Category Archives: Mmmmmmmmmmmmm!

“FEELS LIKE ANOTHER UNIVERSE”: EDDY DAVIS, JON-ERIK KELLSO, EVAN ARNTZEN, CONAL FOWKES (Cafe Bohemia, December 26, 2019)

Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street, Greenwich Village, New York City

Where we were, when we were. Years gone by. “Feels like another universe,” says Evan. Glorious music in another time: December 26, 2019, at Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street, New York City. Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, tenor saxophone; Eddy Davis, now gone, banjo, vocal, electricity; Conal Fowkes, string bass.

Eddy Davis and Conal Fowkes, Cafe Bohemia, Dec. 26, 2019.

The tune? CANDY, a Forties ballad, swung as hard as a band can swing. And watch the band fall into line and become a magical Basie small group right on the stage (with Jon-Erik’s nod to THAT’S MY HOME — don’t miss it).

That universe is slowly coming back, although Eddy took his leave of us not long after this session — in April 2020. But he lives on in his joys so generously spread. And the other luminaries: Conal, Jon-Erik, and Evan — continue to illuminate our world. So sweetly.

May your happiness increase!

BOSTON, 1951: BOBBY HACKETT, VIC DICKENSON, GENE SEDRIC, TEDDY ROY, BILL GOODALL, BUDDY LOWELL (WHDH: The Music Box, Copley Square, March 26, 1951)

As Richard Vacca, author of THE BOSTON JAZZ CHRONICLES, can tell us, Boston was a hot town for jazz, vying with Chicago for second place to New York City. In the Forties and Fifties, there seemed to be a regular commute between the two cities, with steady gigs flourishing. Louis and Bird, Bechet and Tatum, Newton and Sullivan, Fats and Big Sid . . . the list of performers and performances is a long one. And there were radio broadcasts from Boston clubs. Here’s a brief taste of what was happening and what was captured off the air.

Bobby, listening to Vic Dickenson at Childs Paramount, October 1952

This glimpse into an animated past comes from the Music Box, where Bobby Hackett had a residency in early 1951, with his great friend and partner Vic Dickenson, trombone; Gene Sedric, clarinet; Teddy Roy (an old Boston friend), piano; Bill Goodall, string bass; Buddy Lowell, drums.

Caveat for the sensitive: there are vestiges of AM-radio static. (The original tape ran quite fast, but the generous Chris Tyle stepped in and fixed that, so nicely.) But you are made of strong stuff, and can surmount such things. The songs are Bobby’s theme for these gigs, STREET OF DREAMS, and then three “Dixieland” classics, SQUEEZE ME, ROYAL GARDEN BLUES, and BYE AND BYE. The band usually broadcast on Fridays, but this was a Monday-night special. The tape came to me from my dear friend and benefactor John L. Fell, his source unknown. Both Bobby and Vic are in tremendous form, leaping into their solos.

More from Spring 1951 in Boston is coming soon: the Hackett band in a longer broadcast, and a Sunday-afternoon jam session from Storyville, featuring Johnny Windhurst, Peanuts Hucko, Dick Le Fave, George Wein, John Field, Marquis Foster, and guests.

Don’t touch that dial.

May your happiness increase!

AN HOUR WITH BILLY BUTTERFIELD, CARL FONTANA, RALPH SUTTON, JACK LESBERG, TYRONE MARTIN (Denver, Colorado: December13, 1975)

Just what it says, and gloriously. This tape came to me through the generosity (so memorable) of John L. Fell, and I have the names “Weinrich-Roscie” stuck in my head, attached to the music. I am guessing that it was a Dick Gibson-styled house party, and I bless the unknown person who recorded the music . . . for us, forty-six years later, to enjoy.

The songs are S’WONDERFUL (ending cut) / MEDITATION / LOVE LIES / WILLOW WEEP FOR ME / LIMEHOUSE BLUES / I GOT IT BAD / THE LADY IS A TRAMP. And if the names are new to you, that’s Billy, trumpet and flugelhorn; Carl, trombone; Ralph, piano; Jack, string bass; Tyrone, drums:

What a great gift was given to us. Hear and marvel.

May your happiness increase!

“WARM WATERS, SUNNY AFTERNOONS, AND PACKED DANCE FLOORS”: THE PLEASURES OF CHARLIE HALLORAN’S “ALCOA SESSIONS”

Charlie and friends at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, 2018

The trombonist Charlie Halloran has a sweetly audacious imagination. We can all say, “I wonder what this combination of musical experiences would sound like”; Charlie goes ahead and gives his brightly-colored set of possibilities musical shape. And the surprises that result are so very pleasing. Before I introduce you to his latest creation, I would go back a few years to praise one from the past:

Charlie is the first-call trombonist in New Orleans, which means that he plays with a variety of bands — Tuba Skinny, the Shotgun Jazz Band, the Little Big Horns, his own Quality Six, and more. He’s come up to New York to be a featured guest with the EarRegulars at The Ear Inn, where he played nobly and made everyone happy. But I think his heart beats fastest (without rushing, mind you) to a larger world-view than SOMEDAY SWEETHEART.

Charlie has immersed himself in that wonderful Venn diagram where New Orleans jazz meets the music of the Caribbean, as astute listeners could hear above. This brings listeners to places they’ve never been but where the music is — although the songs are new — deeply heartfelt and satisfying. When I first began to listen to CE BIGUINE, for example, I thought within a few minutes, “This is going to be one of my favorite discs, full of embracing surprises.” And it’s remained so. When I heard Charlie play some of the same music at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, I looked away from my camera to see the room swaying, the band playing. Smiles proliferated. And the room was gently sashaying in time.

Charlie’s new CD, THE ALCOA SESSIONS, is just extraordinary: not a simple plastic disc with good sounds embossed digitally into it, but a combination of a novel, a travelogue, a happy series of musical voyages to places that only exist in our ears and imaginations. Here’s the cover: doesn’t it make you feel like finding sandals and sunscreen? (It’s not even lunchtime as I write this, but a mojito dances before my eyes.)

But I hear you saying. “Alcoa. Isn’t that an antique brand of aluminum foil? What has all this got to do with music?” Patience. All will be revealed.

The Alcoa Sessions

Featuring

Charlie Halloran………Trombone

Tomas Majcherski……Tenor Sax

Jonathan Doyle….Tenor Sax. Clarinet.

Mike Davis…………Trumpet

with

Don Vappie, John Rodli and John Maestas………..Guitar

Tyler Thomson, Pete Olinciw……..Bass

Joe Lastie, Doug Garrison, Chris Davis……..Drums

Larry Sieberth, David Boeddinghaus…….Piano

Cesar Bacaro…..Percussion

Dédé St. Prix, Drew Gonsalves, Don Vappie………Vocals

Now, a pause for some enlivening musical evidence:

Trombonist Charlie Halloran’s fifth album, and first on the ArtistShare label, imagines the musical experience aboard cruises run by the Alcoa Steamship Co. out of New Orleans from 1949-1959. Pulling from dance band repertoire of Mid Century New Orleans, Trinidad, Venezuela and Guadeloupe, the Alcoa Sessions presents a band in the style of Paul Barbarin or Dave Bartholomew, augmented by Cuban percussion, French Creole and calypso vocals, fully leaning into the Crescent City’s placement as the northernmost city in the Caribbean.

Don Vappie leads the band through “When I Was a Little Child,” a swinging creole number from the Paul Barbarin / John Bruinous band, followed by the appropriately titled “Everybody’s Wailin’,” originally recorded by Huey Piano Smith.

By now the cruise has left the Mississippi River and we begin to explore ports further south. Considered Venezuela’s unofficial national anthem, “Alma Llanera” is given a Trinidadian dance band treatment ala Johnny Gomez. The moody and exotic “Margarita Rosa” comes from the Fitz Vaughan Bryan Orchestra, another dance band working in Port of Spain throughout the 1950s.

Back on the boat now, Halloran provides the vocals for the old jazz standard, “I Used To Love (But It’s All Over)”. 1950s New Orleans saw the explosion of seminal Rock and Roll and R&B recordings, so surely a New Orleans dance band of the era would be ready to let rip on a tune such as Dave Bartholomew’s “Twins” featuring fine trumpet work here from Mike Davis.

Lionel Belasco was a prolific composer working in Barbardos, Trinidad, Venezuela and New York City through the 1960s. His composition “Miranda” is a Venezuelan waltz and provides the perfect outlet for practicing some Arthur Murray dance steps, whose classes were often taught on these cruises. But don’t get too comfortable in 3/4, as Martinique’s Dédé St. Prix is up next to lead the band through “Moune a ou, ce moune a ou,” a brisk biguine from the French Caribbean, featuring the interplay between the trombone and reeds, particularly Tomas Majcherski’s tenor, giving the trumpet player a moment to grab a drink. 

Jonathan Doyle steps to the front on the raucous, “Feeling Good”, harkening to Herb Hardesty, Lee Allen and the screaming tenor sax driven R&B of the 1950s. Trinidadian/Canadian singer Drew Gonsalves of the band Kobotown joins the band for a humorous calypso from Lord Funny, featuring Gonsalves’ infectious rhythm and cadence.

The band swings out the last two numbers, first with the uptempo “Goodnight” written by Pat Castagne for the sign-off music for Radio Trinidad, and finally the dreamy tropical standard, “Song of the Islands.”

The “Alcoa Sessions” mines wonderful, under the radar repertoire, all of it danceable and from the era when calypso, biguine, R&B, and traditional New Orleans Jazz were exploding and intermingling, alongside the tiki craze, mambo and tropicalia. The Alcoa Steamship company used music imagery and language in their ads and brochures, and Halloran’s “The Alcoa Sessions” is sure to melt the ice in your drink and have you packing your suitcase for a TWA plane bound for warmer climes this winter.

Excited? I certainly was. You can check in here to hear a sample, purchase a download or a disc. Echoes of calypso, early rhythm and blues, and delicious old-school NOLA music. I’ve heard the music and am delighted. You will be, too.

I’ll let Charlie have the last word(s):

I like to imagine a young band aboard the Alcoa steamships, comfortable playing traditional jazz and New Orleans R&B, but incorporating local musicians while in port, blending calypso, beguine, and mazurkas, with their New Orleans sensibilities. This album will feature the sounds likely heard on a 13 day excursion from New Orleans through the Caribbean on the Alcoa Clipper, Corsair, and Cavalier.

May your happiness increase!

WE STILL MISS JOHN SHERIDAN (Jazz at Chautauqua, September 20, 2013)

Here are two savory solo piano performances by John Sheridan, almost a decade ago, having his own kind of intent fun at the piano in the parlor of the Hotel Athenaeum, the Friday afternoon before the proceedings officially began.

John had a vast repertoire, so these two performances — riotous yet exact, meditative yet focused — are simply two aspects of his multifarious self. I invite you to savor them, and also share my slight amusement at John’s crisp rapport with the listeners, never mean-spirited but always slightly brusque, at least on the surface.

COME BACK, SWEET PAPA, by Paul Barbarin and Luis Russell, made immortal by Louis Armstrong in Chicago, 1926. Verse and chorus, delightfully orchestral and vivid:

and the other end of the emotional spectrum, a ruminative impressionistic THE LEGEND OF LONESOME LAKE by Eastwood Lane, a composer and composition Bix Beiderbecke knew well:

It’s easy to say that artists are immortal as long as their art is within reach, and it’s true . . . but I wish the telephone would ring and John would be on the other end. Seeing and hearing him, however, is a delight, even if tinged with regret.

May your happiness increase!

RUSS PHILLIPS and FRIENDS SWING OUT AT ATLANTA: BRIA SKONBERG, DUKE HEITGER, ALLAN VACHE, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, SEAN CRONIN, DARRIAN DOUGLAS (Atlanta Jazz Party, April 8, 2015)

You’d better dig that JAZZ BAND BALL. As Johnny Mercer told us, “It’s the ball of them all.”

Here the venerable jazz standard gets up on its hind legs and romps around the stage — thanks to leader / trombonist Russ Phillips; Bria Skonberg, Duke Heitger, trumpet; Allan Vache, clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Sean Cronin, string bass; Darrian Douglas, drums. Never mind that the song was almost a century old, composed by two members of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band: it’s completely at home in 2015. And in 2022.

This joy comes to us thanks to the much-missed Atlanta Jazz Party, where so much good music happened. I know; I was there, as you can guess from the video.

May your happiness increase!

EXTRA FIREWORKS, NO CHARGE: EARL HINES, SOLO (Nice Jazz Festival, July 26, 1975)

Photograph by David Redfern

Some artists, as they age, become more timid versions of their earlier selves. Earl Hines seemed to throw off any polite restraint and have a wonderful time splashing across the keyboard. Here is another brightly-colored solo recital from the Grande Parade du Jazz. Yellow suit and all: he was 71, afraid of nothing.

Part One: MY MONDAY DATE / YOU CAN DEPEND ON ME (captioned as CAN’T) / CAUTION BLUES / ROSETTA / Fats Waller Medley: BLACK AND BLUE – TWO SLEEPY PEOPLE – AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ – SQUEEZE ME – HONEYSUCKLE ROSE (partial):

Part Two: HONEYSUCKLE ROSE (concluded) / ST. LOUIS BLUES:

A Bold Explorer for sure.

May your happiness increase!

ONDATRA ZIBETHICUS, ON THE LOOSE IN SOHO: JON-ERIK KELLSO, HARVEY TIBBS, MATT MUNISTERI, NEAL MINER at The Ear Out (November 3, 2021)

I had to choose: if I’d called this post A WANDERING RODENT, that would have given the wrong idea. And this photograph might not have helped, except as an advertisement for better dental hygiene:

But it’s only my comedic way of introducing a glorious performance of MUSKRAT RAMBLE by the EarRegulars at the end of their 2021 summer season at The Ear Out. The naturalists whose music charms us so are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Harvey Tibbs, trombone; Neal Miner, string bass — taking this venerable composition at the proper rambling tempo:

Goodness, how they swing. What a gift to us. And to Louis, too.

May your happiness increase!

A MODERNISTIC CHAMBER RECITAL by MESSRS. GROSZ, CHACE, and BENGE (10.25.56)

Marty Grosz and Bob Haggart, date and location not known

I could have called what follows HOT MUSIC FROM DEEP CHICAGO and it would have been equally true: intense improvised readings of two popular songs of the late Twenties by Marty Grosz, guitar; Frank Chace, clarinet; Joe Benge, drums . . . privately recorded, probably by John Steiner, on October 25, 1956. (Source material from Joe Boughton or Wayne Jones, preserved and edited by Hal Smith.)

Marty, of course, is internationally renowned; Frank deserves to be equally celebrated. (Frank called Marty, reverently, “a one-man rhythm gang,” and that’s still true, but I think neither man gets full credit for a lovely yearning lyricism.)

Drummer Joe Benge is almost unknown in jazz circles; he was an Amherst College alumnus at the time of this session, and a member of the college’s Delta Five, which also included the late and much-missed cornetist John Bucher. But he led a fascinating life: he went to Evanston High School, which probably led to his connection with this group; he studied German at Amherst and Northwestern, and worked in advertising: he’s responsible for the “Maytag repairman” ads. In 1972, he became a manager for a canoe outfitter in Ontario; he was an ecological activist and naturalist, also teaching native children. He lived until 2016. Clearly a remarkable person.

Back to my hero (and once-upon-a-time phone conversationalist) Frank Chace. The reflex reaction of the first-time listener is to say, “He sounds just like Pee Wee Russell!” to which I would say, “He revered Pee Wee, but he also revered Omer Simeon, Frank Teschemacher, Jimmie Noone . . . and he folded all these influences into a shape uniquely his.” Close listening will reveal his own sweet-strange inventiveness, which continues to reward, elate, and surprise.

Music, then. CHERRY, from the McKinney’s Cotton Pickers’ book:

and Rodgers and Hart’s BLUE MOON:

As memorable as Casals -Thibaud – Cortot, and hotter. Bless these cats. Forevermore.

May your happiness increase!

TURNING THE PAGES OF THE CALENDAR, SOULFULLY: SCOTT ROBINSON, CHRIS FLORY, PAT O’LEARY at The Ear Out, August 28, 2021.

Today is January 1, 2022, one of those dates that have a good deal of joyous ceremony (and hope) attached to it. Although some may say, “it’s just another day!” I choose to celebrate the turning of this page with optimism. And I offer beauty in the service of that feeling: Scott Robinson, playing a ballad — dedicated to his mother, who was a Doris Day fan — outdoors on August 28, 2021, with friends Chris Flory, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass.

These creators, and the sounds they make, move us and bless us. Let joy guide us into 2022 and the years to come.

May your happiness increase!

JIMMIE ROWLES and SIR ROLAND HANNA in DUET, COMPLETE (Grande Parade du Jazz, Nice Jazz Festival, July 9, 1978)

Last July I was lucky enough to share with you the second portion of this duo-recital, performed by Jimmie Rowles and Sir Roland Hanna at two grand pianos at the Grande Parade du Jazz. I’ve recently obtained the whole recital, and although there is a break in MY FUNNY VALENTINE, it’s all here: the meeting of two magnificent individualists in the night air. Those who care to can dine out on perceived imperfections, but since we have so little video of Rowles and Hanna in their mature prime, I think such grousing is not a worthy subject. And if you have no idea who’s who, Rowles is dressed in green.

THESE FOOLISH THINGS / I LOVE YOU / INDIANA / MY FUNNY VALENTINE (partial):

MY FUNNY VALENTINE (concluded) / ORNITHOLOGY:

What a blessing that these meetings of giants took place, were recorded, and whether they were televised or not, the complete evidence remains. Technology of the last century gives us big rewarding hugs in these moments.

May your happiness increase!

REASONS TO BE JOYOUS: RAY SKJELBRED and HIS CUBS at ROSSMOOR (KIM CUSACK, CLINT BAKER, KATIE CAVERA, JEFF HAMILTON: JULY 10, 2014)

Let joy be unconfined. It certainly had free room at this July 10, 2014 concert put on by the Dixieland Jazz Club at Rossmoor in Walnut Creek, California. The source of the joy? Ray Skjelbred, piano; Kim Cusack, clarinet and vocal; Clint Baker, string bass; Katie Cavera, rhythm guitar and vocal; Jeff Hamilton, drums.

I always want to celebrate Ray, someone who keeps finding new paths to embody deep truths about life and art and the spirit, but today I post this jubilant video to say WOW in the name of two celebrations — you might know about them or not. Clint Baker has come back from a serious cardiac incident and is recovering well. If it wouldn’t hurt or embarrass him, a line of people would be at his door wanting to embrace him and to thank him for hanging around. And the quietly brilliant Kim Cusack, admired and loved for a million reasons, is celebrating a birthday. It would be indecent to ask him what the relevant number is, and an irrelevancy: he’s here on the planet and we rejoice in that fact.

And we rejoice in this music.

The news might be dark and the skies cloudy, but anytime we can hear the Cubs — ideally, in person, but also on lit screens and through speakers — it is a glorious day. We know them, we love them.

May your happiness increase!

“A MUSICIANS’ PARADISE”: BOBBY HACKETT, MARTY MARSALA, PEE WEE RUSSELL, BUD FREEMAN, JOE BUSHKIN, EDDIE CONDON, ARTIE SHAPIRO, DAVE TOUGH (November 5, 1938)

Young Bobby Hackett

This performance is both rare and familiar, famous and infamous, and you’ll hear why. It comes from a jam session organized by Joe Marsala from the St. Regis Hotel in New York City which was broadcast to the BBC — unheard at home. The eager announcer, jazz fan Alistair Cooke, is so eager to explain the new phenomenon of swing to the uninitiated that he explains — to some, insufferably — through most of the track.

But if you have the kind of first-rate mind F. Scott Fitzgerald spoke of, and you can listen around the well-intentioned Mr. Cooke, you will hear some astonishing music from Bobby Hackett, cornet; Marty Marsala, trumpet; Pee Wee Russell, clarinet; Bud Freeman, tenor saxophone; Joe Bushkin, piano; Eddie Condon, guitar; Artie Shapiro, string bass; Dave Tough, drums. Source material from a Jazz Unlimited CD, GREAT SWING JAM SESSIONS.

I used to expend energy complaining about our Alistair, but as I’ve aged I hear him out of the corner of my consciousness while I prize the splash and drive of Dave Tough’s cymbal work and tom-toms, the ferocious joy of the soloists and ensemble. No Alistair, no jam session, even though his timing is off: he is like a little boy with short legs chasing the parade. Rather than complain, KEEP SMILING AT TROUBLE. It’s a bubble, you know:

Hot in November for sure. And as Mr. Cooke wisely says, “This is no concert for people who don’t like swing.” Imagine this blazing out of your radio. And if you are so inclined to comment on Mr. Cooke’s loquacity, remember that he is an anthropologist introducing people to a new culture, and thank him: no Cooke, no music.

May your happiness increase!

A STAGE FULL OF BRIGHT LIGHTS: WILD BILL DAVISON, BOBBY HACKETT, JIMMY McPARTLAND, BUCK CLAYTON, JIMMY ARCHEY, VIC DICKENSON, GENE SEDRIC, ED HALL, FRANK SIGNORELLI, JOE BUSHKIN, MARIAN McPARTLAND, MILT HINTON, POPS FOSTER, MAX WAYNE, GEORGE WETTLING, JO JONES, TONY SPARGO, LEE WILEY (Town Hall, New York City, April 12, 1952)

 Here’s a vibrant paradox: the musicians who understand themselves deeply know that singularity is the great goal.  Be aware of where you’ve come from, revere your heroes and know the tradition, but be yourself.  At the same time, play well with others: understand that the community of jazz improvisation is sacred, and work for “the comfort of the band,” to quote Baby Dodds.

In this Town Hall concert, from April 12, 1952, that delicate paradox is on display in every performance.  Here’s the roadmap.

This Saturday concert, produced by Bob Maltz, was billed as a farewell party for Wild Bill Davison, who was leaving New York to tour. It was recorded by the Voice of America for broadcast overseas, which may be the source of this copy.  The introduction is by Al “Jazzbo” Collins, with Marian McPartland playing softly underneath his paragraphs:

BLUE SKIES / I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU”RE IN LOVE WITH ME / HINDUSTAN Wild Bill Davison, Ed Hall, Jimmy Archey, Frank Signorelli, Pops Foster, George Wettling /

THE LADY IS A TRAMP / SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME (Bushkin) – DON’T BLAME ME (Milt) – DINAH (Buck) – HALLELUJAH! – BLUES (Jo) Joe Bushkin, Buck Clayton, Milt Hinton, Jo Jones /

CLARINET MARMALADE / DAVENPORT BLUES / ROYAL GARDEN BLUES Jimmy McPartland, Vic Dickenson, Gene Sedric, Marian McPartland, Max Wayne, Tony Spargo /

ANY TIME, ANY DAY, ANYWHERE / STREET OF DREAMS / MANHATTAN / [Roy Haynes mentioned] ‘DEED I DO / I’VE GOT A CRUSH ON YOU Lee Wiley, Joe Bushkin, Buck Clayton, Milt Hinton, Jo Jones /

Collins jokes and talks to fill time . . .

FIDGETY FEET / SISTER KATE (Vic, vocal) / SWEET GEORGIA BROWN / Bobby Hackett, Vic Dickenson, Gene Sedric, Marian McPartland, Max Wayne, George Wettling //

THAT’S A PLENTY (explosively) / I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE / SAINTS Davison, Archey, Hall, Signorelli, Foster, Wettling //

Listening to these musicians, at the peak of their expressive powers, I thought of Ruby Braff (in Boston when this concert took place) and the subject of the party, Wild Bill Davison.  Ruby was often cutting about his colleagues, except for half-a-dozen who he held sacred.  Thus, in my hearing, Wild Bill was “that moron.”  But later in life — perhaps in the wonderful conversations he had with Steve Voce, Ruby unwound enough to praise Bill: he “had drama.” 

But my point is not to praise Bill in isolation.  Every musician at this concert has their own drama — Lee Wiley wooing, Vic Dickenson telling stories, Wild Bill taking a hot-jazz-flamethrower to the curtains to see if they would catch fire.  The concert reminds me of a televised production of KING LEAR where every role was filled — gorgeously — by a star actor (Laurence Olivier, John Hurt, Michael Gambon, Leo McKern, Diana Rigg) — and they meshed wonderfully, their reverence for the play and for each other evident.

It also reminds me that there was a time, nearly seventy years ago, where both Milt Hinton and Pops Foster were available for a gig, as were Marian McPartland and Tony Spargo.  A proliferation of riches!  And even if you think, “God.  Another version of FIDGETY FEET, for goodness’ sake?” listen — you’ll be startled out of your preconceptions and hustled into joy.

May your happiness increase!

BRAGGIN’ IN BRASS WITH The EarRegulars and Friends: JON-ERIK KELLSO, BILL ALLRED, MATT MUNISTERI, PAT O’LEARY, GORDON AU, ANDREW STEPHENS, JOHN ALLRED, HARVEY TIBBS, JOAN CODINA, STEVE BELIFUSS, LOU SALCEDO (The Ear Out, October 17, 2021)

When people ask, “Michael, are you ever planning to move out of New York?” and I say, “No,” this is one of my answers. This happens elsewhere, I know, but it doesn’t happen like this. This love-in-swing-out took place at the close of a Sunday afternoon session by the EarRegulars at The Ear Out, their summer home, on October 17, 2021. Here’s a still photograph of the action . . . and it doesn’t even include all the glorious people playing on the final song, which was Charlie Shavers’ UNDECIDED. I assure you that indecision was not the order of the day! There’s also a brief detour into Herschel Evans’ line on the same chords, DOGGIN’ AROUND: the EarRegulars are a pet-friendly band, you know.

The basic EarRegulars quartet that Sunday was Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Bill Allred, trombone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass. But by the end of this afternoon session, the quartet had become an eleven-piece brass fantasy: five trombones, three trumpets, two guitars, one string bass in splendid swinging harmony.

I’ll list them in solo order: Munisteri (intro); John Allred, trombone; Andrew Stephens, trumpet; Bill Allred, trombone; Gordon Au, trumpet; Joan Codina, trombone; Steve Bleifuss, trombone; Lou Salcedo, guitar; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Harvey Tibbs, trombone; Pat O’Leary; then a chorus of DOGGIN’ AROUND, based on the same chord changes; Matt Munisteri to finish it all off neatly.

My feelings, then and now, are astonishment, delight, and gratitude. You understand.

May your happiness increase!

BRINGING THE GROOVE INDOORS: ARNT ARNTZEN, DANNY TOBIAS, VINCE GIORDANO at Giovanni’s Brooklyn Eats (Sunday, December 5, 2021)

Look at those faces: three happy creative people, making music, spreading joy for a crowd enjoying their eggs and mimosas to an inspired soundtrack. That’s Giovanni’s Brooklyn Eats on a Sunday brunch-afternoon, and the three swing Muses are Arnt Arntzen, banjo, voice, and occasional comedy; Danny Tobias, trumpet; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, voice. They’re that wondrous thing, a working band. Arnt calls them ARNIE AND HIS RHYTHM, but I think they need a more exalted name, like SPLENDID MEMBERS OF THE SOCIETY FOR THE PROMULGATION OF JOY, although that’s too long to fit on a gig announcement. DELEGATES OF PLEASURE is also in the running. But I digress.

Here’s some joy.

When I walked into Giovanni’s last Sunday, this trio was concluding their first song, a hot number. I said hello, was taken to a seat, and began to set up my camera while hearing Arnt say to Danny and Vince, “Do you know THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU”? — that very heartfelt Ray Noble ballad that “bands” don’t always play. I was very excited and managed to begin filming about one-quarter through this very tender offering:

Romance of a different sort (“I have bought / the home and ring / and everything!”) as Vince sings and plays MARGIE:

Something very sweet — SUGAR by Arnie — “She’s vaccinated!”:

MUSKRAT RAMBLE, so often smudged, here with all its different strains treated with hot reverence:

And finally (for this set) my national anthem, WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH, rendered with love, not caricature:

What a glorious group: harmony not only of notes, but of spirit.

But wait! There’s more!

Arnt has just announced a Thursday-night residency for this trio and other versions of it, at Barbes in Brooklyn: on December 30, 10 PM to midnight, he and brother Evan will play together; on January 6, the trio above, from 7 to 9:30; on January 13, the multi-talented Colin Hancock and Tal Ronen will join Arnt; and more to come. I’m looking forward to this and hope some JAZZ LIVES readers will join me. Without being too didactic, venues with music but without audiences soon drop the music: as you know.

For now, enjoy the pleasures above.

May your happiness increase!

EXEMPLARY BEHAVIOR: GABRIELLE STRAVELLI, DAN BLOCK, MICHAEL KANAN, PAT O’LEARY (Swing 46, October 5, 2021)

This neat little band has been attracting fans and friends on early Tuesday evenings at Swing 46 (349 West 46th Street, New York City) for more than a few months . . . and it deserves to have its names up in lights. Leader Dan Block (tenor and alto saxophones, clarinet and bass clarinet) gives equal time to the wonderful Gabrielle Stravelli (vocals), Michael Kanan (piano), and Pat O’Leary (string bass). Here they are — about two months ago — tenderly moseying through the Waller-Razaf AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ — which is truly a love song about fidelity and joyous discovery — at a tempo that makes it emotionally meaningful, rather than a race to the outchorus:

What lovely playful sounds! And in their three sets on a Tuesday night, this splendid quartet creates marvel after marvel. You mean to say you could have visited them at West 46th Street and haven’t . . . ?

May your happiness increase!

DICKENSON PLAYS ELLINGTON: VIC DICKENSON, EARL HINES, HARLEY WHITE, EDDIE GRAHAM (Grande Parade du Jazz, July 20, 1975)

Yes, Vic Dickenson. You know, the “Dixieland” trombonist known for his “wry humor.”

A small sweet surprise: Vic Dickenson, trombone; Earl Hines, piano; Harley White, string bass; Eddie Graham, drums — playing an Ellington ballad, perhaps THE Ellington ballad. So many writers made so much of Vic’s “dirty” style, his growls, that they forgot his deep heart, his deep feelings for pretty songs . . . his love of melody, of pure sounds. And although no one was wise enough to ask Vic to make a recording of Ellington and Strayhorn, he called IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD as his feature night after night when I saw him.

The first thing an attentive listener might notice is Vic’s slowing-down the tempo: he’s not about to be rushed into baroque Hines flourishes. A stately yet passionate exposition of the melody, growing more fervent in his second chorus. Then a coda-cadenza, rhapsodic and bluesy all at once. A masterpiece from the Grande Parade du Jazz at Nice, France, performed on July 20, 1975.

Hank O’Neal told me that one of his dream projects was to record Vic with strings. Such a pity that didn’t happen. Listen to I GOT IT BAD again and realize that, as a ballad player, Vic is at the level of Ben and Pres, Hodges and his dear friend Bobby Hackett. Thank goodness we have these four minutes of Vic, quietly reminding us of what he did and could do: wordlessly touch our hearts without making a fuss of doing so.

May your happiness increase!

EXTRA HELPINGS OF JOY: JARED ENGEL’S NEW ANGLES (Part One) October 30, 2021

Thanks again to New York City Department of Cultural Affairs for the #CityArtistCorps program, making this concert possible. But first, thanks to the surging creative playful musicians who shared their art with us.

A wonderful concert by Jared Engel, string bass, composer, arranger; Vanisha-Arleen Gould, vocal; Gordon Au. trumpet; Sam Chess, trombone; Jonathan Beshay, reeds; Josh Dunn, guitar; Andrew Millar, drums — held in the Flamboyan Theatre of the Soto Cultural Center, Essex Street, New York City, on October 30, 2021, under the aegis of the City Artist Corps Program, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

Here’s the first part of three. Let joy be unconfined!

For Hoagy, for Louis, in the name of jubilation, JUBILEE:

Then, a lunar pairing featuring the wonderful singer Vanisha-Arleen Gould, NO MOON AT ALL:

and THAT OLD DEVIL MOON:

Inventive music, played with skill and spice in a lively space for an appreciative audience: if you know of a better universe . . .

More to come.

May your happiness increase!

WITH DISPATCH AND VIGOR: MARTY GROSZ and FRANK CHACE and FRIENDS, 1951

Marty Grosz, young, spiffy.

One of Marty Grosz’s favorite vaudeville bits is to announce the next number, and say “. . . performed with dispatch and vigor,” and then motion to two musicians near him, saying, “That’s Dispatch, and that’s Vigor.” How old it is I don’t know, but it still provokes a laugh from me and the audience. (The expression goes back to the eighteenth century and before: it crops up in a letter from George Washington, which would please Marty if he doesn’t already know it.)

Perhaps the earliest recording we have of Marty (then playing a four-string guitar) and his miraculous colleague Frank Chace dates from 1951, issued on a limited edition 10″lp by THE INTENSELY VIGOROUS JAZZ BAND. The personnel is John Dengler, cornet; Marty Ill, trombone; Frank Chace, clarinet; Hal Cabot, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar; Stan Bergen, drums. Princeton, New Jersey, May 1951. I have a copy here somewhere, but it proves elusive. From what I remember of the liner notes, Marty and Frank were ringers, added to the Princeton students’ band of the time.

Frank Chace, young, ferociously intense.

Through the good offices of the very generous collector Hot Jazz 78rpms — who shares marvels regularly on his YouTube channel — I can offer you all of this rather grainy but certainly precious disc. But before you leap into auditory splendor, may I caution you: not everyone on this session is at the same level, but it would be wrong to give it only a passing grade as “semi-pro college Dixieland.” Close listening will reveal subtleties, even in the perhaps overfamiliar repertoire. Marty, Frank, and John shine. And the three Princetonians, none of whom went on to jazz fame, play their roles. With dispatch and vigor.

NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW:

BUDDY BOLDEN’S BLUES (a memorable Chace chorus):

THE CHARLESTON:

I FOUND A NEW BABY:

THE SHEIK OF ARABY (my favorite):

BASIN STREET BLUES:

AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL:

and, yes, WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN with some of its original luster intact:

Intense, vigorous, and joyous too. And if you hear echoes of Eddie, Charles Ellsworth, Bix, and their friends, that’s not a bad thing.

May your happiness increase!

A HOT WEDNESDAY NIGHT IN CHELSEA, FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: EDDY DAVIS, JOHN BUCHER, SCOTT ROBINSON, PETE MARTINEZ, JESSE GELBER, DEBBIE KENNEDY at The Cajun, New York City (June 7, 2006)

The scene: The Cajun, painting by Barbara Rosene. In private collection.
The star: Eddy Davis, banjoist, singer, composer, mischief-maker.

I don’t remember details about this particular Wednesday night at the Cajun — which was soon to close to make way for a high-rise apartment building. But my digital recorder stands in for any gaps in my memory, providing wonderful evidence of what happened more than fifteen years ago. Here is a romping sample — CIRIBIRIBIN, suggested by cornetist John Bucher, sitting in for a set with Eddy, Pete Martinez, clarinet (subbing for Orange Kellin); Scott Robinson, C-melody saxophone; Jesse Gelber, piano (subbing for Conal Fowkes); Debbie Kennedy, string bass. It wasn’t “Dixieland”; it was more an evocation of the sleeves-rolled-up music one heard on Fifty-Second Street, at Eddie Condon’s, a year or so later at The Ear Inn: loose, friendly, playful, expert but hiding its expertise. I think it’s a memorable nine minutes, and when I first unearthed this disc, more than one computer refused to transfer it, so I played it more than a dozen times in hopes that I could vault over the barrier. I loved it more each time, and I hope you will share my enthusiasm.

The building is gone; some of the musicians have moved to other neighborhoods, but the sounds they made and the emotions they evoke are so durable as to be timeless.

May your happiness increase!

COLEMAN HAWKINS CONTINUES TO SOAR (with BENNY CARTER, GEORGE CHISHOLM, JIMMY WILLIAMS, FREDDY JOHNSON, RAY WEBB, LEN HARRISON, ROBERT MONTMARCHE: The Hague, Netherlands, August 18, 1937)

Coleman Hawkins’ birthday was the 21st of November. Although he’s no longer here to celebrate with us, we continue to celebrate him. He was the tenor saxophonist before other musicians had figured out ways to make that horn an effective part of a jazz ensemble, and — even more tellingly — a compelling solo voice. And then he blazed a path for forty-five years.

Two weeks ago, at the Monday-night Zoom meeting of the Hot Club of New York, our friend-scholar Matthew Rivera played the issued take of MY BUDDY — several times — with the affectionate reverence and admiration it deserves. But the band, this wonderful mix of Americans and Europeans, recorded it three times, and some members had never heard the alternate takes.

I want to fill that gap here, and am also offering the two takes of PARDON ME, PRETTY BABY, a sweet rouser of a whimsical-romantic appeal (these versions are instrumental, so you won’t hear the winsome question, “Don’t I look familiar to you?” and the rest of the chipper lyrics by Ray Klages and Jack Meskill).

The band was led by Hawkins’ friend and colleague, the masterful Benny Carter, who played trumpet, alto saxophone, and clarinet; also joining in the swing were Freddy Johnson, piano; George Chisholm, trombone; Jimmy Williams, tenor saxophone and clarinet; Ray Webb, guitar; Len Harrison, string bass; Robert Montmarche, drums — all of this recorded in the Netherlands for Decca / Vocalion on August 18, 1937.

A word about “alternate takes.” I gather that the term was first used in film production.) I suspect that the recording executives, having such a band in their studios, were ready to say — even if a performance was excellent — “Let’s try another.” Or it might have been Carter himself. One of the musicians might have said, “I’d like another try at that: I wasn’t happy with my solo.” The listener will notice on this session that the soloists follow some of the same general path from take to take, but the variations are fascinating, particularly on MY BUDDY, where the general looseness is more prevalent from one take to the next.

Exuberant, inventive, ingenious playing on all five performances. And we hear Hawkins and Carter plunging into their solos with fervor and exactitude, followed closely behind by Freddy Johnson. Let us also praise Benny’s wondrous trumpet playing! He may have been responsible for the little but telling arranging touches, or they may have been “head arrangements,” invented on the spot, but they give these performances shape and focus. And consider — in this era of performances with no time limit — how much music these people created in three-minutes-and-change. Two players sharing a thirty-two bar chorus (a “split chorus”) makes so much eloquent compression possible.

PARDON ME, PRETTY BABY (master take):

and the alternate take:

Walter Donaldson’s MY BUDDY (master take):

The first alternate:

The second alternate:

Finally, for the detail-minded, a few words about the presumed sequence of performances and record-keeping. It would be natural to count #1 and #2 as the first and second performances created, but those official designations might only be ways of noting first and second choice, by the musicians or the record-company people. But the music is what matters, and it is happily timeless.

If you haven’t checked out the Hot Club of New York (the link is above), you will enjoy it — timeless music in a community of people enjoying it, every Monday night from 7-10 PM.

May your happiness increase!