip to Wisconsin earlier this week, in the name of hot music.  “Michael, don’t you have enough jazz in New York to keep you occupied over the Easter / Passover break?”  “Yes, but in New York we don’t have Kim Cusack,” I can reply.

So in that brief period I sat Kim in front of my camera and he talked — most engagingly — and we went to Monona, Wisconsin, to enjoy the Rhythm Aces, a small band led by trombonist Roy Rubinstein — which featured Kim on clarinet, alto saxophone, and vocal, Andy Schumm on cornet and clarinet, Jim Barrett on banjo, and John Widdicombe on string bass.  They play at the Breakwater on the fourth Monday of every month from 6 to 8.  And HOW they play.

You’ll hear that I do not exaggerate.

ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND:

A strain from TEDDY BEARS’ PICNIC:

RENT PARTY BLUES:

LINGER AWHILE:

And there’s more to come.  The fourth Monday of this April is the 23rd.  If I didn’t have an early-morning class on Tuesday . . .

It’s very reassuring to know that the Heartland is so Hot.

May your happiness increase!

EMBRACED WARMLY BY MUSIC: DANNY TOBIAS, GEORGE RABBAI, PHIL ORR, PAT MERCURI, JOE PLOWMAN (Part Two): March 24, 2018

If you haven’t savored the lovely music these five players made in their first four performances, please click here.  The occasion was an afternoon concert at the lovely and welcoming 1867 Sanctuary Arts and Culture Center in Ewing, New Jersey, and the artists were Danny Tobias and George Rabbai on trumpets, fluegelhorns, cornet, and a basketful of mutes, with Phil Orr, piano; Pat Mercuri, guitar; Joe Plowman, string bass.

As Joe Venuti used to say, “This must be the place!”

And this was the banner for the occasion:

Here are four more memorable offerings.

What George called “the human condition,” I WANT TO BE HAPPY:

Pat Mercuri’s touching evocation of Eddie Lang, APRIL KISSES:

STARDUST, played as if brand-new:

And the closing number of the first set, Danny’s HOW’S IT GO?:

There’s a whole delightful second set that I will share with you, soon.

May your happiness increase!

THE VERY AIR TURNED BLUE: RAY SKJELBRED / MARC CAPARONE at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST, November 25, 2016

In the slang of the eighteen-sixties, “turning the air blue” meant filling our ears with obscenities.  Ray Skjelbred and Marc Caparone, piano and cornet, respectively, have other ideas here.

BLUE AIR BLUES is an extension of the first strain of Sidney Bechet’s BLUES IN THE AIR (from 1941) and they create and recreate gorgeously in this performance from the 2017 San Diego Jazz Fest.  (The Fest happens every year over the Thanksgiving weekend: I’ll be there.)

And the Victor people couldn’t know about this performance, but it is also a SWING CLASSIC.

May your happiness increase!

DAVID BOEDDINGHAUS IS MY TRAVEL AGENT (November 6, 2016)


There are many magnificent jazz pianists.  But there’s only one David Boeddinghaus.  I’ve enjoyed his rollicking swing, his lyrical groove, his tender ballads (he is a master of Porter and Rodgers and Carmichael) and deep blues, his evocations of Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Waller, and Frank Melrose — in California, in New Orleans, in Newcastle (thus my title as well as a reference to the 1920 pop tune below, because David gets us where we’d like to go and more).

You can read his biography online; you can ponder his discography thanks to Tom Lord.  But his glorious playing needs no more explication than this: it is beautiful without commentary.  David is especially exultant as an ensemble player, no matter what the tempo: a one-man rhythm section full of subtlety and strength.  Meaning no disrespect to Duke Heitger, Alistair Allan, Lars Frank, Henry Lemaire, Malcolm Sked, and Josh Duffee, I think David is the great engine of this romping CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME, captured at the 2016 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party:

and here’s another performance from that set that has justly garnered a good deal of praise — with David swinging like a wonderful amalgam of Joe Sullivan and everyone wonderful uptown as well:

Musicians I know speak of his accuracy, his scholarship: he knows the verses, the right tempos, the best changes.  Ask Banu Gibson, ask Larry Scala and three dozen others.  But for me, it’s something larger: David Boeddinghaus transports us through sound.  Bless him.

May your happiness increase!