Category Archives: Mmmmmmmmmmmmm!

A MORTONIAN PARADISE, PLUS (ANDREW OLIVER / DAVID HORNIBLOW): A BLOG, TWO VIDEOS, and an e-78, TOO.

When I go to my computer in the morning — a twenty-first century act as natural to us as making a fire in the stove for breakfast must have been years ago — and I see that the Complete Morton Project (a/k/a Andrew Oliver at the piano and David Horniblow at the clarinet, bass clarinet, or alto saxophone) has been at it again while I have been sleeping or attempting to grade student essays, my first feeling is pride — pride that I am living in a world where such beauty is being regularly given to us for free.  Of course, my second thought is, “Oh, no!  I’m falling behind!”  But David and Andrew have been very forgiving, and I have received no lowered grades for tardiness.  And they offer their creations open-handedly and open-heartedly.

Here is the aptly named PEP:

and the NEW ORLEANS BUMP, which should induce dancing everywhere.

I especially like David’s growly evocation of Cecil Scott and other “dirty” clarinetists — the world as it was before Benny smoothed everything out:

There’s more information and music here on Andrew’s blog — which also shows off the considerable talents of the Vitality Five and the Dime Notes — and you can subscribe to these weekly YouTube bouquets of sound here.  And (while I was tidying up the kitchen) the Vitality Five issued their February 2018 e-78: details here.

How will I keep up?  I don’t know.  But it’s a delightful struggle for sure.

May your happiness increase!

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BIRD, BECKETT, and THE BEAT: JEFF HAMILTON, CLINT BAKER, ROBERT YOUNG (February 16, 2018)

That’s Jeff Hamilton, piano; Clint Baker, cornet; Robert Young, bass saxophone, brought to us by rara avis Eric Whittington of Bird & Beckett Books at
653 Chenery Street, San Francisco, California: (415) 586-3733, and captured on video by the indefatigable RaeAnn Berry of that same city.

Photograph by Angela Bennett

I needed to share CRAZY RHYTHM with you for Jeff’s splendidly playful introduction and what happens next:

Clint switches to clarinet for IF I HAD YOU:

and sings on a frolicsome I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY:

What musical evening would be complete without Alex Hill’s DELTA BOUND?

Bird and Beckett offers a variety of music, readings — a wise comfortable place.  And books.  Of course.

At this writing, RaeAnn has posted fifteen videos, found here.  Her YouTube channel introduced me to the wonders of California hot almost a decade ago, so I value her continued work.

And to Clint, Jeff, Robert, and Eric: thanks for keeping the heat on.  We need it.

May your happiness increase!

BEAUTY, SO RARE: HIDDEN TREASURES FROM JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA: JON-ERIK KELLSO, SCOTT ROBINSON, BOB HAVENS, JOHN SHERIDAN, KERRY LEWIS, PETE SIERS (September 23, 2012)

When it’s good, you know it.  When it’s sublime, you feel it.  Here are four previously unseen treasures from the sprawling JAZZ LIVES vault of video sweetness, recorded at the Hotel Athenaeum in Chautauqua, New York, on September 23, 2012, during the delightful gathering of cosmic energies once called “Jazz at Chautauqua,” the creation of Joe Boughton and then Nancy Hancock Griffith.

We take so much for granted, and on paper, this set might just have seemed another pleasing interlude in a long weekend of delights — a Sunday-brunch set focused on the music of Louis Armstrong.  With other players, even such an inspiring theme could have turned into genial formula.  But not with Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Bob Havens, trombone; Scott Robinson, metal clarinet, tenor saxophone, and taragoto; John Sheridan, piano; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Pete Siers, drums.

How they soar.  How tenderly they caress the music.  You’ll experience it for yourselves.

First, a WEARY BLUES that gently piles delight upon delight, a  great piece of Hot Architecture reaching toward the sky:

and, with some priceless commentary from Scott Robinson — erudite comedy gently coming to earth as a loving tribute to Joe Muranyi, who loved to play BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN:

“Right on it,” as they say, with Mr. Robinson on the tenor, for ONCE IN A WHILE, where the rhythm section shines:

If the closing ninety seconds of that performance doesn’t make you jubilant, then perhaps you should consider seeing a specialist.

What could be better to close off such a glorious episode than an expression of gratitude, in this case, THANKS A MILLION, beginning with a Kellso-Sheridan duet on the verse:

I find that performance incredibly tender: gratitude not only from the musicians to the audience, but to Louis and the worlds he created for us.

Perhaps it’s true that “you can’t go home again,” but if I could book a flight to Buffalo in the certainty that I would see this band again, I’d be packed and ready.  Maybe it’s because I can’t get back to this morning in September 2012 in some temporal way that I feel so deeply the precious vibrations these ministers of swinging grace offer us.  Bless them.  It was a privilege to be there, an honor to be allowed to capture this for posterity.

Watch this with full attention; savor it; share it; exult in it.  Let us never take beauty for granted.

May your happiness increase!

MUSIC WITH FRIENDS (Part Two): MICHAEL KANAN, GREG RUGGIERO, NEAL MINER (The Drawing Room, January 8, 2018)

Michael Kanan

This is the first part of a sextet of delicious performances by Michael Kanan, piano; Greg Ruggiero, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass, recorded on January 8, 2018, at the Drawing Room in Brooklyn.

Neal Miner

In that first segment of this impromptu session, these three lyrical friends performed  YOU DO SOMETHING TO ME, TAKE THE “A” TRAIN (which is how one gets to Jay Street-MetroTech, among other possibilities), and I’M JUST A LUCKY SO-AND-SO.  Now, for the patient faithful, this intuitive, subtle trio plays Neal Miner’s BLUES OKURA, IT’S ONLY A PAPER MOON, and LULLABY OF THE LEAVES.

Greg Ruggiero

Neal’s BLUES OKURA.  Make sure your seat belt is low and tight across your hips:

And an exceedingly tender IT’S ONLY A PAPER MOON, honoring Arlen’s intent — and I hear Harburg’s lyrics all the way through:

then the classic LULLABY OF THE LEAVES:

Wonderful reassuring music to be sure.  Thank you so much, gentlemen, for this casual affecting interlude.

May your happiness increase!

DISMISSED, DERIDED, DELICIOUS: THE VARSITY SEVEN: 1939 and 1940

If you consider an artist’s works in chronological sequence (bibliography as well as discography) certain landmarks blot out their neighbors.  In the case of Coleman Hawkins, there’s BODY AND SOUL, then the Hampton Victor date, then his big band — leading up to the small-group sessions of 1943-44 for Signature, Keynote, Savoy, and more.

The Varsity Seven sides — full of delights — recorded in December 1939 and January 1940 — haven’t received the admiration they deserve.  Hawkins’ admiring biographer, the diligent John Chilton, calls them “a pastiche of Dixieland.”  I disagree.

The Varsity label (please note the transparent pseudonyms for Hawkins and Carter) was run by Eli Oberstein, and it never seems to have been entirely out in the open.  I don’t know that Oberstein was the equal of Herman Lubinsky of Savoy, but Eli seems to have been ingenious in his dealings.  I believe the masters of these and other sessions were bought by Savoy, and thus the trail to licit reissues is complex.  Were they Victor sessions, they would have been available straightforwardly for decades now, including “official” CD issue.

Another side-note is that the session — one or both? — was co-produced by Leonard Feather and Warren Scholl, which may account for a Feather composition being there.  I knew two sides from this date because my Long Island friend Tom Piazza played them for me, forty-plus years ago: SHAKE IT AND BREAK IT and A PRETTY GIRL IS LIKE A MELODY.  I don’t know where each of the musicians was working in 1939-40, whether Fifty-Second Street or Cafe Society or uptown, but they come together to create great jazz.  Cheerful Jeanne Burns (known for work with Adrian Rollini and Wingy Manone) is a liability, but we’ve all heard less polished singers.  Here’s the information for the first session.

Benny Carter, trumpet, alto saxophone; Danny Polo, clarinet; Coleman Hawkins, tenor saxophone; Joe Sullivan, piano; Ulysses Livingston, guitar, vocal; Artie Bernstein, string bass; George Wettling, drums; Jeanne Burns, vocal.  New York, December 14, 1939.

IT’S TIGHT LIKE THAT (Burns, vocal).  The first two choruses — bless Sullivan and Wettling, who are bringing Jimmy Ryan’s to a record date or doing the Commodore? — are flawless.  Ms. Burns has pitch trouble, but I concentrate on Sullivan behind her.  Polo and Livingston (the latter sounding much like a sweet Teddy Bunn) aren’t derailed by the young lady, and then Hawkins charges in, “I’m back from Europe, and let me remind you who is still King!”  My idea of perfection is of course subjective, but the instrumental portions of this recording stand up with any other of this period:

EASY RIDER (Burns, Livingston, vocal).  Hawkins starts off rhapsodically, and is then relieved by Polo, whose sound in itself is an aural landscape, no matter how simple his phrases.  (In this, he reminds me of poets Joe Marsala, Raymond Burke, and Edmond Hall.)  Ms. Burns Is much more at ease at this tempo and in this range, and her unusual mixture of Mae West and Mildred Bailey is her most successful vocal.  Livingston’s vaudeville couplets are harmlessly archaic counterpoint, leading in to an ensemble where Carter and Polo take up most of the space, leaving Hawkins little to do.  One must admire the lovely drumming of Wettling — and how beautifully Artie Shapiro’s bass comes through — before the consciously “old-timey” ending:

SCRATCH MY BACK is the one Leonard Feather composition, and a charming one, revisited by Dan Barrett a few years ago.  I can’t figure out the changes beneath the melody — an experienced friend / musician says the first strain is similar to YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME.  I love the opening ensemble, and Shapiro’s deep notes behind Polo, then Sullivan’s rollicking solo chorus, where Wettling is having a wonderful time — and the passage where Sullivan abstracts the melody for great dramatic effect.  Then — what’s this? — a glorious alto solo by “Billy Carton” (heir to the cardboard box fortune) punctuated by a Livingston blues-pastoral.  Everyone steps aside for Hawkins, and a recap of the theme with Livingston adding sweet arpeggiated chords.  No complaints here:

SAVE IT PRETTY MAMA (Burns, vocal).  Aside from the ending, I don’t think of this as “Dixieland”: rather a series of splendid improvisations from Carter, Sullivan, and two choruses from Hawkins — over a gently propulsive and balanced rhythm section.  I find Burns’ version of Mildred Bailey’s upper-register-vibrato jarring, but I was listening to Polo, murmuring sweet limpid asides, and the rhythm section while she sang:

Fast forward to January 15, 1940: the same personnel except Big Joe Turner replaces Burns, an improvement.

And in his honor, they began with HOW LONG, HOW LONG BLUES.  In the opening ensemble, Hawkins is nearly submerged (could this have been what irritated Chilton?) which leads into a lovely chorus by Polo — with plain-spoken rhythm section work.  Then, Big Joe, in glowing voice, supported by a very powerful Sullivan, with lovely ensemble encouragements.  It almost seems as if Hawkins has been waiting his chance, and he takes it eloquently, before Big Joe and the band return.  At 2:23, apparently Turner has momentarily forgotten the lyric couplet or has gotten distracted.  A fine improvised ensemble closes off the record, with a Wettling accent.  This side seems slightly under-rehearsed, but the looseness adds to its charm:

SHAKE IT AND BREAK IT has always been a favorite, and this vocal version is a prize.  If there’s a sound more engaging than this rhythm section following Sullivan, I have yet to hear it.  Big Joe sounds positively exuberant (in touch with the lyrics); Polo and Livingston keep the forward motion going , and everyone is even more gleeful for Joe’s second chorus (“rub it all over the wall”) before particularly hot choruses by Carter and Hawkins follow, leading to jamming (with Wettling happily prominent) to end the record.  If this is “Dixieland,” I want many more sides:

A PRETTY GIRL IS LIKE A MELODY was not a song much utilized for jam session recordings, but to have it here is a pleasure.  I wonder if Oberstein said, “No more blues, fellows!  Let’s have a hot one!” as Big Joe left the studio.  Or it just seemed like a melodic yet under-played Berlin song, taken a little quicker than I imagine it was done in the Ziegfeld Follies.  A very simple — even cliched — vamp led by Livingston starts things off before Polo takes the lead — which surprisingly turns into an ensemble passage, then a wonderfully quirky Sullivan solo AND Hawkins leaping into his chorus with the zeal of a great athlete (powerful playing from Shapiro, Livingston, and Wettling) — then a magnificent Carter solo and a romping ensemble close.  This is one of the most successful sides of the eight:

And, finally, POM POM, a Carter original which might be a phrase from one of his solos scored for small band, with a particularly light scoring: I would have thought the opening 16 was scored for alto, clarinet, and tenor, but for the speed with which Carter plays trumpet on the bridge.  Polo’s chorus is so tenderly levitating that if you, hearing his work on this session, don’t want to hear more, then I have failed.  Hawkins is energized in his two-chorus solo, reminding me of the trio records he made in 1937, especially in his powerful second chorus — but Carter is as elegant a mountain-climber as I can imagine (with a distinct similarity to Joe Thomas or Bill Coleman of this period); another piece of swing lace-weaving from Livingston, and the record gracefully winds down — simultaneously hot and gentle.  Is that a recording engineer’s “fade” or simply everyone getting softer?  I don’t know, but it’s very sweet:

These aren’t flawless records. Some of them might have benefited from a second take.  But they are uplifting examples of the stars willing to come in and play two dates for what I imagine was scale.  All in a day’s work — and how glorious the results are.

May your happiness increase!

HIDDEN TREASURE: MARTY GROSZ and THE CELLAR BOYS at JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA (Sept. 22, 2012): ANDY SCHUMM, SCOTT ROBINSON, JOHN SHERIDAN, KERRY LEWIS, PETE SIERS

Marty Grosz and Bob Haggart, date and location not known

When you’ve shot as many videos as I have — over a decade’s worth — there’s a sizable treasure chest of the unseen.  Sometimes videos are buried for good reason, the primary one being musicians’ unhappiness with the results.  And since we aim to please, I don’t post what offends the creators.

But a few weeks ago, during an atypical tussle with insomnia, I was sitting at my computer at 3:30 AM, looking at unlisted videos stored safely on YouTube, and I found this rousing delight.  The musicians who like to approve of my postings have approved, so I can share it with you.  It’s a hot half-hour with Marty Grosz and his Cellar Boys, from Jazz at Chautauqua, probably a Sunday morning, the exact date noted above.

That’s Marty on guitar, vocal, commentary (yes, he does like to expound, but commenters who complain will be teleported to another blog); Andy Schumm, cornet and miscellaneous instrument; Scott Robinson, reeds and inventiveness; John Sheridan, piano; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Pete Siers, drums.

The real breadstick, as Marty would say.

Sucrose, no corn syrup:

Don’t tell me different — I know I’m right!  Watch Andy and Scott do magic:

And a series of wonderful hot surprises:

Once, when I was in Dublin, I found the Oxfam charity shop (as they would call it) and sniffed out the small shelf of recordings.  Very little of interest, but there was one jazz lp — autographed by the band, and the band had Keith Ingham in it. I clutched it to my chest, fearful that someone would steal it away, and when I approached the cash register, the gracious woman volunteer looked at me, smiled, and said, “Well, YOU’VE found a treasure, haven’t you?”

That’s how I feel about these videos.  Blessings on the musicians and of course on Nancy Hancock Griffith, who made it all possible.

May your happiness increase!

“SAY IT WITH A KISS”

And I quote:

THIS AUCTION IS FOR a NICE ORIGINAL SIGNED BLACK and WHITE 8 X 10 PHOTO of LEGENDARY JAZZ SINGER BILLIE HOLIDAY ..IT EMANATES FROM 1945…THE PHOTO ITSELF IS IN REMARKABLE SHAPE WITH MOST OF ORIGINAL GLOSS STILL PRESENT anD MINOR SURFACE CREASES….THE RED SPOT LOOKS LIKE A LIPSTICK SMUDGE (maybe BILLIE’S? LOL) AND IS UNDER THE AUTOGRAPH….QUITE A STORY…..MY MOM and DAD WERE MARRIED IN NOVEMBER of 1945 shortly after my DAD RETURNED FROM WORLD WAR II………THEY WENT TO NYC FOR THEIR HONEYMOON AND WENT NIGHTCLUBBING ONE NIGHT TO GO SEE BILLIE HOLIDAY.(I BELIEVE AT EITHER THE LATIN QUARTER or LA CONGA)….SHE ACTUALLY SAT WITH THEM FOR A WHILE and SIGNED THIS 8 X 10 FOR THEM…THE AUTOGRAPH is IN BLACK PEN of that ERA and ADDRESSED TO MY MOM and DAD……SHE DIED IN 1959 at 44 AFTER A LIFE FILLED WITH DRUGS and TROUBLE……WON 4 GRAMMY AWARDS and was ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR SINGERS of the 1940’S…..FOUND IT IN A BOX AFTER MANY YEARS…..GUARANTEED TO PASS ANY CERTIFICATION TEST including PSA/DNA……SEE SCANS………… SHIPPING AND HANDLING IS $3.25 …..WE DO DISCOUNT ON MULTIPLE WINNING AUCTIONS……….BUY FROM A VETERAN E-BAYER SINCE 1999……………OVER 17,500 POSITIVE FEED-BACKS. INCLUDES:……………

Drum roll, please?

One view:

And a closeup:For those of us who know Billie’s handwriting, both swooping and angular, we know this is the real thing, even though her signature differs from the inscription, which is easy to explain: I assume that Billie signed a dozen with only her name, and added a personal inscription when the circumstances were right.

The eBay link is here The minimum bid was $9.99 and it is now $405, with six days to go.  I’m just happy to see this photograph and know that it exists.  I don’t need to spend a good deal of money for a piece of paper that Billie Holiday may have touched with her lips, but other romantics in the audience may feel differently.

Music to bid by, or music for its own sake, from 1938:

May your happiness increase!